The Amazing World of M. C. Escher – Dulwich Picture Gallery

2015_1219Escher01
Exhibition poster

I’ve admired the work of artist M. C. Escher for a long time; his pictures are unique, and have influenced popular culture to a significant degree. In particular, a major scene from the film Labyrinth was inspired by an Escher work, and Mick Jagger even tried to commission a picture from the artist for a Rolling Stones album cover, though Escher, having never heard of Jagger or the band, turned him down.

It’s rare to have several Escher works collected together for an exhibition in the UK, so I was very excited to hear about The Amazing World of M. C. Escher, which runs at Dulwich Picture Gallery in south London until 17 January. The exhibition has been organised by the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, and showcases nearly 100 works from the collection of the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag in the Netherlands.

2015_1219Escher02
Dulwich Picture Gallery

I had heard that the exhibition was rather busy, so I decided to book online in advance and choose an early time slot. I arrived in time for my 10.15 slot which was ideal – the exhibition was very quiet, with no queues as yet! Tickets cost £14 for adults and £7.50 for concessions/Art Fund members; children and Dulwich Picture Gallery Friends get free entry.

The exhibition follows a chronological timeline, beginning with Escher’s early landscape prints and tracing his development as an artist as he grew interested in perspective and developed knowledge of the mathematical principles that would inform his later work. The first major UK show of his work, it includes woodcuts, lithographs, drawings, watercolours and mezzotints, as well as exclusive archive material such as initial concept drawings and correspondence with mathematicians such as Roger Penrose, who assisted him in the execution of some of his later designs.

Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898–1972) started out by training as an architect. In 1918, he was studying at the School of Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem, Holland, when a teacher noticed his talent as a draughtsman and printmaker. He was advised to move into the Graphic Art department, and his career as a printmaker dates from this moment.

Escher spent several years moving around Europe, and this is reflected in his earlier prints which include Italian townscapes, Netherlands landscapes, and influences including the Islamic tiles he saw on a visit to Moorish Spain. His early work consists of distinctive woodcuts, lithographs and drawings which are more straightforward in design, before he began playing with perspective. Though his work bears some resemblance to Surrealism, he had no contact with the Surrealist group.

I loved all the pictures, but one of my favourites was the still life that transformed seamlessly into a street scene. I also loved the picture showing lizards crawling out of a two-dimensional tessellation to become three-dimensional creatures. In fact, all the tessellated pictures were fascinating and extremely clever. Later in the exhibition, I loved the “impossible pictures” showing monks climbing neverending stairs and water flowing in impossible ways.

Escher’s career spanned two world wars and his work increased in popularity as the century wore on. His work was so different from that of any other artist and by the time of his death he was truly acclaimed. Today, his work is still appreciated and admired. I’m so glad I was able to see this exhibition and I left with an even greater appreciation of Escher’s work.

As a nice touch, the exhibition ended with the opportunity to take a selfie in an Escher-like pose!

2015_1219Escher03
Escher exhibition selfie

Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art

2014_0406Estorick01
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art

Located near Highbury and Islington Station, north London, the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art is home to a wide variety of 20th century Italian artworks. It opened in 1998 with a permanent collection formerly belonging to Eric Estorick (1913-93), an American sociologist and writer. There is also a rolling programme of temporary exhibitions. The space is open Wednesday to Sunday, and it costs £5 to enter (£3.50 for concessions and £2.50 for National Art Pass holders).

The building is quite small so it didn’t take me long to look around. To be honest the permanent collection didn’t grab me as much as I’d hoped, but I found a few pictures that I liked.

2014_0406Estorick10
Estorick permanent collection
2014_0406Estorick13
Estorick permanent collection

The temporary exhibition when I visited was Giorgio de Chirico: Myth and Mystery. The artist is best known for his paintings, but here his sculptures are on display. I must admit I’d never heard of him, but I did like his modern, occasionally creepy sculptures.

2014_0406Estorick04
Giorgio de Chirico sculpture
2014_0406Estorick03
Giorgio de Chirico sculpture

The Estorick should appeal to those interested in modern and/or Italian art. I don’t know if I’ll be rushing back (unless there’s an exhibition I particularly want to see) but that’s just my personal taste. The place itself is very pleasant and worth a visit if you think it’s something you might enjoy.

FACTS

Address: 39a Canonbury Square, London, N1 2AN

Website: estorickcollection.com

Opening Hours: Wed-Sat 11am-6pm, Sun 12pm-5pm

Prices: Adult £5, Concession £3.50

Pop Art Design – Barbican Art Gallery

I headed to the Barbican Art Gallery for the first time last week. I visited in order to check out the exhibition on Pop Art Design, which sounded interesting.

Pop Art flourished mainly in the mid-20th century, and grew up as a reaction to the austerity of the wartime era and the dawn of the media age. Artists like Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and others created iconic works inspired by advertising slogans and incorporating bright and bold colours and designs. I don’t know if Pop Art is really ‘me’, but I found the exhibition interesting nevertheless.

Paul Klee: Making Visible – Tate Modern

The EY exhibition at the Tate Modern is Paul Klee: Making Visible, until the 9th of March. I didn’t know a great deal about the artist, so took a chance and headed down to Bankside to check the exhibition out.

Klee is an important figure of 20th century art. His breakthrough came during the First World War, following which he taught at the Bauhaus before moving to Düsseldorf and subsequently being dismissed from his teaching position by the Nazis, who labelled his works ‘degenerate’. Though I’m not a particular fan of twentieth-century art, anything labelled negatively by the Nazis gains merit in my eyes!

Paul Klee, They
Paul Klee, They’re Biting, 1920 (Tate Modern)

Most of Klee’s works are very small; this came as a surprise to me as for some reason I always imagine modern works of art to be huge. I saw a lot of them as ‘cute’ – this might sound like an odd thing to say about art, but many of the works were warm, attractive, with a sense of humour – something drew me into them and made me interested. I particularly liked the fish pictures, and the related ‘They’re Biting’. I loved the way his later works seemed to comment on Nazism and contemporary culture, and his late works – such as ‘Walpurgis Night’ and images of witches – had a distinctly darker tone. Despite my initial misgivings, I really enjoyed the exhibition and admired the variety in Klee’s work.

Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life – Tate Britain

I know of L.S. Lowry, and I’m aware of his work in painting scenes of working class life in the north. My grandparents had a print of his on their living room wall. However, until I visited Tate Britain‘s fantastic exhibition Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life, I didn’t appreciate just how good an artist he was.

Lowry (1887-1976) specialised in painting the England of the Industrial Revolution, mainly around the urban centres of Salford and Manchester. His paintings are vivid and distinct, giving a unique impression of people going about their lives. Often he portrays the rituals of the working-class life – going to and from the factory, attending a football match, visiting the market. He doesn’t shy away from brutality – one picture shows a family being evicted, another the ‘fever van’ which took sick children to the infirmary (often never to return) – but there is a stark beauty in his work, which is full of life.

Mexico: A Revolution in Art, 1910-1940 – Royal Academy of Arts

The other week I went to the Royal Academy to catch the exhibition Mexico: A Revolution in Art, 1910-1940 just before it closed. I’m glad I did – I didn’t know much about Mexico in the early 20th century (or Mexico at any other time, come to that), but I found it really interesting.

Revolution and regime change in Mexico inspired artists of all kinds who produced varied work including paintings, photographs, leaflets and woodcuts. Some of my favourite images were those inspired by the Day of the Dead, with grinning skulls and bright colours. I also liked the early 20th century pictures showing the revolution in action.

José Chávez Morado, 'Carnaval en Huejotzingo' (Carnival in Huejotzingo), 1939
José Chávez Morado, ‘Carnaval en Huejotzingo’ (Carnival in Huejotzingo), 1939

Some of the images made a particularly strong impact: the photographers did not shy away from portraying the dark side of the revolution, with explicit shots of the dead and injured. While disturbing, these images really brought home the reality of the situation for the revolutionaries, and contrasted with the other images emphasising the positive side of Mexico.

Churchill War Rooms

[flickr id=”9325047906″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”left”]
Churchill War Rooms

Like HMS Belfast, which I visited earlier the same day, the Churchill War Rooms are part of the IWM, and I visited one Sunday to take advantage of my Tesco Clubcard free ticket. Located beneath the streets of Westminster, these are the original Cabinet War Rooms used to protect the Government from attack during the Second World War. Initially I was just thankful to get out of the heat (the rooms were lovely and cool), but I thoroughly enjoyed my visit for its own sake.

The first important room I came to was the Cabinet meeting room. Not all meetings during the war were held here, but over 100 were.

[flickr id=”9255049212″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”left”]
The War Cabinet meeting room

I then came across the weather guide, designed to let those underground know what it was like outdoors. Famously, the guide was changed to ‘windy’ during air raids.

[flickr id=”9252266939″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”left”]
Weather information

There were a surprising amount of corridors, with random doors leading off them at various points.

[flickr id=”9255051008″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”left”]
Corridor

About halfway through the tour there was a Churchill Museum, examining the wartime Prime Minister’s life and career. I learnt several interesting things – I was surprised to hear that he was so radical early in his career.

[flickr id=”9255050620″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”left”]
Door to 10 Downing Street

After the Cabinet and a number of staff began to use the underground War Rooms, the ceiling was reinforced to provide protection in case of air raids. However, the bunker was still not completely secure and a direct hit would have destroyed it. Luckily, this never happened.

[flickr id=”9252267781″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”left”]
Reinforced ceiling

Members of staff worked day and night underground, sometimes even sleeping here.

[flickr id=”9252267449″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”left”]
One of the Cabinet rooms

Churchill had his own room in the bunker, complete with wall maps. He didn’t often sleep here, however.

[flickr id=”9255049484″ thumbnail=”medium” align=”left”]
Churchill’s room

The Churchill War Rooms are open seven days a week (except 24-26 December inclusive). I definitely recommend a visit – there is a surprising amount to see and take in, and the War Rooms are crucially important to the history of 20th century Britain.

FACTS

Address: Clive Steps, King Charles Street, London, SW1A 2AQ

Website: iwm.org.uk/visits/churchill-war-rooms

Opening Hours: 9.30am-6pm

Prices: Adult £18, Concession £14.40, Child £9; under-5s free

7 Hammersmith Terrace

2013 0413 Emery Walker House 02

The front of 7 Hammersmith Terrace

The other weekend I visited 7 Hammersmith Terrace, former home of Emery Walker and boasting an original Arts & Crafts interior. The house is only open at certain times via guided tour, so I booked my visit online and turned up at the house just before eleven. 7 Hammersmith Terrace is on the north bank of the Thames, near Stamford Brook tube station on the District line.

2013 0413 Emery Walker House 01

Emery Walker (1851-1933) was a printer and was a great friend to William Morris, who lived nearby at Kelmscott House. He also had contact with many of the other leading cultural and political figures of the period, including Philip Webb and George Bernard Shaw. His house is filled with authentic furniture and decorations from the period: William Morris wallpaper, furniture left to Walker by Webb, photographs, artefacts and personal items such as a lock of hair, as well as items he and his daughter Dorothy picked up on their travels.

2013 0413 Emery Walker House 03

Back of the house, seen from the garden

This is a beautiful house and well worth a visit – I definitely recommend booking a tour.

FACTS

Address: 7 Hammersmith Terrace, London, W6 9TS

Website: emerywalker.org.uk

Opening Hours: Guided tour only; visit emerywalker.org.uk/booking.

POP! Design Culture Fashion – Fashion & Textile Museum

I have a National Art Pass, which means I get discounted or free entry to lots of museums and galleries in and around London. I also make the most of the handy website, http://www.artfund.org/, which lists all the places at which you can get a discount, in order to plan where to go next. The website was the place I learned about the Fashion & Textile Museum in Bermondsey, south London. It is a small museum and only open when there is an exhibition on, which is probably why I’d never come across it before.

2012 1013 Fashiontextilemuseum 01

Museum entrance on Bermondsey Street

I visited the museum on Saturday and only paid £3.50 to get in with my Art Pass. One of the first things I saw when I entered the museum was this utterly stunning Dior dress. It looks like something that would have been worn by Grace Kelly.

2012 1013 Fashiontextilemuseum 02

The current exhibition is entitled POP! Design Culture Fashion, and explores the impact of music and art on fashion in the fifties, sixties and seventies. It begins with the rock n’ roll culture of the 1950s, the world of Elvis Presley and circle skirts. This was the era that appealed to me the most; I was lusting after several of the items on display.

2012 1013 Fashiontextilemuseum 03

I loved this circle skirt

The exhibition then moved on to look at ‘Swinging London’ and the mods and rockers culture, with displays of Mary Quant fashion and the short dresses of the time. These clothes didn’t appeal to me so much (I don’t have the figure for a minidress) but I liked this monochrome maxi:

2012 1013 Fashiontextilemuseum 04

Subsequently, the exhibition examined the hippy styles of the late sixties and seventies, with bright colours and dramatic accessories. There was something of a Fifties revival around this time, and this dress in particular caught my eye.

2012 1013 Fashiontextilemuseum 05

Finally, POP explored the punk era, with clothing designed by Vivienne Westwood and worn by the punk rockers of the day. These clothes weren’t particularly to my taste, but I could imagine the dramatic impact they would have had at the time.

Alongside the outfits, accessories and other items from the relevant periods were shown to further illustrate the styles of the times. A Fifties jukebox, a clothes hanger with Jimi Hendrix’s face on it and an original still from the Beatles’ movie Yellow Submarine were just some of the articles on display, along with several household items. My favourites were a set of three cushions which together made an Edwardian-inspired, Mucha-esque picture of a woman.

POP! Design Culture Fashion is on until the 27th of October. The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday, 11am – 6pm. The next exhibition, which opens on 16 November and runs until 23 February 2013, is about London fashion by designers to the Queen and is called Hartnell to Amies: Couture by Royal Appointment.

FACTS

Address: 83 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3XF

Website: ftmlondon.org

Opening Hours: Open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11am–6pm; Sundays, 11am-5pm; late night Thursdays until 8pm.

Prices: Approx. £8-£9 adults, £7-£8 concessions; under 12s free