29 November 2015

Dutch life and great satire at the Queen's Gallery London

The Royal Collection is the British Royal Family's art collection and is one of the largest and most important in the world. This holds so many pieces that only a fraction can be on display at any one time in the royal palaces across the UK. The Queen's Gallery holds exhibitions throughout the year, curated to show a different range of these precious works. 

Their new exhibitions bring together Dutch art and Georgian caricatures  linked by kings George lll and lV who were art collectors and the subject of the cartoons. The Masters of the Everyday: Dutch Artists in the Age of Vermeer' presents 27 of the Royal Collection's finest Dutch paintings. My eye is always drawn to Rembrandt's paintings, there's something about his use of light to illuminate faces that is so powerful. I was rewarded with several in this show:

Rembrandt's Rabbi with a Cap. 

Rembrandt's Agatha Bas
Rembrandt's An Old Woman called the Artist's Mother

Desmond Shaw Taylor, the curator, explained how they had chosen to use plain walls, popular at the time, to display key painting in one of the exhibition rooms which certainly contrasts with the lush blue of the walls in the other display room.

Unusual plain grey walls 
We saw popular painters from the 17th and 18th century such as Gerrit Dou, Peter Bruegel the Elder and Jan Steen as well as Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch who both took Dutch genre painting to a new level of brilliance.  Genre paintings capture everyday life, ordinary scenes and these painters bring extraordinary detail to their work. 

Pieter de Hooch
Johannes Vermeer

Both George lll and lV were keen collectors, paying high prices to secure these works as well as Sevres porcelain and fine French furniture, examples of which are on display around the rooms. 

The accompanying exhibition at the Queen's Gallery is High Spirits: The Comic Art of Thomas Rowlandson showcases the brilliant work of Thomas who was one of the most popular and wittiest caricaturists of Georgian Britain, poking fun at the kings who collected the fine works we've just seen as well as the politics, fashions and mores of the time. Rowlandson was inspired by Dutch art and although seen to be a cartoonist was a fine artist as this exhibition shows. 

From showing the public criticism the Prince of Wales for his drunken behaviour during his father George lll's illness to laughing at the misfortunes of the Duke of York, these drawings give us a great insight into the gossip of the time. I loved the drawing of the Duke of York, who had been caught up in a huge love scandal and had to resign amid the public humiliation of his love letters being published. Here he is pleading with a whale that had been found in the Thames to help keep him out the headlines which feels very modern! 

The Prince of Wales dancing at his father's sick bed
Pleading with the whale to keep distracting attention from the Duke

This cartoon lampoons the Duchess of Devonshire who was rumoured to be trading kisses for votes at a time when canvassing outside of ones family was considered unseemly for a woman. Here in this cartoon which was damaging to her reputation, she is kissing a butcher.  Given our own political scandals of votes for cash in parliament, these again feels very contemporary. 

'Most Approved Method of Securing Votes

His sense of humour shines through and the man himself was great company and a popular man in society which makes for an enjoyable exhibition.  He went to the Royal Academy school and his skill shines through.

One of the things I love about the Queen's Gallery is their education room where they bring fun and interest for younger visitors. One example of how they do this is shown below where they have picked out a section of painting to encourage the viewer to look at the detail not just the overall impression of a work.  Here the game in the corner of the painting is highlighted, something I had missed in the main gallery. 

The exhibitions are on until 14th February 2016 and for more information click here.

Bye for now,

Disclaimer:  I was invited to visit the gallery for free and the curator tour was part of this.

13 November 2015

Lunch at ..... Corrigan's in Mayfair

Anyone who follows me on Twitter (@itsyourlondon) will know that I'm often to be found out and about trying new restaurants and bars, so I thought I catch my blog readers up on a few good venues I've enjoyed lately.  So I'm starting a new series of short pieces, a whistle stop tour around some places I have checked out for you. 

Mayfair can be a worrying place to have a meal as the prices tend to be aimed at the larger wallet. However, many of the fine dining venues offer a set lunch which is affordable and allows us ordinary folk to mix with those who have no concerns about a heart stopping bill at the end of a meal.

Corrigan's has a good looking exterior on a very smart street just in sight of Hyde Park. The friendly staff welcomed us and no sooner had I sat down before Richard Corrigan himself walked past into the kitchen, so we felt assured of a good meal.  

I have a weakness for good warm bread with soft creamy butter so they had me right away with these lovely nutty loaves in mini flower pots. 

The starter of 'Rooftop salmon tartare, oyster mayonnaise and pomegrante was light, flavoursome and very pretty. 

 A second starter was the 'Ribble Valley duck croquette with glazed plum', the fruit giving the duck a clean taste in contrast with the rich but light duck. 

I was in the mood for meat so went for the 'Confit Middlewhite pork belly, kale and apple sauce'.  For my palate the kale was a little sharp but the pork was soft and tasty with some crispy crackling but not the sort that takes your teeth with it!

My dining companions preferred a fish main course and chose the 'Cornish seafood grill with rouille' which had a good range of fish, full of flavour and perfectly cooked with a light green salad.

Luckily we had saved a small space in order to check out a couple of the puddings which we ordered for the table. The 'Chocolate cheesecake, chantilly cream' managed to silence one of our group, always a sign that the chocolate has hit the spot. 

The 'Fine apple tart' was unexpected visually as we thought a flat classic French tart was coming but this version was full of good apple and the tart was light and flaky. 

A final treat was a baking dish straight out of the oven to accompany our coffees with the freshest Madeleines I've had the pleasure of tasting for a long time. 

Our bill was modest given the surroundings and the quality of the food as their Seasonal Lunch Menu is £25 for 2 courses and £29 for 3 courses.  Drinks were expensive but we were not looking for more than a glass each as it was lunchtime. 

I highly recommend this restaurant although I cannot guarantee Richard Corrigan will be overseeing your meal!

For more information about the restaurant click here to their website. 

Full disclosure:  I booked this restaurant myself and we all paid for our own meals. This was not a press trip but just a great lunch out with friends!

Bye for now,