Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Picture of the Week No.12 - Samuel Palmer

With just days to go until we open the new exhibition, 'Clocking In', at Bedford Gallery, I thought I'd give you a sneak preview of one of the works from the Cecil Higgins Collection that is included to hang alongsidethe many artefacts that tell the stories of peoples working lives in Bedfordshire. The exhibition space has been completely transformed since 'Edward Bawden' and includes just about everything between arcane agicultural tools and space-age technology. But for the art lovers missing the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery while it is closed for refurbishment, there is a fine selection of works that complement the exhibition's themes. This Samuel Palmer is one of many regular visitor's favourites both for the charming rural scene it portrays and the technical expertise with which it it is executed, most notably with the slightly thickened watercolour that creats the effect of the sunlight through the trees. The work features in a section of that questions the way artists depicted the countryside and those that worked in it. KP

SAMUEL PALMER (1805-1881) Harvest in the Vineyard,1859
watercolour and bodycolour on paper, 19.9 × 42.7 cm
Accession No.: P.117
Lister, who gives this drawing an alternative title of Returning from the Vintage, suggests that it is no doubt based on scenes Palmer witnessed during his Italian tour of 1837-9 and describes it as one 'of happy abandon'. Although not exhibited until 1859, Lister notes some stylistic affinities here with works of the immediate post-Shoreham Period (1828-35).

Palmer married Hannah Linnell in 1837 and for their 'wedding trip' as Palmer described it, the couple visited Italy, a trip beset from the outset with financial difficulties; it was later described by his son as 'humiliating and penurious'.

Palmer had hoped that through George Richmond’s influence he might find buyers for his work in Rome but he met with little success. Palmer considered Richmond to blame but he also lacked in social judgement; his clothing, for example, being described as 'appalling'.

It was, however, a period in their lives when they enjoyed a degree of happiness and freedom, away from Palmer’s over-bearing father-in-law, John LINNELL.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Picture of the Week No.11 - Emil Nolde

Any collection of prints is always going to be strong on powerful black and white images. The limitations this one-ink process puts on the artist often leads to imaginitive uses of tone, line, and mark making to convey their ideas. This weeks picture does just that and is one of three Emile Nolde prints in the collection. The Inner Harbour, Hamburg is an atmospheric, scratchy and smoky image of an industrial city 100 years ago. KP

Emil NOLDE (1867-1956)
Hamburg, Binnenhafen (The Inner Harbour, Hamburg), 1910

etching, 30.5 × 40.5 cm
inscribed: Emil Nolde

Accession No.: P.770
PROVENANCE: Private German collection; Purchased from Hildegard Fritz-Denneville, Fine Arts Ltd, London with the aid of a grant from the V&A/M.G.C. Purchase Grant Fund, January 1992.
REFERENCES: G. Schiefler, Emil Nolde: Das Graphische Werk I – Etchings, cat.no.144 II, 1995; C. Ackley, The Painter’s Prints, pp.173-4, 1995; P. Gilmour, Great Prints of the Century: From Picasso to Hockney, pp.9 & 56, 1999.
EXHIBITIONS: Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire County Museum, Great Prints of the Century: From Picasso to Hockney, 1999.
NOTES: II/II from a total of 12 printed on wove paper by Genthe, Sabo, Berlin.

This print comes from a series of etchings and woodcuts dedicated to Hamburg Harbour where Nolde staged his most ambitious and successful retrospective exhibition of paintings in 1910. The harbour had attracted artists since the end of the nineteenth century and, by 1910, had become an international port.

Gustav Schiefler, his Hamburg patron and cataloguer, suggested that Nolde was motivated to produce a series of prints, drawings and paintings representing the commercial activity of the harbour and its surroundings because he felt indebted to the city for his success. In Nolde’s own words, these etchings ‘had din and roar, tumult and smoke and life, but only little sun’ (p.174, Ackley, 1995). The Inner Harbour is the final print produced for the Hamburg series. Its rarity is due the fact that the Nazis confiscated many of Nolde’s works and more were lost when his studio was destroyed during the Second World War.

Such is the immediacy of the series, that it is thought that Nolde etched the designs directly onto the plate. According to his friend, Hans Fehr, armed with paper and steel plates (copper was too expensive and Nolde preferred the hardness of the steel), Nolde would march out ‘into the uproar and confusion of the harbour’ (p.174 Ackley, 1995). Travelling about in the packed boats, and sitting amongst the dock machinery, Nolde would work constantly, drawing with whatever came to hand, until the evening when he would process his plates within no more than three hours to achieve the correct amount of acid bite and depth of image. In total, Nolde produced about 200 graphic works on the theme of the harbour, all of which were exhibited at Commeter in Hamburg in 1910. It was Nolde’s success during this year that prompted Schiefler to produce a catalogue of his printed works.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What was your first job?

Our new exhibition, ‘Clocking In’ opens on 27th February 2010 at Bedford Gallery. The exhibition will be an exploration into the past, present and future working lives of the people of Bedford. From market trading to brick-making to cutting-edge aerospace research, the working lives of the people of Bedford have always been varied. We will be using interviews with local people, as well as the Art Gallery & Museum collections, to illustrate the vibrancy and variety of Bedfordshire life.

The exhibition includes amazing insights into our working day, highlighting what has remained the same but also, how our lives have changed.

‘There were still people in Bedford who believed in what they called gold water, which was the water they washed the gold in, having medicinal properties when they drank it or rubbed it in. His job was to go and retrieve the water that they had washed the gold objects in and hand it out gratuitously to the people of Bedford.’ Richard Stoodley (speaking about his father working at John Bull & Co from 1920 to 1970)

We would love to know what was the first job you ever had? All stories and anecdotes welcome! Get in touch by leaving comments here on the blog, on facebook or on twitter.

My first job was as chief potwasher (kitchen assistant) at The Blacksmiths Arms in Ravensden, where I worked at the weekends whilst I was studying at Bedford College. My favourite part was the potato tumbler that we used to make the chips - an excellent time saving device, really I need one at home.


There are prizes for the best photographs at Britain Loves Wikipedia.

By entering your photographs into Britain Loves Wikipedia, you could win:
Best photograph from any location
First prizeWikiReader - a copy of the entire English Wikipedia in your pocket - generously donated by OpenMoko.
Second prize — a £50 Tragus gift voucher (valid for Café Rouge, Bella Italia, Strada, Belgo restaurants)
Third prize — a £25 Amazon gift voucher

Our event is on the 18th February. Call us on 01234 353323 to book your place!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Picture of the Week No.10 - J. F. Lewis

Another walk in to the gallery is accompanied by freezing swirls of snow and as I sit down at my desk the catalogue for Tate's 'Lure of the East' catches my eye and takes me somewhere far warmer. As I flicked through, waiting for my computer to boot up, I read a few lines about a self portrait of JF Lewis. He has depicted himself as a carpet seller in a bazaar, perhaps in Cairo with an expression that challenges the viewer to make a decision on who this white-bearded man in baggy blue trousers and pointed slippers really is. Included in the exhibition was an intricate watercolour by Lewis from the Cecil Higgins Collection, full of life and rich detail, depicting a bazaar in Cairo - maybe not far from where Lewis depicted himself. KP

'The Bezestein Bazaar, El Khan Khalil, Cairo', 1872

watercolour and bodycolour on paper, 57.3 x 43 cm
inscribed: JF Lewis RA 1872

Accession No.: P.282

A version in oil was sold at Sotheby’s, London in 1980 (9 April 1980, lot.28). The scene depicts the Bezestein Bazaar of El Khan Khalil, one of the most important markets in Cairo, which dates back to the 14th century.

Lewis left England in 1837 eventually settling in Cairo in 1841. According to his friend, Lord Elphinstone he lived in the ‘most Ottoman quarter’, where he remained for ten years. While in Cairo, Lewis adopted local customs and style of dress. The writer Thackery referred to his existence thus: ‘like a languid Lotus-eater – a dreamy, hazy, lazy, tobaccofied Life’. Despite references to the Egyptian tradition of pipe-smoking and a ‘languid’ life, Lewis produced numerous sketches of Cairo life, and, concerned about authenticity, amassed an extraordinary collection of Egyptian costumes and accessories. This material enabled Lewis to continue with Egyptian subjects even on his return to England in 1851, where this picture was painted.

Son of the painter and engraver Frederick Christian Lewis (1779-1856), John Frederick was initially encouraged to take up engraving. However, his early friendship with fellow animal-lover LANDSEER prompted Lewis to become an animal-painter. He was employed, briefly, to Sir Thomas Lawrence, but soon abandoned animal-painting in favour of travelling. On his return to Britain, Lewis settled in Walton-on-Thames, where he continued to paint Egyptian scenes until his death.

PROVENANCE: J. Dyson Perrins; Sotheby’s 22 April 1959, lot 58, from whom purchased by Gallery.
EXHIBITIONS: Universal Exposition, Paris, 1878, no.91 as Street Scene in Cairo; English Watercolours from The Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford, Reading, Reading Museum and Art Gallery. 1965, no.32; The English Tradition: an exhibition of watercolours from two private collections, Bedford, Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, 1972, no.53.
REFERENCES: M. Lewis, John Frederick Lewis, 1978, p.97, no.608; M. Lewis, The Lewis Family: Art & Travel, 1992, p.37.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Britain Loves Wikipedia

On the 18th February, we will be opening our doors to photographers everywhere as part of Britain Loves Wikipedia
Britain Loves Wikipedia is a scavenger hunt and free content photography contest running in museums and cultural institutions across the UK through February. The aim is to increase the number of pictures available to illustrate Wikipedia articles, and to inspire new articles.
Come along and enjoy the opportunity to see behind the scenes at our stores, including a sneak preview of our upcoming exhibition ‘Clocking In - an exhibition of the working day' whilst curators prepare and install the exhibition. Places are limited so booking is essential. There will be two sessions, 12noon - 1.30pm and 2.30 - 4pm. 15 places are available on each session. Flash photography will be allowed for this event. Call us on 01234 353323 to book your place.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Picture of the week No.9 - K X Roussel

Most museums are like icebergs; the collections on display represent only a small part of the whole with most of the objects hidden below the waterline in stores, in conservation, or out on loan, and on this blog we hope to show some of those pieces currently hidden away. But museums can also be a little like ducks, calm on the surface but paddling like fury underneath: preparing exhibitions, fundraising, promoting, caring for collections, cataloguing, writing lectures, dealing with enquiries from publications, trying to keep the shop stocked... the list is endless and invariably outside the nationals it is small teams doing a whole varied range of things. So even as we take down the Edward Bawden Exhibiton and start to install 'Clocking In' (more to follow!) we can't help but think ahead to the Toulouse Lautrec touring exhibition from the British Museum that comes to Bedford Gallery in January. It also reminds us some of the fantastic French lithographs in the collection from that period, so that is where this weeks picture of the week comes from. KP
Ker Xavier ROUSSEL (1867-1944)
L’Education du Chien (Training the Dog), 1893

lithograph, 330 × 193 cm (image)
inscribed: K X Roussel No.51

Accession No. P.565
PROVENANCE: Purchased from London Graphic Art Associates, July 1967.
REFERENCES: J. Salomon, K X Roussel L’Oeuvre Graphique, 1967, no.10.
NOTES: Number 51 of 100 impressions. Published by L’Estampe Originale in 1893.

Trained at the Académie Julian, Paris from 1888, Roussel was one of the founding members of the Nabis group, which included BONNARD, VALLOTTON, Paul Ranson (1864-1909), DENIS and VUILLARD, the latter two having been school friends of Roussel. The influence of Japanese prints can be clearly seen in Roussel’s own printmaking, with the use of flattened colours and picture planes.

In 1893 the publisher André Marty and Roger Marx started L’Estampe Originale. The intention was to issue two portfolios a year for five years. Only nine were ever published. The portfolios contained coloured lithographs by artists such as TOULOUSE-LAUTREC, BONNARD, DENIS, SIGNAC and Roussel.