The LOTS ROAD GROUP: THE ART of READING
The exhibition – a celebration of the pleasure of reading – runs from 3-30 November in an area associated with the influential Bloomsbury Group of English writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists.
The portraits are of people spanning different categories of the written word. They include children’s authors such as Michael Bond, creator of Paddington Bear, and Julian Warrender, teen authors Natasha Farrant and Philip Womack, and novelist and poet Julia Bell. It also portrays academics in the field of literature, such as literary critic Professor Dame Gillian Beer as well as literary agent of the Year 2014 Caroline Dawnay, as well as relatives and friends of the artists. There’s even a portrait of an unknown sitter on instagram!
Accompanying words, taken from the catalogue, provide a fascinating insight into the reading habits of those portrayed – from those who prefer the “tactile” rather than the electronic experience of reading physical books – including braille. Many reveal their ‘Desert Island’ reads, from the practical (a book on boat building: Michael Bond) and the all encompassing (Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale: Dame Gllian Beer; Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’: Natasha Farrant) to the hopeful (Julie Donaldson, author of ‘The Gruffalo’, who chose, ‘Poem for the day one’, “This book contains 365 poems. I’d try to learn one a day until I was rescued.”
In addition, Michael Bond, portrayed with the artist Hero Johnson’s childhood copy of his book ‘The tales of Olga da Polga’, revealed that he still has the eponymous guinea pig’s successors! And, referencing A A Milne’s most famous creation, ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’, Artist Sarah Reynolds posed her granddaughter lying down under a tree with one leg in the air, just like a famous illustration of Christopher Robin by E.H. Shepard, who, like the Lots Road Group, studied at The Heatherley School of Fine Art in Lots Road, Chelsea.
Hilary Puxley, leading this year’s exhibition for the Lots Road Group, said, “This is the third Lots Road Group annual exhibition and this year we’ve taken the idea of the sitter reading – a perennial theme throughout the history of portraiture – as our subject . Our exhibition brings the theme up-to-date, giving an insight into the ways in which people of all ages derive pleasure from reading now.
Alla Broeksmit is one of the groups’ members displaying her sitter entitled, Dade Hayes.
“My sitter is my brother-in-law, Dade Hayes,” says A.Broeksmit. “He is the author of two narrative non-fiction books about entertainment, ‘Open Wide’ and ‘Anytime Playdate,’ and is working on a critical history of the television network HBO. Dade is the editor of Broadcasting & Cable, a television business magazine. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Entertainment Weekly.”
Heatherley’s is one of the oldest independent art colleges in London and one of the few in Britain that focuses purely on portraiture, figurative painting and sculpture. The 15 portraits, executed in oils, featured in the exhibition, show the acute powers of observation and attention to detail the institution, now in its 176th year, instilled into the Lots Road Group.
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