Saturday, 31 October 2015


Julie de Thellusson-Ployard, 1760

After the film yesterday, I walked through Soho to the Royal Academy (passing Foyle's, where I finally gave in and treated myself to a very expensive book that I've wanted for ages). I ignored the throng milling around for Ai Weiwei, though I might go back - his tree sculpture in the courtyard looks wonderful. But I was more in the mood for the extraordinary pastels of Jean-Etienne Liotard. We don't know him better because it has only recently become possible to transport pastels without damaging them. This is the most engaging exhibition I've seen for ages. Not just the medium - what a master he was, you wouldn't think you could achieve such extraordinary detail with pastel - but the wonderful intimacy and liveliness of his portraits. Look at this bridal portrait of Julie de Thellusson-Ployard, aged about 20 (that's her husband's portrait on her wrist) ... Doesn't she look fun, and not likely to say no to a second slice of cake!


And this is Princess Louisa-Anne, aged five, the sickly delicate child of the late Frederick, Prince of Wales and Princess Augusta. He captures her alert, lively curiosity at the same time as her wan peakiness ... see how thin she is, that dress is so big for her that it's slipping down her chest below her nipple. I kept thinking that if you stripped off the expensive gown, she'd look like an under-nourished  slum child.

While I was there, I stepped in to the library to see Edmund de Waal's display White. There is nothing whiter than a white page, nothing quieter than a library, he says ... err, no, not any more, because the effect was rather spoiled by the constant clickety-clack of computer keyboards. It is beautifully hung with mirrors - and I was delighted to see the famous Hare with Amber Eyes - but this is a tiny display, you'll be in and out in ten minutes, and unless you're a member  I think you'd feel pretty miffed at paying a fiver. Don't think it would have killed the RA to make this one admission free.

8 comments:

Lucille said...

You can see that she was breathing through her mouth. Adenoids I expect.

mary said...

Oh dear, probably a very snotty child then! How observant you are, Lucille - I'd never have noticed that. I can see a PhD thesis here: adenoids in art history.

elegancemaison said...

How I love your exhibition reviews and regret a thousand times daily that we moved from London to the country a few years ago. So easy to get on the tube and a modest entrance fee to shows of worldwide significance.

But Foyles - is it still a muddle of rooms piled high with books? And queuing twice (first to pay and then to collect) to acquire a book. Still I would love to have the option of a well-stocked bookshop.

mary said...

I don't think I could ever move, Elegancemaison. I wouldn't know what to do with myself in the country.

You wouldn't recognise Foyles if you haven't been there for years. It's a perfectly normal shop these days - no character, of course, but far less frustrating to shop there. And still the only bookshop where you can count on finding something obscure right there on the shelf.

Toffeeapple said...

Apart from the richness of the dress, that could be an image of me as a child. I had enlarged tonsils and always had to breathe through my mouth until I was seven and had the operation. Not always snotty though.

I think I first saw the portraits on the blog Colossal and was enchanted by them. I am looking forward to reading about Liotard, he was an excellent portraitist.

mary said...

They whipped mine out when I was four, Toffeeapple - you don't hear of it these days!
There was a very good review in the Guardian. 5*.

Sue said...

Thank you, Mary.Off to see this on Thursday.Can't wait.

mary said...

Hope you enjoy it, Sue!