Thursday, 31 January 2013

Ashmolean Silver

The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford has unveiled a collection of 480 pieces of Renaissance silverware bequeathed to the museum by the dealer and collector Michael Wellby, who died last year. This treasure is deemed the most important gift to a British museum for over a century. During the 1940s and 1950s, Wellby began dealing in silver from Germany that was unpopular and undervalued and could be bought for little more than melt value. Professor Wilson of the Ashmolean concedes that some of these treasures might be Nazi loot, stolen from Jews during the Holocaust, and will need careful research into their provenance. Shown are Silver-gilt cups and figurines from the collection. Some will go on display in the West Meets East gallery before the entire collection is housed in a permanent gallery (CLICK).

Light Show

When in doubt, pose a pretty girl next to it. This pretty girl is a Hayward Gallery employee admiring Leo Villareal's Cylinder II. If anyone doubts that beauty is a socially upwardly mobile characteristic, note how many pretty girls are employed by big galleries and auction houses. Yesterday the Hayward Gallery in London opened Light Show, a retrospective of light installation thingies by 22 "artists" from the 1960's to the present (CLICK). I've seen better Christmas trees. And the Hayward expects you to to pay £11 for this tosh, £10 for silver surfers. CLICK for a BBC slide show.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

US Gun Control

Today former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, supported by her husband, appealed to Congress to enact gun controls because "too many children are dying" (CLICK). It was a courageous appearance by a woman who was shot in the head in a mass shooting in Tucson in 2011 and is still recovering from her wound. The National Rifle Association responded with its usual guff. Take a look at the Graph of gun murders in developed countries. It says it all. The big question is: Who is more powerful, the President of the United States of America or the CEO of the National Rifle Association?

Little Me

This ... er ... Miniature Bust, for want of a better title, is one of the exhibits in Guy Reid's new exhibition Little Me, which opens at the Coningsby Gallery, 30 Tottenham Street, London, on 4 February and runs until 2 March. He carves his miniature people out of lime wood, then hand paints them. There are some celebrities among his intricate carvings, including writers Philip Pullman and Dame Jackie Wilson. Many of these works show a quirky sense of humour. CLICK for an online gallery of exhibits in the show.

Nessim at V&A

On 15 February London's Victoria and Albert Museum will open a new display in Room 74: Barbara Nessim: An Artful Life (CLICK). Around 80 works spanning the American artist and designer's output from the 1960s to the 2000s will be shown, including prints, sketchbooks, drawings, photographs, computer graphics, ceramics, artist's books and other printed publications. This will be her first solo show. Here is her Star Girl Banded with Blue Wave (1966). Admission is free. On 21 February there will be a free talk on her work, starting at 1pm.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Artists & Illustrators

The Chelsea Magazine Company opens the first ever Artists & Illustrators' Annual Exhibition at the Osborne Studio Gallery in 2 Motcomb Street, London, on 6 February (CLICK). Art "hand-picked" from the recent Artist of the Year shortlist and the best from Portfolio Plus members will be on display until 19 February. Admission is free. Shown is the overall winner of the Artist of the Year 2012: Linda Alexander's painting Physalis. If you voted online, why not visit the exhibition to see how well your choice did?

Monday, 28 January 2013

Kelvin Okafor

Believe it or not, this beautiful portrait of British singer-songwriter and guitarist Corinne Bailey Rae is a drawing by London-based artist Kelvin Okafor, using graphite pencils, black chalk and black coloured pencil on acid-free cartridge paper, size 13 x 17 inches. His latest exhibition opens at the Science Museum in London on Thursday, according to a BBC News video (CLICK). The Science Museum website hasn't been updated at the time of writing and its search facility couldn't find Kelvin Okafor! Groan! This is the trouble with overly complicated websites. They need a programmer to update them. Even its blog takes ages to load. I've emailed the museum and will update this post if I get a reply.
Update: Kelvin Okafar's drawings are to be found in the Watercolours + Works on Paper Art Fair at the Science Museum from 31 January to 3 February, entry £15 (CLICK).

Catherine Conserved

For those of us interested in the conservation of old paintings, the National Portrait Gallery has posted a webpage detailing its restoration of Catherine of Aragon, including an X-ray image (CLICK). This graphic shows four stages in the process: 1) first cleaning showing discoloured patches of early restoration, 2) second cleaning showing areas of paint loss down to the panel support, 3) final cleaning with fills in the areas of loss, 4) the finished face after restoration.

Henry and Katherine

On Friday I posted news of a portrait of Catherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII's first wife, discovered in Lambeth Palace (CLICK). Here are the portraits of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon reunited in the National Portrait Gallery after nearly 500 years. This free display in Room 1 also includes other portraits from the period (CLICK).

Sunday, 27 January 2013

The British Scene

From American landscapes to British ones. The Federation of British Artists is currently showing The British Scene at the Mall Galleries in London (CLICK). A selection of artists display their views captured from across the country. The quality is variable. Shown is a detail from Towards Windmill Hill by Bob Rudd RI. The show runs until Saturday 16 February. There is an online gallery to view.

Frederic Church

The National Gallery's Terra-backed exhibition Through American Eyes: Frederic Church and the Landscape Oil Sketch, which runs from 6 February to 28 April, will include one of Church's monumental canvases Niagara Falls from the American Side (1867) in addition to 25 of his oil sketches. This painting was bought in 1887 by John S. Kennedy, who presented it to his native Scotland. It is the only major example of Church's art in a European public collection. It will be on loan from the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, where the exhibition will go after its London showing. Church was a leading light in the Hudson River School of landscape artists. Entry to his National Gallery show is free (CLICK).

Terra in London

Following the success of An American Experiment: George Bellows and the Ashcan Painters, shown at London's National Gallery in 2011 (CLICK), the Terra Foundation for American Art is forking out $550,000 to support four major exhibitions of Yankee art in London in the spring of this year. 1) The National Gallery gets Through American Eyes: Frederic Church and the Landscape Oil Sketch, opening on 6 February. 2) Tate Modern gets Lichtenstein: A Retrospective, the largest group of the artist’s works ever assembled, opening 21 February. 3) The National Portrait Gallery gets George Catlin: American Indian Portraits, the first major exhibition of Caitlin’s portraits to be held in Europe since the 1840s, opening 7 March. 4) The Royal Academy of Arts gets George Bellows: Modern American Life, the first comprehensive exhibition of Bellows’ work in the UK, opening 16 March. Above is Bellows' Portrait of Paddy Flannigan, a New York urchin. CLICK.

Murillo in Dulwich

By now the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London should have transformed its enfilade to evoke a Sevillian church for its exhibition Murillo & Justino de Neve: The Art of Friendship, which opens on 6 February. Admission prices are stiff: adults £11, silver surfers £9; but this is a one-off exhibition of paintings by one of the world's greatest artists. Above is Murillo's The Infant Christ Distributing Bread to Pilgrims (1679) on loan from Szépmuvészeti Museum in Budapest. Smart kid, dishing out bread while still in his nappies! Note the anachronistic bagel. The first mention of bagels appears to be in the city of Kraków in 1610 (CLICK). Bit early for the Christ child. Murillo slipped up on his bagel, but what a painting!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Stuck's Amazon

Edouard Manet's uninspiring Amazon (CLICK) reminded me of this terrific bronze sculpture by Franz Von Stuck: Amazon on Horseback (1897). This really is an Amazon: she has the helmet and aimed spear to prove it. What a striking, dynamic figure she makes! Note how she pulls her mount's head to one side so she can strike with her spear.

View From The Shard

Here is the latest pen-and-ink drawing from Stephen Wiltshire MBE: The View From The Shard (2013). Stephen is the first artist to be invited to Western Europe’s tallest building (800ft) to record the view. Stephen's eidetic memory - commonly called "photographic memory" - allows him to recall a complex scene, such as a city skyline, in incredible detail (CLICK). He has his own London art gallery, which is well worth visiting (CLICK). One of his favourite movies is the Oscar-winning Rain Man (1988) in which Dustin Hoffman plays a prodigious savant whose talent is in memorizing numbers (CLICK).

Friday, 25 January 2013

Council Of Three

This magnificent painting by Albert Chevallier Tayler RBC The Council Of Three hit the top spot in Bonhams' London sale of 19th Century Paintings, Drawings & Watercolours on Wednesday. It fetched £118,850, more than double its pre-sale estimate. (CLICK for a larger graphic.) Despite his Frenchified middle name, Albert Chevallier Tayler (1862-1925) was English, born in Leytonstone, which was then in Essex. For 12 years he was involved in the Newlyn School of painting, using the En plein air method. He exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and became a very successful London artist, commissioned to paint a large panel at the Royal Exchange; but the fashion in art changed and of recent years his paintings have fetched only a few thousand pounds. His Wikipedia entry needs more details: CLICK.

Catherine of Aragon

Today the National Portrait Gallery in London reunited Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon for the first time in nearly 500 years. The portrait of Catherine is on loan to the gallery by permission of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church Commissioners. It was spotted in Lambeth Palace by a member of the gallery's conservation and curatorial department. The portrait was supposedly of Henry VIII’s last wife Catherine Parr, but research strongly suggested this to have been a diplomatic political renaming of the sitter. Having the wrong queen on the wall in those days would be tantamount to treason. King and Queen are now on display in Room 1, admission free. CLICK for details.

Chinese Girl

Oo-er, it's Woolworths' art at its most ghastly! Vladimir Tretchikoff claimed his large-format print of Chinese Girl had sold half a million copies worldwide, making it the world's most reproduced print. The original painting, which has been in private hands for the last 60 years, comes up for auction in London in Bonhams' South African art sale on 20 March with an estimated price tag of up to £500,000 (CLICK). The model for Tretchikoff's blue-skinned Chinese Girl was 17-year-old Monika Sing-Lee, whom he met in South Africa. Does she look like a teenager to you? "King of kitsch" indeed!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

New £2 Coins

The Royal Mint has issued two new £2 coins to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the London Underground. At first they will only be given as change in ticket machines at selected Tube stations, but later will go into general circulation (CLICK). Collectors may lash out £1,000 on gold ones! Also the Queen’s sovereign - a beautiful coin showing Saint George - is celebrating its 60th birthday (CLICK).


The BBC sent a couple of its "Video Journalists" along to The Framers Gallery in Windmill Street, London, to film trendies gawking at the opening of Lolcat Teh Exhibishun (sic), which is claimed to be the first group exhibition of its kind in Europe (CLICK). For those of you not in the know, Lolcat is a laugh-out-loud picture of a pussy. I must admit I didn't see anything funny in any of the pictures in the BBC video (CLICK). The show stalks along until 15 February. Pictures are for sale and 50% of all proceeds will go to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Gillian Anderson, Patron

The delectable Gillian Anderson - seen here as Miss Havisham with Oscar Kennedy as Young Pip in the BBC adaptation of Great Expectations (2011) - has been made Patron of the Charles Dickens Statue Fund (CLICK). She was surprised to discover that there isn't one statue of Charles Dickens in the whole of the UK. In his will Dickens requested that no statue or monument of him should be built. The Dickens Fellowship decided to ignore this request and commissioned sculptor Martin Jennings to create a statue to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of Dickens' birth, but ran out of funds to complete the project last year. A benefactor has since underwritten the last £25,000 needed. The statue is due to be unveiled this year in Guildhall Square, Portsmouth, the city where Dickens was born at 1 Mile End Terrace.

Dutch Heist Arrests

Romanian police have arrested three suspects in the theft of paintings from the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam last October, but have not recovered the stolen works (CLICK). The incompetent Dutch fuzz are still faffing about. The best they've done so far is to release a video of the burglary (CLICK). It lasts less than two minutes and virtually proves that the theft was an inside job. It would have taken longer than that to select the stolen paintings, remove them from the walls and cover them with protective film. So the paintings must have been stacked and waiting for the thieves to arrive! Why haven't Dutch police made an arrest? Shown is Lucian Freud's Woman with Eyes Closed. CLICK to see more of the stolen works.

Manet's Amazon

Snow, ice and poor visibility, for which the British are always unprepared, have caused delay in dispatching this painting by Edouard Manet to the Royal Academy of Arts for its overpriced and uninspiring exhibition Manet: Portraying Life, which opens on Saturday 26 January (CLICK for my preview). So, when the BBC's arts correspondents (two!) and the press dutifully trotted round to view the show, all they saw of this painting was a notice telling them it had been delayed due to "adverse weather conditions" (CLICK). Thanks to the wonders of modern technology I tracked the missing painting to the Museu de Arte de São Paulo in sunny Brazil. And here it is: Manet's The Horsewoman: Portrait of Marie Lefébure (1875). Its alternative title The Amazon comes from the Portuguese: A Amazona - Retrato de Marie Lefébure (CLICK). Horsewomen as Amazons!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Speed Trial

Here's another of those it's-been-in-the-garden-shed-for-the-last-50-years stories. Actually it was a garage in this case and had been on its wall for about 25 years. The owner approached a Bonhams auctioneer and asked if it might be worth £20. Bonhams experts estimate its value at £40,000 to £60,000! It's a signed, limited-edition (7/60) linocut print entitled Speed Trial by British artist Cyril Edward Power (1872-1951). It shows a jocular image of Sir Malcolm Campbell's Blue Bird, which broke the land speed record in 1931. It comes up for auction in Bonhams London Print Sale on 16 April (CLICK for further details).

Planet in Singapore

Marc Quinn's Planet (2008) - a depiction of his baby son - gets around, despite its monstrous size. Last year it was in Monaco for the Grand Prix (CLICK). Now this globe-trotting babe in the buff is balanced on a hillside at Garden by the Bay in Singapore (CLICK).

Monday, 21 January 2013

Michael Winner RIP

London-born film director and newspaper columnist Michael Winner died today at his home in Kensington, aged 77 (CLICK). Older readers will remember him as the director of action films such as Death Wish and Scorpio. Younger readers will know him for his car insurance commercials with the catchphrase "Calm down dear". He had suffered ill health since 2007, due to eating a bad oyster, and more recently an E coli infection from a steak tartare. Winner's Dinners could be very dodgy! Last summer liver specialists gave him 18 months to live. Perhaps that's the reason he decided to sell his fine collection of children's illustrations and books (CLICK). He was also a charity campaigner who established The Police Memorial Trust after the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984. This led to the National Police Memorial in central London. The photo shows Michael Winner with HM Queen Elizabeth II at its unveiling in 2005. He was reportedly offered an OBE for his charity work, but turned it down with his usual humour.
The Telegraph has posted a slide show: CLICK.

Wayne Rooney Motorcycle

Here's a weird place to put your portrait: the Rear Mudguard of a Lauge Jensen Motorcycle. The portrait depicts Wayne Rooney celebrating his best-goal-of-the-season against Manchester City in 2011. It seems Lauge Jensen Ltd invited Rooney to design his own customised features for the motorcycle, presumable as an advertising stunt. They include this picture, an autographed No. 10 football shirt mounted and lacquer-sealed on the petrol tank and a gear-shift rod with 21 black AA diamonds and a white TW/VS diamond. It comes up for auction at Bonhams auction of Sports Memorabilia in Chester on 20 February, estimated value £40,000 to £60,000. The proceeds go to Danish charitable foundation KidsAid, which helps sick kids (CLICK).

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Batmobile Sold

Here's a blast from the past: the original Batmobile from the camp 1960s TV series Batman, which had Adam West skipping about in grey long johns with his cute buddy Robin, the boy wonder (Burt Ward). The Batmobile - a work of art in its own right - was created from a 1955 Lincoln Futura, a concept car built in Italy by the Ford Motor Company, back in the days when tail fins were the in-thing, American cars handled like sick camels and were "Unsafe at Any Speed" (Ralph Nader, 1965, CLICK). The 20ft-long Batmobile needed parachutes to turn tight corners! Car-customiser George Barris bought the Futura in 1965 and spent $15,000 (£9,400) transforming it into the Batmobile for the TV show. He recently put it up for sale at the Barrett-Jackson auction house in Scottsdale, Arizona, and yesterday Rick Champagne snapped it up for $4.2m (£2.6m). CLICK for a brief video.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Flickr Commons

I keep finding U-boats lately. Here is a photo of U155 at Tower Bridge in 1919, from the National Maritime Museum. The Telegraph has posted a slide show of Flickr Commons' most-viewed or "most-favourited" photos of the last five years (CLICK). It includes an Italian unicycle that could travel at 93mph - I wonder why it never took off - and a giggle of PSA flight attendants looking pretty in pink mini skirts and kinky boots, from the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive, a dog smoking a pipe, a baby in a post bag....

Canada Bank Cock-up

The Bank of Canada is so proud of its new polymer bank notes that it has produced a YouTube video to promote them (below). Do banks really need to promote bank notes? We all need them. Shown is the new $20 Banknote (2012) featuring a grim-faced monarch. Cash dispensing machines don't like the new polymer notes. Prudes don't like the bare-breasted women atop the Canadian National Vimy Memorial on the obverse. "It's porn", they scream. Worst of all, botanists say the maple leaf depicted on the new notes isn't a Canadian sugar maple leaf - Canada's national symbol -, but a leaf from the Norway maple (CLICK)!

Friday, 18 January 2013

Ice Guitar/Phoenix

Now that winter has hit London, I thought you might like to look back on last weekend's mild weather for the London Ice Sculpting Festival (CLICK). Shown is a photo by Viv Turner of the 1st-prize-winning entry in the speed category to the theme of Infinity, showing an Electric Guitar sprouting a Phoenix. Reverend Butter and Buddy Rasmussen from the USA had two and a half hours to sculpt it. I blacked out all the background clutter in the photo in about the same time!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Sarah Sissons Award

I've been delving a little deeper into the Sarah Sissons Award. It began life as a purely fictitious award in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's Oscar-winning movie All About Eve (1950) starring Anne Baxter, Bette Davis and George Sanders (the only actor to win an Oscar for his role, although Baxter, Davis, Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter were all nominated). In a perfect example of life imitating art, a group of Chicago theatre-goers inaugurated a real Sarah Sissons Award in 1952. The Society's aim is to recognize and promote great theatrical performances by actresses. Shown is its Sarah Sissons Award, a miniature version of Chavilland's 1897 statue of Sissons at Paddington Green in London. If you want to delve any deeper than this, CLICK for the Sarah Siddons Society, CLICK for its winners, CLICK for All About Eve.

German Posters Sale

Today's ArtDaily has a series of photos of German posters coming up for auction in New York tomorrow. The auction comprises a fascinating collection of more than 4,300 pre-World War II posters amassed by a Jewish dentist and looted by the Gestapo. The dentist, Hans Sachs, fled to the USA to escape the Nazis. The looted posters had been kept in the German Historical Museum. Recently a German court ordered the museum to return the collection to Hans’ son Peter Sachs, who has put them up for auction. In general the collection shows the high quality of pre-war German posters. This one caught my eye. It shows "England" surrounded by German U-boats. This is pre-war Nazi propaganda proclaiming German intent. Will a British museum bid for it? The estimated value of the whole collection is more than $5.8m, but it will be sold in lots.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

HMV and Nipper

Yesterday HMV announced it had suspended trading its shares on the London Stock Exchange and would appoint an administrator. The stores remain open, but won't be accepting or issuing gift vouchers (CLICK). HMV's trademark His Master's Voice must be one of the most endearing in the world. It was painted in 1899 by English artist Francis Barraud ARA, who inherited a phonograph and a fox terrier called Nipper, together with a number of cylinder recordings of his dead brother's voice. Watching Nipper listening to Mark's voice gave Francis the idea for the painting. With a redesign of the phonograph, he sold the painting to the newly-formed Gramophone Company. The American rights to the painting were assigned to the Victor Talking Machine Company, which first used it in 1902 (CLICK). Gromit briefly stood in for Nipper in 2007 (CLICK).

Vanished World Echoes

Followers of Survival International should be interested in the latest exhibition to open in the National Theatre in London: Echoes of a Vanished World: A Lifetime in Pictures by Robin Hanbury-Tenison. One of the founding members of Survival International, Robin has spent much of his life championing the rights of indigenous peoples and making a photographic record of their lives and homelands as the modern world eroded them. He received an OBE in 1981. The exhibition runs until 10 March, admission free (CLICK).

Giorgio Morandi

Today the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art at 39a Canonbury Square, London, opened Giorgio Morandi: Lines of Poetry, which runs until 7 April (CLICK). The exhibition includes some 80 etchings and watercolours by "the master of poetic understatement". Shown is his etching Houses of Campiaro in Grizzana (1929) on loan from the Galleria d’Arte Maggiore in Bologna. This exhibition is one of the most comprehensive overviews of Morandi's graphic art ever mounted outside Italy. Admission is £5 for adults, £3.50 for silver surfers. It's free to school children and students with a valid NUS ID card.

Helicopter Crash

At about 8am this morning a helicopter crashed in central London! It struck a crane on top of The Tower, One St George Wharf, and exploded. Very misty conditions almost certainly caused the crash. The badly damaged crane is now dangling down the side of the building. Wreckage of the helicopter landed on cars below and spread fire over the road and neighbouring buildings. The pilot and a person on the ground were killed. Nine injured people were treated at the scene or were taken to hospital, one seriously injured. Firefighters rescued one man from a burning car and brought fires under control within 25 minutes, Considering this happened during the morning rush hour, it's amazing so few were injured. CLICK for further details.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

NRA Target Game

I do not believe it! In answer to President Obama's call for restrictions on gun ownership following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, the US National Rifle Association has released this target range game for the iPhone and iPad aimed at children as young as four! By the time they're five, they'll be able to pick off their hated fellow pupils with ease (CLICK)!

Maine Mural Update

Since 2011 I've been following the saga of Judy Taylor's excellent 11-panelled Labor Mural, which Maine Governor Paul LePage ordered to be removed from the lobby of the Labor Department building in Augusta and hidden away (CLICK, CLICK, CLICK). I'm showing the panel depicting Child Labor. It is obviously far too left wing for LePage's idea of promoting capitalism. Noses to the grindstone, workers! The removal of the mural caused a storm of protest to burst around LePage's ears. He was twice taken to federal court, but to no avail. The good news is that the mural went back on public display yesterday, thanks to the intervention of Maine State Museum Director Bernard Fishman. He emailed LePage offering to hang the $60,000 mural in his building. The Department of Labor maintains ownership of the mural, which is now on a renewable three-year loan to the Maine State Museum. CLICK for further details and a photo of the newly installed mural.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Design Awards 2013

The Design Museum has announced its list of nominations for the Designs of the Year Awards 2013 (CLICK). There are 7 categories: Architecture, Digital, Fashion, Furniture, Graphics, Product and Transport. As you might expect, the Olympic Cauldron, The Shard, and the Raspberry Pi Computer have been nominated. I thought these Child Vision Glasses, designed by The Centre for Vision in the Developing World, were potentially the most useful of all the designs. The child can adjust the lenses to gain best vision! The exhibition opens on 20 March. CLICK for a Telegraph slide show.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Sarah Siddons

In case you're wondering about one of the world's oldest electric locomotives in service - No 12 Sarah Siddons - it was named after the Welsh actress Sarah Siddons (1755-1831). Above is an oil sketch of Sarah attributed to Thomas Beach, also attributed to William Hamilton RA. Considered the finest tragedienne of the 18th century, Sarah made the Shakespearean character Lady Macbeth her own (CLICK). She is buried in the churchyard of St Mary's. There is a statue of her by Chavilland, erected in 1897, at Paddington Green, near to Marylebone in London. Stefanie Powers and our own Deborah Kerr CBE both won the Sarah Siddons Award.

Tube Steam

Above is Met Locomotive No 1, built in 1898, a restored steam train which returned to the Tube to mark 150 years since the first London Underground journey. Passengers who had booked tickets well in advance of the event travelled along part of the original Metropolitan Line - now the Hammersmith & City Line - from Kensington Olympia to Moorgate. Mayor Bouncy Boris went along for the ride. A set of four carriages from 1898 were on loan from the Bluebell Railway in Sussex. At the rear of the commemorative train was one of the world's oldest electric locomotives in service: No 12 Sarah Siddons (CLICK).

P&O Shuns Argentina

I'm glad to see that Southampton-based British cruise company P&O has decided to boycott Argentina for the duration of 2013. It will no longer dock in Buenos Aires, Puerto Madryn and Ushuaia (CLICK). This decision follows Argentinian threats that P&O would be denied access to these ports if it visits the Falkland Islands. Sour-faced propagandist El Presidente Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has been ramping up the pressure to claim the Falklands for her own, ahead of the Islanders' referendum on 11 March. Stuff democracy, says, Kirchner. Gimme the oil. Try as she might, she'll never be as popular as Eva Perón.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Samreen Ahmed

I am continually amazed by the poor photos the police release of missing persons. Shown is Samreen Ahmed, a 15-year-old schoolgirl who left her home in High Wycombe on 2 January. On the left is the overexposed photo released by the police. On the right is my enhancement of a few minutes, obtained by decreasing the gamma setting in XnView. Now we can see her clearly, she looks too sophisticated to be 15. She appears to be in her early 20's. Running away from an arranged marriage? She was seen boarding a train to Birmingham Moor Street and was last seen in Circus Drive, Glasgow, on Thursday (CLICK).
Update: found safe and well on 14/1/13 (CLICK).

Friday, 11 January 2013

London Ice Fest. 2

The London Ice Sculpting Festival opened at Canary Wharf today and the temperature in the old metropolis is plunging Ice and snow are forecast for Sunday, the last day. Here's ice sculptress Anne Marie Taberdo carving her entry yesterday. There are so many attractions in this year's show I'm not going to try to list them. CLICK for the Festival website and note its timetable of events. The show is free.

Kate Portrait at NPG

Today the National Portrait Gallery in London unveiled the first official painting of HRH The Duchess of Cambridge (2012). NPG commissioned Paul Emsley to paint Catherine's portrait. He has a good track record, having won the BP Portrait Award in 2007 for his depiction of fellow artist Michael Simpson, but I'm afraid he's made a pig's ear of Catherine's portrait. I guess the problem with depicting a photogenic beauty is that you're competing with all the high-quality photos taken of her. Catherine's face is so familiar that anything short of perfection is going to look third rate. The portrait goes on display to the public at the National Portrait Gallery this afternoon (CLICK). You can buy a postcard of the portrait for 70p (CLICK).

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Basking Shark

Coxsoft Art maxim: "When in doubt, pose a pretty girl by it". The pretty girl in question is Kerstin Menke of the German Oceanographic Museum in Stralsund, posing next to a life-sized replica of a basking shark. It's nearly 10 euro meter thingies long and will welcome visitors entering the North Sea aquarium. It can't beat the 90-ft-long blue whale replica in London's Natural History Museum, created in 1938 and still hovering about the place (CLICK and search).

Tube Stamps

Today Royal Mail Issued a set of stamps to commemorate the 150th birthday of the London Underground, the first and largest underground rail service in the world (CLICK). This 2nd class stamp shows a lithograph of an early steam train with the message Metropolitan Railway Opens and the date 1863 (2013). The modern electric underground is bad enough. It must have been dreadful with steam!