WANTED Roubiliac's missing terracotta of Hogarth's pug, Trump

Monday, 15 July 2013

BBC4 (first broadcast July 2013)

- my sequel to Treasures of Chinese Porcelain (BBC4 2011).  During which I visit a calligraphy school in Hangzhou where The Master shows me how to write my Chinese name properly  (left his elegant version).  Some twelve years ago, on learning why I always got a smile when hearing my English name (sounds like las sap, Cantonese for trash bin) I asked my friend Fumei Williams to devise a proper Chinese name for me: 'Su' - the closest sound we could get to 'Tharp', and 'Bo-le'  - a mythical Chinese hero 'able to spot a good horse at a thousand li'   - a talent spotter.  The 2013 Antiques Roadshow is in full swing!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

And now, for the last time....on the telephone....to the gentleman clasping his ears... One hundred and nineteen million dollars only  [ = £74million   -the highest price to date paid for a work of art at auction]

Thursday, 12 April 2012


Angst? Moi?

Some artists’ images never leave us:  The Mona Lisa; The Little Mermaid; The Scream  -all three are closely linked with their ‘home’ cities  -Paris, Copenhagen and Oslo-  and all three, in different ways, have instant international recognition.  And in each an enigma:  What is Lisa smiling at?  Why is the Mermaid gazing out to sea?  And who is the skull-headed figure screaming... and screaming at what?
In Edvard Munch’s  The Scream (left*) the artist pulls the sweep of the distant bay right into the foreground, incorporating  the screamer  into a human question-mark.  Two shadowy figures have just passed by, oblivious;  they move uncaring  into the vanishing point of the esplanade on which the man stands, gripping his skull as if it might crack.  He is ‘speared’  by three  converging diagonals,  the rails of  the pier which fence and separate two contrasted fields, one of regimented straight lines, the other a sea of swirls.  A tension of horror and vertigo - the natural versus the tame world? 
Why do we Scandinavians have a reputation for Melancholy?   Even in Shakespeare we see Hamlet referred to as “The gloomy Dane”  ( -well he was over-reflective, wasn’t he?  Why couldn’t he just stab old Claudius there and then and save a lot of A Level students from agonizing over whether  or not he’s mad?)   More recently, another Dane, Søren  Kierkegaard ,  anatomizes –or even invents -  Existential  Angst   launching a whole tsumani  of Modern Foreboding.

Towards the end of the 19th century the Viennese step in, exploring  the caverns of the Subconscious with Psychoanalysis while the less-than-cheery plays of Strindberg and Ibsen (both friends or subjects of Munch) continue to pour out of the North.   At  the end of Hedda Gabler , Ibsen’s heroine,  torn between stultifying  convention and sexual freedom,  shoots herself.   Whereupon the “respectable” judge mutters in disbelief “But people don’t do such things”. 

Cheer up! Forget those suicidal statistics: it wasn’t just the Scandinavians who were steeped in a winter gloom.  The Russians (remember Dostoyevski?)  and the French checked into Hotel Depression too.   Nearly everyone was screaming as they all ran headlong into deadly embrace of the Great War and the end of the Old World Order.
Today Munch’s Scream is still in the top ten for students’ wall posters.  (In my day, the hippy-happy ‘70s, it was beaten by Beardsley and Mucha and by the bottom-scratching female tennis player.)  Psychiatrists do say that to get out of the dumps immerse yourself in the sympathetic darkness of a Mahler symphony;  the gloom will console you.  So maybe having The Scream on your wall makes you realise how much worse life can really be.  Or, for the same therapy, go and see a horror film.  “Scream” perhaps -though not mentioned in the credits, that elongated skull comes straight from Munch’s original image.
And while we’re having nightmares:  Imagine you’re a Scandinavian  gallery director.  One morning you’re woken up to be told that your most famous painting –the one which draws people from all over the world – has been stolen.  FOR A SECOND TIME!  Well, you’d scream, wouldn’t you?  Especially if the painting was indeed The Scream.  Reach for the Prozac…
To reinforce the power of these icons:  all three  have been pinched, vandalized or cannibalized:  the Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911 (Pablo Picasso was arrested as a suspect, though cleared); and  in the year Mona Lisa was recovered  the (very) Little Mermaid was installed on the Copenhagen waterfront.  In my lifetime she has been decapitated several times and covered top to tail in red paint.
 …And returning to the Scream?  The 1893 ‘original’ (from Oslo’s National Gallery) was eventually recovered as was the version later stolen from the Munch Museum (also Oslo).  All are now behind bullet-proof glass.
And now A Fourth Version comes up for sale, painted in pastels and gouache.  Of all four versions it uniquely bears a text by the artist, inscribed on the frame:  describing his walk with two friends he ends…
I remained behind
Shivering with Anxiety – I felt the great Scream in Nature E.M. 

The picture has been in private hands since the 1920s when acquired by Thomas, father of Petter Olsen (of the shipping family) a supporter of the artist.  With its siblings’ record of multiple thefts,  this Icon of Angst goes on high security  view at Sotheby’s in London (13th-18th April) before being auctioned at Sotheby’s New York on 2nd May 2012. 

And if you’re a moody Scandinavian, hoping to bid:  cheer up, Sotheby’s are expecting bids in excess of  $80,000,000.  Oh well, there’s always the poster.   “Aaaaaaargh…”

[edited version of LT's article first published in Scandinavian Magazine, May 2012]
[PS. For a Scream with Pink Floyd, try: http://vimeo.com/33976373]

* [image courtesy of Sothebys New York ]

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

NADFAS * at Central Hall, Westminster, 27th March 2012

- Everything it was promised to be , including the Two Minute Terror.  Thank you one and all  -and to those coming afterwards to enquire about my Talks (see www.tharp.co.uk - go to What I do, then click Talks...)

I've been giving talks for over 20 years (many to NADFAS tho only now on The Book).  Only this year did I go through the famous 15-minute test, after passing which one is allotted the famous Two Minutes at the Annual Gathering.  But as I already know so many in this great club...To Script or Not To Script?   - with too much to say I invited all 900 representatives to visit my web-site (yes, www.tharp.co.uk) (newly re-launched on that very same day) -and through which you may have come to this Blog (or if not, from which you may visit and sign up...).


Instead of listing all my various talk titles I decided to refresh my campaign to find The Missing Trump:  the original terracotta model of Hogarth's dog, sculpted by Louis Francois Roubiliac,  around 1745.  We know of the Chelsea porcelain copies (coloured and white  -one in the V&A), there are also examples in black by Wedgwood, and (above) there's a smaller marble version (Hogarth Trust, in the care of the Foundling Museum) BUT WHERE is the original terracotta model, last recorded in 1832 (at an auction sale in Wiltshire).  It may be broken, or glued, or festering at the back of a cupboard, or in the attic.  I cannot believe it's been thrown away.  If this rings any bells...Please make contact!  And even if you think it's not the original, but another version...please get in touch. 

When the finder emerges I'll wager they belong to NADFAS. 
Thanks to all for a great day   -and to all fellow NADFAS lecturers!

(And afterwards, because it was my birthday I went with my wife and daughters to see the RSC musical Matilda (Roald Dahl)   -Get to it if you can!  It's Absolutely Fantastic)

[NADFAS  National Association of Decorative and Fine Art Societies]

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Save The Wedgwood Museum...

What the Dickens?!   - Lars Tharp's Open Letter, emailed to friends and colleagues  on the BBC Antiques Roadshow and beyond...

Happy New Year?  Many of you will have read with disbelief the legal ruling, given just before Christmas, that the contents and unique archives housed by the award-winning Wedgwood Museum are deemed “disposable assets”, that they can –and indeed are - to be sold in order to contribute to the Wedgwood Waterford Group's pension fund  -on their closure  reported as being £134million in deficit.  Any bullish auction-room valuation of the Wedgwood Museum’s unique collections, (deposited in a Museum specifically created to remove objects and archives from the manufacturing Group’s material assets) would amount to but a small fraction of that deficit, much less once all lawyers’ and other professional fees are deducted from this already long drawn-out legal case. 

As we enter Dickens’ bicentenary year we shall see how this Jarndyce and Jarndyce situation plays out.  I do not say the December 2011 legal judgement is “wrong” -but it can never have been in the minds of those writing Pension Law to bring a museum  -ring-fenced years ago precisely to protect it against such an eventuality- under the scythe of a wholly separate company.  -  This the lawyers themselves admit.   Consequently, it must be for Parliament to save a highly significant cultural asset from dissolution, and for them to remedy a clear case of Unintended Consequences arising from inadequately drafted law. 
We must ensure that the Wedgwood museum, into which, over the years, so many benefactors have given time and money (including the winning of £100,000 from the Art Fund as “Museum of the Year” in 2009) is saved.
It is a spectacular museum preserving and displaying the lives, archives and artefacts from a period when our country exploded with ideas and industry.  Not only the documents of Josiah Wedgwood and his family, his partners, designers and first-rankartist/designers (Wm Blake, Flaxman, Stubbs, Reynolds et al.)  but scientific papers from the Darwins and other members of the remarkable Lunar Society from which so many great figures and ideas emerged through the 18th and 19th centuries.  A Great Shame would descend on our own hard times if we were were unable to prevent so important a part of our national/international narrative being dissolved.  -  It would be a double-indictment, when we see our taxes repeatedly raided for the ever-increasing (some would say obscene) sums devoured by the forthcoming, ephemeral London Olympics.  Our civilized neighbours and our children would rightly judge us as philistines if we/our legislators were to allow this to happen.
If you have not done so already, (and I know some have), will you please, join the campaign to Save the Wedgwood Museum by doing one or all of the following:-
1) adding you name as supporter  through http://www.savewedgwood.org  and savewedgwood@gmail.com 
2) telling all whom you feel will join the campaign   -copying this email if you like
3) writing to your local MP / the PM; Ministers Ed Vaizey and Jeremy Hunt at the Department for Culture Media and Sport and to any national newspapers.

4) visiting the Museum (in administration but still open) to see just how fantastic it is;

At the time of writing (5th Jan) one glimmer of light comes from a potential benefactor/buyer, John Caudwell, declaring just before Christmas, that he will stand in.  Though potentially very good news, this generous declaration still needs to be buttressed against all the possibilities of a Bleak House scenario.  Until the Wedgwood Museum is safe, please keep lobbying! 

God Bless us, Every One!   Lars Tharp for Trump & Co. Jan 2012

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Lars Tharp's "Woman's Hour" début

Familiar?  - if you watched Forbrydelsen
aka The Killing
And Talking about Jumpers....
Lars takes to the air (BBC Radio 4) on Wednesday 30th November 2011 (some time between 10am-10.45)...

Prepare to be spun some yarns  - who knows where this could go?  ...chaired by tricoteuse Jenni Murray.  What will she unravel?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

At home with Hogarth

Hogarth's House re-opens...

After a three-year restoration, William Hogarth's charming country retreat in Chiswick is once more open to the public (Tuesday-Sunday, noon-5pm).  The project was steered by Val Bott of The William Hogarth Trust ( http://williamhogarthtrust.org.uk/?page_id=16 ).  Chiswick resident, satirist and confessed Hogarth "nut", Dara O'Brian (above, right) officially opened the house on Monday 7th November, three days before Hogarth's 314th birthday.  Guests were treated to miniature mulberry pies made from the fruits of the very tree which has borne fruit in the garden since before the Hogarths moved in in 1749.

We also grabbed prime time with Nick Higham (right) featuring the house on the BBC flagship programme Today

For opening hours and details visit

for my 5-minute BBC tour of Hogarth's prints:

A Rare Dish

A Rare Dish
LT discovers Ming dish, BBC, 2008

Two Trumps

Two Trumps
Messrs Bird & Fortune -awarded The Hogarth' Group's " Golden Trump" at Tate Britain, 2006