E mail from Miranda at the Brian Sinfield Gallery asking if they can include a painting they have of mine in their newsletter and checking that I’m not going to be wanting to collect it in the near future.
Oxford University Press book Time arrives with my painting Time and Time Again on the cover. Its nicely designed and it feels wonderful that this painting that I created in the early 80s still gets reproduced, frequently in academic books and journals, including one on Sigmund Freud two or three years ago and was often used in an American journal called The Sciences plus five editions of an American maths text book. So over the years I’ve now made more from its reproduction fees than I did on the sale of the painting.
R’s gone to London to collect a couple of paintings whilst I’m working in the studio.
I phone Jane and David to tell them we will be a little late joining them for dinner in Naunton. They do offer to come and collect me as it would be quicker for Richard to go straight there but I decline as I know their other two guests have just arrived. R actually does better than he thought and we manage to arrive at 9pm. They are eating outside and have only just finished the first course. The other guests are Anne who was at Reading University studying art and art history at the same time as Jane was studying agricultural science and her husban Dick who is a professor of economics both here and in America where they live for half the year just as Jane and David spend half their time in Australia.
A couple of weeks ago Richard had taken a phone call from Matt Prendergast who had as a little boy lived opposite us with his brother and parents and played with Nathan, particularly tennis. We sit and chat for an hour or two and Matt tells us all about his life in between studying medicine, joining the Marines and then getting into the Special Boat Service. He’s now working as a GP and married to an anaesthetist with two little boys. He tells us that he can remember our house distinctly, particularly the painting on the walls and also the work in my studio. He’s such a fascinating young man who still retains the same boyish charm he had as a child. He has been following mywork for ten years and asks if we can have a look at the studio where he has his eye on one of the paintings.
Still finishing off the Toronto commission
which R delivers to the shippers in Luton.Whilst I continue on the canvases for my forthcoming London exhibition.
Good day working in studio. As well as continuing on a larger painting started three or four months ago, I also begin work a new medium sized canvas.
My lovely framer John arrives in the afternoon with a beautiful new frame that he has made. He’s such an angel in making it up for me so quickly; he’s a brilliant craftsman, I don’t know what we’d do without him. Richard’s already primed it so I’m thinking I might start it this evening.
And I have, in between picking blackberries from the garden which are very prolific this year. They are a particularly nice variety, long like loganberries. Far more plentiful that the black currents, red currents or gooseberries were.
Call from Professor Ken amongst others.
Working like the clappers on the two new canvases as the autumn will prove to be very busy.
My sister Gill leaves for France with her loyal dog Duke, to stay at a friend’s house. We had a long chat on Thursday night and this had been a bit better week for her.
Work late again; its nearer 4 than 3 when we go to bed having achieved a good day’s work.
R’s been taking preliminary photographs of the works in progress for the forthcoming exhibition and the art fair in September at the Royal College.
Start packing in between intensive painting sessions.
The doctors Chirag, Gita and their beautiful twins Ronan and Sedna (whom I did a big painting of a couple of years ago), visit from New York. I had also painted Gita with her sister Usha during the time that Usha was studying at Christie’s at the end of the 80s for their parents Shantha and Subbi (also doctors) from New York. This is the first time we have met Chirag, who is a brain surgeon and their two delightful twins Sedna (named after the new planet that was discovered during Gita’s pregnancy) and Ronan who are nine. They are the most delightful children and as my Mum commented when she came round for Richard to take her to bowls, they are a very handsome family. The day goes by much too quickly but its really lovely to get to know them and renew our friendship with Gita.
In the evening Richard and I drive up to Gatwick where we are staying overnight before meeting Henrietta, Kev, Isaac and Samuel on Thursday morning.
We meet H, K and the boys about 7.30am. Kev’s already checked us in for the British Airways flight to Pisa with a breakfast served en route. We can feel the warmth as we disembark onto the runway. There’s a bit of waiting around as all the papers etc have to checked for the hiring of the vehicle but once we’ve packed in the luggage and are all aboard we set off for Pisa, parking in the centre by the Arno. We then walk up to the wondrous tower of Pisa with its magnificent lean, exquisite in its detail and the Cathedral. We’ve particularly chosen to fly to Pisa as Isaac had sometime ago asked about Gallileo and the Leaning Tower. I bought him a story book based on that very theme which he asked me to read to him that night ( having driven from Pisa ) when we spent our first night at the hotel in Florence after all going out to dinner at the restaurant opposite. The hotel has that lovely antique filled slightly age enhanced interior that the italians are so famous for with a central courtyard with small garden that the boys are able to run around. Our rooms are beautiful but theirs are even more so and the boys are obviously very excited.
After breakfast we walk to the Accademia though are slightly surprised that the tickets Richard had reserved in advance still have to be queued for at a separate kiosk. But its certainly worth the wait - there at the end of the hall stands David - 18 feet high exquisite representation of the young man or boy carved large as a symbol of Florence’s strength against tyranny by Michaelangelo. Interestingly both little boys comment on his nakedness which is somehow typical of children who actually love to run around the house naked. But I explain to them just we are born naked, in art we consider the naked form, when executed so perfectly, is sublime. Flanking either side of the entrance hall that leads to him are Michaelangelo’s prisoners, still partially trapped in their huge block of marble which by comparison with David’s vast but exquisite stance, look much smaller. The Accademia the first art school in Europe, founded by Cosimo 1 d'Medici with Michaelangelo as its first director, is full of most wonderful treasures, many of which are altarpieces or religious iconography. On our way to and from the Accademia we pass the extraordinary Duomo where we are all held by the exquisite detail and colour of its splendour.
Richard and I stay on for a further hour after H,K and the boys have left to make their way across the city over the Ponte Vecchio to Boboli Gardens. At a quarter to three we meet Henrietta on the steps of the Uffizi where we spend the afternoon in blissful enjoyment of seeing so many breathtaking works, many of which we are familiar with in reproduction. But the reality is oh so much more glorious including the wonders of Leonardo and Raphael, Ghirriando and Botticelli’s very famous Birth of Venus and La Primervera etc. most of these are on the top floor which is superb with it painted ceilings and huge series of portraits hung from ceiling to dado echoed by the sculpted Roman portrait busts lining the corridors and views of the river and Ponte Vecchio with Vasari’s long gallery above. As we make our way back down through the Uffizi we see fabulous pieces like Caravagio’s shied with the head of Medusa and happen upon Artimisia Gentelechi’s Judith beheading Holofernes which I first came across in Germaine Greer’s book The Obstacle Race (1979). When we’ve walked our way back through Florence to the hotel Kev and the boys are sitting and playing in the garden courtyard. We meet there again an hour later to go out to dinner. Its still brilliantly warm and the streets are packed with people; we find a nice restaurant to sit outside and eat. as with yesterdays dinner the waiters are very attentive and a lot of interaction with Isaac and Samuel. And there’s a lovely episode when Isaac has drawn me his version of Michaelangelo’s David and the waiter spots it over my shoulder and says is that David? I’m leaving the city!
After breakfast we leave Florence to drive to Sienna, where we park just outside the city wall, walking up to Piazza del Campo - this sublimely beautiful piazza with its warm and mellow Burnt and Raw Sienna tinted buildings is considered by Richard Rogers the architect to be one of the most beautiful places in the world and the inspiration for his design of the Pompidou Centre and its outside space. Yesterday the famous horse race, the Pallio took place around this square and we can still see the hoof prints in the compacted sand and the flags hanging in the narrow streets between the buildings. But we decided not to come for that as we felt it would last too long and be too much for the little boys. The Italians seem to have protected and kept the beautiful architecture of their Hill top towns and cities intact. After lunch in a restaurant in the Piazza, we make our way through the fascinating walkways to the Duomo - a magnificent sight with its glorious stripes of grey and white marble, very dissimilar to English, French or North European Gothic architecture. It relates to the Romanesque and Byzantine though interestingly each school of architecture is influenced by the materials available. And of course marble has been plentiful and quarried in Italy since Etruscan times. The interior is as breathtaking as the exterior; between the groups of different coloured marble pillars often cut to a soaring barley twist pattern ( unlike the Norman pillars in many English churches and cathedrals) there are the most fabulous frescoes, almost every inch of wall space is either patterned or painted with the most exquisite narratives. The brilliance of colour seems undimmed by the centuries, fresco is a brilliant technique of painting onto the still-wet plaster which draws in and absorbs the pigments, long lasting this tradition allows us today to still enjoy the work of the Italian masters.
We eventually manage to walk our way out through the city wall to the playground whilst Richard and Kev walk down the long and winding road to where the vehicle is parked.
We then set out for Panicale and the nearby farmhouse perched high on the mountainside. Its dark when we arrive to the singing of the cicadas........
But on awakening we see the full glory of our surroundings. This wonderful old villa is set in it’s own six acres of olive groves, vines, fig trees and later we also discover apricots and blackberries.
We spend the day enjoying its seclusion. The boys love being in the pool with H &K and Henrietta also swims her 100 lengths each day or gets Kev to time her for half an hour. They are really pleased as Samuel has lost his nervousness of water recently although still for the most part wears either his ring or his arm bands. Isaac and I go on an insect and specimen hunt but nothing quite compares to the scorpions Richard finds floating and expired in the pool first thing in the morning. He’s also found a fine pair of cicadas. The weather is amazingly hot and we watch the gecko or lizards darting out of their shady crevices and making their way swiftly to others.
Richard and I drive to Assisi in the afternoon. Its quite a long way and takes about an hour and a half to get there. We see its dome and towers from the motorway as we drive past it to reach the exit that turns us back up another steep and winding small road. It feels very light and white by comparison with the rich colours of Sienna where of course two of the pigments I use frequently come from, burnt and raw Sienna. But Assisi shines with a white aura dazzling in the brilliant sunlight from its steep hillside position. We park just inside the city wall and being wide only just get through the narrow arch. We make our way up the narrow arched entranced streets through the city to the Basilica of St Francis. First we entered the lower floor of the basilica where the visitors are asked to be silent as in the crypt are housed reliquaries from St Francis of Assisi’s life and his tomb where a continuous stream of people often kneeling to say a prayer or touching the structure that houses his tomb, a most moving experience.
We then make our way up to the upper part of the basilica with its exquisite Giotto and Cimabue frescoes depicting the life of St Francis.
When we arrive back Henrietta and Kev have almost prepared dinner having spent the afternoon in the pool with the boys.
Richard and I drive up the steep hill into Panicale, a beautiful small hill town, very quiet by comparison with Assisi, Sienna or Florence. It’s beautiful in it’s unmarbled red brick simplicity. The piazza is quite small with a cross on top of the steps at it’s centre. We enter the church of st Michael Archangel, and are the only people within it for the first few minutes. Then suddenly as we are looking at one of the paintings by .... it is illuminated and two people walk into the church. There is obviously a coin in the slot as it goes off within a minute. We then put coins in to last for fourteen minutes and are rather pleased that several people come in to enjoy the light too. Its a beautiful small church in comparison with the vast cathedrals we’ve seen in Florence, Sienna, Assisi and Pisa the exterior being made mostly of small narrow red bricks that feel much more in keeping with the rustic nature of Panicale and the buildings in the surrounding area. Inside is very pretty and it feels wider than it is long with rectangular section pillars made of brick rendered in plaster painted very convincingly to look like marble! There are three small domes in the front of the ceiling which have a more gentle beauty with the colours of the stained glass contrasting brilliantly with the gloom of the interior when the lights go out. Here there is only a small fresco beyond the altar the other side altar paintings are in oil from later in the sixteen and early seventeenth centuries.
I’m taking photographs of the little piazza in front of the church when a group of Italian men call out asking me to include them in the photo; its delightful as there are very few people in this little piazza so it feels almost timeless. We then walk out of the town gate along the road to what had been the plague hospital chapel built at the end of the fifteenth century. There’s an entrance fee of only 4 Euros. As we enter this small one roomed chapel on the wall facing us is an enormous fresco painted by Perrugino of St Sebastian struck already with two arrows with four archers preparing or aiming their bows to shoot more. He stands on an altar like plinth tied to a pillar a little reminiscent of the cross. The background is made up of a construction of three arches through which you can see the local landscape with Lake Trasimeno. It seems to be in very good condition and we wonder if it has undergone restoration unlike the other fresco on the side wall, also once believed to be by Perrigino so removed from its original site in a church in Panicale to this wall in the chapel. It shows the mother and child with angels playing musical instruments with a kneeling bishop to the left and Mary Magdalene to the right. This fresco is quite badly damaged or eroded by time and they are currently raising money for it restoration so its probably helps that they now think it was painting by Raphael who studied in Perugina’s workshop. Perrugino having studied (with Leonardo) in Verrochio’s workshop. This is also a large arched fresco covering almost the height of the wall though of course almost free standing as its has been moved to here. Interesting in this you can see the thickness of the frescoed plaster.
The view outside is stunning from this highly elevated position so it is very understandable that Perrugino found it so inspirational overlooking as it does the magnificent landscape which encompasses lake Trasimeno and the three islands.
Having already enjoyed a lemon ice cornet we make our way back to the vehicle to do a big food shop at Spar Europe about eight kilometres towards Castigline dell Largo on our return they have spent most of the day in the pool. Lovely supper prepared by Richard and Henrietta then another session of our story in the dark where each of us adds a sentence or two before the traditional game of cards.
Rupert from the gallery rings to discuss the forthcoming exhibition at the Alpha Gallery.
We ALL swim in the morning before returning to Panicale where the boys play in the play garden with it panoramic views, whist Henrietta and I visit the little plague hospital chapel which is right next to it. Then visit the church of St Michael Archangel again and I also buy a chess set in the piazza. We again enjoy the stunning views over the Lake and mountains before returning up the steep road that wends its way up to where our farmhouse is. The boys go in for another swim whilst Richard prepares the supper after which we enjoy the story telling game followed by cards.
I’m up first and sat outside painting when the pool man arrives to clean the pool. Throughout the day the boys do swimming galas which usually entails doing daring dives on their Dad’s shoulders. Richard plays chess with both boys and I paint on and off through the day in between watching the galas and games of bat and ball and games. Last supper, storytelling and cards here.
We vacate Il Giunchetto during the morning and drive to San Gimigniano the city on the hilltop so famous for its many towers. After lunch in the Piazza Henrietta, Richard and I visit the duomo or Collegiate church, exquisite with frescoes from the old testament on the north walls and frescoes from the new testament an the south. The south walls are either better preserved or more restored. Kev has taken the boys to a play park and ice cream. We then wander down to buy a leather bag for my sister’s birthday and a set of ceramic mugs for Nathan’s. Henrietta says she would like a coffee so we sit outside in the open air just before Kev and the little boys arrive. We then make our way down the beautiful narrow streets to the car park below and outside the walls of this lovely small city and drive through the beautiful rolling countryside with its exquisite little villages perched here and there down to the coast at Varda where we are staying in a couple of small apartments in a hotel complex with children's’ playgrounds, pool etc. We are a little late for the pool but the playgrounds prove very successful especially during dinner outside under a large canopy where Italian families with children are enjoying their evening meal with the children running to and fro. Strangely enough it was one of the nicest meals. Isaac and Samuel loved the playing amongst the Italian children who seemed to be fascinated by them; three slightly older girls in particular took great interest in them, being able to understand what they said as obviously were learning English but of course the boys’ Italian is very limited. But Isaac and Samuel held their own and it certainly made for a relaxing meal for the adults as they just came back to eat. It seems such a good idea as all the children are always in view. We didn’t hear or see any English speaking adults or children but our waiter told us he from Albania which of course borders Italy. Tonight we decline the Italian liqueur that is usually complimentary after a meal - lemon cello although we are also offered orange cello.
Henrietta, Kev and the boys have just gone when we hear a clap of thunder and we feel the first rain as we run back to our room.
Kev takes the boys to the large heated pool for half an hour before we leave on our drive back to Pisa and the airport, stopping only for some refreshments for Kev and the boys where Henrietta spots a post box to post Isaac’s post cards to his teacher and friends.
Pisa airport is quite small and easy to navigate so Kev drops us all of so that we can check in whilst he returns the vehicle to the hire company. Interestingly he says it only took three minutes to walk back whereas on our arrival we had been bussed there probably because of the baggage in which on our return we have some fine drowned specimens of scorpions, cicadas and the most enormous beetle which Richard had netted out of the pool in the mornings.
The British Airways return flight is good and we are home by about 8.30. Its always a joy to be back.
Gong through the phone messages receive a delightful one from Ian saying that they have now got my Badger hanging on their wall, which they purchased from Brian Sinfield Gallery on receipt of their Newsletter in which it was illustrated. also a nice message from Dr Charles Slosberg saying they are in the area and could do a visit; I phone him and have a nice chat to arrange that but later discover I seem to be developing a cold so Richard persuades me that I ought to spend the morning in bed ...
... so he phones them to postpone the visit.
Phone Ian to tell him how delighted I am that he and Maeve have the Badger, who has joined their Owl and Hare. such a lovely couple who do huge amounts to help the Helen & Douglas House Hospice. They grow wonderful vegetables in one of their paddocks.
Up to London to Henrietta’s as she is doing a special meal to celebrate Nathan’s birthday. We’re the first to arrive and receive lovely hugs from the boys. Gill my sister gets there about twenty minutes later; it was her birthday whilst we are away so its really a double celebration. Nathan arrives shortly after - the boys run upstairs in great excitement when they hear the bell go. Nathan has recently done three and a half weeks working on a film for Wes Anderson in which Ralph Feinnes is one of the actors.
Its a lovely evening and Gill is looking a little more healed. So we get to sing happy birthday to them both when they blow the candles out on the chocolate torte covered with raspberries for the adults and dolly mixtures for Isaac and Samuel.
We’d brought back a beautiful cream leather bag with a green suede interior for Gill, to accompany the scarf and purse that Henrietta had got her in the same shop in San Gimigniano, a little further down in the same street we had bought Nathan a set of ceramic beakers in different colours mimicking slightly dented plastic beakers. Richard had also a found a rather good multi purpose pen that had two screwdrivers, spirit level and a ruler.
It all goes too quickly and we are the last to leave around midnight so arrive back at about 3 am.
Lots of e mail correspondence to do before buckling down to work for the exhibition!
R delivers a painting to Brian Sinfield on the way to London to pick up a large heavy duty stretcher frame from Russell & Chappel and then paints from Cornelissen before collecting a piece of work from Arts International that I will need for the exhibition. Meanwhile I’m working steadily in the studio towards the same.
Much correspondence re exhibition at the Cathedral cloisters.
Enjoy picking and eating some of the plums which are now ripening.
Feel relieved that the government vote against taking immediate action against the Syrian regime. Although the terrible use of chemical weapons is the most appalling crime against humanity, I do think we should wait for the United Nations weapons inspection team to fully report as going into Iraq without the UN seemed to me to make the world a lot less safe and rendered the very people that they were trying to help and protect more vulnerable.
Working on several canvases started earlier in the year as well as contemplating some new!