Arty Limericks! The first in a short series of poetic treats by AHA alum Harriet Israel

An ode to Amore Dormiente


Love by traditional inkling:

A mischievous child with eyes twinkling.

Imagine instead

love lying half dead.

What was Caravaggio thinking?

Composed on AHA Spring Course, 08/2/11


The painting is Caravaggio’s ‘Sleeping Cupid’, painted in 1608 when the artist was based in Malta. It now hangs in the Pitti Palace in Florence.


Please send us your arty poems – we’d love to see and share them with our followers! Email


Be amazed and uplifted by Thomas Heatherwick’s designs

As the Paralympics open today, remember the Olympic cauldron, designed by Thomas Heatherwick and his studio.

Thomas Heatherwick's amazing 'Cauldron' for the opening ceremony of the Olympics

If you do not know about Thomas Heatherwick and you are interested in art, then you should follow these links, book into the V & A exhibition, and look out for his design.  Described as the Leonardo da Vinci of his age, he is young and has much more to come.  Any image of his work tells it’s own story.

The Heatherwick Studio website will take you to his projects revealing a range of work from handbags to the new Routemaster bus.  His studio has designed buildings, boats and bridges.  His use of materials is elaborate, varied and without hierarchy.  It is the range of material and object which makes the comparison to Leonardo valid.

Design for Heatherwick's Routemaster London Buses
Design for a boat (!!)

An exhibition of his designs continues at the V&A until 30th September: V&A Heatherwick Exhibition.  Below are some helpful links, but click and be amazed and uplifted.

Thomas Heatherwick: Building the Seed Cathedral. TED talk

Happy student! Thank you AR for your lovely letter

Thank you so much for an amazing time on the AHA trip to Italy.  I cannot tell you how much fun I had with you and the rest of the group over the two weeks.  I have learnt so much and it has made me love Art History even more. Having never been to Venice or Rome before and Florence only once for a day, exploring and learning about the history and works of art in each city was an incredible experience that I will never forget.  Thank you so much for the most amazing two weeks of my life.

Best wishes


Florence: Ponte Vecchio



MoCA and the Marriage Market: is Shanghai a contemporary city? AHA alum Caz St Quinton explores

As cities go, Shanghai seems about as contemporary as they get. It is known for its sky scrapers and shopping, rather than its history and culture. Proving this point, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) has been recently refurbished. It stands shiny and proud in People’s Park, whilst its neighbour the Shanghai Art Gallery glooms in its shadow with eerily empty walls, the few pieces shown often only accompanied by those fatal words: ‘artist unknown.’

MoCA in People's Park Shanghai

However, artists themselves are no longer current enough for MoCA’s impressive new exhibition called ‘Mock Up.’ In their place are ten teams of architects that have been invited to create ten different living spaces. The installations consider Chinese living spaces and the relationship between people and their contemporary living environments. Microwaves, magazines and plastic furniture replace traditional Chinese interiors.

One of the spaces at MoCA made out of magazines

There is no hint of art being intended for the academic. In fact the spaces interact with the viewer by encouraging them to sit, climb and even play. People of all ages were playing in ‘The Kids Room’; a room that hangs from the ceiling so moves with you and is filled with big yoga balls that complete strangers end up throwing at one another.

At the end if the gallery it explains that the room is designed to imitate the rocking that we feel whilst in our mother’s womb and then the cradle, although most the people inside are having too much fun to bother reading it.

A girl playing in the Kid's Room at MoCA

If it weren’t for the mysterious gathering of people opposite MoCA, one could be fooled into thinking Shanghai has turned its back on all tradition. However, stray a little from the entrance of the museum and you will stumble upon the Marriage Market.

Personal advertisements litter the  pavement and trees as parents try to find suitable matches for their child. Parents spend their weekends sat next to their laminated piece of paper which contains information such as their child’s age, job, achievements and whether they own a house or car.

A woman exploring the marriage market

They sit hoping that another parent will find their offspring suitable, if this joyous moment happens then a date is arranged. The marriage market is a last resort for some parents as traditional arranged marriages are becoming harder to organise due to the uneven demographics of the population caused by the one child policy. A problem that will only get worse with an estimated 24 million bachelors in China by 2020.

Parents display their child's information on umbrellas

In Shanghai, marriage is obviously still an indicator to success and parents using a market to achieve this leaves the MoCA viewers questioning whether Shanghai is as contemporary as they once thought.

Review! From Paris, A taste for Impressionism at The Royal Academy, by Marie Naffah

The Royal Academy is renowned for its prestigious exhibitions, with artists ranging from Van Gogh to Hockney. This month, and until September 23rd you’ll find an array of Impressionist works, celebrating the artists who broke away from the conventional ‘Salon’ of Paris in the 19th Century, and who painted with looser brushwork, manipulated light and used colour in new and evocative ways.

The exhibition is thoughtfully displayed and clearly explained, and the choice of pastel blue walls successfully compliments the works, especially those which contain an abundance of blue tones, such as the landscapes and boat scenes in rooms 2 and 3. I found the works that stood out most were those hung separately from the rest, especially one by Pissarro’s in room 2. I think that perhaps the exhibition could have benefited from fewer paintings, or indeed, a larger space, allowing the viewer to have more time to ponder on each piece separately. Arguably, the display of similar works on each wall allows viewers to observe common characteristics of the Impressionist movement, such as the broader strokes of paint applied with a palette knife for the first time.

Edouard Manet, Moss Roses in a Vase, 1882

The exhibition is organised by genre, beginning with Still Lifes by artists such as Manet (Moss Roses In a Vase – 1882) and ending with Portraits, notably those by Degas and Renoir. One room is dedicated to The Female Figure, including pieces by Renoir, Stevens and Morisot. This room was one of my favourites, as there were only a few paintings occupying each wall, allowing the viewer to connect with the subject on a more intimate level. The portrayal of women as curvaceous and delicate beings was reminiscent of some Italian artists depictions, such as Botticelli’s Venus in Birth of Venus (1486) or Bernini’s Daphne of Apollo and Daphne (1622).

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Apollo and Daphne, Museo Villa Borghese, Rome

The exhibition text reveals that Renoir had indeed visited Italy in 1881 and consequentially, was exposed to the works of Italian masters. One can see that the tighter brushwork in “Blonde Bather” (1881) is akin to the smooth, highly polished finish of Italian sculpture, or perhaps the soft rendering of form evident in some of Raphael’s works.

Pierre Auguste Renoir, Blonde Bather, 1881

Furthermore, the compositional arrangement of the single figure echoed Renaissance trends in portraiture.

The exhibition allows us to witness the exploration of new techniques and priorities in 19th Century art and I would certainly recommend it.

‘From Paris: a taste for Impressionism’ is on at the Royal Academy until 23rd September

Memories of Venice: AHA past student Dougie Jones reminisces about an evening on the Dogana…

Venice. Water, art and lots of wonderful places to see. For many of us it was our first encounter with this magical city, one that didn’t ceased to amaze. The first thing that struck us was its beauty: the architecture, the canals and the little shops that occupied the piazzas.

And then the art: Titian, Tintoretto, Bellini, Pesaro, Palladio, Giorgione, Giotto and so many more including Picasso, Pollock, Margritte and Dali from the Peggy Guggenheim collection. Seeing these works in real life was incredible, and so much better than in a classroom. On our free afternoon most of us went to the Lido on the outskirts of Venice. The warm water and chance to lie on the beach in the sun without having to concentrate was just what we needed to relax after a hard day’s learning.

One highlight of the trip had to be the last night in the city, where the tutors had arranged a picnic on the waterfront overlooking St Mark’s. The fancy dress theme ‘Carnival’ had all the tutors and some students sporting traditional Venetian masks for the occasion.

After traipsing through the busy streets with our identities concealed, we arrived and unpacked all the food, only to hear a live band performing just round the corner. Mesmerised by the music and still in full dress we decided to explore. What we found was a 7-piece band with a singer performing for a festival. Getting into the carnival spirit we started dancing, something that the Italian press were particularly interested in.

After a few quick snaps by the side, we were pushed onto the stage in front of the keen audience! What followed was to be the most exhilarating 5 minutes of the trip so far. Intense dance moves were performed, and any cares forgotten. Unfortunately we didn’t make it into the newspapers the next morning, but that experience, and all the others we had in Venice, will live in our memories forever.


Review! Past AHA Student Anna Fothergill on the National Gallery’s ‘Metamorphosis: Titian 2012’

Last week, on a pale sunny afternoon mid-Olympics, I found myself wandering across Trafalgar Square, heading for the National Gallery. Being a country gal, the opportunity to visit the capital is a favourite but rare activity and this time I could not help but notice the beautiful posters which dotted every tube station showing two intertwining figures and broadcasting the latest enticement: ‘Metamorphosis: Titian 2012’. The word ‘Titian’ captured my attention and off I went to see what this exhibit would involve.

Titian, Diana and Callisto (1556-59) © National Gallery / National Galleries of Scotland. Contributions from National Lottery through Heritage Lottery Fund, Art Fund, The Monument Trust, private appeal and bequests, 2012

I found a small, dynamic, wonderfully unique collection of responses to three of Titian’s paintings, all featuring Diana, goddess of love and the hunt.  As part of a mythological series painted for King Philip II, these three images alone are fascinating but in the surrounding rooms were several different responses, from instillations to performance art. Modern meets the mythological; I was intrigued.


The exhibit had taken a wide variety of media to respond to the star of the show, the story of Diana and Actaeon, (who stumbles upon the goddess Diana bathing and for his crimes gets turned into a stag and torn apart by his own hounds). Titian took inspiration from Ovid’s epic poem and the modern artists followed his example, some even writing their own poems. There are many aspects of this exhibit I could talk about, whether it is the significance of the costumes designed for the ballet response, Chris Ofili’s very vibrant embrace of colour, or even the use of a live nude model. But the one response I found to be challenging, chilling, and creative was Conrad Shawcross’ ‘Trophy’.

'Trophy' by Conrad Shawcross

As you walk into the darkened room, the only light to provide some relief is the burning bulb on the wand-like arm of an industrial robot, encased in a glass box. Next to the spinning whirring piece of smooth, high-end technology is an antler. It seems to be growing out of the block of wood, a haunting symbol of Actaeon’s fate. The machine represents Diana, and as it moves, it conveys a sense of gloating. ‘She’ seems to be presiding over her ‘trophy’: her prize of his antlered head. The machine, while both powerful and terrifying, has a strange elegance to it. Shawcross wanted to explore the goddess’s duel nature, and this work concentrates on her hard, unyielding power. Yet what struck me most as I stood next to one corner of the glass box, is that the light on the end of the robotic arm, casts its own huge looming shadow. While the robot is encased, the shadow can escape and in a sense Diana herself can escape. As the robot’s shadow grew larger, my own grew smaller. Soon the predatory shadow completely enveloped my own and I felt powerless to stop her. Just as she hunted Actaeon, my own shadow was hunted and I became a trophy just as he had been. It was a relief to step out into the sunshine of the capital after that.

The exhibition is wonderfully varied and I recommend it to anyone. As you wander the various responses, a slow awe and inspiring realisations creeps up on you and the tragic story of Actaeon comes alive through dance, poetry and painting. Through this, I thought, one’s own sense of reality morphs in response to an ancient story and an artist whose work spans the centuries.

‘Metamorphosis’ continues at the National Gallery until 23rd September



A Friday Treat: ‘Our Girl Florence’ by early summer student Marie Naffah

Our Girl Florence, by Marie Naffah

There’s a girl I know called Florence,
Who on first impressions, seems shy
She carries her secrets till asked nicely
then throws them out to the sky.

She cries the Arno and cradles the streets,
Grabbing espressos to go,
Serving us bread that she never eats,
She’s watching her figure, young Flo.

She’s got friends who stay so close to her,
Like Siena, who lives next door,
They’ve known each other since childhood,
Maintaining a sturdy rapport.

She’s a fan of poetry, a fan of the culture-
A sucker for all types of art,
She’ll lose herself in piazzas,
And David- don’t let her start.

She’s getting old, our girl Florence,
But they say that beauty will come with age,
She writes her own stories, our Florence
-She let me write my own page.

As I turn my back on this wonderful girl,
It shall never fully be turned,
For she taught me a thing, or two, or three,
In the lessons that I have learned.

So we’ll meet for cappucini before midday,
When I’m older and I’m going grey.
But for now all that I have to say is:

It’s been a pleasure to meet you, Miss Florence.





Fashion’s Transcontinental Journey: past AHA student Caz St Quinton blogging from Shanghai where she’s working for the summer

Fashion is always changing. The history of fashion is a history of changes in colours, shapes or campaigns. Amid all this chaos there has always been one constant in the last few decades, namely that its epicentre has been the West. However, it seems even this constant could fall victim to change.

With Valentino being sold to the Qatar royal family for £556 million and the front rows at this years Paris Fashion Week being sprinkled with Asian investors, whispers of fashion moving East are echoing around the West.

Even Louis Vuitton, one of the world’s leading fashion houses, has succumbed to the Eastern promise. Louis Vuitton shocked Paris Fashion Week when designer Marc Jacobs steamed the models on to the catwalk abroad an £8 million train in a show that celebrated the art of travel. A rather brave move considering some of the fashion world were still in shock from their nine hour delay on the Eurostar!

The Louis Vuitton Train in Paris

After reminding Paris to see beauty not just in the destination, but also the journey, the Louis Vuitton Express has come all the way to Shanghai and rolled into their show on 19th July. This was in celebration of the brand opening its first Maison in Shanghai’s desirable Plaza 66 on 21st July.

The show celebrated the romantic golden age of train travel. When passengers dressed beautifully and weighed down trailing porters with their leather luggage. Louis Vuitton showed Shanghai a ghostly silhouette of another time. One that seems even more faint viewed from these distant lands.

The train is being used for Louis Vuitton's new campaign

Louis Vuitton transported a photographer known as ‘the Selby’ to document the trip from Paris to Shanghai with videos, photos and paintings.

One of the Selby's paintings while on his journey

This creative partnership records the transcontinental journey from Europe to Asia with a short film clip from each of the twelve days of the journey to build up anticipation for their arrival in Shanghai. The Selby is filmed leaning out of windows photographing cities, passing trains and deserts at dawn, always conveniently surrounded by piles of Louis Vuitton trunks containing his art materials.

The Selby's journey

The success of the Shanghai show has left people questioning; who else will follow in Louis Vuitton’s tracks from West to East?