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Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Curator's Talk on Modern British Landscapes

Sophie Cummings, Curator at the Museum and Art Gallery, gave a talk last Friday night on the exhibition of Modern British Landscapes she has put together to compliment the 'Turner's Watercolours in the West' exhibition which runs until the 13th December.
Sophie talked about the history of landscape painting via a series of slides of these paintings- starting with Salomon van Ruysdael's 'Landscape with Farm' from 1631, onto Gainsborough's 'Mr and Mrs Andrews', Constable's 'Flatford Mill' and onto Turner's 'Malmesbury Abbey'; the latter being part of the Turner exhibition.
From there, she talked about paintings on the walls including John Piper's 'Pistyll Maes-Glasau 1940, Claude Muncaster's 'Trees on Ellerside Moss' , a watercolour painted outdoors in the Lake District where he was born. It's the painting on the right in the photo below:
Then we looked at the 2 paintings by Gerald Gardiner- 'Towards Wiltshire-Early Autumn' 1944 a  painting glowing with rich light, and 'Christmas Dawning' also painted in 1944, a re-interpretation of the previous scene, the thatcher's ladder lies abandoned and the cold, dim light is in sharp contrast to the mellow glow of early autumn. F.C. Phelps presented both of these paintings which can be seen to good effect on notelets available in the shop. Not such good photos here:
Alfred Wallis' 'Ship Amid Tall Waves' is a fabulous painting:
And on to Philip Wilson Steer's 'Boats in Harbour' painted in 1920 and purchased by T.E.Lowinsky for the Contemporary Art Society and presented by the Society in 1946. Lowinsky lived in Aldbourne and Steer was a friend of his.
Next we looked at Augustus John's 'Classical Scene' and onto Paul Nash's 'Edge of the Wood' painted in 1944, not really seen below, but positioning established:
We finished with Richard Long's 'Roisin Dubh from 1976
and Barbara Howey's 'Pagoda' 2012.
I have also used the 'Guide to the Swindon Collection of Twentieth Century British Art' available in the shop for some of the information.
The next talk is tomorrow evening at 7pm. Magnus Quaife who has 3 pieces in the Swindon Collection will be in conversation with Sophie Cummings.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

A Friends Trip to Wiltshire Museum in Devizes

On the 20th October, we were lucky enough to be given a guided tour of the new Prehistoric Wiltshire Gallery, by museum director, David Dawson. The displays feature 500 Stonehenge period objects, including 30 pieces of gold treasure excavated from Bush Barrow near Stonehenge displayed permanently for the first time.
 Above a variety of axe heads, including the greenish one made of jadeite, and below more axes and bowls
Here's a photo of David Dawson in front of a reconstruction of a long barrow
Information on the gold:

Above the amber necklace beads, and below information on the necklace
For more information on the Wiltshire Museum, have a look at the website:
The church next door is also worth looking at:

The Talk by Professor Sam Smiles on 'Turner in the West Country'

I was lucky enough to have had the foresight to buy tickets well in advance to hear this talk which covered Turner's explorations and images of the region, including Bath, Malmesbury, Salisbury, Stonehenge and Fonthill. The talk given by Sam Smiles was engaging, informative and fascinating, and knowing nothing about him, I thought I'd do a quick Google search on him, and found the following quote:
'The artist I’m most obsessed by is Turner; he gets me up in the morning – painting pictures which he knew were going to be misunderstood, and carrying on painting them without making any compromise, absolute refusal to temper what he believed was important to say in the interest of the public reaction.'
The talk was accompanied by a great selection of slides of Turner's paintings and drawings, which Sam Smiles used to good effect, giving many pieces of information about all the paintings. Turner apparently liked to do a pencil drawing on site and then finished it with the watercolours at a later date, possible because of his great ability to visualise and remember colours. He also enjoyed using the latest colours to be produced and made notes about them in the 1820s. In some of his paintings, there is a hoop in the bottom of the painting, is this a form of signature he wondered.
How lucky we were to be in the presence of a great speaker who gave us such a feeling for the artist.
I took a photograph at the beginning, Sophie Cummings, curator at SM&AG is on the left introducing the talk, and Prof Sam Smiles on the right.

Opening Night of 'Turner Watercolours from the West'

As a member of the Friends committee, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the opening night of the new exhibition which includes eight JMW Turner watercolours on Tuesday 14th October. It's  an exhibition spanning Turner's career from student days to mature style, including views of Bath, Bristol and the surrounding area.
 It is presented by Frameworks, a partnership of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, the Holburne Museum in Bath, The Wilson in Cheltenham and Swindon Museum and Art Gallery and the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath. Frameworks aims to raise the profile of the 5 art collections.
Apart from seeing the exhibition before it officially opened on the  15th October, it was a very pleasant night with speeches by the Curator, Sophie Cummings and Cllr Brian Mattock, Deputy Leader of the Council who updated us on plans to apply for funding for the new museum and art gallery.
Here are a few photos of the event:
 In the one above, Sophie can just be seen talking with some of the gold lettering
 You may recognise a few people above, and below you can more or less see the letters JMW Turner
 And below, the lovely stained glass windows at the front door.
The exhibition runs until 13 December and can be seen from Weds-Sat 11am-3pm.

Sophie Cummings the Curator of the gallery will be giving  a talk on the rest of the exhibition in the gallery entitled 'Back to Nature - Landscape and Modern British Art'
on Friday 24th October at 7pm, she will talk about how war and urbanisation encouraged British modern artists to depict the landscape.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Talk in Oxford on Kelmscott Manor Artist in Residence, Sasha Ward.

Friends may remember some years ago when Sasha Ward gave a talk on her work as an architectural glass artist and then more recently when she spoke about Matisse to accompany the Matisse cut outs exhibition. Over the summer she has been artist in residence at Kelmscott Manor, near Lechlade and is giving a talk about her time there in Oxford. For details see below (click for large image), the talk is free but book via the link below if you want to go as spaces are limited.

Tickets for Sasha Ward lecture at Radcliffe Humanities, Oxford

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Make your Views known by 31st October

Swindon Museum & Art Gallery is embarking on an exciting new project to move from its current location in Old Town to a brand new purpose built facility in the town centre, at the heart of a new cultural quarter. 

This move will enable the Museum & Art Gallery to display more of its impressive collection of 20th century British art as well as host touring exhibitions. There will be more space to show off artefacts that tell the story of Swindon and display many great objects and collections. 

To have your say and help shape the new Museum & Art Gallery, let us know what you would like the new premises to offer by completing this short online questionnaire by October 31st:

To keep up to date on the project, please visit: 

Colin Stirling of Barker Langham has been conducting a survey of all aspects of the move from the current location in Apsley House to the new location in the centre of town, he would like people to complete the questionnaire with a link below:

There are also 4 additional questions not covered by the questionnaire, these are:
  • What should the museum be doing to attract new audiences?
  • What are the main changes you would like to see happen?
  • What are your views on the future of Apsley House?
  • What new facilities  would you like to see made as part of the project?
Please email answers to

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Julian Trevelyan and 'The Potteries'

One of the most popular paintings in the Swindon Collection is probably 'The Potteries' by Julian Trevelyan.  While on the trip to Marlborough College and St Peters Church I found a copy of his autobiography 'Indigo Days' in the Church book sale. Published in 1957 it's a fascinating read of life from the artists point of view and he talks of his time in Stoke on Trent when he made the painting.
This work was made when he was involved in the 'Mass Observation' social research organisation in the 1930s with the likes of film maker Humphrey Jennings and anthropologist Tom Harrison.

You will notice the names of other famous artists of the time including some in our collection, Michael Wickham who is sadly not, is mentioned by Trevelyan as they were great friends. For awhile their work was thought indistinguishable although the example below painted in Salford for Mass Observation doesn't really show this. Wickham who went to Marlborough College lived at Coleshill for some time where he created and landscaped the gardens around the site of the old house, now in care of the National Trust and best remembered for being the home and training ground for Churchill's Secret Army, The Auxillers.