Feature: ArtScene

ArtScene: Jane Austen Manuscript, St Cuthbert's Gospel, Leonardo, Rivera and Kahlo

By , Columnist

London. Guillaume calls from Paris to say that his lover has run off with a priest. I say, don’t they all? Guillaume’s humour level is fragile. I tell him that romance is not dead.

Sotheby’s has just sold an unfinished Jane Austen manuscript for $1.6 million. Guillaume says that if Armand shows up, then I’m not to give him his (Guillaume’s) bicycle that he left in the backyard last time his love life fell apart.

You see? An 1804 Jane Austen original (bought by the Bodleian) means nothing when you’re throwing memories out into the rue - already grubby with the abandoned belongings of Guillaume’s long list of lovers on the run.

But I’m thinking that there is a connection with the earliest surviving Austen script and Guillaume’s misery. 

StCuthbertGospel.jpgThat and the news that the Jesuits are selling the oldest book in Europe, the seventh century St Cuthbert’s Gospel for about $13 million (hopefully to the British Library) makes me think lovers’ tiffs, too much rain and misplaced political glee over the defeated ambitions of Rupert Murdoch and News Corp are not so important.

St Cuthbert’s copy of St John’s Gospel is in perfect condition and, we know Cuthbert was reading it three hundred years before, I repeat, before, the Norman Conquest of 1066. Jane Austen was penning her book the year before the Battle of Trafalgar (1805). 

Then we hear that a newly discovered Leonardo, Salvator Mundi is to go on show at the National Gallery - just round the corner from me. 

Leonardo Salvator Mundi.pngThat Leonardo was once owned by Charles the First - no ordinary king was Charles. He got his head chopped off (just along from where the gallery is now) in 1649. In one week we have a reminder that art in whatever form, will last longer than us. As if to prove it, Sotheby’s sold nearly $4 million of Early Literature, Children’s Books and Illustrations this week. It brings the summer sale season at Sotheby’s to more than $400 million dollars. Something’s getting in perspective.

After the Saturday viewings, I needed to get away. So off to Mollymawk. She’s a work of art in herself. She’s an old boat I sail from the Beaulieu, the last private river in England - not mine, the Good Lord Montague of Beaulieu’s. A couple of days painting . All Swallows and Amazons. Chichester is nothing but half a day’s sail so that’s how I get to the wonderfully elegant Georgian Pallant House Gallery to see the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibition,

Kahlo-and-Rivera.jpgThis was never going to be an easy one to show the paintings of this exotic couple whose colourful lives were deeply unconventional. He was much older than she and they were known as the elephant and the dove. Theirs was an intense and passionately creative relationship. Their work is so weirdly abundant in symbolism, colour, and life that it seems to me the Tropical House in San Diego Zoo would be a more fitting venue.  Notch up the central heating, bring out the macaws and butterflies and lets salsa in celebration of the sheer bizarreness of it all. It feels like summer anyway now. Chichester until 2 October.

I feel better but really haven’t the guts to tell Guillaume I sold his bicycle. Why spoil his week?

Artscene Quote of the week

“Never before had a woman put such agonizing poetry on canvas as Frida did…” Diego Rivera

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Fiona Graham-Mackay, is London's newest royal portrait painter. She is also recently back from painting in the Pakistan-Afghan border. She studied at London's Royal College of Art, had a studio in Paris before returning to the UK to paint and teach in London, Spain and Italy. Her next assignments areā€¦

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