Friday, 15 March 2019

Sheffield at Temple Place

Actually, it's called 'RUSKIN' at 2 Temple Place

and this was an unexpected exhibit.
It portrays two young workers in the cutlery industry: Jane Gill and Maggie Herrick, painted in 1909 by Will Rothenstein.  Their job was to polish knives after manufacture, and they were called 'buffer girls',  so I'm guessing this was employment commonly taken after leaving school at 13 and before marrying, in a trade that was originally a family affair, with sons apprenticed to cutler fathers and daughters doing less skilled tasks.  

According to the label, wages for Jane and Maggie were five shillings a week  - not very much in 1919 - and they received the same posing for half a day to Rothenstein, so a neat albeit brief addition to  their earnings.

The painting is at Temple Place because most of the exhibits  come from Sheffield Museums, where  Ruskin's 'teaching items' are now, mainly through his 'museum' or collection assembled for the benefit of working people [for which read working men].   Arguably Jane and Maggie, or their families. might have had  access to the Ruskin collection,  and they represent the traditional workers whose cutural experience concerned him in his essays and speeches.

Cutlery is also on display, amid an extremely disparate exhibition,  with very many watercolour records of medieval architectural details from Venice, Lucca and  elsewhere, this being Ruskin's specialism as a lecturer and popular educator.  
For example, this large drawing of pointed arches.

Geology was another interest, dating from Ruskin's boyhood, and he had mineral collections of rocks, crystals and  suchlike.  

Then there are samples of his observational studies of nature - more rocks, plants, birds like this dead duck.

Ruskin's pedagogic impulse was part philanthropic and part parsonical.  He was raised to be a bishop  and took the preaching and teaching  role seriously, if idiosyncratically.   Hence the 'museum' for Sheffield, the lectures and endless stream of publications, and the creation of his personal 'church' called The Guild of St George, for followers who were willing to join him in philanthropy.  

There's no end to Ruskin's interests and endeavours, so for those in London the Temple Place show is a good way to sample them.  It's free, but very popular.  i regret there isn't a section on Ruskin's relationship with women artists,  which although fully entwined with gender bias was also very osiive in many ways and would have contributed a significant addition to the Sheffield/Temple Place show. 

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Fanny Eaton as a Sibyl

In early summer 1857, Joanna Boyce arrived in Rome, joining her art school friend Margaret Daniell, who was now married to Dr Piotti.  With a pair of opera glasses, she lay on the floor of the Sistine Chapel studying Michelangelo's figures, as every European artist was wont to do when in the city.
They include the Sibyls, whose gnomic prophecies offered a classical complement to the Hebrew prophets.  One is the Sibyl at Cumae, famous from the Aeneid Book Six, whose grotto near Naples Joanna may have visited some months later.  Another is the Libyan Sibyl, based in the Siwa Oasis, who was with others anciently said to have foretold Christ's coming (hence the propriety of pagan figures in a Christian chapel).

Sibyls are customarily shown with their prophetic books, and the Vatican's Sibilla Libica - who does not herself look African - is looking away as she opens a giant volume, perhaps to signify its oracular, enigmatic contents.  Her naked upper back is wonderfully muscled in its twisting pose, and the artist's studies show several attempts at the toes of tensed left foot, which conveys the momentary nature of the vigorously depicted pose.

The Libyan Sibyl on the mosaic floor of the Duomo in Siena, drawn by Guidoccio Cazzarelli, is more conventionally static, and manifestly African, from her braided dreadlocks to her sandalled toes.

  Burne-Jones's Sibylla Libyssa in Jesus College Cambridge is perhaps more Egyptian - and has in place of her book a hand-mirror and jar, or is it a crystal sphere?  (EBJ's other Sibyls here have diverse accessories, presumably alluded to in classical sources).

Joanna Boyce Wells's sibyl was never completed, owing to her untimely death.  It's in  a  list of forthcoming projects and subjects that she left behind.   Other traces are the profile head painted from Fanny Eton,  and a  compositional study for which Fanny seems also to have posed.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

African artists' model 1862

This splendid portrait of a man of African ancestry  now in the collection of the Royal Cambrian Academy of Art in Conwy  has recently been identified as a painting from around or just before 1862 by an artist named George Harrison ( 1840-1910)    that was mentioned in a newspaper report as 'Portrait of an African'.     
 It was painted when Harrison was a student so the  sitter is most likely a model, probably at the RA Schools in London, and the canvas was used by the artist as an example of his skill when pitching for portrait commissions - though he later moved to Wales and painted landscapes. 
All this from a long discussion  on the Art Fund Art detective site, and a big credit to E.Jones who found the press report.
There are probably other pictures from this period featuring the same sitter, most likely in genre scenes, though maybe in similar head-and-shoulder studies.

Yinka S in Hereford

Hereford Cathedral has linked up with Yinka Shonibare for a textile installation inspired by Herefod's Mappa Mundi  with its strange creatures and alien races that in medieval times were thought to people the far reaches of the world, beyond christendom with its centre in Jerusalem.

The ten panels, displayed in the cloister and the chained library, are made from irregular pieces of fabric like an amateur patchwork, and were stitched by three teams of people from the city - students, seniors and the learning disabled.  Videos show the participants, the  process and the artists explaining the project.   It is, he says,inspired by the ability of the Mappa Mundi to still reflect our contemporary concerns of fear of the stranger or 'other' which often leads to xenophobia.  The depiction of  creatures of legend is a reminder that we may ye become extinct if we don't take care of the environment.

 on right: mandragora, the fabled forked root that was supposed to shriek when pulled from the ground.     

Below, some other fanciful beings from an illuminated manuscript in the Library,  where the books are shelved with spines inward on account of the chains, and have to have handwritten notes with titles stuck on the fore-edges..  Also, a visit costs £6.00 pp.  for what is probably a maximum of 30 minutes.  There is a useful cafe hard by also in cloisters.  

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Georgie BJ as a doll and an artist

MARINA MADE ME  has posted a new sequence featuring GBJ,  though I'm sorry to see that her famous coral necklace does not appear...

A self-image by Georgie appears in the cartoon-strip she created in 1859 as a Valentine for five-year-old Mabel Maclaren, promising a visit

And a newly-discovered drawing by Georgie from the same period  [signed with the monogram 'GM' for Georgiana Macdonald, therefore before her wedding]  illustrates Thomas Hood's then-famous poem 'The Bridge of Sighs', and is so identified on the back.  

It is thus becoming possible to reconstruct the creative ambitions that emerged when Georgie joined the Pre-Raphaelite circle and studied with Madox Brown, until they were decisively quashed by motherhood and her husband's decision to keep Georgie out of his studio. 

Thursday, 31 January 2019

for HMD 2019

SIX PRAYERS by Anni Albers  

  art textiles created  1966-7 for the Jewish Museum. NYC
 Referencing Torah scrolls, she said: ‘I used the threads themselves as a sculptor or painter uses his medium to produce a scriptural effect which would bring to mind sacred texts.’  

Of Jewish heritage, Albers  considered herself Jewish ‘only in the Hitler sense’, but wrote: ‘We are alone and responsible for our actions. Our solitariness takes on religious character:  this is a matter of my conscience and me’. A key teacher in the Bauhaus art school, she left Germany with her husband in 1933 and taught at Black Mountain College.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Bonnard's Animals

Partly owing to the ubiquitous reproduction of glimpses through doorways and bodies in baths, I’ve never really looked at or thought about Bonnard’s work,  so the Tate’s new show proved a visual and intellectual delight, with beguiling pieces on every wall.   

The depth of visual pleasure lies in the double or triple level of colour and form, with details and shapes emerging and submerging as the eye advances and retreats.    It isn’t new, but I was especially struck by the several animals in the scenes portrayed,  starting with the popular dachshund in Coffee (1915)  who dominates the postcards, prints and merchandise, eclipsing the human figures.

The same dog, I presume, anchors the lower edge of the large landscape Summer (1917).   

Cats appears in The Bowl of Milk (more conventionally)  and The Dining Room (1913)  where their small size suggests a pair of kittens eagerly eyeing the plates of food.

I was rather puzzled by the orange beast in Paysage du Cannet (1928) whose figure firmly faces the  shadowy reclining male on the composition's opposite side, but which I take to be a  calf?  I see the picture sold for $5m in 2005.