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The X Factor 2015 Live Tour - line-up announced

Event preview

THE top eight acts taking to the stage on this year’s live arena tour are: Andrea Faustini, Ben Haenow, Fleur East, Jay James, Lauren Platt, Only The Young, Stevi Ritchie and Stereo Kicks.

Previously posted: Due to demand, four extra dates have been added to The X Factor 2015 Live Tour:

Thursday, February 19 – Bournemouth International Centre
Tuesday, March 10, Cardiff Motorpoint Arena
Tuesday, March 17 – Brighton Centre
Saturday, March 21 – London The O2 – Matinee show with doors opening at 12:30pm.

Tickets for the extra dates go onsale Friday, October 24 at 9am (all other shows onsale now).

Previously Posted: You’ve taken the journey with them from the room to the arena, sat on the edge of your sofa during the dramatic six-seat challenge at bootcamp, travelled to judges’ houses and will be tuning in to the studio shows; now is your chance to see The X Factor live.

Kicking off on February 13, 2015, in Belfast, The X Factor 2015 Live Tour is a country wide arena tour which will travel to Aberdeen, Bournemouth, Birmingham, Brighton, Cardiff, Dublin, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield with contestants performing classic songs and viewers’ favourites from the TV series.

Attended by over three million people, The X Factor Live Tour has been one of the most successful annual arena tours in the UK for the past ten years. Tickets go on sale Friday, October 10 at 9am – so don’t miss the opportunity to catch this year’s stars live in an arena near you.



Friday, February 13 – Belfast Odyssey Arena
Sunday, February 15 – 3 Arena Dublin
Wednesday, February 18 – Bournemouth BIC
Friday, February 20 – Manchester Arena
Sunday, February 22 – Nottingham Capital FM Arena
Thursday, February 26 – Newcastle Metro Arena
Friday, February 27 – Glasgow The SSE Hydro


Sunday, March 1 – Aberdeen GE Arena (AECC)
Thursday, March 5 – Sheffield Motorpoint Arena
Saturday, March 7 – Leeds First Direct Arena
Sunday, March 8 – Liverpool Echo Arena
Monday, March 9 – Cardiff Motorpoint Arena
Thursday, March 12 – London The SSE Arena, Wembley
Saturday, March 14 – Birmingham LG Arena
Monday, March 16 – Brighton Centre
Friday, March 20 – London The O2

Tickets: from £19.50 (subject to booking fee).

Tickets including limited availability Family Tickets (4 tickets maximum 2 adults) are available from the venue box offices, select ticket agents and online at or Alternatively, call 0844 811 0051 or 0844 826 2826.


Belfast: 0844 277 4455 or online at and Dublin: 0818 719 300 or online at

Anthony Lister: Hurt People - Hurt People at Lazarides

Anthony Lister: Hurt People - Hurt People

Exhibition preview

LAZARIDES Rathbone has announced a major new body of provocative work from Australian artist Anthony Lister.

Hurt People – Hurt People, on display from November 28 to December 20, 2014, presents a series of multi-faceted portraits saturated in celebrity and media obsessed disaster, continuing the artist’s distinguished superhero series featured in 2013’s Unslung Heroes.

The exhibition extends the artist’s exploration into the innate sense of chaos and false sense of security existing in modern society, distracting us from the current continuum of corruption and tragedy.

The Brisbane-born painter illustrates themes existing between high and low brow culture whilst questioning a society immersed in obtrusive media and poisonous lifestyles. Coining the term ‘adventure painting’ Lister’s large-scale canvases are hedonistic yet demure, constantly evolving stylistically whilst extending an impressionist approach to contemporary portraiture.

Dark undertones often cloud the artist’s seductive figures, constructed from a harmony of unapologetic brush strokes and bold colour palette. Loaded with authentic energy Lister animates his ominous characters within each composition, merging technical execution of old masters with free-hand spontaneity associated with his street art peers.

Having consistently exhibited throughout Europe, America and Australia, Lister’s return to London follows recent solo exhibitions in New York and Miami, turning the artist’s focus once more to the human form and cultural identity.

The nomadic artist’s latest high-profile commissions include: The Standard in New York City’s Meat Packing district, public mural’s in conjunction with Soho’s L.I.S.A project and a newly released artist book, Anthony Lister – Adventure Painter, “documenting Lister’s physical and intellectual travels as he’s explored themes ranging from flawed superheroes to characters portraying classical mythology’s pop equivalents.” – Roger Gastman through Ginko Press.

Hurt People – Hurt People promises to transcend categorisation, unleashing a body of work both within the gallery and off-site, responding to poignant contemporary issues with an unashamed idiosyncratic delivery.

Raised in a broken home in suburban Brisbane, Anthony Lister is today among the world’s most collectable urban artists. Introduced to art by his orphaned grandmother, Lister graduated from the Queensland College of Art in 2001 before moving to New York in 2003 to apprentice alongside his mentor, Max Gimblett.

With draughtsman skills likened to Australia’s Brett Whiteley and a creative output that exceeds most of his peers, the multi-disciplinary artist has participated in an impressive list of sell-out solo and group exhibitions spanning Europe, America and Australia.

In addition to a strong background in street art he employs a sophisticated painterly style, drawing inspiration from the works of Francis Bacon and Egon Schiele as well as popular youth culture and graffiti. High and low culture clash too in the content of his paintings, drawings and installations – boorish superheroes, flirtatious ballet dancers, bad-tempered old masters and imperious vamps raucously coexist at the party rapidly deteriorating inside Anthony Lister’s head.

His work can be found on the walls of everyone from Geoffrey Rush to Hugh Jackman, as well as recent acquisitions from Australia’s National Gallery. In 2010, Lister was named one of the top 50 collectable artists in Australia by Australian Art Collector and has recently undertaken an extensive research residency in Berlin. His work has been featured in numerous publications by Taschen, New York Times, Gestalten and Phaidon.

Times: Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to 7pm.

Lazarides Rathbone, 11 Rathbone Place, London, W1T 1HR


Also at Lazarides: Jonathan Yeo: The Print Retrospective, on display at Sea Containers on the Thames South Bank until December 20, 2014.

The Photographers 2014 - Osborne Samuel/Beetles+Huxley

Image courtesy of Beetles + Huxley and Osborne Samuel.

Exhibition preview

THE Photographers 2014, a collaborative exhibition between Beetles+Huxley and Osborne Samuel is on display until December 23, 2014.

This major exhibition, which celebrates the variety and influence of photography through the ages, crosses both of these leading London galleries to showcase over 150 important photographs from the 19th century to the present day.

The exhibition displays a range of arresting and iconic imagery from all periods of this groundbreaking medium, including works by legendary photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange, Horst P Horst, Walker Evans, Cecil Beaton, Robert Mapplethorpe, Lord Snowdon, Brassai, Bill Brandt, Man Ray, Irving Penn, William Klein, Bruce Davidson, Berenice Abbott, Margaret Bourke White and Edward Steichen.

Previously unseen self-portraits by American street photographer Vivian Maier will be showcased for the first time. During her work as a nanny, Maier took more than 150,000 photographs of the people and architecture of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. She recorded some of the most interesting marvels and peculiarities of urban America in the late 20th century.

Also presented is a rare and unusual group of exploration photographs, including the work of travel photography pioneer Herbert Ponting, who produced some of the most enduring images of the Heroic Age Antarctic Exploration, as well as Frank Hurley’s photographs of the Shackleton Expedition. Featured alongside these are original, rare NASA photographs from seminal space missions.

The exhibition displays significant works by mid-20th century French masters such as Willy Ronis, Brassai, Robert Doisneau and Henri Cartier-Bresson, whose focus on capturing the “decisive moment” exemplifies the innovation of this influential period of photography.

Contempary photographs include those with a particular focus on the natural world, with photographers including Edward Burtynsky, Michael Wolf, Alex Maclean, Justin Blau and Michael Najjar examining mankind’s impact on the landscape. Powerful works by important contemporary practitioners Ruud van Empel, Susan Derges, Julie Blackmon, Nadav Kander and Mona Kuhn are also presented.

Osborne Samuel, 23a Bruton Street, London, W1J 6QG

Beetles+Huxley, 3-5 Swallow Street, London, W1B 4DE

The Curiosity Cabaret - The Old Operating Theatre (Old St Thomas' Hospital)

Event preview

IMAGINE an era when surgery was performed without anaesthesia, when aseptic technique and antibiotics did not exist. Imagine a time when doctors still clung to their superstitions and medicine was much more art than science…

Imagine no further. Instead, step into the timeless world of The Curiosity Cabaret where past and present collide head on.

Audiences are invited to prepare their minds and senses for the magical, macabre and marvellous world of medical history. This debut show, set to take place from December 2 to December 7, 2014, is equal parts fascinating and entertaining and promises to be just the tonic for relieving the dark winter evening blues.

Taking its inspiration from Renaissance Europe’s ‘cabinets of curiosities’ – encyclopaedic collections of objects whose categorical boundaries were yet to be defined – The Curiosity Cabaret is a brand new London-based production and is the first ever cabaret in the style of a medical lecture. It is an interactive theatrical experience that will delve into the depths of 19th Century medicine.

Plans are already in place to produce a number of other productions over the next 12 months. Each event throughout the year will have a different scientific theme that will teach people about medical history creating a theatre of knowledge, using storytelling, immersive theatre, music, dance, poetry, cabaret and circus.

The fascinating theme of the first show will be The Science and History of Voice in the 19th Century. Dr Anna Maerker, Senior Lecturer in history of medicine at King’s College London, has a specialist interest in this subject and has created a lecture especially for the show. This will set the tone for the whole night.

Dr Maerker is passionate about her subject and will be spending several weeks with the artists before the show to provide them with the stimulus and inspiration to create new work.

The first piece of work will be showcased in a perfect venue for the purpose; Britain’s oldest surviving operating theatre, dating from 1822. A place of education as well as entertainment, the Old Operating Theatre of the Old St Thomas’ Hospital was used mainly for amputations.

The operating theatre is contained within the Herb Garret, at London Bridge (opposite Guy’s Hospital) a beautiful Apothecary’s museum, and is brimming with medical artefacts that provide a rare glimpse at some of the wonders and horrors of medicine before the age of science. Audiences will have a unique chance to witness the amalgamation of science and art in one of Britain’s most unique pieces of living history.

Audiences will hear about the many weird and wonderfully intriguing medical machines popular at the time. These include the ‘Ammoniaphone’, a device which allowed people to inhale ‘Italian Air’ (thought to be the reason why the country produced so many excellent tenors). This was, in fact, a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, ammonia and peppermint oil.

They will also hear about the exceptionally creepy ‘talking machine‘ known as the ‘Euphonia’. This was a bizarre sight to behold: A machine bearing a wax bust of a disembodied woman’s head that shocked and delighted crowds as it ‘spoke’. Concealed from the visitors were sixteen levers, a small pair of bellows, and numerous little bits of metal, wood and rubber that provided the elementary sounds for words. With a skilled operator it could speak in several languages and even sing God Save the Queen.

The Curiosity Cabaret has been developed by (genuine) medical doctor and circus owner Dr Clive Selwyn (of Dr Clive’s Circus, famed for his immersive circus-infused performance nights) and is co-hosted and co-written by Dr Clive and spoken word artist, writer, and storyteller, Rachel Rose Reid (BBC3’s Queen of the Storytellers) who has had her work commissioned for BBC Radio 3, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Billy Bragg.

Intertwined with fascinating scientific stories, will be bespoke performances from internationally renowned and award-winning composer, lyricist, performer and cabaret favourite, Desmond O’Connor, as well as poet, artist, puppeteer and cabaret delight Zoie Kennedy and hosts Dr Clive and Rachel Rose Reid.

Special guests include the contortionist Bendy Bendini, puppeteer Henry Maynard (Co-director of Flabbergast Theatre and co creator of Boris & Sergey) and the multi award-winning 1927’s actor and storyteller, Eleanor Buchan.

For those with an appetite for the weird and wonderful, this event will truly bring history of medicine to a wider audience, illuminating its dark forgotten secrets and gruesome practices…

Tickets: Available at The capacity of the theatre is only 50 people, so seats will be very limited.

Time: 7.30pm.

The Old Operating Theatre, 9a St Thomas Street, London, SE1 9RY

Rembrandt Masterclasses at the National Gallery

Rembrandt Masterclasses

Event preview

THE WORLD of comics and classic art collide as SelfMadeHero teams up with the National Gallery in London to offer two unique drawing masterclasses in December (5 and 6) with leading Dutch graphic novelist, Typex.

This coincides with the Rembrandt: The Late Works exhibition, which is on display at the Gallery until January 18, 2015.

Typex is the writer and illustrator of Rembrandt, the acclaimed graphic novel biography of the artist, which was specially commissioned for the reopening of the Rijksmuseum. He will lead two practical workshops alongside artist and lecturer Aliki Braine. Aimed at 18-25 year olds, the sessions will looked to introduce a new audience to the work of the Dutch master.

Aliki Braine will provide an introduction to Rembrandt’s career and working methods before Typex leads participants in a drawing class on Friday, December 5 in the Gallery itself. The focal point is the portrait of Hedrickje Stoffels, Rembrandt’s mistress, who features as one of the main characters in Typex’s graphic novel. During the tutorial, he will also talk about his career.

On Saturday, December 6, Typex will lead a more experimental, free-flowing class at the Pigott Education Centre Entrance. Alongside practical demonstrations, he will help participants create storyboards using Rembrandt’s paintings and drawings for inspiration – an invaluable opportunity in graphic novel storytelling for budding writers and illustrators.

Admission is free. Spaces are limited to 30 people on a first-come, first-served basis. Paper and drawing materials are provided.

Full details:

Friday, December 5: National Gallery from 6.30pm – 7.30pm.

Saturday, December 6: Drawing Studio, National Gallery from 10.30am – 12.30pm.

Nathan Sawaya's The Art of the Brick extends run

Exhibition preview

UK PROMOTORS ExhibiTours have announcd that the London run of Nathan Sawaya’s internationally acclaimed exhibition, The Art of the Brick, will extend until Sunday, April 12, 2015.

Following record setting attendance, tickets (and gift vouchers, the perfect Christmas gift for LEGO lovers) for the new booking period are on sale and can be purchased from or 0203 773 8995.

US artist Nathan Sawaya’s one-of-a-kind sculptures – of which over 80 are currently on display at the Old Truman Brewery – have so far captured the imagination of over 100,000 visitors of all ages.

Previously Posted: The Old Truman Brewery – East London’s revolutionary arts and media quarter – will host Nathan Sawaya’s world renowned exhibition The Art of the Brick® – from Friday, September 26, 2014 to Sunday, January 4, 2015.

Over seventy five art sculptures, created by US artist Nathan Sawaya from more than a million LEGO® bricks, will be on display.

The Art of the Brick has been proclaimed by CNN as one of the world’s 10 must see exhibitions and has already attracted millions of visitors worldwide in New York, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Shanghai and Singapore.

The artworks on display will be large scale sculptures, many of which are human figures such as Sawaya’s most famous piece Yellow and a TRex skeleton Dinosaur constructed from over 80,000 LEGO bricks that measures over six metres in length.

In addition, visitors will have a chance to see Sawaya’s recent interpretations of some of the world’s most famous artworks, such as Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring.

The exhibition includes an Interactive Zone inviting younger (and older) visitors to explore their creativity using the iconic bricks.

Nathan Sawaya, whose previous career was as a successful corporate lawyer, started playing with LEGO toys at an early age and just never stopped creating. He explains:

‘I use LEGO bricks as my medium because I enjoy seeing people’s reactions to artwork created from something with which they are familiar. Everyone can relate to it since it is a toy that many children have at home. I want to elevate this simple plaything to a place it has never been before. I also appreciate the cleanliness of the medium. The right angles. The distinct lines. As so often in life, it is a matter of perspective. Up close, the shape of the brick is distinctive. But from a distance, those right angles and distinct lines change to curves.’

Ticket for the exhibition are available from or at 0207 492 5374.

Alternative 23 - IMT Gallery

Exhibition preview

AN EXHIBITION entitled Alternative 23 will be on display at IMT Gallery from December 5, 2014 to January 25, 2015.

Alternative 23 is an exhibition of works by Steve Aylett, David Blandy, Let Me Feel Your Finger First, Laura Oldfield Ford, Plastique Fantastique and Henrik Schrat, including the first screening of Let Me Feel Your Finger First’s Postcolonial Capers.

In 1985, DC Comics in the US had taken the commercial decision to unify the complex and contradictory character stories arcs from its various strips such as Superman, Batman and Green Lantern.

The resultant crossover series, Crisis on Infinite Earths, saw the heroes attempting to align all of the surviving Earths into one single reality that would then make DC Comics continuity more straightforward so as not to confuse potential new readers.

In 1987, Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell’s Zenith, a politically-engaged superhero comic strip originally published in British weekly 2000 AD, brought together a group of superheroes from across multiple realities to battle a mysterious Lovecraftian threat.

This threat is intent on aligning all the universes, or ‘Alternatives’, into one, simple universe. Rather than reduce the complex and the inconsistent into a formal dialectic, the heroes of Zenith attempt to defend and maintain multiplicities. They meet on a world in Alternative 23.

Admission: Free.

Times: Thursday to Sunday from 12 – 6pm or by appointment. Closed for the holidays from December 25 to January 2.

IMT Gallery, Unit 2/210 Cambridge Heath Road, Londo, E2 9NQ UK

Chalet Chic at the Winter Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair 2015

Chalet chic room-set for Winter Fair 2015

Event preview

VISITORS will be welcomed with an Alpine-inspired retreat in the Foyer at the Winter Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair (January 20 to January 25, 2015), celebrating all that’s best about interiors for winter hideaways.

Many designers use the Decorative Fair to source unusual pieces for their client’s ski chalets and hunting lodges. Discover antler and Black Forest furniture, beautifully upholstered seating, French and Swedish painted antiques, decorative period rugs and hunting trophies.

Snow scene paintings from art dealers, ski posters and quirkier pieces such as antique skis revitalised as floor lamps, will create a truly cosy and typically Decorative Fair approach to winter style. All items will be drawn from exhibitors at the Fair and will be for sale.

Currently popular at the Decorative Fair is folk art and country accessories – Oprah Winfrey made time in her busy schedule to visit the recent Autumn Fair (September 30 to October 5, 2014) with her US decorator Rose Tarlow and included such pieces in her acquisitions.

The Autumn Fair also saw a resurgence of interest in a more formal, classic style, including traditional antique wood furniture both English and European. Quality pieces with beautiful patina or more unusually-figured veneers sold well; as did items exceptional in scale or decoration or provenance, such as a grand Gothick Victorian bookcase 13ft long c1860 made for Lady Waldegrave of Strawberry Hill House, which sold with a ticket price of £29,500.

Whilst collectors may come to buy fine furniture, objects and art such as paintings by leading Modern British artists like Keith Vaughan at prices up to (and in excess of) £50,000, new younger customers are also delighted to find affordable ‘entry level’ purchases such as £15 vintage French wine glasses.

The 145 dealers (many of whom participate at every Fair) come from across the UK and Europe to exhibit a wealth of wonderful period design. Antiques and works of art dating from the 1600s to 1914 abound. Art Deco and later C20th design makes up around one quarter of objects, art and furniture for sale. Unlike any other antiques event, the dealers style their stands as room-sets so visitors can imagine how items might work in their own homes.

ki lodge room-set Winter 2015

The Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair is the most stylish and beautiful antiques and period design event in the UK. It is the only antiques Fair to cater specifically to the interior decorating trade and in 2015 it will celebrate 30 years of business.

The three Fairs next year are the Winter Fair (January 20-25), the Spring Fair (April 21-26) and the Autumn Fair (September 29 – October 4) which will be the focal point for the Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair‘s 30th birthday. (The first ever Fair was held in September 1985).

For more information visit

Admission: £10 including catalogue, which gives re-admission throughout the week.


Tuesday 12pm – 8pm.

Wednesday 11am – 8pm.

Thursday 11am – 8pm.

Friday 11am – 7pm.

Saturday 11am – 7pm.

Sunday 11am – 6pm.

Transport: Free shuttle service from Sloane Square Hotel every 10-15 minutes during opening hours. Vehicle access via Chelsea Bridge Gate only. LIMITED free parking on-site.

Battersea Evolution, Battersea Park, London, SW11

Ice skating in and around London

Natural History Museum Ice Rink

Feature by Lizzie Guilfoyle

IF YOU enjoy ice-skating or even just watching others take to the ice, there are several ice rinks to chose from, both in and around the capital, this coming festive season.

Natural History Museum – October 30, 2014 to January 4, 2015.

Now in its 10th year, the spectacular rink is nestled in front of the iconic South Kensington Museum, beneath 80,000 twinkling fairy lights and around a 40-foot-high tree.

Visit the interactive Christmas chalet, with chocolatey treats, prize giveaways and activities in partnership with chocolatiers Lindt.

Somerset House – November 11, 2014 to January 11, 2015.

Make the most of the wintry weather as one of London’s most beautiful outdoor ice rinks returns.

In partnership with Fortnum & Mason, this icy experience is open all day and well into the evening, when the rink comes alive with special club nights featuring top DJs.

You can enhance your experience with ‘Skate Extras’, which range from champagne and truffles to cream tea in Fortnum’s Lodge. Cocktails and fondue can also be savoured.

On Tuesdays, you can enjoy late-night browsing in the pop-up Fortnum & Mason store, live entertainment and festive treats.

Eyeskate at The London Eye – November 15, 2014 to January 4, 2015.

This spectacular ice rink on the South Bank returns for the fifth year with plenty of festive fun and wintry activities.

As well as enjoying a 45-minute ice skating session in the shadow of the London Eye you can book a flight on the London Eye with a Winter Cocktail Experience or go on a Frosty Guided Experience.

Hampton Court Palace – November 21, 2014 to January 4, 2015.

The outdoor ice rink at Hampton Court offers spectacular views of the magnificent Palace that Henry VIII once lived in. Book an evening session to see the palace lit up after dark while you skate under the evening stars!

The Ice Bar & Café provides a welcome place to warm up after your skate, serving a selection of winter drinks and festive snacks.

Wembley Park – November 14, 2014 to January 4, 2015.

Enjoy skating at a new ice rink in the London Designer Outlet in Wembley Park this winter. Take some time out from shopping in the outlet centre with a skate around the 600-square-metre rink, where you can savour a complimentary hot chocolate.

There is also a Christmas market to browse for festive gifts, and some fun activities on offer.

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park – November 21, 2014 to January 4, 2015.

Get into the festive spirit as family favourite Winter Wonderland returns to London’s Hyde Park. This free-to-enter event includes a host of Christmas-themed fun and activities, including big top shows, an observation wheel and a huge Christmas market.

Westfield London Ice Rink – November 20, 2014 to January 4, 2015.

Skate along to the sounds of live music and enjoy special themed sessions at Westfield London’s stunning ice rink in its central atrium this winter.

Listen to soundtracks from resident DJs and live acts on the stage while gliding across the ice. There will be themed sessions to enjoy and extra-long sessions available for those who can’t get enough of the wintery fun!

The rink is suitable for everyone aged from three years old, with fun penguin-and seal-themed stabilisers available for those who are less steady on their skates.

Renato Guttuso: Painter of Modern Life - Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art

Renato Guttuso: Painter of Modern Life

Exhibition preview

AN EXHIBITION entitled Renato Guttuso: Painter of Modern Life will be on display at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art from January 14 to April 4, 2015.

Renato Guttuso (1911 – 1987) is one of post-war Italy’s most widely respected painters. Toward the end of the 1930s, his powerful brand of expressionist realism vividly conveyed the angst of a generation which wanted its art to reflect and engage with the urgency of contemporary life.

Rebelling against both the formalism of abstract painting and the naturalism advocated by those on the far right of Fascism’s cultural establishment, Guttuso played a key role in forging a style that would go on to dominate Italian art throughout the immediate post-war years.

Resolutely ‘popular’, his imagery continued to chronicle Italy’s frequently turbulent political life and the changing face of its society for over forty years.

Guttuso was born in Bagheria (Sicily) in 1911 and began to paint at an early age, receiving encouragement from his father, a land surveyor of Socialist sympathies.

His enthusiasm was nurtured by the painter Domenico Quattrociocchi and the Futurist artist Pippo Rizzo. However, Guttuso’s first assured works, dating from the mid-1920s, reveal the influence of the then dominant Novecento school, characterised by its heavy modelling, sombre tones and dialogue with Italy’s painterly traditions.

The positive reception of his work at the I Quadriennale of 1931, and a group show at Milan’s influential Galleria del Milione the following year, encouraged Guttuso to devote himself entirely to art. During the early 1930s he encountered the expressionism of artists associated with the Scuola Romana, such as Scipione, and began to employ a more vibrant palette and freer painterly technique.

After settling in Rome in 1937, he became associated with the Corrente group, which also included the painters Renato Birolli, Bruno Cassinari, Giuseppe Migneco, Ennio Morlotti and Emilio Vedova. These figures resisted the notion of an art created in accordance with a binding ‘ism’ (as suggested by the group’s name).

However, their exploration of an emotionally-charged figurative vocabulary was the logical consequence of their desire for an ‘impassioned and direct relationship between the artist and the world’, and their rejection of ‘those modes of representation which were not sufficiently concerned with the destiny of humanity’.

In 1940, Guttuso’s increasing disillusionment with, and hostility toward, the Fascist regime led him to join the Communist Party – despite the fact that he continued to participate in the state-sponsored Premio Bergamo exhibitions, where his political allegories Flight from Etna and Crucifixion were awarded prizes in 1940 and 1942.

His Still Life with Lamp gives an idea of Guttuso’s approach to such themes at this time. At first the image appears to be a conventional still life, yet closer consideration suggests it may in fact be a veiled comment on the brutality and persecution suffered by the regime’s political opponents, or the chaos of war. Certainly, the disordered table-top with its skull and overturned birdcage generates a marked sense of unease. The torn red curtain (perhaps an allusion to the flag of Communism) only adds to this sense of disquiet and violence.

In creating such works of protest and moral outrage, Guttuso was strongly influenced by Picasso at this time, being particularly impressed by his harrowing masterpiece Guernica. In ‘spiritual’ rather than aesthetic terms, the Spanish artist was to constitute an important point of reference throughout Guttuso’s career.

In the immediate post-war years, the spirit of cooperation and reconciliation that had characterised the Resistance – in which Guttuso fought during 1944 – was reflected in the eclectic nature of a new artistic association established in 1947 named Fronte Nuovo delle Arti. However, the fierce, ongoing debate over the artist’s social responsibilities generated tensions within the group which ultimately led to its fragmentation.

Those artists whose work tended toward realism – including Guttuso – broke away from the Fronte and aligned themselves with the Communist Party which, under Palmiro Togliatti, looked on their work with a far greater indulgence than it did that of abstract painters.

True to his conviction that art should be ‘useful’, Guttuso continued to apply his robust, accessible style to socio-political themes over the course of his career (Portrait of a Woman in Profile, Death of a Hero, Heroine).

He remained faithful to the Communist Party throughout his life, being elected Senator of the Republic on two occasions (1976, 1979). A work dating from these years (Neighbourhood Rally) captures the ferment of this tumultuous period, characterised by political militancy and blighted by a spate of assassinations and kidnappings.

Alongside such politically-charged imagery, Guttuso continued to create works celebrating the people and the landscape of southern Italy, employing a rich and vibrant palette described by the art historian Maurizio Calvesi as having been drawn directly from the intense colours of his native Sicily: ‘like the fire of Etna, like the turquoise of the Tyrrhenian Sea, like the green of the lizards and the twisted vegetation [and] like the yellow of the oranges and the sulphur’ (Watermelons, Landscape with Lovers).

Organised in collaboration with Galleria d’Arte Maggiore, Bologna, Renato Guttuso: Painter of Modern Life is the first major exhibition in the United Kingdom to focus on the career of this important artist for almost twenty years, offering British audiences the opportunity to explore the work of a pivotal figure in modern Italian culture, and consider some of the questions it raises concerning the role of the artist – and of art itself – in modern society.

Roman Ostia: Ancient Ruins, Modern Art continues at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art until December 21, 2014.

Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, 39a Canonbury Square, London, N1 2AN

Tel: +44 (0)20 7704 9522