I’ve been a huge fan of Ian Finlay-Hamilton ever since I was a spotty sixth former, completely obsessed with the French Revolution and wracked with a terrible and obviously unrequited love for Louis-Antoine de Saint Just. I remember feeling utterly astounded by Finlay-Hamilton’s work at the time, unable to believe that here was someone who had taken the same obsessions, the same instinctive passion for neo-classical design and actually turned it into something of beauty.
I thrilled when I read about his imaginary organisation, the Saint-Just Vigilantes – an organisation without members or rules but with a very definite agenda and a similar mythical presence to Anonymous, albeit very much less well known.
It was his pieces inspired by the French Revolution that I loved the most though – the imagined tombs for Camille and Lucile Desmoulins; guillotines overgrown with roses; a neon light describing Robespierre’s bedroom; a bust of Saint-Just, handsome but severe. It inflamed me as a teenager and still does now.
You can imagine therefore my excitement when I discovered that there was to be an exhibition of some of his works at a local gallery, the Arnolfini in Bristol and I finally managed to see it last weekend. My tardiness is inexcusable really but it was definitely worth the wait!
The exhibition was of dozens of postcard sized pieces produced by Finlay-Hamilton, all of which were displayed in cabinets lining the walls. It really was wonderful and so amazing to see so many of his pieces gathered together, giving a really great insight into his sense of humour, his passions and his quick intelligence. I absolutely loved it.
I’ve chosen some of my favourite pieces for this post as I thought some of you fellow French Revolution obsessives might appreciate them as well.
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