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Sandro Botticelli - The Birth of Venus

Artist in Profile (Aug ’15): Sandro Botticelli

Sandro Botticelli

Sandro Botticelli - Self Portrait

Sandro Botticelli – Self Portrait

Sandro Botticelli was born in Florence in 1445. There are very few details known about Botticelli’s early life but what is known is that he was apprenticed when he was 14 years old to Fra Filippo Lippi with many works of his early career attributed to his master. Botticelli’s brother Antonio trained him as a goldsmith before that and as a result of his apprenticeship; it is likely he received a better education than other Renaissance artists.

Sandro Botticelli was a draughtsman and painter and in the course of his life time became one of the most revered and acclaimed painters in Italy. He was summoned to assist in the decoration of the Sistine Chapel thus earning patronage from the prominent families of the time, including the famed Medici family.

Early Years

Aged 15 years, Botticelli set up his solo workshop and developed his distinctive style of painting and drawing. His style included Neo Platonism and his following of this philosophy ensured his appeal to many tastes across the spectrum of art lovers including both paganism and Christianity in his work.

Fame and Fortune

The high point for Botticelli both financially and artistically was attained during his middle age where as a result of the Medici family patronage; he had fame, money and contacts. The influence of the Medicis increased the notoriety of Botticelli and he was asked to travel to Rome by the Papacy to paint parts of the Sistine Chapel. This accolade proves the worth of Botticelli’s skill and artistry as only the cream of Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo and Perugino were invited to contribute to the process.


Sandro Botticelli came under the influence of a monk named Savonarola who encouraged the burning of works of art and paintings considered heretic. This caused Botticelli to destroy many of his art works which are lost to the world. Despite his adherence to Savonarola’s influence, when the eventual downfall of the monk came, Botticelli was unscathed by his association remaining in Florence continuing as an emerging and popular painter of altarpieces. Despite this success, Botticelli was struggling to stay abreast of the dramatic changes that were occurring in the art world around him. With the arrival of such luminaries as Leonardo Di Vinci, Botticelli’s work was edged out of the spotlight of patrons and critics.

This total eclipse of Botticelli’s work by the High Renaissance style meant his name virtually disappeared as works by his peers were lauded in the Vatican. It was not until his work garnered reassessment in the 1890s that Botticelli is again revered as a Renaissance painter of remarkable skill and talent.

Some of Botticelli’s most famous works such as “La Primavera” and the “Birth of Venus” were created for the domain of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de Medici – Lorenzo the Magnificent. It is believed that both of these pieces were designed with the assistance of a scholar.

Final Years

Sadly, Botticelli became disabled during later years, and failed to get more painting commissions. During this time it is believed he worked on his sketches of Dante’s Divine Comedy although they were never completed.
Sandro Botticelli was 65 years old when he died and accounts from the time indicate he was poor and considered unaccomplished. He was not married and his views on marriage expressed a dislike for the prospect, in fact he said the idea of marriage gave him nightmares. There were claims he preferred male company, but the general view is that suffered unrequited love for a married noblewoman Simonetta Vespucci. It is believed Simonetta modelled for “The Birth of Venus” and she recurs throughout Botticelli’s paintings.

Sandro Boticelli’s death wish was to be buried at the feet of Simonetta who had died years in advance of him and his wish was carried out in accordance in 1510, 34 years after her death. They remain together at the Church of Ognissanti In Florence.

His passing went virtually unnoticed at his death. It is quite unbelievable that Botticelli’s paintings lay forgotten for hundreds of years until the Pre Raphaelites discovered him lauding him as a genius of Renaissance art. Sandro Botticelli today has the distinction finally as a major contributor to the Renaissance period.

Sandro Botticelli - The Birth of Venus

Sandro Botticelli – The Birth of Venus

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The Confluence of the Thames and the Medway by JMW Turner

Mr Turner

Have you been to see the film Mr. Turner yet? The biographical drama focuses on the final 25 years of the life of J M W Turner – the great British artist whom we profiled back in December 2013.

Turner is played by Timothy Spall, who won best actor at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for his performance.

The film is written and directed by Mike Leigh who said “I felt there was scope for a film examining the tension between this very mortal, flawed individual, and the epic work, the spiritual way he had of distilling the world”, whilst describing Turner as a “a great artist: a radical, revolutionary painter”.

If you haven’t seen the film yet do go and see it while it’s still showing at the cinema. And if you would like to read a little more about Turner then do click the link to read our ‘Artist in Profile’ article on him.

The exhibition ‘Late Turner‘ which also focuses on the latter end of Turner’s life is still showing at the Tate Britain so if you get a chance do go and see that as well.

The Confluence of the Thames and the Medway by JMW Turner

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Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds

Artist in Profile (July ’14): Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei

As one of China’s foremost contemporary artists, Ai Weiwei acted as artistic design consultant when working with Herzog and de Meuron the Swiss architecture firm that designed “The Bird’s Nest”, Beijing’s National Stadium. He also assisted in establishing a village for experimental artists in Beijing called “East Village”. Since his consultancy role he has distanced himself from the Chinese state and the Olympic Games refusing to attend the opening ceremony. He has become an outspoken advocate for Chinese political reform.

Born in 1957, Ai Weiwei is a renowned cultural figure who works and resides in Beijing. He is a sculptor, conceptual artist and curator. In 1978 he became involved with the Beijing Film Academy and joined the artist group “Stars” who refused clearly to produce Chinese art in accordance with government guidelines. The international attention to the first exhibition of this group which was completely unofficial was immense. The exhibition was shown by a fence of the National Gallery in Beijing.

Bird's Nest National Stadium

Bird’s Nest National Stadium – photo by Dmitry P, licensed under CC BY 2.0

From 1981 to 1993, Ai lived in New York from 1981 to 1993 focussing on performance and conceptual art work. He was influenced by the work of Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol and Marcel Duchamp and graduated at this time from the Parsons School of Design. Ai also collected old furniture parts, Chinese ceramics and building objects that he gleaned from his visit back to China in 1991 and utilised these materials in his work in a new context.

In 2011, Ai was arrested on tax evasion charges. This caused a tidal wave of international protest. A few months after his arrest he was granted bail on strict conditions. During this same year, Ai was included in the list of Time magazine’s top 100 influential people in the world.

Early Life

Circle of Animals by Ai Weiwei

Circle of Animals – photo by Wilson Rivera, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Ai Weiwei is the son of Chinese poet Ai Qing also quite politically active. The entire family was sent to a labour camp when Ai Qing was denounced during the Anti-Rightist Movement. This was in 1958 when Ai was a year old. In 1961 they were exiled to Shihezi, Xinjiang and lived there for 16 years. Following the Cultural Revolution the family returned to Beijing in 1976.


Ai infuses his photos, sculptures, and public artworks with personal poetry and political conviction making use of historic Chinese art forms critically examining contemporary Chinese political and social issues. His sculptural works often use reclaimed materials such as ancient wood and pottery from ruined temples a concept that connects modern social concerns with tradition.

Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds

Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds – photo by Simon Doggett, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Ai is also a film maker, writer and curator. His practice extends across many disciplines and via social media to communicate globally with the public and also to engage with fellow artists on massive scale projects.

His more famous art work includes Coca Cola Vase, Sunflower Seeds, Circle of Animals, Template and Remembering.


In October 2012, Ai went live with a cover of Gangnam Style by famous K-pop rapper PSY. The four-minute parody video on YouTube attempted to criticise the Chinese government’s attempt to silence his activism and was quickly blocked by national authorities.

Ai Weiwei also debuted his first single Dumbass via the internet. The music video reconstructed Ai Weiwei’s prison experience diving in and out of reality. More singles followed debuting on You Tube.

This complex artist merges political activism with mainstream and avant-garde artwork including digital presentations, documentaries and music.

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Cheltenham Art Gallery

Fred Deakin at The Wilson

Cheltenham Art Gallery

‘Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum’ by Elliot Brown, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Great news for our friends over at The Wilson (formerly Cheltenham Art Gallery) who have won the Connect10 vote for Museums at Night to bring Fred Deakin (ex-Lemon Jelly) over for a night of entertainment between May the 15th and 17th.

Meanwhile, former deepspaceworks ‘Artist in Profile’, Grayson Perry will be heading over to York as a result of the same competition.

Congratulations to The Wilson … We’re looking forward to seeing Fred Deakin in Cheltenham 🙂

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Shell Out Sounds' protest performance - Photo by Hugh Warwick

Congratulations to the Southbank Art Centre

Shell Out Sounds' protest performance - Photo by Hugh Warwick

Shell Out Sounds’ protest performance – Photo by Hugh Warwick

Our fellow art centre and indeed one of the world’s largest, the Southbank Centre in London has recently announced that it is ending its sponsorship relationship with Royal Dutch Shell.

Described by The Guardian Newspaper as ‘The most vibrant arts centre in the country’, The Southbank Centre’s concert halls and gallery space host thousands of musicians and artists performing to millions of visitors each year. It also offers art and activities to the general public and is one of the UK’s most popular cultural destinations.

However, the art centre had held a controversial sponsorship relationship with Shell who have been fiercely criticised for many environmental and human rights injustices.

There have been many protests held against Shell at the Southbank Centre in recent years, raising awareness of the Shell’s injustices. ‘Platform’, ‘London Rising Tide’ and ‘Shell Out Sounds’ have all carried out such protests with the latter giving an unauthorised choral performance from the choir seats just as a ‘Shell Classic Concert’ was about to begin in October 2013.

The following month 21 artists signed an open letter demanding that Southbank drop Shell as a sponsor.

This successful campaign was part of what is a now growing movement against oil sponsorship. Art Not Oil is an art group that are pushing to end the oil industry’s sponsorship of the arts.

The Southbank Centre’s decision makes a statement and is a lead that can now be followed by institutions in similar positions, including the Tate, the Science Museum and the Royal Opera House who currently hold similar relationships with companies such as BP and Shell.

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Platero & Other Puppets

Platero & Other Puppets: Puppets, Paintings, Prints by Pippa Mills. Dec 2013 – Jan 2014

“Platero & Other Puppets: Puppets, Paintings, Prints by Pippa Mills” runs throughout December 2013 through to the end of January 2014.

Best days to view are Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays between 9.30am and 3.30pm.

Platero & Other Puppets

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IMPRESS 13 Stone Litho at dsw

Impress 13 Stone Litho Exhibition – March 2013

Stone Litho

An Exhibition of Stone Lithographic Fine Art Prints and Artists’ Books

IMPRESS 13 Stone Litho at dswThe Gloucestershire Printmaking Co-operative (GPC) are a group of artists who are mostly in to printmaking (everything from screenprints to stone lithographs), that promote Fine Art Printmaking and encourage artists engaged in the medium.

As part of their Impress Festival 2013 where they collaborate with both artists and the public, there will be a Stone Litho exhibition at deepspacegallery from March 2nd – March 30th.

The exhibition features stone litho prints from Sue Drennen, Paul Croft, Jane Henriques, Lynda Turner, Cathy Mills, Simon Burder and many others.

Doors are open between 10am and 4pm, Tuesday-Saturdays between March 2nd-30th (free entry)

There will also be talks on March the 9th:
12:00-14:00 – Meet the Artists (FREE)
15:00-16:00 – A Talk on Stone Litho by Master Printer, Paul Croft (£8/£5)

The Impress 13 Festival extends to many venues across Gloucestershire. Please do check the GPC website for details of all event taking place.

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"100" - Community Horse Number 9

“100” – Community Horse No 9 – July-October 2011

"100" - Community Horse Number 9 reverseOn 7th July a 7 foot high moulded fibreglass horse based on a maquette made by local artist P.J. Crooks, arrived at deepspaceworks, primed and ready for painting…
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