Christopher Menz

The last time the National Gallery of Victoria devoted an exhibition to furniture was in 1988 (Featherston Chairs), and only the most dedicated design aficionados will remember the gallery’s most recent group show of furniture design: One Hundred Chairs, back in 1974. Mid-Century Modern, broad in its ambition, covers Australian furniture design in the thirty-year immediate postwar period. It forms an interesting comparison to the recent touring exhibition from the Los Angeles County Museum, California Design, 1930–65, shown at Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane last summer and reviewed here in December 2013–January 2014.

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The Agrarian Kitchen by Rodney Dunn & New Classics by Philippa Sibley

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March 2014, no. 359

Two quite different books from two very different chefs illustrate some major trends in cookery writing and publishing in Australia. One is by a city chef who runs a restaurant, and the other by a country chef who runs a cookery school.

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Living in a Modern Way:California Design 1930–1965 is the catalogue accompanying an exhibition of the same name at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2011–12. The exhibition is now showing at Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art, after a stint in Seoul.

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Of the innumerable books on the design work of William Morris (1834–96) that have appeared since the 1980s, the one that has remained the best and most informative is Linda Parry’s William Morris: Textiles (1983), published early on in her career as a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Since then, there has been much new research on Morris and many exhibitions of his work (at least six in Australia alone). In 1996 he was the subject of a centenary retrospective at the V&A, for which Parry was the curator and editor of the exhibition book. Two major biographies by Fiona MacCarthy – William Morris: A Life for our Time (1994) and The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination (2011) – add substantially to our understanding of Morris and his firm, Morris & Co. Interest in this remarkable Victorian – poet, novelist, artist, socialist reformer – appears to be stronger than ever, and demand for Morris-designed textiles and wallpapers is insatiable; many remain in production either as reproductions or adaptations. This new, extensively updated and rewritten version of William Morris: Textiles benefits from all these later publications and exhaustive new research, deftly contextualised by Parry.

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Entering the current Heide exhibition Stephen Benwell: Beauty, Anarchy, Desire – A Retrospective for the first time is quite an experience. Dispersed left and right on two enormous rectangular tables is a chronological survey of the work of one of Australia’s finest ceramic artists. The overview of a remarkable career can be examined in detail as the viewer moves from work to work up ...

When Paul Raphael Montford (1868–1938) settled in Melbourne in 1923, one press report claimed that he was ‘one of England’s best-known sculptors’, but despite having created works for the façade of the Victoria and Albert Museum and for Westminster Abbey, as well as numerous public sculptures in Australia, his work is not well known in either country. His reputation has always been overshadowed by his infinitely more successful and slightly older contemporary and rival, Bertram Mackennal.

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Such was the esteem of the Roentgens – father Abraham and son David – that fourteen years after David’s death in 1807, Goethe, whose father owned Roentgen furniture, knew that his readers would appreciate the metaphor. Probably not since the Great bed of Ware, c.1590 – referred to by Sir Toby Belch and in Ben Jonson’s Epicœne – had furniture such a famous literary champion. The Roentgens were not just ordinary cabinetmakers. Indeed, they were among the most celebrated European furniture makers of the second half of the eighteenth century.

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Michel Roux: The Collection by Michel Roux & A Lifetime of Cooking, Teaching and Writing from the French Kitchen by Diane Holuigue

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March 2013, no. 349

Here are two welcome additions to a long list of cookery publications in Australia promoting Gallic cuisine. French or French-style cookery in this country has come a long way since Ted Moloney and Deke Coleman’s charming but slight Oh, for a French Wife! was published by Ure Smith in 1952. Both Michel Roux: The Collection and Diane Holuigue’s A Lifetime of Cooking, Teaching and Writing from the French Kitchen demand a level of culinary skill, dedication, time, equipment, and household budget unimaginable for most Australian home cooks sixty years ago. Michel Roux is a Michelin-starred French chef and long-time resident in the United Kingdom. Diane Holuigue is a well-known, Melbourne-based Australian cookery teacher and writer. Through their cooking and publications, both have been hugely influential: Roux internationally, Holuigue in Australia.

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Government House Sydney by Ann Toy and Robert Griffin

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March 2013, no. 349

Not that many Australian houses lend themselves to being the subject of a 240-page monograph. Whatever their architectural or historical merit, usually there is not enough material to warrant more than a chapter in a larger volume. Our government houses are different: not only do numerous documents and photographs survive in public records, but furnishings survive, and there is also the history of the occupants and visitors to enliven the story.

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My Umbrian Kitchen by Patrizia Simone with Caroline Pizzey

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December 2012–January 2013, no. 347

My Umbrian Kitchen – part memoir, part recipe book – reflects the Umbrian-Australian life of its author, Italian-born Patrizia Simone, who, with her husband, opened her first restaurant in Bright in north-eastern Victoria twenty-six years ago. This publication draws on her wealth of experience in the kitchen, decades of cooking, and the rich culinary heritage of her native Umbria. We follow Simone’s journey from the borgo (hamlet) at Collestrada to nearby Perugia, where her parents moved in search of work while she was in her teens. The book commences with an evocative description of the borgo, the source of her culinary vocation, which sets the framework for the dialogue between Umbria and Bright: Umbrian cuisine adapted for her restaurant, and for Australia.

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