Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Tiziano Vecelli and Oswald Boateng: Two Masters of Colour for the Brown Body

Titian and Colour
Portrait of Laura Dianti & Diana and Actaeon

Whilst selecting the pictures for a tour of the National Gallery part of  The Image of the Black in London Galleries series I was studying the black servant in the 1556-9 piece by Tiziano Vecelli  aka Titian Diana and Actaeon, when I was struck by Titian's use of orange set against the brown skin of Diana's servant,  orange and brown skin go together so well. I speak from experience as one of my favourite shirts was a bright vivid orange one by the acclaimed Savile Row tailor and fashion designer Oswald Boating (I am big fan), sadly the shirt was worn out through use some time ago but its memory lives on!

Oswald Boateng and Colour
Pictures from http://ozwaldboateng.co.uk/history

Oswald  is a master of colour,  especially those that  complement the black and the brown body. He uses not just oranges, but purples, greens, and yellows in his collections. Using himself as the muse for his ready to wear collection he creates some stunning looks, interworking ideas on colour and occasionally adding a African cloth to heightening the effect of his use of bright, vivid, almost acid colours.

Titian had a similar eye for colour five hundred years earlier when he choose that orange for that servant. That same sensitivity to colour can be seen in the multi coloured striped attire of the attendant in his 1520 Portrait of Laura Dianti. The little boy's multi striped costume contain not use any colours but all those colours that go so well with his brown skin.

So there we have two masters in their fields, one an artist the other a fashion designer and tailor, centuries and cultures apart yet coming to the same conclusion when selecting a colour palette to highlight the brown body,


Thursday, 13 April 2017

Unknown Black Portraits in a London Pub

Not the Renaissance but .......

The Harp (BARE Blog)

I’d forgotten pubs as idiosyncratically British as The Harp at Covent Garden still existed,  the Harp, was  especially interesting to me because of its black portraits.

Artist: Unknown, Sitter: Unknown, Date: Unknown 


I was introduced to The Harp at the close of  a very convivial lunch in St Martins Lane, my luncheon partner suggested a quiet pint in a local hostelry to complete the afternoon.

We walked down St Matins Lane and he insisted we turn into Brydges Place despite it being barely three feet wide. So narrow in fact we had to wait for an oncoming lady before we could enter in single file down the slim passage. Turns out that this is London's narrowest alley

Artists: Unknown, Sitters: Unknown, Dates: Unknown 

We entered The Harp through its rear entrance. It was a sublime experience from the dark narrow passage into what seemed a vast light filled room after the dark passage - the bar of  The Harp, formally known as the Welsh Harp , it was renamed by its Irish owner Bridget Walsh, sadly now deceased.

Bridget’s art buying covered the Harp’s walls, there are portraits of men&women, young&old,  beautiful&ugly and black&white everywhere. I’m sure a knowing eye would recognise some of the sitters I was unable to recognise any.


Artist: Unknown, Sitter: Unknown, Date: Unknown 


I spotted at least four portraits of black people. Sadly none of the artists or sitters are named like all the other portraits on display.

I enjoyed an excellent beer delivered by very friendly bar staff. The Harp was CAMRA pub of the year in 2011 and maintains Bridget’s tradition of stocking a wide range of hand pulled specialist cask beers.

The afternoon at the Harp finished with some good old chat amongst some lovely paintings in a quintessential London pub - styled with the hand and eye of its landlady – a brilliant way and a recommended way to end any afternoon as well as a great alternative to the near by National Portrait Gallery, if you’re interested in portraits!




Saturday, 11 February 2017

John Blanke Plaque at Greenwich Naval College ?


Following my visit to Greenwich Naval College visitors centre yesterday I am pleased to report that the BBC's  Black and British : A Forgotten History plaque to commemorate John Blanke the black trumpeter to the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII is in deed on display. However you may miss it as it is just to the left of the main entrance, high up amongst the centre's awards from Trip Adviser, English Tourist Board and others - see images below.





The choice of location was perhaps done in haste as it not at clear as to how or why the BBC's plaque fits in with its surroundings in the Naval College visitors centre. This despite the fact the central  image with Henry VIII jousting from the 1511 Westminster Tournament Roll document in which John Blanke appears is a matter of  feet away, no connection is made to the Tournament Roll which made John Blanke famous.

Detail of information screen by the Tilting Yard exhibit (Tournament Roll highlighted)


On the Tournament Roll - total length sixty feet - John Blanke's image is close to the scene depicted   - about four feet away from. It would seem to make good sense to bring the information screen (see detail below) by the Titling Yard exhibit closer to the BBC's plaque in some way, perhaps updating the information screen with John Blanke's image and why the BBC chose the Naval College as the site for its comparative plaque.

Detail from the Westminster Tournament Roll
Highlighting Henry VIII and John Blanke
It is good to have the plaque on display at Greenwich Naval College, even better to explain why it is there making the connection between John Blanke, the Naval College and the visitor centre's exhibits.

You can follow the plaque's story through the Twitter Hashtag #JohnBlankePlaque and keep up with all things John Blanke at JohnBlanke.com