Ylva111's Blog

Goat with a tyre and other London treats | March 6, 2017

Spring is definitely in the air with daffodils in full bloom in London’s parks, and also at the rather grey and stony Paternoster Square in the City, as I discovered on a wander. In fact it was a promotion for Marie Curie – a most worthy cause – but they weren’t all real!

At Tate Modern the Rauschenberg exhibition is still attracting visitors as it draws to a close in early April. This is a mega selection from his long career and includes many of his well-known works such as the Goat with a tyre which has been lent by the Moderna Museeet in Stockholm.  It was developed in the 1950s from a stuffed goat the artist found in a second-hand shop in New York.

Tate Britain, as predicted, is bursting at the seams with Hockney fans – well worth the effort to get a ticket.  Some people love the portraits, others prefer the Yorkshire landscapes.  So there will be something there for everyone.

Looking back to the 1930s

More challenging are the two exhibitions at the Royal Academy and they make a good match – maybe not on the same day. There is a lot to digest, particularly in the Russian exhibition in the main galleries. In the Sackler Wing the small but exquisite exhibition covers the impact of the depression on American art in the inter-war years.

Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 took me back to my visit to St Petersburg in September last year when with our Russian Martin Randall guide we spent several hours at the Russian Art Museum.  The RA has brought together iconic artworks from there and also from private collectors to illustrate the post-revolutionary period by Chagall, Kandinsky and Malevich including posters, porcelain and photographs.  Short film snippets show life in collective housing and on the land.  There’s even a mock-up of what a small flat might have looked like.  In a country where many still could not read, the propaganda value of revolutionary art was soon realised and used on the sides of trains travelling through the vast countryside.

America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930s while much smaller also pulls a punch with its evocative paintings of despair as Western economies plunged into depression after the Wall Street crash in 1929. Grant Wood’s picture of the cheerless American couple in “American Gothic” is the highlight of the exhibition. But every painting in this show really does tell a story….so linger and explore.  You may even spot Lenin’s face in one of the paintings.

Family memories of the depression

In my Swedish book about Family Gronstedt, the depression played its part. My maternal grand-father was not just a doctor but also an investor in property and shares. A few years after the Wall Street crash which reverberated round European capitals, the Swedish “match king”, Ivar Kreuger, took his own life in Paris causing further havoc.  He had created his financial empire not just from matches but also from financial loan instruments to countries around the world – something of a Ponzi scheme – which collapsed with him taking down banks, and large and small investors.  My grand-father’s finances survived the blast through Sweden’s economy but he died in 1937 with his resources severely depleted.  It was a tough time for many families as the RA exhibitions show.

Find out more about my books including – newly launched The Go Around and the Family Gronstedt’s history – at http://www.ylvafrench.co.uk


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