Must-see summer exhibitions


The British summer is here. Before you pack your raincoat
and prepare for blustery bank holidays, don’t forget the wealth of art and culture
all across the UK. I’ve chosen five of the very best
new exhibitions to whet your appetite. Buried for more than 1,000 years
beneath the Mediterranean, two lost Egyptian cities
are spectacularly resurrected for an exhibition at the British Museum with more than 200 objects excavated
from the seas off the Alexandrian coast. An array of objects large and small, from metalware and jewellery
to monumental granite sculptures reveal how close the ties were
between Ancient Egypt and Greece. They give us astonishing insights
into daily life, trade, religion and belief from Egypt’s lost worlds. At Pallant House in Chichester,
the British artist Christopher Wood is given a retrospective,
charting his visionary work of the 1920s. A turbulent artist
who was addicted to opium and died at the age of just 29, Wood developed an unsophisticated style
that looks bold and fresh today, inspired by Cornish artist Alfred Wallis,
as well as modernist painters like Picasso. “A genius — one of the outstanding painters
of her generation.” So said the critics of Winifred Knights,
the Slade School educated painter who became the first woman
to win the prestigious Painting Prize at the British School at Rome. Knights’ years in Italy in the early 1920s
were a powerful force in her work. Her love of early Italian frescoes
would inspire her distinctively detailed and vivid style. Her work was also deeply autobiographical, often featuring her own image
and those of close friends, and reinterpreting for the modern age
female figures from religious scenes, legends and fairy tales. It’s not often
that you see the work of an artist whose hand was guided by spirits
and angels. The Victorian medium, Georgiana Houghton, claimed that was exactly
how she made her mysterious watercolours. Her richly patterned, abstract compositions were intended to be faithful visualisations
of the spirit world, designed to inspire divine awe
in their viewers. The Courtauld Gallery in London presents
a unique opportunity to view Houghton’s strange,
almost psychedelic works. The last of my top shows focuses
on a more familiar female artist, the American painter Georgia O’Keeffe. For many years in the shadow of her husband,
photographer Alfred Stieglitz, O’Keeffe is now recognised as one of
the founding figures of American modernism. If you think you know her flower paintings,
prepare yourself for some surprises. The show includes her cityscapes,
skull paintings and the dramatic desert landscapes that
she painted around her home in New Mexico. For more on these exhibitions,
as well as many others all across the UK, just head to the Art Fund’s website.

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