RembrandtPressView

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be invited to the press preview of ‘Rembrandt: The Late Works’ at The National Gallery which opens to the public today.

Each time I visit one of our city’s beautiful museums I never fail to be astounded by the sheer grandeur and rich detail of our galleries. The National Gallery looks out onto the cinematic vista of Trafalgar Square, which as Londoners we are quick to dismiss as a busy tourist trap, but it is a tourist trap with astonishingly good reason as witnessed from the gallery steps.

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Inside, intricate floor mosaics and striking palatial architecture is mixed seamlessly with modern details as the galleries expand.

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Natonal Gallery Steps

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But back to the exhibition. Dutch painter Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art and the most important in Dutch history.

Interested in capturing the world around him without prejudice, his works recorded the ordinary people, places and things he would have seen every day in Amsterdam.

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WomanBathingintheRiver

Having already suffered the early loss of his wife and three of their children, Rembrandt’s later years were burdened with bankruptcy, acrimonious legal proceedings with a former lover, and the loss of his common-law wife and only remaining son.

However, far from diminishing as he aged, Rembrandt’s creativity gathered new energy. The once-in-a-lifetime exhibition explores Rembrandt’s final years of painting when he achieved ultimate greatness.

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Quietly breathtaking, the exhibition comprises of approximately 40 paintings, 20 drawings and 30 prints, revelling in Rembrandt’s iconic use of combined light and shadow.

From the moment you step into the hush of the first room filled with luminous self-portraits chronicling the last decade of Rembrandt’s life –  and his exceptional honesty in recording his own features as he aged – you are ensnared [it is worth visiting for just this room].

SelfPortraitWithTwoCircles

Drawn further and further into his expressions of intimacy, contemplation, conflict and reconciliation, I felt as though I was gazing upon familiar friends as I sat mesmerised by the tender depictions of the ‘Old Woman Reading a Book’ and ‘A Woman Bathing in a Stream’ and even ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Joan Deyman’ and I am itching to go back and sit with them again.

My photographs do none of the great artist’s luminous, multilayered and expressive masterpieces any justice so please go visit and gaze upon their spine-tingling beauty for yourselves.

Rembrandt, The Late Works
The National Gallery
Sainsbury Wing
15 October 2014 – 18 January 2015

 AnOldWomanReading

Exhibition  TheAnatomyLesson

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TheSamplingOfficials

Titus

Navigating London Design Festival with a four month old baby on the blistering September city streets was no mean feat, but hell bent on getting my design fix during the design worlds version of fashion week, I was determined to make it work! Here are my highlights from the week’s festivities.

Newbie Taiwanese Studio IF ‘s striking chandeliers immediately caught my eye at Tent London with its simple and intuitive beauty. Delicate copper and glass combined to create ethereal clouds of bubbles which when used with a pulley system lit up in a whimsical sequence.

British designer Sue Pryke launched a covetable collection of hand-carved Oak chopping boards with leather details in collaboration with outdoorsy brand Wild and Wood, I love their stylish simplicity.  Prices start from £30.

SuePyke

Cute contemporary hand mirrors by Croatian brand Oaza.

Oaza

I wrote about being taken by illustrator Louise Wilkinson’s work last year when she had just launched her first collection, so it was lovely to rediscover her again at Tent. She exhibited a beautiful range of patterned textiles with a fun folksy feel which on closer inspection contained witty narratives hidden within!

Louise-Wilkinson
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As much as I have delighted in a once in a lifetime maternity break, I have been itching to get back to design and my blog especially. It felt only appropriate that I kickstart it during the London Design Festival.

Having spent the past four months [has it been that long already?] in a haze of sleepless nights, playful days, much needed coffee mornings with new friends [lifelines] and a mind-altering education, it has felt like my brain hasn’t had the space for much else. The honest truth is that there were times that I found myself frustrated by the sudden lack of industry and inspiration. Spending over a decade working every hour under the sun at a job I really loved and then abruptly stopping was a very strange feeling.

But as with everything in life – hindsight is a beautiful thing and its only in looking back on my summer of love I’ve realised how amazing these last few months have been and not as devoid of inspiration as I initially believed.

A quick introduction to our bright star – Aarya [pronounced Ah-Ree-Ah] was born on the 24th of May and we grow more in love with her every day – we have been introducing her to our world and she to us. She has inspired me in a profound as well as a superficial way – her clothes, her nursery and making sure she is comfortable has opened up a whole new realm of sweet and playful design.

I kickstarted Aarya’s design education by inadvertently celebrating her 1 month birthday at the Ace Hotel [I went there for a launch]. She loved the hubbub of it all!

AceHotel

Being a little more housebound than normal, I discovered the many charms of my East London neighbourhood [Wanstead] – a spate of new eateries and shops began populating our high street providing much needed respite.

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Duke2 Wanstead Fish Fish

Manor2 Sunny Coffee

With everyone suddenly obsessed with sleep in our household, it became all about the bedding. We all had matching Metallic Polka Dot bedsheets from PB Teen, our bed was topped with West Elm’s Nomad Bedspread and Pillows with Aarya’s cosied up with a beautiful ruffle crib bumper from PB Kids. Stylish bedding promotes sleep in my opinion!

winter bedding PBBaby Bedding A Crib

I became obsessed with accessories for accessories – transforming my plain nursing pillow using Etsy store Modfox’s great selection of covers. Mine was the Grey Arrow Nursing Pillow Cover

Pillow Cover

…weaning my baby off an ugly doll she loves using more stylish items like … Donna Wilson’s Foxleaf Toy at Mamas and Papas and a hilarious handmade Panda Puppet from the V&A Shop

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Panda

…with Baby Gap turning into my achilles heel… look at that whale print!

Gap

… oh and not to mention very talented friends turning up with beautiful mobiles to treasure [a DIY on how to make these is upcoming this month].

A Mobile

I hate leaving London in the summer when its at its best – every summer feels like a holiday in the city. This one especially – we spent so much time with friends, balmy evenings at launch parties and lunches at favourite eateries.

USP Launch

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…visiting exhibitions and capturing an alternative family portrait at the Digital Revolution at The Barbican…

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… a quick escape to the country with friends to celebrate Swedish crayfish season

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And of course my main inspiration…

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I’ll be reporting from London Design Festival this week so follow my Instagram and Twitter for updates with a post to follow on my new finds from the week. Till then – its good to be back!

May-Design-Series

& Tradtion / Bethan Gray

Unable to make any international trade shows this year because of my pregnancy [I am seething with jealousy over my Instagram feed from Milan Design Week right now] I have been looking for any opportunity for design inspiration closer to home.

Back for its second year, May Design Series is a new design show which aims to tie up the European show cycle with exciting new design products, spark conversations, inspire and inject a little bit of fun into the trade show experience

Held in the Excel Centre in London, this year the trade show is comprised of five design districts: The Furniture Show, Lighting, Decor, DX [Design Excellence] and Kitchen + Bathroom.

Having missed out on the action at Milan Design Week, the show still promises appearances from the cream of the crop. Among those debuting new collections are young Danish company & Tradition, iconic British designer Bethan Gray, Italian furniture company Casamania, innovative wallpaper brand Cole and Son, exciting new rug company Front and award winning British furniture brand James UK.

Inspiring talks will be held throughout the event, like - Interior Trends: Enduring or Fads, chaired by Carole King and Arianna Trapani, co-editors of Heart Home Magazine and interior stylist Pippa Jameson, 20 Things You Didn’t Learn in Design School lead by Architect, interior designer and, most recently, TV presenter Daniel Hopwood and Spaces at Work, dissecting the future of workplace design.

The May Design Series will take place from 18th – 20th May at London’s ExCeL exhibition centre. Entry is free – Register here.

This was a Sponsored Post.

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Casamania / Cole and Son / Front/ James UK

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Swiftly becoming a highlight in my yearly calendar, last week I attended the 4th annual Penguin Bloggers Night. Held as usual on the lofty top floor of Foyles Bookstore in Charing Cross, the evening serves as a showcase of the publisher’s key books for that year with a programme of notable authors reading excerpts from them.

Aside from tables piled with delectable books and Penguin totes to greedily fill, the night is a great chance to talk to favourite authors and for me to discover books that are out of my comfort zone – i.e not historical fiction or sinister gothic tales.

I also love the pianist who has become a staple at the events who intros each reading with a catchy theme tune – my favourite was the intro for Elizabeth Fremantle’s new historical book ‘Sisters of Treason’ she walked on to Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’ – naturally. Sheer brilliance.

Here are some of the books and readings from the night that caught my eye and ears.

ElizabethIsMissing

Elizabeth is Missing, Emma Healy

A mesmerising reading and no doubt multi-layered debut novel by young and talented author Emma Healy - Maud, an ageing grandmother, is slowly losing her memory-and her grip on everyday life.

Yet she refuses to forget her best friend Elizabeth, whom she is convinced is missing and in terrible danger. But no one will listen to Maud-not her frustrated daughter, Helen, not her caretakers, not the police, and especially not Elizabeth’s mercurial son, Peter. Armed with handwritten notes she leaves for herself and an overwhelming feeling that Elizabeth needs her help, Maud resolves to discover the truth and save her beloved friend. Publication Date, June 2014

NinaStibbs

Man At The Helm by Nina Stibbe

This reading had everyone in stitches… nostalgic and funny, Man At The Helm follows a divorced mother and her children, including nine-year-old Lizzie, in the 1970s as they move to a village in the English countryside. All alone and shunned by the villagers, Lizzie’s mother becomes a drunk and a playwright. Worried about becoming wards of court, Lizzie and her sister decide to write letters to the suitable men in the area in order to find a man at the helm for their mother.

After reading up more about this author, none of whose books I had heard of before – I stumbled onto her much acclaimed biographical book published earlier this year Love, Nina: Dispatches from Family Life which sounded equally hilarious. Then I realised I hardly ever, in fact ever, read funny books. I have resolved to begin. Publication Date, August 2014

Everland

Everland, Rebecca Hunt

Two groups, almost a hundred years apart, find themselves on the same desolate Antarctic island in this tense and compelling novel.

1913: Dinners, Millet-Bass, and Napps – three men bound not by friendship, but by an intense dependence founded on survival – will be immortalised by their decision to volunteer to scout out a series of uncharted and unknown islands in the Antarctic, a big, indifferent kingdom.

2013: Brix, Jess, and Decker – three researchers with their own reasons for being far from home – set out on a field trip to the same ancient lumps of rock and snow, home to nothing but colonies of penguins and seals.

Under the harsh ultraviolet light, as all colours bleach out, and the world of simple everyday pleasures recedes, they unknowingly begin to mirror the expedition of 100 years ago. Publication Date, March 2014

SistersofTreason

Sisters of Treason, Elizabeth Fremantle

A delicious Tudor drama [with an amazing theme tune] Sister’s of Treason is a gripping tale about  two sisters who tread as dangerously close to the crown as their tragic sister, Lady Jane Grey, executed after just nine days on the throne.

When Lady Jane Grey is executed by her cousin Mary Tudor, it is court painter Levina Teerlinc who  helps Jane’s young sisters, Mary and Catherine,  survive the Queen’s reign. But when the hot-headed  Elizabeth inherits the crown, court life becomes  increasingly treacherous for the Grey girls . . . Publication Date, May 2014

A few other books on the table published last year or earlier this year which caught my eye…

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Em and the Big Hoom, Jerry Pinto. In a tiny flat in Bombay Imelda Mendes – Em to her children – holds her family in thrall with her flamboyance, her manic affection and her cruel candour. Her husband – ‘The Big Hoom’ – and her two children must bear her ‘microweathers’, her swings from laugh-out-loud joy to dark malevolence, and her frequent wish to die.

The Violet Hour, Katherine Hill . A love story that begins with the end of a marriage, The Violet Hour follows a 21st century American family through past and present, from a lavish New York wedding to the family funeral home in suburban Washington, from a drunken PTA party to a scene of unexpected public violence.

The Strangler Vine, M.J. Carter Calcutta 1837. The East India Company rules India – or most of it; and its most notorious and celebrated son, Xavier Mountstuart, has gone missing. William Avery, a down-at-heel junior officer in the Company’s army, is sent to find him, in the unlikely company of the enigmatic and uncouth Jeremiah Blake. A more mismatched duo couldn’t be imagined, but they must bury their differences as they are caught up in a search that turns up too many unanswered questions and seems bound to end in failure.

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