Saturday, 14 April 2018

'From Omega to Charleston' at Piano Nobile, Holland Park

'From Omega to Charleston' is a small exhibition of the works of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant between 1910 - 1934 in Piano Nobile, a small gallery in Holland Park. It's one of those places where you have to ring the door bell to be let in since it's really a small shop converted into a gallery than anything else but it was nicely laid out, even showing paintings around the office desks downstairs.

One of the main pieces on display is a set of 50 plates commissioned by Kenneth Clark that haven't been publicly displayed together forever. The plates show paintings of 48 'famous women' through the ages including the Queen of Sheba, Elizabeth Tudor, Greta Garbo, Virginia Woolf and, of course Vanessa and Duncan (so, technically, 49 famous women).

The works on show are mainly paintings but there's also a lovely painted cabinet and some vases that are worth scrutiny (I'd happily have that cabinet in my living room). There was a lovely self-portrait of Duncan Grant in pencil and a simple painting of his lover, 'David Garnett in Profile' - the lips are very voluptuous.

My favourite paintings were by Duncan Grant. I really like the way he uses colour such as in this painting of Lytton Strachey (with the inevitable book and beard of course). This reproduction doesn't really give a very good idea of the richness and warmth of the colours, the elegance of the crossed leg and foreshortened thigh and the creases and stretches in his jacket.

It doesn't look like he took a lot of time with this portrait with very vigorous  brush strokes pulling an image of Lytton out of the background. The hat is floating somewhere on the top of his head a precise alignment doesn't really matter. And the feet are missing, something I'm all too familiar with from my own drawings, but that doesn't matter.

Another painting I fell in love with at first glance was 'The Juggler and Tightrope Walker' and that's exactly what you get in the painting. Again, the colours in this reproduction don't do it justice but it is a lovely painting.

 It's a small but really good exhibition and it made me realise while I was there that I need to know more about Duncan Grant. I keep seeing examples of his work in various exhibitions but I've never really investigated him properly. Maybe it's time for a proper retrospective at Tate Britain?

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