Latest Must See Exhibition – Painting the Modern Garden Monet to Matisse

Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926), Nymphéas (Waterlilies), 1914-1915, oil on canvas, Museum Purchase: Helen Thurston Ayer Fund, © artist or other rights holder, 59.16

Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926), Nymphéas (Waterlilies), 1914-1915, oil on canvas, Museum Purchase: Helen Thurston Ayer Fund, © artist or other rights holder, 59.16

2016 Must see Exhibition – Painting the Modern garden: Monet to Matisse

For anyone who loves any aspect of a garden and Impressionist paintings Painting the Modern garden: Monet to Matisse, which opens at the Royal Academy on 30 January is a must-see. The exhibition explores the theme of the garden. Starting with the earliest works of Monet and Renoir, paintings also include Impressionist visions of light and atmosphere, Symbolist evocations of imagined realities, and avant-garde experimentation including sanctuaries of healing.
A quarter of the 120 exhibits are by Monet but there are also paintings by another 50 world famous artists among them Vincent Van Gogh, Edward Munch, and Matisse.
Covering the early 1860s through to the 1920s, the theme of the exhibition deals with the artists’ fascination with the ever-changing horticultural world, which inspired innovation. From the latter part of the nineteenth century, artists began to treat their gardens as outdoor studios, with the paintings showing a wide variety of gardens.
Throughout his life Monet cultivated gardens with several inspired by the Mediterranean. Looking at the colours in these paintings reminded me of my recent visit to Tenerife. The garden at Giverny in France, however was Monet’s greatest creation in both the garden and the paintings that were inspired by it. The final room brings together his triptych of Water Lilies (Agapanthus) for the first time in Europe, the paintings having been sold individually.
As part of the ‘Exhibition on Screen’ series, a film examining the role of the garden in art history will be in cinemas from April 12. Viewers will be able to see some of the gardens together with the artwork they inspired. Interviews with modern artists reveal how the relationship between the artist and the natural world continues to flourish.
Events are being held throughout the exhibition including free lunchtime talks. (Seats need to be reserved.)

The exhibition runs from 30 January – 20 April, 2016 10am – 6pm Fridays to 10pm
£17.60. Children under 16 free. T. 020 7300 8090
Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J OBD.

Joaquin Sorolla, Louis Comfort Tiffany, 1911 Oil on canvas, 150 x 225.5 cm On loan from the Hispanic Society of America, New York, NY Photo (c) Courtesy of The Hispanic Society of America, New York

Joaquin Sorolla, Louis Comfort Tiffany, 1911

Oil on canvas, 150 x 225.5 cm

On loan from the Hispanic Society of America, New York, NY

Photo (c) Courtesy of The Hispanic Society of America, New York

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David Bowie at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London


Duffy Archive Duffy Archive David Bowie, this year’s ‘must see’ exhibition has opened at the Victoria and Albert museum and runs until July 28, 2012. It coincides with the release earlier this month of a new album ‘The Next Day’, his first for ten years, which has already made number one in the charts.
According to the exhibition’s curator, his influence on contemporary culture is arguably greater than any other musician of his generation. One could argue that John Lennon and Paul McCartney might also be considered in this league. However, Bowie’s contribution to music, performance, fashion and design are certainly milestones of our era.
The exhibition, give yourself a minimum of at least two hours, tells his story through costume, film, photography and set designs as well as more personal items such as musical scores, storyboards, lyrics and diary entries. It shows how Bowie had the knack of capturing and…

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Hangmen at London’s Wyndham’s Theatre


Photo – Helen Maybanks

Seeing someone being hanged in the opening scene of a play isn’t what I would call a positive start to an entertaining evening. While the performances by the cast of Hangmen cannot be faulted the play puts into question the inevitable question ‘Were those hanged guilty’?

This quasi-comedy takes a serious subject and interjects comical overtones. The opening scene shocks and whether anyone can laugh at such a serious and questionable subject must depend on your sense of humour. For me, it shocked.

The play, directed by Matthew Dunster, touches on several different issues but also brought into question the morality of the police force, and whether they are above justice.
An intense and macabre evening that highlights a lot of questions on a variety of subjects. Thought provoking and because of the subject matter a play I would hesitate to recommend, it is certainly one that encourages further discussion.

Running for a limited season to 5 March 2016
Tel. 0844 482 5120
Mon – Sat 7.30pm Wed and Sat. 2.30pm
Wyndham’s Theatre, Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0DA.

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India Festival at the V@A

Paris Fashion Week October 2007 Manish Arora_ Ready to wear Spring Summer 2008

PARIS Fashion Week October 2007
Manish Arora
Ready to wear Spring Summer 2008

The Fabric of India, part of the V&A’s India Festival is currently on at the Victoria & Albert Museum in Kensington.

Over 200 objects are on display at The Fabric of India at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the first exhibition to explore the rich world of handmade Indian textiles. The history of fabric in India is one of the most ancient in the world with the oldest surviving cotton threads dating from around 4000 BC.

On display are examples of everyday fabrics as well as previously unseen treasures from ancient banners to contemporary saris. The exhibition offers an introduction to the raw materials and processes of making cloth by hand with displays of basic fibres of silk, cotton and wool. It shows how fabrics were used in courtly and spiritual life covering the range, opulence, scale, and splendour of objects handmade for the rich and powerful courts of the 17th to 19th centuries.

The changing world is examined too as European industrialisation threatened to eradicate Indian handmaking skills in the 19th century. A range of pieces designed for foreign export showcase the ability of Indian artisans to adapt designs and techniques for a wide variety of markets. Different regions developed specialities based on local resources such as natural dyes, and printing patterns with wooden blocks. A film shows how it is done. Each part of India has its own weaving tradition, and embroidery with regional styles. The exhibition examines how fabrics were used in courtly and spiritual life with an area where haunting music is played showcases articles, including a sultan’s tent, that was saved from the Indian royal courts.

Textiles are also shown when modernisation became a priority after Indian gained its independence in 1947. A range of pieces for foreign export showcases the ability of Indian artisans to adapt designs and techniques for a wide variety of different markets, and highlights how their designers rework traditional techniques into extravagant clothes.

20th century wall hanging, cotton appliqué, Gujarat,

20th century wall hanging, cotton appliqué, Gujarat

The India Festival includes
Bejewelled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection which opens on 21 November and runs until 28 March 2016 while Musical Wonders of India in the Nehru Gallery runs until 3 July 2016.
On 8 December, Michael Palin is giving a talk on his visits to India.

The exhibition runs until 10 January, 2016.
Tickets £14. Open daily from 10.00 – 17.45 (Friday 22.00)

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The Great British Bake Off looking for Contestants


The Great British Bake Off is back and they are looking for Britain’s best home bakers to take part in their seventh series…
Do you fancy taking part in the Great British Bake Off or do you know someone who might? Can you can bake a technically perfect tart, an exceptional cake or plaited bread?
You must be an amateur and not have acquired any formal training over the past 10 years.

Recipe from 2015 Bake-Off Winner Nadiya

Chocolate, Raspberry and Mint Tart
For sweet pastry
250g plain flour
100g unsalted butter
100g icing sugar
Pinch of salt
2 medium eggs

For the tart
250g fresh raspberries
25g mint leaves finely sliced
250ml double cream
200g dark chocolate (70%)
25g liquid glucose
50g unsalted butter

-For the sweet pastry shell, add the flour, butter, icing sugar and salt to a bowl. Using your fingertips, crumble the butter into the flour. Give the eggs a quick mix in a separate bowl and add to the flour mix. Bring the dough together by hand. Cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes in the fridge.

-Take the dough out and roll out onto a floured surface. Line a 20cm tin and chill for 20 minutes in the fridge.
-Preheat the oven to 190. Prick the base using a fork and blind bake for 20 minutes. Lower the oven to 180, remove the beads and bake for a further 5 minutes.

-Leave the case in the tin for 10 minutes, then lift out and leave to cool on a wire rack.

-Divide the raspberries into two. Crush one half with the back of a fork and add the sliced mint to it. The other raspberries need to be halved and set aside.

-Spread the crushed raspberries and mint on the base of the tart and then add the halved ones on top.

-In a bowl, break up the chocolate. Bring the cream to a boil in a pan and add to the chocolate. Mix thoroughly until it is all incorporated well. To this add the glucose and the butter and mix. Leave to cool for a 15 minutes and then add to the tart shell on top of the raspberry mix.

-Leave to chill for a few hours in the fridge.

For more information contact: or download an application form on:

Contestants must be 16 by 1 February, 2016. Applications close midnight Sunday 10th January 2016.

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Top names at Music & Performing Arts Festival in Ravenna

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty Photo Simon Annand

Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty
Photo Simon Annand

Ravenna Festival

The music and performing arts festival in Ravenna, Italy takes place annually from mid-May until mid-July. The programme which includes some of the world’s leading artists embraces all performing arts and languages. This covers symphonic and chamber music, opera and theatre through to dance, world music and performances. The events are held in a wide range of venues that showcase Ravenna’s architectural and historical heritage.
I was among the guests at an evening held in conjunction with World Travel Market to promote the Festival. Leading light and one of the Artistic Directors is Christina Mazzavillani Muti, wife of the renowned conductor Riccardo Muti. Among the speakers was choreographer and Director Matthew Bourne whose company performs periodically at the Festival. We were able to enjoy a film clip of his company dancing Sleeping Beauty, which coincidentally opens at London’s Sadler’s Wells at the beginning of December, 2015.
Totally unexpected was an amazing performance on the cello by Giovanni Sollima and eight of his students playing music described as full of Mediterranean rhythms. It was a real privilege to have the opportunity to hear someone so very talented, and who is one of the star attractions of the 2016 Festival. Among the other highlights of the Festival are stars from the Bolshoi Ballet; Mandela Trilogy from the Cape Town Opera, and Riccardo Muti conducting the Giovanile Luigi Cherubini Orchestra.

Giovanni Sollima

Giovanni Sollima

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Free must-see Chanel Exhibition

Natasha at Chanel!

Natasha at Chanel!

Went to an amazing exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery on the King’s Road, and it was free. To really enjoy the experience, it’s important to have a phone or iPad so that you can download their app as it provides a greater dimension.
“Mademoiselle Privé” is described as a journey through the origins of Chanel’s creations, capturing the charismatic personality and irreverent spirit of Mademoiselle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld.
On entering the exhibition, Geraldine Chaplin’s voice is heard as Coco Chanel. A mirrored room shows off the famous staircase at 31 Rue de Chambón Paris where she lived, and had her workshop. Only visible with the app, I was able to see pictures of her elegant apartment above.
The exhibition is much bigger than I envisaged, and is displayed over two floors. Displays go back to the start of her career as a milliner. Voice-overs tell us that Gabrielle, later known as Coco, always wore pearls.
A room is devoted to the laboratory of her perfume Chanel No 5 while another the sensory has black and white muslin drapes with sounds of voices to give the impression of the workshop where she, and later Karl Lagerfeld’s creations were made.
On the first floor a room has been turned into a maze-like 18th century French garden. The design was inspired by the intertwined C motif that Chanel first saw in stained glass windows at the orphanage where she lived as a child. In another room, photographs taken by Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel’s 1932 jewellery collection are displayed on the walls. In the middle, dummy models wear clothes designed by him and Chanel which show off the jewellery.
A film made by Karl Lagerfeld has Geraldine Chaplin playing the ghost of Chanel who comes alive in her flat, subsequently going upstairs to her workshop to meet Karl Lagerfeld. The film reflects on how Lagerfeld feels she would think about what he has done since she passed away, portraying her as being critical of how he has modernised the House of Chanel. Haute couture designs of his 2014 collection are shown on dummies cleverly displayed against beams of light, presumably to stop anyone reproducing his designs.
The exhibition runs until 1 November. There were huge queues so you may have to wait. We had an hour’s wait but it was well worth it. An added bonus on leaving, we were even given a free cotton shopping bag and poster.

Saatchi Gallery, King’s Road, London.

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