Dreweatts and Bloomsbury auctions sold

October 3 2017

Image of Dreweatts and Bloomsbury auctions sold

Picture: DNFA

Laura Chesters in The Antiques Trade Gazette reports that the on-off sale of Dreweatts & Bloomsbury auctioneers has gone ahead. This time the valuation firm Gurr Johns has acquired the company for £1.25m cash, with an additional fee of up to £.4m payable within the next two years. The existing chairman, George Bailey, will stay in post with his part of the current management team. Earlier this year another sale to another bidder (to include the antisues firm Mallett) was announced at £2.4m, but this fell through.

The vendor is the stamp firm, Stanley Gibbons. They went on an antique markt buying spree in 2013, and lost tens of millions of pounds. The sale of Dreweatts now gains them only a fraction of their initial outlay. For more on the history, see the ATG here

Like almost every regional auctioneer in the UK, the new Dreweatts will hope to capitalise on the closure of Christie's South Kensington saleroom. 

Constable restitution sought in Switzerland (ctd.)

October 3 2017

Image of Constable restitution sought in Switzerland (ctd.)

Picture: via AP

Last year I reported on the battle for the restitution of a painting by Constable from a Swiss museum, by the heirs of the Jewish collector from whom the painting was seized by the Nazis. The Swiss museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds agreed that the painting had been looted, but said that there was no legal mechanism to return the painting. Now, however, the museum has agreed to hand a Constable - 'Dedham from Langham', above - back to the heirs of Anna Jaffé. More here in The Times of Israel.

(Unless there's more than one Constable in the collection, it appears that my illustration last year was incorrect.)

Bowes museum show in London (ctd.)

October 3 2017

Image of Bowes museum show in London (ctd.)

Picture: Wallace Collection

What promises to be an exhibition of the year has just opened at the Wallace Collection in London. 'El Greco to Goya; Spanish Masterpiece from the Bowes Museum' runs until 7th January. The Guardian rates it highly and says that along with the big names:

{Box}

One of the pleasures of the exhibition is the work by less well-known Spanish artists. Aside from the sensuous Immaculate Conception by Antolínez, with its Virgin reminiscent of a Venus rising from the waves, there is an intriguing full-length painting of St Eustochium by Juan de Valdés Leal (1622-1690), which once hung in a Hieronymite monastery in Seville. St Eustochium, daughter of a Roman senator, was a learned figure of the fourth century who read Latin, Greek and Hebrew, and assisted St Jerome in his translation of the Bible into Latin. St Jerome himself – a favourite subject for religious painters, with his friendly lion and his hermit’s cave – is here for once relegated to a little scene in the background and St Eustochium (scholar, housekeeper and nun) made the star. There’s also Antonio de Pereda’s Tobias Restoring His Father’s Sight, illustrating an episode from the apocryphal Book of Tobit. Tobias, according to the instructions of the angel in the foreground looking directly at us, beckoning us into the picture, is treating his father’s blinded eyes with the gall of the fish that lies on the ground, gutted. It’s a particularly splendid fish, since De Pereda, barely known in this country, was a particularly splendid painter of still lifes.

The show is free! More here

Restoring a William Kent chair

October 3 2017

Video: Wallace Collection

Here's a great video from the Wallace Collection, showing how they've restored a William Kent chair in its collection. We also learn that they raised the funds necessary to restore the chair by putting it on public display in its somewhat dilapidated state, and asking the public to chip in. And they did, to the tune of £7k - excellent.

This is a wonderful demonstration of modern museum management. A fascinating project, worthy of doing itself, but made even more interesting (and free!) by publicising it with a simple but highly watchable video. Bravo to all involved!

'Loving Vincent' - trailer

September 29 2017

Video: Madman

Here's a trailer for the world's first 'painted' film, about Van Gogh.

At the Rembrandthuis - new Bol & Flinck exhibition

September 29 2017

Image of At the Rembrandthuis - new Bol & Flinck exhibition

Picture: Private Collection/Rembrandthuis

A new exhibition at the Rembrandthuis in Amsterdam will examine two of Rembrandt's most noted pupils, Ferdinand Bol and Govert Flinck. Says the museum:

From October 13th, The Rembrandt House Museum and the Amsterdam Museum will be presenting the first ever exhibition devoted to the painters Ferdinand Bol and Govert Flinck. The exhibition Ferdinand Bol and Govert Flinck: Rembrandt’s Master Pupils will be on view until February 18th 2018 in both museums.

Many paintings are coming together from all over the world, from museums and private collections, for this double exhibition in Amsterdam. Some of them will be back in the Dutch capital for the first time since the seventeenth century.

The exhibition explores the mastery of Ferdinand Bol and Govert Flinck in the seventeenth century at two locations that complement one another: training at the ‘first academy of art’ versus independence in the art market.

In the Rembrandt House, the place where the man who taught Ferdinand Bol (1616-1680) and Govert Flinck (1615-1660) lived and worked for almost twenty years, the emphasis is on their time with the master. Works of art transport visitors back in time to the painters’ early years and their training with Rembrandt, one soon after the other.

More here.

Leonardo's Nude Mona Lisa!

September 29 2017

Image of Leonardo's Nude Mona Lisa!

Picture: Musée Condé

Charles Bremner in The Times has a terrific scoop on some new research into a potential lost Leonardo drawing (above):

[...] researchers at the Louvre in Paris believe that a charcoal impression of Mona Lisa that has long been attributed to students of the Renaissance artist, could be the work of the master himself.

Leonardo’s topless variant of La Joconde (Mona Lisa) is believed to have inspired several nude portraits. These works, also known as Mona Vannas, are attributed to Leonardo’s pupils Salaì and Francesco Melzi, and other imitators of the Florentine’s style. [...]

Until now the Condé museum in Chantilly has described its charcoal Joconde Nue, which was brought to France by Joseph Fesch, Napoleon’s ambassador to the Vatican, as “the work of Salaì or Melzi, inspired by a lost painting by da Vinci”.

However, new scientific analysis suggests it is an earlier work than previously thought. Mathieu Deldicque, curator of the Condé museum, said that analysis of the drawing was still taking place at the Louvre’s centre for research and restoration but it showed that the work probably came from Leonardo’s workshop and raised the possibility that he drew it.

“It’s possible, though there’s no certainty, that this was the preparatory drawing for the painted Joconde nue,” he told The Times. “We don’t even know if that portrait was really painted but there’s a strong probability that it was. What has tipped us off are retouches. There are little clues.” These include a watermark in the paper and dating analysis that places the paper and materials in the first decade of the 16th century.

More here

It's a very powerful drawing, though it has obviously been interfered with later in its life. Let's hope the Louvre's research can tell us much more about it soon. 

Update - you can see more details of the drawing here on the Twitter feed of Mathieu Deldicque. It seems to be a work of a) great quality, b) with significant conditions issues and c) much evidence of creative alteration by the artist. 

Alma-Tadema in London

September 29 2017

Video: Leighton House Museum

There's just a month left to see the well-received Alma-Tadema exhibition at the Leighton House museum in London:

Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity (7 July - 29 October 2017) is the largest exhibition devoted to the celebrated Victorian artist held in London since 1913. The show explores Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s fascination with the representation of domestic life in antiquity and how this interest related to his own domestic circumstances expressed through the two remarkable studio-houses that he created in St John’s Wood together with his wife Laura and daughters.

'Britain's Lost Masterpieces' (ctd.)

September 28 2017

Video: BBC

In case you missed it, here's a link to the first episode of Britain's Lost Masterpieces on iPlayer. Above is a clip of when we first get to grips with Pollock House's portrait of the Duke of Buckingham - might it be by Rubens?

We won't be pre-announcing any news ahead of the next programme. Some people don't like 'spoilers', which is understandable enough. We have a difficult balance to strike between alerting people to the fact that the series was back, and revealing the ending of the programme. 

New Joseph Highmore exhibition

September 28 2017

Image of New Joseph Highmore exhibition

Picture: Foundling Museum

This is interesting; the first exhibition on Joseph Highmore since 1963 will open tomorrow at the Foundling Museum in London. Says the blurb;

Curated by Dr Jacqueline Riding, Basic Instincts explores Georgian attitudes to love, desire and female respectability through the radical paintings of Joseph Highmore.

A highly successful artist and Governor of London’s Foundling Hospital, Joseph Highmore (1692-1780) is best known as a portrait painter of the Georgian middle class. However, during the 1740s his art radically shifted, reflecting his engagement with the work of the new Foundling Hospital and its mission to support desperate and abused women. Highmore’s involvement with the Hospital sparked engagement with issues around women’s vulnerability to sexual assault and society’s unwillingness to support them, culminating in a work of exceptional power, The Angel of Mercy.

Basic Instincts is the first major Highmore exhibition for 50 years and explores this decade of disruptive social commentary in his art. Amongst the works on display are four paintings from a series of twelve, inspired by Samuel Richardson’s international bestseller, Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, explicitly making reference to the abuse and sexual violence at the core of the novel. On public display in the UK for the first time as part of Basic Instincts is a remarkable painting that still retains the power to shock. The Angel of Mercy (c.1746) depicts a desperate mother in the act of killing her baby, with the distant Foundling Hospital presented as the alternative. Set among Highmore’s tender portraits of mothers and children, family and friends, this show uniquely demonstrates the artist’s depth and variety.

More here in The Guardian, and details on opening times etc, here.  

Italian Museums (ctd.)

September 28 2017

Image of Italian Museums (ctd.)

Picture: Uffizi

Miraculoso - the Uffizi finally has a website! There's only a smattering of works online, but the images are good quality, and there's much else to learn. Bravo!

Museum image fees - a call to arms

September 26 2017

Image of Museum image fees - a call to arms

Picture: Musee du Louvre, via Radford University

AHN has always urged museums to accept the future. Five years ago, most museums in the UK were still attempting to ban photography. Now, happily, very few do. But the next frontier in the battle for museum modernity involves image reproduction fees. These fees are killing art history, and it’s time we did something about it. 

First, I want to be clear that in the article below I’ll be discussing fees for out of copyright paintings and drawings in public collections. That is, anything in 2D which was made by artist who died over 70 years ago. The legal and financial situation for artworks in copyright, and for sculptures and other 3D works, is far more complicated, and frankly there’s not much we can do about that. If you want to reproduce an artwork which is still in copyright, you’re going to have to pay - usually through the nose.

But for ‘old’ art the situation is very different. Many museums will have you believe that because they are licensing newly taken photographs of, say, a Hogarth, then they have copyright over that photograph, and can therefore charge what they want for it. But this is not the case. There are variances, but essentially in both US and UK law a straightforward photographic reproduction of an old painting does not generate any new copyright implications. For a new photograph of a Hogarth to have any copyright vested in it, it must in some way be original (ie, amended, added to, written over, distorted). So don’t let museums tell you that what you’re paying for is the right to legally reproduce their photograph of their painting. They’re not. In fact, all they’re doing is hustling you.

But before I rail further about the iniquities of charging, let’s look at some actual charges. Are the fees worth getting upset about? To reproduce Hogarth’s self-portrait with his Pug from Tate Britain would cost you: 

  • £15 for an unpublished doctoral thesis (maximum ten printed copies); 
  • £61 for an ‘academic’ publication (print run up to 3,000); 
  • £142 for an academic publication which is also online; 
  • £172 for an exhibition catalogue of no more than 25,000 copies; 
  • and £430 for use in a TV programme.

As one-off fees, you might say, ‘that’s not so bad’. But consider that your average art history PhD will have dozens, if not perhaps hundreds, of images, then soon even an unpublished PhD can become prohibitively expensive. You want to discuss mid-18th Century portraiture, and show perhaps 50 images? That’ll be £750. You want to turn that PhD into a book? £3050 please, before you’ve even thought of printing costs. Want to put on a Hogarth exhibition, with a decent catalogue? £8600. Ouch. And Tate are on the cheaper end of the scale.

The really outrageous thing about image fees is the extent to which scholars and students are made to pay. These fees are a tax on scholarship. No other academic discipline does this. There is a general assumption that ‘academic’ image use is free. But as we have seen, Tate charges even for unpublished theses. The National Gallery say they allow free images for academic use, but stipulate that they deem 'academic use' to be only when:

[…] the scholar is personally responsible for paying reproduction fees and is not available to commercial organisations or for exhibition catalogues.

Therefore, publishers, even of academic books (like university presses), are considered ‘commercial organisations’. The same goes for institutions like Tate, the National Portrait Gallery and the British Museum.

It’s no wonder that, according to a 2014 report by the College Art Association;

  • one-third of visual artists and visual arts professionals have avoided or abandoned work in their field because of copyright concerns [as have]
  • one-fifth of artists
  • more than one-half of editors and publishers
  • more than one-third of art historians

In other words, image licensing fees are strangling the scholarship, study and enjoyment of our cultural heritage. Ahead of writing this article, I asked for people’s experiences of dealing with image fees on Twitter. All of the stories were saddening: scholars unable to publish articles with even the smallest circulation; exhibition curators who could afford to borrow a painting for an exhibition, but not to reproduce it in the catalogue; and so on. When it comes to television, image fees play a huge role in determining what sort of art programmes get commissioned, and how they’re made (fees vary for the number of seconds you show something, and in what context). Ever wondered why, when you watch art programmes, we presenters spend so much time talking at you while waving our arms about in meaningless locations? It’s because we can’t afford to actually show you the art we’re talking about.

And then we have to get our heads around the fact that the paintings these museums are charging us to reproduce are already publicly owned. We have bought them with our taxes, we pay for their upkeep. They are part of our national heritage. We can see them at Tate for free - but we can’t reproduce them for free. Even if you’re a scholar who is adding to the world’s (and Tate’s) knowledge of one of these paintings. When you consider how much museums spend on ‘outreach’, and how much they agonise over increasing attendance and accessibility, to then charge to reproduce images is not only counter-productive, it is outrageous. Such a policy discriminates against those who, for whatever reason, cannot physically get to Tate itself; the poor, the distant, the aged, the disabled. As Robin Simon, the editor of the British Art Journal, wrote in an excellent editorial on image fees;

For whose benefit do these museums exist? Do they exist for the benefit of the staff who run them or for that of the public and the world of knowledge they were created to serve? Do they aim to enhance knowledge of their collections? If so, why do they go out of their way to penalize any publication or form of dissemination of images that does that work for them? The use of images of works of art in ‘news media… front covers’ or even on biscuit tins, bathmats or shower curtains, all serve the same purpose, which, to repeat, the Tate defines as ‘to promote enjoyment of, and engagement with, art and artists’. 

Some might say; ‘but museums have to raise as much money as they can, especially in the face of funding cuts’. That’s true. But why is it acceptable to monetise publicly owned art? And in any case, does charging fees actually raise money? Answer; not really. The Wellcome Trust recently concluded that the cost of administering their licensing scheme was too high, relative to the income it generated. They now provide images free of charge. I recently asked the licensing manager of a major national institution how much his department made from image fees, after all internal costs were deducted. ‘About £70,000' - which is chicken feed compared to the overall annual income for that museum of £22m (there’s a clue). An extra 10p on every scone sold in the cafe might raise a similar amount. 

The most rodiculous thing about image fees, therefore, is that in the majority of cases they serve literally no purpose. They simply lead to money being needlessly transferred around the system, to nobody's gain.

So if these fees are not being levied to raise money, what are they there for? Inertia, mainly, sprinkled with a certain meanness, lack of imagination, and a desire to control. Just as these same museums fought for so long to resist allowing photography, simply because it was something they could ban and were reluctant to allow because it meant embracing change, so they cling to their systems for licensing images. The image licensing staff are in place, there’s a modest contribution to the bottom line, and doing something new would just be too much work. What they don’t appreciate is what businesses call an ‘opportunity cost’; the unknowable value that comes from many more people seeing a museum’s painting, whether it's a scholar alerted to a previously unknown fact, or whether it's someone encouraged to visit Tate because they saw a Hogarth on a poster. You can’t put an immediate 'cost benefit' on any of these things, but they all contribute to the museum’s core mission. As Robin Simon says:

[Fees] are obtained at the greatest possible cultural and educational cost. For a museum that is not a profit; it is a loss.

But, AHNers, there is cause for optimism. I believe we can predict that image fees (again, for museum artworks made by someone who has died more than 70 years ago) will eventually be a thing of the past. It’s only a matter of time, for progress is on the march. In the US, many museums (Yale, The Met, the National Gallery of Art) now allow images to be used for free, in any context. They have done away with the need for anyone to fill in any forms, and for a  museum employee to then read and process those forms, and have instead simply released the images, online and in high resolution. And happily, many European museums are following suit; the Rijksmuseum has done the same, as have all of Antwerp’s museums

And the result? Institutions providing free images are undercutting those which charge. Broadcasters and publishers now heavily source images from free providers. And in return, those museum’s artworks are becoming more seen, discussed and studied than ever before. In some cases, I think we can even begin to point to whole categories of art history becoming more known than others, thanks to free image use. Dutch museums like the Rijksmuseum allow their Rembrandts to be reproduced everywhere and anywhere for free, while French museums charge as often as they can. Is it any surprise that the Dutch Golden Age is now infinitely more popular than French 18th Century rococo art? I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that image fees can have an effect on global cultural trends. If you don't see it, you can't like it.

What makes me saddest of all is the fact that UK museums have some of the most restrictive licensing systems in the world. For our new series of Britain's Lost Masterpieces we have had to use images from free providers wherever possible. None of the freely available images were sourced in the UK. In some cases, the very museums we have been helping to uncover a lost masterpiece have charged us a fee to reproduce images.* The absurdity of this is doubled when you consider that the wonderful ArtUK has already photographed every oil painting in the country, and has put these images online. It would take nothing more than a degree of goodwill for ArtUK's partner museums to make these existing, already-paid-for high-res digital photos freely available to everyone at the click of a link. Imagine how that would transform British art history!

So the question is, how long will it take for the majority of museums to allow free image use? It might not be as long as you think, for the foundations of this iniquitous practice are built on sand. I noticed recently that the image agency Alamy, a for-profit company, was charging people to reproduce a painting which I happen to own. Neither Alamy nor the photographer who took the image had asked me, or the museum to which I had lent the painting, permission to do this. Alamy are content to pocket hundreds of pounds a go from my painting, and never tell me a thing about it. And I’m not the only one too; Alamy charges people to reproduce images of paintings which the National Museum in Stockholm has already put into the public domain via their own high resolution images - much to the Museum’s chagrin. Furthermore, on their website, Alamy have covered images of the National Museum’s paintings with watermarks, and suggest that they, Alamy, have copyright over the image. In fact under European law it is not at all certain that they do (see page 3, here).

Of course, I am annoyed by Alamy’s actions. But Alamy’s behaviour in fact shows us just how absurd this whole image licensing system is. Alamy claim, not unreasonably, that if an out of copyright painting is on public display it is ‘in the public domain’, and they can therefore take a photograph of it, and do what they like with that photograph. It’s not their problem if people think that somehow Alamy are licensed by the museum to sell ‘official’ images of the painting, and sign up to pay Alamy, rather than the museum. One of the reasons Alamy get away with this is that publishers and TV production companies think they have to pay someone something to get a 'licensing agreement' for any images they use. But actually, they don't. 

So is there anything we can actually do to force the issue? Well, let’s consider this; if websites like Alamy can go into a museum, take photographs, and sell them to publishers, why can’t others do the same, but provide images for free? Imagine a new crowd-sourced website was created, which asked museum visitors to send in high quality photographs of paintings, free of any copyright restrictions. (These days, an iPhone can take a perfectly publishable photo of a painting.) And imagine that this website then made all its images available to scholars and publishers for nothing. Would that be illegal? I don’t think so (but would be glad to hear your views). Would it lead to a revolution in scholarship, publishing and broadcasting? Certainly.

Who’s in?

*Before you say, but broadcasters should be charged because they make profit, I can assure that nobody makes an art programme on BBC4 for the money. There just isn't any.

Update - thanks for your feedback on this. Amazing to read so many of your tales of articles, books and theses frustrated by reproduction fees. Two examples for now:

  • Alexandra Loske wrote a PhD on colour in art history, but had to pull her 100 illustrations from the deposited copies, because (as is the way these days) it would be stored online by the university library. Crazy.
  • R. F. Jones' first modern biography of William Dobson could only afford to include 9 images. 

Many of you have pointed that sites like the one I have suggested already exist in the form of Wikimedia, and Flickr. Partly, however, the problem we need to address is a cultural one amongst publishers. They are so ingrained into thinking they have to pay someone for a licence, that the idea of going to Wiki-anything for an image is inconceivable. 

In the meantime, I am collecting names. I think we need a letter to the Times. Which is a rather old-fashioned thing, but need to somehow formalise this issue, and put the ball into the museum's court. As an opening bid, I think we need to go for what we might call the unilateral approach - free reproductions for any use, and not just academic. As we have seen, the definition of 'academic' can be too meanly defined. And it is because institutions take so much care to control, define and monitor what purposes images are being used for that they have to employ expensive staff, and thus need to charge. It's all part of the silly image fee merry-go-round.

William Blake at Petworth

September 26 2017

Image of William Blake at Petworth

Picture: NPG

The National Trust put on some fascinating exhibitions at Petworth in Sussex, and the latest of these will be one on William Blake, opening in January. Says the NT press release:

The new exhibition is the first to bring together many of the works that were inspired by Blake’s experience of living in Sussex, including paintings commissioned by the Wyndham family, owners of Petworth, and rare hand-coloured relief etchings of Blake’s illustrated epic poem Milton.

Sussex is the only area outside London that Blake ever lived, spending three years there from 1800 to 1803 with his wife Catherine, renting a cottage in Felpham that he described as ‘the sweetest spot on Earth’.

Paintings to go on display include extraordinary works by Blake on loan from the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery and Tate, as well as three paintings by Blake from the Petworth collection and another on loan from the National Trust’s Arlington Court in Devon.

Of the paintings to come from the Petworth collection, two were commissioned by Elizabeth Ilive, mistress and then wife to George Wyndham, the 3rd Earl of Egremont. The third was purchased by the 3rd Earl from the artist’s widow as a philanthropic gesture. Descendants of the 3rd Earl donated the 17th-century mansion to the National Trust in 1947.

The exhibition will run from 13th Jan to 25th March.

Under Charles, more access to the Royal Collection?

September 26 2017

Image of Under Charles, more access to the Royal Collection?

Picture: Royal Collection

Not for the first time, suggestions have been made that Buckingham Palace might become more accessible to the public under a future King Charles III. The Sunday Times reported last week (sorry to be late to this one) that Charles is considering continuing to live at Clarence House, and that Buckingham Palace might become more of a museum.

Personally, I think anything which allows greater public access to the Royal Collection is a Good Thing. I suspect that Charles, on acceeding to the throne, and being an art lover, will make a significant gesture in relation to the Royal Collection, which will lead to much more of it being on public display. If you think of all the extraordinary artistic treasures that are in (for example) the picture gallery at Buckingham Palace (which, though small by comparison rivals anything in the National Gallery) it seems a shame that these paintings are only regularly publicly viewable when the Palace is open in summer and early autumn, and then only to those who buy a ticket. Might the next transformation of the Royal Collection involve the creation of a much larger, permanent exhibition space, within Buckingham Palace? Regular readers will know that I say all of this as an ardent admirer of everything the Royal Collection does already.

What do AHNers think?

Canaletto - The Movie

September 26 2017

Video: Exhibition on Screen

Exhibition on Screen have made a film version of the Canaletto exhibition currently on at the Queen's Gallery in London. Trailer above, and cinemas and showings can be found here

'How to look at a Mexican Old Master'

September 26 2017

Image of 'How to look at a Mexican Old Master'

Picture: via Apollo, Self-Portrait (detail), (1719), Juan Rodriguez Juárez

Latin American 'old' art has been paid scant attention by arthistorians in the 20th Century, but, in Apollo, Eduardo de Jesus Douglas says the art of the period is rich in meaning:

The interpretation of images in the early modern Iberian world poses a particularly complex challenge to scholars and curators. Spanish and Portuguese ships, merchants, soldiers, missionaries, and colonists sailed from Europe to Africa to America to Asia and back, creating arguably the first global exchange of commerce and culture in human history. Viceregal America, where the ‘four continents’ came together, poses a further series of problems. Here after one generation, the colonist – as a result of being born on American soil – became the colonised. Yet, in theory (if not always in practice), they enjoyed prerogatives unavailable to the indigenous, African, Asian, and mixed-race subjects of the Spanish and Portuguese crowns.

Rubens!

September 24 2017

Image of Rubens!

Picture: Glasgow Life

Just a quick note to say that the press coverage for series 2 of 'Britain's Lost Masterpieces' has begun, and our first discovery is a lost Rubens of the Duke of Buckingham. More here in the Sunday Times, and here on BBC News. The programme goes out on Wednesday at 9pm on BBC4.

I'm off now to talk at Chatsworth on Van Dyck.

Update - thanks for all your kind emails on this, and sorry for the radio silence so far. The press coverage, I'm amazed to say, has really taken off, so I've been busy doing that. More soon!

'Britain's Lost Masterpieces' returns

September 20 2017

Image of 'Britain's Lost Masterpieces' returns

Picture: BBC

I'm very pleased to tell you that the new series of Britain's Lost Masterpieces begins on Wednesday 27th September, at 9pm on BBC4. In this series I'm joined by social historian Emma Dabiri, and the first episode looks at the art collections in Glasgow. 

Viewing is compulsory for all AHNers, as well as their friends, family and pets. Standby for more plugs over the coming days.

'Drawn in Colour' Degas from the Burrell

September 20 2017

Image of 'Drawn in Colour' Degas from the Burrell

Picture: NG

A new exhibition centered on Sir William Burrell's collection of Degas pastels has opened at the National Gallery in London. The Burrell collection in Glasgow is currently closed for refurbishment, so a selection of the items are currently being loaned to various institutions, both in the UK and abroad. The new show at the National Gallery has drawn rave reviews so far; five stars from both The Guardian and the Evening Standard. But for the most authoritative overview of the exhibition, and why Degas excelled in pastel, then look no further than Neil Jeffares' blog, here

New Caravaggio database

September 20 2017

Image of New Caravaggio database

Picture: Studio Seibert

The Galleria Borghese is to set up a new online Caravaggio database, part funded by the fashion house Fendi. Reports Tom Kington in The Times:

Flush with €1.3 million in funding from Fendi, the Galleria Borghese will create a digitalised database detailing every aspect of the life and work of the artist, who mastered the chiaroscuro technique of contrasting light and shade and whose popularity has rocketed during the past century.

“We want to collect every document there is to allow scholars to deepen their understanding of Caravaggio and scrutinise new attributions,” says Anna Coliva, the director of the museum.

The institute, to be based in Rome, will strike deals to access Caravaggio studies kept by universities and collect X-ray, infra-red and ultraviolet images of known works.

In the article, Anna Coliva casts doubt on the picture of Judith Beheading Holofernes (above) discovered in a Toulouse attic last year. More here

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