Thursday, 21 June 2012

Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art: Canonbury Square London N1

This gallery had been suggested to me and my friend Stephen offered to take me. The gallery is a short walk from Highbury Corner.  The nearest station is Highbury and Islington which is served by London Overground and London Underground/National Rail at a low level.  Refer to Highbury and Islington Post (work in progress)

The collection is located in a Georgian House built on the corner of Canonbury Road and Canonbury Lane/Square in London N1.  The gallery premises are entered through “Sunburst” gates which lead into a garden and one can enter the gallery at house, basement or lower ground floor level. 

The collection is not open on Mondays and Tuesdays and opens at 11 am.  Admission is £5 with a concession for visually impaired people and free admission for a companion. 

The gallery has frequent exhibitions and an installation of modern abstract art was being prepared so not all the rooms were open.  Stephen and I were free to explore the gallery and Stephen described many of the paintings which I could make out. 

I could detect some of the geometrical features, a still life was clearly drawn and discernible and one of the pieces of sculptures was intriguing as it had very sharp angles.    Stephen took photographs of this piece which is fairly small and is in a case. 

Rider falling of a horse
Estorick Collection, Highbury, London
20 June 2012

This shows that sculpture offers many views of the same piece and with permission to photograph without flash Stephen also took some pictures of the other art in the gallery. 

I particularly liked the works of Giacomo Balla and was photographed beside his portrait of Dr Fontana. 

 By portrait of Carlo Fontana by Giacomo Balla
Estorick Collection, Highbury, London
20 June 2012

The Gino Severini still life “Quaker Oats” is recognisable. 

 Quaker Oats - Cubist Still Life
Estorick Collection, Highbury, London
20 June 2012

Each room has a caption describing the artists and the collection development.  These boards take about 5 minutes to read out.  There is no audio so, if you are going on your own, it is probably a good idea to find out as much as possible about the artists before a first visit.  (The gallery’s website offers useful biographies of individual artists: )

There are several stunning pieces of Modern Italian Art from the first three decades of the 20th Century.  The collection had been enlarged over the years and there are many paintings in abstract, cubist and contemporary portraiture.  There is also some furniture such as benches, tables and stands, which is conveniently placed and all designed for use. 

 Detail of a bench
Estorick Collection, Highbury, London
20 June 2012

I was particularly struck by the benches, which one is at liberty to sit on or touch.  They have tactile surfaces and seem to be carved from a single block of wood, with patterns of hatching and slightly raised levels which can be felt.  The staining effect also allows an appreciation of the art.  Sitting on one of the benches, I soon found myself chatting to one of the staff who shared some of her favourite pieces.  

 Exchanging opinions
Estorick Collection, Highbury, London
20 June 2012

The gallery has a café and the gift shop has a fine collection of postcards and art books. 

Postcards of pictures I liked include: 

Music (1911) by Luigi Russolo (1185-1947)
Doctor Francois Brabander (1918) by Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
The Hand of the Violinist (1912) by Giacomo Balla (1871-1958)
Horses and Landscape (1951) by Zoran Music (1909-2005)
Quaker Oats – Cubist Still Life (1917) by Gino Severini (1883-1966)

There is also some steel sculpture outside which moves in the wind. It was a sunny and calm day, so Stephen moved the parts of the sculpture for me in order to get an appreciation of a windy day in Islington. (unheard of - moving sculptures, that is!)

I wrote about Boetti in the recent show at Tate Modern where he introduced a new school; and having done Picasso last week at both Tate Britain and British Museum, one could make out that he was not alone in finding a new way to draw and paint. 

This is a very pleasant gallery with some very interesting pieces.  There are many fine pictures, collages and sculptures and there is much to enjoy in this showcase of Modern Italian Art which is also called futurism.