Collection Archive

Bloomsbury Art & Design

Our special display Bloomsbury Art & Design opened last month. It brings together a wide-ranging selection of work by the remarkable Bloomsbury Group. We asked exhibition curator Dr Rosamund Garrett to tell us about curating the display. 

Bloomsbury Art & Design installation.

In November I was appointed the new Bridget Riley Art Foundation Curatorial Assistant at The Courtauld Gallery, a unique role that allows me to work across the entire collection. With Dr Barnaby Wright, the Daniel Katz Curator of Twentieth-Century Art, I was charged with curating our current Special Display: Bloomsbury Art & Design.

This display brings together the highlights of the Courtauld’s collection of paintings, design drawings, ceramics and furniture by the artists from the Bloomsbury Group to look at the movement that shaped early twentieth-century modernism in Britain. It was my first project after having been completely immersed in my doctoral research in a rather different field – Renaissance tapestry – so I was eager to take up the challenge.

Given my specialisation in tapestry, I was keen to display the large rug designed by Duncan Grant, with its bold colours and eye-catching geometric design. Rugs are usually displayed on the floor, but with several large pieces of furniture featuring in the display, floor space was at a premium.  To ensure the rug could be shown I asked our Head Conservator, Graeme Barraclough, if we could do things a bit differently.

Tapestries are often displayed on slant boards: a board at a slight angle that allows the tapestry to be viewed vertically whilst its weight is gently supported across the entire surface. I thought that Grant’s rug would look striking displayed vertically on one of the short walls, and would complement the series of abstract rug designs that we intended to display beside it.

We started drawing up the plans for the slant board, but, after a thorough examination by conservation, the rug was found to be too fragile to be displayed in this way. Graeme, however, is never deterred. He and our technician, Matthew Thompson, devised a new method of display that combined a slant board with a roller, allowing us to display a section of the rug vertically whilst the roller holds most of the weight. Exhibitions always rely on the expertise, creativity and skills of many individuals, not to mention their physical presence – lifting the roller with the heavy rug onto our adapted slant board was no mean feat!

We are fortunate at The Courtauld to have such an extensive collection of Bloomsbury objects, many of which were given to us directly by one of the leaders of the Group, the artist and art critic Roger Fry. Why not pop in to Bloomsbury Art & Design to see the rug on our new display method as well as other works by the group of artists whose radical and experimental art introduced bold colours and dynamic abstract designs to the domestic interiors of Edwardian Britain.

Book Now: Bloomsbury Art & Design
Until 24 September 2017

Kenneth Clark Travel Award Winner

On Tuesday we were thrilled to welcome Rosie Shackleton to The Courtauld Institute of Art’s galleries. Rosie, a sixth form student from Dixons Academy in Leeds, chose to visit The Courtauld after she was awarded the Kenneth Clark Travel Award during her participation in the ARTiculation Prize, a competition encouraging young people to speak publicly about art. Courtauld undergraduate student Annabelle Birchenough tells us about Rosie’s visit:

693a3064As a current Courtauld Student Ambassador who took part in ARTiculation in 2013, I was delighted to accompany Rosie during her visit. The day comprised of a number of fascinating behind the scenes insights into the workings of The Institute, including a visit to the Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Drawings Gallery, and Prints and Drawings Study Room.

First, we were fortunate to have Assistant Curator of Works on Paper, Dr Rachel Sloan talk us through the curation processes involved in her current drawings gallery display Regarding Trees, before taking us to the treasure trove that is The Courtauld Prints and Drawings Study Room. On learning that Rosie has a particular interest in Impressionism, Rachel pulled out a wonderful box of early Impressionist drawings and prints that Rosie really enjoyed getting up close to. The Programming Manager, Learning, Stephanie Christodoulou then talked Rosie through the general workings of the main gallery before we finished the day with a detailed walk around The Courtauld Gallery’s permanent collection, as well as the temporary display of Georgina Houghton’s work. By the end of the visit, Rosie told me she couldn’t have asked for more and summed the success of the day up as follows:

“I really enjoyed the visit. There were great insights into how a gallery is run, particularly on the paper and prints side of the institute, and I really loved the Van Gogh drawing we saw! The Impressionist gallery was just luscious and brilliant. I really loved the Georgia Houghton too – it was really interesting.”

Congratulations again Rosie, we hope to see you soon!

 

Evince Your Inner Colourway at The Courtauld Shop: Getting to Know Jan Allison Jewellery

Founded in 2005, and based in the picturesque Cornish seaside town of St Ives, Jan Allison Jewellery is a partnership between Janet Stevens and Alison Carter.  Janet and Allison have been the closest of friends since childhood. Their unique, hand-crafted pieces of jewellery reflect the vibrant, colourful watercolours of  our latest exhibition Georgiana Houghton: Spirit Drawings . They are available for purchase at The Courtauld Gallery Shop and online . Jan Allison Jewellery is exhibited in galleries across the UK and has been purchased by clients from all over the world.

We met up with Allison to find out a little bit more:

Janet Stevens and Allison Carter

Janet Stevens and Allison Carter

Q: Allison, you and Janet have been the closest of friends since childhood, do you have a favourite childhood memory you’d like to share with us?

We were bridesmaids together when our siblings got married. It was my sister and her brother. We were teenagers at the time and the relationship may not have survived but our friendship certainly did.

Q: Is there anything else from your long-standing friendship that you’d like to share?

In school, we were on the same hockey team and netball team. Janet was absolutely brilliant at sewing and embroidery, whereas I went to Art College at Birmingham Polytechnic and did fabric and textiles. Years later, I actually had my own business where I decorated glass wear. I did that for quite some time. Then when I started working at the jeweller’s, that’s when I started making my jewellery.

Q: Allison, throughout your worldwide travels as an air stewardess, was there a place or event that made you realise you wanted to create colourful, unique pieces of jewellery?

It has to be Sri Lanka. It was my favourite place. There were so many colours and so much beauty. My idea of paradise. I actually purchased my first natural stones on a market stall. Janet actually went to Sri Lanka herself years later and she enjoyed it just as much as me.

Q: Janet, was there something specific that prompted you to enrol in your jewellery course at Penzance College?

The love of jewellery inspired me. My intention was to create personal pieces of jewellery for my friends and family. At that stage, a business was far from my mind, we just sort of fell into it.

Q: How did you start the business?

We were working together in a jewellery gallery, Pebbles Jewellery Gallery in St.Ives. It has recently closed. I worked there for twenty years out of the thirty-four years they were in business. The owner of the business and I had been going to trade shows. While she was buying jewellery to supply the shop, she was picking up necklaces and I was saying ‘I could make that.’ I had said it so many times that she ended up buying some stones and giving them to me, telling me to give it a try.

Our first batch of jewellery was sold through the owner of the business. We probably made about twenty. Now we’ve probably made thousands. We are still making every piece ourselves. We don’t make every day at the moment. We normally make stuff very regularly. We probably work a few hours a week now. When we start a new collection that’s when we spend a lot of time together.

Q: Does the natural semi-precious stone hold a special meaning for you?

Semi-precious stones have great healing properties that appeal to both. We both love colour and mix different colours together because we like the combinations.

Q: We noticed that you use very colourful stones; does something inspire the choice in design and colour of your work?

Not really. We both have different ideas which when we put together seem to work. We like asymmetric patterns and our work often portrays that.

Q: Is there an art period, style or movement that has majorly influenced your work?

I am a big lover of Art Deco and Art Nouveau.

Q: How long does it take to create one piece?

I cannot commit to how long it takes to design one piece, because each piece is very different. Each strand of stones is laid out and sort of played around with until we get the look that we want. Then, the silver components are added before we start the threading.

Q: We know that lapis, sodalite and Andean opal are among the semi-precious stones used in your designs, how do you source the stones?

We’ve been making jewellery for over 11 years, over that time we have sourced many different stones. We’ve become great friends with our suppliers. One of which actually mines the stones himself in South America, an amazing man and his wife. They bought a mine in South America. My sister lives in Egypt and gets our lapis lazuli from there.

Q: You live in a beautiful place, does it inspire you?

Oh yes, sometimes it inspires us a great deal. The natural light here has made it one of the UK’s major art havens. We are surrounded by a wealth of incredibly talented artists, sculptors and potters. Many of which are friends of ours so we’ve grown up with amazing creativity around us.

Q: Finally, looking forward, what are your plans for your next collection?

We will probably start sourcing for our next collection in September. We’re thinking of turquoise, carnelian, and lapis lazuli. We’re thinking to go with gold-plated accents. A bit of an Egyptian influence will be present.

Q: Do you know what the future holds for Jan Allison Jewellery?

Who knows what the future holds for anyone. We can be assured ours will include lots of colour, creativity, and laughter.

Jan Allison Jewellery

 

 

Visit the Courtauld Gallery Shop online

The Courtauld Gallery Shop
Somerset House
Strand
London WC2R 0RN

10am – 6pm

Tis ‘The Seasons’

This week a new display opened at The Courtauld Gallery following an important new acquisition of work by the American artist Jasper Johns (born 1930).

The Seasons

Between 1984 and 1991, Johns focused on the theme of the four seasons and produced a significant body of work, which included paintings, drawings and the nine prints gifted to The Courtauld Gallery. Johns’ The Seasons are complex works, weaving together themes relating to artistic creation, the passage of time and the artist’s own biography. Most prominently, Johns’ own shadow appears in each of the compositions, cast across themulti-layered imagery.

This body of work comes from the generosity of Barbara Bertozzi Castelli, the widow of Leo Castelli, the legendary New York dealer who ‘discovered’ Johns in the 1950s. It was with Castelli that Johns first exhibited The Seasons series in 1987. The works bear a personal dedication —‘For Leo’— in pencil on each sheet. This gift was made possible by The American Foundation for The Courtauld Institute of Art.

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to view Johns’ work, rarely shown in the United Kingdom on display in room 14.

Book online

Free for Friends

Bruegel in Black & White: A Tree-mendous Discovery

Displays offer not only the possibility to see masterpieces in a different light and a different context but in preparing them, curators and conservators carry out a lot of research on the works. Bruegel in Black & White: Three Grisailles Reunited was no exception, but the investigation yielded exceptional results.

Bruegel 3b

The techniques used to examine Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s three surviving paintings in grisaille ranged from xrays to infrared photography (which allows us to see any drawing below the paint) to analysis of the wood panels that Bruegel painted on.

We also used a scientific method called Dendrochronology which enables us to date wood based on the analysis of the patterns left by the tree (or growth) rings. By comparison with other data, it can date when the rings were formed to the exact calendar year and can thus estimate when the tree was cut down. In some areas of the world, it is possible to date wood back a few thousand years. This works particularly well with oak, which Bruegel favoured for his paintings.

Ian Tyers, a dendrochronology specialist, was able to ascertain that The Courtauld’s Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery was painted on a panel made from a 200-year old oak tree from the eastern Baltic region of Europe (present-day Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania). The tree was cut down after 1550, transformed into a standard size board and shipped to the Netherlands. This date corresponds well to the painting, which is signed and dated 1565. The tree was radially cut (that is to say across the centre of the trunk), as it was already well known at the time that this type of cut minimized warping and distortion.

The support of another grisaille in the exhibition, the stunning Death of the Virgin (National Trust, Upton House), was also analysed. There too, the wooden panel came from an oak tree in the eastern Baltic, cut down after 1553. This particular tree must have been especially majestic as tree-ring analysis indicates that it was already growing in 1228 and had a diameter of more than a metre when it was cut down. More strikingly, at least three panels made from that one tree were used by Bruegel to paint three works of identical size: The Death of the Virgin, Winter Landscape with Bird Trap (Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels) and The Courtauld’s own Landscape with the Flight into Egypt. Parts of this extraordinary Baltic oak thus live on at The Courtauld this spring. Come and see for yourself!

Bruegel in Black & White: Three Grisailles Reunited, until 8 May 2016

Book Now

Free for Friends