Dame Laura Knight at the National Portrait Gallery

Lubov Tchernicheva by Dame Laura Knight, 1921Self Portrait by Dame Laura Knight, 1913Corporal J. M. Robins, by Dame Laura Knight, 1941

The woes of being back in London after our trip have been slightly quashed by the wealth of exhibitions on over the summer. Although we saw some amazing exhibitions on our travels, I maintain that nowhere does ’em like home – even in terms of what we can see for free, we beat the rest of the world hands down.

I still haven’t got to Bowie at the V&A, so maybe there’s a trip to be done combining that and the Club to Catwalk show – also interested in Mexico: A Revolution in Art at the Royal Academy (obv); Lowry and Patrick Caulfield at the Tate Britain; Poster Art at the London Transport Museum; Miles Aldridge and Blumenfeld at Somerset House; and, of course, our local walrus on his holiday down to the Turner Contemporary in Margate.

But most of all, I want to see Dame Laura Knight at the National Portrait Gallery. I wish I could pretend I knew more about her work, but the truth is that my first exposure to her was in all the press previews of this show – and reviews of Summer in February, the new Christopher Menaul film which looks at the artists’ colony in Cornwall where she lived and worked for a while.

I’ve attempted to make up for matters by reading all the reviews thoroughly (including this cool Persephone Books letter and another here) but I think I’ll have to make full amends by handing over my £7 and going for a proper look.

Regular readers will no doubt be totally non-surprised to hear that it was the era which she operated in which got me excited – but  it was when I saw her 1913 self-portrait (in the middle above) that I really piqued my interest. Any woman who paints a picture of herself alongside a bare bum in 1913 has to be of note, right? She was also an official war artist and what I’ve seen of her portraits of women at war are also right up my street – I’m not sure who some of them are, but the way they look makes me think of Anne de Courcy’s wonderful Debs at War.

From a purely shallow point of view, she also appears to be something of a babe with stellar dress-sense. Evidence.

There are more than 30 portraits in the exhibition, covering everything from the official war work to behind the scenes with the Ballets Russes and circus performers. It opened this week and is on until 13 October – you can book tickets or read more about her on the National Portrait Gallery site.

Subway photographs by Walker Evans

1930s woman on subway

Imagine looking half as cool, calm and composed as this woman when you’re sweating into someone’s armpit on the Jubilee line.

Her angry scowl just make me like her even more. All the best people are scowlers.

See more of Walker Evans’ portraits of non-sweaty, non-ruffled, non-headphone-wearing-Kindle-toting people on the subway in the 1930s and 40s here!

The Horniman Museum Walrus goes on tour!

Massive lolrus

This seems to have been the busiest week for press releases I’ve had in ages – every time I check my inbox there’s about 200 more about babies and Christmas and all the rest. It’s quite hard to keep up but today I got an email with a subject that I couldn’t ignore;

Turner Contemporary to host The Horniman Museum Walrus

The Horniman Walrus is pretty famous amongst South East Londoners – the podgy marine beasty even had its own Twitter account until relatively recently, which is always the sign of a popular inanimate object, I find.

The reason the walrus got so popular – apart from the fact that walruses are badass – is because he isn’t quite, how should I put this, anatomically correct.

He was hunted down in Canada way back in the 1800s by an intrepid Victorian explorer and brought back to London to star in the Canadian section of the Indian and Colonial Exhibition in South Kensington. Frederick Horniman bought him shortly afterwards and wacked him in his snazzy new museum as a star attraction.

Unfortunately  – or perhaps fortunately, as this is where the walrus’s fame comes in – not many Victorians had ever seen a walrus, so the poor bastard taxidermist kind of guessed what he was doing and just kept stuffing that bad boy until he was a big round ball. Who knew that they had squidgy wrinkles and floppy bits? Not this dude.

This almighty cock up, like most almighty cock ups of such a loltimate nature, led to the walrus becoming the most popular exhibit at the Horniman – and I’d wager one of the most popular stuffed animals in any museum, to be honest.

Since he arrived at the museum in 1901, he’s only moved around the room a bit during exhibition reshuffles – but that’s all set to change next summer. Finally getting reunited with the sea, the walrus will be heading down to the Turner Contemporary to take part in the Curiosity: Art & The Pleasures of Knowing exhibition.

Joining our main man will be a penguin from Quex Park in Kent and the tusk of a narwhal (!!) from the Beaney library in Cantebury. Sweeeeeet.

Janet Vitmayer CBE, director of the Horniman says: “We are delighted that the walrus is to be a part of the exhibition on his first outing from the Horniman. Loaning objects and artworks is an important part of the work of all museums and galleries, and we’re glad to give visitors to Turner Contemporary  in Margate the chance to enjoy one of our most popular exhibits in a new context.”

Walrus Tour, as I’ve decided to call it, starts on 25 May 2013.



[Pictures: Walrus – Time Out & Horniman, Margate – Digital Spy]

PS Not sure what it says about the press releases I’ve been getting that the one that’s inspired me most recently is one about a walrus?

Nan Goldin shoots Rodarte

Nan Goldin was one of my favourite photographers at college. Big deal, right? I don’t think you can go to art college and not think The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is an inspirational bible of ideas – I did a whole project around The Hug and still covet that dress dearly.

I’m not sure if it’s cool to still dig Nan as much as I do now that those days are behind me, but when I came across these pictures  that she’d shot for Grey magazine‘s Autumn/Winter 2012 edition I was pretty psyched. For this issue of the biannual hardcover ‘magazine’, Nan has shot the Rodarte archives which is just about a match made in heaven.

The grungy, gritty moodiness of Nan’s pictures is the perfect complement to the Rodarte pieces and the sisters’ general ethic of romantic but slightly dishevelled couture – there’s a real feel of a dark, slightly disturbing modern fairytale vibe throughout the story.

You can see the whole collection of images on Fashion Gone Rogue, which is also where these pictures are from.

Match made in heaven. You can buy Grey magazine for the mighty sum of $75!! to the UK, if online isn’t enough for you.

Friday Late: Bright Young Things

I don’t suppose there’s too much point in writing about an event at the V&A which has already happened, but with my brain still frazzled from fashion week and not much else going on, you’ll have to deal with it.

As predicted, the Bright Young Things event at the museum was fantastic – music, booze, 1920s shit, a guest-list that read like a who’s who of my Twitter mates… what’s not to love? I made a smashing slogan badge (ably modelled above), drank Prosecco and Old Fashioned-s and generally had a top night.

Not really a review,  but points to take home from the evening:

  • Dom James and his Dixie Ticklers are a really fantastic band! They were in the main hall all night and played some fantastic rousing jazz numbers – you can find out more about them (and listen to them) here. I’m pretty sure they played the Jeeves & Wooster theme tune for me, but that could have been the booze talking.
  • The pop-up Cecil Beaton Photography Studio allowed you to pose in a mock-up of his famous (and my favourite) photo of the ‘Soapsuds‘ group. You can see everyone looking swell here – obviously there’s not one of me, seeing as how I’m allergic to photographs.
  • Jealous of my badge? You can learn some neato 1920s slang of your own here and then, I guess, craft a badge with it printed on.
  • One of the highlights of the evening was a reading of Cecil Beaton’s diaries – I know, how rude. I used to get in big trouble for reading other people’s diaries as a child and now it’s sold as entertainment? You can read the diaries yourself (and they’re dead worth it) by investing here.
  • Warwick University are putting on a production of Vile Bodies later this year and the dress rehearsal took place on the night. I only saw the last few seconds (too busy boozing, eh?) but the cast have a blog about the production here and if you happen to be in Warwick over the next few days, you can buy tickets for the play here.
  • Hugo Dalton’s floral illustrations were projected all over the V&A on the night – delightful stuff, which you can see more of here.
  • The next Friday Late is themed around the Spring Equinox. Bodacious. Why would you want to miss out? Find out more here.

Some awesome pictures of middle-aged women in the 1960s

Another day, another lazy How to be a Retronaut rehash. What can I say? I really like these pictures and want to share them with anyone who might not have seen them yet. One of those mysterious sets of photos that don’t have much explanation or back story, the series is simply called: Middle Aged Women, 1960s.

What a stylish bunch. I recently got this Milly dress in the sales (still waiting for it to arrive, don’t think it’s going to fit, will keep you posted) and hope that it will help me be just an ounce as nicely turned-out as this lot. Add a bouffant, colour coordinating purse and some sensible heels and I’ll be sorted.

I’m on Pinterest, obviously

Just a quick one to say that I’ve succumbed and joined Pinterest. What can I say? I was hungover and needed something else to waste time on.

Predictably, you can find me at pinterest.com/furcoat

It’s essentially more of the same (and a lot of Núpsstaður chapel, above), but do feel free to follow me if that’s what you’re into. I’m sorry to say I have omitted the apparently vital ~dream wedding board.

I’m also still Tumblr-ing all of my favourite hair, here.

Alice in Wonderland: 1966

Still not feeling at my best, so here’s some more nice pictures to look at. This is the 1966 version of Alice in Wonderland, made for the BBC by Jonathan Miller. It’s a bit more sombre than other versions with heavy Edwardian dresses and a mane of amazing textured hair on Alice herself.

Not the biggest fan of Alice in Wonderland, but this adaptation is kinda gothic which makes it instantly more appealing. You can watch most of the film online here!

Fun fact: the soundtrack is by Ravi Shankar.