After a successful first winter edition last year, London Art Week (29 November–7 December) has again galvanised dealers around Mayfair and St James’s to stage selling exhibitions and events likely to lure punters off the chilly London streets. From some of the galleries it’s not too far a walk across St James’s Park to Gillian Wearing’s recently unveiled bronze sculpture of suffragist Millicent Fawcett, the first statue of a woman erected in Parliament Square. And at the end of the centenary year of women’s suffrage it feels appropriate that several of LAW’s events are dedicated to inspiring female figures.
To mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, Callisto Fine Arts’ show of Italian sculptures and paintings will include a rare marble portrait bust of Mary Shelley by Camillo Pistrucci, dated to 1843; on 4 December the gallery is co-hosting an evening in celebration of the author at Peter Harrington Rare Books. Also well worth a look at Callisto is an 18th-century white-marble oval of Alexander the Great – with exquisitely carved locks and helmet plumes – previously owned by Gore Vidal.
Martyn Gregory, meanwhile, is dedicating an exhibition to the watercolours of the intrepid artist Hilda May Gordon, who in 1922 set off from the Isle of Wight on a four-month trip to paint the Dalmatian coast, only to return home more than six years later having travelled the world solo. Sleeping in huts, houseboats, tents and palaces, she painted what she witnessed on her travels (from a one-year-old future Duke of Edinburgh in Greece to Zulu life in South Africa), selling much of it along the way to fund the trip. Her quick, expressive brushwork is at its best here in a spare sketch of a royal cremation in Siam and a colourful market scene in Berastagi, Indonesia.
Continuing the theme of women artists, Robilant & Voena co-hosts ‘The Gentileschi Effect’ at the National Gallery (which this summer bought from the dealership Artemisia Gentileschi’s Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria), an evening exploring the 17th-century painter’s work with curator Letizia Treves (4 December). Meanwhile, Robilant & Voena’s own offering of portraits at Dover Street includes a work by Santi di Tito of an Italian noblewoman flaunting an outstanding Medici collar.
In the exhibition ‘The Influencing Image: A Century of Commercial Illustration and Design’, Stephen Ongpin Fine Art introduces an emphatically graphic note with original fashion illustrations by the likes of Georges de Feure, René Gruau and Erté, whose pen, ink and gouache cover illustration, Sports d’Hiver, for Harper’s Bazaar in 1933 is both neatly seasonal and utterly beguiling. The Russian-born French artist and designer (real name Romain de Tirtoff – his pseudonym comes from the French pronunciation of his initials, RT) first worked for the magazine in 1915, and went on to design stage sets for venues such as the Folies Bergère, as well as costumes and jewellery.
A newcomer this year is Bremen-based Galerie Neuse, which sets up stall with textile specialist S. Franses to present ‘Splendours of the Haute Époque’. One highlight here is a beautifully wrought silver-gilt drinking vessel in the form of a Franconian Büttenmann, or grape picker, with a vine knife hanging from his belt and a generous bunch of grapes in his hand. The basket strapped to his back – the drinking element of the object – bears an elegantly engraved inscription and goldsmith’s stamp on the bottom, attributing the work to a Nuremburg goldsmith named Christoph I. Ritter in 1547. Time for a toast or two.
London Art Week takes place across various venues in Mayfair and
St James’s from 29 November–7 December.
From the December 2018 issue of Apollo. Preview and subscribe here.