Birmingham Architectural, Historical and Modern Gems, 2

As I said already, the jewels and gems of Birmingham don’t stop in the Jewellery Quarter …

There is also the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery which houses one of the best collections of fine and decorative art, historical artefacts and archaeological treasures in Britain today; all displayed in an elegant Grade II* listed building. The collection is particularly strong in Pre-Raphaelite art. There is also a permanent display of items from the Staffordshire Hoard. [Adapted from Art Fund Guide]

Egg-travelling

Travelling Companions by Augustus Egg (1862) one of my favourite Victorian paintings is in the care of BMAG

On Sunday afternoon we were on the trail of the gold and gems of the Staffordshire Hoard. No photography allowed.

Discovered in 2009 and acquired jointly with the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent with assistance from the Art Fund, this treasure trove of 7th century Anglo-Saxon art features 4,000 pieces of gold and silver displaying intricate filigree and cloisonné work. Since October 2014 a new permanent gallery interprets the story of the hoard and its context within Anglo-Saxon history. Beyond the richness of the materials and the exquisite decoration, the hoard is significant because of its strictly masculine nature. These are exclusively military items created for Mercia’s best  fighters.” [Art Quarterly, winter 2014, p.31]

St Chad's and roads

St Chad’s Cathedral or Traffic Circle

Birmingham has two cathedrals both gems of their type. The Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad is a little out of the immediate city centre but we could easily walk there. How many times did we remark to each – “Car is King in Birmingham”? Pedestrians must wait at lights, use underpasses and walkways and over-road links. The RC Cathedral appeared to be sited in the middle of the road. Access is not easy. However, we made it safely through its doors on Monday morning and into another world. A world of peace and calm and of glorious art. No photography was allowed but I had already taken this one before I saw the sign.

St Chad's

The Nave, St Chad’s Cathedral

A significant stopping-off point on Birmingham’s Pugin Trail the Cathedral was the first Roman Catholic Cathedral to built in the UK since the Reformation. The superb original internal decorations and fittings were made by skilled craftsmen re-introducing skills of the Medieval era.  John Hardman plate and windows; Herbert Minton tiles; William Warrington chancel window. Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin also supplied original Medieval furnishings from his own collection including the stalls and pulpit. His rood screen was removed in 1967.

Only after dropping in to St Philip’s Cathedral on Sunday afternoon and deciding to stay for Evensong – more members of the choir than members of the congregation and followed by a brief organ recital – did I read this suggestion in my LV City Guide 2012 Birmingham, London, Dublin :

Birmingham Cathedral

St Philip’s Cathedral [source]

Sunday in Birmingham : Attend a service in 18th century Birmingham Cathedral which has a number of stained glass windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones. Colmore Row.”

Looking_down_on_bar_3536

Old Joint Stock Bar [source]

Opposite the Cathedral is the famous Birmingham pub The Old Joint Stock Pub and Theatre. Just a few paces from the Cathedral we decided to pay a visit. Unfortunately the theatre wasn’t open that evening but the island bar was impressive. Also from my LV Guide :

Old_Joint_Stock_External2_3539

Julius Alfred Chatwin was primarily a designer of Birmingham churches … But there were exceptions to his church work and the opulent interiors of the Old Joint Stock, opposite St Philip’s Cathedral (in which he had a hand), showed that he could be moved to great things in the temporal sphere as well. Completed in 1864, the building first belonged to the Birmingham Joint Stock Bank. It was converted into a pub in 1997. Under a glass domed ceiling, beside an island bar and with sumptuous interiors, this is one of the grandest pubs in the city. Upstairs is an 80-seat theatre, minimalist in decor, but the sort of facility few pubs can shout about.

ET ad

ET Mural

Tea Room Mural

On Monday we returned to The Art Gallery to the highly recommended Edwardian Tea Room for a light lunch before heading to our raison de visite The Library of Birmingham.

Few other tea rooms in the world can boast a stellar gathering as was here under the ornate ceiling and glass canopy in May 1998. The G8 Summit was being held in the city and for a short time a group that included Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin, Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair (and their interpreters) sat around a table commissioned from David Linley for the occasion, surrounded by a pick of the museum’s Pre-Raphaelite paintings hung here especially for the event. Even without the table and the paintings, The Edwardian Tea Room is still a grand setting for tea, coffee, snacks and lunches.” [LV Guide]

Wedding Cake

The Library Building Decorated on the Exterior to Represent Rings and Birmingham’s Jewellery Heritage

The Giant Wedding Cake, as the library is affectionately known, offers pre-bookable guided  tours to the building and its contents on Mondays at 2.15.  The building was officially opened by Malala Yousafzai in September 2013.

We took the glass lift up to the 9th floor from where we had long-reaching views of the city  and beyond from the Skyline Viewpoint. Also on the ninth floor is the Shakespeare Memorial Room.

Shakespeare

Shakespeare in his Memorial Room

“This original feature from the city’s Victorian library was designed by John Henry Chamberlain in 1882. Since then
it has changed home twice, moving to Central Library when it was built in the early 1970s, and to the Library of Birmingham almost forty years later. It originally housed the Birmingham Shakespeare Library, which is still available at the Library of Birmingham. The Room is wood panelled with glass printed shelves inspired by the Elizabethan age with carvings, marquetry and metalwork representing birds, flowers and foliage. The woodwork is by noted woodcarver Mr Barfield, and the brass and metal work is most likely crafted by Hardmans. The Shakespeare Memorial Room has been painstakingly reconstructed by local craftsmen A. Edmonds & Co. Ltd and the Victorian Cornice Company whorestored the elaborate ceiling. The books and memorabilia you see on the shelves are interesting items from the Library’s general collections (the Shakespeare collection outgrew the room as early as 1906).” [source]

70s library

The old Central Library seen through the rings

We then descended floor by floor visiting two gardens on our way down including the Secret Garden and The Discovery Terrace.

secret garden

The Secret Garden on the Seventh Floor

Lift and escalators

Looking down into the Library and the Book Rotunda

Book Rotunda

The Book Rotunda – Shades of The British Museum and Waterstones Book Shops

Children's Library

The Book Browse Fiction Library

Here is a Library buzzing with enthusiasm and offering its readers so much more than books (although I’d be happy with just the books). The What’s On programme that I picked up lists Exhibitions (we visited The Voices of War during our tour), Films, Music, Activities, Performances, Dance, Poetry and Workshops. Lucky Birmingham to have this facility in the heart of the city I hope the citizens make good use of it and what it offers.

Despite a packed two days and two half days we  are sure that there are many more Birmingham gems still to be visited!

Birdy Thursday at Norwich Castle and Hickling Broad

Norwich Castle

Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery

The Wonder of Birds exhibition is currently showing at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery. I’ve written about a gallery visit here before. One Thursday a couple of weeks ago when I was in Norwich for a few days visiting family I thought I’d see what all the fuss about birds was all about. Well, it was about quite a lot of amazing stuff, actually.

Wonder of birds

When I first heard that The Wonder of Birds was to be next up I wasn’t too keen. Then I read this article in the Guardian and saw the accompanying pictures and changed my mind. Many of the artefacts and pictures came from the Museum’s own collections.

The Wonder of Birds’ explores the cultural impact of birds upon mankind. Eliciting a wide range of emotions from awe to fear, from pleasure to cruelty – birds have intrigued humanity since the earliest of times. The exhibition will span the centuries, informed by local and national collections, to include the arts, natural history, archaeology, fashion and social history. Works by major artists and illustrators, historical and contemporary, will be included and the exhibition will examine local, national and international issues.

Metal bird

Spring Cuckoo by Harriet Mead, 2009

‘The Wonder of Birds’ comprises six sections, each highlighting a different aspect of birds, their meanings and our relationships with them. It begins by introducing the visitor to the breadth of this fascinating subject: what is a bird; what do they mean to us; how have we studied, portrayed, preserved, endangered and used them?

Parrot

Adult Male Paradise Parrot : Frederick Strange, taxidermist, 1851

Section 2, ‘Predators and Prey’ … Section 3, ‘Birds & Landscape’, primarily examines birds in East Anglia, …  Section 4, ‘Migrants and Ocean Travellers’, will examine the seasonal behaviour which may take migrating birds from Norfolk to the Arctic, Africa or South America …Section 5 is titled ‘Introducing the Exotic’. Exotic birds have always been coveted for their brilliant plumage, combined with their sheer rarity value, both as high status pets and for their feathers.

Feather hat

Exotic feathered hat from the 1960s

‘The Realms of the Spirit’, the final section, will illustrate how songbirds and their relatives have symbolised the immortal soul, been seen as heralds of the seasons, messengers from heaven, or magical beings moving between the worlds.” [Museum website]

Cards

Bird related postcards in the Museum Shop

I discovered that birds may not need humans but humans certainly do need birds. They appear in our decorative arts, religion, symbolism, folklore, heraldry, fashion, literature and language.

The 147 million year old Archaeopteryx fossil cast is the earliest known bird. The Natural History Museum cares for the first skeleton specimen ever found and this spectacular fossil helped prove that modern birds evolved from dinosaurs. It was the first example providing support for Darwin’s theory of evolution. It is the most valuable fossil in the NHM’s collection.

archaeopteryx-banner_112755_1

Archaeopteryx fossil [source]

I saw an exquisite hollie point (English needle lace) baby’s Christening cap featuring a dove – a visual reminder of the Holy Spirit …

archive2

Here is a similar example [source]

… and a pincushion made by Sylvia Pankhurst whilst she was incarcerated in Holloway Prison and a copy of the Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner’s Bestiary ‘Historiae animalium’ which must have been seen by Mary, Queen of Scots. A group of her embroideries The Oxburgh Hangings feature animals and birds from this book.

Oxburgh hanging

Bird detail from the Oxburgh Hangings [Source – V&A]

Hambling heronMaggi Hambling’s Heron

The section on birds in the landscape featured Maggi Hambling’s Heron in the shallows of the Thames bearing its environmental message. The bird has a mouthful of sewage.

Then in the afternoon I saw birds in their true East Anglian landscape. I drove out to the Norfolk Broads to meet up with an old schoolfriend and we walked around Hickling Broad stopping to look at a variety of birds including a goldfinch, a plump of geese * and many different species from a hide along our path.

* The collective noun for a group of geese on the ground is a gaggle; when in flight, they are called a skein, a team or a wedge; when flying close together, they are called a plump. [source]

Goldfinch

A Goldfinch

Hickling from hide

Hickling Broad from the Hide

geese

The Plump of Geese from the Hide

red sails

Typical Broads View

Ladybird birds

I must have been interested in birds once upon a time – my well-loved book!

Two Henrys : The Fourth Part Two and Moore

From Renishaw Hall on the eighteenth of June we made our way to Stratford upon Avon where we checked in at our hotel in time to wash and brush up before heading on foot (only a few minutes distant) to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre by the River Avon. It was a lovely warm evening and there were lots of people about enjoying relaxing by the River and the Canal.

RST

We were booked for supper at The Rooftop Restaurant followed by a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part Two by the Royal Shakespeare Company. This was no dull, boring history play rather it seemed to me dominated by comedy. Anthony Sher played Falstaff and the whole performance was being filmed and relayed simultaneously to a greater audience in cinemas throughout the country. This meant that the director, Greg Doran, came on stage at the beginning to introduce the play.

Swans of Avon

The Swans of Avon and Clopton Bridge from The Rooftop Restaurant

HT Church

River Avon and Spire of Holy Trinity church from The Rooftop Restaurant

Shakespeare Hotel

The Shakespeare Hotel – one time I stayed here

Grammar School

The Grammar School, Stratford upon Avon

Birthplace

The Birthplace

The next morning after a leisurely breakfast and opportunity to take a walk in Stratford we headed off to nearby Compton Verney where we had a full programme of tours, a sandwich lunch and time also to walk in the park, visit the chapel and spend time (and money) in the attractive gift shop.

Approaching CV

CV and 3 piece

CV House

“10.30am Depart for Compton Verney. Set in a park designed by the ubiquitous ‘Capability’ Brown, this long-derelict house of the Willoughby de Broke family is now resurgent under the inspiration of the [Peter] Moore’s Foundation. The collections are numerous and varied. The morning will be given over to the current display of sculptures by Henry Moore and Auguste Rodin, while the afternoon will feature a guided tour of salient points of the main collection which encompasses British Portraits, Chinese Ceramics and Bronzes, British Folk Art and for Textile-buffs The Marx-Lambert Collection. You will be free to visit those parts of the collection which are your particular interest. www.comptonverney.org.uk” [Our Programme]

Moore Rodin

Moore – Rodin

Calais Burghers

Rodin’s Burghers of Calais

Exhibition
Moore Rodin
15 February 2014 to 31 August 2014
10th Anniversary Year – Moore Rodin at Compton Verney

This ground-breaking international exhibition compares the work of two giants of modern sculpture: Henry Moore and Auguste Rodin. This is the first exhibition to be devoted exclusively to these artists, with major works being displayed in our ‘Capability’ Brown landscape as well as in our exhibition spaces.

Fallen Caryatid

Fallen Caryatid by Rodin

Bunched figure

Reclining Figure : Bunched by Henry Moore

In the grounds
Enjoy eleven large scale works which complement, challenge and create new perspectives to vistas ‘Capability’ Brown formed in the 1760s. Amongst these amazing pieces is one of Rodin’s most famous works, Monument to the Burghers of Calais (usually on display outside the Houses of Parliament), Moore’s magnificent monumental Three Piece Sculpture: Vertebrae and The Arch.

Walking man on column

Rodin’s Walking Man on Column

Upright Motive No. 9

Henry Moore Upright Motive No. 9 with Chapel

Inside the galleries

Gain an amazing insight into the works of these two artists. Explore the parallels between their treatment of the figure through a beautiful collection of drawings and models made for larger works. See a special display curated by Moore’s daughter Mary which reveals both artists as keen collectors of antiquities and found objects which profoundly influenced their work. The final treat is a display of rarely seen archival documents and photographs taken by Henry Moore revealing that … ‘as time has gone on, my admiration for Rodin has grown and grown’.

After our sandwich lunch I wandered round the grounds and visited the Capability Brown Chapel.  This was built in 1776 as part of the relandscaping of the site and is one of the few surviving Georgian chapels in Britain, and one of the very few remaining architectural works by ‘Capability’ Brown. It is currently undergoing a restoration project and more funds are needed to support this work as it’s hoped to use the building in future for music and learning.

CB's chapel

The Chapel Interior

And in the afternoon we had a tour of the permanent collection – British Portraits

Beautiful display

Beautiful Displays

and British Folk Art. Currently there is an exhibition of British Folk Art at Tate Britain and this will then come to Compton Verney  from 27 September 2014 to 14 December 2014.

British Folk Art

British Folk Art

Weather vane

Weather Vane

Quilt

Quilt

And finally, the Marx-Lambert Collection.

Marx Lambert collection

Enid Marx (1902-1998) was one of the brightest design stars to emerge from the Design School of London’s Royal College of Art (RCA) during the interwar years. She was an author and illustrator of children’s books, a book designer, a printmaker, a textile designer and a painter.
The Marx-Lambert collection at Compton Verney features both work produced by Marx and a large number of pieces of folk or popular art which were collected by Marx and her friend Margaret Lambert (1906-95). These then inspired Marx’s own work -sometimes directly, as seen in the pair of ceramic wall-mounted cornucopia cases which inspired her ‘Cornucopia’ textile design.”

Canal art and wallpaper

Canal Art and Wallpaper

A wonderful trip full of interest and variety marred only by a 3 hour delay on the M1 due to a lorry on fire.

 

 

 

 

Norman Stevens, ARA : Selected Prints : Royal Academy Artist of the Month

Back in 1984 we first ‘discovered’ Norman Stevens’ prints at the Bradford Biennale held at Cartwright Hall, Bradford from 15 April to 15 July.

Biennale Catalogue

Catalogue from the 1984 Bradford Biennale

At that show we remember admiring Stevens’ print “Construction Company” and a year or so later visited The Coriander Studio and to see “Laurel Tree, Nettlecombe Court” and others of his prints.

Construction Co Cat page

Construction Company Catalogue Page

Construction Co ours

Construction Company

Laurel Nettlecombe

Laurel Tree, Nettlecombe Court

Just by chance we discovered that The Royal Academy was showing a selection of Stevens’ prints in their ‘Artist of the Month’ slot. Fortunately, not showing for a month but from 26 February until 25 May 2014. I was able to check out the exhibition last Sunday.

Burlington House flag

Welcome to Burlington House – Home of the Royal Academy

It was interesting to see the other prints on display including his version of Monet’s Garden and I love his topiary prints and his fences and gates.

RA

The Royal Academy

Norman Stevens was born in Bradford in 1937 and was a student at Bradford College of Art and contemporary of David Hockney RA. He taught himself printmaking and this was his preferred medium. Sadly he died in 1988.

NS Poster

The Royal Academy says of this two room exhibition :

This spring we present the much admired prints of Norman Stevens ARA, an artist who originally trained as a painter alongside John Loker, David Hockney RA and David Oxtoby in the 1950s at Bradford College of Art. A master of the medium, Stevens taught himself printmaking in the early 1970s and in the process, found an art form that perfectly suited his meticulous and subtle approach. Exploring the landscape and built environment, his prints make use of colour, light and shade to powerful and often haunting effect. Human presence is always suggested but never shown, a quality that the art critic, William Packer, has likened to a ‘game of hide-and-seek with the real world’. At the heart of the exhibition are important groups of prints including Stevens’ depictions of Venetian blinds and ‘clapboard’ houses, his distinctive images of Stonehenge and his captivating views of English formal gardens. From his first black and white etchings to the large-scale prints he produced in the 1980s, discover the work of an artist who developed an international reputation for his technically brilliant and beguiling prints.” [RA website]

N Stevens guide etc

It’s possible to visit just to see this show. The charge is £3 and a rather nice Gallery Guide is included in the price. There are no books, print reproductions nor postcards of Stevens’ work available from the shop but one book did take my fancy!

Ken Howard's Switzerland

Ken Howard’s Switzerland : in the Footsteps of Turner

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.

gallerywigmorecastle1

A GLORIOUS RUIN
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

Kenilworth

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.

npg_npg_2531_slide

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.

4

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.

5

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.

rembrandt-mother1

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”