Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Picture of the Week No.4 - John Ruskin

A few days back in the gallery between all of the Christmas and New Year festivities and just in time for another picture of the week. I've been thinking about paintings of architectural details after seeing Sickert and Sargent's studies of Venice at the Fitzwilliam recently and so this week I've chosen a charming and atmospheric study by John Ruskin, who wrote about the architecture of that city in the Stones of Venice(1851), expanding on the thoughts he set out in the earlier The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849) on the truth of Gothic and Medieval architecture.

JOHN RUSKIN (1819-1900)
Abbeville, 1868

ink and wash and pencil heightened with white on buff coloured paper, 49 ´ 35.4 cm
inscribed: J. Ruskin 1868 Abbeville

Accession no: P.206

In 1868 Ruskin spent seven weeks in Abbeville in Normandy and drew intensively while there, recording old buildings and Gothic churches with the care and attention to detail that recall the work of one of his boyhood heroes, Samuel PROUT.

In his autobiography he wrote, 'My most intense happinesses have of course been among the mountains. But for cheerful, unalloyed, unwearying pleasure, the getting in sight of Abbeville on a fine summer afternoon, jumping out in the courtyard of the Hôtel de l’Europe, and rushing down the street to see St. Wulfran again before the sun was off the towers, are things to cherish the past for, - to the end'. (E.T. Cook and A. Wedderburn (eds.), The Works of John Ruskin, 39 vols, 1903-12, vol. VI, p.238).

PROVENANCE: P&D Colnaghi Ltd, from whom purchased by Gallery, April 1958.
EXHIBITIONS: Watercolours and Drawings from The Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford, London, Thos. Agnew & Sons Ltd, 1962, no.27; Watercolours from the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford, Norwich, Norwich Castle Museum, 1965, no.49.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Picture of the Week No.3 - Albrecht Dürer

The lawn outside the gallery is still dusted with snow and the tea room full of mince pies, so I couldn't possibly do this weeks Picture of the Week without an appropriately Christmas themed image. And as we've also been thinking about masters of printmaking, an example of Albrecht Dürer's exsquisite wood engraving is most appropriate. KP

Albrecht DÜRER (1471 - 1528)
Adoration of the Kings, 1511

woodcut, 29.3 x 22cm (image)
29.6 x 22.3cm (sheet)
inscribed: monogram
Accession No.P.456
PROVENANCE: P&D Colnaghi & Co. Ltd, from whom purchased by Gallery, January 1964
REFERENCES: ed. Dr W. Kurth, The Complete Woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer, 1963, no.262, as The Adoration of the Magi, illus.
NOTES: Paper has the water mark Bull's Head with J.Z.

A prolific printmaker, Dürer made some two hundred and fifty woodcuts in the course of his career. His initial fame as a printmaker was established through the publication of a series of large woodcuts and text for The Revelation of St John (The Apocalypse), 1498, notable for being the first book to be both illustrated and published by an artist.

It has been suggested that due to the high quality of line and detail, Dürer would have cut his own woodblocks. However, it is more likely that he employed professional block-cutters (Formschneider) to undertake this work, as there would have been a large pool of available craftsmen available for this purpose. Dürer would have closely supervised both the careful selection of the blocks and the actual cutting, to ensure that the quality of the design (which he would have drawn directly onto the block himself) was not lost. The earliest surviving example of a woodblock by Dürer is St Jerome in his Study, 1492, the block being signed on the reverse Albrecht Dürer von Nömergk (Basel, Universitätsbibliothek). In this early example the block is far more crudely cut than the work undertaken at Nuremberg, where a tradition of skilled craftsmanship had been encouraged in the print workshops of artists such as Michael Wolgemut (1434-1519) and Anton Koberger (c.1440-1513) who ran one of the largest in Europe at this time.

This text originally appeared in Prints, by the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, 2004.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Picture of the Week No. 2 - E.S. Grasset

At this early stage of our new Picture of the Week feature it is incredibly hard to make a choice out of so many fantastic works in the collection. At the moment we're all in to our prints here at the Gallery, what with our Edward Bawden show on at the moment - which also includes the fantastic artists from the St. Judes Gallery, and our specially commissioned Mark Hearld print. All the staff have been getting in on the act too with some after-work lino cutting sessions, and I topped all that off with a visit at the weekend to The Fitwilliam's fantastic Odilon Redon exhibition.

So we'll follow last weeks Rembrandt etching with Grasset's lithograph, The Vitriol Thrower.KP

Eugène-Samuel GRASSET (1841 - 1917)
The Vitriol Thrower, 1894

lithograph, 40 ´ 27.5cm (image)
60.3 ´ 43cm (sheet)
inscribed: monogram
inscribed: in plate EAH/D/sc and monogram
in pencil E Grasset No 38

Accesion No: P.857
PROVENANCE: André Candillier, Paris, from whom purchased by Gallery, June 1996.
NOTES: Printed by Eugène Delâtre, the colours stencilled by hand. Published in an edition of 100 with some colour trial proofs.

In 1893 L'Estampe Originale was launched by André Marty, the director of the weekly magazine Journal des Artistes. The intention was for subscribers to receive a series of nine albums which were to be published quarterly. The first eight albums contained ten original prints, the last fourteen.

The Vitriol Thrower was published in the sixth album. It was hand-coloured using the 'pochoir' or stencil process in five colours. There is also a comparable lithograph of a similar nature, La Morphinomane (The Morphine Addict) showing a young girl injecting morphine into her upper left thigh.

Born in Lausanne, Grasset moved to Paris in 1871, working as a designer at a firm making furnishing fabrics. In 1878 he began designing ornamental initial letters (the first published being Les Fêtes Chrétiennes by the Abbé Drioux, 1880) and, during his career he also designed jewellery, stained glass, and ceramics, and supplied illustrations to several magazines.

In 1894 Grasset held his first and only one-man exhibition at the Salon des Cent.


This text originally appeared in Prints, by the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, 2004. Available for £35 plus p&p from the Bedford Gallery Shop, via email on chag@bedford.gov.uk or call 01234 211222

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Picture of the week - Rembrandt

Welcome to a new feature on the blog, Picture of the Week. Each week we'll highlight a picture from the collection, alongside its entry from our Print and Watercolours and Drawings catalogues. Where better to start than Rembrandt?...KP

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-69)
Faust in His Study, c.1652

etching and drypoint inscribed: JNRI

Accession no: P.454
PROVENANCE: Purchased from P&D Colnaghi Ltd, January 1964.
REFERENCES: A von Bartsch, Catalogue raisonné de toutes les estampes qui forment l’oeuvre de Rembrandt, et ceux de ses principaux imitateurs, 1797, no.270 as Faustus; A.M. Hind, A Catalogue of Rembrandt’s etchings, 2 vols, 1923, no.260; O. H. Lehmann ‘Contributions to the interpretation of Rembrandt’s etching known as Faust in his Study’, Connoisseur, vol. CLXI, 1958, pp.118-9; H. Bevers, P. Schatborn & B. Welzel, Rembrandt: the Master & his workshop: Drawings and Etchings, 1991, pp.258-60.
NOTES: Impression from the first state of three on European paper. A few impressions were printed on thick oatmeal (cartridge) paper.

Rembrandt’s etchings were collectable in his own lifetime. Over his printmaking career he produced in the region of three hundred prints, with many others now attributed to pupils or followers. From the early 1630s, Rembrandt was printing and publishing, and probably distributing them himself. One of the difficulties in cataloguing Rembrandt’s prints, is the fact the editions were not recorded and edition sizes can only be guessed from the surviving prints. However, owing to the fragility of drypoint it can be assumed that no more than twenty to thirty good prints could be pulled from each plate, and up to one hundred from an etching plate.

Rembrandt was able to obtain immense subtlety of tone by taking the printing plate through a number of bitings or varying the intensity of acids. The added drypoint, with its respective burr, produced the soft velvety lines of which Rembrandt was the greatest exponent. He would constantly re-work plates with the most minor of changes to achieve the best effects.

The meaning of Faust has been argued over for centuries. Initially entitled Dr. Faustus, in 1790 Goethe commissioned a copy to be used as the title page for his book, Faust, and the title has remained in common usage today. The amulet depicted shows a text, which is a combination of Hebrew and Latin. Lehmann, in his article for The Connoisseur, offers a translation for the text as follows ‘ Oh YHWH, king, thou art mighty forever, oh Lord, in knowledge, and Master of binding’, which is then followed by a reference to Jesus of Nazareth. The reference to ‘Master of binding’, is significant as the word ‘binding’ has been used within the context of magic to suggest the effect of a magic spell or alchemy.

This text originally appeared in Prints, by the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, 2004. Available for £35 plus p&p from the Bedford Gallery Shop, via email on chag@bedford.gov.uk or call 01234 211222

Winds of Exchange Pictures

The Winds of Exchange exhibition at Bedford Museum has been exploring the links between Bedford and Japan. Curated by Marion Maule, this colourful and exciting display has been delighting visitors with its broad range of objects from a Japanese code book from Bletchley Park, a Nissan concept car designed in Bedfordshire, Japanese costume, a Samuri sword, and much, much more.

These photos will give you a little taster of the show, which is open until 3rd January.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Free Evening Lecture: Tuesday 8th December

FREE evening lecture at Bedford Gallery, Tue 8th December, 7pm. ‘Admiral Smyth and Astronomy in Bedford’ promises to tell the fascinating story of astronomy in Bedford, given by Linton Guise, Astronomer at Bedford School. Supported by the Royal Society. Call 01234 353323 for details + booking.