Queen’s Gallery, London and St James’s Theatre

A day of inspiration February 11, 2016

There is no doubt of the benefit to the artist in seeing and experiencing creative excellent! February 11th was spent in two exceptional creative environments:

‘Masters of the Everyday: Dutch Artists in the Age of Vermeer” Queen’s Gallery, London

What an exhibition! To use the words from an article written by Simon Wilson in the RA winter magazine – delightful, exhilarating, fascinating, moving, instructive, enlightening! These were paintings all centred around the human condition and without a doubt must rate as some of the most beautiful in the world. The painting technique was inspiring and it was wonderful to be able to get very close to them to study them in detail.

Four Rembrandts in the first room left me feeling that I didn’t need to go any further. They were wonderful, especially ‘An Old Woman called ‘The Artist’s Mother”, painted in 1620. Rembrandt is always a master of light and in this painting, the light seemed to be coming from within and it was yet another example of his extraordinary ability to depict the grace, dignity and beauty of old age. As I’m working on Part 2 of Drawing 2 at the moment, which focuses on mark making. I was able to study closely the brush marks in the paintings and it was easy to see the squiggles made by the end of a brush and the scratch marks in the surface of the paint in the beard and the elaborate collar in ‘A Rabbi with a Cap’, painted in 1635. Ferdinand Bol, a student of Rembrandt, also used the same technique of scratching into thick paint and using the end of the brush into thick paint.

‘A Lady at the Virginal with Gentleman’ by Vermeer, gave me lots to think about in regard to composition. It is an extraordinary composition, the foreground is almost entirely taken up with a table carpet, patterned like an oriental carpet, thrown over a table. The middle ground is of a musical instrument and an empty chair and it is in the background that the artist presents two figures, a lady playing the virginal with the gentleman looking on. But in true Vermeer style the light is magnificent, coming in through the windows on the left side of the composition, flooding the far corner with light, and picking up the colour on the sleeve of the lady, her skirt and falling across each image until it returns back to the foreground, highlighting the intense red of the table carpet. Having been thinking a lot about two and three dimensions in the first part of Part 2 in Drawing, I was intrigued with the treatment of the table carpet in the foreground. This seemed to emphasise a two-dimensional surface treatment to make the viewer aware of the surface and then to plunge the viewer into a superb three-dimensional view, finishing up with a further three-dimensional view in the mirror on the back wall. Totally inspiring!

Vermeer- 'A lady at the virginal with gentleman'

Vermeer- ‘A lady at the virginal with gentleman’


‘The Pianist of Willesden Lane’ – St James’s Theatre, London

Set in Vienna in 1938 and in London during the Blitz, The Pianist of Willesden Lane tells the true story of Lisa Jura, a young Jewish pianist who is dreaming about her concert debut at Vienna’s storied Musikverein concert hall. But with the issuing of new ordinances under the Nazi regime, everything for Lisa changes, except for her love of music and the pursuit of her dream – as she is torn from her family and set onto the Kindertransport to London.

Based on the book The Children of Willesden Lane: Beyond the Kindertransport: A Memoir of Music, Love, and Survival by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen.

I found this performance to be a memorable experience, intensely moving and not to be forgotten. Mona Golabek tells the story of her mother’s survival as one of the children saved from Nazi Germany in 1939 by the Kindertransport. The performance is comprised of the spoken word, photographs and superb music. I found myself deeply moved of course by the story but the words coupled with such beautiful music was a very special experience.




About pbfarrar

I am an Australian living permanently in England. I have recently retired from the position of Principal of an independent school and have taken up the study of Fine Art with the OCA.
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