Thursday, October 19, 2017

Basquiat on the BBC and at the Barbican

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) was a precocious and highly original talent - as a poet, artist and social commentator. He lived fast, painted faster, made a lot of money and died young, age 27, of a heroin overdose - just over 30 years ago. In May this year he achieved iconic art star status.

'Basquiat Boom for Real' Barbican
Photo Tristan Fewings | Getty Images | The Estate of Jean Michel Basquiat Artestar
The anniversary of his death has been marked by:
  • programmes on the BBC
  • an exhibition at the Barbican.
More about these below.

Basquiat at the BBC

There are a number of programmes and articles about Basquiat
and articles

"Basquiat - Rage to Riches"

I knew very little about Basquiat before watching the programme the Basquiat - Rags to Riches programme (link above) - but found it enormously interesting and a very good programme / bio about the artist. It's an interesting mix of the people who knew him really well as friends and those who knew him once he became absorbed by the art world - such as Larry Gagosian.
The recent Sotheby's auction of a Jean-Michel Basquiat Skull painting for over a hundred million dollars has catapulted this Brooklyn-born artist into the top tier of the international art market, joining the ranks of Picasso, de Kooning and Francis Bacon. This film tells Jean-Michel's story through exclusive interviews with his two sisters Lisane and Jeanine, who have never before agreed to be interviewed for a TV documentary. With striking candour, Basquiat's art dealers - including Larry Gagosian, Mary Boone and Bruno Bischofberger - as well as his most intimate friends, lovers and fellow artists, expose the cash, the drugs and the pernicious racism which Basquiat confronted on a daily basis. As historical tableaux, visual diaries of defiance or surfaces covered with hidden meanings, Basquiat's art remains the beating heart of this story.

Basquiat at the Barbican: "Basquiat: Boom for Real"

The exhibition at the Barbican opened on 21 September 2017 and it continues until 28 January 2018. I expect it will be very busy over Christmas/New Year! (Note the visitors info below)

'Basquiat Boom for Real' Barbican
Photo Tristan Fewings | Getty Images | The Estate of Jean Michel Basquiat Artestar

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Tim Storrier wins richest portrait prize in the world

The Lunar Savant (portrait of McLean Edwards)
by Tim Storrier
acrylic on linen
The Lunar Savant (portrait of McLean Edwards) by Tim Storrier has just won the First Prize in the Doug Moran Portrait Prize - worth $AUD 150,000 

It's the richest portrait prize in the world[Note: Just to give some sense of perspective, according to Google, as of today, $AUD 150,000 equates to £89,160 in the UK; €99,910 in Europe  and $117,525 in the USA]

However the BIG story is the backstory about how the portrait came to be entered for the competition in the first place - which makes for fascinating reading. I'm guessing the sentiments expressed will be ones that many artists will have known at some point in their career.

    About the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize

    Founded in 1988, the aim of the prize over the last 29 years has been to encourage
    both excellence and creativity in contemporary Australian portraiture by asking artists to interpret the look and personality of a chosen sitter, either unknown or well known.
    The competition is only open to:
    • Australian citizens or 
    • an artist legally resident in Australia for the 12 months preceding the entries close date
    The judges of this year's competition were:
    • Daniel Thomas AM - an art historian and curator, who was once 
      • chief curator at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 
      • then Senior Curator of Australian Art at the National Gallery of Australia and, 
      • from 1984 to 1990, Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia
    • Wendy Sharpe - an Australian artist who has won an awful lot of awards 
    • Greta Moran - a founding Director of the Moran Arts Foundation which she established with her late husband Doug Moran in 1988. 

    First Prize

    Tim Storrier's portrait of his friend the artist McLean Edwards is to my mind the absolute stand out portrait amongst the finalists - it's head and shoulders above the others - in more ways than one. (notwithstanding the fact the finalists included a self-portrait by McLean Edwards).
    Standing almost two metres tall, the portrait is one of the largest in the competition and certainly one of the most beautiful and arresting, depicting a disheveled-looking Edwards in a stark, mystical night landscape with a cigarette dangling loosely from one hand, a bemused look on his ruddy face and one shoe noticeably absent.Doug Moran Art Prize Won by a Portrait Rejected by the Archibald | Jane Albery, Broadsheet Melbourne
    Judge Daniel Thomas described the portrait as one that
    “went outside his personal mythology and produced an affectionate, teasing, ‘friendship painting’ of a wild fellow artist”.
    Interestingly, according to the Sydney Morning Herald
    • this is the first time Tim Storrier has entered the Doug Moran Portrait Prize competition. 
    • the portrait was "screened out" by the the judges of the Art Gallery of NSW (presumably in relation to the Archibald Prize)
    On collecting his prize money Storrier apparently commented as follows
    "That picture should have been really called Lazarus, because the judges of the Art Gallery of NSW in their wisdom screened it out; it did not make the cut..... It's interesting isn't it? It's two different institutions with two different value systems at work." Tim Storrier quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald
    Storrier was also in the news earlier this year for blasting the choice of winner for The Archibald Prize - see John Olsen and Tim Storrier blast judges of Archibald Prize - they accused the judges of picking a "bland" portrait. He reiterated his criticism that the board of the Art Gallery of NSW had been taken over "by a postmodernist cabal" driven by fashion and political caution. in the interview he gave to the Sydney Morning Herald.

    That commentary makes more sense now it turns out that even pre-eminent portrait painters can feel very aggrieved about how selections are made for prestigious competitions!
    “It’s just amazing how a limping dog can end up winning a race, isn’t it?”Tim Storrier on his Doug Moran win after being rejected for The Archibald
    Storrier has very definitely for both street cred and a track record as both a portrait painter and winner of major awards.
    • He has won the Sulman Prize twice with 
      • 1968: a painting of a motorbike accident in the outback (Suzy 350) when he was 19 years of age
      • 1984: a painting called The Burn
    • He's a previous winner of The Archibald (Portrait) Prize with his faceless painting of The histrionic wayfarer (after Bosch(see my previous post Tim Storrier wins the $75,000 Archibald Prize 2012).
    • He then went on to win the Packing Room Prize in 2014 for his portrait of 'Sir Les Patterson' one of the messier inventions of John Barry Humphries, AO, CBE - Australian comedian, satirist, artist, and author.
    His work is also included in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York and all major Australian art museums.
    I just wish he'd have a shot at the BP Portrait Award so I could get to see one of his portraits - as they are always fascinating if not a total conundrum dressed up as a portrait.

    You can see more of Storrier's portraits/artworks on his website. This is a video about him.

    You can read about McLean edwards perspective on the portrait and the win by his friend in
    Head to head — Tim Storrier v McLean Edwards in Australia’s richest art prize

    The Finalists

    30 portraits made it through to the Finals of the Doug Moran Prize. (I like the fact every finalist wins $AUD 1,000).
    This is a very short video about the judging

    The Exhibition

    The Doug Moran Portrait Prize Exhibition opens tomorrow
    • Dates: 19 October to 17 December 2017
    • Venue: Juniper Hall, 250 Oxford Street, Paddington in Sydney.
    • Hours: Open Thursday to Sunday 10am to 4pm
    • Admission: Free
    The Juniper Hall venue is a former gin distillery in Paddington and the oldest building in Sydney, which was fully restored in 1988 and bought by the Moran Foundation in 2012 from the National Trust. It's used as an art gallery.

    Previous Winners

    On this page of the website you can see images of the previous winners and finalists between 2009 and 2016


    Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    An Apocalyptic Artful Autumn

    I went to Kew Gardens yesterday to view their new Artful Autumn exhibitions in the gardens. I hadn't quite bargained on getting Apocalypse Now thrown in for free!

    The weather was forecast to be warm and sunny and a great day to visit the gardens to see the sculpture and installations.

    However, we've lost confidence in the BBC Weather forecasts ever since the Met. Office lost the contract to provide the weather forecasts. We now find ourselves quite often photographing the BBC weather app showing one thing for a specific location and the weather doing something completely different.

    Yesterday was a case in point as the orange sun and the huge dust cloud descended on Kew as we walked around the gardens!  I must confess we spent an awful lot of time just staring at the sky as it got darker and darker!

    Below are some views of the various installations
    My favourite wood seat sculpture
    I'll touch on the Life in Death exhibition by Rebecca Louise Law later this week. Apparently it was very busy last weekend!


    Kew Gardens is a brilliant location for a sculpture exhibition - if and when they are presented well.

    Two figures near the Palm House
    For me the absolute minimum is providing either an online guide or a leaflet for what you're seeing.  Plus a good and uninterrupted view of the sculpture in its setting.

    Instead,  all too often at Kew this Autumn, what I've found is:
    • a very unhelpful barrier around the sculpture which completely spoils the effect of the sculpture; and/or
    • placing an erect large announcement about what it is very close to the sculpture
    See below for examples. It's extremely difficult to get a good clean look at the actual sculpture - unless you look at it from an angle which is not the best!

    Saturday, October 14, 2017

    Awards and CBMs at the Society of Botanical Artists Annual Exhibition 2017

    This week "Changing Seasons" the 2017 Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists opened at Central Hall Westminster in London. Admission is free and it's on every day 11am-5pm until Saturday 21st October.

    Entrance to the exhibition - at the end of the Private View

    For the last ten years I have reviewed the annual exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists on this blog - see my PAGE dedicated to botanical art and artists and past posts about the SBA exhibition (in the top menu of pages)

    In 2015 I set up my new website Botanical Art and Artists - complete with a dedicated news blog.

    Two years later it's beginning to rival Making A Mark for numbers of visitors and pageviews AND - according to an Alexa analysis of similar sites - is now the top website for botanical art in the world!

    Consequently I now focus my blog posts for the dedicated botanical art fan on that site - however I know there are a lot of fans who have not made the move over.

    The Awards Ceremony at the Private View with Jekka McVicar presenting awards

    So here for you are the my first two out of three posts about this year's exhibition.

    Thursday was the PV and on Friday I posted about the botanical artists receiving Awards - Society of Botanical Artists' Annual Exhibition 2017. It includes images of the artwork receiving awards and more information about the artists (links to their websites are embedded in their names).

    This morning I've posted about those awarded a Certificate of Botanical Merit in Society of Botanical Art 2017 - Certificates of Botanical Merit

    My final post tomorrow will  comprise:
    • a review of the exhibition as a whole and 
    • a commentary on its development over the last decade that I have been writing reviews of this exhibition.
    This year it includes 457 artworks covering paintings, drawings, miniatures, fine art prints and botanical ED works in glass and jewellery.

    A view of the exhibition which embraces a range of styles and media for portraying plants

    So, for those of you who have been reading this week's very popular post about Watercolour paintings of flowers sell well - maybe it's time to find out what you're missing!

    You've got a week left to visit this very popular exhibition.

    Thursday, October 12, 2017

    Watercolour paintings of flowers sell well

    Flower paintings are hugely popular with the public. Watercolour paintings of flowers also sell well - particularly when executed by experts.

    I find it such a pity that leading open exhibitions of watercolour paintings (by the RWS, RI and Sunday Times Watercolour Competition) don't include more paintings of plant life in general and flowers in particular.

    I'd love to know why there's a dearth of flower paintings in watercolour shows - when some of the best watercolour painters in the country paint flowers!

    I can't help but think that this is down to one of three reasons
    • Panels of Judges who don't like, don't understand or don't rate flower or botanical paintings - and don't care what the public like!
    • Well regarded flower painters and botanical artists who don't enter open exhibitions and art competitions for watercolour paintings - because their work doesn't get a good reception. (I've heard this story so many times re experiences in the past)
    • Or it just doesn't occur to artists who paint flowers to show their work outside a friendly environment - which is typically one which involves a lot of women! (I spend a lot of my time encouraging those who create artwork about plants and flowers to enter open exhibitions and competitions - and those that do generally do well, except when they come up against a panel of judges who make some very odd decisions eg STWC in 2017.)
    My own view is it's probably a combination of the above.

    This will never change until great flower painters who produce excellent work start entering the open exhibitions of other art societies and art competitions.

    Here are two exhibitions in London this week.

    Watercolour paintings by Rosie Sanders
    The first is the Rosie Sanders: Secret Letters Exhibition at Jonathan Cooper's Park Walk Gallery just off the Fulham Road in Chelsea. (Prices are between £3,800 and £18,000). 16 out of the 26 paintings had sold when I visited on Tuesday this week. More will have sold before the exhibition closes on Saturday.

    This is a video of my walk round the exhibition on Tuesday this week.

    Rosie is yet another female painter who ALWAYS paints what she loves and ALSO knows how to create and present work which sells (see blog posts at the end re other women who've had virtually sell out shows in the recent past)

    As a result Rosie has a solo show at this gallery every 1-2 years. (Note: Jonathan also shows other artists covered on Making A Mark in the past - who have won the BP Portrait Award and the ING Discerning Eye competition)

    It's simply not the case that watercolour paintings don't get shown by galleries or, alternatively, don't find buyers (see yesterday's post). The issue is the image that is created and the expertise used in creating that image....

    The second exhibition is Changing Seasons - the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists which has its Private View today and opens to the public tomorrow until Saturday 21 October. It's open every day 11am to 5pm and I'm expecting to see some excellent work.

    However most of these artists will never dream of showing outside group shows organised by those who understand their work.

    I'm off to see this exhibition shortly (it's at Central Hall, Westminster - opposite Westminster Abbey) and will be highlighting prizewinners and reviewing the exhibition on my botanical art news blog on my website Botanical Art and Artists later this week.

    [Note: This website is fast catching up with Making A Mark in terms of traffic - because that's how popular this sort of art is!]

    Those who are smart can do both exhibitions in one day this week!

    More women artists who know how to paint what they love and sell it!

    Three more women artists who have organised and held their own solo shows and sold virtually all the work
    plus another botanical artist who has had a very successful solo show of watercolour paintings of flowers in Chelsea Fiona Strickland exhibition at Park Walk Gallery

    All the artists share an ability to understand that they have to create their own future. Others can help them - but they have to make it happen!

    Wednesday, October 11, 2017

    RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition 2018 - Call for Entries

    This post is for ALL watercolour painters - wherever you live - who are interested in submitting their watercolour paintings to the art competition run each year by the Royal Watercolour Society.

    The Royal Watercolour Society invites submissions for the 2018 Contemporary Watercolour Competition 
    • Entry to the 2018 competition opened on Monday 9 October 2017
    • The deadline for digital submission of entries is Monday 15 January 2018, 12 midnight 
    • The exhibition will be in March 2018 at the Bankside Gallery (next to Tate Modern).
    This post is a commentary on some of the very significant issues associated with this competition in the recent past and an overview of the Call for Entries. It covers
    • my preamble and commentary on how this competition has changed in the last five years - and my hopes that it is now turning a corner under a new President
    • the prizes
    • the judges
    • who can enter
    • how to enter
    • the exhibition

    Monday, October 09, 2017

    Two different approaches to art society events in the UK and USA

    This post is about a contrast between national art societies:
    • in two different countries (the UK and USA - but this is probably applicable to others too) 
    • of different sizes - with an impact on the ease and expense of getting around 
    • with different approaches to getting together as members
    • and different associated costs to those members
    It happens to be about botanical art. However, this post really could have easily been about ANY media or subject based art society.  

    Hopefully it's also a prompt for national art societies in the UK to start "thinking outside the box" in terms of what's possible - and maybe what artists want of an art society?

    I'm not quite sure how this happened - but this year the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists in Westminster is taking place at the exact same time as the Annual Conference of the American Society of Botanical Artists in San Francisco!

    For me the arrangements of annual exhibition and the conference events exemplify the difference between the annual exhibitions of UK art societies and associated events and the conference approach of the USA Art Societies.

    The latter is driven somewhat by the fact that actually getting people together from different states involves a lot of travelling and people staying over - and hence EXPENSE!

    Hence to justify the time, effort and expense, there needs to be an extensive programme of events and workshops by first rate instructors and professional representatives - which means some of these events are not cheap!

    However one of the interesting aspects of this strong educational emphasis behind such conferences is that they also start to attract people from other countries around the world as well as those from around the USA!

    Interestingly, this week, there are also going to be quite a few Brits delivering sessions at the ASBA Conference!  So the international flavour of that Conference very much extends to tutors as well as participants!

    To be honest, I've met more than a few artists at the Private Views and visits to national art society over the last decade (OK - I've met LOTS!) who have wished that Art Societies in the UK would make much more of an effort to develop an annual conference in addition to an annual exhibition.

    One of the reasons why people think this would be a good idea is that such an event can be held anywhere in the country and gets away from the London-centric tenor of annual exhibitions by national art societies.  That then has the potential to increase participation by people who live outside the London and Home Counties

    Who knows, if such conferences got off the ground they might then attract both registered participants and tutors from outside the UK!  Just as happens in the USA!

    Anyway - enough of the theory and back to what's happening this week

    Saturday, October 07, 2017

    What's the biggest question facing artists today?

    The Guardian ran an article on Thursday called What's the biggest question facing artists today? The article makes for interesting reading - as do the comments

    I liked Tacita Dean's intelligent comment and Maria Balshaw also nailed it. However the best one for me came from Touria El Glaoui - and apparently I discerned a key theme of the comments without realising it and before I read them.
    It’s a question of security in your career: how to be true to yourself while surviving in a commercial market. 
    To which one commenter responded - and got the most "likes"
    If you can't earn enough to live on, it's not a career, it's a hobby. Most of us don't expect taxpayers to fund their hobbies, so why should artists?
    For those who'd like to make a serious comment - out of the limelight - you can respond via the Guardian's survey form - Calling all artists: what are the biggest issues that concern you?

    An analysis of the comments

    Leaving aside the comments from "the names" in the article, below you can find my analysis of the comments on the article FROM ARTISTS

    Auguste Rodin, Le Penseur,
    plaster on wood platform
    Musée d'art moderne
    et contemporain de Strasbourg
    Some points as to how I tackled my summary as a preamble:
    • I've left out most of the grumpiness and whining about why somebody has not made it and have focused on the people who actually attempted to answer the question. 
    • I've also left out the posturing and pseuds' corner stuff
    • Some people were totally incapable of answering this particular question - by providing a question - so I had to paraphrase quite a few. Those people may not agree with how I paraphrased.
    • The comments also provide an insight into the inability of some artists to actually focus on a topic and their total self-obsession with themselves. The ability of some to wax on about the small scale/parochial or global/political - and especially themselves - beggars belief.
    I clicked on this article hoping to read something about their ideas. Most talked about how to get paid.
    I think as a result of reading through all the comments, my question might be "When are artists going to get their act together?

    Or the same point from another perspective - another person put it like this
    The biggest 'problem' facing those who (generally) self-define at 'artists' is relevance to the rest of humanity. Not 'what's in it for me?', but 'what's in it for everyone else?'.

     What's the biggest question facing artists today?

    I've tried to categorise the comments - literal and paraphrased - in order to try and highlight what are the major concerns of artists.

    Without a doubt the main concerns that occupies many artists are

    • how to get paid for their art so they can go on being an artist
    • how to produce art that is authentic and persuade people that what they are doing is good - and should be supported.
    • how to break into the circle of elite artists/galleries/funders
    What appeared to concern some of those who are maybe not artists is.....
    • why should artists assume the world owes them a living?

    The oldies are the goodies

    • "What is art?" is a perennial (but didn't get asked a lot)
    • As is "What the hell is that meant to be?"
    • The biggest question for any artist - after the obvious ones of how do I pay the rent and feed myself etc. - is " Am I being true to myself?"
    • How to have enough money if (your) art is not immediately popular?
    • How to be true to yourself and produce authentic art at the same time as being able to eat and have a roof over your head?
    • How can we use our work to help create a new economy for the common good?'
    • Will my art last?
    • The biggest question facing artists today is the same as it ever was - what is my work worth, and will the buyers who snapped it up yesterday still do so tomorrow.

    Being an Artist

    • How much more would this world be enriched if those that are starving have enough to eat, and to produce art for everyone to enjoy?
    • How do you reconcile the statement "everyone is an artist" and the purported push from the left for democracy, inclusivity and diversity, with the special social (and funding) designation for 'artist' and 'art'? How do reconcile the lack of any real parameters around art (aesthetics, content, skill) and your assertion that artists are 'special' and think in a different way? What would you be measuring this 'difference' against, given that the doors to 'anything goes' have been open for fifty years? 
    • Why are only the rich making art, filling art institutions, becoming musicians, acting?
    • For most artists, it's 'How on earth you scrape together any kind of living?'
    • What is wrong with supporting your art with the work that real people must do?
    • How to keep getting away with it?

    Art Patrons / Collectors

    • If everybody can quite readily declare themselves an artist (which they can and do), who are the patrons? 
    • Why does it seem the audience for art is getting smaller?

    Art Education

    • Why is art education is being neglected by universities?

    Art Funding

    • Why does funding for the arts flow to the chosen few?
    • Why not ask the 99% of artists that are shut out of the "art market", shut out from funding, shut out from galleries, both private and public?

    Marketing Art

    • When are artists other than the exalted and chosen few that dominate the market going to get access to the limelight?
    • Why have we lost faith in the current art gallery system?
    • How not to be robbed by the art world? (the answer to that is, keep them guessing).
    • Why has "craving attention at all costs" replaced appreciation of aesthetic beauty?
    • When you're "on the outside looking in" what's the best way to get your art seen?
    • "Which dumb brainteaser am I going to sell as art this year to people who wouldn't know real art if it bit them on the ass but have impressive collections of modern money?"

    The best comment? Well this one in my opinion is worth a reread.
    All the anguish seems to be about squaring the circle between 'authenticity' and commercial necessity as an artist. But you don't need to be an Artist to do art. You can be a plumber, a pediatrician, a park ranger, and do art. Plenty of people always have and still do. But they are 'amateur' - one of the most corrupted words in the lexicon - and do not count. 
    and this is also the reality for some people
    Show me an artist who isn't concerned about getting paid, and I'll show you a hobbyist with a private pension.

    For those artists wanting to get their act together and sell some art so they can keep on making art can I refer you to my website Art Business Info for Artists. It certainly does NOT have all the answers (for one thing I'm still building it!) - however I've now been told by a number of both professional and aspiring artists that it does provide some very useful insights into the process of moving from creating art to creating an art career.

    Friday, October 06, 2017

    Review: 72nd Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Marine Artists

    The Private View of the 72nd Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Marine Artists was very well attended and sales prior to the exhibition opening to the public appeared to be brisk.

    Private View of 72nd Annual Exhibition the Royal Society of Marine Artists
    The exhibition is in all three galleries of the Mall Galleries until 5pm on Saturday 14th October 2017. (For those unable to attend read my previous post Case Study (RSMA): How to promote an annual exhibition and art for sale online to see how you can see and buy work online).

    There are a number of prizewinners - listed below.

    There are very nearly 400 artworks in the exhibition with very many of them being very strong paintings executed in an expert fashion. This is an exhibition with strength in depth and anybody who gets selected via the open should be very pleased with their achievement.

    This exhibition has a major emphasis on paintings with an overall lean towards the blue/grey/green colour palette! By way of contrast, there is very little sculpture, drawings and fine art prints. The framing tends towards the traditional rather than contemporary. There's a tad too much gilt on show for my liking which I personally don't think suits paintings of boats!

    Dramatic skies in marine landscapes
    Feature end wall of the Main Gallery had some splendid paintings
    Some of the smaller paintings and watercolours
    View of the exhibition in the Threadneedle Space.
    It's well hung with a good mix of members and artwork selected from the open entry across the exhibition as a whole. I liked the way work by members was mixed up around the galleries with generally no more than three paintings exhibited in one place. This diversity helps keep the exhibition exciting to view as one moves around the Main Gallery, North Galleries and Threadneedle Space.

    Lots of boats and some marine creatures
    What struck me this time was that it's very instructive to go and see an exhibition which has a fairly tight focus as to eligible subject matter and then see all the different ways that artists explore the topic using different styles and different art media.

    Rather more unusual art media I spotted this year include:
    Surf's up by Diane Young
    Hand-cut paper over acrylics
    The RSMA had a tendency to be a very blokish society with relatively few female members. However it now has a female President and I noted that women were well represented in both the open artworks and prizes awarded (see below).  

    Below are three such women exhibiting at this year's exhibition.

    Wednesday, October 04, 2017

    Video of Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2017

    When I reviewed the exhibition in my post 10 Best Paintings in the Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition I said I'd be posting my video of the exhibition at the weekend. However I was rather more ill than I'd realised.....

    Still from the video
    Hence I'm a bit remiss, not to mention late, in posting this video of the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2017.

    It's a walk around the exhibition while it was on display at the Mall Galleries in September. Not the smoothest of videos but I was suffering from a rather bad case of laryngitis, was walking with my stick and wasn't too bright for the next few days.

    I find I need to be feeling a bit brighter to process a video and publish it - hence the delay.

    For those wondering about the media used by artists selected for the competition, you can find below the "watercolour" media used for the paintings in the competition.  Less than half the paintings are traditional watercolour paint only.

    Watercolour 41 48%
    Acrylic 10 12%
    Watercolour and gouache 9 11%
    Watercolour and ink 4 5%
    Gouache 4 5%
    Watercolour and pencil 2 2%
    Ink 2 2%
    Gouache and watercolour 2 2%
    Acrylic and watercolour 2 2%
    Acrylic and pigment 2 2%
    Watercolour, Japanese ink and gilding/metal powders 1 1%
    Watercolour ink and gesso 1 1%
    Watercolour collage 1 1%
    Watercolour and water based mediums 1 1%
    Watercolour and inktense pencils 1 1%
    Watercolour and acrylic 1 1%
    Gouache, collage and pencil 1 1%

    Sunday, October 01, 2017

    Sargent: The Watercolours - a review

    You have one week left to visit the Sargent: The Watercolours exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in South London.

    This is the first major UK exhibition of watercolours by the Anglo-American artist, John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), since 1918.

    I've been going to go to this exhibition all summer and for one reason and another didn't go until last Friday.

    I now wish I'd gone earlier as I greatly enjoyed it - and would have paid a second visit.

    Instead I made made a lot of notes about it! This post:
    • tells you how the exhibition is organised 
    • shares images of some of the watercolour paintings in the exhibitions
    • plus videos highlighting each section
    • summarises my notes of aspects of his watercolour practice that I noticed
    At the end if references various other blog posts about Sargent on this blog.  I refer to John Singer Sargent as JSS below as I've been doing this for years!

    I'd recommend this exhibition to those who select work for exhibitions of "watercolours" as a reminder of what watercolour is supposed to look like when handled by an expert artist. (see recent posts about What does "watercolour" mean to you? and 10 Best Paintings in the Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition) plus my very long blog post about the topic of What is watercolour? back in 2009)

    Sargent: The Watercolours

    The exhibition displays works from 30 lenders - including a number of works in private collections that I've never ever seen before in exhibitions or in books.  Lenders include:
    • UK: Tate, The British Museum, The Fitzwilliam, The Imperial War Museum and The Ashmolean, alongside works rarely seen from numerous private collections. 
    • Europe: Museu de Montserrat, Abadia de Montserrat, Barcelona; the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon and the Petit Palais, Musee de Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris.
    John Singer Sargent, Loggia, View at the Generalife, c. 1912, 
    watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 39.4 x 53.2 cm, 
    Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Collections. 
    Purchased in 1927, half the auction price met by Sir James Murray 
    The exhibition is divided into sections which are:
    • Fragments and close-ups 
    • Cities - 
    • Landscapes
    • Figures
    Online booking for viewing the exhibition means a number of timed slots for visiting the exhibition have already sold out. However there are a limited number of walk-up tickets will be available each day - but you do need to arrive early to avoid disappointment.

    Catalogue cover
    You can park in Gallery Road where there are no parking restrictions.

    The catalogue

    For those unable to get to see the exhibition you can see ALL the paintings (but just a few of the photographs) in the exhibition in the catalogue Sargent: The WatercoloursThere are lots available still in the Gallery shop but for some reason it's not listed in their online shop.

    [This is the links for readers living in the USA - Sargent: The Watercolours]

    Summary of my notes

    Most of the watercolours are from a period after 1900 when JSS tended to take a couple of trips a year to Europe - typically the Alps and southern Europe and always Venice every year - for plein air painting and sketching with family and friends.

    Sargent painting a watercolour in the Simplon Pass, c. 1910-11,
    Unknown photographer 
    Sargent Archive, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 

    Fragments and close-ups 

    • He obviously like architecture - but prefers to sketch sections of it. My first note says "pillars and pedestals" - because there's a lot of them!  

    Saturday, September 30, 2017

    Case Study (RSMA): How to promote an annual exhibition and art for sale online

    The Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Marine Artists opens at the Mall Galleries on 5th October and continues until 14th October (open 10am - 5pm each day).

    398 paintings and drawings will be on display various media. This is an open exhibition so works are by both members of the RSMA and those selected via the open entry.
    You can view ALL the artwork in advance online 

    Other art societies would do well to see how the RSMA and the Mall Galleries combined collaborate to:
    • increase the profile of the art society - RSMA 
    • promote their annual exhibition in various ways
    • promote and increase sales of the artwork online in advance of the exhibition
    For example, the RSMA 2017 Annual Exhibition Catalogue has been published on Issuu
    • It includes a selection on members artwork.  
    • This catalogue is organised by the Mall Galleries marketing team.
    • The option to make it available for view on Issuu is available to all the member art societies of the Federation of British Artists who exhibit at the Mall Galleries.
    However it's also something that any art society can do (more details of "how to publish" on Issuu)

    Cover of the Catalogue for the RSMA Annual Exhibition 2017
    A double page spread of a selection of members artwork.
    The Royal Society of Marine Artists are also very organised with their own website:
    • the website has a page dedicated to the exhibition
    • On this page you can also see a sample of the paintings which will be on display - which includes the title, media and price as well as the artists name.

    A sample of the paintings on display on the RSMA's dedicated 2017 exhibition page

    Finally, the Mall Galleries website has images of ALL the artworks in the exhibition - because of course submission is now digital so artists need to produce images!

    You just need to scroll down the "RSMA What's On" page and you can see the images across several pages.  These are:
    • in alphabetical order (surname)
    • include BOTH paintings by members and those selected from the open entry which will also be on display

    A sample of the drawings and paintings selected from the Open Entry
    for the 2017 Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Marine Artists
    What's more you can also buy them in advance of the exhibition opening!  If you click the title this will bring up an image of the painting and provide all of the detailed information about the media.

    Friday, September 29, 2017

    Lachlan Goudie on "Sargent: The Watercolours"

    Guess where I am this afternoon?

    Down at Dulwich Picture Gallery viewing Sargent: The Watercolours. It's one of those exhibitions where I've been thinking I've got ages left and then woke up to the fact I haven't. (I bought the book months before it opened!)

    So, despite a very painful foot, I'm driving down to Dulwich (the joys of parking in Gallery Road!)

    Here's Lachlan Goudie's take on Sargent as a watercolourist - painting for himself - and the exhibition - plus ratings by various newspapers popping up from time to time

    If you want to see it you've not got much time left - just over a week in fact. It finishes on 8th October (and is closed on 2nd October). Plus lots of time slots are already sold out.

    Choose your date and time and book tickets and print them off once you've received your email.

    The "tickets" were shambolic on my iMac and better on my iPhone! I gather they;re getting a new ticketing app. Let's hope it's one which allows me to store tickets on my iPhone Wallet!

    Thursday, September 28, 2017

    Old Flo has left Yorkshire and is on her way back to East End

    Henry Moore’s bronze sculpture Draped Seated Woman - known in the East End as "Old Flo" - has been lifted from the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and is on her way back to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets from whence she came.

    Still from BBC video A Henry Moore statue loaned to sculpture park starts journey
    Below I've set out the details of when's she expected home and the display that is being held in her honour

    I've been following this story over the last five years in a number of blog posts (see below). This will be the fifth!

    Leaving Yorkshire

    This is the BBC video of Old Flo being lifted from her plinth where she's lived for the last 20 years inside the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

    Old Flo "opens" at Canary Wharf

    Every time I go to Canary Wharf in the car I keep glancing into Cabot Square which is where she is supposed to end up - just in case she had turned up without any hoohah!

    However it looks like we're getting the hoohah! So here are all the facts:
    • She returns to the East End on 22 October 2017.
    • She will be located in Cabot Square, overlooking Middle Dock and accessible to all who pass by.
    • A programme of celebrations, education and outreach will be rolled out while Old Flo is at Canary Wharf. 
    • Anyone who would like to receive updates on these activities is invited to contact Canary Wharf at


    There will be a display in the Community Gallery in Canada Place from 20 October to 2 January.  This will:
    • celebrate the return of ‘Old Flo’ to Tower Hamlets 
    • tell the story of how Henry Moore’s sculpture came to reside on the Stifford Estate is shown 

    Canary Wharf Twitter @yourcanarywharf  needs to get its act together for welcoming her back to Tower Hamlets - not a tweet as yet. Meanwhile the politicians are all claiming they did it!

    Wednesday, September 27, 2017

    Britain's Lost Masterpieces - Series 2 starts tonight

    The second series of Britain's Lost Masterpieces starts on BBC4 tonight at 9pm.

    If you've been wondering why the BBC1 Fake or Fortune team seem to have lost Dr Bendor Grosvenor (Art History Now), it's apparently because there has been a "spat" between him and Philip Gould which "have not been denied by either party"

    I gather Bendor sees a clear difference between the programmes and that view might not be shared by Philip Gould.

    For the record:
    • Britain's Lost Masterpieces deals with artwork in PUBLIC collections
    • Fake or Fortune? looks at art in PRIVATE ownership (i.e. no role for a private art dealer such as Philip Gould)
    This means they now front and present seperate programmes!

    In the second series Bendor teams up with social historian Emma Dabiri (who tweets as the @TheDiasporaDiva)

    Jacky Klein (left) and Bendor Grosvenor with the painting which is the subject of Episode 1

    The series has four episodes - as follows:
    You can get a sense of what the series is like using the clips from Series 1

    Episode 1: Glasgow

    As already reported in the press, the first episode is about the holy grail - a lost masterpiece by a past master.

    The programme follows
    • the review of a painting thought to be a copy of a Rubens portrait of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham (constant companion and closest advisor to James I of England / James VI of Scotland in the 17th century). Apparently the subject is regarded as one of the most famous gay men in history!
    • the investigation of the painting under layers of subsequent painting and the discovery that it is in fact the rare and original 17th century portrait regarded as lost by art historians for almost 400 years; and 
    • its attribution to Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), a famous painter in the early 17th century!
    The portrait shows the Duke of Buckingham, James I’s lover. The King referred to Buckingham as his husband, and their relationship scandalised the court. Rubens’ portrait of Buckingham was painted in about 1625, but had been regarded as lost by art historians for almost 400 years.
    The painting is discovered at Pollok House, Glasgow set in the scenic surroundings of Pollok Country Park on the outskirts of Glasgow. The painting belongs to Glasgow Museums.  Pollok House with its fine collection of paintings - and 360 acres of Pollok Estate - was gifted to the City of Glasgow in 1967. The house and its collection of paintings are now managed by the National Trust for Scotland and the grounds also provide a home for the Burrell Collection.

    Initially thought to be a copy, the Britain’s Lost Masterpieces team reveal new evidence which enables it to be attributed as an original by influential Flemish painter Sir Peter Paul Rubens
    Previously thought to be a mere copy of a lost original, the picture’s attribution was doubted in part to layers of dirt and overpaint. The background and other areas of the portrait were entirely overpainted by a later hand, obscuring many of Rubens’ trademark techniques. Conservation work carried out for Britain’s Lost Masterpieces by the restorer Simon Gillespie has now returned the painting, which belongs to Glasgow Museums, to its original state, allowing for a new assessment of the attribution to Rubens, considered one of history’s most influential painters and a pioneer of the Flemish Baroque tradition whose work is now worth millions.

    Overwhelming evidence including technical analysis of the panel on which the portrait was painted proved that it was prepared in the manner used in Rubens’ studio. Dendrochronology (examining the tree rings of wood to date it) showed that the panel was likely created in the early 1620s, and a number of alterations revealed by cleaning and X-ray analysis in areas such as the hair and costume, demonstrated that the painting could not be a copy, but was Rubens’ lost masterpiece.
    Ben van Beneden, director of the Rubenshuis and a member of the Rubenianum, the Antwerp centre for Rubens scholarship, confirmed the attribution to Rubens.
    "The Head Study of the Duke of Buckingham is a rare addition to Rubens's portrait oeuvre showing how he approached the genre."

    Until now, only one British sitter painted by Rubens has been on display in Britain, the Earl of Arundel. The newly discovered portrait will now go on display at Pollok House, and is only the second portrait by Rubens in a public collection in Scotland.

    Britain's Lost Masterpieces (W/T) (3x60') was commissioned by Mark Bell for BBC Four and the BBC executive producer is Emma Cahusac. It is produced and directed by Spike Geilinger and executive produced by Brendan Hughes and Harry Bell for Tern TV. In partnership with Art UK.