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Monday, 25 May 2015

Talk this Thursday 28 May at 7.30pm by Christine Sitwell- 'Discovering a Rembrandt'

Christine Sitwell will open the first of a series of talks by people working at the National Trust headquarters in Swindon.
This talk by Christine is about discovering a Rembrandt; I asked for some background to Christine and the Rembrandt and have been given this and include it here as a taster before the talk.
Below a close up of the self portrait showing before and after cleaning:

About Tina:
Christine Sitwell is a leading academic in the field of picture conservation: she received a MSc in Art Conservation from the University of Delaware/Winterthur Museum and was awarded a Smithsonian fellowship for an internship at the Tate Gallery, London. She is currently a Fellow of the International Institute for Conservation and chairman of the Historic Interiors Section of the Institute of Conservation.

Christine's expertise is in paintings and frame conservation, as well as technical analysis of paint and paintings. Her work at the National Trust includes training staff in painting handling, care, conservation and hanging methods. She also provides vital advice on paint analysis which helps inform the National Trust's decisions on colour schemes for their historic houses.

About the National Trust's national specialists:

Christine is part of the National Trust's national specialist team. They are authorities in their area of conservation expertise, offering deep knowledge of particular subjects (for example paper conservation) or expertise across themes (such as coast or countryside). Many of the national specialists - like Christine - are of national or even international renown. 
Below a photo of used swabs in front of the painting:

About the National Trust’s paintings:

The National Trust cares for over 13,000 paintings which span the centuries. The paintings include not only works of art by great artists such as Tintoretto, Titian, Gainsborough, Turner, Reynolds (and now Rembrandt) but also paintings which record topographical views, interiors, seascapes, portraits, religious and historical scenes and also unusual paintings of prized cattle, sheep and pigs. Frames are also an important part of the collection and reflect the wide range of styles and craftsmanship throughout the past four hundred centuries. Paintings tell us a lot about our special places and the people associated with them. Often they reflect the wealth and collecting tastes of the owners, and even the way that paintings hang within the historic context of the rooms show changes in taste in presentation.
 Below a close up showing crazing on the painting:

About the Rembrandt:

After undergoing eight months of painstaking investigative work at the world famous Hamilton Kerr Institute (HKI) in Cambridgeshire - and re-examination by the world’s leading Rembrandt expert - this now famous self-portrait, the original ‘selfie’, was confirmed as the first Rembrandt in the National Trust’s collection of more than 13,000 paintings.

The project was a voyage of discovery, combining cutting-edge scientific analysis with academic review, to uncover the true provenance of this grand master's original 'selfie'. 
Here's a detail of the embroidery after cleaning:

The authenticity of the painting had been called into question for nearly 50 years, with doubters believing certain areas of the painting were ‘not accomplished enough to be by Rembrandt’. Following analysis and confirmation, the Rembrandt self-portrait uncovered has an estimated nominal value of £30 million. Of course, as the National Trust care for items for public benefit for ever, it could never be sold.

The world’s leading Rembrandt expert, Ernst van de Wetering, said: 'Although I was pretty certain the painting was a Rembrandt when I saw it in 2013, I wanted to further examine it after cleaning and see the results from the technical analysis as this had never been done before. With all this additional scientific evidence, I am satisfied it is by Rembrandt.' Jez McDermott, property manager at Buckland Abbey, said of the Rembrandt ‘discovery’: 'this has been a fascinating journey for all of us involved’. 
Below, the poster used to advertise the talk which promises to be unmissable.
 A quote from a former student of Christine's: 'As someone who received training from her many moons ago, I have to say she is fascinating! A mine of really interesting information, I'm sure it will be a great talk.'

Talk on Brightwen Binyon, architect of Swindon's Town Hall

Michael Gray, RIBA, a highly illuminating talk on this Manchester born architect at the museum on Saturday 16 May; coming as it did at the end of the Swindon Festival of Literature I nearly didn't go out and find out about Brightwen Binyon. However I was glad I had done so; Michael Gray is an excellent speaker, and was able to bring Binyon alive to the audience, describing him as 'an arts and crafts architect with a continental influence'
 Here's a photograph of Binyon at 35:

I'll add a few of the notes I took about this architect who designed Swindon Town Hall, the schools in Dixon St, Birch St, now demolished, and Sanford St.
Binyon was born in 1846 to a Manchester Quaker family, and was named, as was the custom, using his mother's maiden name as his first name. After going to school in Kendal, he joined the practice of Alfred Waterhouse, a specialist in Gothic architecture, aged 17.  Shortly afterwards embarking on a Grand Tour, cut short by lack of money, he worked for 4 years on the Manchester Town Hall, and then went away, producing beautiful watercolours of inspiring buildings. On his return, he met the 12th Duke of Hamilton and designed his stables at Easton Park, this didn't sound very special,so I thought I'd look these up, and found this was a grandiose hunting stable for 50 horses, now demolished. By 1879, he had his own practice, designing furniture and wallpaper, and may have been the first person to use dado rails, although I think they were made of brick.
He remodelled the Grove in Harrow in 1877, and designed the Swindon buildings in 1880. Having been built in 1854, the Mechanics Institute was no longer fit for purpose by the 1890s, so Binyon was commissioned to build a new one, at a cost of £14000, in fact he enlarged rooms and added an extension.
There was a competition to design the Town Hall, there were 25 entries, a lawyer was given the job of choosing the successful plan, he chose Binyon who was cheapest at £7000. He was given an extra £400 to enlarge the clock tower to make it higher than the Corn Exchange!
And here's the watercolour of the Town Hall with its elongated tower:

 Binyon was based in Ipswich, a Suffolk quiot champion who gave us some of our splendid buildings. I was left wanting to know more, and I hope that we hear more from Michael Gray in the future.
I took a few photos which I'll add::
Here's Helen Miah, introducing the talk:
 And Michael Gray talking:
 I've included this one because I like the juxtaposition of Michael Gray and Michael Ayrton's 'Caged Birds'.
I'm hoping that we can hear more from Michael Gray another time, we had a slight follow up in the Beehive afterwards, but I didn't take notes!

Friday, 15 May 2015

'The Arts In Art' the current exhibition in the main gallery

I went along on the first day this exhibition opened to have a look at what might sound like an odd title for an exhibition, but it turns out that Sophie Cummings, the Curator has done a brilliant job, with a brilliant mix of different works. The signage on the walls is particularly outstanding, as is the new yellow paint on some of the walls.
The idea of including a few photos of the exhibition is to show you a few of the works, and encourage you to go along and have a look in person.
 There's a great storyboard on the right as you go in, but I won't include it here, better to read it for yourself. Directly under the title are Conwy-Evans' drawings, one of which is seen below:
 It's one of my favourite pieces, entitled 'Two Designs for the Wyvern Theatre' 1960s, by Joyce Conwy-Evans
 Above Michael Ayrton's Caged Birds' 1955
Then more views:

 Also loved this 'Women in White' by Walter Poole

 And 'Costume for Genet's 'The blacks' 1969 by Yolanda Sonnabend, seen also below:

 Then Frank Quinton's watercolour of 'The Mechanics Institute, Swindon', purchased 1984

 Another famous building in Swindon, 'The Corn Exchange or Locarno' by Harold Dearden, presented in 1970s.

  The fab painting of the 'Theatre Royal, Bath, the Garrick's Head' 1947 by Lord Methuen
 'Nature Morte' c 1948 by William Roberts is great

 Lastly 'Portrait of the author WB Yeats' by Augustus John
And also on the way in, a great piece of sculpture by Carleton Attwood

 The exhibition can be seen until September 12, it's a great experience, go and have a look, it's free, anytime between Wed-Sat 1100-1500.

David Cuthbert's Talk on Cecil Collins

Let's start with setting up the slide show for the talk, David and Ros Cuthbert seen here with Katie Ackrill helping with the technology; note the blank walls in the background, the next exhibition was in the process of being hung, but they hadn't reached that wall.
 I took copious notes during David Cuthbert's illustrated guide through Cecil Collins' life, two weeks on however, I am not sure I can do either of them justice, but here goes.

David aimed to put Cecil Collins' life, 1908-1989, into a different context than for example William Anderson has done with his breathlessly enthusiastic version, in his biography of Cecil Collins. Cecil Collins went to the Royal College of Art in 1927, and drew 'Maternity' in 1929. We also saw drawings his Mother had drawn on their living room walls, including a Blakeish quote- 'God has Flown from this World'.
He married Elizabeth, daughter of a newspaper magnate in 1932.
Elements of icons appear in Cecil's work, he was also influenced by many painters, although he denied this; Paul Klee's work may have influenced 'Pastoral' which has a similar composition
In 1935, he had his first one man exhibition. Below here he is with his wife in an autobiographical mood.
His most famous painting is 'The Sleeping Fool' apparently:
Other influences include Marc Chagall, William Blake and Samuel Palmer, in evidence in this painting:
In the current exhibition at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, 'Arts in Art' which runs until 12 September ,there are some Cecil Collins' drawings among lots of other wonderful pieces.

 David finished on an interesting note, his wife Ros who was also at the Central School in London in the 1970s, and also taught by Collins painted the artist and his wife:
On talking to them later, I discovered that Collins had been good friends with Ros and given her a drawing he'd done of a lion which David had forgotten to show to the audience. A fascinating insight into the life of Collins.