Matters of May


One of the highlights of May was attending the retirement event for Brian Allen of the Paul Mellon Centre in London, held at the Royal Academy, a gathering of the art and architectural history world in the “Fine Rooms” at Burlington House; Brian Allen has been the godfather of British art studies for decades and everyone in the room seems to have been touched by his discerning support. In the same fortnight I also managed to get to the launch of Todd Longstaffe-Gowan’s new book published by Yale University Press on historic London squares, and catch up with many old friends including Mark Girouard, Simon Bradley, Michael Hall and others.

Much of this month has been devoted to research and writing but travels in May included a visit to Cliveden, the handsome Italianate mansion built in the mid nineteenth century to designs of Sir Charles Barry, and also the former home of the Astors, owned by the National Trust and for some time a grand hotel, now in new management; the view from the terrace is still quite stupendous. When Harold Macmillan was told by a journalist what he thought of Cliveden becoming a hotel said, “it always was, dear boy.” This was a month for great Victorians and I also had a tour of the National Liberal Club designed by the Alfred Waterhouse, which has some wonderfully preserved and evocative interiors, with numerous busts of Gladstone peering down quizzically in almost every room.

I have been immensely proud of my daughters over the past few weeks, the oldest ploughing her way through AS-levels, and the youngest exhibiting a beautiful collage portrait of my late mother in her school scholarship art event, the first in the new art school with was opened by Anthony Green RA – her design for the logo for the new art school was also chosen.

Best Book Read: Collected Works of Saki

Best Exhibition: Picasso and Modern British, Tate Britain, exploring Picasso’s impact on Duncan Grant, Graham Sutherland, Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore at others.

Best Pub visited: The Falkland Arms at Great Tew in Oxfordshire

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