Modern Oxford

Walked around Oxford looking at modern buildings. Have spent so much time looking at medieval Oxford and skipping past the modern it was good to give them a proper viewing. Started at St Catherine’s College, Arne Jacobsen 1962 masterpiece, bringing together modern materials within an Oxford college layout. Jacobsen designs are so complete that they reach right down to the cutlery in the dining room. Alan Bullock was Master of St Catz when the new buildings were commissioned. I remember reading Bullock’s biography of Hitler, Study in Tyranny when I was thirteen and thought it the best history text I ever read at school. Despite the atrocious weather we walked past the English and Law faculties (Martin and Wilson 1964), Psychology and Zoology Lab (Martin 1971), Biomedical Sciences (Hawkins Brown 2008), Rhodes House (Baker 1929), Keeble Arco Building (Mather 1995), Nuclear Physics Lab (Ove Arup 1970), and finishing in the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter with the Mathematical Institute (Rafael Viñoly 2013) and Blavatnik School of Government (Herzog & de Meuron 2016). A great range from the natural feel of St Catz and the English Libraries through the brutality of the zoology lab to the calm of mathematics institute. The climax was undoubtedly the Blavatnik School of Government – Frank Lloyd Wright in Oxford in 2016, with the Window to the World, the largest single pane of glass in Europe. I now have a new set of buildings to show off to visitors in Oxford and how they intermix with the medieval and Victorian.

St Catherine’s College, Oxford, (Jacobsen 1962) in the sunshine.

Zoology and Psychology Lab, Oxford (Martin 1971)

Interior of Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford (De Herzog and De Meuron 2016)

Dantzig Gallery Woodstock

From 26 January – 4 February Dantzig Gallery is Hosting 600 Years of Art History, a unique exhibition co-curated by Dantzig Director Dave Davies, and Oxford University art historian Monica Tonella.
Their long-term goal is to kickstart a project which will see similar exhibitions taking place around the globe. It is hoped that, in doing so, the experience of art can be provided in communities who have no access to galleries.
Tonella enthuses, “this exhibition spans six centuries of art, starting with work made in Siena in the Renaissance and stretching through time to pictures made by Andy Warhol in the 1960s.
“But the exhibition is not so much about the paintings we have included as it is about history, and about the development of art through the ages. At its heart, this display aims to set out the foundations through which future generations can engage with art.”
The exhibition was launched with a reception with special guests Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor of the History of Art at Oxford University, and BBC television presenter and art historian Dr Janina Ramirez.

A sample of the exhibition is Jan Frans van Bloemanks Italian Landscape of 1735

Van Bloeman, a Flemish landscape artist, who mainly worked in Italy, depicts here a rural scene of a deep steep sided gorge. In the foreground a stone arch crosses the gorge with groups of people. There are two passing on the right bank and a group taking in the view on the bridge. There are rocky outcrops above the dense wooded landscape and the unity of the view is completed by the columnar ghostlike mountains in the distance. Van Bloeman’s style is clearly influenced by Claude Lorrain from a generation before where he transposes the landed estates of the Roman patrician class into a form of Arcadia.

Leonor Antunes at the Whitechapel

The exposed brick work on the walls and the linoleum floor design appropriated from a drawing by Mary Martin all envelope a warm exhibition. The title The Frisson of the Togetherness is derived from architects Alison and Christine Smithson’s description of young people’s social allegiance. There is much here to evoke the 1956 This is Tomorrow exhibition at The Whitechapel. The Smithsons were there as was the Hungarian, Erno Goldfinger, who’s influence pervades these works; The tensioned rope bannisters evoke Goldfingers house in Hampstead as do the window louvres in 2 Willow Road. The clean lines are created by jute, rope, brass and teak. There is much modern feminist work here and in the side gallery are small craft works such as a rug by Mary Martin, glasswork by Nanna Ditzel, and jewellery by Lucia Nogueira.

It is always a delight coming to The Whitechapel and this warm architectural exhibition is no exception with its inclusive social togetherness.

Leeds Art Gallery

The recently refurbished Gallery in the centre of Leeds made a very enjoyable visit last week. It is the home of the best public collection of twentieth century art in the UK outside London, recognised as a collection of National Importance. It was a pity that the Ziff Gallery, home of the nineteenth century work was closed which meant that I missed one of my favourite pre Raphaelite artist, Evelyn De Morgan’s Valley of the Shadows. The twentieth century collection is very well presented however with a number of Jacob Kramer paintings including The Day of Atonement and The Rite of Spring (see painting of the day) and Praxitella by Percy Wyndham Lewis (1921). There is, as expected sculpture from Henry Moore, Mother and Child, Barbara Hepworth, Hieroglyph, and Anthony Gormley, The Leeds Brick Man (1986). Among the temporary displays are a polycarbonate and cast polyurethane rubber sculpture, Arena,(2000) by Alison Wilding and as part of the national “Artist Rooms” project an exhibition devoted to Joseph Beuys. Highlight for me is the portrait wall with work by many of the iconic twentieth century portraitists including Gwen John and Francis Bacon. Adjoing the gallery are the Henry Moore Institute and Leeds Library with a terrific section devoted to art History.

As regards the day out the gallery is easy to access in the City centre, surrounded by great cafes and restaurants and the gallery’s own ‘Tiled Wall Café’ is itself a delight; a spot where the original neo-classical architecture is allowed freedom. Leeds is of course well served by motorways but I went by train where the station, with trains from all over the country is virtually in the city centre.