A short 5 minute walk from Highbury & Islington station will bring you to this hidden gem of a gallery; a Grade II listed Georgian building housing a fantastic specialist collection – the only gallery in Britain devoted to Italian modern art.
Eric Estorick (1913-93) was an american writer and political scientist who began collecting works of modern when he settled in England after the Second World War. His discovering Umberto Boccioni’s 1914 book Futurist Painting and Sculpture marked the beginning of his passion for Italian art, which gave rise to this world renowned collection. It has been displayed in major exhibitions around the world including one in the Tate Gallery in the 1956, and in 1994 was moved to its current home in Canonbury Square, Islington.
The refurbished interior of the beautiful Georgian townhouse creates a enchantingly domestic and intimate space for the display of the artworks, which hang in 6 different rooms across 3 floors – there were only 2 other visitors when I was there this week and it felt like I had been privileged with a private viewing of someone’s personal collection.
A great variation of artworks and movements is represented in the collection, including works of impressionism, surrealism, cubism, and futurism, as well as sculpture and a series of sketches, lithographs, and etchings. Including works by Modigliani, de Chirico and Boccioni, it is a diverse and lively collection that offers a taste of what it meant to be producing art in Italy in the first half of the 20th Century.
The gallery’s best known, and perhaps most striking , works come from the Futurist movement. One of my favourite pieces is in this group: Giacomo Balla’s 1912 Hand of the Violinist, a captivating painting, which captures light effects to create an impression of rapid movement.
The Estorick also hosts temporary exhibitions alongside it’s permanent collection. Currently on display is Giorgio Morandi Lines of Poetry,which features a large number of the artist’s prints depicting rural Italian landscapes, as well as a series of exquisite still life etchings of everyday objects, which Morandi brings to life through his slow and delicate labour.
Also being shown is the exhibition Nino Migliori Imagined Landscapes, a small collection of pieces by the Italian post-war photographer, which includes a series of large-scale reworked polaroids depicting emotive landscapes of the Italian village of Grizzana.
A trip to the Estorick is a fabulous way to spend a free hour or two in London. It hosts a superb and unique collection of art, is tucked away from any crowds of tourists, and has a sweet little cafe (and a lovely courtyard that looks like a great place to meet when the sun comes out)! Plus it is free entry for students, so there’s no reason to not pay a visit.
Nearest Station: Highbury & Islington (Victoria Line, Overground)
Entry (includes temp. exhibitions) : Adults – £5, Cons – £3.50, Students with valid ID – Free