Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Sight Village, Kensington Town Hall, November 2012

7th November 2012

My first visit to Sight Village was last year and I found it useful. ( Over the year, my needs have changed and my technology choices have become more focussed on a smart phone and with a Jaws14 update imminent, I was not in the market for a large section of the high cost items. 

Many of the exhibitors were in the same place as last year and with recent meetings and shows at Judd Street (RNIB and Action for Blind) and my discussions with Guide Dogs at the VocalEyes reception at the House of Lords, I went more with the intention of finding a few twitter contacts and searching the hashtag #SightVillage for interesting exhibitors. 

I made my way from South Kensington Underground with the very helpful staff at the station by way of the Circle Line (It is no longer a circle) to High Street Kensington.  From there I headed towards the Town Hall, remembering the way, and was met by Ray from QAC who was doing a sweep.  I was then checked in and started on my visit having established which rooms were in use.  

There were some interesting camera based technologies which will read a simple document.  Many of the stands have documents ready but I had a leaflet from the V&A which turned out to be about Harry Winston’s Diamonds. This is one way to name drop.  One type of equipment sounded interesting, but costing around £2,000 was more than I was willing to pay.  A cheaper piece of kit costing £500 was more attractive but only worked on English text and facilities such as converting to a readable text file for “paperless” purposes was an extra.  I am no longer interested in magnifiers but would like to have a document read to me, annotate it and store for reference (and throwing the piece of paper away- A quoi sert un morceau de papier, discuss)

I ran into a couple of stands from last year and chatted away.  I tried out the Ultracane and discussed its development.   Some people recognised me and I tried out a carbon fibre white cane on sale by QAC themselves (we met on twitter).  The Olympus stand remembered me from the Judd Street day and said hello.  Of course I could not recognise any visually impaired people so asked one of the QAC volunteers to help me find some stands.  I found Toby Davey from VocalEyes and I got an unusual audio description of the coffee downstairs! (see below)

On the way downstairs I ran into Megan from RNIB Books and we discussed issues.  A coffee and a piece of lemon cake can best be forgotten but the catering staff kept scratching their faces or hair while handling food.  The lemon cake was wrapped tightly in cling film and it extruded and tasted like wallpaper paste. Toby was right about the coffee.

After a moan I engaged with someone from Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC).  The council were doing a survey about the Shared Space in Exhibition Road.  A useful exchange ( a recent post on this topic can be found on:

My last stand visit was with a tactile map overlay on a touchscreen.  This was done on a plan of Rochester Railway Station in Kent.  I have been to this station as it has both HS1 and regular tracks.  A useful try out of technology in development. 

Some of the stands I visited are as follows:

Optelec (ClearReader+)
Talking News Federation
Torch Trust

More information about future Sight Village exhibitions and QAC can be found on:

This House by James Graham, National Theatre

17th November 2012

I am devoting more attention to Front of House details and for visually impaired people.  This includes the box office on the phone, in person, an audio CD and a greeting at the event itself.  The National Theatre ticks all these boxes and a performance is stress free. 

On a cold November lunchtime, some early arrivals were let into the box office area as the NT staff were going through the details of the performance back up for visually impaired visitors.  My companion counted 2 dogs and about 6 canes in the audience and I had a chance to speak to a few visitors who are regular theatregoers with and without audio description.  In any live performance for visually impaired audiences there are really 2 live performances and the research by Tony and Bridget with the NT staff in putting the whole show together is commendable.  That said the play is the thing.

This House is a play by James Graham and has started in the studio space of the National Theatre known as The Cottesloe.  The play is sold out for the run though will be transferred to the Olivier Theatre in 2013.  The play recalls the events in the House of Commons between 1974 and 1979.  This is shown as the fall of the Heath government, the arrival of the Labour government under the leadership of Wilson then Callaghan then the victory of the Conservatives in 1979 under Thatcher. 

The National Theatre CD had been sent to me a few weeks ago and it contained much information.  This includes information on the set, characters and descriptions with a useful glossary of parliamentary procedure pre-television broadcasting.  At the time only major broadcasts on radio were live and one had to listen to transcripts of events in a programme which still goes out on the BBC- Today in Parliament. 

The play is really interesting as it deals with the relationships of the opposing team of “whips”.  By tradition the whips do not speak to the public and the Whips Office is usually an important part of the “greasy pole” of many political leaders.  They are supposed to know all the secrets.  I remember many of the events referred to in the background. Each year has an echo such as the Silver Jubilee in 1977 and the surprise resignation of Wilson in 1976.

The set is laid out to resemble the green benches of the House of Commons.  The dialogue is very quickfire with typical adversarial snippets when scene shifts occur from office to chamber. 

Many of the characters have multiple roles and appearances.  In order to keep things simple all the Conservatives (Tories) have “Posh” accents and are often described as Tory Twats.  The Labour characters are usually given Northern English accents.  There are non English roles such as MPs from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.   Most of the MPs are referred to with the name of their parliamentary constituency and the Speaker refers to them in this way.  Among themselves, the MPs use other terms of endearment including first names.  We have, for example, a reference to Plymouth – Alan Clark (famous for sex and diaries) and Chelmsford – Norman St John Stevas (pompous constitutional expert and deceased).

The dialogue is filled with snippets of details which kept the Labour Government on a knife edge.  The Labour government managed to survive for most of a 5 year term. The whips office has a blackboard on which the razor thin majority is gradually stripped away.  At the time calculators and computers would have been available but a blackboard is a useful prop. 

In hearing about the set, Tony McBride had walked the length of it and had stopped where important parts of debating procedure are embedded in the chamber.  There are 2 redlines which represent 2 sword lengths apart when in debate.  The Serjeant at Arms still has a sword in the chamber and the Speaker still wore a full bottomed wig and gown.  One of the new Labour Whips plays with his stick of office (not unlike my Whitestick). 

We were introduced to the cast and were taken round the props.  The audience is seated on the benches and there is a working bar on the set with Irish Whiskey (surely shome mishtake).  Chris Godwin took me round the set and as he plays the member for the Western Isles, I asked him how his Gaelic was.  To my surprise he answered in Irish.  I was able to sit in the Speaker’s Chair and it can revolve revealing a cleaner’s cupboard complete with Izal loo paper, not Bronco.  We were also able to handle some of the costumes including a very expensive Savile Row suit said to be worth £10,000 in today’s money.  The suit has apparently made several performances on TV, film and theatre, and is worn by Julian Wadham who plays the role of Humphrey Atkins.

The play itself unrolls as a timeline with much of the drama being between the two deputy whips.  In real life, this was Jack Weatherill played by Charles Edwards and Walter Harrison played by Philip Glenister. (Obituary on BBC website: )  For political junkies, broadcasts of the real events and dramas in the House of Commons can be found on the BBC and other channels as well as on radio.  At the time transcripts of debates in the house were taken by Hansard and with some redaction, appeared in the Parliamentary Report.  This continues to this day and is available on line at

Members of the cast who were present during the Touch Tour included:

Christopher Godwin  - (Walsall N/Speaker in Act II/Plymouth Sutton/Ensemble)
Giles Taylor - (Speaker in Act I/Mansfield/Serjeant at Arms in Act II/West Lothian/Ensemble)
Tony Turner – (Bromsgrove/Abingdon/Liverpool Edgehill / Paisley / Fermanagh /Ensemble)
Rupert Vansittart - (Esher/Belfast W/ Ensemble)
Julian Wadham - (Humphrey Atkins, Tory Whip)
Gunnar Cauthery - (Clockmaker/Peebles/Redditch/Nuneaton/Ensemble)

Jane Suffling, the Stage Manger, was also present.

This play will transfer to the Olivier Theatre in February 2013.

Conclusion: The seating in this show added to the drama and if this can be replicated in a larger theatre it should transfer well.  Much of the detail will go over the heads of those who have forgotten the late 1970s but the detail does not detract from the drama of the apparently wasted effort in politics at the time, though having listened to several political books recently (Andrew Rawnsley on the End of the Party (Labour)) it appears that little has changed.  For the sake of balance the term Omnishambles comes to mind. 

By the way the part of the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles was not creepy enough! I ran across him when he was canvassing to be Rector of Edinburgh University in the 1970s. (Gordon Brown had at least been successful in getting that post.)

Sunday, 25 November 2012

National Portrait Gallery: McClintock, BP Portrait of the Year and King James

The National Portrait Gallery in London (near Trafalgar Square) is one of my regular locations for dropping  in for a coffee and “view” the odd painting from time to time.  The layout is a bit labyrinthine though the guards are helpful in finding an object, painting or temporary exhibition.  Some months ago I visited some photos and prints to do with Richard Hamilton and was taken to the location.  I soon found myself in the company of other visitors who were quite happy to share their thoughts and read out the odd picture label. 

On the occasion of the BP Portrait of the Year I went to the front desk.  It is upstairs or up lift (elevator) and got further directions.  I wandered around and liked a few portraits and went back to the start and asked one of the attendants for some help.  Sarah and Peter took me round and we discussed several paintings.  As usual the subject of titanium dioxide came up in some very bright pictures.  Peter also paints and we discussed Zinc Oxide and Lead Oxide.  The bookshops are also helpful in finding the occasional postcard and even a book. 

The last Thursday of the month is the date for the NPG “Visualisation” for visually impaired people.  ( It is also a chance to meet other people.  We tend to gather across from the information desk.  You can always ask to be taken to the painting in advance to see what you can make of it and the neighbouring pictures.  Often a reference is made to some other portraits in the vicinity. 
Esther Collins organises much of the activity and is a mine of information as is the NPG website.  ( I am not so familiar with this one and Esther explained the accession numbering system (No 1 is Shakespeare) Esther was also pleased that I had wandered into the BP Portrait show on my own as they have encouraged the attendants to engage more with visitors in general and I have noted this though I have become more familiar over the building and organisational structure.    There are usually a few interns at our sessions and gradually more awareness of visually impaired visitors is being shown.

The subject for the September talk was McClintock, an Arctic explorer.  ( He is portrayed in the kit of an Arctic explorer of the day, though painted in a studio.  Examples of other McClintock portraits were passed round (he is in Naval uniform and the NPG has a reserve copy) There is also a photograph of this Victorian gentleman.  (This picture is almost opposite from the Kitchener described in my post ) In place of military accessories such as sword, belt, pips and epaulettes we have all sorts of gadgets on display.  

There is quite a story behind McClintock and his search for Franklyn who went missing.  The painting itself is quite stylised and reflects the almost photographic detail at the time.  Having heard Sir Ranulph Fiennes speak at a lunch before about his state of being frostbitten and exhaustion on some of these expeditions, this McClintock portrait resembles more a renaissance ideal of the “Victorian Arctic Explorer”.  The race for the Arctic and Antarctic was underway and was often between Norwegian explorers such as Amundsen and Nansen and the British explorers.  With global warming and the disappearance of some of the Arctic ice does this painting represent a scientific record at all?  Did the gadgets arrayed around McClintock provide any scientific data at all?  Fascinating topics for discussion.  A portrait can direct so much interest. 

25th October

The October portrait was that of King James VI/I as painted by the Flemish painter Daniel Mytens.  King James is sandwiched between his son Charles (later King Charles) and his daughter Elizabeth (later Queen of Bohemia).  Our describer was Marion Cole, who reminded me that we had met before at the description of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo by William Hoare. (

This portrait of King James is rather motionless and illustrates the King’s show of power.  He is seated in his chair of estate and is in the dress of a Knight of the Garter with all the associated regalia.  Marion said that the pose resembled that of Pope Julius II and King James had maintained his position in the Church of England while setting in train a divine right theology which proved a disaster for his son Charles. 
Prof Whitestick by the portrait of King James I
National Portrait Gallery, London

The Garter star can just about be made out and the King is shown with the garter on his left leg.  King James is shown with almost platform shoes to increase his height appearance.  Marion described the portrait geometry with the colours of red and white dominating the king, and a blue frame of the inside lining of his Garter mantle. 

I asked about the rapier and it is described as jewelled.  Marion could not identify the clasp like object and I wondered if it could have been a dagger hilt.  We had a discussion about some diamond described as black.  A passing guide remarked that diamonds have no shining effect until the facets are cut, so this diamond may have been a precious stone left unset, though we wondered how a glittering diamond would have been portrayed. 

Currently the National Portrait Gallery has an exhibition on Prince Henry Stuart.  He is the sister of Elizabeth Stuart (I am photographed with the Robert Peake portrait of Elizabeth Stuart the Winter Queen of Bohemia).  Prince Henry died quite young and some treasures have been put together.  The exhibition is interesting as it reflects Jacobean history.  King James I/VI has a mixed reputation, the “Wisest fool in Christendom” springs to mind. 

27th October

My visit to the Lost Prince exhibition is covered in a separate post relating to the exhibition itself with references to the portraits in the Stuart family both here in London and some of those from Scotland.  The link is:

Royal Academy Access Events on Bronze Exhibition

I attended 2 access events for the Bronze exhibition.  The first was an In Person event on a Friday evening on 9th November and the second was on the 12th November and was an early entry audio description around the exhibition followed by a practical discussion on casting bronze, lost wax process, patina and secondary treatment of finished bronzes with alabaster and colouring.  

9th November 2012

After a few introductions from Beth Schneider and Molly Bretton, the new Access Officer, we introduced ourselves and met some of the volunteers. I met Sylvia and Alice and then had a chance to talk with others in the group over some drinks. 

Left to right, Molly, Prof and Beth
Royal Academy In Person
9 November 2012
The programme was led by David Johnson and Carlo Keshishian and was a mix of doing 3D works with some sculpture or staying mainly with 2D drawing, cutting and sticking, with Bronze as a theme.  There were some prints around for inspiration and plenty of help in describing. 

Group discussion
Royal Academy In Person
9 November 2012

David gave a visual presentation of some of his work followed by Carlo who did likewise before we were set off in starting a work and then passing it on to another participant.  I started in 2D and was working away with graphite sticks and experimented with imprinting coin shapes and figures on to others’ works. I carelessly put the graphite stick in my pocket with the coins at the end.  (I had several hand washing moments of crying out “Out damned spot” as I did not find the graphite stick until the Saturday lunchtime the next day!)

Art Jam
Royal Academy In Person
9 November 2012

During the sessions Carlo was doing a sound workshop and there were all sorts of noises … er … sounds emanating from the corner as people were trying out some of the instruments in rehearsal for a take.    Sylvia was meanwhile telling me about a recent visit to a sulphur mine in Indonesia.  I had a yellow crayon in my hand and started adding yellow cube shapes and the chemical symbol of sulphur S.  When Sylvia mentioned how little the miners were paid I converted the S to $. With the music I had added musical clefs and notation. 

Prof with Janie, holding up sculpture
Royal Academy In Person
9 November 2012

I joined Janie in the sculpture table and we started and added to other works.  Working with clay is something I had tried and it is fun learning some of the techniques such as coil and pinch pot for some work.  Again taking the theme of the Bronze exhibition we were adding to the works on process/progress.  The music had stopped and I tried out some of the instruments and had great fun with a Thumb Piano. 

Left to right, Beth, Carlo and Prof making music
Royal Academy In Person
9 November 2012

This was an enjoyable evening and we were able to spend about 90 minutes in the Bronze exhibition, making this my 3rd visit and a chance to concentrate on the portraits and more of the gods.

Art Jam and wine
Royal Academy In Person
9 November 2012

12th November

The Royal Academy programme for the visually impaired is popular with an early entry, an audio described visit to some highlights and a handling workshop with coffee, tea and Bakewell Pudding!

I went to this one on my own and it was a 9am start.  I arrived about 0845 and was asked by the staff in Piccadilly if I was going to the RA.  (Another great case of Front of House - I have noted this before at the RA if there is any change of forecourt layout and access to the building)

Quite a few of the regulars had gathered and we went to the Reynolds Room where I met Alice and Sylvia again, as well as Molly from the RA.  Leaving coats and bags we left on tour with Bridget Crowley.

We stopped at the dancing satyr and Bridget described it from her standing position.  We then stopped at several bronzes: a statue of St Elizabeth, the elephant, a bas relief of Vulcan, a statue of Ganesh and the Bulgarian King with fine eyelashes, alabaster eyes.

Returning to the Reynolds Room we had an interesting talk with examples arranged with Bridget and Harry Baxter.  At a previous meeting over the Hockney exhibition, Harry had gone into detail about Lead White and how Lucien Freud had apparently bought up the stock.  Passing around copper sheeting Harry had tried to get some tin to share with us though it contains lead.  Alabaster was in short supply as Anish Kapur had bought it all up!

 Harry Baxter with Prof Whitestick trying out materials for casting bronze
Royal Academy audio described event

12 November 2012

There were lots of questions as we passed around a mould for a bronze and tried to guess what could be cast from it.  Bridget had arranged to get some bronze sweeps from a Limehouse foundry and we were given A3 photos of some of the bronzes.  Harry described the secrecy to this day of the chemistry of the patina.

This was my 4th visit to this bronze show and one learns so much on each occasion. Alice patiently allowed me to zigzag as we went from description and we discussed some of the other objects which we both liked such as a Brancusi and a Henry Moore piece which I find myself liking more. 

The RA website has more information on the In Person event series here:,1671,AR.html

The next In Person event will be held on Friday 1st March, 6-8pm led by Harry and Zoe Baxter.  More details will be available nearer the time.

Many thanks to the RA, staff, volunteers and other participants in making this art form both informative and accessible and yes, enjoyable.

Related posts: Royal Academy Bronze exhibition:

Friday, 16 November 2012

Courtauld Gallery and Somerset House

10th November 2012

My second visit to the Courtauld Gallery was made to see the Sir Peter Lely exhibition and to have another look at some Kandinsky and Seurat.  A concession still costs £4.50 as it had earlier in the year and a companion goes in free. (
The Lely exhibition has a selection of Lely pictures before he became a society painter in the Restoration period of King Charles II. The theme is essentially Arcadia and shows the development of Lely’s style.  Many of the themes are classical or biblical and included another Rape of Europa.  (

The Rape of Europa, early 1650s
Peter Lely (1618-80)
Oil on canvas, 123.3 x 135 cm
Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth 

I first became aware of Lely’s portraits when I visited Ham House, near Richmond in Surrey.  His painting of Elizabeth Murray (Countess of Dysart in her own right) has haunting eyes ( and I swore I could recognise the eyes Lely painted from these visits in the late 1970s.

In the summer I had visited the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and noted the portrait of Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale  by Lely.  The Countess of Dysart had married the Duke of Lauderdale (Scottish seat is Thirlestane Castle near Lauder, mentioned in my post on Soutra Aisle: )

I was alerted to the Lely exhibition by a tweet and put it on the list of things to do.  A friend came with me and we noted a few of the pictures we discussed. 

The Finding of Moses
Musee des Beaux. Arts, Rennes

Reuben Presenting Mandrakes to Leah
Courtauld Gallery

The Rape of Europa
Chatsworth House Trust
(shown above)

Nymphs by a Fountain
Dulwich Picture Gallery

A Boy as a Shepherd
Dulwich Picture Gallery
(shown below)

Boy as a Shepherd, c. 1658-60
Peter Lely (1618-80)
Oil on canvas, 91.4 x 69 cm
Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

Man Playing a Pipe

The Concert
Courtauld Gallery
(shown below)

The Concert, c. 1650
Peter Lely (1618-80)
Oil on canvas, 123.1 x 234 cm
The Courtauld Gallery, London

A Pair of Lovers in a Landscape
Musee des Beaux. Arts, Valenciennes

Portrait of Sir Thomas Thyme
Courtauld Trust

Portrait of a Woman
Courtauld Trust

Cimon and Ifigenia
Mr & Mrs James Birch

There is a catalogue on sale for £25 and I bought 4 postcards. 

After the Lely exhibition we visited a small show of Lucien Freud etchings which had been given to the Courtauld by Auerbach.  I had missed the Lucien Freud exhibition when it was on at the National Portrait Gallery, though I had not shown particular interest in going to it at the time.   

We wandered through the first and second floors and renewed acquaintances with some of the pictures including:

Church Tower (around 1919)
Marianne Werefkin(1860-1938)
Private collection

This reminded me of the church in Murnau by Kandinsky, which I had seen in the Symbolist Landscape exhibition in Edinburgh during the summer. 

Kallmunz, 1903
Private collection

On the Theme of the Last Judgement (1913)
Fridart Foundation

The Red Circle
Private collection

Many thanks to Jenni Lloyd from Sue Bond Public Relations ( for sending me the three photographs shown in this post.  Jenni also very kindly sent me the text of the wall panels.  Thanks also to the staff at the Courtauld Gallery for coming back to me after my visit.
By a stroke of serendipity or even synchronicity the CD review programme on BBC Radio 3 on this day had included a new issue of recorder music.  Details taken from the BBC Radio 3 website are as follows:

Una follia di Napoli
Maurice Steger (direction, recorder)

This comes very close to a concert party and the CD has arrived (Thursday 15th November and sounds terrific.)

My first visit to the Courtauld is noted below.

12th July 2012

The Courtauld Gallery takes up the Strand side (North side) of Somerset House. 

I had seen some of the pictures years ago, though not long after I lost my sight I was taken to the Gilbert Collection which was then housed in Somerset House (South Side). 

Somerset House ( was once the domain of bureaucrats and has been transformed following years of neglect and misuse.  Anthony Trollope refers to clerks who entered employment at Somerset House aged 16 and “retired” as clerks aged 60 (Talking Book Miss Mackenzie).

My previous trip was when I was new to using a cane and I found the steps and courtyard difficult to negotiate.  The whole site had been a large car park and houses an area for performances and a skating rink in the winter. 

I went with a friend to the Courtauld Gallery and the admission concession is £4.50 with the companion going free. 

The building is very attractive inside once you are off the Strand.  If you can, climb the magnificent stairway to the top.  (We took the lift down) and at the top, look down.  With my peripheral vision I could make out a spiral of rectangular shapes with some eccentricity of an ellipse and a very stretched spiral.  Chambers had designed this stairway fitting it in to the available space.  It is not as pretty as the GoMA stairway in Glasgow but impressive nonetheless. 

The rooms are very pleasing with plaster work and ceiling paintings.  The Courtauld is a collection of collections though quite different from the Wallace Collection.  The latter bears the stamp of Sir Richard Wallace, whereas the Courtauld has continued to be developed from the original triumvirate of Courtauld, Lee and Witt.  Samuel Courtauld left his own “personal” collection and the Institute which is part of the University of London has some claims to excellence. 

I was aware that I would find many old friends from art appreciation days and various talks. Reference is often made to the Courtauld usually of the “You will find another one at the Courtauld” variety.

I have listed some of the artworks which were either known to me or had been mentioned in some talk or lecture.    With my peripheral vision I had difficulty in making much out of the Rubens.  It could have been the lighting and the themes as I enjoyed Rubens Het Steen in the National Gallery and the Rainbow in the Wallace.  The glare from the bright natural light combined with room lighting and reflective glass made “viewing” awkward.  My friend thought the same.

We had no problems with the Impressionists and I was able to recognise most of them.  The delightful pair of cassone (marriage chests) are elegantly displayed much as an IKEA flatpack had been disassembled.  All the panels were on view and the pair is unique.  We had discussed the panel of Piero di Cosimo in an ‘Art through Words’ session at the National Gallery.

Having learned so many things at the sessions for visually impaired people at the National Gallery and other galleries, it was fun trying out a gallery with so many genres. 

The items I enjoyed are listed below - though not recognising all of them instantly with the exception of Van Gogh, Cranach, Manet, Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, Pissarro and the ballet figures of Degas.  I have made a few comments we discussed between ourselves and with some other visitors. 

Georges Seurat
The Bridge at Courbevoie
The Woman Powdering Herself (1888-90)

Paul Gauguin
Nevermore (1897)
Vincent Van Gogh
Peach Trees in Flower

Edouard Manet
A Bar at the Folies-Bergere

La Loge (1874)

Antibes (1888)
White, pink and blue

The Lac d’Annecy
The Card Players

Francesco Guardi
Venice: a view of Realto Bridge (1768)

Alan Ramsay
Portrait of Captain Sir William Peere Williams (1750s)

Pieter Bruegel The Elder
Landscape with the flight into Egypt

Van Dyck
Ecco Homo (1622/3)

Religious and classical themes.  The lighting was not ideal. stuff

Lucas Cranach 1
Adam and Eve (1526)

An amusing incident.  My companion was reading out the caption and on saying that Adam was scratching his head, two women commented that they had not noticed that.  (Ways of Seeing)

Zanobi di Domenico, Jacopo del Sellaio and Biagio di Antonio
Cassone (The Morelli Chest)

These cassone are beautifully laid out with the rear panel on show and the lid raised in order to show off all the paintings. 

Sketches are on show on the very top floor.  This is an exhibition ‘From Mantegna to Matisse’ On occasions the meticulous drawings are clearer than the end result.  The lighting was also suitable for my vision.

The Emperors Charlemagne and Sigismund (1507-10)

Rembrandt van Rijn
Two men in discussion (1641)

Vincent Van Gogh
A Tile Factory (1888)

Pieter Bruegel The Elder
A storm in the River Scheldt with a view of Antwerp

Pieter Janz. Saenredam
The South Ambulatory of St Bavokerk
Haarlem, 1634

Gianlorenzo Bernini
The Louvre, East Fa├žade 1664

John Roberts Cozens
Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome (1780)

A view from Somerset Gardens Looking towards London Bridge (1746-55)

The Post Impressionist section is on show on the top floor and the artists which I liked and have become familiar with are well represented. 

Georges Seurat
Female Nude 1879-81

Kallmunz 1903
Heinrich Campendonk
The Dream 1913
Friend of Kandinsky and belonged to same circle: der Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider)

On the theme of the Last Judgement 1913
Improvisation on Mahogany

Max Pechstein
Women by the Sea 1919

Maurice de Vlaminck
Fishermen at Argenteuil 1906

Georges Braque
The Port of L’Estaque 1906

Raoul Dufy
July 14 at Le Havre 1905

Andre Derain
Fishermen at Collioure

Francis Bacon
Study for a portrait of Van Gogh VI 1957

Edvard Munch
Self-portrait 1902

Over the river at Bankside the Tate Modern Gallery has a show of Munch with many self portraits. 

Lordship Lane Station, Dulwich 1871
La Place Lafayette 1883

I had admired Pissarro when the Paris by Night was discussed in ‘Art through Words’.  On that occasion the National Gallery made tactile diagrams with perspective lines.  This helped in fixing the geometry in some Impressionist works.  I had later gone to the Clark exhibition on at Royal Academy which had many Pissarros. 

Tall trees at the Jas de Bouffan around 1883
Farm in Normandy around 1992

Note: The access is a bit tricky once the Somerset House complex has been reached.  The gallery entrance is to the right of the drive way with the gift and book shop on the left hand side.  There are lower floors accessible by lift for lavatories. 

I bought a catalogue of the collection and the following two postcards:

Camille Pissarro : Lordship Lane Station, Dulwich, 1871
Oil on canvas
44.5 x 72.5 cm

Georges Pierre Seurat: Man in a boat, c. 1884
Oil on canvas
15 x 24 cm

Peploe exhibition - Portland Gallery, London

14thNovember 2012

I called up the Portland Gallery in advance to check out opening times, got instructions on how to get there and finding the gallery, was taken to the Peploe pictures which are on show until 29th November. I was guided and introduced to some of the landscapes from Barra and the Hebrides and could make out the machair-traigh on Barra.

The two Barra paintings are hung together. On top is the Barra beach showing a scene from the Atlantic side of the island. The west coast beaches of the Outer Hebrides are renowned for their shimmering sand. Barra is the southern end of the archipelago. Peploe met his future wife Margaret Mackay, who was from Loch Boisdale (the next main island north in the chain), on one of his trips to the island. The lower painting has some rolling hills. Having been to the beaches of the Outer Hebrides many times, I recognise this scene.

Landscape in the Hebrides
signed (verso)
Oil on panel
6 x 9 ins
Painted circa 1903

There are some street scenes from Paris and Brittany and still life paintings. While left to enjoy them I was invited to ask the curator of the exhibition, Emily Johnston, if I had any questions.

After my studying of the pictures I was introduced to Emily who took me round and we discussed some of the pictures. Peploe’s use of colour is something he is obviously famous for, though it was almost the sparing use of colour in some examples which stood out. Certainly the still life pictures stand out clearly with interesting geometries for the fruit and angles of the other objects in these compositions.

Still Life with Wine Decanter, Glass and Apples
Signed (lower left)
Oil on canvas
12.5 x 15.5 ins
Painted circa 1905

I discussed the coffee pot picture with Emily, explaining how much I could discern and detect. We then moved on to a picture which had attracted my attention.

While Peploe’s use of colour is outstanding, this picture titled By Firelight stood out for me. It was painted around 1908, is oil on canvas and measures 20 x 16 inches. It shows a woman seated by a fire, although the fire itself is not shown. Instead, a pink tinge on the white can just about be discerned. When I went back to this painting I put on my sunglasses and it is amazing the difference this makes. I noticed this effect with some of the Symbolist Landscapes in Edinburgh in the summer.

Rocks, Iona
Oil on board
15 x 18 ins
Painted circa 1920

Peploe’s picture of Iona shows the rocks and the water in clarity of lines though the colours are almost verging on being suggested. This picture is titled Rocks, Iona and was painted around 1920. It is oil on panel and measures 15 x 18 inches. I went to Iona a lot in the 1970s and have been back once since I lost my sight. The island of Iona is off the coast of Mull and has interesting geology and had a marble quarry, the remains of which can still be visited.

At the end of my visit, I bought the sales catalogue which has some interesting biographical notes as well as the provenance of the pictures. For reference, the paintings which I found attractive are listed below:

There are two small pictures of scenes in the Hebrides, one on a Barra beach. The first is titled Landscape in the Hebrides and was painted around 1903. It is oil on panel and measures 6 x 9 inches. The second, called Barra and painted around the same time, is also oil on panel and measures 6 ½ x 9 ½ inches.

A Street in Paris painted around 1911. It is oil on panel and measures 10 ½ x 14 inches.

The Silver Coffee Pot painted in 1904. It is oil on panel and measures 10 x 16 inches.

Ile de Brehat, Brittany painted around 1911. It is oil on canvas board and measures 13 x 16 ins.

Roses painted around 1920. It is oil on panel and measures 16 x 12 ins.

White Roses and Fruit painted around 1921. It is oil on canvas and measures 20 x 16 ins.

The Portland Gallery has a continuing programme of exhibitions and sales and the catalogues are a mine of information. The gallery has the catalogue for the Peploe sale online and this can be viewed on

There is also an exhibition of paintings by Oliver Akers Douglas who paints landscapes in the field.  (

Many thanks to the staff of the Portland Gallery and to Emily Johnston for discussing and describing these pictures and also for sending me the three images used in this post.  Pictures credit: Portland Gallery, London.

There is an exhibition on Peploe currently on in Edinburgh. Details are as follows:
The Scottish Colourist Series: S.J. Peploe
3rd November 2012 - 23 June 2013
Modern Two (Scottish Gallery of Modern Art)
More information can be found on: