Ruin Lust at Tate Britain

RUIN : “The physical destruction or disintegration of something or the state of disintegrating or being destroyed”

According to the little leaflet that accompanies this Tate Britain exhibition the title Ruin Lust was taken from the German word Ruinenlust. 

Ruin Lust

Ruins are curious objects of desire: they seduce us with decay and destruction” it goes on to say. Although I found the whole show intriguing and was amazed at the countless interpretations of the word ‘ruin’, by far the most interesting part for me was the initial ‘Pleasure of Ruins’ section.

Ruins of West Front, Tintern Abbey circa 1794-5 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

W M Turner’s Tintern Abbey (1794) which was emblematic of the new trend to visit ruins at home rather than on a Grand European Tour.

Here were the traditional interpretations; the paintings, photographs and etchings that I had expected to see in an exhibition with this title. My interest in landscape and man’s influence on it is mainly historical. So, although I appreciate that modern day ‘Bunker Archaeology’ and Tacita Dean’s films and ‘Ruins in Reverse’ and [modern] ‘Cities in Dust’ all have a part to play in an overall picture of ruins over the centuries I prefer to see historical ruins of abbeys and castles and even the man-made ruins that gave character and focal points to 18th century landscape gardens.

Leaving Yorke's Folly

The man-made Yorke’s Folly in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire built in 1810

“A craze for ruins gripped European culture in the eighteenth century. Classical remains inspired artists such as Piranesi to depict great civilisations falling into decay. British architects and garden designers embraced this ruinous aesthetic, and artificial ruins were a popular addition to many great estates. William Gilpin’s writings on the picturesque encouraged many tourists — as well as artists such as J.M.W. Turner and John Sell Cotman — to travel in search of picturesque views of medieval ruins. Later, photography became essential to the recording and reimagining of ruins.

I remember reading in the newspaper probably 15 years ago [and commending] English Heritage’s intentions to conserve and deliberately retain the wildness surrounding Wigmore Castle in Herefordshire. Some ruins these days are just too manicured.


Wigmore has an overgrown appearance that once characterised many ruined sites. When conserving the site in the 1990s, English Heritage deliberately retained its wildness, as the castle had become home to rare and unusual species including lesser horseshoe bats and wild flowers like ploughman’s spikenard. Accumulated debris was allowed to remain, and the grasses, ferns and flowers growing on the walls were carefully lifted up and replaced as ‘soft-capping’ to protect the walls from rain and more destructive plants like trees. [From the EH website]

To finish here are some recently visited picturesque ruins in Yorkshire and beyond.

Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey

The Ruin

The Ruin a Landmark Trust property at Hackfall, North Yorkshire

Bradgate Park

Ruins of the former home of Lady Jane Grey, Bradgate Park, Leicester


The Ruins of Kenilworth Castle

Spofforth Castle

Spofforth Castle, Yorkshire, visited on a recent hike

Window ruin Spofforth

Ruined Window, Spofforth Castle

Doorway ruin Spofforth

Ruined Doorway, Spofforth Castle

Here is a brief review of the exhibition by Christopher Beanland; which finished by showing ‘The London Nobody Knows’ documentary featuring James Mason in the derelict Bedford Theatre in Camden. The unabridged film is now available on DVD.





Two Art Talks

Last week I went to two art talks and very interesting they were too. One was an evening reception at The Mercer Gallery in Harrogate organised by the Art Fund. The other was ‘Tea with the Curator’ at Temple Newsam House near Leeds.


Self-portrait of Frank Holl as a young man [source]

Frank Holl : Emerging from the Shadows [Mercer Gallery, Harrogate 23 November 2013 to 30 March 2014]

‘Frank Holl (1845-1888) is one of the great painters of the Victorian period, notable for his tragic social realism as well as his penetrating portraits. Revered in his lifetime, he died young whilst at the height of his powers. His early death meant that he never fully received the acclaim that his work merited. This exhibition represents the first modern retrospective of this significant artist.’ 

I have been aware of Holl since the mid-1990s when one of my masters papers in Victorian Studies was on the subject of narrative paintings with a theme of poverty and the poor in Victorian England. The Holl picture we looked at was The Seamstresses now owned by The Royal Albert Museum in Exeter. It is on show at the Harrogate exhibition.


Seamstresses. Frank Holl. 1875. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter.

Jane Sellars, curator of the Mercer Gallery, introduced Holl and told us more about his life and travels and spoke about each of the, perhaps 30, paintings. It was interesting to note the themes of Holl’s narrative paintings on loan from prestigious galleries around the country, including The National Portrait Gallery – soldiers off to fight in Afghanistan, sweatshops, guilty bankers – all themes that appear in the news today. So not much has changed there. Jane pointed out the “Rembrandtesque” effect in many of these paintings.


No Tidings from the Sea. Frank Holl. 1870. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of the Royal Collection Trust. [source]

Even Queen Victoria bought one of his pictures No Tidings from the Sea (1870 and  in The Royal Collection). Later Holl gained commissions to paint portraits and his subjects included national figures like William Gladstone and W.S.Gilbert. The BBC ‘Your Paintings’ website shows 68 of his paintings. Jane quoted several times from his eldest daughter’s, Ada Mabel Reynolds,  1912 biography of her father. There is an accompanying book/catalogue to the show. Earlier last year the exhibition was shown at the newly refurbished Watts Gallery in Surrey. In Harrogate the pictures have been hung beautifully for ease of viewing and the lighting is excellent for all except maybe one glazed picture.

Last May on a visit to Highgate Cemetery I noticed his tomb and photographed it.

Frank Holl tomb

The Tomb of Frank Holl in Highgate Cemetery

I’m very pleased that Frank Holl is at last emerging from the shadows.

Rembrandt : etchings from the Collection of Leeds City Art Gallery [Temple Newsam House 19 November 2013 - 20 July 2014]

TNH side view

It’s very difficult to get a ‘front on’ view of Temple Newsam. The land drops away significantly from the front of the house and a wider angled camera lens is required to capture it closer up. The photo above is of the side view. Temple Newsam’s history goes back beyond the Domesday Book. Lord Darnley former husband of Mary Queen of Scots was born here in 1545.

Stable Block

The Stable Courtyard makes a much better view

So, last Thursday afternoon I made my way to Temple Newsam for Tea with the Curator of the Rembrandt Etchings Display.

This season’s Winter/Spring exhibition at Temple Newsam House offers the rare chance to see a selection of prints made by the greatest printmaker the world has ever seen – Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606 – 1665). The exhibition will run for nine months and will consist of two displays; the first will examine Rembrandt’s portraits and figure studies and the second, will showcase a selection of Rembrandt’s biblical prints.

Rembrandt’s career as a printmaker ran parallel with his painting, but he rarely treated the same subject in both medium and only on a few occasions did he reproduce his paintings in print. Indeed for Rembrandt, print was a distinct art form which he pursued as actively as he did his painting; quickly learning the technical skills involved in etching Rembrandt virtually recreated this technique. His impact and contribution to printmaking is unprecedented and is so significant that it is still reflected in etchings produced today.

Rembrandt poster
Portraits and People, 19th November 2013 – 30th March 2014
Bringing together Rembrandt’s prints of people the first half to this exhibition will focus on his early experimental prints in which Rembrandt developed both his technique and his interest in showing emotion and thought through detailed observations of facial expressions. Highlights include a selection of Rembrandt’s iconic self-portraits, etchings of his mother and wife Saskia and a group of Rembrandt’s prints of beggars.


The Artist’s Mother [source]

Theodore, the curator, and I and four others assembled in the Dining Room for a friendly discussion and an opportunity to examine etching and engraving tools. The tool box and tools themselves that Theodore brought along had all been the property of Frank Brangwyn. Theodore explained the processes and their differences to us before taking us upstairs to the small but excellent display of Rembrandt etchings.

Frank Brangwyn's tools

Frank Brangwyn’s Etching Tools

The etchings themselves are small and exquisite and beautifully displayed. Magnifying glasses are supplied through which we could study the minute detail of each print.

Tes is served

Tea and cake and biscuits are served

On returning to the Dining Room for tea and cakes we had further opportunities to examine at close quarters etchings and tools and a brief slideshow of a 16th  century printmaking shop which reminded me of my visit last month to the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp.

The current etching display will be replaced next month by a further series from the 70 or so donated to the Art Gallery on the theme of Rembrandt and the Bible.

Tournai in Belgium : A Unesco cathedral and a small town art gallery of substance

After a dip into the Roubaix swimming pool our coach transported us just over the border and into Belgium. The town of Tournai was our destination. Such a small quiet town but with so much to offer. We were given an hour and a quarter to find a luncheon venue and meet again under the towering belfry at the end of the picturesque town square.

The Belfry Tournai

A life-size black and white cow tempted us into an intimate brasserie Au Boeuf Qui Rit where we chose I salmon salad and  my companion chose cheese croquettes.

World Heritage

Next to the Belfry is the Cathedral of Tournai. Begun in the 12th century the cathedral’s cultural value was recognised by UNESCO and designated a World Heritage Site in the year 2000.

[The Cathedral] has been preserved in its original state , particularly the capitals of the nave, which makes the cathedral one of the few remaining great Romanesque buildings in this region. The World Heritage committee also pointed out the historical continuity of the cathedral as a place of worship from the 5th century onwards as well as the role of the chapter in the political, social, economic, intellectual and cultural life of the city, documented by centuries old archives.” [Poster shown above]

Photos at Tournai Cathedral :

Tournai 1

Tournai 2

Tournai 3

Tournai 4

Repair work on the cathedral continues but we were able to visit the main body of the church and also the Treasury. No photography was allowed inside The Treasury as almost 5 years ago to the day a priceless jewelled cross was stolen by thieves :

22/02/08 — Theft — Tournai, Cathedral — The “tresor” of the Tournai Cathedral was the victim of a major theft on Tuesday 19 February. In broad daylight, three men using baseball bats broke the glass display cases and stole, despite the attempts of several by-standers, thirteen objects including a famous Byzantine cross. This reliquary which holds a piece of the Cross and probably dates back to the VIIIth-IXth centuries was most likely brought to Tournai from Constantinople in 1205 by a Crusader. One can only hope that the object will not be dismounted in order to sell off the precious stones ornating it. ” [Source]

Beaux arts tournai

From the Cathedral it was a very short walk to the Museum of Fine Arts [Musée Beaux Arts Tournai]

Inaugurated on Sunday 17th June 1928, the Museum of Fine Arts is a building created by the genius for spatial conception, the great Belgian  Art Nouveau architect Victor HORTA. He conceived it especially for presenting the very rich collections bequeathed to the city by the Brussels patron of the arts Henri VAN CUTSEM, deceased in 1904.

The combination of the rooms that radiate from the central polygonal entrance hall is so original that the building itself deserves a visit. The collections shown include many ancient paintings, which added to the works bequeathed by Henri VAN CUTSEM, together with purchases, deposits, gifts and legacies, permit to offer the visitors an interesting overvieuw of the pictorial production history from the 15th century up to now.” [source]

I just chose two pictures on a reading theme on show at the Museum.

Courbet The Reader

Gustave Courbet’s “La Lecture”

Fantin-Latour The Reader

Henri de Fantin-Latour “La Lecture”

La Piscine – The Swimming Pool Gallery

On completion of our morning walking tour of Lille we met our coach and were taken the few miles out of the centre of Lille to the nearby city of Roubaix (twinned with nearby Bradford, West Yorkshire) which is now incorporated into the Lille conurbation.

Original pool entrance

The Original 1932 Art Deco Entrance

La P exterior

The Swimming Pool Museum Entrance Today

In October 2011, Lille’s Musée d’Art et d‘Industrie celebrated its tenth birthday, and a hugely successful decade of existence. Architect Jean-Paul Philippon converted the splendid Art Deco swimming baths into a museum, transforming the former changing rooms and cabins into “curiosity cabinets” overlooking the partly covered former swimming pool. The collections include paintings by Gérome, Fantin-Latour, Dufy and Tamara De Lempicka, and sculpture by François Pompon and Camille Claudel, plus ceramics by Pablo Picasso and an exceptional collection of textile samples and designs. Visitors come here from all over Europe for the acclaimed temporary exhibitions; recent subjects include The Bloomsbury Group, Pierre Loti, sculpture by Degas and the work of Paul Signac” [Adapted from my 2012 LV City Guide Lille, Lyon, Monaco, Toulouse]



B&W swimmers

Original Swimming Displays in the Museum

The main entrance lobby and display don’t prepare you for the museum itself. After the lobby and reception you step through the ‘showers’ and ‘footbaths’ and into the pool proper. There’s still some water but much reduced in size and even on the dull overcast Friday the area was filled with light.

La Piscine

La Piscine

On arrival Mike introduced us to the gallery and to two Art Nouveau stained glass windows on display then left us to our own devices for an hour before meeting us in the picture gallery and talking about several paintings relevant to our themes.

T. Laumonnerie

Théophile Laumonnerie – Memory of Autumn

J Gruber

By Jacques Gruber of Nancy

Young woman on lute

Stylised Art Deco: Part of the Debussy Monument : Young Woman Playing a Lute (1932)

Eric Kennington

Eric Kennington of The New English Art Club: La Cuisine Ambulante (1914)


Sir William Rothenstein’s The Artsist’s Son and his Wife

And I always find time to check out the quirky gifts and buy postcards in the Museum Shop – La Piscine no exception!

Museum shop

Art Deco and Art Nouveau in Lille and Antwerp : Day One

Last Thursday I set off from St Pancras Station to Lille along with 23 others booked on a Travel Editions art trip to northern France and Belgium.  The train journey took just less than 1 hour 30minutes.

Lille Town Hall and belfry

Lille Town Hall and Belfry [UNESCO World Heritage listed] from the hotel balcony

Day 1 : Travel by Eurostar from St Pancras to Lille and transfer by coach to hotel for check in for 3 night stay. Afternoon walking tour of central Lille.
Welcome reception lecture “Art nouveau – an Overview” and dinner with wine at the atmospheric Art Nouveau Brasserie de la Paix located 2-3 minutes from the hotel.

Vieille Bourse with Belfry behind

Unfortunately, it was raining hard in Lille so an hour after arrival and check-in with our brollies out we were on our first guided walk with tour guide and lecturer Mike Hope who mixed his vast knowledge with humour, patience and enthusiasm and from whom I learned all I now know about Art Deco and Art Nouveau in Lille (and nearby towns) and Antwerp during the following three days.

La Grand Place in the rain

The Grand Place in the rain

Once the jewel of the Spanish Netherlands, Lille is France’s most besieged city. It was incorporated into the royal domain in 1304 before passing under Burgundian (1369), then Austrian (1477), then Spanish rule under Charles V. The city became French in 1667 and remained so, except for a brief interlude from 1708 to 1713 and the absurd Nazi Aryanization (1940) from which it was delivered by its illustrious native son, a certain Charles de Gaulle. Throughout the 20th century, Lille was the capital of the French textile industry. … The city [has made] an extraordinary transformation that began with the arrival of France’s high-speed train, the TGV. [It] boasts prestigious colleges, abounds with café terraces and brasseries. Since 2004, when Lille was European City of Culture, it has stood at the forefront of the French cultural scene.” [From my LV Guide Lille, Lyon, Monaco, Toulouse 2012]

From the hotel we were just steps away from the main square and the important civic buildings – the town hall, the old bourse (now a secondhand book market), the opera and theatre – and shopping and business areas.

Vielle Bourse

V Bourse

VB Detail

VB Drainpipe

In the Vieille Bourse

Theatre du Nord

The Voix du Nord Building: Mike points out the architectural features

Paul, Lille

Art Deco Bakery on the rue Lepelletier – still a bakery shop


A L’Huitriere

A L'Huitriere

A L’Huîtriere, rue des Chats Bossus. Renowned fishmonger and restaurant with pure Art Deco decor inside and out.

ND de la Treille

The Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Treille : building began in 1854 and was finally finished in time for Lille’s European City of Culture year 2004

West Window

The West Window from Inside

… and other Art Deco and Art Nouveau façades in Lille :

Others 1

Others 2

Others 3

Others 4

And the best place to finish is at Méert famous for its butter and vanilla waffles


“Uproar!” The first 50 years of The London Group 1913-1963

Ben Uri sign

Ben Uri : Art, Identity and Migration – The Art Museum for Everyone

I’m in London for a few days and this morning I walked from the flat between Belsize Park and Swiss Cottage to The Ben Uri Art Museum in St John’s Wood. It’s a 20 minute walk; unfortunately today it was pouring with rain.

The Ben Uri

Until 2nd March the Gallery is hosting a special exhibition of which I read favourable reviews in the FT Weekend and The Independent. I had never heard of the London Group but it seemed to fit in well with recent exhibitions visited in Kendal and in Leeds.

The Gallery is very small, entrance is free and there is currently no permanent display as ‘Uproar!’ fills all three rooms. Here is a short video introduction from the Gallery website.

To celebrate The London Group’s momentous centenary year in 2013, Ben Uri and The London Group are working together with two simultaneous exhibitions. Ben Uri has curated and is hosting a major historical exhibition, “Uproar!”: The first 50 years of The London Group 1913-1963, examining the first half century in the group’s turbulent history, while The London Group is holding a separate, complementary, contemporary exhibition showcasing work by its current members at The Cello Factory, London SE1 8TJ.” [source]

It was amazing to see side by side paintings and sculptures by such diverse artists as L S Lowry, Duncan Grant, Walter Sickert, Vanessa Bell, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, C R W Nevinson, Jacob Epstein, Mark Gertler, Roger Fry, Euan Uglow and Leon Kosoff. I was lucky enough to turn up on the day of a tour and introduction by the curator of this small but powerful exhibition. The above video gives a feel of the intimacy of the small gallery and the importance of the works on display. And here are some of my photos of notable works.

Nina Hamnett

Roger Fry’s Portrait of Nina Hamnett (1917)

Returning to the trenches

Nevinson’s Returning to the Trenches ((1915)

Pentelicon marble

Mask in Pentelicon marble by Barbara Hepworth (1928)

Iron sculpture

Untitled (Iron Sculpture) by Lynn Chadwick

Matthew Darbyshire and The W.A. Ismay Collection at The Hepworth, Wakefield


The Hepworth Gallery by the River Calder in Wakefield

On Thursday I revisited The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield. I went back specifically to see the Matthew Darbyshire installation of pots juxtaposed with modern white goods in Gallery 10. Unfortunately this exhibition closes today but the pots, which belong to the York Art Gallery collection, will be back in a special new gallery to be created at York when the museum reopens in 2015.

With my new-found appreciation of studio pottery I was looking forward to seeing this exhibition. I was not disappointed.

Hepworth poster

This fascinating project brings together one of Britain’s most exciting contemporary artists, Matthew Darbyshire, with one of the world’s most significant assemblages of post-war studio pottery, the W.A. Ismay Collection.

Ismay 2

Librarian and collector William Alfred Ismay (1910-2001) lived in Wakefield his whole life. From 1955 he began to collect pieces by some of the most renowned makers of studio pottery from Hans Coper and Shoji Hamada to works by local Yorkshire potters, Barbara Cass and Joan Hotchin, alongside lesser known ceramicists.

His extraordinary collection of 3,600 items, by 500 makers, covered all the available surfaces of his small terraced house in Wakefield. This extraordinary collection offers an insight into the compulsive and systematic habits and protocols of a unique and unusual collector.” [Introduction from The Hepworth website]

Ismay and TV

Contemporary installation artist Matthew Darbyshire assembled the display based on the floor plan and the furniture or kind of furniture that Ismay would have owned in his Wakefield terraced home; he added modern streamlined household white goods as a contrast to the handmade ceramics and he used just 700 of the total of 3,600 pots from Ismay’s collection. In addition a flat screen TV shows a loop of original motion picture clips that Darbyshire has put together on the themes of man and machines and dance including hip-hop and other natural human movement contrasting the manmade with machines and technology.

And here is my selection of pots (mostly teapots) :

With Coloseum

Includes a Roman Colosseum ‘pot’

Teapots 1

Teapots 2

Teapots 3

Teapots 4

Teapots 5

Teapots 6

Teapots 7

Teapots 8

Teapots 9

Nice pot

Viewing the pots made you really want to pick them up so luckily there was a small selection of pots that you were allowed to feel and examine and another TV loop of potters talking about their first meetings with Bill Ismay.


You may pick up these pots

See how Matthew Darbyshire put it all together here :

And here is Down By The Dougie’s view of “Lots of Pots” and more photos.

Art and Life 1920-1931: Studio Pottery

Until yesterday I thought a pot was a pot. What a difference a knowledgable speaker makes to the appreciation of art! In this case I’m talking about studio pottery and the pots on display at the Art and Life, 1920-1931 exhibition currently showing at Leeds City Art Gallery (but only until Sunday 12 January). The exhibition will then head down to Kettles Yard in Cambridge and thence to The Dulwich Picture Gallery in south London.

Art and Life 1

On some Thursdays throughout the year Leeds Art Gallery presents 30 minute free lunchtime talks. Yesterday the lunchtime talk was extended to 50 minutes and the visiting speaker, Dinah Winch from Gallery Oldham, told our small assembled group about the pots displayed in Art and Life. They were all made by William Staite Murray.

Art and Life 2

These pots, which I would have given barely a glance to before, I now look at quite differently. A stripey vase and a rough brown dish became works of art before my very eyes. The pots matched with the paintings and many appear in Winifred Nicholson’s paintings demonstrating the ideal light in which to view them – natural sunlight through the window – not the artificial light from above the glass cases in the gallery.

Polyanthus and Cineraria

Nicholson’s Polyanthus and Cineraria [source]

The stripey vase entitled The Bather was very tall and striking. Photography was not allowed and I have been unable to find a suitable picture to reproduce here. Most of the pots (including The Bather) came from York City Art Gallery (which is undergoing a big refurbishment over the next couple of years) and a couple from Kettles Yard. I visited Kettles Yard in 2011. It is a lovely homely gallery full of art and craft of the Art and Life era.

In Kettles Yard

Inside Kettles Yard (Ben Nicholson’s Bertha (No.2) on the right)

Here is what the Exhibition Guide says about Murray and his pots :

William Staite Murray was one of the leading artists of his time. Murray eschewed any functionality for pots and viewed pottery as a fundamental abstract art lying between painting and sculpture. Inspired by the Chinese Sung dynasty pots that had begun to appear in London, his pots are emotionally expressive with imaginative titles, all of which appealed to the Nicholsons with whom he was friends and exhibited widely. Ben Nicholson keenly distributed pictures by Alfred Wallis amongst his friends, and sent one to Murray, noting that it reminded him of one of Murray’s pots. We can only muse as to the exact link as it is not known which picture by Wallis Ben sent. Winifred gives us an idea for she wrote of one of Murray’s pots as having “the elemental depth of the sea.” When Ben Nicholson saw Murray’s solo exhibition at the Lefevre Gallery in London in 1931 he wrote “one big brown pot is one of the finest things I have ever seen.” Persian Garden was exhibited in the Lefevre exhibition, and widely seen as one of Murray’s masterpieces, it is probable this was the pot referred to by Nicholson. By the late 1920s remarkably Murray had a higher reputation than the Nicholsons. Arguably as good a potter as Bernard Leach, subsequently Murray’s reputation has suffered, perhaps partly because in 1939 he left England and with the outbreak of war settled abroad. Sadly he did not pot again.

I hope this brief introduction and excellent lecture will set me up for my visit later this month to the Matthew Darbyshire installation using the pottery collection of W.A.Ismay at The Hepworth in Wakefield.

Other bloggers have written about this wonderful exhibition here and here.

Masterpieces : A Wealth of Art in East Anglia

There is a marvellous exhibition currently showing at The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.

A new exhibition, Masterpieces: Art and East Anglia is opening at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in September, in celebration of the rich and unique artistic heritage of the local region. Approximately 250 objects will be on show, from across the visual arts, ranging from the prehistoric period to the present day. Drawn from more than 60 major public and private collections, the exhibition will showcase the array of masterworks that East Anglia has inspired, produced and collected, and demonstrate the region’s importance in both a national and international context.

The oldest exhibit, the Happisburgh flint handaxe, crafted at least 700,000 years ago, will sit beside works by John Sell Cotman, John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough and Olive Edis. Sculptures by Barbara Hepworth will be dispersed throughout the SCVA’s newly-refurbished galleries and the iconic Lotus 72 sports car will take up pole position in the West End.

Masterpieces: Art and East Anglia will be the first show on display in the SCVA’s newly-refurbished galleries. The exhibition coincides with the University’s 50th Anniversary and will help to mark the significant contribution that UEA has made to the region.” [Source]

I was lucky enough to catch this show when I was down in Norwich a few weeks ago visiting family. The Exhibition comprises part of the 50th anniversary celebrations for the University of East Anglia, in Norwich. Oh dear, I can remember when it opened in one of my favourite parks (Earlham Park) and some of its offices occupied Earlham Hall (the childhood home of prison reformer Elizabeth Fry) …

E Fry

My Norwich OS map and Elizabeth Fry on the five pound note

… and the neo-brutalist buildings were seen as an insult to our ‘Fine City’



But I digress and return to the excellent exhibition which has the best opening times, ever. Although closed on Mondays and between 22nd December this year and 2nd January 2014 it’s open Tuesday to Saturday 10am – 8pm and on Sundays from 10am until 5pm. We made our visit on a Saturday at 5.30pm. We were able to park right outside and had the whole gallery to ourselves. With our Art Fund cards we paid half price for entry.

No photography is allowed in the main lower gallery but four large exhibits are displayed alongside the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts permanent collection. A Lotus racing car is displayed in the restaurant but that was closed and too dark to photograph.

Conservatory Stained Glass

In the Conservatory Cafe is a 2013 stained glass window designed for Norwich Cathedral by John McLean

Longest Journey 1

In the East End Gallery is ‘The Longest Journey’  made by Ana Maria Pacheco in 1994 of polychromed wood

Longest Journey 2

Longest Journey 3

More ‘Longest Journey’ pictures

Reception, shop and Longest journey

East End Gallery, shop and ‘The Longest Journey’


Here is an example from the displays. The Marchioness of Cholmondeley’s gown [photo source] made by Jean-Charles Worth stands next to her portrait painted by  John Singer Sargent and wearing the gown borrowed from Houghton Hall.


Sargent’s portrait of the Marchioness of Cholmondeley [source]

Norfolk has been full of Masterpieces this year!

Debby Mason : Marine Life Etchings in Devon

Every year, around this time, we visit Devon for a week. Whilst there we never fail to fit in a visit to some galleries and one of our regular haunts is The Devon Guild of Craftsmen in Bovey Tracey.

devon guild

This year my favourite display was a small, one-room exhibition of Debby Mason‘s work. Her exhibition features just a few fantastically intricate fossil fish mezzotints. I also enjoyed the interesting assortment of additional information and artefacts.


Debby’s Coelacanth Mezzotint

Visit our Members showcase gallery and follow the story of the elusive fossil fish told through Debby’s beautiful mezzotints. The Coelacanth has become a very familiar and favourite subject for Debby’s work. This showcase concentrates on this fascination and gives visitors an insight into the artist’s journey – from idea to final piece.

There was a digital slideshow demonstrating the sequence of production of a mezzotint and the many inspirations that lead Debby into her chosen field of artwork.

In addition there were two shelves of influential books; some related to her earliest interests like Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki expedition, the underwater world of Jacques Cousteau and a visit to the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco :


There was also a display case of photos, shells, flotsam and jetsam.

Photos and Flotsam

I suppose also the idea of the Coelacanth intrigued me and reminded me of trips to Lyme Regis to visit the Museum and  to try my luck at fossil-hunting.

Gone Fossiling

In 1938 a live Coelacanth was caught off the coast of South Africa. This caused a sensation because it was thought that these fish had died out 85 million years ago.” [Devon Guild poster]

Debby’s show is on at the Bovey Tracey Gallery until 2nd December.

Old Fourlegs

Old Fourlegs by J. L. B. Smith