Saturday, July 09, 2011

Three Centenary Exhibitions

Mervyn Peake was born 100 years ago today in China. Among the many centenary events there have been three exhibitions this week, each showing a remarkably different aspect of his work.

The exhibition at the British Library celebrates the acquisition of the Gormenghast and poetry manuscripts, the originals for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and a great deal of correspondence and other relevant documents and photographs. Beautifully displayed in the Folio Society Gallery, here you can also see photographs taken by Peake's father when he arrived in China, poetry both harrowing and amusing, and a presentation of Peake's playful work on a "line". It's marvellous to see his work in this most august of settings and to witness the wholehearted enthusiasm of the British Library for Peake's work. The photograph shows Sebastian Peake, Jon Fawcett (British Library Exhbitions Organiser) and Brian Sibley standing in front of the Alice display.

The National Archives at Kew brought out from their collection eighteen of the twenty-five extraordinary 'Hitler drawings'. Sebastian Peake gave a talk about his father's life to members of the Friends of the National Archive and all present were fascinated by both the talk and the work on show. Conceived in 1941, they show a suggested portfolio of work as if produced by Hitler himself. Prophetic in the extreme, the titles such as Family Group, Landscape with Figures and Still Life on a Table take on a hideous new perspective which, of course, materialised in reality by 1945.

This afternoon, an exhibition of original paintings and drawings by both Mervyn Peake and Maeve Gilmore opens at the Victor Wynd Gallery in Hackney. Primarily Maeve Gilmore's work, it will be a chance for people to see, for the first time in many years, the work of this talented artist whose loyalty and hard work sustained her husband in so many different ways. Also to celebrate the publication of her own book, Titus Awakes, a very personal account of her own view of Titus's homecoming.

Alison Eldred


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