Category: History

Night at the Museum

After an interesting encounter last year with Napoleon the Strategist at the Musée de l’Armée in Paris, it seemed rude to miss an opportunity of making closer acquaintance. Talent or ambition – which is more important in the making of a genius? I wrote about it here: https://wp.me/p7AW4i-kE The museum was open free of charge […]

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Hockney & Van Gogh, or ‘The Vince and Dave Show’, plus All the Rembrandts

To give the exhibition its official title: “Hockney – Van Gogh, The Joy of Nature”.   It opens with David Hockney on film, talking to camera about his own work, Van Gogh, and the exhibition. “It’s a good title – better than ‘The Vince & Dave Show’,” he says with a mischievous twinkle. Wearing a […]

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Sargent in Stockholm

I’ve always enjoyed grand portraits by the great artists: Van Dyck, Velazquez, Gainsborough, you know the list. I came late to John Singer Sargent. I first encountered his work at an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in 2015. Two years later I was enchanted by the intimacy of his watercolours at the Dulwich Picture […]

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Swedish food, Part One: “what have the Swedes ever done for us?”

In her Reith Lecture in 2018, Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan said this about the Swedish people:   “Think of the Swedes” “I mean we think of the Swedes now today as making expeditions to Ikea, assembling furniture quietly, not getting cross at it. We think of them going to the woods and picking berries. I mean […]

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“You either see it or you don’t”. The Dennis Severs House

Where do you go as a treat for a nephew whose 11th birthday is a week before Christmas? We took him to the 18th century.   On Sunday 23rd December we travelled by London Overground to Shoreditch High Street. As we walked towards our destination, we passed the strangely rather wonderful shop window of Gardner’s, […]

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My round-up of 2018

2018 has been a year that required urgent distractions from the shambles that passed for political debate in Westminster. Fortunately it’s been a good year for adventures: exhibitions, travel, theatre, food & drink. Here are just a few of my personal highlights:   Theatre – behind the scenes at The Bridge In February I wrote […]

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Tintoretto’s 500th anniversary, and Venice today

Feasting on Tintoretto Venice is currently celebrating the 500th anniversary of the painter’s birth, in 1518 or 1519. Almost all his major works remain in his home city, spread among 29 locations. I imagined that the exhibition The Young Tintoretto at the Accademia was going to be a rerun of the one at the Musée du […]

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“Every time someone does this, a Venetian dies”

  On the evening of our arrival in Venice in late November, we were asked for directions three times by other visitors. After all this time, we must be beginning to blend in. From the Vaporetto No 1, I was struck by the swathes of residential properties in darkness on the Grand Canal, apparently unoccupied. […]

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The Shooting Party

  On a chilly November morning, somewhere in the English countryside, we assembled in a farmyard for an early briefing before the day’s action. The captain who was to be our commander stressed that our safety was his primary concern. Later that morning I was sitting in a cramped trailer with twenty armed men and […]

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A long walk from Agincourt to Richmond

“And gentlemen in England now a-bed Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here ….”   On a sunny Sunday in August 2014 I walked round the perimeter of the battlefield of Agincourt. It is now farmland, ploughed earth and pasture. And trees. Even allowing for the intervening 599 years, it was easy to imagine […]

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