Art World in Review

Article excerpt

After a well-deserved summer break the London art world swung back into action this September with two very different fine art fairs. There is also an exciting program of exhibitions to look forward to, presented by some of London's dealers. These provide an excellent opportunity to see collections of artist's work that would not normally be given solo exhibition space in our art national art galleries.

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The 20/21 Fair takes place every year and caters to those dealers specialising in British 20th century and contemporary art. The location, next to the Albert Hall, feels a touch cramped under a steady stream of visitors bur there were plenty of interesting things to discover. It is also a very accessible fair for buyers with prices starting around 100 [pounds sterling] and leaping up into the hundreds of thousands in a few cases.

The most interesting stand was certainly that of Liss Fine Art, which was packed to the rafters with just over 600 pictures. There was a wonderful sketch by Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956) Study of a Pioneer for 'The Homemakers' priced at 1,950 [pounds sterling] as well as the evocative interior Scene, Memoirs of James Pryde by Sir Herbert James Gunn (1893-1914) at 12,000 [pounds sterling]. The real attraction, however, was Laurence Norris' 'Old Wives Tales,' a work exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1947 (Pl 1). The message is one of hope for Britain to return to better times following the devastation and privation of WWII and it provided a real feast for the eyes. Norris had won the Prix de Rome in 1936 and this work certainly shows the influence of his contemporaries there as well as previous winners. It was priced at 10,000 [pounds sterling].

Also impossible to miss was a most gruesome Cecil Beaton caricature of Katharine Hepburn on the stand of Michael Parkin Fine Art. She was helpfully accompanied by an excerpt from Beaton's Unexpurgated Diaries, 'Her skin is so revolting in life her appearance so appalling ... it is a wonder that she can still be exhibited in public.' With observations like that is there any wonder the woman became a recluse!

The LAPADA Art and Antiques Fair ran from 21st to 25th September in the ideal location of Berkley Square. The proximity to London's major art dealers and its central location gives rise to a constant stream of visitors, many of whom were delving into their wallets to make purchases.

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Ellison Fine Art specialises in portrait miniatures and always has an excellent array of interesting faces by the greatest practitioners of that genre. Especially eye-catching was a portrait of Sir John Peyton (1544-1630) attributed to John de Critz (Pl 2). The sitter had been made Governor of the Tower of London in 1603, the same year that de Critz had painted Henry, Wriothesley during his imprisonment there for his part in the Essex rebellion. …