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This Felix Gonzalez-Torres Artwork Is Currently Installed at 1,000 Sites Around the World – Observer

As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic keeps people at home and business closed, many galleries across the art world have made the pivot from in-person exhibitions to online viewing rooms (along with much debate about their efficacy and intent). One exhibition that is helping to put the emphasis back on the physical object is the latest show that Andrea Rosen and David Zwirner have collaborated on. Untitled (Fortune Cookie Corner), a worldwide exhibition featuring multiple iterations of a work of the same name, offers viewers a chance to experience a piece by Cuban-born, American artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, albeit in a unique way.

The piece, first created in 1990, is the first of the artists now-famous Candy series, which uses wrapped candy heaped in piles in various formations. This series, as well as his larger body of work, draws on larger issues of loss, time and immortality, topics that feel all too timely due to the current circumstances. In this ambitious and unconventional curatorial undertaking, Rosen asked 1,000 people from across the globe from inside and outside of the art world to participate in helping to activate this exhibition in a new waynamely, by creating a version the work in their home or workspace or any place that is safely accessible to them.

Each participant was sent an invitation containing information about the core elements of the work, as well as a set of guidelines and questions to consider. People were asked to source their own fortune cookies and install between 240 to 1,000 in total that would be placed in a pile in their homes. The parameters of where and how they are arranged are left up to the individual.

Felixs work is perhaps some of the only work that can literally, physically be experienced at this time because of all of the things that he thought about, [particularly] in terms of what is the core of an object, what is the core of an experience? And that it doesnt have to revolve around permanency or aggrandizing something in a singular form, Andrea Rosen told Observer. Rosen explained that she wanted to put emphasis back on the physical aspects of viewing art during a time when people are overtaxed and under-stimulated by digital presentations. Rosen curated the project and is also president of the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation.

Because of the way Gonzalez-Torres work functions, it is not confined in the same way other artists work is. Due to its open-endlessness, which is expressly laid out in the invitation that participant receives, it can be installed in more than one place at a time, giving it the chance to have multiple interpretations and interactions. Over the course of the six week show, Rosen also requested that participants document the installation to capture its evolution. Additionally, halfway through, people have been asked to replenish the cookies to the total number they started with.

Since the shows debut on Monday, there have been very ingenious installations of the work. Some participants include Guggenheim curator Nancy Spector, collector Darryl de Prez and Soho House Hong Kong.

In Spectors version of Gonzalez-Torres piece she placed the cookies in a portable lending library space near the home she is currently renting in Maine with the following text: Felix Gonzalez-Torres was the most generous of artists, creating work that gave itself to the public with the possibility of being endlessly regenerated. Yet, his sculptural spills of candy and stacks of printed paper in their depletion over time, rehearse the loss that is inevitable in life. Originally produced during the AIDS crisis, his work resonates with particular poignancy today as we all face the uncertainty of COVID-19.

Another version was installed in a train station in Seoul, South Korea, and was gone within an hour. And another iteration utilizes a newspaper vending machine that has been refashioned to house the cookies, complete with a camera to capture peoples reactions as they take one.

The exhibition is helping to create a breakdown between the personal and the performative and is creating a larger sense of time and space for its participants. Each piece will change over the course of the exhibition and is being captured through digital documentation.

Ultimately, this exhibition invites people to think more deeply about the world around them, their responsibility in it, and how generosity and the human condition can be transformed through these types of interventions. It challenges people to think through larger systems of access and the creation of barriers in societyquestions that are particularly timely, given how Gonzalez-Torres probed the concept of being or feeling isolated, along with his larger social commentary on the AIDS crisis, which also sadly claimed his life in 1996.

At the height of social isolation, when interacting with other people and art is occurring in limited forms, this show of Gonzalez-Torres work is helping people feel connected in a new way. Untitled (Fortune Cookie Corner) is about hope and possibility and it is helping people to feel a part of something that is larger than themselves through a shared experience.

People want to be connected, they want to be engaged.I think if you have the opportunity, especially at this moment, to realize that you are part of something meaningful, its inspiring and I think thats really at the base of Felixs work: using of this sense of generosity to both engage and move people to involvement, said Rosen.

Untitled (Fortune Cookie Corner) is on view until July 5. Viewers are encouraged to follow the hashtag #fgtexhibition to view the work and its progression on Instagram as well as viewing both Andrea Rosens website and David Zwirners website.

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Upload Is the Latest Show Treating the Afterlife as Simulation – Observer

Greg Daniels new Amazon Prime Video series Uploadturns the afterlife into a very familiar place. In the show, Nathan (Robbie Amell) is uploaded to a sort of Four Seasons deluxe V.R. estate after he suffers a fatal car crash. He can still call and chat with his living friends and family, but can never leave the digital afterlife program that serves as his version of heaven.

Upload presents a less than perfect take of the afterlife. Aside from being unable to go back to a physical body, Nathans seemingly perfect, high-end resort ends up playingmore like a freemium game, complete with DLCs for food, clothing and loot boxes. Its basically The Good Place by way of Parasite.

Though Upload is far from the first TV show to take place in the afterlifethat was The Good Places bread and butter after allthe Greg Daniels comedy is also part of a recent wave of TV shows using computer simulations to give us a glimpse into heavenand they usually end up about as scary and bad as youd expect.

SEE ALSO: Disney+ Finally Lets You Watch Simpsons the Right Way

The dark comedy, sci-fi show Black Mirror first explored the idea of the afterlife as a simulated reality in San Junipero which ends with a shot of a massive warehouse filled with thousands upon thousands of blinking hard drives, presumably housing all the residents of San Junipero. Though this afterlife is full of 80s nostalgia and endless parties, the show does ask the question of whether a simulated reality version of you is really you, which is a question that always comes up in this type of story. Similarly, before he explored what the robot uprising could look like in Westworld, Jonathan Nolan showed us what it could look like if a machine knew enough about us to make a copy of our minds in Person of Interest.

Though not a big part of the show, after one of the main characters in Person of Interest dies, the artificial intelligence at the center of the show starts speaking with the voice of the dead character, and takes on part of their personality. The shows explanation is that the machine remembers all the main characters and knows everything about them, so it can replicate them as perfect simulations, essentially letting them live forever.

Upload doesnt try to hide the fact that its afterlife, and its inhabitants, are at best a computer interpretation of what humans are. In the first episode of the show, a customer service representative named Nora (Andy Allo) builds Nathans virtual avatar as she downloads all his memories into the virtual afterlife. The problem comes when some of the memories seem to be corrupted, however, which becomes a big part of the shows plot. Similarly, it seems like you cant ever alter your avatar, as Nathan tries across a few episodes to change the weird haircut Nora chose for him, unsuccessfully. Meanwhile, one of the resorts residents died as a kid, but never grows up in the afterlife, even if his siblings and friends kept getting old in the outside world. The people inside Uploads afterlife turns people into essentially pieces of data, which can be paused, altered and completely erased at the push of a button.

Season 2 of Westworld spent some time exploring the flaws and futility of using technology to achieve immortality. The show reveals that the purpose of the titular park was to gather data on guests in order to copy the consciousness of billionaire guests and build them robot bodies so they could live forever. The season 2 episode The Riddle of the Sphinx introduces a host version of the parks owner, James Delos (Peter Mullan), but only its faulty, barely capable of speech and incapable of going off-script orthinking like an actual person.

The shows version of the afterlife, The Forge, takes 18 million virtual versions of Delos before it found a copy faithful enough to recreate the decisions the real Delos made in the park, and then even after 149 host versions were produced, it was still far from a perfect simulation. Even if Westworld argues that even if human beings are so simple beings that we amount to just about 10,000 lines of code, the Delos project is still never able to produce a host copy thats true to the original human.

Alex Garland imagines a similar nightmarish afterlife for his sci-fi drama Devs, which involves a plan to have people, more specifically just one rich Silicon Valley guy, live forever in a simulation. In the show, Forest (Nick Offerman) builds a quantum computer to create a fully simulated universe where his loved ones dont die and his consciousness can be transferred to before dying. In the final episode, Forest rejoins his wife and daughter in his version of heaven, but while he seems very happy with his situation, Forest confesses that his original plan to create a single reality was a failure.

Instead, the quantum computer created countless multiverses, the one we see allows the characters to live happily ever after, but Forest knows there are countless versions of him existing in the countless other simulations, many of which look more like hell. Though the show doesnt spend a lot of time with the specifics of how the consciousness transfer works, it is heavily implied that this also is the machines interpretation of the characters consciousness via countless calculations, rather than an actual uploading process.

We dont yet know when or if well be able to upload our minds into a computer, or what the results might be. But if it looks anything like TV,eternal life will probably look a hell of a lot like regular life, including all its existential questions and economic problems.

Observation Pointsis a semi-regular discussion of key details in our culture.

Upload is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

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Altered Carbon Season 3: Cast, Plot,Release Date, trailer And All New Updates Here – Auto Freak

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Carbon that is altered dioxide is an American cyberpunk web tv series. The creator and the writer of the series are Laeta Kalogridis. Altered carbon is based on the publication of the same name, released in 2002. English author of the publication is Richard K. Morgan. Modified Carbon season 3 is in news as of now

Its about the future as it says, the season is 23rd century, of intelligence. The audience intrigue. It showcases too in digitally and which consciousness can stow.

At this point, digital immortality is attained by humans. Souls can move to another.A human, Takeshi Kovacs, is taken out from an electronic prison. His career was as a UN elite soldier. He turned right into a private investigator. All this effort only to solve the murder of an individual, which was shady.

We do not have any confirmation of those faces that will appear in the upcoming season. But based on speculations, we cast and could expect some personalities

The season premiered on February 2, 2018, on Netflix and consists of ten episodes. For the second season of eight episodes, the show renewed on July 27, 2018. And published on with an anime film set before the first season released on March 19, 2020.

For your statement till this particular outbreak of COVID-19 around the world gets cool down we might need to wait.

We will observe Altered Carbon season 3 to find a launch date for the first time to 2022.

We stay connected will keep you updated with all the official information and keep watching.

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Disrupting death: Could we really live forever in digital form? – CNET

In 2016, Jang Ji-sung's young daughter Nayeon passed away from a blood-related disease. But in February, the South Korean mother was reunited with her daughter in virtual reality. Experts constructed a version of her child using motion capture technology for a documentary. Wearing a VR headset and haptic gloves, Jang was able to walk, talk and play with this digital version of her daughter.

"Maybe it's a real paradise," Jang said of the moment the two met in VR. "I met Nayeon, who called me with a smile, for a very short time, but it's a very happy time. I think I've had the dream I've always wanted."

Once largely the concern of science fiction, more people are now interested in immortality -- whether that's keeping your body or mind alive forever (as explored in the new Amazon Prime comedy Upload), or in creating some kind of living memorial, like an AI-based robot or chatbot version of yourself, or of your loved one. The question is -- should we do that? And if we do, what should it look like?

In Korea, a mother was reunited with a virtual reality version of her young daughter who had passed away years before, as part of a documentary project.

Modern interest around immortality started in the 1960s, when the idea of cryonics emerged -- freezing and storing a human corpse or head with the hope of resurrecting that person in the distant future. (While some people have chosen to freeze their body after death, none have yet been revived.)

"There was a shift in death science at that time, and the idea that somehow or another death is something humans can defeat," said John Troyer, director of the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath and author of Technologies of the Human Corpse.

However, no peer-reviewed research suggests it's worth pouring millions of dollars into trying to upload our brains, or finding ways to keep our bodies alive, Troyer said. At least not yet. A 2016 study published in the journal PLOS ONE did find that exposing a preserved brain to chemical and electrical probes could make the brain function again, to some degree.

"It's all a gamble about what's possible in the future," Troyer said. "I'm just not convinced it's possible in the way [technology companies] are describing, or desirable."

There's a big difference between people actively trying to upload their brain to try and live on forever and those who die whose relatives or the public try to resurrect them in some way through technology.

In 2015, Eugenia Kuyda, co-founder and CEO of software company Replika, lost her best friend Roman after he was hit by a car in Moscow. As part of the grieving process, she turned to tech. Kuyda trained a chatbot on thousands of text messages the two had shared over the years -- creating a digital version of Roman that could still "talk" to family and friends.

The first time she messaged the bot, Kuyda said she was surprised at how close it came to feeling like she was talking to her friend again. "It was very emotional," she said. "I wasn't expecting to feel like that, because I worked on that chatbot, I knew how it was built."

If this sounds like an episode of Black Mirror, it's because it was. The 2013 episode Be Right Back centers on a young woman whose boyfriend is killed in a car accident. In mourning, she signs up for a service that allows her to communicate with an AI version of him based on his past online communications and social media profiles -- ultimately turning it into an android version of her boyfriend. But he's never exactly the same.

Eugenia Kuyda created a chatbot based on text messages from her friend Roman after he passed away in a car accident.

However, Kuyda says her Roman chatbot was a deeply personal project and tribute -- not a service for others. Anyone trying to do this on a mass scale would run into a number of barriers, she added. You'd have to decide what information would be considered public or private and who the chatbot would be talking to. The way you talk to your parents is different from the way you'd talk to your friends, or to a colleague. There wouldn't be a way to differentiate, she said.

The digital version of your friend could potentially copy the way they speak, but it would be based on things they had said in the past -- it wouldn't make new opinions or create new conversations. Also, people go through different periods in life and evolve their thinking, so it would be difficult to determine which phase the chatbot would capture.

"We leave an insane amount of data, but most of that is not personal, private or speaks about us in terms of what kind of person we are," Kuyda said. "You can merely build the shadow of a person."

The question remains: Where can we get the data to digitize people, in full? Kuyda asks. "We can deepfake a person and create some nascent technology that works -- like a 3D avatar -- and model a video of the person," she added. "But what about the mind? There's nothing that can capture our minds right now."

Perhaps the largest barrier to creating some kind of software copy of a person after they die is data. Pictures, texts, and social media platforms don't typically exist online forever. That's partially because the internet continues to evolve and partially because most content posted online belongs to that platform. If the company shuts down, people can no longer access that material.

"It's interesting and of the moment, but it's a great deal more ephemeral than we imagined," Troyer said. "A lot of the digital world disappears."

Memorialization technology doesn't typically stand the test of time, Troyer said. Think video tributes or social media memorial pages. It's no use having something saved to some cloud if no one can access it in the future, he added. Take the story of the computer that Tim Berners Lee used to create HTML on the web with -- the machine is at CERN, but no one knows the password. "I see that as sort of an allegory for our time," he said.

"We leave an insane amount of data, but most of that is not personal, private or speaks about us in terms of what kind of person we are. You can merely build the shadow of a person."

Eugenia Kuyda, co-founder and CEO of software company Luka

One of the more sci-fi concepts in the area of digitizing death came from Nectome, a Y Combinator startup that preserves the brain for potential memory extraction in some form through a high-tech embalming process. The catch? The brain has to be fresh -- so those who wanted to preserve their mind would have to be euthanized.

Nectome planned to test it with terminally ill volunteers in California, which permits doctor-assisted suicide for those patients. It collected refundable $10,000 payments for people to join a waitlist for the procedure, should it someday become more widely available (clinical trials would be years away). As of March 2018, 25 people had done so, according to the MIT Technology Review. (Nectome did not respond to requests for comment for this story.)

The startup raised $1 million in funding along with a large federal grant and was collaborating with an MIT neuroscientist. But the MIT Technology Review story garnered some negative attention from ethicists and neuroscientists, many of whom said the ability to recapture memories from brain tissue and re-create a consciousness inside a computer is at best decades away and probably not possible at all. MIT terminated its contract with Nectome in 2018.

"Neuroscience has not sufficiently advanced to the point where we know whether any brain preservation method is powerful enough to preserve all the different kinds of biomolecules related to memory and the mind," according to a statement from MIT. "It is also not known whether it is possible to recreate a person's consciousness."

It's currently impossible to upload a version of our brain to the cloud -- but some researchers are trying.

Meanwhile, an app in the works called Augmented Eternity aims to help people live on in digital form, for the sake of passing on knowledge to future generations. Hossein Rahnama, founder and CEO of context-aware computing services company FlyBits and visiting professor at MIT Media Lab, seeks to build software agents that can act as digital heirs, to complement succession planning and pass on wisdom to those who ask for it.

"Millennials are creating gigabytes of data on a daily basis and we have reached a level of maturity where we can actually create a digital version of ourselves," Rahnama said.

Augmented Eternity takes your digital footprints -- emails, photos, social media activity -- and feeds them into a machine learning engine. It analyzes how people think and act, to give you a digital being resembling an actual person, in terms of how they react to things and their attitudes, Rahnama said. You could potentially interact with this digital being as a chatbot, a Siri-like assistant, a digitally-edited video, or even a humanoid robot.

The project's purpose is to learn from humans' daily lives -- not for advertising, but to advance the world's collective intelligence, Rahnama said.

"I also like the idea of connecting digital generations," he added. "For example, someone who is similar to me in terms of their career path, health, DNA, genomics. They may be 30 or 40 years ahead of me, but there is a lot I could learn about that person."

The team is currently building a prototype. "Instead of talking to a machine like Siri and asking it a question, you can basically activate the digital construct of your peers or people that you trust in your network and ask them a question," Rahnama said.

In the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University in Japan, director Hiroshi Ishiguro has built more than 30 lifelike androids -- including a robotic version of himself. He's pioneered a research field on human-robot interactions, studying the importance of things like subtle eye movements and facial expressions for replicating humans.

"My basic purpose is to understand what a human is by creating a very human-like robot," Ishiguro said. "We can improve the algorithm to be more human-like if we can find some of the important features of a human."

Ishiguro has said that if he died, his robot could go on lecturing students in his place. However, it would never really "be" him, he said, or be able to come up with new ideas.

"We cannot transmit our consciousness to robots," Ishiguro said. "We may share the memories. The robot may say 'I'm Hiroshi Ishiguro,' but still the consciousness is independent."

Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro (right) poses with the robotic version of himself (left).

However, this line is only going to get blurrier.

"I think in the near future we're going to have a brain-machine interface," Ishiguro said. This will make the boundary between a human and a computer very ambiguous, in the sense that we could share part of a memory with the computer.

"Then, I think it's quite difficult to say where is our consciousness -- is it on the computer, or in our brain?" Ishiguro said. "Maybe both."

Despite what you may think, this won't look anything like a science fiction movie, Ishiguro said. In those familiar examples, "they download the memory or some other information in your brain onto the computer. We cannot do that," he said. "We need to have different ways for making a copy of our brains, but we don't know yet how we can do that."

Humans evolved thanks to a biological principle: Survival of the fittest. But today, we have the technology to improve our genes ourselves and to develop human-like robots, Ishiguro said.

"We don't need to prove the biological principal to survive in this world," Ishiguro said. "We can design the future by ourselves. So we need to carefully discuss what is a human, what is a human right and how we can design ourselves. I cannot give you the answers. But that is our duty to think about the future.

"That is the most important question always -- we're looking for what a human is," Ishiguro said. "That is to me the primary goal of science and engineering."

This story is part of CNET'sThe Future of Funerals series. Stay tuned for more next week.

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New Tiger Woods documentary to air on TV next month – BreakingNews.ie

A new Tiger Woods documentary Tiger Wood: Back is launching next month.

The new documentary looks back on the champion golfer's 2019 Masters victory with never-before-seen footage.

The show will be broadcast on Sky's new channel, Sky Documentary service, Sky Sports and NOW TV.

A number of other sporting documentaries are also coming out soon on the new Sky Documentaries service including:

Tiger Woods: Back

Telling one of golf's greatest comeback stories, this Sky original documentary draws on archival footage and exclusive interviews with golfing legend Butch Harmon, Nick Faldo, Jaime Diaz, Notah Begay III, Ewen Murray and Consultant Neurological Spinal Surgeon Mr Peter Hamlyn.

After four potentially career-ending back surgeries and confessing he may never play competitive golf again, Tiger Woods returned to Augusta in 2019, where it all began 22 years before and dramatically won his fifth Masters, his 15th Major and his first major in 11 years.

The Armstrong Lie

After beating cancer and winning the Tour de France seven times, Lance Armstrong was considered one of the greatest sports figures of all time.

When Armstrong admitted to doping in 2012, USADA's CEO, Travis Tygart, concluded that Armstrong's team had run "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."

Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes

A vibrant portrait of boxing legend Muhammad Ali told through the lens of his frequent appearances on the Emmy Award-winning Dick Cavett Show.

With natural charisma, quick wit and playful pugnacity, Ali was a perfect foil for the sophisticated broadcast host, and together they struck television gold.

Busby

The truly remarkable story of a Manchester United icon and one of the greatest football managers of all time.

During 25 years in charge of Manchester United his charisma, vision and steel revolutionised the beautiful game, turning Manchester United from the second-best team in their home city into one of the most iconic names in sport.

Ferrari Race to Immortality

Ferrari: Race to Immortality tells the story of the loves and losses, triumphs and tragedy of Ferrari's most celebrated drivers in an era where they lived la dolce vita during the week, and it was win or die on any given Sunday.

Kenny

The day after the Heysel disaster, Kenny Dalglish became manager of Liverpool Football Club. Six years later he resigned from the club, shell-shocked in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster.

In between he created one of the most exciting football teams of all times. 'Kenny' explores more than just the roller-coaster career of an iconic footballer and manager.

Women of Troy

Women of Troy is a documentary film highlighting the historic and ground-breaking USC womens basketball team of the 1980s, whose talent and charisma created new possibilities for women in basketball and helped paved the way for the WNBA.

Kevin Pietersen: Story of a Genius

This documentary underlines the story of one of England's most controversial and successful cricket players of all time.

In this five-part documentary series, a group of cricketing experts, ex-players and ex-coaches all along with Kevin himself, explain the fascinating and eventful life that the cricketer experienced.

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In Focus: Francis Wheatley, the Londoner who immortalised everyday Georgian life across the strata of society – Country Life

Francis Wheatley RA (17471801) is best known today for his Cries of London, but, as Matthew Dennison explains, he was also a painter of delightful and accomplished portraits and landscapes.

Posterity has cocked a snook at the verdict on Francis Wheatley that was expressed in 1772 by the authors of Candid Observations on the Principal Performances Now Exhibiting at the New Rooms of the Society of Artists. This pithily titled critique made bold claims for the painter, not least that he [bid] fair to be of the first class.

Alas, it was not to be. Wheatleys career spanned three decades, beginning in the early 1770s. It included a series of small-scale group portraits or conversation pieces, landscapes in oil and watercolour, full-length portraits, so-called fancy pictures (genre studies of sentimental realism), scenes from Shakespeare and contemporary literature and a noteworthy handful of large group scenes, including The Irish House of Commons in 1780 and the glorious The Earl of Aldborough reviewing Volunteers at Belan House, County Kildare, commissioned in 1782.

Francis Wheatleys The Earl of Aldborough reviewing Volunteers at Belan House, County Kildare, commissioned in 1782. Credit: The National Trust / Waddesdon Manor

In all, Wheatley demonstrated both adroitness and liveliness of spirit, without achieving consistently the hallmarks of an artist of the first class. Until a century ago, he enjoyed immortality of sorts thanks to the enduring popularity of his best-known print series, his Cries of London.

The pictures painted in the 1790s showed a series of 20 down-at-heel street sellers in and around Covent Garden. There is none of the glittering archness of his earlier fancy pictures: here was a vision both kindly and picturesque, celebratory and charming. They were reproduced by engravers and sold well into the 20th century, even finding fame on biscuit tins and chocolate boxes. Today, however, his work attracts a small following.

Two bunches a penny primroses, two bunches a penny, from Wheatleys Cries of London.

Wheatleys career got off to a promising start, with prizes in his teens for drawing and draughtsmanship, admission to the new Royal Academy Schools in 1769 and to the Society of Artists the following year. Late in his career, he was elected a Royal Academician. That his contemporaries thought highly of him may not be surprising: among Wheatleys talents was his ability to assimilate key features and mannerisms from the work of his fellow painters. Early influences included the portraits of John Hamilton Mortimer.

Wheatleys first surviving landscape in oils, The Harvest Wagon of 1774, is modelled closely on a painting of the same name by Thomas Gainsborough. This was more than simple copying and the painter demonstrated considerable dexterity, not only of technique, but in the omnivorousness of his borrowing. View on the Banks of the Medway of 1776 clearly shows the influence of earlier Dutch landscape painting.

Wheatley built his early reputation on portraits of prosperous, but not necessarily top-drawer sitters. Invariably depicted in rural settings, his male subjects struggle to suggest patrician insouciance.

Francis Wheatleys Figures and cattle by a lake. Courtesy of the Royal Academy of Arts.

There is nothing cruel in Wheatleys gaze; indeed, most of his work is characterised by a warmth of feeling that is charming in itself. Best examples, such as his portrait of Lord Spencer Hamilton of 1778 in the Royal Collection, combine a successful composition with flashes of genuine insight.

The same applies to the group portraits Wheatley undertook, again influenced by Mortimer in addition to other exponents of the conversation piece, notably Arthur Devis and Johan Zoffany. The Saithwaite Family of about 1785, a gift to New Yorks Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2009, is a bravura exercise in the form. The characters of mother, father and little daughter are all clearly indicated in a setting that is both visually rich and harmonious.

The same is true of A Family Group in a Landscape, in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario, and Family Group of about 1775 in the US National Gallery of Art. Both are highly decorative; both appear to reveal truths about their sitters.

All three pictures, however, also point to a flaw in much of Wheatleys portraiture, a sense that the whole is less than the sum of its parts, with individual figures existing in apparent isolation from one another, despite their proximity within a canvas. This does not always matter.

Increasingly, as the 1780s progressed, despite recurring problems in his private life, usually related to chronic debts, Wheatley produced work of gentle elegance and, apparently, tenderness of feeling. More than others of his countrymen, he embraced the sentimental vision of French artist Jean-Baptiste Greuze. The results, as one observer noted, are deliciously limpid: save to the harshest critic, they are never simply vapid.

Recently, I found a copy of Mary Websters 1970 monograph on Wheatley on the charity table in the entrance to a City church. It made for a costlier than usual Sunday Eucharist. As did the church in question, it offered wonderful food for the soul.

Laura Gascoigne is enthralled by The Royal Academy's exhibition available in virtual form on their website focusing on Lon Spilliaert,

Helen Schjerfbeck is a national icon in Finland but hasn't had a solo exhibition in Britain since the 19th century.

The explosion in watercolour painting in the 18th century came not from artists' studios but rather from the unbeatable practicality

Canadian artist David Milne moved from city to country, eventually ending up as a hermit in a remote part of

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