Two Temple Place has one of the most remarkable interiors in London and for three months a year you can see inside Two Temple Place for free. Every Spring it plays host to an exhibition that showcases items owned by Britain’s regional museums. This year the exhibition is John Ruskin: The Power of Seeing.
INSIDE TWO TEMPLE PLACE
William Waldorf Astor gave his architect an unlimited budget to build an estate office with some living space above in 1895. Everywhere you look is ornate wooden panelling and sumptuous stained glass. The central staircase that connects the working and living spaces is crowned with a stained glass ceiling.
William Waldorf Astor liked books and history, we know this because the interior is scattered liberally with literary references. The ornate mahogany carvings on the central staircase depict Shakespearian heroes. But pride of place is reserved for his all time top favourite book; Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. Each newel post is topped by an eighteen inch high stature of the novel’s characters.
Not content with Shakespeare and Dumas, there are yet more literary references upstairs. The door into the magnificent main room is decorated with nine silver gilt reliefs showing Arthurian heroines.
At either end of this grand room is yet more stained glass. Sunset is depicted in the one at the west end of the room: it is entitled Alpine Lanscape and was created by Clayton and Bell.
Even the entrance to the ladies’ loo is ornate. I had never noticed the discrete brass plate before and felt compelled to go inside. Inside is a vision of yet more wood panelling and ornate tiles. Well worth a visit.
JOHN RUSKIN: THE POWER OF SEEING
If you can tear your eyes away from the amazing building for just a few seconds the actual exhibition is really rather good. John Ruskin was a Victorian polymath; artist, educators and social thinker. But most of all he was known as an art critic. Well maybe he his most remembered for marrying the young Effie Gray, failing to consummate the marriage and then seeing her run off with the painter John Everett Millais. This exhibition looks at how 200 years after his birth his ideas still have a resonance today.
Ruskin felt that whilst the steel workers of his native Sheffield were highly skilled, they were also constrained by the demands of industry. To help alleviate this he set up the Guild of St George as a museum on the outskirts of Sheffield over looking the Derbyshire moors. It still exists today and its collections form the backbone of The Power of Seeing.
Ruskin didn’t just paint things, he looked for beauty in nature and make a great collection of minerals, books and general cultural treasures. I loved this selection of minerals.
Ruskin might have liked a lot of things but he disliked lots too, there is an impressive list of the things he disparaged in letter to friends on display …. Iron railings (thieves outside, Bedlam within), the Houses of Parliament (effeminate and effectless), Wagner’s The Meistersingers, the renaissance buildings of Venice, Palladio, Lawyers, making money, King’s College Cambridge (looks like an upside-down table), railway stations, cycling, having his photo taken and the English Constitution …. quite a list!
One thing that I think he would approve of is the new Timorous Beasties lampshade inspired by Ruskin’s nature observations that is hanging in the central hall ….. I rather hope this takes up permanent residence.
NEED TO KNOW
- Two Temple Place WC2R 3BD, is a few hundred yards away from Temple tube station.
- John Ruskin: The Power of Seeing
- 26 January 2019 – 22 April 2019
- Open: Monday, Thursday – Saturday 10am – 4.30pm, Wednesday 10am – 9pm, Sunday 11am – 4.30pm, Tuesday closed.
- Admission: Free
- A rather fine cafe is open for the duration of the exhibition.
If money was no object and you could decorate your house themed on your favourite novel, which would you choose?
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