Art 3

Lovely new Ex. opened at the gallery yesterday. Huge oils all abstracts super colours. 10 years ago I would have fallen for one – 10 years ago – but getting rid of things is the order of the day.

Thank you so much for sending the stuff on Mary Fedden – and also interesting on Julian Trevelyan who had some work in Charing Cross hospital I remember. I shall take the pieces over to show my father, who knew them and used to go to open day parties at Durham Wharf.

We went to the Academy (David and the ‘Prisoners’) this morning, and then on to the Pitti Palace across the river. There we were both sure that there is the original of one of our two old portraits in the gold frames (which themselves seemed very Florentine). It was a self-portrait by a Venetian around 1700 called Nicolo Cassana.

We went up to X on Saturday for the opening of the exhibition. We got there with 15 minutes to spare to find the others all waiting outside though the place was open. In due course we trooped in, and found that the gallery owners had hung the pictures very well – they had managed to make them good neighbours, even when the styles were quite different! But nobody came to see which was sad! In the whole afternoon we had five visitors, and only two of those were people we knew before. The others came to see some pictures by an artist which occupied the rest of the gallery.

What a traumatic time you had getting your exhibition launched!! But it was nice to sell two big ones the first two days. Nice of X to go twice and take someone else too. I call that real support.

The art gallery was half occupied with an exhibition of ‘works’ made of bits of old motor cars, or a pair of pantyhose stretched from a cushion to two points on the walls, and so on. Some of the exhibits were quite cleverly adapted, but on the whole it was a bit way out for me. Upstairs they had some pictures from a university collection and these were nearly all abstracts, of the most abstract sort: six feet by four of brown paint with a single line running from top to bottom 2 ft 6 and a half from the left hand edge – that sort of thing.

The way-out exhibit

They had a new show opening in their Gallery. These were pictures by a woman who we had not heard of before, and not very prepossessing, but she did lovely watercolours, mostly scenery, some flowers – but much too pricey to think of buying.

There’s a lovely little bits and pieces shop opened beside the petrol station. I went in to look round and fell for a fascinating bracelet which I found was made of nails used to shoe horses. I asked if they were interested in miniatures and one of the women glowed and said she was anyway as she had a photograph of her daughter in her wedding dress she’d like to have painted (sounds hell). I think I’ll ask them over for a drink on the way home then they can see the worst before committing themselves.

I did a pastel portrait of the newly married wife of an old acquaintance last week.  He’s asked me so often it was becoming an embarrassment – she’s 65-70ish and has already buried two husbands – she’s gaunt but has very good bones and a delightful expression. I haven’t done her justice – he insisted she wore a suede pull-on hat which didn’t help at all. I must get it out of the house ASAP before I wreck it poking it every time I go past.

X seems to be getting into New Age stuff!…  She was also fascinated with some ‘art’ by a woman with very heavy ‘magical’ overtones and strange things happened to people who bought it.

This was a selection of enormous pictures all abstract, of named bits of X, which one could not recognise and all filled with strange eyes. I could find absolutely no merit in any of them.

We went to see ‘the Queen’s Pictures’. They certainly were a lovely collection of thirty out of her hundreds or thousands; I can’t imagine how they chose which ones to include. I thought one of most striking was Judith and Holofernes, illustrating a story from the Apocrypha, in which Judith gets this oppressive general Holofernes drunk and then chops off his head. The pictures shows the lady in lovely yellow gown holding the head by the hair, and attended by her maid. But the humour of the painting lies in the fact that Judith was modelled by the painter’s mistress, and her maid was a portrayal of the mistress’s mother, while the head was a self-portrait of the painter! … The way out of the exhibition involved going through a number of rooms where we were confronted with a few nice pictures and a lot of stuff like ? – the man whose painting largely consists of scrawls of writing. I never can understand why he is regarded as having any merit whatever!

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