Welcome to the September 2015 issue. When I started to write this edition the weather outside was symbolic of the unholy contradictory nature of our British climate. A beautiful day; a late Summer’s day which allowed the bees one final incursion into the late flowering plants and the sky was, I promise you, a Titian blue. Ah if only our Summer had been composed of more days like that one!
I hope you all had an enjoyable break and we now turn towards the Autumn delights of a new WAHG season which focuses on the theme of architecture combined with visits to Cardiff, Chiswick and London.
I look forward with a certain amount of trepidation to the London visit as it may well involve a visit to the viewing platform at the Shard. I normally adopt a mantra on these occasions ‘Don’t look down, don’t look down’ which is a bit silly given the purpose of the visit and the resultant contradictory position of desperately clinging onto whatever handrail is available whilst at the same time muttering ‘what a wonderful view’ to myself.
This issue contains essential information for WAHG members from Beth Taylor, it also explores the Watts Gallery and its exhibition of Richard Dadd’s work, articles by by Carol Orchard, and finally a look at a local gallery in Stockbridge.
Beth Taylor writes:-
Our autumn/winter 2015 programme has launched with a most enjoyable visit to Cardiff where we visited the restored neo-Gothic Castle in the company of the Curator, Matthew Williams. As well as being the foremost expert on the Castle and its refurbishment, Matthew enlivened our tour with his witty comments. We then moved on to the National Museum of Wales to view its wonderful collection of Impressionist and post Impressionist art in the company of Senior Curator, Anne Pritchard. Anne told us of the background to the Museum’s acquisitions and introduced us to some of the key works in the collection. A really enjoyable day – and there is a great deal more to explore in the National Museum’s art collections so we will consider another visit in the future. (If you want to plan your own visit, do ask me for a copy of the Background Notes – we still have a few available)
We have also arranged a Meet the Makers visit for Friday October 16th 2015. This will include a tour of the Art of the Tree exhibition at Mottisfont, guided by Tim Craven, Curator at Southampton Art Gallery and one of the contributors to the exhibition, lunch in Thruxton and a visit to ceramicist Elaine Peto’s studio at Quarley in the afternoon. Contact Lisa Spooner to find our more and to book a place. email@example.com
There will be a briefing meeting for those going on the trip to the Hague after the seminar on 14th October. Daphne Winning, who plans our overseas visits, is also working on next year’s trip which will be to Madrid and Seville. Further information will be sent out about that next month. If you have any queries about the trips, contact Daphne firstname.lastname@example.org
Our seminar programme began with a talk on the early skyscrapers of New York and the art that was inspired by them. Coming up is a Study Day on Architecture led by Mary Acton as well as other architecturally focussed visits.
While our visits are fully booked, there are a few places available at some of the seminars so do contact our new Events secretary Christine Clarke Smith Chris.email@example.com if you would like to book a place.
One of our upcoming seminars (fully booked, I’m afraid) is being given by our WAHG Bernard Courtis Bursary holder, Ruth Smith. Ruth attended Peter Symonds College and then went on to study History of Art at the Courtauld Institute. She took her BA Hons this year and is starting an MA at the Courtauld in October. We will continue to support her with a bursary for that course too. This year we did not receive any applications for the undergraduate bursary so we will be doing some research to find ways of connecting with possible applicants. If you have any ideas about that or/and know of any potential BA History of Art students starting their courses or applying for next year, do let the committee know.
WAHG Discussion Group begins meeting again on 24th September. We will be talking about Kathe Kolwitz’s sculpture, Mother and Child. We will be meeting on four occasions over the autumn. The groups are led by a member who agrees the topic and prepares and leads the discussion – much like the way a book group operates. In December we will be talking about the work of Georgia O’Keefe. The subjects of the intervening meetings will be decided next week. All members are welcome to join a Discussion Group for which we charge an additional £10 annual fee. This covers the hire of a room for each meeting. If you think you would be interested do contact me.
We have just updated the list of local, regional and London exhibitions on our website www.wahg.org.uk Do check that out, there are lots of exciting possibilities in store for those who enjoy gallery going – and there is no better way to learn about art than looking at it.
Finally, we have a number of new members so if you see an unfamiliar face at seminars or visits, do introduce yourself. And, don’t forget, the continuing success of WAHG depends on the efforts of your Committee and other volunteers. If you would like to contribute to our work by volunteering your particular skills, do contact me!
A snapshot of the recent visit of WAHG to Cardiff by Carol Orchard
(It’s always pleasing to have other contributors to the Newsletter and Carol’s two pieces are most welcome. If you feel you would like to contribute something please contact me. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone it is 01962 880016.)
Visit to Cardiff
A score of us discovered on 15 September that the inside of Cardiff Castle really does have to be seen to be believed. The original house was expanded and titivated by the Pugin-inspired medievalist architect-cum-designer William Burges (1827-81) in collaboration with his enormously wealthy friend, the 3rd Marquis of Bute (1847-1900), who used it as a holiday home. The rooms are small, elaborately decorated, tucked away up spiral stairways or along narrow corridors, and are covered with murals, gilded plasterwork, tesserae or, occasionally, wall-hangings. Moorish arches, statues, painted animals and birds, inscriptions in Latin, Greek and Hebrew and visual jokes are everywhere. Some of the animals have been frozen in stone as they try to climb over the castle’s outside walls. It is all, as our excellent guide pointed out, the most tremendous fun.
After lunch we were introduced to Cardiff Museum’s collection of French Impressionists, purchased by Gwendolyn (1882-1951) and Margaret (1884-1963) Davies and given to the gallery with other fine works (including some beautiful little paintings by JMW Turner) to form the nucleus of its acquisitions. Afterwards, when free to explore further, some paintings by Cezanne in particular caught my eye as, I must confess, did a beautiful bronze of a galloping horse by Degas (once owned by Lucian Freud) and a terrific painting by Lucy Kemp-Welch (‘Big Guns to the Front’) of horses and soldiers on manoeuvres (it was pleasing to learn) at Morn Hill.
Some of us have resolved to go back to the city for a longer visit.
The Watt’s Gallery
– Opening hours are 11-5 Tue – Sun admission £7.50 (Art Fund – free + 50% off temporary exhibitions). The Watts Chapel is open Mon-Fri 8-5 Weekends 10-5.30 Free Admission. Temporary exhibitions currently are; The Richard Dadd exhibition last day 1 November, and Prints for the People last day 4 October.
Prompted by Carol Orchard, who had gone to see the Richard Dadd exhibition, I decided to visit the Gallery on a balmy and bright day in August. A pleasant drive via the A31 and the Hogg’s Back and finally a turn into the more rural landscape where farmland ushers you into the complex of buildings that comprise a rich and rewarding experience to the new visitor and a welcome return to old habitués.
I started with Prints for the People, which is an exhibition of popular lithographs including the School Prints Scheme, produced in the 1930s and 40s to bring good art to people at affordable prices. I could connect with the world pertaining to these prints and especially Edward Ardizzone’s print Shelter Scene 1941 which depicts the bomb shelter at Tilbury situated under the railway arches at Stepney. In a morning scene the conviviality of the people is shown by gesture and the intimacy of small groups. You might remember that Ardizzone was an illustrator of children’s books such as the Little Tim series which I read as a child.
Carel Weight’s Albert Bridge 1947 is a snow scene from the Chelsea Embankment side, conveyed with atmospheric blues, greys and whites. And finally I’d pick out a print by Edwin LaDell commissioned for the Festival of Britain series, MCC at Lords 1951. There’s a strong unpredictable use of colour whilst the use of olive green and hints of purple reminded me of fifties interior design. All the prints are redolent of a world that lingers on in one’s memory.
The De Morgan collection (a collection of works by Evelyn and William De Morgan, part of the Arts and Crafts Movement) is a permanent part of the venue and is set in an elegant room made more so by the combination of lustrous ceramic tiles, vases and plates and some vibrant paintings. The ceramics are worth attention especially a ruby lustre arabesque dish with symmetrical patterns and Evelyn’s painting ‘The Angel of Death 1 1880′ is dramatic and close to the Pre-Raphaelites in tone and mood.
Richard Dadd (1817-1886) is an artist who probably doesn’t need an introduction but if you haven’t seen his works before this exhibition comprises of two of his masterworks, some delightful watercolours and some various sketches. Dadd was incarcerated in Bethlam and subsequently Broadmoor, as a result of killing his father and being adjudged as insane. In what seems a benevolent move by the Physicians in charge of the inmates he was encouraged to keep on painting and indeed produced many of the works seen in the exhibition, albeit many of the pictures took him a period of years to produce and not all of them were completed. His career as an artist before his breakdown was notable; admitted to the Royal Academy at the age of 20, awarded a medal for life drawing in 1840 and a founder of the art group ‘The Clique’. His skills as an artist can be seen in the exhibition.
The exhibition is well organised and although focused on the art produced during his time at Bethlam and Broadmoor, it contains variety through its inclusion of the fairy paintings, water-colours and sketches of ‘The Passions’ as part of its presentation.
The Fairy Feller’s Masterstroke is surprising initially because of its small size. There’s an element of the miniaturist at work in how he compresses so many details on a small canvass. Allied to the painting the exhibition includes a replica of Dadd’s poem which acts as a commentary on the characters included in the painting. Admittedly, it does not help to explain the overall meaning of the work but I felt it gave some insight into the psychological state of the artist. The painting itself depicts the splitting of an acorn by an axe-wielding fairy surrounded by a variety of fairies, including Titania and Oberon who watch. It’s noticeable that the structure of the work is composed of both horizontal and perpendicular elements which create a gallery effect. Tangled reeds or rushes cover the scene as if we are peering into a miniature world. The faces of the fairy characters are both human and different at the same time. It is intricate, ordered, pulsating with a life that seems eerie and strange, disconnected and vaguely chaotic. Your interpretation of it is as good as mine, but I felt that at least one part of it reflects Dadd’s own position. He is the acorn, his mind being dissected, whose imaginative world is both a refuge and a reflection of the paranoia that he suffered from. The Contradiction provides more of the same perspective explored above.
It serves as an antidote to view Dadd’s brilliant water-colours, especially The Artist’s Halt in the Desert c1845 which is a beautiful re-creation of a middle eastern location he stayed at during his tour in 1842/1843 which ended with his descent into madness. Likewise, The View of the island of Rhodes 1845 confirms his talent in using water-colours. Both are exquisite in detail but in different ways.
I conclude with a brief mention of two other attractions. The Watt’s gallery itself is interesting but I feel there could be a benefit in re-ordering Watt’s paintings into a more thematic grouping and highlighting certain works. Nonetheless I was struck by the luminosity of his painting of The Ionides Family, which shared a link to Moroni in its clarity and colours; his depiction of Jonah is dramatic and there is an edge of fanaticism in the eyes of the subject which is unusual. Finally, a painting ‘The Irish Famine 1848-50’ typifies that element of the artist where his social conscience highlights the suffering and neglect of a nation.
The Watts Cemetery Chapel is very much worth visiting. Mary Watts is the star here in which in combination with her husband she created a beautiful (outside and inside) chapel which is extraordinary in its design and decoration.
Oh, and the café has some of the most splendid cheese on toast dishes I’ve tasted recently!
Masterpiece – Carol Orchard
Encouraged by a fellow WAHG member, I ventured into Chelsea one morning last June, to visit an art and antiques fair called Masterpiece (www.masterpiecefair.com).
Hm, Chelsea. As a girl of slender means in London in the 1960s I found it quite intimidating (ie. a bit posh). Fifty years later, I still do (it’s less posh, but more plutocratic). Never mind, I’m here to look at the art.
There is plenty of it. I whizz round the entire site and am struck by the number of pictures on sale by Lowry, Munnings and Picasso. Is this because they were so prolific? Or are people off-loading them before the market crashes? Or maybe Antonia should be here to quiz the dealers about their authenticity. (Or maybe not.) They present me with no moral dilemmas, because they are on offer for 6-figure sums (7 for the larger ones). I would have to sell my house to buy any of them. Not even tempted.
But wait, what’s this? Can one actually buy a picture by one of the greatest artists of all time? It is exquisite, and is on sale for 5 figures: a 1517 (allegedly) print of Durer’s famous etching of St Jerome in his study. I could sell the Maserati (if I had one) and own a real Durer!
That temptation, too, is resisted and I decide that Masterpiece is good for the soul. Champagne is on offer at several strategically-placed bars, but, temptations being easier to resist when one is sober, I settle for a cup of English Breakfast and carry on looking. Here is a Joseph Wright self-portrait (5 figures); no, it wouldn’t look right in the sitting-room and would be wasted anywhere else. What about this Gainsborough sketch of a laden mule (4 figures)? No, too many ’T Gainsborough’ stamps on it; a bit naff. And while the four hunting scenes by Herring are great, there definitely isn’t room for them.
Quite serious temptation is offered by some bronzes made by a living sculptor (4 figures). They are of birds and mammals and are very fine, capturing the animals’ movements perfectly. They are selling like hot cakes, but they are African and I’ve never been south of Sharm-el-Sheikh.
Feeling virtuous after resisting all these temptations to SKI, I make my excuses and head for Battersea Park station. I am frisked on the way out. Really! Do they think I’m interested in anything here that would fit into my rucksack? I’m not even sure that jewellery qualifies as art.
Then I remember the Durer. That would have fitted in very nicely.
The Wykeham Gallery Summer Exhibition 2015 (Stockbridge, Hampshire)
Unfortunately, by the time of writing the exhibition has ended but of course the gallery is a permanent embellishment of the High Street. If you want to see the works shown in the exhibition they are available to be seen on the net at www.wykehamgallery.co.uk .
Ah, Stockbridge its broad main street, the river meadows to one side, the hint of mystery in those various closed alley ways leading to houses, the various tea places and the sense of nostalgia for an England landscape that emerges from tree covered avenues, pasture land, downs and river meadows. Worth coming to for many reasons and one of my pleasures is to wander up and down its High Street in a meandering walk that takes in its many delights. I did so again on a late August day and serendipitously popped into the gallery. I’ll highlight one work that I enjoyed, which was Michelle Pearson Cooper’s Cheetah and Tree a drawing using charcoal and certain folds in the canvas or material used for drawing on which emphasise the fluidity of the drawing and animates the subject. The cheetah seems to emerge from the tree and I was struck by the draughtwomanship in how the various flecks of charcoal vividly suggest both the bristles and colouring of the animal.
The WAHG Virtual Gallery
Colour Study by Kandinsky
Kandinsky, like Miro, is an artist who seems to depict a sort of joy in his works. They explore colour, shapes, signs and make a distinct and resplendent imagery that you can connect with. This painting, to me, shines and pulsates like the sun!