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myleslea

Jonathan Myles-Lea. British artist and photographer. "Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort" John Ruskin.

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Topiary at Sir Roy Strong’s Laskett Gardens at night. at The Laskett Gardens

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Here’s that view again of the Duomo in Florence from the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata. As I lie in bed in wintery England I’m reminiscing about my Italian journey this autumn. at Piazza della Santissima Annunziata

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A view from my seven week trip through Italy this Autumn. The courtyard at Palazzo Pitti in Florence with the Boboli Gardens beyond. What a vista! The palace was the main headquarters of the Medici, the grand dukes of Tuscany. Just look at that heavily rusticated masonry!! The Boboli Gardens are some of the earliest 16th-century Italian formal gardens. They incorporate long axial paths and vistas, wide avenues and a plethora of stone structures, statuary and fountains. at Pitti Palace, Boboli Gardens, Florence Italy

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The Rape of Polyxena’ 1866 by Pio Fedi (1815–1892) in the Loggia dei Lanzi in the Piazza della Republica in Florence. Isn’t it sobering to think that men were able to create this extraordinary masterpieces full of dynamism in stone just 150 years ago? Just imagine what their minds must have been like? Agile, optimistic and versatile! When Modernist theories came along in the early 20th century, a cloak of suspicion was thrown over beauty and a cult was made of nihilism and ugliness. Modernist architectural theorists demanded that form must express function (Bauhaus & Corbusier), and before we knew it, we were quickly surrounded by monstrosities which, we were told by academics and the media, were “relevant” and “honest”. I dream of a period of ‘Inverse Iconoclasm’ during which all buildings erected in the ‘Brutalist’ style, (such as the Barbican and The National Theatre’ in London), are enthusiastically demolished. I imagine priests sprinkling holy water onto heavy steel wrecking balls which pound into walls and any sculptures by Elizabeth Frink. Lynn Chadwick or Kenneth Armitage. at Florence, Italy

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‘The Villa Malta in Rome, 1860s by Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896). Leighton was a huge admirer of Corot, who had created oil sketches in this style a few decades earlier. Leighton collected Corot’s work and you can see some excellent contemporary recreations of these at his former home/studio in Holland Park, West London. at National Gallery

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Another stunning detail of ‘Still Life with Lemons in a Basket’ 1643-49, by Juan de Zurbarán (1620-1649). An exciting new acquisition by the National Gallery in London. at National Gallery

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Portrait of William Style of Langley, 1636 by an unknown artist. William Style (1599 -1579) was a barrister. In 1640 he published a translation from the Latin of a devotional handbook by the Nuremberg humanist and theologian Johann Michael Dilherr, entitled ‘Contemplations, Sighes and Groanes of a Christian’. Many features in this portrait closely echo Dilherr's text. It may have even been painted while Style was working on his translation - his preface is dated 'From my chamber in the Inner Temple August 20 1639', and the date '1636' over the archway in the painting could commemorate the year of Style's entrance into a new understanding of religious life at that time. It was this which led him to embark upon the translation. His text is an exhortation in very elaborate language to abandon worldly vanities for a more Christian life. In it he uses the garden as an analogue for the church. In accord with these sentiments Style, in this painting, turns his back on his worldly possessions, starting with his coat-of-arms set in the window, top left, reinforced with the Latin motto underneath 'vix ea nostra voco' ('I scarcely call these things my own'). In further echoes of Dilherr's text, Style also turns away from his books and writing, his outer garments and a chair, and from worldly music in the shape of a small violin of the type used by dancing-masters. Behind him is the classical archway which makes no sense architecturally, but perhaps represents the entrance to the garden of the Church, a metaphor particularly common in Catholic literature. The garden is protected by a green hedge from the mountainous wilderness beyond. The latter is dominated by an antique ruin, symbolising, perhaps, the pagan world. (The painting is owned by the Tate in London).

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Sir Roy Strong in his Belvedere at The Laskett Gardens in Herefordshire. (The largest formal gardens to be planted in Britain since 1945). at The Laskett Gardens

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A frosty morning at Sir Roy Strong’s Laskett Gardens in Herefordshire.

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A frosty morning at Sir Roy Strong’s Laskett Gardens in Herefordshire.

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A nice pair of lemons painted by Juan de Zurbarán (1620-1649). Detail of a spectacular new acquisition by the National Gallery in London. at National Gallery

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Returning to Narnia... at Euston railway station

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The silvery light created by Orazio Gentileschi is heavenly. He painted ‘The Finding of Moses’ in the 1630s and you’ll remember this huge and stupendously gorgeous canvas from the exhibition: ‘Charles I ~ King and Collector’ at the RA. Gentileschi has used a group of rather plump women with heavy limbs and strong jowels as his models, yet he has transformed them in this staggeringly beautiful composition! The rhythms of the drapery and the gestures of the hands and arms are mesmerising! at National Gallery

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Detail of ‘Still Life with Lemons in a Basket’ 1643-9 by Juan de Zurbarán. A new acquisition at the NG. at National Gallery

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Velazquez’s masterful portrait of Philip IV of Spain in Brown and Silver from 1631. In the background; ‘Elijah fed by Ravens’ 1620, by the mighty Guernico (1591-1666). Two towering genius painters. I love to use the word “genius” as it’s been practically banned by the Postmodernist professors ;-) The glory of the western tradition is breathtaking. It seems to shine out all the more brightly, as European Civilisation, slowly but surely, sinks to its knees. at National Gallery

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‘The Triumph of Pan’ 1636 by Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665). What an orgy! The figures writhe across the canvas as though they’re floating on the surface of a river. Such a relief from the death and misery one sees in depictions of most biblical stories. No martyred or scourged saints here. No, no. Just priapic youths and sex-hungry goddesses. Here, the wine is not blood, to be sipped in silent piety ~ it’s nectar of the gods to be guzzled! at National Gallery

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