Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Picture of the week No.23 - William Rothenstein

We are now in the middle of installing the new exhibition The Unknown Artist - Stanley Lewis & his Contemporaries. You'll be able to see the finished results on Saturday 12th June and as well as all the previously unseen works by Lewis, it contains a selection of works from our own collection of his tutors and contemporaries such as Augustus John, Stanley Spencer and the head of the Royal College of Art when Lewis studied there, and the subject for this week's picture - William Rothenstein. As a young man Rothenstein trained at the Slade School of Art and then under Alphonse Legros in Paris, where he associated with Toulouse-Lautrec and Camille Pissarro. His paintings are notable for their romanticism and dramatic tension, none more so than The Doll's House, which featured his wife Alice and Augustus John in an enigmatic composition that echoes the tension and stillness of Henrik Ibsen's play, after which the painting was named. Throughout Rothenstein's career he was known for his portraits and completed English Portraits, a book of drawings and biographical sketches in 1898. The crisp study below was executed towards the end of a life and career devoted to the highest principles of drawing and his teaching at the RCA epitomised those principles. KP
The Right Rev. Dom. Wilfrid Upson, O.S.B., Abbott of Prinknash, Glos, 1940
red chalk on paper, 54.3 ´ 38.9 cm
on reverse: portrait sketch of a man’s head in red chalk.
Accession no.: P.187

Drawn in 1940; the sitter was Abbott of Prinknash (pronounced ‘Prinnish’) Abbey in Gloucestershire and head of the Benedictines of Great Britain.

Rothenstein studied at the Slade School and in Paris where he made friends with Whistler and Edgar Degas (1834-1917). Back in England he became known for his portrait drawings chiefly of the famous. Head of the R.C.A., 1920-35 and a trustee of the Tate Gallery 1927-33. He was knighted in 1931 and a memorial exhibition was held at the Tate in 1950.

His correspondence and memoirs are a rich source of information on his times.

PROVENANCE: Sir John Rothenstein, 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.81; Portrait Painting and Drawings, Rye, Rye Art Gallery, 1967, no cat.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Clocking In - What was your first job?

We loved all of the anecdotes and memories about early years of work shared at the Clocking In exhibition. We have uploaded a few of our favourites. Thank you everyone for participating! If these tales of triumph and disapointment in the work place inspire you to share some memories, please do post comments.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Picture of the Week No. 22 - Franz Marc

The Munich born artist Franz Marc was a founder member of the important German Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter. His use of bold coloursand the way he intertwines futurist inspired motifs with a love for animals and the natural world mark out his unique vision. He was due to be recalled from his conscripted service in the First World War as part of a list of 'notable artists' in service, but was killed by shrapnel from a shell before he could recieve the order. This striking woodcut, a medium so typical of the German Expresionists, has all the key components of Marc's work with the intense contrast of the black ink on thin Japan paper displaying his strong sense of form without the distractions of his obvious abilities as a colourist. KP

Franz MARC (1880-1916)
Tierlegende (Animal Legend), 1912
woodcut on thin Japan paper with wirelines, 19.8 × 24.1cm
inscribed: F, Marc and 10
Accession No.: P.777

PROVENANCE: Originally from the Heinrich Neuerburg (1880-1956) Collection and later Dr Walter Neuerburg (1912-86). Heinrich started collecting prints after 1945 on the advice of Hermann Schnitzler of the Schnütgen Museum; acquired for the Gallery by Garton and Co. from Christie’s, Lot 420, 2 December 1992.
REFERENCES: K. Lankheit, Franz Marc, Katalog der Werke, 831 III, 1978.
NOTES: From the first small edition hand-printed by Marc himself. There are later, unsigned editions that were published in 1912 and 1919.

CATALOGUE ENTRY: This is a rare contemporary impression, signed by Marc himself; his wife usually signed them. Marc was killed in action at Verdun in 1916 at the age of thirty-six. His output was relatively small, producing only forty-six prints, but the most important were the twenty-two he produced in 1912-14. Marc described how the technique of the woodcut helped to clarify his style during this period. Tierlegende is the largest and finest of these and is typical of the type of subjects chosen by Marc. The print was published in Der Sturm in September 1912 and later, posthumously, in Genius in 1919.

Marc initially studied philosophy and theology at Munich University, but following a bout of depression in 1907 he went on to explore pantheism. This, coupled with daily visits to Berlin Zoo, confirmed his interest in both the anatomy and spirituality of animals. Prior to joining Kandinsky and the spiritually-inspired group, der Blaue Reiter in Munich in 1910, Marc had spent a period in Paris where he came into close contact with the Cubists. CB

Monday, May 10, 2010

Picture of the Week No.21 - Alfred Stevens

Preparational studies always have a particular appeal to me; they often show a greater freedom than the final works, and the overlaying of different ideas on a sheet as a design evolves creates echoes and motifs that create interest across the sheet. The work also stops when the essence has been found - or a new direction needed. I have selected two sheets of studies by Alfred Stevens for this weeks feature, and the red chalk drawing and pen studies complement each other well, showing different stages of the compositional process. KP

ALFRED STEVENS (1817-1875)Studies for the decoration of Dorchester House, London, c.1855-6 (red chalk, squared in pencil on paper) P.321; Compositional Studies, date unknown pen and ink on paper P.332

Born in Dorset, Stevens lived in Italy 1833-42, where he studied under Bertel Thorwaldsen (1770-1844) in Rome and made many red chalk drawings in the manner of Raphael, whose influence is clearly apparent in this study. His rare watercolours have an imaginative quality, which shows him to have much in common with the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

Chiefly known for his sculpture, his two greatest achievements were the Wellington monument in St Paul’s Cathedral and the decorative ensemble (P.321), c.1856, for the dining room at Dorchester House, London, the fireplace of which is now in the V&A.

It is not known whether these (P.332) vigorous sketches were ever developed by Stevens – or indeed precisely what they represent. Perhaps the two figures in the top study were the first idea for a sculpture or picture of Tarquin and Lucretia. If so, the right-hand lower figure is probably related and a study for Lucretia about to stab herself.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Johnny Hannah Artwork

After the successful collaborations with St. Judes Gallery and Mark Hearld during the Edward Bawden exhibition we have asked Johnny Hannah to produce this fantastic design for our Clocking In exhibition. The poster is available to buy as an original signed screenprint from the gallery at £20.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New Events Page

I have just created a new static page for events that you can find on the navigation bar at top or here. I'll keep it updated with everything thats going on and try and add when things are fully booked too. The long list of childrens activities will be on there shortly but in the meantime you can find them in the latest leaflet viewable below if you scroll down a few entries or click here.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Airship Heritage Trust

For those fascinated by the R101 and R100 airships or the sheds at Cardington, the forthcoming exhibition at Bedford Gallery is something to really look forward to. We have been working closely with the Airship Heritage Trust to put this exhibiton together as well as to develope ideas for permanent displays in the refurbished museum & gallery. Read more about how the trust have been working with us here :

Picture of the Week No. 20 - Roderic O'Conor

Before I start on this week's picture, I've updated the exhibitions page with all the latest on shows in the new Bedford Gallery exhibition space and community gallery in the Museum, where there's a brand new display this week on the Star Rowing Club and work produced by young people and family groups who have been inspired by our collections and projects. All the details can be found if you follow the link above.

All bank holiday weekend I had the sensation that I should be walking along a craggy and windswept beach, instead I had to make do with the very landlocked but still lovely walks of central Bedfordshire. What I really had in mind was the sort of coastline depicted in Roderic O'Conor's 'Brittanny Coast' c.1893, a wonderfully evocative drawing in ink and wash, with a touch of chalk. Its spontaneity and cragginess fills the nostrils with cold and salty sea air. As usual, I have included the entry from the published catalogue of Watercolours & Drawings in the collection. Further information on all the published catalogues can be found here. KP

RODERIC O’CONOR(1860-1940)
Brittany Coast, c.1893

ink and wash and some chalk on paper, 30.8 × 47.5 cm
stamped: atelier O’CONOR
Accession No.: P.218

O’Conor was born at Milton in County Roscommon, Ireland, the second eldest in a family of six. The O’Conor family was of some note in this area of Ireland with a lineage that could be traced back several hundred years.

After initial study at the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin, he transferred to the Hibernian Academy of Art in 1881-82 (collecting four prizes for his work). Owing to the success of his studies his tutors recommended that he go to Europe to further his studies, initially at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts d'Anvers in Antwerp and then in Paris, under the portrait painter Carolus-Duran, (1837-1917).

O’Conor was certainly in Pont-Aven from 1892, although he was probably there earlier as his paintings exhibited at the Salon des Indépendents of that year had Breton titles. Initially painting elderly Breton peasants, O'Conor had by 1893 developed an interest in the Breton landscape as a subject, painting in a style noticeably influenced by Van Gogh. The end of 1893 was significant for O’Conor as, with the death of his father he inherited the family estate and achieved financial security through ground rents from his tenant farmers.

Returning to Paris, O’Conor lived in Montparnasse. The young Clive Bell described him and his circle as having 'played as influential a part in my life as any of my Cambridge contemporaries'. The meeting place for artists was the Chat Blanc restaurant, amongst whose occasional visitors were Aleister Crowley and Somerset Maugham, whom Crowley described as having 'suffered terribly under the lash of universal contempt…The man he most hated was Roderic O’Conor'. JM
PROVENANCE: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, Sale O’Conor, 7 February 1956; Roland, Browse and Delbanco, from whom purchased by Gallery, April 1958.
EXHIBITIONS: Roderic O’Conor, Pont-Aven, Musée de Pont-Aven, 1984, no.66; Roderic O’Connor, Belfast, Ulster Museum, Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland, Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, 1985-86, no.125.
REFERENCES: J. Benington, Roderic O’Conor: A Biography with a catalogue of his work, 1992, p.229, illus. no.337; A. Crookshank & the Knight of Glin, The Watercolours of Ireland, 1994, p.263, illus. no.371 as Côtes Bretagne.