Insofar as the French painter Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) is at all popularly known, it is generally for his paintings - the Embarkation for Cythera in the Louvre (below) and the so-called fêtes galantes, many of which are in London's Wallace Collection. However, in the course of my PhD research into his career, I've also come to know him as an engraver.Read More
Arthur Conan Doyle claimed never to have visited Baker Street, then a monotonous eighteenth-century tributary of the Marylebone Road. He was presumably more familiar with the streets a few roads over: the fictional nervous disease specialist Percy Trevelyan, client in The Resident Patient, assures Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson that ‘a specialist who aims high is compelled to start in one of a dozen streets in the Cavendish Square quarter’ and in the 1890s, while trying to establish himself as an eye specialist, Conan Doyle lived precisely here, on Upper Wimpole Street – the ‘long unlovely street’, also haunted by the bereaved Alfred Tennyson of In Memoriam A.H.H., which runs almost parallel to the site of 221B.Read More
‘Even had he not felt a natural fondness for fat girls,’ writes Kenneth Clark in The Nude, ‘[Rubens] would have looked for accidents of the flesh as necessary to his system of modelling. That suggestion of movement flowing across a torso […] Rubens could reveal by the wrinkles and puckers of delicate skin.’Read More
London’s Roman Road runs from Bethnal Green tube station all the way up to Bow. It has a Costcutter on one corner, a Hallmark-style greetings card shop that’s been there for years, and several shops selling fried chicken and various kinds of takeaway – much of it the sort of food people grab on their way home from the pub, throwing greasy bones and empty boxes back into the street.Read More
I wrote a while back about making a book about cats for Dr Johnson's House Trust. It's now complete and available to purchase directly from Dr Johnson's House, Gough Square or on their online shop. 'Hodge's History of Cats' covers cat and pet-keeping from the medieval and early modern period to the height of the eighteenth century, a moment of profound change for our relationship with animals, and particularly cats. It's hard to believe today, in the age of the internet and Instagram cat, but for many years cats were hated and ill-treated by people who feared their traditional connection with witchcraft and the devil. Only with the increasingly swaggering confidence of eighteenth-century man's colonial expansion did people start to normalise pet- and cat-keeping as a normal aspect of (mostly middle-class) life.
This book explores how cats were conceptualised and treated in the eighteenth century, when they were increasingly the companions of intellectual and literary giants such as Horace Walpole, Christopher Smart, William Cowper, Jeremy Bentham and, of course, Samuel Johnson, whose cat 'Hodge' has his own statue outside the museum dedicated to his owner in Gough Square. It's illustrated throughout with details from contemporary Hogarth engravings, my own drawings of the House, and printers' devices drawn from the book collection at the House, which includes several books owned by Dr Johnson himself.
I hope he'd be pleased.
Written, illustrated, designed and typeset by Kirsten Tambling; available for purchase through Dr Johnson's House Trust.
The dales, in Haworth, open out from the back of the Bronte parsonage museum, and are the evocative heart of an area popularly known as 'Bronte country'. Here, Charlotte, Anne, Emily and Branwell Bronte would walk and, apparently, write: the 'Bronte waterfall' retains a 'seat-shaped stone' upon which Emily Bronte - the most nature-obsessed of the family - would compose poems. On top of a steep hill is Top Withins, a ruined farmhouse said to have been an influence for the eponymous Earnshaw home in Wuthering Heights - though, as a plaque in the wall 'placed in response to many inquiries' asserts, it bears no physical resemblance to the house she described, except its isolated situation in the moorland.
As with many 'writers' countries' in England, and elsewhere - Wordsworth's Lake District, Hardy's Wessex - there is a strange mingling here of fact and fiction: Top Withins is not Wuthering Heights, but Wuthering Heights' very unreality links the two places together, via Emily Bronte's imagined inspiration.
Just got back from six days in Berlin, mainly focused on the museums therein: particular highlights for me on an architectural / aesthetic level were Schinkel's Altes Museum, which is very much about architecture-as-nation-building, the Jewish Museum (obviously) and David Chipperfield's reworking of the Neues Museum, which, alas, I didn't photograph very well. I also did some work on my sky-skills, largely non-existent up to this point. Photos below.
I was asked to write an 'ekphratic response' to a painting of my choice in the Courtauld Gallery this week, which is not the sort of writing I've ever really done before. I chose Cranach's Adam and Eve (below) and I really had to force myself not to research it to within an inch of its life before I dared write anything. Interestingly, when I'd finished and set myself free to research, I realised that I'd actually spotted most of the things in the Courtauld catalogue listing just by looking at the picture really carefully (the only one I didn't get was the roebuck drinking from the stream, which is apparently a common metaphor for the Christian soul's longing for God).Read More