Enchanted lives


The name of a new FREE exhibition that the British Museum has on about Patrick Leigh Fermor, two of his artist friends and their love for Greece. I’m afraid that PLF was an “epic shit”, to borrow Tina Brown’s description of Boris Johnson, but he did write so well…

You can tell how excited I am about this, I think. The BM consistently puts out great quality exhibitions, many of which – like this one – are free, and yet these side shows get equally regularly overlooked by the trendy press, who want to enjoy their opening view with an Instagram-worthy cocktail or two. In fashion isn’t what the BM does, but excellent showcasing of their top rate collection and genuinely different, inspiring shows are, so I’m leading the band on this one.



John Monks

97AE8A24-FC74-495C-BAA6-C7D3673A5603These rich paintings by John Monks remind me of the scene near the start of the Cazalet Chronicles where Louise passes the remains of a pre-war dinner party that the maids are clearing up and decides it looks pretty “decadent”.



I’m pretty sure that I’ve written before about how much I enjoy finding unexpected correspondences between a places, but I have a similar thing for faces.

It struck me as I was going round the Musee d’Orsay how much this Fantin-Latour sitter’s face is like a Gerald Brocklehurst from 70 years later.

Or how Berthe Morisot’s defiant face, painted by Manet in the 1860s, is exactly like this young girl’s face in Doisneau’s photo of 1957.

Or that this Bonnard really does feel like it could sit in the American Midwest.

All photos on the left of the pairs by me from the Musee d’Orsay.

Feed of the week


The Instagram feed of @susan_holloway_scott_author has such lovely paintings on it. I don’t know where she finds them all, but I especially love her ability to run a theme (women having tea; sewing; blue dresses; sisters) across a real variety of pieces. She must have a wonderful visual memory for finding ideas, and her feed really inspires me. Here’s a selection from her “sisters” series.


From top to bottom:

The three daughters of John Julius von Vieth and Gossenau by Anton Graff

Sargent – the Acheson sisters

The sisters – William McGregor Paxton

Bella and Hanna, eldest daughters of M L Nathanson by Cristoffer Eckersberg

My granddaughters – Edmund Charles Tarbell

Sisters – William Gabriel de Glehn

Sargent – the Misses Hill


Brushing with smoke the city air

 On eves of cold, when slow coal fires

rooted in basements, burn and branch,

brushing with smoke the city air;

When quartered moons pale in the sky,

and neons glow along the dark

like deadly nightshade on a briar;

Above the muffled traffic then

I hear the owl, and at his note

I shudder in my private chair.

The start of Laurie Lee’s “Town Owl” that points the way to Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes (that deadly nightshade on the briar; a later reference to “blooded talons sheathed in fur”) and also evokes an 18th century fantasy as “silk-shoed lovers with dust of diamonds in their hair” are seen running from the ball. However it also can’t be a coincidence that the cold and owls are so similar to Keats’ The Eve of St Agnes, albeit in a different vein:

St Agnes’ Eve – Ah, bitter chill it was!

The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;

The hare limped trembling through the frozen grass,

And silent was the flock in woolly fold.

Enjoy the cold!



In some years it’s September that’s a mix of seasons, but this year October seems to be hovering between the seasons. This pin sharp view was last week as I went out to walk across Blackfriars Bridge at lunch.

Fleet Street, October 2017.

Jacqueline Ayer


The House of Illustration is very good at making me see artists I hadn’t heard of before (e.g. Linda Kitson), but who are very accomplished and had fascinating lives.


Jacqueline Ayer’s parents had moved from Jamaica to New York in the 1920s and Jacqueline grew up helping her father’s ad agency, the first aimed at African Americans.


Her observation for fabric and costume fed into her children’s’ illustrations when she moved to Bangkok in 1959, and after coming back to America in 1963 she founded a Thai textile line. I wish there’d been more room for her work with the Indisn government, her autobiography, and what was clearly a fascinating life, but I’d still recommend this to anybody.