‘Without Hands’: The Art of Sarah Biffin

Until 21st December at Philip Mould & Company, London

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A remarkably talented miniaturist, Sarah Biffin (1784–1850) came from a working-class family in Somerset and yet rose to fame in the 19th century, undertaking commissions for royalty and the aristocracy. Born with the condition ‘phocomelia’ – described on her baptism record as ‘born without arms and legs’ – she grew up in her childhood home where she learnt to write, sew and use scissors.

As a teenager she was contracted to Emmanuel Dukes, a travelling showman, who exhibited her as the ‘Eighth Wonder’. People who came to see her left with a sample of her neat handwriting, which was included in the cost of the ticket. In her mid-twenties she was under the tutelage of miniature painter William Marshall Craig, some of whose works are in the Royal Academy’s collection, and from 1816 she set herself up as an independent artist, travelling the length and breadth of the UK, before settling in Liverpool.

In this exhibition, you’ll be able to admire around 25 works showcasing Biffin’s artistic achievements. Alongside a series of self-portraits (she created many throughout her life, one of which is pictured here), will be commissioned portraits, still-lifes, posters from Dukes’ travelling show, samples of her writing, and letters written by Biffin and signed ‘written by Sarah Biffin without hands’.

‘Biffin’s life and achievements came as an increasing surprise to me the more we discovered,’ says gallery owner Philip Mould. ‘She not only transcended her challenges but held her own in a crowded marketplace – ranking, amongst others, Queen Victoria as her patron. She was prolific in her day, and I’m confident that more of her works will turn up.’

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Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life

Until 1st May 2023 at Tate St Ives

Encompassing almost 50 sculptures, rarely seen drawings, paintings and archival material, this new exhibition will celebrate one of the most influential sculptors of the 20th century, while shining a light on the significance that St Ives had on her work. This show was originally staged at The Hepworth Wakefield, near the artist’s birthplace, and Tate St Ives has collaborated with the gallery to reimagine the exhibition within a Cornish context.

Local connections are revealed in the titles of many of Hepworth’s key works, such as Curved Form (Trevalgan), 1956, and Sea Form (Porthmeor), 1958. Visitors will follow Hepworth’s early artistic journey from her studies at Leeds School of Art, to travels across Europe, her life in London in the 1930s when she started a family, followed by her years in St Ives. You’ll also be treated to glimpses of her forays into stage design and her interest in the movement of the body, as well as her adoption of bronze in response to the landscape.

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Visions of Ancient Egypt

Until 1st January 2023 (Supported by Viking) at The Sainsbury Centre

This new exhibition at The Sainsbury Centre in Norwich coincides with the anniversaries of two key events: the bicentenary of Jean-François Champollion’s deciphering of hieroglyphs, and the centenary of Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. ‘Visions of Ancient Egypt’ opens with the spotlight trained on Cleopatra and as an audience we are encouraged to explore how her image and identity have been reinterpreted, from temptress to scholar to Hollywood icon.

This will be followed by an outline of Roman interactions with ancient Egypt and how Egyptian motifs made a deep impression on artists such as Piranesi and Wedgwood. Over 150 works – from the worlds of painting, sculpture, writing, fashion, architecture, photography, film and installation art – will be on display, gathered from collections across the UK and internationally.

Artists as wide-ranging as Joshua Reynolds, Hector Horeau, Lawrence AlmaTadema, David Hockney, Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon will have their work showcased alongside pieces by modern and contemporary Egyptian artists, rarely exhibited in Britain.

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Elisabeth Frink: Strength & Sensuality

Until 8th January 2023 at The Holburne Museum, Bath

Featuring themes such as storytelling, animals, humour and violence, this exciting exhibition has been arranged to celebrate an acquisition of bronzes and works on paper by sculptor Dame Elisabeth Frink (1930–1993). In 2019, the Holburne Museum received a bequest from Frink’s estate of 35 objects and artworks including sculptures, drawings, etchings and screen prints.

A selection of these works will be on display, some of which depict Frink’s unique take on Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and classical mythology in her Children of the Gods series of etchings. ‘Children of the Gods was a volume of Greek myths by Kenneth McLeish (1940–1997) and illustrated by Frink,’ explains Chris Stephens, director of the Holburne. ’The works are brimming with energy and movement, as humans and immortals share the same space. Both combine humour with tensions between vulnerability and brutality, life and death.’

As part of the Holburne’s partnership with universities in the area and a commitment to helping people develop a career in the arts, this exhibition has been devised in collaboration with Bath Spa university student Harriet Rhodes. ‘Working on the Elisabeth Frink exhibition has given me a new perspective on the intricacies and hard work that go into organising an exhibition,’ says Harriet. ‘I am extremely thankful to have worked with some extraordinary and rare pieces of contemporary art.’

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The Legend of King Arthur: A Pre-Raphaelite Love Story

Until 22nd January 2023 at William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow

William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones read Arthurian stories obsessively while studying at Oxford University in 1855; legends that informed Morris’s earliest poetry as well as the murals he and Burne-Jones painted for the Oxford Union Library in 1857. This exhibition explores a period of reawakened interest in medievalism in Victorian England, not just by Morris but also by poets such as Walter Scott and Alfred Tennyson, and later by artists including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Arthur Hughes and John William Waterhouse.

Many of the Pre-Raphaelites repeatedly returned to the legend as a source of inspiration, and on display will be a range of works including drawings, paintings and tapestries that demonstrate this enduring fascination. Works by lesser-known female Pre-Raphaelite artists, Evelyn De Morgan and Lizzie Siddal, will also be shown, accompanied by a specially commissioned installation by artist Joy Gregory.

Curated by Natalie Rigby, collections manager at Falmouth Art Gallery, this is the exhibition’s first stop – it will also visit Tullie House, Carlisle, in February 2023, before finishing its run at Falmouth Art Gallery in Cornwall in June 2023.

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Majolica Mania: Transatlantic Pottery in England and the United States, 1850-1915

Until 29th January 2023 at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

In the first major examination of majolica in nearly four decades, this exciting show explores the incredible range of the popular glazed earthenware made by a variety of British and American potteries.

Majolica ware was first introduced by Minton & Co at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and was a pretty instant hit, thanks to its vibrant colours and because it tapped into Victorian interests: the natural world, new foods and popular culture.

This exhibition, which has travelled from the Bard Graduate Center Gallery in New York and is only appearing at one location in the UK, features significant pieces from private collections in the United States as well as the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery’s own collections.

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Cezanne

Until 12th March 2023 at Tate Modern

Tate Modern’s EY Exhibition tells the story of Paul Cezanne’s extraordinary development, from early works made in his twenties through to those completed in his final months. Bringing together around 80 works from collections in Europe, Asia, North and South America, UK audiences have an incredible opportunity to explore the breadth of Cezanne’s career, from Provençale landscapes and still-life paintings, to his portraits and bathing scenes.

Over 20 of these works have never been seen in the UK before, including The Basket of Apples, c1893, on loan from The Art Institute of Chicago. Highlights include a room of paintings depicting the mountain Sainte-Victoire, charting the evolution of his style through this single motif, while another gallery will showcase several magnificent examples of Cezanne’s bather paintings.

Also in the spotlight are certain relationships central to Cezanne’s life, particularly his wife Marie-Hortense Fiquet and their son Paul, as well as childhood friend Émile Zola, and peers including Monet and Pissarro, who were among the first to appreciate his unique vision.

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Caragh Thuring

Until 12th March 2023 at Hastings Contemporary

Born in Brussels in 1972, Caragh Thuring grew up in Scotland near to the Holy Loch – site of the renowned Cold War US nuclear submarine base, and also the construction site for the first concrete North Sea oil rigs. This clash of nature and industry has had a lasting influence on the artist – looming submarine silhouettes, vast industrial structures and landscapes frequently appear throughout her work.

In her first UK exhibition in six years, more than 20 of Thuring’s paintings, drawings and monotypes, created over the last 15 years, will be on show, including recent works for which Thuring has commissioned bespoke cloth from silk weavers in Suffolk to use as her canvas.

Hastings Contemporary director, Liz Gilmore, says: ‘Hastings Contemporary aims to champion the very best in contemporary art, particularly painting; so the work of the important mid-career artist Caragh Thuring is a perfect fit for our 10th anniversary year. Thuring’s work is fluid, intuitive, instinctual. An exhibition of this nature, in our eco seafront gallery, consuming all our ground floor galleries, will have dramatic impact yet also a strong resonance in Hastings and indeed nationally.’

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Althea McNish: Colour is Mine

Until 23rd April 2023 at The Whitworth, Manchester

On tour from the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, this exhibition celebrates Althea McNish’s extraordinary career as a textile artist and her transformative impact on mid-century design. McNish (1924–2020) was the first Caribbean designer to achieve international recognition and one of the most innovative textile creators in the UK.

In this show, visitors will be able to admire the Whitworth’s unparalleled collection of fabrics and wallpapers designed by McNish and on display together for the first time, alongside unseen works from the McNish Family Archive.

Also featured will be works by McNish’s friends and contemporaries, including fellow member of Trinidad Art Society Sybil Atteck, and tutors Edward Bawden and Eduardo Paolozzi, alongside contemporary designers Barbara Brown and Shirley Craven, fellow members of the Caribbean Artist Movement Ronald Moody and Winston Branch and protégé Leslee Wills.

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Hallyu! The Korean Wave

Until 25th June 2023 at the V&A Museum

The first tides of hallyu or ‘Korean Wave’ rippled across Asia in the late 1990s before becoming a worldwide phenomenon that challenges the currents of global pop culture today. ‘Hallyu! The Korean Wave’ at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is the first exhibition of its kind to showcase the colourful and dynamic popular culture of South Korea. The exhibition will explore the makings of the Korean Wave and its impact on the creative industries of cinema, drama, music, fandom, beauty and fashion.

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