Art in Print
Lord Attenborough's life's collection of art for sale for £1m, after children ran out of space
When a much-loved parent dies, many will be faced with the dilemma of what to do with decades’-worth of accumulated treasures. Few will confront such an abundance as the children of Lord and Lady Attenborough, who are to sell an unrivalled collection of modern British paintings after finding they simply did not have the room or means to keep them.
Michael Attenborough, their son, said he would be sad to part with the 37 works of art, from Henry Moore to Dame Elisabeth Frink, but that they were too valuable to keep, needing high insurance costs to keep them out on display.
The sale, at Sotheby’s, will include works collected by Lord and Lady Attenborough from the days of their early marriage, bought before they could afford carpets or curtains for their Richmond family home.
Lord Attenborough, his son said, had an “unapologetic love of all things British”, seeking out 20th century paintings “he knew would give him infinite pleasure”.
Sotheby’s said the collection had been assembled with “immense passion and a very distinctive eye”. The sale will take place at Sotheby’s on the 22nd and 23rd of November.
Shining a light on London’s bridges
Ideas to turn London’s “bleak snake of darkness” into a “magnificent ribbon of light” have been announced in one of the biggest public art projects in a generation.
Six schemes have been submitted to win funding of £20 million to bring the Thames to life at night. One proposal envisages a series of beams spanning the river along six miles from Tower Bridge in the east to Albert Bridge in the west. Another has the artists Jeremy Deller and Chris Ofili cloaking bridges with playful, colour installations. A further artist plays with the idea of Tower Bridge “falling down” with a lighting explosion. A fourth scheme has cloud-high beams of light pointing upwards from a bridge before rotating upriver to set off another bridge’s beam of light. Another would “plant” lamp-posts in the water, while the final one has lights responding to the tide.
Hannah Rothschild, a film-maker, novelist and chairwoman of the Illuminated River Foundation, said that the river at night was a “place that few enjoy and at odds with the ambition to make London a 24-hour city”.
Ms Rothschild said that it was a public art commission on an unprecedented scale.
The six shortlisted designs are on show at the Royal Festival Hall until November 29.
Found: the opera rat by Degas that really gave birth to modern art
It is the original sculpture credited with bringing about the birth of modern art: a teenage dancer whose pose pushed artists into revolution. Dozens of bronzes were cast from Edgar Degas’ Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, filling art institutions and the coffers of auction houses. The only problem is that the multimillion pound bronzes, made by the Hébrard foundry in Paris, may have been cast from the wrong Little Dancer.
A new book claims to have proved that the Hébrard bronzes were not cast from the plaster impression of the original wax sculpture in 1881 that so enthralled artists and critics of the era. The book claims that another plaster, discovered decades after the Hébrard bronzes began being cast, and after Degas had died, records the true impression of the wax sculpture.
Gregory Hedberg, who spent years researching the subject for his book, Degas’ Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, said that there were numerous mysteries about the Hébrard bronzes, one of which sold last year for $24.9 million.
He said that their lack of anatomical detail, badly fitted bodices and the thin legs of the dancer, who “would have been trained to have muscular legs”, had mystified art historians who knew that the original 1881 sculpture — which was never photographed — had been regarded as revolutionary and beautiful.
The original sculpture, it had been thought, was cast in plaster after Degas’ death in 1917, by which time the wax had become deformed and been reworked by the artist. This cast was used by the Hébrard foundry.
Emma Hamilton: Seduction and Celebrity
The exhibition at National Maritime Museum traces Emma’s remarkable story through a combination of paintings, letters, contemporary accounts and artefacts. We see the young Emma, painted again and again by George Romney. His works are in the style of the age: delicate, English-rose perfection, but this roomful of the same face over and over speaks of obsession. We see her as a proto-celebrity, her face filling the windows of popular-print shops. We see her literally gifted by one member of the gentry – Charles Greville – to another, his uncle Sir William Hamilton. We see her as a political confidante at the Naples court. We see her – finally – in the role she is known for: Nelson’s mistress, the perfect gossip-fodder, the provider of society’s titillating frisson. In each stage of her career, there is the sense that for all the images and words devoted to her, Emma is absent: a void at the centre of a whirl of desires, needs, fears and ambitions.
This is a lovely, immersive show, full of dappled light and intimate spaces, but it tells a brutal story of a brutal age. An age which craved and rewarded beauty to disguise its ugliness, and which was merciless if that ugliness was reflected back at it, whether through scandal or fading looks. Unless you were a man: then you were golden.
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