Henri Gaudier-Brzeska’s Dancer, from the Kettle’s Yard collection, currently on display at the Hepworth, Wakefield.
I always look forward to the break over Christmas and New Year. A great chance to forget about work for a few days and relax, catch up on some reading, watch TV and a few films on DVD. The trouble is, after a few days in the house I start to get stir crazy and want to get out somewhere other than Tesco. So yesterday we decided we’d drive over to Leeds and visit the Henry Moore Institute and Leeds City Art Gallery. It’s been a while since I was last there and there were a few new temporary exhibitions on that sounded interesting.
The Henry Moore Institute is part of The Henry Moore Foundation, which was set up by Moore in 1977 to encourage appreciation of the visual arts. The building is physically connected to the Leeds City Art Gallery by an interior bridge, and although they are independent of the Gallery they collaborate with them and manages their sculpture collection and archive.
The main exhibition at the Institute at the moment is 1913: The Shape of Time featuring sculptures and some two dimensional works created in 1913.
“Marking the eve of the centenary of this year, and with George Kubler’s book The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things (1962) in mind, 1913: The Shape of Time is an exploration of the complex lives sculptures lead after their original production. …… This exhibition points both to the impact of sculptural thinking on the mutability of time and to the ways in which temporal thinking impacts on the production of and encounter with sculpture. All of the works on display were first produced in 1913, however many have been cast or replicated at a later date
I particularly liked the two sculptures by Henri Gaudier Brzeska, a beautiful little crucifixion sculpture by Eric Gill (despite despising his personal life I love his work), a Modgliani sketch, a Picasso collage two sculptures by by Vladimir Baranov-Rossiné. I’ve not come across him before so will have to follow up with some research.
Eric Gill Christ on the Cross 1913 (source: National Gallery of Scotland website)
In another room there was a recreation of a work by my Marcel DuChamp (I can’t avoid this guy!!) – his "Bicycle wheel" by an American-born, Paris-based artist, Elaine Sturtevant.
Made from memory and with the same methods as the original, Sturtevant’s repetitions are eerily similar, if not almost identical. Through this subversive approach, Sturtevant divorces an artwork from its visual image to investigate its conceptual meaning and value.
Elaine Sturtevant ‘Duchamp Bicycle Wheel’ 1969-1973 (Source: Henry Moore Institute website)
We spent most of our time looking round the City Art Gallery. Unlike the public galleries in Manchester and Liverpool, where there is a major emphasis on Victorian art, Leeds’ collection is strongly biased towards the 20th Century and they including a good selection of sculptures. It’s an excellent gallery with a good collection and they show some good exhibitions. They don’t allow photography but, despite this, they aren’t great at providing information on the exhibits that visitors can take away with them and their website isn’t particularly good, with only limited information on the works in their collection. It can be difficult to follow up on discoveries made during the visit.
The Henry Moore Institute collaborates with the City Art gallery to curate sculpture exhibitions and at the moment are showing a selection of small scale works from the city’s collection in an exhibition titled Natural Form: Shape and Growth in Sculpture. It was really excellent with works by Moore, Hepworth, Jean Arp, Paule Vézelay, Richard Long, David Nash etc etc etc . There were a number of ceramics too, including a really nice "squashed vase" by Elizabeth Fritsch and a plate by Henry Moore.
What particularly caught our attention were a number of pieces by Andy Goldsworthy made from leaves formed into boxes and other forms. They were particularly excellent. They must have required tremendous skill and patience to create them and I couldn’t help but wonder how the fragile leaves stay intact. Perhaps they are sprayed with some sort of preservative?
Upstairs they have a large display of post war works including a significant number by St Ives artists (including 3 Christopher Woods paintings) and sculptures by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and F E McWilliam.
There were a couple of temporary exhibitions including one Contested Ground, run in conjunction with the Contemporary Art Society, and which focuses on works connected to the landscape. The exhibition is curated by Debra Lennard, and it
explores the revision of the landscape tradition in British art throughout the last century, and the meaning of that tradition for artists today. Drawing on Leeds Art Gallery’s rich collections, this exhibition presents key works by pioneers of Modernism in England, from Paul Nash and Ben Nicholson to Barbara Hepworth and Peter Lanyon, alongside more recent experiments with landscape by artists including Richard Long, Boyle Family, and Clare Woods.
The information on the exhibition was very limited. BUt as I mentioned above, this is a particular problem with the Gallery. However, I did manage to late a copy of the exhibition catalogue online here.
Picture source: Contemporary Art Society website
Downstairs there was an exhibition "Liberty and Anarchy" of works by an Australian artist of Greek extraction - Nike Savvas. One room had an installation specially made for the exhibition which consisted of curtains of hanging coloured strips. You’re meant to be able to walk through the work, seeing it from the inside, so to speak, but the gallery restrict when you can do this as the work would be easily damaged. We didn’t have the opportunity during our visit which was a pity as we weren’t able to properly appreciate the work just looking at it from one side. The other room displayed three dimensional works with coloured wool threaded on wooden frames, not unlike the stringing that Gabo, Hepworth and Moore sometimes used on their sculpture, though more complex, especially as she created them in accordance with a mathematical formula. There were also some related black and white two dimensional works which were quite similar to the op art work produced by Bridget Riley.
All in all a good day out.
I’ve just got back home after spending most of the week in Cardiff attending a conference. It was a busy week with no time available for sightseeing, which was a pity as I’ve not been to Cardiff for quite a few years and there have been a lot of changes, especially around the waterfront, since my last visit. However, when I arrived on Sunday I had a few hours to spare when I was able to call into the National Museum of Art which is located in a single series of integrated galleries in the National Museum of Wales. Although considerably smaller than the National Gallery in London, they had an excellent, comprehensive collection of paintings, sculpture and ceramics that were displayed very effectively.
The collection includes a particularly impressive selection of Impressionist and Post Impressionist works drawn largely from the collection of French art bequeathed by Gwendoline and Margaret Davies. There is also an extensive display of Modern and Contemporary Art.
The Davies sisters were the granddaughters of David Davies of Llandinam, a wealthy industrialist who made his fortune from contracting, coal, railways and the docks at Barry. When their grandfather died they each inherited the very tidy sum at the time of £500,000. Although they hadn’t previously shown any particular passion for art, they used the money to amass a collection, including works by Turner, Corot and Millet Carrière, Monet and Rodin. By 1924, they had the largest collection of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works in Britain. Between 1951 and 1963, they bequeathed 260 works to the National Museums and Galleries of Wales – including La Parisienne by Renoir, one of Monet’s paintings of Rouen Cathedral, Rain, Auvers by Van Gogh
and Rodin’s The Kiss.
All on show today in the Museum.
Works of Modern Art included paintings by David Hockney (who’s been “flavour of the month” lately), Francis Bacon and sculptures by Reg Butler. I particularly liked a painting by Eric Zobole, an artist I hadn’t heard of before, entitled "Some snow and trees. It was very simple and effective. Unfortunately I wasn’t permitted to take a photograph, and it isn’t available to view on the Museum’s interactive gallery either due to copyright restrictions.
There was a good selection of works by Gwen John which I think I’ll come back to at a later date. And works by artists from the 20th Century including Barbara Hepworth, Kit Wood, Henry Moore, Eric Gill, Jacob Epstein and Henri Gaudier Brezeska, including this statue of a wrestler that reminded me of the Incredible Hulk!
Earlier works (pre-Impressionist) are displayed in a number of galleries featuring “Historic Art”. Time was limited, so I concentrated on the Impressionist and more Modern works as I’m less interested in those from earlier periods. I did find time, however, to have a look at Titian’s Diana and Actaeon that the gallery have on loan from the National Gallery in London. The painting is actually “on tour” and had previously been shown at the Walker in Liverpool (where we’d missed it!) and in Norwich. It’s being shown in Cardiff until 17 June. The painting is one of six large-scale mythologies inspired by the Roman poet Ovid that Titian painted for King Philip II of Spain.
One of the highlights of my visit was the temporary exhibition of paintings and drawing by John Piper of The Mountains of Wales. It was excellent, including some beautiful, atmospheric pictures. I’ll be writing up a post on this in the near future.
A few hour’s wasn’t enough to take in all the works on display. It would need several return visits. Unfortunately, it’s likely to be a while before I get the chance to return.