Writing for The Friends of The Wilson Newsletter

Front cover of the Autumn NewsletterThe Wilson Newsletter is a publication produced for (and largely by) The Friends of The Wilson, Cheltenham’s art gallery and museum. When the editor invited me to write a ‘What’s On’ article for the Autumn 2015 issue, I was pleased to have the opportunity to be involved. It enable me to write about and reflect upon a temporary exhibition in The Friends Gallery, entitled ‘Interior Life: Portraits and Private Space’, which I had assisted the curator of fine art with in terms of research and display. A copy of the text is below.

My article in the Autumn issue of the Newsletter

Interior Life: Portraits and Private Space

The Friends Gallery has an area for dynamic temporary displays, the latest being Interior Life: Portraits and Private Space, which opened in July and runs until 8 November. This is an intimate and intriguing exhibition, celebrating a selection of portraits from The Wilson’s collection. It presents oil paintings from the 17th to the 20th century, and includes two works from the founding collection, donated by the Baron de Ferrieres in 1898.

The paintings have shared themes of privacy and contemplation, hinting at the emotional lives of the people portrayed. Thus, the interior spaces that exist in these works are not just the physical spaces that the figures inhabit, but are also the spaces that belong to their minds. This focus on interiority is reflected in the solitary activities depicted, such as reading in Hendrick Cornelisz. van Vliet’s painting A Woman Reading, about 1630-1650. It is also enhanced through the sensitive use of personal or even spiritual places, such as the cosy domestic sitting room in The Artist’s Wife, Evelyn, Seated Reading, about 1935, by Gerald Gardiner, or the interior of the church in Malvern Abbey, Worcestershire, 1892, by Sarah Paxton Ball Dodson.

Parallels can be made between some of these ideas and those of contemporary artist, Bill Viola (b. 1951). In Viola’s film pieces, private moments, devotion and the passing of time are common themes. Viola’s work can be seen on display in the third floor gallery of The Wilson from 3 October 2015 – 7 February 2016 as part of ARTIST ROOMS On Tour.

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Gloucestershire newspaper article: Rodin sculpture at The Wilson

My Rodin article in Gloucestershire EchoI was very pleased to write a second article for the local newspaper, Gloucestershire Echo, during my internship in the Collections department at The Wilson, Cheltenham’s art gallery and museum. The Wilson had just put their newly acquired Rodin sculpture on display and I thought this would be a good topic to write about – plus, I had written the gallery label for this artwork, and studied some of Rodin’s later sculptures (and photographs) for my MA dissertation.

This Echo article was published on Saturday 29th August.

Dance Movement E by Auguste Rodin, about 1911, bronze, edition 3 of 11, 430 x 124mm

This striking sculpture, entitled Dance Movement E, captures a full figure in the middle of a lively dance. Designed by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) in about 1911, it was never shown in Rodin’s lifetime, but was cast posthumously in bronze. Dance Movement E was given to the art gallery and museum by PJ Crook, President of the Friends of The Wilson, Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, in May 2014 to celebrate the 30th birthday of the Friends.

My Rodin article in Gloucestershire EchoIt is particularly exciting to have the sculpture here at The Wilson as Rodin has several links with Cheltenham. The artist stayed in the town for five weeks in 1914, visiting the art gallery and museum numerous times during his stay. Then nineteen years later, the curator at the time, Mr Herdman, requested that Rodin’s sculpture The Kiss be shown at the art gallery and museum. It was on display for three years before being transferred to the Tate. The Kiss returned to The Wilson last year as a loan for a temporary exhibition, entitled Embrace.

Rodin rarely took traditional anatomical rules or details into consideration. Instead, he created increasingly abstract sculptures, noting the shapes produced by flexible body parts during specific expressive moments. Critics believed that many of Rodin’s creations were merely studies or unfinished works. In contrast, much of the sculpture produced by Rodin’s contemporaries tended to be highly conservative and a large quantity was commissioned by the French government for heroic public monuments. Among his peers, however, were the Impressionists (Rodin and Monet were born the same year), whose innovations in painting moved away from the constraints of classical imperatives. Rodin also moved away from conventional boundaries and his inventive and ‘modern’ approach is one of the reasons why he is one of the best-known sculptors of the late nineteenth century.

It was Rodin’s novel subject matter as well as his style that made his art stand out and appear radical. For instance, as his sculpture Dance Movement E suggests, Rodin was inspired by modern dance. In particular he was fascinated by Alda Moreno, an acrobat and dancer at the Opéra Comique, Paris, who became his regular model from 1910 to 1913. This subject marks one of his later, and largely private, prolific investigations; indeed, Dance Movement E is one of a series of nine figures that are individually labelled from A to I.

We are delighted that now, over one hundred years on from Rodin’s visit to Cheltenham, we can enjoy another of his sculptures here, as part of the art gallery and museum’s collection. You can see Dance Movement E on display in the Friends Gallery at The Wilson, a venue managed by The Cheltenham Trust.

Rodin sculpture at The Wilson

The Wilson have recently put on display their new Rodin sculpture of a modern dancer. As part of my internship in the Collections department, I wrote the label for this wonderful artwork. Here it is below:

Auguste Rodin (1840 – 1917)

Dance Movement E, about 1911

Bronze, edition of 11

Rodin was inspired by modern dance. This led him to experiment with attempting to capture the essence of the body in movement. He was particularly fascinated by Alda Moreno, an acrobat and dancer at the Opéra Comique, Paris, who became his regular model from 1910 to 1913.

This interpretation of dance marks one of Rodin’s later, largely private, investigations. Dance Movement E is one of a series of nine, known collectively as Dance Movements and individually labelled A to I. These sculptures were not shown in Rodin’s lifetime, but cast posthumously in bronze.

Rodin rarely took traditional anatomic rules into consideration. Instead, he created increasingly abstract sculptures, noting the shapes produced by flexible body parts at specific expressive moments. His rough treatment of surface detail is also a crucial aspect of his unique style, and adds to the tactile and dynamic qualities of his work. In this way, Rodin strove to introduce innovative uses of natural movement and modelling to sculpture.

Given by P J Crook, President of the Friends of Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, in May 2014 to celebrate the 30th birthday of the Friends.

New display at The Wilson: Interior Life

View of the new display, 'Interior Life', at The Wilson

View of the new display, ‘Interior Life’, at The Wilson

A new display has opened in the Friends Gallery at The Wilson. I currently work in the gallery’s Collections department and assisted the fine art curator with this show – researching potential themes and paintings from the collection to include, as well as writing one of the wall labels.

This temporary display explores recurring themes of privacy, meditation and solitude through a small selection of portrait paintings spanning more than 300 years from the 17th century to the 20th century. The concept of ‘interior space’ is more to do with the interior life of the sitter, subject and / or artist, and the emotions within their minds, rather than physical place.

Introductory panel to the display

Introductory panel to the display

The caption I wrote about the Hugh Byars painting included in this exhibition

The caption I wrote about the Hugh Byars painting included in this exhibition

Detail of gallery view, with painting by Hugh Byars to the far left.

Detail of gallery view, with painting by Hugh Byars to the far left.

Writing for Gloucestershire’s local paper: Contemporary take on the Arts & Crafts Movement

My Echo article, May 2015Last week I wrote an article for Gloucestershire’s local newspaper, Echo, on a new contemporary installation by Iavor Lubomirov at The Wilson art gallery and museum in Cheltenham, as part of their contemporary art exhibition ‘the open west’. My article was published on Saturday 23 May. Lubomirov’s artwork, ‘Wallpaper by the Roll’, 2013, is in dialogue with William Morris’s own art and ethos for living. It consists of a rolled paper sculpture and framed off-cuts, each comprised of delicately layered strips of Morris & Co Marigold Cowslip Wallpaper. This is historic and domesticized wallpaper that has been made tactile and dynamic.