About ms6282

I'm a consultant and trainer specialising in the recognition, evaluation and control of health hazards in the workplace. I'm based in the North West of England, but am willing to travel (almost) anywhere

Irish Gold

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After my visit to the National Gallery of Ireland last Sunday, I took a short walk down Kildare Street to the National Museum (Archaeology). I hadn’t visited for a number of years and as I had an hour to spare before it closed I thought I’d take a look around.

Ór – Ireland’s Gold, an exhibition of findings from the Bronze Age occupied the centre of the ground floor, immediately attracted my attention. There were impressive displays of gold objects from both the early and late Bronze Age showing how gold working techniques and craftsmanship evolved in Ireland from 2400 to 700 BC. The collection includes finds from all over Ireland. The gold they used came from alluvial deposits “panned” from rivers and streams. It wasn’t pure and contained other metals such as copper, lead and even silver.

The earliest objects were relatively simple, discs and crescent shaped neck ornaments known as lunulae, made from flat sheets. Many of them were decorated with designs such as rows of dots, crosses, triangles and zigzags. Just over 100 lunulae have been discovered by archaeologists; 80 in Ireland, so the design is likely to have originated here.

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Over the years techniques developed allowing more complex objects to be created including solid objects, cast or made from bars and ingots. Gold wire was also used producing hair ornaments called lock-rings and thin gold foil was used to cover objects made from other metals such as copper, bronze or lead.

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The most impressive gold objects were in a separate part of the Museum – The Treasury. They were found in 1896 close to the shore of Lough Foyle at Broighter, Co. Derry, part of a hoard of gold objects,  and date from the 1st Century B.C. – the Iron Age.

The Broighter Collar – a hollow tubular neck-ring of hammered sheet gold.

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The Broighter Boat, complete with two rows of nine oars and a paddle rudder for steering, is the earliest depiction of a sailing ship from Ireland. It measures 18.4 cm long by 37.6 cm wide and weighs approximately 85g.

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Jack B Yeats

Having spent a good hour looking at the Expressionist paintings in the Emil Nolde exhibition at the National Gallery, I decided to go and have a look at some favourite paintings by the Irish artist Jack Butler Yeats in the Gallery’s permanent collection, who, over his career, developed an Expressionist style.

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Many Ferries (1948)

Jack Butler Yeats was the brother of the famous poet, William Butler Yeats. He was born in London and spent his childhood between London, Dublin, and Sligo, eventually returning to live permanently in Ireland in 1910.

Jack began his artistic career, in the 1890s, as a black and white journalistic illustrator for various publications before eventually becoming a professional artist. He initially painted in watercolour, but about 1906 he began painting regularly in oil. His early paintings were rather conservative in style and, in my view, most of his paintings, although displaying a clear talent as a draftsman, were nothing particularly special. But in the 1920s there was a major change in his style of painting. He started to use bright colours and he began to paint with extremely free and loose brushstrokes with the paint thickly applied. The paintings became much more interesting, over the years becoming more and more abstract and Expressionist in style

Although he is largely unknown outside his native country, the Irish National Gallery have a large collection of his works which span his career and which show how his style changed and evolved over time. Unfortunately, the Gallery doesn’t allow photographs to be taken of most of his paintings on display and only a limited selection can be viewed on their website. But in one of the rooms upstairs, almost hidden away near the collection of Dutch paintings, there’s a small selection of his works shown together with portraits by his father who was also a professional artist. Photography was allowed and these are the ones I’ve included in this post. The NGI is also the home of the Yeats Archive

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The Islandbridge Regatta (1925)

I’d parked my car in Fitzwilliam Square and returning later that afternoon I took the opportunity to have a quick look at number 18, where the artist and his wife moved in 1929, remaining there for the rest of their lives.

Emil Nolde: Colour is Life at the NGI

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A little while ago I developed an interest in German Expressionist art and am quite keen to see and find out more about it. So when I was in Dublin last Sunday afternoon, I decided to call into the National Gallery of Ireland to take a look at their latest temporary exhibition, which is devoted to the work of Emil Nolde.

He was born as Emil Hansen near the village of Nolde  in the Prussian Duchy of Schleswig, close to Denmark (and which had been the area disputed by Denmark and Germany in the mid 19th Century resulting in a war between the two countries). He changed his name to that of his home town, for reasons which probably reflect his political views (more of which later).

In 1906, he joined Die Brücke (The Bridge), the group of Expressionist artists based Dresden, but left after a year. He was a member of the Berlin Secession, from 1908 to 1910, leaving when he fell out with them, and  exhibited with Wassily Kandinsky’s Munich-based group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) in 1912. He clearly was found it difficult to work with artists working in a similar style – possibly reflecting his politics. Many of the Expressionists were relatively Radical while he was a German Nationalist who joined the Nazi Party relatively early in 1920. And it’s this latter point which has attracted a lot of attention in reviews of the Exhibition. Can you like and admire work by someone who adhered to such views? Ironically, like other Expressionists, the Nazi regime considered him to be a “Degenerate Artist”, having his pictures removed from public galleries and forbidding to produce any work. Despite this he remained an ardent supporter with anti-Semitic views.

I hadn’t particularly read up on Nolte before I visited the exhibition and wasn’t aware of his obnoxious politics, so this wasn’t something I was thinking about during my visit (although I started to clock this when reading some of the information panels in the exhibition), and I viewed the works with something of an open mind. My impression was that he was a talented artist who painted some quite stunning, colourful pictures in both oil and watercolour, drawings, etchings, and woodcuts. The works on display included portraits, landscapes, seascapes, scenes of Berlin café culture, views of the River Elbe, and paintings and drawings from his travels to the South Seas.

As usual, no photos allowed and not many of the pictures from the exhibition are on the NGI website, so here’s only a limited selection.

Party (1911), one of his paintings of Berlin night life before WW1

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A lithograph from a series of 121 identical prints of a young couple, coloured by hand after printing. There were 68 variations, using different colours. 4 of the prints were on display

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Candle Dancers (1912)

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One of several beautiful, dramatic seascapes – Ruffled Autumn Clouds (1927)

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I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition. The bright colours and abstract style and the subject matter. the only paintings I didn’t particularly like were some of his religious works. For me, there were no real, obvious, blatant, reference to his political views in the works on display. Even the series of works from his visit to the South Seas as part of the German “Medical Demographic Exhibition” where he was meant to study the “racial characteristics” of the population, were sympathetic portrayals of the indigenous people.

So back to the difficult question. There are plenty of artists whose work I like who held views that were an anathema to me or where it has come to light that they committed some awful, horrific acts (Eric Gill comes to mind – he produced sublime work but abused his daughters). To some extent, Nolde’s support for the Nazis makes me want to dislike his work but I didn’t. There were plenty of other people who supported the Nazis too, who, like Nolde, were “rehabilitated” after the war. And, as I’ve already commented, I couldn’t see any blatant political reference in his work. So I’m not going to say I didn’t like what I saw, but reading up about the artist after seeing the exhibition certainly left something of a sour taste.

 

 

 

A walk over Loughrigg

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After our most excellent walk near Ullswater just over a week ago I was keen to get back up on the fells. A couple of Rugby League matches and some inclement weather meant we didn’t get out over the Easter weekend, but I decided to take an extra day off and risk the weather to go go up to the Lakes.  It was raining heavily during the morning as we drove up the motorway but we’d decided to visit Abbot Hall Gallery in Kendal and then see whether, as promised by the Met Office, conditions would improve during the afternoon. It did, so after looking round the latest exhibitions and walking into the town centre for a bite to eat and a mooch, we got back in the car and drove over to Rydal, parking up in the White Moss car park.

We crossed over the river and set off to walk along Loughrigg Terrace, climb to the summit, walk across the broad top, down through Fox Ghyll, along the Rothay and then the shore of Rydal water back to the car.

Being the Easter holidays, there were quite a few people out and about.

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It wasn’t a great day for photos being mainly grey and overcast but it was an enjoyable walk and it was great to get back out in the countryside,

Looking down to Grasmere from Loughrigg Terrace

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It was busy when we reached the summit, and very windy.

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Looking back towards Grasmere

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Over to Langdale with some snow still visible on Crinkle Crags and Bowfell

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Wetherlam and the Coniston fells with Elterwater in the foreground

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Windermere in the distance

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and over to the Fairfield Horseshoe

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We headed south over the fell. There’s a spider’s web of footpaths and it would be very easy to get lost, particularly in mist. But no problem today.

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Starting to descend we got a good view of the mountains of the Fairfield Horseshoe

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Descending down to the valley we followed the River Rothay towards Rydal. After the recent rain and snow it was in full flow

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Along the shore of Rydal Water

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Looking back towards Rydal Water, nearing the end of our walk

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By the time we reached the car it was almost 7 o’clock. We wouldn’t have got home before 8:30 so decided to stop off for a bite to eat at the Eagle and Child in Staveley.

 

 

Aira Force and Gowbarrow Fell

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After the return of the “beast from the east” a couple of weekend’s ago we had to abandon our plans to spend a couple of days up by Ullswater. Last Saturday, though the weather looked much more promising so we decided to chance a day trip up to the lake for our first proper walk of the year. It turned out to be a good decision.

It’s about an an hour and a half’s drive up to Ullswater and although we left a little later than planned we arrived around midday and managed to park up in the National Trust carpark close to Aira Force. A post by Mark of Beating the Bounds had give me the idea of a walk to have a look at the water fall which was sure to be looking good after all the rain and snow the previous weekend. A popular walking route goes up past the waterfalls then over and around Gowbarrow fell. Nothing too ambitious given that our walking legs were rather rusty!

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Setting off from the car park we followed the course of the river and soon came to Aira Force, the first of a series of waterfalls. As expected it was quite a sight, which the photographs cannot give justice to.

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A little further up the river – High Force

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After about a kilometre walking along the river, we turned right following the path that would take us up on to the fell.

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Great views across to the lake and the high mountains soon opened up behind us.

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It was a relatively modest climb to the summit at Airy Crag.

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This is the view over to Blencathra and Skiddaw

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and over towards Ullswater with the Pennines in the distance, still capped with snow.

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After a short break to admire the view, we resumed the walk which would take us west and then south parallel to the lake but high up on the side of the fell.

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Part way round we got “picked up” by this lady

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who seemed unwilling to return to her owner.

We reached the viewpoint at Yew Crag

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More good views

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There’s the steamer sailing towards Glenridding

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Coming towards the end of the walk, as we started to descend, we passed Lyulph’s Tower. It looked like one of the fortified farmhouses which are common in this area close to the Scottish border. However, although there used to be a Pele Tower on the site at one time the current building was constructed in the 1780s by Charles Howard, the 11th Duke of Norfolk, as a hunting lodge.

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Returning to the car park, we decided it was too nice to head straight back home so we drove the short distance to Glennridding to take an easy stroll along the Lake by the steamer jetty

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The view to the head of the lake

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Driving back along the lake, the evening light was fantastic so I pulled up to take a few snaps

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ON a fine day, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than the Lake District.

Two East End Buildings

One of my main objectives during my mooch around Spitalfields last week was to have a look at a couple of Arts and Crafts / Art Nouveau buildings  in the area, designed by Charles Harrison Townsend. He was a Scouser – well, almost, he was born in Birkenhead – who moved to London in 1880.

The first of the two buildings was the Whitechapel gallery, a short distance down Whitechapel from Aldgate where I’d been working. I’d been there a few times before to visit exhibitions and always admired the building with it’s twin towers and massive, off-centre round arch above the front door.

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It’s creamy stone stands out in a street of dark brick buildings. In a number of ways, with it’s solid stone construction and relatively but curved surfaces, it rather reminds me of the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, particularly the Glasgow School of Art.

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Originally, it was intended that the upper part of the facade would be filled with mosaics by the renowned Arts and Crafts designer Walter Crane, but these were never completed. However, today there’s a lovely metallic frieze of leaves and branches by Rachael Whiteread that was installed just a few years ago.

The gallery was founded  1901, intended to bring art to the working classes of East London, and was one of the first publicly funded galleries for temporary exhibitions in the Capital.

The second building was on Bishopgate at the far side of Spitalsfields and close to Liverpool Street Station – The Bishopgate Institute.

Like the Whitechapel Gallery, it has a broad semi-circular arched entrance and twin towers, in this case topped by ornate, multifacetted turrets. It has a different look, though – a little more traditional, more ornate and influenced by Romanesque and Byzantine architecture.

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There are beautiful friezes above the entrance and towards the top of the towers, representing the Tree of Life. It was difficult to get a photo of them – the street was busy with commuters at rush hour, but I’ve done my best to enlarge sections of my pictures of the building

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According to the Institute’s website

The original aims of the Institute were to provide a public library, public hall and meeting rooms for people living and working in the City of London. The Great Hall in particular was ‘erected for the benefit of the public to promote lectures, exhibitions and otherwise the advancement of literature, science and the fine arts’.

So both buildings reflect the Art and Crafts Movement’s dedication to the cause of social progress (and, in may cases, Socialism) by providing facilities for the education and enlightenment of the working class. It’s good to see that both buildings are still being used for the purposes originally intended.

Charles Harrison Townsend designed another Arts and Crafts / Art Nouveau building, the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill, South London. I’ve had a look at some pictures of the Museum on the web and it’s now on the bucket list. It’s not so far from the Dulwich Picture Gallery so perhaps I can arrange to combine a visit to both of them.