Art Chronicles: My Estorick Day Out

The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art is one of my favourite small galleries in London, easy to reach via public transport, rarely over-crowded, and with a very nice Italian café. https://www.estorickcollection.com

Their current show features all of the hundred-plus pieces in the collection – paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings – which was started by Eric & Salome Estorick in the period after WW2 and housed, as now, in a Georgian house off Canonbury Square in north London. Unsurprisingly heavy on Futurism, it features work by, amongst others perhaps less well-known, de Chirico, Modigliani and Morandi.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The overground train from Gospel Oak [80% masked, all socially distanced] got me to Highbury & Islington well before the gallery’s 11.00 a.m. opening and I remembered a rather nice coffee shop a short distance along Upper Street that I was introduced to by the writer John Williams – Benita Bakery. https://www.benitabakery.co.uk Rather nice being something of an understatement. The coffee was excellent as was the home-baked pain au raisin, the staff efficient and friendly, and I sat comfortably for twenty minutes or so, re-reading yet again Peter Temple’s excellent Truth.

Once the Estorick was open and I could begin to work my way through its galleries, I remembered that one of my greatest pleasures whenever I visit [yes, all right, apart from the café] is the interior of the building itself along with its furniture.

Of the work on display, if I had to choose one piece that was outstanding it would be Medardo Rosso’s 1895 sculpture, Woman with a Veil.

Made from melted wax over plaster, the woman’s face slowly emerges from beneath her veiled hat, as the note from MoMA, its usual home, suggests, “extending outwards to suggest the air and space around her” in the “dusty, bustling streets of nineteenth-century Paris.”

Also impressive were a series of small ‘still life’ sculptures, made by the artist Paul Coldwell during the recent lockdown, in dialogue with the etchings and drawings of Giorgio Morandi.

Beautiful work!

All in all, a really enjoyable visit, rounded off by lunch in the café, ‘home made’ tortellini followed by an truly excellent espresso – strong but not in the least degree bitter. Just the right accompaniment for a few more chapters of Peter Temple – a man who knew his coffee and so much else besides.

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