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For only £10 a year, you can become a Friend and come along to our talks, join us on trips out to places like The Royal Academy and Pallant House Gallery, there's always something going on. To become a Friend or find out more about us, go to the website

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Christopher Le Brun's Visit to Swindon

Although I was really looking forward to our first talk of the year, I was also apprehensive about the number of things which could potentially go wrong when acting as host to Christopher Le Brun. We were holding the event at Swindon Dance because of the exhibition change over in the art gallery which meant we couldn't hold it there. Luckily Swindon Dance were able to let us use their studio because it was half term, but it meant we had 98 seats to fill; I emailed the Friends, advertised on social media and encouraged as many people as I could to come along.
 It was alright on the night, Christopher's train arrived on time, he was dropped off at Swindon Dance at 6.35pm, giving us chance to have a chat to him beforehand. Lots of people did come along, I took a photo at the end of the evening, quite a good crowd, maybe 70?
We were asked to produce a transcript of the evening, and decided to ask Create Studios, at very short notice, if they could film the event. We were very lucky to have Henry Meredith coming to film the evening, here he is in the photograph below, setting up and checking everything. The video will appear online as soon as we have it, and was a timely reminder that we need to video all our talks and make them available on the website.
 Here are the audience beginning to arrive
 Although Christopher Le Brun was 'in conversation' with our Curator, Sophie Cummings, it was agreed that he would talk for 20 minutes, then have a conversation with Sophie and then take questions.
 At the Slade where his tutor was John Hoyland, and figurative art wasn't favoured at that time, Le Brun went home to work on paintings he was discouraged from working on at college.
 During 1982 when he had finished the magnificent 'Hyperion', seen below, it was in the Nigel Greenwood Gallery  when Richard Morphet encouraged Swindon Museum and Art Gallery to acquire with the help of the V&A fund. Le Brun talked quite a bit about this painting, which coincidentally hung over the stairs in the Town Hall when it was first acquired by Swindon Museum and Art Gallery; the great hooks it hung from are still in the wall!
You will be able to find out exactly what Le Brun said when we have the video on the website, but what did I take away from the evening? I thought he was an inspirational speaker with a tremendous understanding of his life and was able to give us a fascinating insight into some of his personal highlights He has remained true to himself, and feels it's best to produce work from the heart because it shines through, and that's what people want when buying a painting.
I've added a few more photos of paintings, a bit blurry and unclear:
'Dream, Think, Speak' was painted in the same year as 'Hyperion'.
and the 'Three Riders' a bit later.
Le Brun was asked about the horses which have appeared in his paintings over the years and said they are there to represent sentient beings. As you can see the slides of his paintings didn't show  them at all clearly, rather tongue in cheek, Le Brun encouraged us to buy his book, which he agreed to sign for us. Details of this offer when we have them. In the meantime I looked up the book, there are several, this is the latest:
Entitled: Christopher Le Brun: New Paintings
I thought the bit of information with the book was rather good:
'Renowned for his evocative and highly-charged imagery, British artist Christopher Le Brun's new work builds upon a wide cultural literacy, from Virgil and Tennyson to William Walton.Following his appearance in many international group exhibitions - such as the influential Zeitgeist exhibition at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (1982) - Le Brun became recognised as one of the leading young European painters, and is currently the President of the Royal Academy, London.New Paintings shows an abundance of energy and Le Brun's renewed pleasure in colour and light.Alongside full-colour illustrations, this volume includes a personal response by artist and writer Edmund de Waal, and an introduction by art historian David Anfam that places the work within the tradition of late twentieth and early twenty-first century modern painting.'

Please let me know if you'd like a copy of the book, we can order them together.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Christopher Le Brun is Coming to Swindon On 15 February

Yes it's true, Christopher Le Brun, is coming to Swindon for one of our 'in conversation' evenings, to be held at Swindon Dance in the Town Hall, SN1 1QF,  with Curator Sophie Cummings. We have 98 tickets to sell for the event, and I'm now advertising this fact so that as many people hear about it as possible, and don't miss out.
Looking up Christopher Le Brun's influence is easy, he's been involved in so many things.
 In recent years he has been a trustee of the Dulwich Picture Gallery and the Royal (formerly Prince’s) Drawing School, which he helped to establish in 2000. In the same year he was elected Professor of Drawing at the Royal Academy.
 He was elected President of the Royal Academy in December 2011. He is the 26th President since Sir Joshua Reynolds and the youngest to be elected since Lord Leighton in 1878.
His CV is so extensive, he has a selected CV on the RA website; he has work in 54 permanent collections according to my rough counting. Wikipedia has this:
Known as a painter primarily, Christopher Le Brun also has made some magnificent sculptures, like these I came across at Roche Court on one of our trips in 2016
It was so stunning, I photographed it from several angles

It is similar to 'Union-Horse with two Discs,  situated outside the Museum of London
another superb sculpture also in the sculpture park is this one:
It's 35 years since Christopher Le Brun's painting 'Hyperion' entered the Swindon Collection
it's a Titan of a painting:
I found a concise reference to Christopher Le Brun's work:

Citing Romanticism and Symbolism among his inspirations, as well as musical compositions, literature, and his own materials, Christopher Le Brun produces expressive paintings, prints, and sculptures that range from abstract to representational. Working from intuition and with intention, he reveals his process and his hand in everything he makes. “At least half, if not more, of the driver of my work is the engagement with materials,” he has said. For his sculptures, he works in bronze and relies on motifs that include horses, wings, and semi-abstract forms suggesting human figures. He paints in oils and watercolor, building up his compositions with visible layers and brushstrokes. Rather than honing a particular style, Le Brun prefers to challenge himself with new projects and approaches.

I'm really looking forward to this talk, and hope you can come along. Tickets available from Swindon Museum and Art Gallery Wed-Sat 11am-3pm or online at
The talk starts at 7.30pm and tickets are £6 for Friends and £8 if you're not yet a Friend, although you can join on the night.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Last FWIS talk on Friday 20 January

A large audience turned up to Sophie Cummings' final talk on the wonderful exhibition From Where I'm Standing, featuring 10 West Country ceramicists responses to paintings and ceramics pieces in the collection. Some of those taking part in the exhibition were on hand to talk about their choice of paintings and their working methods, so there was quite an atmosphere of excitement in the gallery
I tried to take photos, but in places, there were too many of us to get a decent photo
 The first person to talk was Sarah Purvey, here she is with her 3 huge pots
 And the painting which inspired her, Basil Beattie's Witness VII is partially seen below
 next Keith Varney who talked about how he was inspired by Tim Phillips' Play:Here We Exemplify' in creating his ceramic vases .
 After the talk, there was some hilarity between Sarah Purvey, Mary-Jane Evans and Jo Taylor
 Rather a nice smiley look
 and then a gathering of the six ceramicists who came to talk about their work.
From the left: Keith Varney, Patricia Volk, Sarah Purvey, Mary-Jane Evans, Jo Taylor and Claire Loder
 To find out more about these amazingly talented ceramicists, please click on their names and you'll find more about them from their websites.
Meanwhile you have until February 4th, which is next Saturday to have a last look at the exhibition.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Lunchtime Talk Friday 13th January

Today Sophie Cummings gave a talk at lunchtime on the 'From Where I'm Standing' exhibition, in which 10 ceramicists were asked to respond to a couple of works from the collections. They have produced a huge variety of different ceramics. Here, below,Sophie is talking about Fenella Elm's response to the small piece which has influenced so much of her work, I've looked at her piece which I love, many times, but it wasn't until today I saw something completely different in it.
There were quite a few people who came along to to find out more about the exhibition, and more came during the talk.
 Jo Taylor took over from Sophie to talk about her work, here she is, below, talking about Nicholas Horsfield's painting 'Oval 1979 Evening, Downstream Towards Vernon' which she responded to in coloured porcelain. Jo talked about how she first came across the painting in the storeroom at very close quarters and was immediately impressed by the feel of the painting, the colours, splashes of apricot and lilac colours which she reproduced using coloured stains on the porcelain.
And here are 2 of Jo's pieces below, she has called them 'Riffing on Horsfield', there are 2 more elsewhere, another 'messier' one she has at home in her dining room, and there's another larger one. They are amazingly beautiful in texture and colour, they enhance the painting, and the painting enhances them in a lovely way.
Before leaving the gallery, I noticed the Fenella Elm's piece produced the most amazing shadows, somehow I'd missed the shadows previously.
Next week, Sophie is giving the last of her #FWIS talks accompanied by Keith Varney

Private View at Osborne Samuel 11 January

During January 2017, the Osborne Samuel Gallery has offered Swindon Museum and Art Gallery,  space for a month at 23a, Bruton St, London W1J 6QG to give the collection some much merited publicity. Many of the 'home team' were invited along to see the results of hanging approximately 30 selected works in the gallery, along with some choice ceramic pieces. It was a lovely evening, the hang was beautifully done and looked fabulous in the gallery.
I'm pleased I managed to capture the online catalogue, so you can see exactly what's being shown in the Osborne Samuel Gallery, there are some gems which you'll see as the backdrop to the photos by clicking here: online catalogue
I'll start with the speeches, Robert Hiscox was speaking as I took the photograph, he'd taken over from Councillor David Renard, Leader of Swindon Borough Council, they explained the history of the collection, the need to move from the current inadequate premises, and their hopes for the future when the museum and art gallery will be housed in a new purpose built cultural centre in the heart of the town. The evening was opened by Gordon Samuel, one half of the Osborne Samuel partnership, he's to the right of David Renard in the photo.
 A general photo by the drinks table with Michael Ayrton's painting in the background
 You can just about see the John Nash, 'Dredgers at Bristol Docks' behind the drinks table
 Hadrian Ellory van Dekker talking with John Hoyland's 'Trickster' in the background
 and here it is again
 There were some lovely ceramics pieces hung at eye level and so were very easy to examine.
 Above we've got Grayson Perry's Perfume bottle and 3 stoppers, and on the far right Hans Coper's Spade Vase, and Lucie Rei's Bottle Vase to the left of that.
 Beside that case was another with among other things, Geoffrey Swindell's Oval Forms purchased in the late 1970s.
 The gallery was packed making it hard to take photos, these below were taken as the rooms emptied a bit. Below you can see Councillor Garry Perkins, Cabinet Member for the Economy, Regeneration and Skills at SBC, he's near the model for the proposed new museum and art gallery, on display in the centre of the middle room in the gallery.
 Below a general view of people, Nicky Alberry can clearly be seen on the left.
 Below Gordon Samuel with Terry Frost's 'Grey, Red and Black Verticals' in the background

 You can see how lovely these favourites look in the gallery
 And how fitting in the week before the unveiling of the Diana Dors Blue Plaque
that Desmond Morris's painting in the collection from 1946 'Girl Selling Flowers (Diana Dors)
 Gillian Ayres' painting 'Florestan' zinged with energy and colour, it looked great illuminated perfectly, with a wall to itself.
 Do go and have a look at the exhibition if you can, it's there until 11 February and the gallery is open Monday-Friday 10am-6pm, Saturdays 10am-2pm.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Talks and Trips for 2017

I have just added our talks and trips for the first half of 2017 to the blog, and I'm hoping our website will be updates later on today to reflect this programme. We are still in the process of learning how to use the website, so it's not all running totally smoothly at the moment. The intention is to be able to buy tickets for talks and trips online so you can do this at your convenience.
All members of the Friends will receive an eflyer this morning, hard copies are available at the museum, but the cost of postage makes it too expensive to post them.
We are very excited to have Christopher le Brun as our first speaker, seen in the poster below standing in front of his painting 'Hyperion' purchased by SM&AG 35 years ago. Painter, printer and sculptor, he was born in Portsmouth and trained at the Slade and Chelsea Schools of Art in London, Le Brun first appeared in several group exhibitions, such as the influential Zeitgeist exhibition at the Martin-Gropius Bau, Berlin, and from 1980 onwards, in many solo exhibitions in Britain, Europe and America. He was a prizewinner at the John Moores Liverpool exhibitions in 1978 and 1980 and worked in Berlin during 1987-88 as guest of the DAAD artist’s programme.
 He was elected President of the Royal Academy in December 2011. He is the 26th President since Sir Joshua Reynolds and the youngest to be elected since Lord Leighton in 1878.

 Apologies that the flyers are fairly illegible, the synopsis of the talks and trips appears on the talks and trips page of this blog.

I thought it was worth flagging up what's happening this year.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Unveiling the Model of the new Museum and Art Gallery

This event was held for the press to take photographs and publicise them widely so everyone knows what the plans for the building look like, and make comments. I was present as chair of the Friends, it felt like history was being made, as in fact I hope it is with this iconic new building in the centre of the town.
The morning started with members of the Trust formed to manage the bid, along with Councillor David Renard present for photographs
 I'm going to start with models of the building in case Facebook takes the first photo as an illustration of what's in the post. Below there's a close up with the Gharial mounted on the far wall!
 The rest of the photos are of groups of people being photographed:
 Below Cllr David Renard talking to Nicky Alberry, and in the background, Brian Mattock chatting with Joel Joffe.
 Below, I rather liked this shot of Robert Hiscox, Chair of the Trust, and Hadrian Ellory van-Dekker, Director of the Trust standing smiling.
 Another one
 Here are Roger Ogle and Richard Wintle looking at the model. I'll be interested to see Richard's photographs, he's already Tweeted quite a lot.
 Below a photo of members of the Trust together
 Graham Carter has already published his piece on this morning in the online version of Swindon Heritage magazine:
Another here:
and Swindon Link magazine:
What an exciting day for Swindon.