Monday, April 14, 2014

Diary Delights!

Those who are aware of the activities of Mrs. Hague as portrayed and outlined in Osbert Sitwell's poem of that name will be conscious that:

"Monday was Washing Day,
Tuesday was Baking Day,
Wednesday h'Alfred 'as 'is dinner h'early,"

Happily, thanks to the excellence and efficiency of our cook/housekeeper, Tímea, our lives are not quite so curtailed with domestic chores.

tickets for a variety of performances attended over the last two weeks

a selection of programmes arranged on the piano in the Morning Room

Indeed, looking back over the previous two weeks we can, in fact, only count on one night 'in', so to speak, the rest having been enjoyed 'out' with a variety of concerts, a Private View, wonderfully delicious dinners in numerous Budapest restaurants, matched only by those served in the homes of friends, contemporary dance, the cinema, not to mention a surprise joint birthday party given for us by The Bright Young Things as well as Anniversary celebrations.

birthday flowers sent by the divine Mad Italian boys, Carlo and Andrea

more birthday flowers, arranged in the Front Hall, to greet visitors

And such fun we have had. Highlights must include in the way of music the most amazing 'Habilitácios Hangversenye' where our extraordinarily gifted and talented friend, Nemes László [Director of the Kodály Institute of Music], conducted a choir to include works by Mendelssohn and Schónberg and which can only be described as outstanding.

at the 'Habilitácios Hangversenye' concert with Madame Kodály [seated left]

On another night we attended a concert performance with the Purcell Choir of Rameau's 'Les Fétes de Polymnie', superb in every respect, whilst most recently, our Polish friend, Magdalena Wajdzik, played the work of the young composer, Baqais Ádám, in a most interesting competition concert. To this must be added a somewhat lack lustre, at least for us, evening with Rufus Wainwright made up for by an exciting evening of modern dance where, in each piece, we could count our friends amongst the dancers.

tickets, and handbag,  for a disappointing evening with Rufus Wainwright

A trip to the cinema, 'A Grand Hotel Budapest', left us with divided opinions but not so dinner out with friends where we were treated to an Italian restaurant, 'Via Luna',  to 'Spinoza', a firm favourite, and to 'M' where we enjoyed a hilarious evening with close friends one of whom is, in all truth, a Princess from China! Next day in the Four Seasons Hotel, for reasons unknown, she so generously showered us with gifts and presented us with the most enormous teddy bear!!

an evening at 'M' restaurant with friends Alexander and Stella - such fun

'The Princess' presenting Lance Hattatt with a teddy bear , Alexander 

Now, at the invitation of The Várfok Gallery, Budapest's longest established private art gallery, we are looking ahead to Wednesday when we shall lead a VIP Tour of the latest exhibition showing the work of two leading Hungarian contemporary artists, Jovánovics Tamás and Keseru Károly.

 invitation for VIP Private Tour prior to the opening of the exhibition

Our work is cut out!! But it beats Washing Day!!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Off With His Head

There is something more than a little strange about the world as depicted in the paintings of Orr Máté [in Hungarian the surname is always placed first]. Human forms may sport the head of animals, violence erupts in sword or saw, in axe or arrow, in a Still Life one senses putrefaction, a cabbage rots, fungi fester, birds and beasts are exiled from their natural habitat to become part of a domestic scene, the familiar translates to the unfamiliar, the known to the unknown.

Orr Máté answering a point in his Budapest studio with a work in progress

For Orr Máté, the curious attracts and the more curious the greater the attraction. Born in 1985 and a graduate of The Hungarian University of Fine Arts in Budapest, Orr Máté is, without a shadow of a doubt, with numerous exhibitions to his name and his work widely collected in both Europe and the United States of America, one of the rising stars of Hungarian painters of his generation.

shelves in the studio are filled with an eclectic mix of objects and materials

A visit to his Budapest studio is a telling experience. Here, amongst the brushes and well worked tubes of oil paint, are to be found provisional sketches [for every painting is painstakingly worked from concept to completion], maquettes, works in progress and completed canvases. Shelves display a miscellany of objet trouvé: a gilded skull, a porcelain rabbit, a plastic lobster. Inspiration is taken from life itself.

a near finished painting, with preliminary oil sketches, indicates the process of work

Enquiries of his work are answered with a quiet assurance and authority which emanate from a lively, intelligent and creative mind whilst a very real sense of humour and fun make this self-effacing painter, who describes his work as 'Baroque-Futurism', a joy to know and to count as a friend.

in the drawing room Orr Máté is pictured with some sketches relating to a commission

It would, we feel, be presumptuous to call ourselves 'Collectors' of Orr Máté's work, or indeed anyone else's. But with two [and one tiny] paintings now hanging on our walls, and an exciting commission under way, possibly we may at least be thought of as 'Interested'!! We rather hope so!!

'Scene with Hare', a moment in time captured, hangs above the sideboard

Today our newest acquisition 'Pelican' or, as we think of it, 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' [with apologies to James Joyce], impacts upon the drawing room. Here in this nude self-portrait are to be found so many familiar elements: the often repeated motif of the chequerboard; the human head replaced [in this case with that of a bird]; the suggested threat of danger [the weapon]; the 'flat' Matisse-type paint effects. With closer observation the fiery red of the bird's beak assumes a phallic quality, in direct contrast to the shadowy genitals, the axe points inwards to create a disturbing tension whilst the stance of the figure itself suggests on the one hand virile masculinity and, on the other, human vulnerability.

here the artist unpacks the newest of our paintings, an oil on canvas, titled 'Pelican'
'Pelican', oil on canvas, positioned in the drawing room - certain to excite comment
On Friday evening Orr Máté accompanied us to the State Opera House for a production of Wagner's 'The Flying Dutchman' . Somehow fitting, or so we think!

Orr Máté at the opera prior to the performance. Lance Hattatt is pictured in the glass seated
after the opera enjoying pudding in the bar of The Four Seasons Hotel, Budapest

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Off the Tracks

Lance Hattatt and Rafael González Paz: the gateway of Colonia del Sacramento

Had there been a railway, then we should have travelled to Colonia del Sacramento by train. But, alas, the Central Uruguay Railway, in British control from 1878 until Nationalisation in 1948, is no more and so, per force, we resorted to the bus.

a woman seen through an open doorway sits patiently beside her Christmas Tree
a cobbled street within the Old Town leads down towards the River Plate and the sea

Some three hours later, our route having taken us along avenues of palm trees, we alighted in the old quarter, designated a World Heritage Site, of this historic town where shady squares, cobbled streets and quiet alleys gave voice to a time having stood still.

the vibrancy and colour of South America is reflected in the interior of this small café

A set of tickets, purchased to give entrance to all museums, proved an unwise buy. Firmly closed for the summer holidays, we could only speculate as to what lay behind those locked doors. From the top of a lighthouse we wished ourselves across the still waters of the River Plate to where the distant spires of Buenos Aires rose visible through the haze of heat.

foiled once more as yet another museum advertises itself closed for the summer holidays
snapshots taken in the restaurant after a long lunch - a welcome respite from the heat
across a stretch of the River Plate, seen from the lighthouse, the city of Buenos Aires

Once more on terra firma we lingered over lunch, befriended stray cats, pressed our noses to the glass of unshuttered windows, wrote on picture postcards, scorned souvenirs, snapped snapshots and painted our lips red. Later, as the shadows of the day lengthened, we clambered over rocks, hunted for sea shells and, as all travellers do, dreamt dreams.

looking out to sea from the shore but, in fact, at the very edge of the River Plate 
in the late afternoon sun on the banks of the River Plate at Colonia del Sacramento

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Land of Chivito, Mate, and Rafaelito

"Darlings," we asked ourselves, "is this a country which works?"

Not at all, that is if we take heed of our friend AS who is convinced, unconvincingly, that there are only two countries in the world which have a legitimate right to such a claim: North Korea and Romania. Indeed, for those seeking the security and convention of a dull democracy, then Uruguay and, in particular, its capital Montevideo, is not the place for them.

But for us it was, and is, a dream become reality.

Palacio Salvo - a landmark building in central Montevideo
reminder of former colonial times - Montevideo town house

For how could we not be captivated with, and enchanted by, a country where the brilliance of a southern summer sun, shining through the December days, is reflected in the vitality and warmth of a people so relaxed and at one with themselves?

a cheery shopkeeper leans across his book store counter 
a woman in the park enjoying a drink of the traditional Mate
group of nurses returning to the hospital after the lunch break - note the Mate

With our Mad Boy, Rafaelito, to act as our guide we toured the old town with its crumbling colonial-style shops and houses, its faded Coca-Cola signs, its bustling markets, street corners and pleasant parks. And at each turn always something to fascinate, to interest, to intrigue. New, new world indeed!

Coca-Cola, almost a National drink, seen advertised almost everywhere
the port area with Lance Hattatt and Rafael González Paz
browsing among the books and objets d'art in the Old Town
explanations being given by Rafaelito [Rafael González Paz]
playing at statues in a small city park within the Old Town
possibly not quite the Harrods of Montevideo but hugely interesting

Denied entry to the port to see the anchor of the 'Admiral Graf Spee', scuttled at the mouth of the River Plate in December 1939, we merrily, through the persuasive talk of Rafaelito, skipped past the guards and into the house where Garibaldi had once upon a time lived.

Jane Hattatt, Rafael González Paz and Lance Hattatt at Garibaldi' s house

A music concert, a night at the opera, a tango party [led astray by Rafaelito], a mausoleum, museums, cathedrals and churches, and buskers on buses all served to delight us further.

staircase, looking down from above, inside the Museum of Decorative Arts 
inside the mausoleum situated underneath the Plaza Independencia
purchasing tickets for the opera , 'Il Duce' at Teatro Solis- a very jolly occasion

In Pocitos, a residential suburb, we were invited into one of Montevideo's finest extant Art Deco buildings, ate delicious dinners and cavorted on the seashore.

Art Deco at Edificio el Mástil, 3105 Avenida Brasil
clambering over rocks on the shore of the River Plate

A Sunday market, occupying several streets, proved amazing, a handbag snatched and stolen alarming, a Christmas dinner of uncooked rice [woe on you Rafaelito] inedible, and a trip to Colonia del Sacremento pure heaven.

young rabbits, just one of countless items for sale in the Sunday street market

motoring in Colonia with Rafael González Paz [Rafaelito] and Lance Hattatt

But of Colonia del Sacremento there will be more to tell! [click on all images to enlarge]

Thursday, February 20, 2014


Qui s'excuse s'accuse. So let us not dwell on an absence which, most shameful to admit, approaches that of a year. But should reason be required, then let it be said that it has been a year full of friendship, foreign travel [fear of the long haul flight finally overcome], frivolity [such parties], fantasy [the enchanting world of opera and ballet], and delights in abundance - the alliteration now exhausted - beyond all measure.

Richard Adams, Jane Hattatt and Lance Hattatt on The Grand Canal, Venice

Revisiting our garden days we spent time with dear friends, Lesley and John Jenkins, whose outstanding gardens surrounding their home, Wollerton Old Hall, enjoy much deserved critical acclaim from both near and far.

Wollerton Old Hall - view from the dining room window

Country house visiting remains an untold pleasure for us and the spent year excited with many most interesting discoveries of castles and palaces hidden in the depths of the Hungarian countryside. Alas, as has been remarked upon here before, many are in dire need of restoration and with some, one suspects, it is already too late.

a fireplace surround within the castle at Tata, Hungary

At home we have continued to entertain and with it has come the joy of spending time with friends old and new.

Jane Hattatt surveys the set table in the dining room

Alongside this we have been so very fortunate to enjoy seasons at the opera and ballet, to have attended musical events from Salon Concerts to full symphony orchestras and, on occasion, to have had the enormous pleasure and thrill of hosting cello and piano recitals within our own Budapest apartment.

Lance Hattatt - before a country house Salon Concert
before a concert to celebrate Latvian Independence Day
exterior of Budapest Opera House advertising a new ballet

Art Market Budapest occupied much of our time throughout 2013 having been invited early in the year to join the planning committee. The Fair, opening in late November, proved to be an enormous success, attracting thousands of visitors, and establishing Budapest at the heart of the Contemporary Art scene.

Ari Kupsus Gallery, stand at Art Market Budapest 2013
newly purchased painting by Orr Máté above sideboard

Abroad we made such fun forays to Italy [Lucca, Milan and Venice], to Slovénia, a jewel of a country with its ancient villages and towns and breathtakingly beautiful coastal ports, as well as to Germany and the cities of Weimar and Dresden.

Lance Hattatt, Andrea Franchi and Carlo Claude in Milan
table prepared for lunch in the loggia of Villa Massei, Lucca
guide books in readiness in a Venetian hotel bedroom
wayside Madonna with electrically lit candles in Slovénia

And then, finally, at the year's end, came The Great South American Adventure where, accompanied by Rafael González Paz, the maddest of Mad Boys, we crossed continents to his home city of Montevideo. 

Rafael González Paz practises in a rehearsal room in Weimar

But that is a tale yet to be told. More anon!!

Lance Hattatt in Montevideo, December 2013