Wednesday, 31 July 2013


My visit to Honiton in Devon was on a hot and sunny day. I was received by the lovely people of the Allhallows Lace Museum, next to the church in the centre of the town. The very friendly  'lace keeper'  showed me the pieces on display in the museum and a whole treasure trove of early lace pieces kept in storage. The place is small but full of character and full of the most beautiful Honiton lace.

Monday, 22 July 2013


It is fascinating to see how art historians shy away from talking about 'style' (as that has been considered as too much 'labelling' recently) when discussing Jacobean art and nearly always write about the sitter, the costume and the artist only. Catalogues and books describe into much detail how the political landscape of the time was formed, who married who and what they wore. The Jacobean period (1603-1625) is a bit of an 'in-between' period as its 'late Renaissance' and 'early Baroque' (or we can call it all 'early modern' to avoid this boxing in). In most older art history books no artists from this era get a mention (the Baroque starts with Van Dyck and the Renaissance ends with the end of Elizabeth's reign). The few historians that do explore Jacobean and early Stuart art can do very little than refer to Holbein and Elizabethan portraits and label everything that looks a bit like it 'old fashioned' and everything that starts to smell of the sway of Van Dyck as 'early'. So are Peake and Larkin merely late interpreters of Tudor art ("stiff" and with much dress patterning) and are they overshadowed by the grand sway of Van Dyck who seems to have taken over during Charles I's reign?

I would love to know more, more than I read in catalogues, not solely about the sitter or who his mum and dad were and how he was related to the king, not only about the artist or where he grew up, not just about the meaning of the carnation in the skirt embroidery or the latest fashion of slashed sleeves....but also about how the artist painted. The composition, the choice of colour, the 'style' and manner of painting, the love of nature, patterns, textures and how that was translated in paint. Nobody talks about *the painting*, only about the people depicted in it. I don't know if I will find out but it seems there is some room for research here. I imagine, for now, that places to start would be continental prints and pattern books, Jacobean architecture but also the thirst for realism in painting. Another path might be the sense of 'acting' in a portrait, of 'portraying' yourself in paint, for the world to see. Theatricality must have gained in importance in the art of portrait painting in the time when Shakespeare was at his height and masques were celebrated at court.

William Larkin, portrait of Mary Radclyffe, 1610-13

Friday, 19 July 2013

RBSA Portrait Prize Exhibition

Last night I went to the Private View of the The Portrait Prize Exhibition at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA). It was hot, hot weather and the gallery room was even hotter but the exhibition is top notch. So great to see big names (lots of Royal Society of Portrait Painter members!) and great talents in the show. It is brilliant show with lots of variety. Go see if you get the chance. It is on until 24 August.

RBSA Gallery
4 Brook Street
B3 1SA

(plenty of parking around on St. Paul's Square or the NPC multi-storey)

Here are some pictures of the Private View

My Self-Portrait surrounded by the works of Simon
Davis (left) and Andrew James (right) and Tim Benson (below)

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


A few recent news items....

* UK art magazine Artists & Illustrators Magazine decided to publish my article on how to paint fabrics (which was published in the magazine last year) online in a 4-part series. 

See here for part one and come back tomorrow for the next instalment:

* A recent sketch of a Rembrandt Self Portrait in my sketchbook:

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Hunting for Jacobeans...

at the V&A Museum, Marcus Gheeraerts,
portrait of Margaret Laton, 1620
During the hottest weekend of the year so far I searched through London looking for Jacobean portraits (my research is getting more and more focussed on this period) Despite the weather (grateful for air-conditioned museums!!) I have spent a good few days sketching and studying some of the greatest Jacobean portraits London can offer. The greats of Gheeraerts, Peake, Larkin and many 'unknown artists' were my eye candy amongst the crowds of  tourists. I sketched, to the curiosity of many tourists ('ooh you are an artist!' or 'can I take your picture?') in front of these ruffed ladies of court.

A lot of these ladies have been identified as wives and daughters of courtiers, dukes and counts. Many of them had their own circle of power and influence. Many other portraits, however, show unknown people. Faces of, no doubt, rich and fairly powerful people, but not so powerful as to have been remembered by us. It all gives you sense of a certain 'in-crowd'. They must have known each-other; after all there were only a few families reigning high while James I was king. Although many are painted conforming to beauty ideals of the day (pale white faces and chests) and painting styles in favour (the slightly googly eyes and protruding eye lids) you can still discern that these were individual women. No models, no famous beauties (although some were) but women. Women who played their part, did their duties, fought for their families or their rights and presented themselves to the world as mothers, wives or daughters, rich, powerful, sensitive or defiant.  What strikes me, is that they were normal women, who just like me and millions of others nowadays balance between motherhood, marriage life, taste and beauty and their own aspirations and talents. From some of these we know a lot, from others we know very little. But despite the times being different and the fashion almost opposite to today's, the human inside is so very like us.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Ilaria Rosselli Del Turco - News: Mi Blog Es Tu Blog - Sophie Ploeg

My friend Ilaria is lending out her blog to her friends and now its my turn. I wrote a little on there...might be interesting to you...

Ilaria Rosselli Del Turco - News: Mi Blog Es Tu Blog - Sophie Ploeg: My friendship with Sophie started on Facebook and we have met a couple of times in London, lately for the opening of the BP Portrait Prize S...

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Sketching Montacute

Anne of Denmark by unknown Artist, c 1628-1644

Last weekend I paid a visit to Montactute House in Somerset, an amazing Elizabethan country house, built in 1598-1601 and the oldest property taken up by the National Trust in 1927. Since 1975 the National Portrait Gallery has a permanent exhibition of Tudor portraits on display in and around the brilliantly kept 'Long Gallery' on the second floor.


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