Saturday, April 26, 2014

Reading Museum and the Bayeux Tapestry Replica

The Reading Museum Town Hall is a fine example of Victorian gothic architecture, it is here that we came to see the replica of the Bayeux Tapestry.  The original Bayeux Tapestry is preserved and displayed in Bayeux, in Normandy, France. Nothing is known for certain about the tapestry’s origins. The first written record of the Bayeux Tapestry is in 1476 when it was recorded in the cathedral treasury at Bayeux as "a very long and narrow hanging on which are embroidered figures and inscriptions comprising a representation of the conquest of England".

The Bayeux Tapestry was probably commissioned in the 1070s by Bishop Odo of Bayeux, half-brother of William the Conqueror. It is over 70 metres long and although it is called a tapestry it is in fact an embroidery, stitched not woven in woolen yarn on linen. Some historians argue that it was embroidered in Kent, England. 

It was the idea of Elizabeth Wardle to make the replica Bayeux Tapestry, now on display in Reading Museum. She was a skilled embroiderer and a member of the Leek Embroidery Society in Staffordshire. Her husband, Thomas Wardle was a leading silk industrialist. Elizabeth Wardle researched the Bayeux Tapestry by visiting Bayeux in 1885. The Society also based the replica on hand-colored photographs of the tapestry held by the South Kensington Museum, now called the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The aim of the project was to make a full-sized and accurate replica of the Bayeux Tapestry "so that England should have a copy of its own".

Thirty-five women members of the Leek Embroidery Society worked under Elizabeth Wardle's direction. This ambitious project was completed in just over a year. As well as members from Leek, women from Derbyshire, Birmingham, Macclesfield and London took part. Each embroiderer stitched her name beneath her completed panel.

The tale told by the Bayeux Tapestry is the story of William the Conqueror and Harold, Earl of Wessex, the men who led the Norman and Saxon armies in 1066. William's defeat of Harold at the Battle of Hastings ensured the success of the Norman invasion of England.

Replica of Bayeux Tapestry

Friday, April 25, 2014

RHS Lindley Library, London

The Royal Horticultural Society's Lindley Library in London specializes in botanical art and garden history, holding unique collections of early printed books on gardening, botanical
art and photographs. It also holds the archives of the RHS and personal archives of notable gardeners and garden designers.

The library is based upon the book collection of English botanist John Lindley, and has many rare books dating from 1514. It also includes other media such as garden guidebooks, trade catalogues, postcards and press cuttings. As well as horticulture, the collection covers flora, birds and other related subjects. The Lindley Library is the largest horticultural library in the world.

Elizabeth Koper gave us a delightful tour which included works by Ehret, 16th century illustrated books, contemporary botanical artworks by accomplished artists such as Fiona Strickland, and royal signature pages.  She also spoke about the application process for the annual RHS botanical art show.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Flemish Technique

The Flemish Technique, practiced by master painters in 16th century Flanders builds great depth of color, ensures a full value range, and helps with accuracy in realism.  I recently documented a painting of pansies that I did in the Flemmish Technique.  I really enjoy this technique as it breaks everything down to manageable steps and builds such rich depth in the painting that you just can't seem to get with a direct painting method.  It is very interesting that paintings done in the Rennaisance will outlast any done afterward.  They just get more beautiful and transparent with age.  Museums spend a lot of money trying to care for more modern collections in which the artists didn't understand the chemistry, materials or techniques behind good works of art.

Transfer Drawing to Your Support
Imprimatura to establish a mid-tone wash to judge values better.

Umber Painting to establish shadows

Dead Layer or Grisaille to establish values

Color Layer

Highlights and Details

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Berger Crucifixion: Art and Revelation in Early Fifteenth Century England

Dr. T.E. Heslop, a specialist in medieval and Renaissance English art and architecture and professor of early English art at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, England spoke last night at the Denver Art Museum on the Berger Crucifixion which is one of the best preserved English devotional panel paintings of the 15th century. The painting will go on view on level 6 of the North Building in early March for the first time since 1999.

I particularly enjoyed the medieval discussion about whether or not it was appropriate to paint images for worship vs. using the images to raise people's thoughts toward heaven.  It is of many people's opinion that these medieval paintings are poorly executed - lacking in perspective, proportion, etc.  however, I think one should look at the purpose of such works.

The story of the two thieves at Christ's crucifixion is as follows: Two men were crucified at the same time as Jesus, one on his right hand and one on his left. According to Luke:

39 Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us." 40 The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? 41 And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal." 42 Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 43 He replied to him, "Amen I say to you today you will be with me in Paradise."

According to tradition, the Good Thief was crucified to Jesus' right hand and the other thief was crucified to his left. For this reason, depictions of the crucifixion often show Jesus' head inclined to his right, showing his acceptance of the Good Thief. The thief's conversion is sometimes given as an example of the necessary steps one must take to arrive at salvation through Christ: awareness of personal sin, repentance of sin, acceptance of Christ and salvation's promise of eternal life.  Also noteworthy about the painting is how the Bad Thief is portrayed as having his back toward Christ and his face is in shadows.  These paintings had a story to tell so the background was not as important as the cast of characters and their countenance, which was executed relatively well.  These paintings were very readable at a glance.

Unknown British artist, The Crucifixion (detail), about 1395. Tempera and oil with gilded tin relief on oak panel. Berger Collection at the Denver Art Museum

Friday, March 7, 2014

Sketching Birds at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Members from the Rocky Mountain Society of Botanical Artists went down to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to draw birds behind the scenes.  I believe the Collections Manager said that the displays only constitute 0.2% of their collection.

Skeleton of Sharp Shinned Hawk

Artist drawing Vulture