There is always a good exhibition somewhere in London, often too many. A trip to the Royal Academy on Picadilly is usually worthwhile. We wanted to see the Matisse exhibition this time. How fascinating. There was not an enormous number of painting but they were exhibited alongside some of the objects he used for his work. The idea was to encourage the viewer to look at the objects the way an artist might. I love his use of colour and textiles and this exhibition was no exception. I’ve often thought that if I was asked what books I would want on my Desert Island, a copy of Matisse’s work would be the first thing I’d chose.
There was also an exhibition of the work of Charles Tunnicliffe in the same building.
He was a Royal Academician best known for his illustrations for books. Think Tarka the Otter. (Memo to self – must read.) What became more interesting was copies of the cards he did for Brooke Bond Tea. The cards were in the packets of loose leaf tea and one could send away for a book in which to stick the cards. Seeing those cards and the book brought back all sorts of memories. I’d collected the Birds of Britain. We started talking to the room steward who told us his had collected the Birds of Africa as he had lived in Uganda as a child. He showed us the Ladybird series of books ‘What to Look for in Winter’, and it’s companion volumes. Tunnicliffe was an amazing artist and deserves to be remembered.
Three days in my favourite place; I still find it exciting after all these years. And such a variety of things to do. First a dinner to support a former pupil of mine who is the Labour Candidate for Erewash (it’ s on the borders of Derbyshire and Nottingham, if you need to ask) then a trip to Peter Jones in Sloane Square, my old stomping ground. The swinging sixties had ended by the time I moved to Old Chelsea, but there were still art galleries and individual boutiques selling new designers creations and family owned restaurants and cafes, Picasso’s for a good Italian meal, Asterix selling crepes and Charlies for coffee. The Chelsea Drug Store was still a pub and not a McDonalds. Now it’s mainly the chain fashion stores so just another high street. I was glad to see the book shop John Sandoe was still going.
Today was much more interesting, Chiswick House Gardens because the dog needed a walk. It’s a wonderful mixture of woodland, cricket ground,
miniature canal with a variety of ducks and geese on it, a beautiful Palladian house. or rather a pleasure palace and an orangery not with citrus fruit but a collection of camellias. Good cafe in the grounds as well; lots of other dog walkers and couples airing their children. Definitely worth a visit.
Then to the Royal Academy and a visit to Paris at the time of the Revolution. An exhibition of the works of Daumier. He is better known for his political caricatures in the UK but he painted the people of Paris going about their ordinary lives. I particularly liked a painting of a laundress with her daughter on the Ile St Louis, hard to believe it was a very poor area of Paris at that time.
Then one of the best places for Christmas presents, Fortnum & Mason’s. I know the food stuffs they sell are very expensive but they are so beautifully
packaged that it’s worth paying the price. Those receiving tea or biscuits in such gorgeous tins feel they are getting a luxury item, rather than simply teabags or gingernuts.
And of course at this time of year the windows of Fortnum’s are dressed in their Christmas finery. This year they hark back to the 1950’s with figures of a family decorating the tree or cooking lunch on an Aga. If you are in London at this time of year then the windows of all the big department stores are enchanting. Just stroll round Oxford Street, Regent Street and Picadilly for a free show. Enjoy.