AS DAVID Cox lived and died in Birmingham it is only natural that the bicentenary exhibition should open at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (daily until October 14; admission free) before moving to the Victoria and Albert Museum later in the year.
Birmingham residents who have endured the destruction of the city centre by planners will be fascinated to see the Victorian views of the smaller city. Cox is best known for his watercolours and The Birmingham Horse Fair is one of his Finest. St. Philip's Church, Thomas Archer's first real commission, survived to become the Anglican cathedral and Cox, who clearly loved the building, produced two water colours of the porch. Some years later he was passing on his way to Dudley but still felt compelled to sit down and make another study of this unique baroque church.
He often travelled outside Birmingham and in 1825 visited London's Green Park to paint the red brick Buckingham House, then a 'Pimlico' mansion, just months before Nash began to turn the attractive old country house into Buckingham Palace. Cox also knew the old Palace of Westminster and produced a watercolour of the Abbey and St. Margaret's, towering LIP from behind small houses in Trafalgar year.
lit 1840, when MPs and public figures did not go to Blackpool, he visited the small resort. Like today's conference delegates, he was deeply impressed by the vast beach witlrits pools and, having walked out across the firm sand he turned his back,on the sea and painted a 'tempting scene which no holiday brochure has ever managed to improve on. Victotiatis knew their political leaders best as caricatures in such weeklies as Punch and the bold drawings of Henry Furness stood out from the work of other illustrators. Humour could be found in his sketches rather than just the caption and it was Furness who created Chamberlain's eyeglass, Harcourt's chins and Gladstone's collars. In Henry Furness: Confessions of a Caricaturist (daily until September 25; admission free) at the National Portrait Gallery most politicians can only be viewed as through a fun fair's funny mirror.
However, the most attractive drawing is a realistic picture made in 1882 of backbencher Lewis Dillwyn sitting in the chamber studying papers. A caption, from Vanity Fair, informs us that Dillwyn "lapsed from Friendship and became a 'wet' Quaker. Yet he is a good and kindly man and there is no harm in hint".
Fancy dress at 18th-century masquerades often represented political satire if not an allegorical theme. Masquerade at the Museum of London (daily except Mondays until October 2 ; admission fret) attempts to recreate the atmosphere of these long running society parties.
Just as the Notting Hill Carnival is an attempt to enjoy the fun of a West Indies Shrove Tuesday so the Venetian pre-Lent masquerade inspired the summer long parties in Vauxhall, Chelsea and Soho.
The Vauxhall Gardens managed to survive front 1728 to 1859 despite an attack from the Bishop of London and the demands for fencing of walks to restrain courting couples. The curve in the Waterloo main line is due to a need to avoid the celebrated garden which has given way to the church of St. Peter, Vauxhall. The high altar marks the site of the Neptune Fountain. St. Patrick's, Soho Square, is on the site of a much more exclusive venue. Here Mrs. Theresa Cornelys, a Viennese adventuress who numbered Casanova among her conquests, charged two guineas admission to her garden, walks, fountains, silk festooned Chinese pavilions and gothic arches.
Later the Pantheon (now Marks and Spencer's) opened with more lavish decor and Mrs. Cornelys was fined for performing operas without a royal licence during her Sunday evening soirees. By 1792 she had left for Knightsbridge and her ballroom had become the first postReformation church to be dedicated to St. Patrick.
The Inspiration of Egypt at Manchester City Art Gallery (daily except Sundays until September 17, admission free) suggests that the Egyptian influence on design and architecture has been more lasting than we realise.
Pyramids in European architecture have often been sharply angled because for many years travellers saw only the pyramid by Rome's English Cemetery rather than any in Egypt. The market cross in Ripon was designed by Hawkesmoor who based the work on the Egyptian obelisk in Rome's Piazza di San Pietro. His tower for St. Luke's, Old Street is an example of how the obelisk became integrated with Christian architecture.
Many have been happy to be buried in an Egyptian style monument as a photograph of the Gillow Mausoleum in the Catholic Cemetery at Thurnham, Lancashire illustrates. Indeed another picture reminds us that an attraction of booking a space at Highgate Cemetery was the prospect of being buried in the Egyptian Avenue.