IT has been a rich summer in which Ham House, Ken Wood and Luton Hoo have all been opened to the public.
Ham House, and Ken Wood, if not within sound of Bow Bells, are at least within bus reach of them and their surrounding parkland accounts for much of their attraction.
Luton Hoo (on the near side of Luton to Londoners) entails more effort to arrive at—although a bus from many centres passes the lodge gates—but it yields a great deal more than a sylvan setting.
The Wernher Collection. which it houses. was made mainly by Sir Julius Wernher, who did all his buying of its treasures before breakfast.
His business may have been diamonds but his passion was art, and for a private collector his tastes were both sure and wide. So that in miniature Luton Hoo is a museum of painting, ivories, tapestries. clocks, bronzes, silver work, porcelein, furniture, enamels. jewellery—as well as of " Firoep Jack," that wonderful horse, who. besides many other races, won the Aleaandra Stakes for six years in succession, the last time at the age of ten. and lay down to die at Market Harborough on the day he was to have moved to honourable retirement at Luton Hoo.
When Dr. Johnson said : "This is one of the places I do not regret
having come to see. it is a very stately place indeed. . . the dignity of the rooms is very great and the quality of the pictures is beyond expectations, beyond hope," he had made a profoundly true statement.
The house is a proud. pleasant. and grand (not grandiose) affair in which the English Adam predominates without, and a generic French taste within.
IRIS C ON
" Capability " Brown laid out thc gardens with lawns that swirl around the building like a full-skirted evening frock, and even if Luton's extending town creeps over the edge of the horizon. those saplings that "Capability " Brown planted shroud it from view.
Inside the house the collection has been displayed with such taste and discernment that it ought to be a model for other such. The main hall, in which the great Bermejo " St. Michael " and the Altdorfer "Christ taking leave of his mother " are hung. is so arranged that space seems to have been created to give ample room for the many varied types of work.
The ivories, too. those works of precision in whose tiny compass whole stories are told and whole worlds exist, have been mounted exquisitety on stands made by the local carpenter. whose interest in the %%hole project knows no bounds.
Outside the Victoria and Albert
Museum I know
of go better place to see ivory; some of the examples here have stir', icd ten centuries
ithout losing anything of their wonderful detail, only gaining a golden quality. Here are Crucifixions. Madonnas and saints, and, perhaps most poignant of all. a leaf of book cover illustrating "Daniel in the Lion's Den," which shows a crowd of very small lions and Daniel raising his hands in amenmelt as he sees an angel lowering Habakuk by the hair of his head.
The clocks in this house are amazing. It is the proud boast of a modern watchmaker that his tell the day and the month as well as the time, but by the Renaissance many a clockmaker could pride himself on making clocks far more intricate Map those of today. Some. even, constructed a folding sundial with their watches se that its accuracy could be checked. Others showed on the single face of a clock the hour. the day, the movement of the sun and moon and the position of the stars. This for an astrologer.
The restaurant, too, deserves a mention. Housed in the old kitchen of the mansion it has retained many of the kitchen's fittings—for instance. the caoopy over the great ranges, now transformed into a joyously striped awning and part of a wildly extravagant design all over the walls done by Mary Adshead in the lightest possible way.
Local craftsmen on the estate have lept their touches too. and the bronze fronds that disguise the heating appliances have been most cleverly contrived by the carpenter. I.uton Hoo provides art on several levels. and the culinary one is not neglected.
AT THE ASHLEY
FOR the first time the Ashley
Gallery is showing two lifesize sculptured figures for specific churches. Both are by Anthony Foster and represent him as he is now beginning at last to emerge from behind the shadow of his great master, Gill.
The Sacred Heart (for Tipton in Staffs) is designed to stand over a door and therefore is not seen in the right position in the gallery. but nevertheless there is a great power in those outstretched arms bearing the imprint of the nails.
St. Joseph (for Wallasey, Cheshire) is the more subtle work, less dramatic but quietly strong and simple. The saint holds in one hand a T-square, and resting on the ground is a plank of wood.
As well as the two great figures that dominate the room in which they stand are many smaller stone and wood carvings of Foster's. some quite recently finished. others from earlier periods. All show his extremely English genius, his link with the early English ivories and
From this point it seems that Mr. Fosters special gift of portraying a tenderness which has nothing in it of sentimentality might well develop into the style by which he will become known for himself. and not only. as hitherto, as the disciple of Eric Gill.
It probably all depends on the kind of commissions that will come to him, for there are few sculptors who can afford the luxury of carving such figures as these for their own interest.
Showing with Anthony Foster is a painter, Paul Harris, whose draughtsmanship is unquestionably good and whose exuberance clothes his ideas with life and variety. A foil to the classicism of the sculpture. these paintings glow with colour and Such a small space as the Ashley's hanging room does not hold them in; they spat their warmth and movement beyond the confines of their frames. Here is a painter who calls for large wall spaces to cover.
Some church or school could use painters like Harris, and as in medieval times the very stones of such sanctuaries could become sermons in paint.
HAVING just returned from
Italy where I was too busy looking at pre-fifteenth century art to see anything modern, I was particularly pleased to find three exhibitions on in London of modern or contemporary Italian artists.
The Tate collection is modern but not specially contemporary. confining itself to work done between 1910 and 1930. It confirms what I have always imagined that the Italian is essentially a man of feeling. so that when his art is purely abstract it is an exercise and not a reality. clever but not true.
The big things of this show are the Modiglianis, rich and deeply felt and tragic. after him a sculptor, Giacomo Manzu. whose subtle effects in bas-relief remind one of Donatello. has contributed a bronze figure of a child on a chair which. in its simplicity. is as moving as anything in the exhibition.
There is, however, in Manzu's work a criticism of the Church which can be sensed even in the superb bronzes of the Cardinal.