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September News: A brief review of summer 2023

I had an enjoyable summer despite the variable English weather and in early June travelled to Berlin with the Oriental Ceramics Society to visit the Asian collections of a number of royal palaces and museums.

On the 18th of June I visited the exhibition: China’s Hidden Century at the British Museum and really enjoyed the displays and the thematic approach to Chinese art of the 19th century, a period which had been generally overlooked in the past.

The following week I took a client to see the Treasure House art and antique fair at the Chelsea Hospital. It had replaced the Masterpiece fair which had been cancelled earlier in the year. It was a much smaller fair than Masterpiece, with only 55 exhibitors, but the consistently high quality of the exhibits made it a really enjoyable experience.

On the 16th of August I visited Chatsworth House for the first time. I had been meaning to visit for many years and finally on the day of my 37th wedding anniversary, we finally made it. It did not disappoint and I really enjoyed seeing the state rooms, as well as the vast gardens.

I wish everyone all the best over the autumn season and look forward to seeing some of you over this period.

Best wishes,

Robert Bradlow, September 2023.

Oriental Ceramics Society Tour to Berlin – 29 May to 02 June

I have written a detailed post of this tour to Berlin, which can be found on the website. The trip was held over four days and we toured four royal palaces and two museums during this time. The highlights of the trip were the porcelain cabinets at Schloss Oranienburg and Charlottenburg, as well as the Chinese House at Sanssouci and the Asian Art Museum at Humboldt Forum.

Visit to the British Museum Exhibition – China’s Hidden Century – 18 June

On Sunday the 18th of June I took a client to see the much anticipated British Museum exhibition on the 19th century titled – China’s Hidden Century. The exhibition was bookable by time slots only and when we arrived at 2pm, it was clear that this was a sell out show and the crowds to most exhibits were three deep. However, despite that and with a little patience and perseverance, we were able to view most of the exhibits relatively easily.

The exhibition and the catalogue was divided into six themes: The Court, The Military, Elite Art, Vernacular Culture, Global Qing and Reform to Revolution and separate galleries were dedicated to each of these.

The exhibition was the result of a significant research project undertaken by the British Museum in partnership with Birkbeck College, University of London. The 19th century in Chinese art is a period that has long been overlooked in the West, hence the title of the exhibition.

The two areas of the exhibition that particularly struck me were the quality of the textiles and the paintings in the Court, Military, Elite Art and Vernacular Culture galleries and I have illustrated a number of these below.

I recently visited the exhibition for a second time and it struck me again on visiting that the vast majority of the visitors to the exhibition were Chinese.

A Brief Review of the Vetting and a Visit to the Treasure House Fair – 21 and 22 June

I visited the newly created Treasure House fair on the 21st and 22nd of June. It was launched earlier this year by Thomas Woodham-Smith and Harry Van der Hoorn, two of the co-founders of Masterpiece London, which had been cancelled earlier this year.

The standard of exhibits was very high, which was no mean feat considering that the fair organisers had only a matter of a few short months to get the whole event together. The fair was a much smaller affair than its previous incarnation and with only 55 exhibitors, was less than half it had been previously.

Asian exhibitors included Joost van den Bergh, Michael Goedhuis Ltd and Sydney L Moss Ltd. I particularly enjoyed the exhibit of scholars objects, sculpture, inro and paintings at the latter.

On my first day there, I met a couple of colleagues and previous vetters of Masterpiece who gave me a brief tour and we reviewed on or two pieces. The second day I took an Australian client around and very much enjoyed both visits to this newly created event of the London summer season.

Visit to Priestley & Ferraro Mist and Clarity Exhibition of – 07 July

On 07 July I visited the exhibition at Priestley & Ferraro Mist and Clarity, the paintings by two 20th century Chinese artists Chang Chien-Ying and Fei Cheng-Wu. This exhibition was part of the Asian Art in London summer events and proved to be a departure from their normal exhibitions of earlier Chinese ceramics and works of art.

Chang Chien-Ying and Fei Cheng-Wu were the first Chinese academically trained artists to work and settle in Britain. In 1946, four artists were selected to travel to London and to study at art colleagues and Chang and Fei were two of this group. After the Communists came to power in 1948 they stayed in London and were married in 1953.

They befriended the artist Stanley Spencer and visited him in Cookham where he worked and lived and on one occasion Spencer drew a portrait of Chang whilst Fei drew a portrait of him.

Chang Chien-Ying’s style of painting is quite distinct from that of Fei Cheng-Wu’s and generally her works are tonally slightly darker and employs slightly broader, more spontaneous brush strokes. Fei’s style is generally more linear and slightly lighter and more descriptive.

I particularly liked Chang’s observation of birds on branches and chicks and Fei’s delicate flowering branches of cherry and his study of Rodin’s Burghers of Calais.

Visit to Chatsworth – 16 August

On the 16th of August, I visited Chatsworth House for the first time. I had wanted to visit it for a number of years and despite a number of previous false starts, this finally became a reality this summer.

Chatsworth House as we know it today was built from 1687 by the first Duke of Devonshire. His initial intention was to build the south wing and state apartments but enjoyed building so much that he went on to build the east, west and north fronts of the building, which was completed just before his death in 1707.

The state drawing room was used by members of the visiting royal court and the walls are adorned with the Mortlake tapestries which date from the 1630s and are based on designs for the Sistine Chapel by Raphael.

There are a number of pieces of Chinese porcelain in this room and the majority are from the Kangxi period. One piece of particular note was the large famille verte ovoid vase and cover painted with pheasants amongst peony and chrysanthemum. It is painted in underglaze blue, which is more typical of late 17th century Kangxi pieces and is similar to a damaged vase and cover in Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin (see my article on the OCS tour to Berlin).

In the State Bedchamber there are a number of Kangxi blue and white pieces, including a set of four large ‘Soldier’ vases and covers and a number of vases to the top of the cabinets on each side of the bed.

Other rooms of particular note in the house was the great dining room and the sculpture gallery. The sculpture gallery was created by the 6th Duke of Devonshire between 1818 and 1834 and the display is unchanged from this time. It features works by Antonio Canova (1757-1822), Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844), John Gibson (1786-1866) and Rudolph Schadow (1786-1822).

A walk around the gardens was particularly memorable and we enjoyed great views of the house from all sides. I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Chatsworth House especially in the summer months.


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