Glowing

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I saw this late work by Alma-Tadema (better known for his massive classical set pieces) over at Leighton House on a pouring wet day earlier this month. Leighton House itself is pretty stunning, with an “Arab Hall” inspired by Syria and Sicily and an entrance of deep peacock blue tiles, so the perfect setting for Alma-Tadema’s equally lush art.

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Rather nicely, the two artists actually knew each other and Leighton recommended his architect to Alms Tadema, when he bought Tissot’s house in St John’s Wood and decided to remodel it to include extra studios for his wife and each of his daughters. This exhibition’s well worth a trip, especially for the films showing how Alma Tadema’s art has influenced film depictions of Ancient Rome, and for a reconstruction of the “panel room”, where artistic visitors were asked to paint a contribution before leaving.

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photos of Leighton House from my visit.

Summer evenings

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Flora went into the kitchen, where a lamp already burned on the table. Its soft light fell into the heart of a bunch of pink roses in a jam-jar. There was a letter from Charles propped against the jar too, and the roses threw down a heavy, rounded shadow onto the envelope. It was so pretty that Flora lingered a moment, looking, before she opened her letter.

Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons. Photo from @elfredapownall.

Pretties

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In fact, twice in one day because I  can’t resist: a scrapbook of Instagram pretties: Schiaparelli dresses from @the_corsetedbeauty;

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an Evelyn Dunbar sketch from @designfortoday;

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an elegant doodle from @garancedore;

 

marmalade jars and the delightful National Trust home of Standen from phil._.b;

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dogs on the beach from @thewomensroomblog

Tiger women

In the middle of heat rage a few weeks ago, I saw this fierce woman, captured in a 1930s photo by Fubing Chang.

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Instantly I thought of her waving a battle banner, and @jennifershortotextiles showed me both the flag and how this girl might appear nowadays.

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Finally, her palace: on sale in the Atlas Mountains via Christie’s,

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where she sits waiting for lunch in the heat (@thebreadcompanion)

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Blog of the week & Mexico City

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I’m still completely absorbed by Sybille Bedford’s A Visit to Don Otavio, and these passages (dinner; setting up a hotel) show why. If it fuels your fever, you really must see Ben Pentreath’s blogs here and here. Normally I dial in to Ben’s pastoral idylls on Mon mornings, but these posts from his travels carry some heat.

Where the bee sucks

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This window by Annie Rie reminds me of Ariel’s song. Where the bee sucks, there suck I / in a cowslip’s bell I lie / there I couch when owls do cry / on the bat’s back do I fly / merrily, merrily shall I live now / under the blossom that hangs on the bough

 

Outrageous

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I was considering posting “Flaming June”, given the heat last week, but we’ve got a whole month to get there, and this is equally outrageous. In fact, it’s as unabashedly out there – and for similar reasons – to this blog’s second-favourite Gertrude:

NPG 1630; Gertrude Elizabeth (nÈe Blood), Lady Colin Campbell by Giovanni Boldini

Seeing this you can see why critics of the Baroque complained that the style shamelessly set out to manipulate an audience’s emotions, focusing on effect and appeal to the senses above all else. It rather pleases me therefore that this image came from a site dedicated to the cool-headed goddess of wisdom, Gifted Minerva. Check out the whole tumblr feed for some new art discoveries, especially if you enjoyed Still Life Quick Heart, when I posted that.

Nicholas Regnier, St Sebastien & St Irene

Revisionism

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I haven’t got into Malcolm Gladwell’s writing, but I’m really enjoying this podcast, which is quite short and high-level, but has some interesting scenarios. In the two episodes I’ve listened to so far, Gladwell has talked about moral licensing (how making a small concession is used as an excuse to withdraw from wider change), and the point that intelligence failure is inevitable as each agent listens to reports through their own lens.

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These points aren’t new, but his comparison of a Vietnam project spiralling out of control in search of more data with the current war on terror ($1m in 1965, versus 1271 state agencies investigating counter-terrorism in the US today), and of an 1870s artist who nearly became the first female member of the RA with Julia Gillard are interesting.

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My only suspicion is that Gladwell’s eagerness to demonstrate that the “forgotten” situations are still relevant to today skews his summaries of the past. I’d also argue that the past doesn’t need to be relevant to the future in order to legitimise it, and it’s a complex point how far we can learn from the past in any case, but that unaddressed overtone just makes the podcast more thought-provoking.