HRH The Duchess of Cambridge


Kate has her first official painting on display in the National Portrait Gallery.  It is a frightfully modern take on royalty. The painting shows the unofficial side of Kate, with hair down and no red/fur/tiaras to be seen. Quite remarkably the painting has also managed to age her ten years – Dorian Grey anyone?

After seeing the image online, I thought this was one of those paintings that would be better in person. Nope. Somehow in real life the image is even more misty and hard to view. Or as the octogenarian next to me put it “it looks like she’s dead”.


There is a new Louvre in town and I can’t wait to visit. They have built a satellite Louvre in Lens, a town in northern France – and this baby is one punk ass little brother.

The architecture could not be more different from Louvre Paris. Where Paris is based in the frighteningly ornate Palais du Louvre, Lens is a shiny cow shed. It is one long room with reflective aluminium walls – walls that you are not allowed to hang any art from. I can just imagine that concept meeting, where the architect enthusiastically talked about this sardine tin. At some point the gallery manager must have quietly asked “but where will we put the art”.

Well, the art sits on plinths scattered across the room. They are arranged along the length by time and across the width by geography. Obviously a lot of thought has gone into this baby, but I just don’t know how I would respond to it.

Although it does give you great access, I have the sneaking suspicion that I would get tired of walking in constant circles while trying to admire the art. But then again, since I would be making a special trip to Lens just to see it I would have all the time in the world to wander.

Take a look at the gallery here.

I finally went to the Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde exhibition at Tate Britain (half price with my National Art Pass whoop!). It is a fantastic collection, with paintings, books, sculptures, carpets and even a bed on display.

Never just a pretty face, the Tate Britain gave us a history lesson as well:

“They believed that art had become decadent, and rejected their teachers’ belief that the Italian artist Raphael (1483–1520) represented the pinnacle of aesthetic achievement. They looked to earlier art whose bright colours, flat surfaces and truth to nature they admired.

But rather than imitate the early masters, they espoused a rule-breaking originality. Whether painting subjects from Shakespeare, the Bible, landscapes of the Alps or the view from a window, the Pre-Raphaelites brought a new beauty and intensity of vision to British art.”

You have to love the Victorian era – women wore bustles and rebels used paintbrushes.

What I found remarkable was how standard the paintings were. I don’t mean that in a negative way, it just that for me they are the the first style that comes to mind when I think of the word ‘painting’.

If you asked a kid what they were actually trying to draw with their crayons – I think the pre-raphaelite  bright colours the realism and the drama is what they were imagining.

The other thing I noticed? The artists had a soft spot for a flame haired lady…

I highly recommend listening to the ’60 Minute’ audio tour at the National Gallery. It contains all sorts of interesting nuggets to twist your perception of the art. For instance…

I had always assumed that The Entombment by Michelangelo was damaged. Like so many paintings, bits had simply fallen off or been badly repaired. Turns out Michelangelo just didn’t bloody finish the thing. After two years he got bored and wandered away. I mean, it is also a bit damaged – but mostly just not finished.

It is hard to imagine a modern artist having the same sort of future – a half finished painting getting pride of place in one of the worlds top galleries. Imagine Yves Klein only painting half the canvas blue? Or maybe the equivalent would just be doing one coat? Somehow, I just don’t think the National Gallery would have a bar of it.

The artist needs to reach mythical levels of fame before this could happen. Or at least be lucky in the history books.

So, if in 500 years time the art world judges you to have been a crucial turning point – your unfinished DIY project could be could be hanging next to The Entombment.

Hanging out in the National Gallery, where all the cool kids are, I came across an art anomaly. The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger is a fairly standard portrait of two men. However look closer, and you see that it features a crazy slanted skull in the foreground.

It is designed so that when you stand on the right hand side of the painting and look across it, you see a perfectly formed skull.

To me it looks like Hans had an early edition of Photoshop (very early, it was painted in 1533 so maybe CS-20?) and got bored in the middle of transforming the layer.

I don’t doubt that artists of the time made studies on angles. But I love that Holbein managed to try it out in a  commissioned painting. I would have loved to hear that conversation:

Men in fur coats: So what are you going to paint in front of us?

Holbein: I was thinking a skull.

Men in fur coats: A skull? Really?

Holbein: Yes it represents mortality, and the chicks dig it.

Men in fur coats: Well I guess that is ok, a different perspective is always good.

Holbein: Perspective, yes. I do like perspective…