‘Superbloom’ field of flowers to surround Tower of London for Platinum Jubilee

‘Superbloom’ field of flowers to surround Tower of London for Platinum Jubilee

The Tower of London will be surrounded by a vibrant field of millions of colorful flowers in celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next year.

Historic Royal Palaces said the “Superbloom” floral display will fill and transform the moat around the tourist attraction in central London.

In spring 2022, more than 20 million seeds will be sown from carefully designed seed mixes.

From June to September, the field of flowers will erupt into new colors and patterns, with visitors able to wander along a weaving path into the center of the blooms.

Plants have been chosen to attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, and a specially commissioned sound installation and sculptural elements will be part of the experience.

Historic Royal Palaces said: “Superbloom will bring a spectacular natural beauty to the urban space and introduce a new biodiverse habitat for wildlife.

“It will celebrate the value of nature for our wellbeing.”

Queen visits Tower of London
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh viewing ceramic poppies around the Tower in 2014 (Anthony Devlin/PA)

It marks the first stage of a permanent transformation of the moat into a new natural landscape in the heart of the London.

The moat was designed in the 13th century to defend the fortress and has been used as a medieval orchard, a grazing ground for Victorian livestock, and as allotments during the Second World War.

In 1977, the moat featured a garden display in honor of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

When the display ends in September 2022, the new natural landscape created to support it will remain in the moat as a permanent Jubilee legacy.

Work to prepare for the installation has already begun.

The field of flowers will celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee
The field of flowers will celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee (Historic Royal Palaces/PA)

The Queen, who has sprained her back and has also been resting since October 20 after a hospital stay for tests, is set to reach 70 years on the throne in February.

The national Jubilee celebrations are taking place in June 2022 over a four-day bank holiday weekend.

In 2014, the Tower of London hosted Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red, the art installation that filled the moat with thousands of ceramic poppies to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War.

Tickets will be on sale from www.hrp.org.uk from Monday, December 6.

‘Superbloom’ field of flowers to surround Tower of London for Platinum JubileeLondontopia – The Website for People Who Love London

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Stratford overtakes Waterloo as Britain’s busiest railway station

Stratford overtakes Waterloo as Britain’s busiest railway station

Stratford was Britain’s busiest railway station in the past year, new figures show.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) said an estimated 14.0 million passengers traveled through the east London station in the year to the end of March.

Passenger numbers across Britain dropped by 78% over the 12-month period due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It is the first time in 17 years that Waterloo was not the most-used station in the annual figures.

Just 12.2 million people used the station in 2020/21.

This was down from 86.9 million a year earlier, making it the fourth busiest station.

Stratford is a key interchange, enabling people to connect with other transport routes.

It is served by c2c, Greater Anglia, London Overground, and TfL Rail mainline services.

The station also has London Underground and bus connections.

Birmingham New Street was the busiest station outside London, with 7.4 million passengers.

Scotland’s most used station was Glasgow Central (5.3 million), while Cardiff Central (2.0 million) took the top spot in Wales.

The figures are based primarily on ticket sales.

ORR director of planning and performance Feras Alshaker said: “We’ve seen a radical change, especially in London, in the stations people were using the most.

“Stratford, Highbury and Islington, Clapham Junction, Barking, and East Croydon replaced Kings Cross, St Pancras, Euston and Paddington in the top 10, underlining their importance as vital stops and interchanges, linking key workers with Underground and bus services to travel.

“This year we have seen many railway stations with very few passenger entries and exits. However, we know that recent figures show leisure journeys are nearly back to pre-pandemic levels, while there has been a slower increase in commuter journeys.”

Andy Bagnall, director-general at industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said: “The station usage figures show how the rail industry kept people moving for the first year of the pandemic.

“Some of the entries on the list reflect where people like key workers were traveling from and also the acceleration of changes to how people are traveling after the pandemic.

“Rail companies are working together to welcome people back and the recent increase in passengers continues to both reflect and support the nation’s recovery.”

Six stations had no passengers in 2020/21, mainly due to services being suspended because of the virus crisis.

They were: Abererch, Gwynedd; Beasdale, Highland; Llanbedr, Gwynedd; Sampford Courtenay, Devon; Stanlow and Thornton, Cheshire; and Sugar Loaf, Powys.

Publicity surrounding last year’s least-used station – Berney Arms in Norfolk – saw its passenger usage increase eight-fold, from 42 to 348.

That was the biggest percentage increase of any station compared with the previous year.

Stratford overtakes Waterloo as Britain’s busiest railway stationLondontopia – The Website for People Who Love London

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London’s Elizabeth line reaches dress rehearsal stage ahead of 2022 launch

London’s Elizabeth line reaches dress rehearsal stage ahead of 2022 launch

A new Tube line is in the dress rehearsal stage before opening to passengers next year, Transport for London (TfL) has said.

Londoners will be able to take the Elizabeth line between Paddington and Abbey Wood from the first half of 2022.

The line is currently undergoing the trial stage, to ensure the safety and reliability of the railway for public use and to test the timetables.

Transport bodies and emergency services will carry out 150 scenarios over the coming months, including exercises to ensure that staff can respond to incidents, including customers being unwell and signal failures.

Crossrail project
A tube map showing the Elizabeth Line in purple (Transport for London).

The most complex exercises include evacuations of trains and stations using thousands of staff and volunteers, before a period of “shadow running,” which involves the line operating without passengers.

London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said the trial phase marks a “significant milestone” in the delivery of the Elizabeth line, which will boost the capital’s economy.

Mr. Khan added: “The next few months are crucial to making sure the railway can open safely next year, and everyone is working incredibly hard to reach that goal.

“The Elizabeth line will help transform travel in London and the South East, dramatically improving transport links, supporting regeneration and boosting our economic recovery.”

Coronavirus – Thu Nov 5, 2020
The Elizabeth line will pass through London Paddington station (Pete Clifton/PA).

The launch of the Elizabeth line was led by the Crossrail board until October 2020, when governance was transferred to TfL.

Crossrail chief executive, Mark Wild, said the line is on track to open in the first half of 2022, though an exact date has not yet been given.

He said: “This is an immensely complex railway, and we must be able to demonstrate the highest levels of reliability.

“Everyone is working hard to deliver the Elizabeth line as soon as practically possible, and we remain on track to commence passenger services in the first half of 2022.”

London’s Elizabeth line reaches dress rehearsal stage ahead of 2022 launchLondontopia – The Website for People Who Love London

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The Courtauld Gallery Reopening after 3 year closure for renovations – Here’s a look at what’s changed

The Courtauld Gallery Reopening after 3 year closure for renovations – Here’s a look at what’s changed

The Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House has been closed since 2018 for the largest transformation project of its history. It reopens on Friday, Nov 19, 2021, allowing us to enjoy not only the magnificent Impressionist and Post Impressionist collection but so much more with the extra gallery space.

The Courtauld at Somerset House. Photo: Benedict Johnson

The Courtauld is home to one of the greatest collections of art in the UK, with over 34,000 works stretching from the Medieval period through to the 20th century, spanning painting, works on paper and sculpture, and decorative arts. The Courtauld’s collection is most famous for its Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces – a world-leading collection that includes treasures such as Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, and the most significant collection of works by Cézanne in the UK.

The collection has grown and developed since the establishment of The Courtauld in 1932 through gifts and bequests from some of the leading private collectors of the 20th century, including Samuel Courtauld, Count Antoine Seilern, and Sir Robert Witt.

Everything has been deliberately and considerately redisplayed and reinterpreted, and it definitely feels more spacious. The elegantly refurbished galleries are able to shine, too, as each room’s description explains the artworks on display and the room itself.

The Blavatnik Fine Rooms. Photo © Hufton+Crow (Before the artworks were added)

Samuel Courtauld

During the 1920s, the English industrialist and philanthropist Samuel Courtauld (1876–1947) assembled one of the finest collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art in the world, paintings that are central to the story of these groundbreaking artistic movements. Courtauld, however, was much more than a collector; he passionately believed in the power of art to improve society.

In 1932, less than a decade after he began collecting, he donated the majority of his collection to establish The Courtauld Institute of Art, created to promote art education and advance the understanding and enjoyment of the visual arts in the UK. It was the first institute of higher education to teach art history and conservation in the UK.

Alongside the formation of his collection, Courtauld donated £50,000 to the nation for the acquisition of Impressionist painting. His efforts and vision secured such iconic paintings as Van Gogh’s Sunflower and Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières – some of the most popular paintings in the National Gallery today. (There was an excellent exhibition about this at the National Gallery in 2018.)

Courtauld Connects

Behind the grand Neoclassical façade, the building is an idiosyncratic assemblage of disconnected ‘houses/suites of rooms’ originally constructed to provide homes to a varied set of government offices and learned societies.

‘Courtauld Connects’ is the most significant development in the history of The Courtauld since it moved to the North Wing of Somerset House in 1989.

Designed by Stirling Prize-winning architects Witherford Watson Mann, the redevelopment revitalizes and opens up the magnificent buildings conceived by Sir William Chambers in the 1770s, celebrating their heritage.

Accessibility to the building has been dramatically improved, including step-free entrance access, widened doors, and new display cabinets.

Third Floor

There are three floors of galleries to explore. I chose to start at the top as that’s how the visitor route was planned before the closure. Old habits, eh?

This floor has Impressionism, 20th-century Art, and a special exhibition space.

The Myth of Prometheus

The largest work in The Courtauld’s collection is back on display for the first time in over a decade. Austrian Expressionist Oskar Kokoschka’s epic modern triptych The Myth of Prometheus, consists of three canvases measuring over eight meters long. It was commissioned by Count Antoine Seilern, one of The Courtauld’s most important benefactors, for a reception room ceiling in his London home. Seilern bequeathed the triptych to The Courtauld, together with his remarkable collection of Old Master paintings and drawings. Kokoschka painted the work in London in 1950, at a time when the world was poised between the Second World War and the beginning of the Cold War, retelling stories from classical myth and the Bible to evoke dramatic scenes of apocalypse and the hope of regeneration during troubled times.

The painting is exhibited alongside a selection of photographs documenting Kokoschka working on The Myth of Prometheus in Seilern’s home, taken by the acclaimed 20th-century American photographer Lee Miller (1907–1977). Look along the line of photographs, and you can see the alterations happening in the painting as he changed his mind and redid areas.

Oskar Kokoschka (1886 – 1980), Triptych – Hades and Persephone, 1950 © Fondation Oskar Kokoschka/ DACS 2021 © The Courtauld
Oskar Kokoschka (1886 – 1980), Triptych – The Apocalypse, 1950 © Fondation Oskar Kokoschka/ DACS 2021 © The
Oskar Kokoschka (1886 – 1980), Triptych – Prometheus, 1950 © Fondation Oskar Kokoschka/ DACS 2021 © The Courtauld

The Great Room

Next, you reach Room 10 – Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, 1880–1900. This space is the ‘Great Room’ where the Royal Academy’s annual Summer Exhibition was held from 1780 until the RA outgrew the space and moved to the East Wing of the recently completed National Gallery in 1837. This was the first purpose-built exhibition space in the UK and the first top-lit public gallery in Europe.

Previously subdivided, the newly renamed LVMH Great Room has been reinstated to its original proportions and volume.

The LVMH Great Room. Photo © Hufton+Crow (Before the artworks were added)

Claude Monet (1840-1926), Antibes, 1888, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust)
Édouard Manet, (1832-1883) A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1882, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust)

This striking nude is one of several painted by Amedeo Modigliani between 1916 and 1917. The depiction of pubic hair was shocking at the time. Police even closed a 1917 exhibition of Modigliani’s nudes at a commercial gallery in Paris on the grounds of indecency.

Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920), Female Nude, 1916, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust)

This famous self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh was painted in January 1889, a week after leaving hospital. He had received treatment after cutting off most of his left ear (shown here as the bandaged right ear because he painted himself in a mirror). This self-mutilation was a desperate act committed a few weeks earlier, following a heated argument with his fellow painter Paul Gauguin.

Vincent van Gogh, (1853-1890) SelfPortrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust)

The Courtauld Gallery has the most significant collection of works by Cézanne in the UK, including The Card Players (below).

Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) The Card Players, around 1892-96, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust)

It was a delight to see these small-scale images by Georges Seurat (1859–1891) when you are used to seeing the huge Bathers at Asnières at the National Gallery. Horses in the Water (below) was a study for Bathers showing an earlier composition that he ultimately abandoned.

Modern Drawings – The Karshan Gift

This temporary exhibition (Nov 21 – Jan 22) showcases an outstanding group of modern drawings by European and American masters working after the Second World War, including Georg Baselitz, Joseph Beuys, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Gerhard Richter, Louis Soutter, and Cy Twombly.

The collection was assembled by the late collector Howard Karshan and generously gifted to The Courtauld by his wife, Linda. Aside from Cézanne, none of the artists included in the gift has previously been represented in the collection.

I particularly enjoyed seeing these two drawings…

Paul Cézanne (1839–1906), Still Life with Jug, Bottles and Wash Basin, c. 1885–95
Plau Klee (1879–1940) –Children and Crows, 1932
Plau Klee (1879–1940), Children and Crows, 1932

Room 9 – The Birth of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, 1860–1880

This smaller gallery, connected to the Great Room, includes this 1874 masterpiece by Renoir. While it depicts a fashionable couple at the theatre, the scene was staged in his studio using his brother Edmond and the professional model Nina Lopez.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, (1841-1919) La Loge, 1874 The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust)

Bloomsbury Group

Before heading down the sweeping staircase, do visit the gallery near the lift. For the first time, The Courtauld’s significant collection of works by the Bloomsbury Group has been given a dedicated space in the Gallery.

From about 1910, this close-knit circle began challenging the conservative values of the British establishment, embracing the freedom of artistic expression and upturning social and sexual norms. They became known as the Bloomsbury Group, after the area in London where they lived and worked. Their most famous member was the writer Virginia Woolf. Among the prominent artists of the group were her sister Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, and Roger Fry. Best known as an influential art critic, Fry introduced French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art to a London audience with two important exhibitions in 1910 and 1912.

Most of the works on display belonged to Fry. After his death in 1934, his sister Margery Fry, a noted prison reformer, arranged for much of his collection to be given to The Courtauld.

Duncan Grant (1885- 1978), Fourfold screen with Lily pond design, 1913-14, © Estate of Duncan Grant. All rights reserved, DACS 2022 © The Courtauld

Cecily Brown Commission

Don’t miss the major new painting by Cecily Brown for The Courtauld’s historic staircase. The large-scale artwork was specially commissioned for the curved wall.

The impressive staircase was conceived as a symbolic ‘journey to enlightenment.’ The idea was that as you rose to the top of the building, you moved from the dark to the light with the wonderous skylights (ceiling windows).

Second Floor

Taking that journey in reverse, I walked down to the second floor to see European Art 1400–1800.

Thanks to the generous donation of  from

Philanthropists Sir Leonard and Lady Blavatnik, and the Blavatnik Family Foundation, donated £10 million to restore a suite of six galleries spanning the entire second floor of the building. The elegantly restored Blavatnik Fine Rooms showcase some of the greatest and most-loved works from The Courtauld’s collection from the Renaissance through to the 18th century. The redevelopment enables The Courtauld to give a more generous account of this part of its collection across rooms dedicated to the Italian Renaissance, Northern Renaissance, 17th and 18th century Europe.

Room 8 – 18th century Europe

All of the artwork labels have been rewritten with the rehang to contextualize and explain. I was looking out for references to slavery as this was conveniently ignored in most galleries before the Black Lives Matter movement progressed in 2020. It didn’t take me long to find a more honest caption.


Room 7 – Rubens and 17th-century Europe

Before we even consider the artworks, look up at the ornate ceiling. This was a Council Room that belonged to the Royal Academy.

Peter Paul Rubens was the most international artist of his day, working all over Europe.

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Descent from the Cross, around 1611-13, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust)

There is also a terracotta bust (painted to simulate bronze) of King Charles I from the workshop of Louis-François Roubiliac.

Room 6 – Rubens at work, 1600–1640

Another ‘admire the building’ moment, this room was the Council Room for the Society of Antiquaries.

Room 5 – Northern Renaissance, 1500–1600

This ante-room (lobby) was used by members of both the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquaries.

The Blavatnik Fine Rooms. Photo © Hufton+Crow (Before the artworks were added)
Lucas Cranach the Elder, (1472-1553), Adam and Eve, 1526, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust)

Room 4 – Italian Renaissance, 1500–1600

This room was used for the public lectures of the Royal Society, the UK’s leading scientific academy.

Dish or tondino with a female martyr inscribed SL, probably for St Lucretia, circa 1510, Italy (Siena) 16th century (1500 – 1599), The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust) © The Courtauld

Room 3 – Early Renaissance, 1400–1500

This room was the library and ante-room (lobby) of the Royal Academy, Royal Society, and Society of Antiquaries.

I thought the colors in this painting were extraordinary. The angel Gabriel’s wings look like exotic macaws.

Masters of the Judgement of Paris (active around 1400–1500) – The Annunciation, around 1430–40

Kurdistan in the 1940s

Before you leave this floor, this temporary exhibition (Nov 21 – May 22) can be seen in the gallery next to the lift. It unearths some of the treasures of the Conway photographic Library, including views of sites damaged or destroyed in recent conflict. British photographer Anthony Kersting was one of the most prolific and widely traveled architectural photographers of his generation.

The Anthony Kersting Archive, The Courtauld. Released under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC license

Do admire that staircase again before you walk down to the first floor.

Pen to Brush: British Drawings and Watercolours

In the Drawings Gallery, this temporary exhibition (Nov 21 – Jan 22) shows a wide range of works from The Courtauld’s collection of British drawings. It includes one of the earliest and smallest works in the collection, a pen, and ink drawing by Isaac Oliver measuring 47 x 59 mm (around 1565-1617), to Henry Moore’s powerful wartime Shelter Drawing (1942). Works from the ‘golden age’ of British watercolor include examples by J.M.W. Turner, John Constable, and Edward Dayes’ panoramic view of Somerset House from the Thames.

Edward Dayes (1763–1804), Somerset House Seen from the Thames, 1788
John Constable (1776 – 1837), Stanway Mill, 1833 near Colchester, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust)

Seeing this sketch by James Thornhill reminded me of the Hogarth and Europe exhibition at Tate Britain as William Hogarth married James Thornhill’s daughter. And this design of the Painted Hall at Greenwich made me think of the Fighting Talk exhibition at the Foundling Museum as the foundling it features, George King, was given a place at the Royal Naval Hospital in Greenwich for retired seamen.

James Thornhill (1675–1734), Design for the ceiling of the Painted Hall, Greenwich Hospital, c. 1707

A highlight is a little-known abstract drawing, Vorticist Composition with Figures, Black and White (1915), by Helen Saunders, one of only two female members of the early 20th-century avant-garde Vorticist group.

Helen Saunders (1885-1963), Vorticist Composition with Figures, Black and White, about 1915, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust), © The Courtauld/ The Estate of Helen Saunders

Room 1 – Medieval and Early Renaissance, 1250–1450

This first-floor space was used by staff of the Royal Academy when it occupied the building from 1780 to 1837. Designed as a mezzanine, or half-floor with a lower ceiling height, it was functional and not open to visitors.

Now, this new gallery displays works mostly made to inspire devotion and prayer in churches and at home. This important collection of paintings and decorative arts from the Medieval and Early Renaissance periods includes fine examples of Islamic metalwork alongside works from Italy and Northern Europe.

The Medieval Gallery. Photo © Hufton+Crow (Before artworks were added)

New Shop and Café

The Courtauld Shop features a range of exclusive and carefully curated products inspired by the art and artists in the collection. (It wasn’t yet ready when I visited for a preview.)

The Art Café is on the ground floor opposite the main Gallery entrance. It’s an all-day café and bar with a warm, vibrant interior inspired by the bohemian creativity of the Bloomsbury Group. (Again, it wasn’t ready to see when I visited for a preview.)

Thomas Gainsborough (1727 -1788), Portrait of Margaret Gainsborough, around 1778, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust)

Visitor Information

Address: The Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 0RN

Admission: Adult: £9 weekdays, £11 weekends | Under 18s, students, concessions: Free

Official Website: courtauld.ac.uk

Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), The Montagne Sainte-Victoire with a Large Pine, around 1887, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust)

The Courtauld Gallery Reopening after 3 year closure for renovations – Here’s a look at what’s changedLondontopia – The Website for People Who Love London

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6 Best Staycation spots across Great Britain

6 Best Staycation spots across Great Britain

Our glorious island of Great Britain has a treasure trove of staycation spots to whet your whistle; both figuratively and literally! From the sunny shores of Cornwall to the iconic Scottish Highlands, there’s a heap of stunning spots that are perfect for any trip – the only hard part will be thinking of where to … Continue Reading

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