Friday, 15 January 2016

My Top 5 Exhibitions of 2015



If you've read my blog for a while, you'll know that I love a good exhibition. And 2015 was no exception! Scanning through my diary I realised that I've visited a whopping 15 exhibitions at 9 different museums and galleries over the last 12 months including galleries in London, Paris, Bath, Budapest and little old Eastbourne. My ArtFund Pass definitely worked out overcome and more than paid for itself! So, I thought I narrow them down to my top 5 museum events of the year and have a good ol' reminisce about my favourites.


1. Savage Beauty at the V&A


The Alexander McQueen exhibition was one of the most anticipated of the year and I remember logging on to my computer the moment tickets came on sale. I was not disappointed - this was a showstopper in every sense of the word. Beautifully displayed outfits in glass cages conjured up a cabinet of curiosities feel and showcased McQueen's sheer creative genius perfectly. Read my full review here.


2. Sonia Delaunay at the Tate Modern


I hadn't heard much about Sonia Delaunay before exploring the summer exhibition at the Tate, but now she is one of my absolute favourites. A textile designer, painter, tapestry weaver, and fashion designer; the sheer abundance of her creative output is so very impressive. I couldn't help but be inspired by her as you can read in this blog post here. She truly was an incredibly talented woman.


3. Silent Partners at the Fitzwilliam Museum

Back in January I visited the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge for the first time and saw the Silent Partners exhibition. The 'silent partners' showcased were artist's dummies of all different types and varieties, from wooden mannequins and childlike dolls to more sinister creations. This was one of the most eery and magical displays I saw this year and something a little bit different!


4. Liberty in Fashion at the Fashion & Textile Museum


When I heard that the Fashion & Textile Museum in London (one of my perennial faves) would be putting on an exhibition of Liberty fashion in the autumn I knew it would be right up my street. Florals and fashion are a match made in heaven, and the exhibition gave a wonderful look at how Liberty has influenced what we wear through the decades, from smocked blouses to ditsy print dresses. Read my full review here.



5. Splendour and Misery: Pictures of Prostitution at the Musee D'Orsary


Earlier this year I went on a mini weekend break to Paris with some friends. Luckily they also enjoy museums and were happy to come along to the Musee D'Orsay where there was an exhibition on prostitution in art. Not your average topic for a fine art gallery but I really loved what they did with this concept. Aside from some rather risque photographs from the Victorian era that would make your grandma blush, there were some beautiful paintings by Toulouse Lautrec, Degas and Manet. It was so special to see these in real life and the whole exhibition really opened me up to look at art in a different way and to see how women in Paris were seen by these predominately male artists. 

So that's my round-up of what I saw in 2015. Let me know what exhibitions you loved last year and what you are looking forward to in 2016. Here's to many more hours spent in museums and galleries!

A bientot!
Xx

Saturday, 2 January 2016

New year, new books



Happy new year! I hope you've had a peaceful and restful Christmas and are looking forward to all that 2016 may bring. After a few months of being in a bit of a reading slump, I was very happy to receive some lovely books from friends and family, which look tempting enough to tear me away from Mad Men (Season 4, I'm obsessed!). Last year's Christmas Reads post was pretty popular so I thought I would share with you a few words about which books I was lucky enough to be given this year. The only problem now is which to read first!


Public Library by Ali Smith

I've had this on my wish list since before it was published but somehow managed to hold off buying before Christmas. I've really got into Ali Smith over the past year after first falling in love with How to Be Both followed by Artful and then The Accidental. I can't wait to dig into this collection of short stories, all about the wonderful places that are public libraries.  I owe a lot to my local library which has provided me with copious amounts of fashion books, recipes and the classics over the years. Hopefully, there will still be some left to visit in the future!


The Little Friend by Donna Tartt

Not much really needs to be said about Donna Tartt, she is a literary genius. Ever since reading The Goldfinch and then wolfing down The Secret History (whilst simultaneously trying to savour ever word) Donna Tartt has quickly become one of my favourite authors. I knew I had to get my hands on her other novels and was so pleased to discover this one on Christmas Day.


M Train by Patti Smith

Ah, Patti! If I could fan-girl about anyone it would be her, she is such a legend. Just Kids is one of my favourite books, it is so beautifully and poetically written, and Patti's sheer drive and creative nature shines through in every word. I cannot wait to be swept into her world again with M Train.


Women in this Town by Giuseppe Santamaria

My friend Grace surprise me with this gorgeous street style book. Based on the blog Women in this Town it captures women from across the world, documenting their personal style. Each section is divided by city, be it London, New York, Tokyo etc. and it's fascinating to see how each metropolis has its own unique style. I'm looking forward to flicking through this and hopefully gaining some inspiration and perhaps the impetus to be a little braver with my style choices in 2016.




VOGUE Colouring Book by Iain R Webb

Last but not least, a fun one to end with. Colouring books for grown ups have been inescapable this year and I was secret hoping I might receive one for Christmas. Low and behold: The Vogue Colouring Book - perhaps the chicest of them all?! My lovely mum scouting this one out and I had the best afternoon spent colouring in whilst watching It's A Wonderful Life! What I love about this book is that it's so beautifully produced with drawings straight from the pages of 1950s Vogue magazines, complete with captions describing each item of clothing in glorious detail. Once I got over the fact that I had to DRAW ON A BOOK(!) I had loads of fun deciding which colour gown each model should wear. Hardly the worst dilemma to have!


I hope you all had the loveliest festive season and have loads of good books and mulled wine to keep you company during winter! Let me know if you have any recommendations in the comments, I would loving to hear them!


Xx


Sunday, 8 November 2015

Liberty in Fashion



The new exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum combines two of my favourite things: fashion and florals. Liberty In Fashion charts the history of the famous London shopping destination and the impact the brand and its designers had on British fashion. At the grand age of 140, Liberty has seen many changes in fashion and design but has maintained its place as an iconic institution, pioneering beautiful prints and bohemian designs.

The exhibition itself is a treasure-trove of ditsy prints, intricate embroidery and bright colours. It starts with the company's early days when it was set up by Arthur Liberty as a warehouse supplying fashionable goods and textiles from the Far East in the 1870s. Liberty then moved into creating beautiful embellished gowns, befitting the wardrobe of a Downton debutante, as shown in the image of the delicate ivory capelet below.



The beginning of the 20th century saw Liberty embrace the idea of 'Aesthetic Dressing'. Long, flowing kimonos inspired by japanese paintings became sought after lounge wear for the bohemian woman. Liberty began to not only look to the East for inspiration but started to reinterpret the farm labourer's staple - the smock - for modern women. Smocks were loose, comfortable garments which carried with them an air of nostalgia for a rustic and rural life, but also hinted at the wearer's artistic temperament as the perfect outfit for painting and writing. I particularly loved this embroidered smock below, with it's palette of green purple and white echoing that of the Suffragettes' uniform.



The fashion for smocks also extended to childrenswear and both boys and girls wear dressed in these smart but loose-fitting tunics. Children's author Kate Greenaway's illustrations, which revisited the clothing styles of the 1880s and 90s became inspiration for Liberty's childrenswear. I found it fascinating that imagined dress from storybooks could lead to real-life changes in children's clothing and remember the vogue for this as a nineties child dressed head to toe in Laura Ashley floral smock dresses!




Perhaps what Liberty is most associated with is it's iconic ditsy florals. These rose to fame in the interwar years of the 1920s and 30s when small prints on dark backgrounds of black or brown where popular. The lighter, more optimistic blues and pinks were favoured in the 1940s and were often made into pretty tea dresses (see below). Just looking at these gorgeous war-time outfits, with their nipped-in silhouettes and bakelite belts cheered me up. You can see where Cath Kidston get some of their nostalgic print ideas from. 



Although Liberty reluctantly (to begin with) veered into more outlandish and vibrant prints in the 60s and 70s, when many of their prints were designed by the fabulous duo Susan Collier and Sarah Campbell, they returned to their trademark bohemian look in the 70s, with their floaty and romantic dresses (below). The smock dress made a triumphant return and prints were produced in beautiful muted browns and mauves. I loved the patchwork pinafores - they looked so practical and easy to wear.



Although I am probably biased, being already obsessed with prints and florals, I loved this exhibition of Liberty London. It was wonderful to learn about the shop's history, from its origins transporting textiles from across the world, to the work of its creative printmakers and design talents. Liberty will always hold a sense of nostalgia for me, but it was fascinating to see how often the brand has borrowed from the past to create something refreshing that echoes current fashions. Never more have I desired a few metres of Tana Lawn to make a ditsy print dress!

Let me know if you've been to the exhibition and what you thought of it - I'd love to know!

Liberty in Fashion is currently on at the Fashion Museum until 28th February 2016.



Sunday, 25 October 2015

The painter that Britain forgot




The Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne is one of my favourite places to visit when I'm back down south. It's a lovely space with great coffee and wonderful gift shop (containing these cushions of dreams). The Ravilious Room is really special and contains some of Eric Ravilious's most famous works, all featuring scenes of the beautiful Sussex Downs.


But the reason for going along this time was to see the Towner's latest exhibition: 'William Gear: The Painter that Britain forgot'. William Gear was an abstract painter working in the 1940s and 50s who produced some radical and highly controversial pieces. Autumn Landscape is perhaps his most well known paintings, deemed an extravagant waste of money when it won a £500 prize and was exhibited at the 1951 Festival of Britain. Although at the time this radical anti-establishment style of painting brought Gear fame and recognition, his work, both as an artist and as a pioneering curator at the Towner, seems to have been largely forgotten.


It was so inspiring to see and learn about these paintings, and to discover them anew. It seem such a shame that these incredibly dynamic works of arts have been hidden from view and have largely escaped the pages of art books. They form part of Britain's art canon and were an important part of that wave of artistic creativity that boomed in the 1950s.

William Gear's paintings are bursting with colour. I particularly like the two pieces below with their pale greens and lilac clashing and contrasting with the stark black patterns. Everything about his work seems vibrant and alive. I feel very lucky to have had a little glimpse into his world and learn a bit more about the history of the Towner and a forgotten artist whose paintings are now once again centre stage.


Sunday, 11 October 2015

There's something about Audrey



Audrey Hepburn. Two words that conjure up more than simply one person. A ballerina, movie star, model, mother and Unicef ambassador - Audrey played more parts than seems possible to fit into one lifetime. Which is perhaps why the National Portrait Gallery's exhibition 'Portraits of an Icon' is titled so perfectly. Audrey Hepburn is iconic in that she can't be categorised. She lives on in films, in posters on the walls of student digs, on mugs and fridge magnets. She is everything and anything - a dream figure who everyone wants to be.

Audrey has been so often written about and discussed that she has become her own sort of cliché. The words gamine and elfish have been bandied about so often that they now seem slightly stale, especially when set against the actual photos. Looking at the many faces of Audrey in the NPG, was like discovering her afresh. The display maps out her life through photographs, from childhood days in Belgium, through ballet school and into her more famous and iconic years of the 1950s and 60s. Often set against the most plain of backdrops, Audrey is captured by photographers such as Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Norman Parkinson and Irving Penn to show off her personality and grace rather than fashionable outfits. 


What I loved most about the exhibition was seeing Audrey photographed in more candid and spontaneous moments, in photos I had never seen before. Seeing her on set surrounded by cameras and chatting with cast members was fascinating and really showed a passion and enthusiasm for her work. Photos of holidays, days out with her children and even a shopping trip with her pet deer Pippin show give a small idea of her energetic - and somewhat eccentric - personality. Towards the end of the exhibition there is a collection of photographs showing her at work as a Unicef ambassador, a role she carried out for much of the 80s and 90s. It was lovely to see that there was so much more to Audrey Hepburn than we are often led to believe, and that there was a very real and genuine person behind the iconic beehive and cigarette holder now frozen in time.


Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of An Icon is on until 18th October.


I'm now off to watch Breakfast At Tiffany's!


Sunday, 27 September 2015

100 years of Fashion Illustration




What is it about fashion illustration that makes my heart leap? There's something about it that I find just captures the essence of fashion, breathing life into clothes so perfectly, perhaps even more than photography. 100 Years of Fashion Illustration by Cally Blackman documents the changes in fashion illustration, from the thin art deco lines of the 1920s, to  the computer-led graphics of the noughties. What I love about these images is their ability to conjure up the entire feeling of the era in which they were published. Take Barbara Hulanicki's Biba girls; their oversized lollipop frames and doll-like eyes just scream the 60s. Whilst Celia Birtwell's drawings (below) have that unbounded sense of freedom and effervescence, like two Chagall figures gliding off into the night.



The book shows just how central illustration was to the fashion industry. These images were found on magazine covers, on dress patterns, in advertorials and on billboards. Fashion illustration dictated what what women should aspire to, it captured the whole feeling of the new season. Flicking through these pages, it seems that it was not merely the clothing that represented how women should spend their money, but the girl on page. She is often hidden under hats, glancing away, or completely absorbed by the letter or book she's reading. In short, these women, rather than staring out blankly from glossy magazine spreads, are shown to live their lives in these new fashions, whilst we are left to imagine the exciting goings-on in their lives.



My growing obsession for Mad Men has made me appreciate fashion illustration even more. Once considered to be simply adverts for products, many images of fashion illustration are now admired as museum-worthy works of art. Some of my favourites include Rene Grau who is known to have inspired David Downton, as well as Barbara Hulanicki's illustrations for her Biba designs.

Will the heyday of fashion illustration return? I really hope so! Instagram seems to be the best place for searching out talented illustrators who hark back to those good old days but are also creating something new and exciting. Some of my favourites working at the moment are: Kelly Marie Beeman, Drawing Feever and Unskilled Worker. Let me know any illustrators you are following at the moment, I would love to discover more. 

Have a great Sunday! Xx




Illustration credits: (
1) Bill Baker, 1966 (2) Celia Birtwell, 1970 (3) Marcel Vertes, 1940 (4) Rene Gruau, 1967 (5) Tod Draz, 1950 (6) Alfredo Bouret, 1957 (7) Rene Gruau, 1954.