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 21 September 2017

Dancing our way to Coventry!

We have been working in partnership with the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum to bring to Coventry the world famous Edgar Degas masterpiece Two Dancers on a stage. In this exclusive display, see Edgar Degas’ painting Two dancers on a stage alongside three of his related works.

Dancers

Two Dancers on a Stage 1874 Edgar Germain Hilaire Degas, Copyright: © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

Coinciding with the display of artworks, the History Center in Coventry is showcasing a selection of items from the Herbert’s collection relating to the Courtaulds company and their links with Coventry.

Coventry played a key role in the success of the Courtauld company. In 1905 the company built its first viscose plant in Coventry, employing thousands of people. The wealth generated enabled Samuel Courtauld to develop his magnificent collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, which form the basis of The Courtauld Gallery collection.

The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum have taken the industrial heritage of the Courtauld textile factories as a starting point and celebrated Samuel Courtauld’s belief that great art should be made as widely available as possible.

See this iconic representation for yourself and discover world class art in Coventry at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum.

Free Admission

A Closer Look: Discovering the story of William Hogarth’s Before and After by Zoe Dostal

During the Print Room Open House ‘Storylines’, from 25-29 January, postgraduate Print Room Assistants are presenting artworks that explore the variety of methods artists use to tell a story. When preparing my own presentation for William Hogarth’s engravings Before and After, I additionally wanted to consider the ‘story’ of the physical object itself. Kate Edmondson, Conservator of Works on Paper for the Courtauld Gallery, guided my exploration of the objects’ histories from the fabrication of the paper to the application of the ink, through the hands of collectors and conservators to storage and display at The Courtauld.

Hogarth Before

William Hogarth (1697 – 1764), Before (1736), etching and engraving

Hogarth After

William Hogarth (1697 – 1764), After (1736), etching and engraving

Before and After are generally in very good condition, yet small irregularities or imperfections provide clues to the making of the prints. ‘Raking light’ is one of the conservator’s simplest and most useful tools. Simply shining light across the paper at a low angle reveals the texture of the paper and medium, details that are generally imperceptible to the naked eye. Examining Before in raking light reveals a raised vertical line extending from the top edge of the paper towards the center of the image. My first instinct was to assume that this was a tear or accidental fold. But Kate determined that because the ink is neither interrupted nor distorted, as it would be by a tear or fold, this mark is actually a natural crease resulting from the paper making process.

Vertical crease

Detail of vertical crease in normal reflected light

Vertical crease 2

Detail of raised vertical crease in normal raking light

A more noticeable blemish on Before is located just above the dog’s head, on the skirt of the female figure. This small, round, bare patch at first appears to be the result of damage. However, examining the mark under the stereomicroscope, Kate deduced that this imperfection occurred during the printing process. The outline of ink that delineates the bare spot tells the story of how the raised surface of an accretion, or an unknown foreign body, disrupted the application of the inked design and caused the ink to pool. (Imagine rainwater pooling around the bottom of a hill, creating a ring of water around the base.) It was likely that the accretion was sitting on the surface of the paper as it was pressed to the printing plate. Today the accretion is no longer there, leaving the small, un-inked circular patch.

Skirt

Close up detail of missing media lower centre of skirt

Furthermore, raking light reveals that After was previously folded in half across the middle. Kate explained that such a strong fold such as this is difficult to completely remove because paper retains an irrevocable ‘memory’ of such deformations. But one way to try and reduce its visual distraction is to apply a repair on the verso along the fold to “ease” out the noticeable ridge. In this case a Japanese paper (a strong, lightweight, translucent paper) was applied with conservation grade adhesive across the whole of the verso. The Japanese paper lining tells the most recent story of the prints, when they became part of The Courtauld’s collection and were prepared for display. The conservation efforts minimize the visibility of the imperfections of the print for the viewer, but are also completely reversible, allowing for the story of the object to continue evolving in the future.

After in normal

After in normal reflected light

After in raking

After in raking light revealing horizontal fold across the middle

To discover these stories and more of Hogarth’s Before and After, all are welcome to stop by the Print Room Open House on Wednesday 27 January from 1:30-5pm.

Print openings

Showcase Week Starts Today!

The Courtauld Prints and Drawings Study Room Presents…

SHOWCASE WEEK: Land to Shore

For one week only the team of postgraduate Print Room Assistants will be presenting a selection of five of our most striking works on paper for public viewing, thereby marking the third presentation of the biannual Courtauld Prints and Drawings Study Room Showcase Week.  The first two installments highlighted depictions of The Nude and Scaled-Up, while the forthcoming week is dedicated to the study of prints and drawings that deal with the theme of Land to Shore.  The aim of this theme is to focus attention on how artists explore the relationship between land and sea, the extent to which a division is created by the coast or the horizon, and how this is interpreted on paper.  Including drawings and prints from the 1500s to the 1900s by artists from Bruegel to Turner to Kokoschka, this Showcase Week presentation encompasses the impressive breadth of The Courtauld’s collection of works on paper in terms of period, media, geography, and function.

‘Land to Shore’ also complements two exhibitions currently on view in The Courtauld Gallery, both of which focus on different elements of landscape.  The display in the Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Drawings Gallery, Panorama, explores invented, observed, and mapped panoramas while the Gallery’s major autumn exhibition, Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintings, highlights the artist’s near-abstract paintings of the coast of his native West Cornwall from the 1950s.

Between 1.30pm and 5pm this week our doors will be open without any appointment necessary, and each work will be on display for one day only.  Our friendly Print Room Assistants are eager to introduce their selected prints and drawings to the public and will be on hand to discuss them and answer questions.

The following works will be the focus of each days session:

Monday

Brugel

Pieter the Elder Bruegel (ca. 1525-1569), A storm in the River Schelde with a view of Antwerp, Circa 1559, Pen, brown ink and graphite, D.1978.PG.11

Two-thirds of this striking drawing are dedicated to a vivid study of the motion of waves during a storm. Beyond the receding waves of the river Schelde the city of Antwerp, one of the North Sea’s premier trading ports, can be seen. The visual dominance of the water dwarfs the city and the ships, underscoring the power of nature.

 

Tuesday

Capture

Melchior Küsel (1626-1683) after Johann Wilhelm Baur (1607 – 1642), Coastal Cityscape with Ships, 1670, Etching, G.1990.WL.3018.79

This imaginary harbour scene by the German artist Johann Wilhelm Baur is based upon Venetian cityscapes. Here the manmade quay that cuts at right angles into the water is emphasised through the monumental buildings built along this artificial shoreline.

 

Wednesday

boats

Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714 – 1789), Harbour scene, Naples, around 1750, Pen and ink, brown watercolour, graphite, D.1952.RW.1798

Vernet drew the Darsena (harbour) of Naples several times on his many trips there while living in Italy between 1734 and 1753. Here, using only his pen, ink, and brown washes on paper (left bare in places to depict the surface of the water reflecting sky) he captures the intensity of Mediterranean light.

 

Thursday

Turner

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), Storm on Margate Sands, around 1835-40, Graphite, watercolour, bodycolour (white and blue) on paper, D.1974.STC.2

J.M.W. Turner produced a number of watercolours depicting the coastal landscape of Margate, a town where he went to school in his childhood and often visited throughout his life. In this vibrant watercolour, Turner focuses on the interplay between land, sea, and sky, as well as light and darkness and atmospheric elements by masterfully combining the use of different media.

 

Friday

Watercolour

In this drawing, Kokoschka achieved rich colouristic effects in the foreground by applying washes in a swift, painterly manner. This vibrancy separates the land from the steel blue sea, rendered in more uniform horizontal strokes.

 

Don't Miss Next Weeks Showcase Week!

Brugel

Bruegel’s A Storm in the River Schelde with a view of Antwerp

Next week marks the start of  ‘Land to Shore’, the third Showcase Week hosted by the Prints and Drawings Study Room.  In response to this years Autumn Showcase display Panorama and exhibition Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintings the team of Print Room Assistants have selected from The Courtauld Gallery’s rich collection of works on paper, five works that explore the relationship between land and water.

Each day of Showcase Week a different work will be presented by our Print Room Assistants. During the we are inviting visitors to drop by to see the work and learn more about it.  Showcase Week is a fantastic chance for visitors to see works from the collection that aren’t on display and learn more about what the Prints and Drawings Study Room.

We will be starting  Showcase Week with Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s (1564-1637) dramatic study of waves, dominating the distant view of Antwerp in his pen and ink drawing A Storm in the River Schelde with a view of Antwerp. Tomorrow’s print by Melchior Küsel (1626-1683) after Johann Wilhelm Baur (1607-1642) looks at how humans craft landscape in constructing a quay.  Later in the week we will be indulged with works by Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714-1789) (Wednesday 28), Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) (Thursday 29), and Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980) (Friday 30).

This is going to be an exciting week, exploring how different artists engage with the relationship between land and water through printmaking and drawing.  We look forward to welcoming and sharing these works with you.

Visitors are invited to drop in to see and hear about the selected work each day of Showcase Week between 1.30 and 5.00pm.