Nick's Picks – Our Guide to Fathers Day Gifting

With Father’s Day just a few weeks away, we asked Nick Turner, Buyer at The Courtauld Gallery Shop, for his top five gift ideas for Dad.

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Gift Membership to The Courtauld Gallery, from £55 per year
Gift Membership is a wonderful present for art lovers that lasts all year. Members can participate in a special events programme, take advantage of discounts in the Gallery Café and shop, meet with curators and enjoy free entry for themselves plus a guest the whole year round.

 

Bloomsbury Blue Cufflinks, £35
These unique cufflinks are inspired by designs from the Omega Workshops. Established in 1913 by the painter and influential art critic Roger Fry, the Omega Workshops were an experimental design collective, whose members included Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and other artists of the Bloomsbury Group.

 

Cezanne Tie, £30
This vibrant tie takes its inspiration from Cezanne’s Lac d’Annecy, currently on display in The Courtauld Gallery.

 

The Courtauld Gallery Masterpieces, £10
This publication invites you to explore in the masterpieces from across The Courtauld Gallery’s Collection, stretching from the early Renaissance to the twentieth century. It includes iconic Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings such as Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Berègre, van Gogh’s Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Cézanne’s Montagne Sainte-Victoire, as well as drawings by Michelangelo and Rembrandt and rare works of decorative art.

 

The Courtauld Gallery Prints
Our prints service offers 40,000 high quality digital images of paintings, drawings, architecture and sculpture from The Courtauld Gallery and The Courtauld Institute of Art. Prints are available in a range of sizes, finishes, and can be supplied framed or unframed.

 

Father’s Day gifts are a great way to spoil your dad and though it can be hard to find the perfect gift for Father’s Day, hopefully Nick has made it a little easier.

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Up close and personal – Illuminating Objects

Illuminating Objects is a series of displays that shines a light on unexpected objects from The Courtauld’s decorative arts and sculpture collection.

In a series of blog posts postgraduate intern Eleanor Magson will share her discoveries as she chooses and researches the next Illuminating Object.

After having spent several weeks researching my Illuminating Objects glass bowl, I got the chance to see it in the flesh again for a bit of a scientific investigation. I felt quite at home visiting a lab and using a microscope, but seeing the Courtauld’s conservation labs, filled with paintings hundreds of years old, was a different experience!

microscopic investigation

I had come across an article published in 1894 by a mineralogist, Henry Washington, who was a descendent of George Washington. His interest in minerals led him to Murano, in Venice, the centre of the glassmaking industry, as this was where man-made imitations of natural stones were being developed. Washington managed to procure some samples of aventurine, ‘through the kindness of Signor G. Boni of Rome’ – both a prime example and a failed attempt – for his investigations.

Washington says that aventurine was one of the first ever substances of a mineralogical nature (that is, its structure) to be studied under the microscope. So, 121 years after Washington peered down the microscope at a chunk of aventurine, I did the same to the aventurine samples in my bowl.

The following pictures are taken at 120x magnification:

Copper Crystals

Looking closely, you can just make out individual crystals of copper, which give the aventurine its sparkle. They form triangular and hexagonal crystals, something noted by Washington back in 1894. Unfortunately, Washington was slightly better equipped than the Courtauld in terms of his microscope’s power, and was able to see up to 200x magnification, while 120x was as close as we could get (Such high magnification is unnecessary for the work the Courtauld needs the microscope for, but is rather low for today’s capabilities).

Washington diagram

While we were looking at the bowl under the microscope, I noticed a peculiar phenomenon of chalcedony glass. I had read once or twice in my research about a ‘red glow’ that was characteristic of chalcedony glass when a light was shone on it, but it hadn’t been described any further. Where the spotlight used to illuminate the bowl for the microscope was aimed, the glass beneath it shone red! With a bit of rearranging of the light source, we captured these amazing images of the glowing bowl.

Aventurine red glow

Getting a closer view of the bowl under the microscope has really let me see the object in a new light (pun intended!). This little bowl certainly has more to it than first meets the eye, and as I approach the end of the project I am eagerly awaiting its installation in the Courtauld Gallery.

Keep an eye on the Gallery blog to find out more about my Illuminating Objects project.

Decisions decisions – Illuminating Objects

Illuminating Objects is a series of displays that shines a light on unexpected objects from The Courtauld’s decorative arts and sculpture collection.

In a series of blog posts postgraduate intern Eleanor Magson will share her discoveries as she chooses and researches the next Illuminating Object.

It is now time to select my object to illuminate!

Perhaps embedded with a genetic interest for ceramics, I had initially thought about selecting some albarelli, earthenware pharmacy jars, some of which are already on display in the Courtauld. These objects were ceramic, something I had a childhood relationship with, and had a clear link to science – I had even studied pharmacology as part of my undergraduate degree.

Pharmacy jars trio

Maybe it was because the link was just too clear, but, already a little out of my comfort zone in an art gallery, I thought I might as well jump in the deep end with a beautiful Venetian glass bowl.

I can admit that I was initially drawn to the bowl for shallow reasons – it is beautiful glass swirling with browns and greens and small inclusions of deep caramel sparkles – rather than knowing anything at all about glassware. In fact, I was completely in the dark, but armed with a folder on the object’s history and details, I began working my way into writing on Venetian glass. I soon discovered the names of the two techniques that gave the bowl its stunning aesthetic appearance – calcedonio, which is a type of glass that gives swirling colours, and aventurine, the golden sparkles.

Aventurine bowl trio

As my research continues, I hope to be able to enlighten myself about the processes of glassmaking, as well as the culture surrounding the craft in the 18th century. Eventually, I will be able to call myself an expert on this very small area of art history, and look forward to sharing this newfound knowledge with the visitors of the Courtauld Gallery.

Keep an eye on the Gallery blog to find out more about my Illuminating Objects project.

Goya under the microscope

Kate Edmondson, The Courtauld Gallery’s paper conservator, talks us through her fascinating discoveries whilst examining the works which form our current exhibition, Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album.

Kate, what techniques did you use to study Goya’s drawings?

To forensically study the works I focused on using a high magnification. This was essential in revealing Goya’s drawing technique, and the way he layered the black ink in different concentrations skilfully with a brush.

Goya under the microscope
Also by use of transmitted light through the paper, and raking light across the surface of the paper, I could see clearly how Goya had scraped the surface, a technique which was key to his practice, to either make alterations or to create highlights to his drawings.

Kate

Transmitted and raking light

Transmitted light and raking light

What did you discover?

Close examination of the paper furnish, colour, plus measuring the distance of the vertical chain lines in the paper, confirmed that the same paper had been used for all 22 drawings. Identifying the watermark and countermark from the fragments of watermarks which were consistently positioned in the lower left corner of most of the drawings, revealed the paper manufacturer  Blauw & Briel Company at De Herder  (The Shepherd) mill at Zaandijk, Holland. Now knowing the approximate original sheet size, Dutch Royal, helped us calculate the untrimmed size of Goya’s paper for the drawings, as 1/8th of a full sheet.

watermark

Paper size

It’s possible that Goya could have worked on single sheets, but we wanted to investigate into the theory that he worked in a sketchbook. The full sheets of paper could in fact have been cut and folded into folios or sections and sewn together to form a simple binding. We found no evidence of sewing holes but did discover some slightly rounded and worn right corners, often a result of handling book pages, which strongly suggests that the drawings could have been part of a book.

Rounded corner

After discovering that you were most likely looking at a sketchbook of Goya’s, how did you work out the original sequence of the drawings?

A really exciting discovery was ink off-set marks on the verso of some of the sheets.

Not only did this strengthen the argument for Goya working in a book, where transfer of media from one page to another is common, but by tracing the marks we could marry up the pages.

Using this techinque and by cross referencing the works that had page numbers we were able to plot the possible order of drawings in Goya’s album, which can be seen in the Gallery today.

Ink off sets

Left: Verso of unnumbered Visiones with brown ink off-set marks at top
Right: Recto of Locura, with Goya’s number 11 which matches the ink marks on verso of Visiones

 

This was a ground-breaking study into the works and practice of Francisco Goya. We hope we have revealed a deeper understanding of the works and the artist himself.

Further information about reconstructing Goya’s album can be found in the exhibition catalogue, available in the Gallery shop.

 

Introducing Eleanor – Illuminating Objects

Introducing Eleanor

Illuminating Objects is a series of displays that shines a light on unexpected objects from The Courtauld’s decorative arts and sculpture collection.

In a series of blog posts postgraduate intern Eleanor Magson will share her discoveries as she chooses and researches the next Illuminating Object.

Over to Eleanor:

The Courtauld Gallery is one of the last places I would have guessed I would be working, if you had asked me a few years ago. At this time, a pharmaceutical or neurological laboratory would have been more in line with my expectations. But, after three years of degree study in Biomedical Science, I decided life at the lab bench wasn’t for me and I turned myself over to the humanities for a degree in Science Communication, in order to share my love for science with the public.

As the child of two potters, my journey down the science pathway was a bit of a breakaway from my artistic side, but it wasn’t long before I became interested in communicating science through art, as a way of reconciling my two (often opposing) interests.

It was soon into my Masters in Science Communication at Imperial College that the opportunity to apply for the internship at The Courtauld arose. Although I had done a piece of research on the use of enriching the teaching of science with arts and humanities, I had no experience of enriching art with science.

The Courtauld, like all galleries, provides information on the historical context to their objects and paintings, which can often include social, religious and political context, but science is not something seen within many art galleries.

I wanted to bring out not only the technical science of the creation of my selected object, but also the effect of the state of the scientific world of the time on the object. Scientific discoveries fuelled how we looked at the world, often having huge influences on the development of societies.

Keep an eye on the Gallery blog to find out more about my Illuminating Objects project.