Watch this space - Abstract Expressionism at the RA

This week we were lucky enough to attend the Press Briefing for what just might be the greatest exhibition of Abstract Expressionism for sixty years. The Royal Academy of Art has amassed an immense collection of American works from galleries and private collections (over 100 lenders in total!) which include works by great artists such as Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Janet Sobel to name just a few.

Abstract Expressionism is widely known as a ground-breaking moment in the formation of modern art. Artists no longer wanted to recreate scenes from life but wanted their spectators to experience paintings physically - for us to 'feel' their emotion through the medium of paint, sculpture and so on. Their often aggressive gestural marks also filled the entirety of the canvas, dispensing with the traditional ideas of composition and geometry. Artists like Jackson Pollock poured, dripped and spilt paint, pushing materials to become free and almost overtake the artist's hand. What was also revolutionary about this way of working was that by desiring physical feelings from their viewer, the Abstract Expressionists weren't creating work just for academics or theorists, but art for all.

There will be some extraordinary works on display - icons from the movement by the likes of Pollock and Rothko. There's also an assurance that the gender imbalance will be rectified by the inclusion of significant female painters including Janet Sobel and Pollock's wife Lee Krasner.

The curator David Anfam told us he hopes the viewer will be 'immersed in colour'. This is set to be not only the show of the year, but one of the world's most comprehensive displays of American Abstract Expressionism.

The exhibition will open in September this year - it'll be worth the wait, we promise!

Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse at The Royal Academy of Arts

‘Painting The Modern Garden’ at The Royal Academy of Arts is undoubtedly one of London’s most stunning exhibitions of 2016. We visited last week and were truly taken aback by the beauty of the paintings on display. While Monet is at the centre of this exhibition, there are works by Renoir, Cezanne, Pissarro, Van Gogh, Matisse and Klimt to name a few. The exhibition promises to help you see ‘the garden in art with fresh eyes’ and its doesn’t disappoint.

Interestingly the natural garden subject seems to have enabled many of these avant-garde artists to work with a greater freedom than before, freeing their palettes and their brushstrokes. Throughout he exhibition you are greeted with Monet’s stunning gardens until ending in a grand finale; Monet’s great pastel coloured waterlily paintings.

The exhibition opens with a beautiful comparison - Monet's 'The Artist's Garden in Argenteuil' (pictured below left) is placed beside Renoir's painting of Monet painting in the very garden in Argenteuil (pictured below right). This sets the tone for the exhibition, an affirmative statement about the impact Monet had on his fellow impressionists and hints that he influenced not only the garden subject matter but the act of painting en plein air.  

There are some beautiful works by a less famous name, Spanish artist Santiago Rusinol. His paintings are more structured than the Impressionist works on display and convey spectacular modelling of light, like this work below which evokes the brilliant glow of sunset. 

We thought it would be lovely to also share with you some images of Monet's garden in Giverny. These are the gardens Monet spent nearly forty years in his house in Giverny, a period many argue were his most creative. In 1883 he and his family rented the house with its 2 acre land and by 1890 he had saved enough to buy it and the surrounding land. As an avid gardener himself, Monet worked alongside his gardeners and created precise designs and layouts for his garden's planting, resulting in a stunning display. Over time he built up the land, eventually buying a water meadow which he plated up with water lilies. These became the subject of his best known works and the water meadow is now one the garden's most popular features. 

Jean-Etienne Liotard at The Royal Academy of Arts

We used our time over the festive period to catch up on exhibitions and cultural events in London. One of the most striking exhibitions we visited was The Royal Academy of Arts Jean-Etienne Liotard show. Liotard beautifully captured the Enlightenment period across Europe and beyond. He was a painter in high demand at the time, producing distinctive portraits for the aristocracy and royalty.

The beauty and distinctive character of his portraits come from this enlightened approach. The age of Enlightenment was of course a time of thought, reason and science. Rather than focussing on his sitter’s wealth, as was always the focus in portrait painting, Liotard depicts subjects who are inquisitive and open-minded. Many of them are dressed in Turkish clothing, showing interest in cultural crafts or are actively engaging, reading a book for example.

Liotard was a well travelled artist, taking his paints as far as the royal courts of Constantinople. His work also helped to encourage the increasing trend for Oriental art, objects and textiles.

For us, the textiles portrayed in the portraits we truly inspiring, we loved the rich velvets and jewelled detailed in the portrait below. The colour schemes of an artwork can provide you with inspiration for your own interior. If a work of art really appeals to you, try picking out its three main colours and matching details such as cushions or a rug to build a cohesive and balanced colour scheme.