Painting Pop’s “Wimbledon Bardot”

One of the first artworks visitors will see when entering Abbot Hall Art Gallery’s Painting Pop exhibition is by a significant, yet relatively unknown artist.

Pauline Boty’s Colour Her Gone depicts screen-icon Marilyn Monroe with bright flowers and abstract shapes. The painting, in oil on canvas, was created in 1962 and is on loan to Abbot Hall by Wolverhampton Arts and Museums.

Boty was a founder of Britain’s Pop Art movement alongside more celebrated artists, such as David Hockney and Peter Blake. She was a student at the prestigious Royal College of Art and became a central figure in swinging sixties London. Boty’s striking paintings express self-assured femininity, addressing themes of female sexuality, race and politics. Critics deemed her work both vibrant and rebellious.

As a young graduate from art college, Boty was profiled in Ken Russell’s 1962 documentary ‘Pop Goes the Easel’ alongside Peter Blake, Derek Boshier and Peter Phillips whose paintings are also presented in Painting Pop. The film was broadcast as part of the BBC’s Monitor arts strand, focussing on the artwork and the lives of four hip artists in London.

Tragically Pauline Boty was diagnosed with cancer and she passed away 51 years ago this week, aged just 28 (1 July 1966). It wasn’t until the 1990s that Boty’s work was rediscovered and brought to a new audience. The Tate collection purchased a painting by her in 1991 and Wolverhampton Art Gallery held a major retrospective exhibition of her work in 2013.

The Scottish author and playwright Ali Smith researched the work and life of Boty for her novel Autumn, in which a central character is a collector of her artworks. Writing in the Guardian last year, Smith enthused: “…over and above all this whirlwind energy – over and above the short life, the too-early death, the legends, the rumours, the vibrant and groundbreaking brand new 60s spirit which she didn’t just embody but seems literally to have helped create, Boty was – is, always will be – the first and only British Pop artist who happened to be a woman.”

Opening on Friday 14 July, Painting Pop is Abbot Hall’s must-see summer exhibition celebrating British Pop Art from the early 1960s, including work by Pauline Boty, Peter Blake, Patrick Caulfield, Richard Hamilton, David Hockney and Allen Jones.

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Why We’re Having ‘Fun on the Fells’

By Rachel Roberts, Assistant Curator, Collections and Access

The Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry presents our new exhibition, Fun on the Fells, 11 March – 28 October.

The exhibition examines the history of walking and climbing in the Lake District and researching and writing it gave me a whole new perspective on these popular pastimes.

Every year, millions of people go walking and climbing on the fells of the Lake District. They might be thinking about whether they have brought the right map, whether they are supposed to go left or right, or even where the nearest pub is, but they don’t have to worry about their right to use the footpaths of Lakeland. However this hasn’t always been the case.

Since the enclosures acts of the 1700s, Cumbria was separated out into large farms with strict boundaries. Crossing these boundaries could result in clashes with the landowner. Throughout the 1800s, as more people lived in overcrowded and unhealthy cities, the countryside became seen as a place to escape the smog and take healthy exercise. Bills were introduced to parliament to gain access to footpaths and mountains for everyone but none were successful. By the 1930s more than 50% of the land in the UK was privately owned and off limits to most walkers and climbers.

Between the wars, the campaign for access to the countryside intensified with high-profile protests, for example the mass trespass at Kinder Scout in 1932. Finally, in 1951 the Peak District became the first National Park in the UK, with the Lake District being designated just 3 weeks later. National Parks continue to give access to footpaths and access land to all visitors, they now account for 10% of the land in the UK across 15 parks.

Today, when we walk in the Lakes we are following a much more turbulent path than we might think.

Visit the Fun on the Fells exhibition at the Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry, 11 March – 28 October 2017.

Head of Learning Jennie explains how to create inspirational learning events through art…

img_6146At Lakeland Arts we have a team brimming with ideas, enthusiasm who are willing to try new things to engage new visitors. When it comes to developing learning activity for families and schools, we trial ideas, we carry out research to see what other galleries are doing. We even find inspiration on Pinterest!

We want children and young people to engage in creative experiences in galleries. That’s really important to us because we deliver activity that can’t be replicated elsewhere – not in a classroom or soft play centre or IKEA showroom.

The learning team at Lakeland Arts has been involved with developing the George Shaw: My Back to Nature exhibition. Shaw was nominated for the Turner Art Prize in 2011, so we got the idea to stage an art prize for young artists in Cumbria between the ages of 16 – 22. We named it the Romney Art Prize after George Romney, the famous portrait painter who lived in Kendal. We want young artists to get inspired by the themes that George Shaw explores in his paintings and the art in our collection. Entries close on 30 April 2017 and the winner gets their work hung at Abbot Hall. That’s a pretty amazing opportunity for a budding young artist to highlight on an application to art school or college.

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More and more, we incorporate digital and creative media activity in the learning programme. Digital workshops allow visitors to experience art in new ways, to learn new skills and to share their experiences with others on social media. The latter helps us promote our work and reach more people.

We identify trends in new media that put a twist on the artwork. Our Gif Gallery workshops at Abbot Hall (18-25 February) are inspired by video games and social media trends. The characters in our paintings have already mastered the Mannequin Challenge – they are static but they all have a story to tell. We want visitors to get inspired by the paintings and use digital technology to bring the characters to life; dancing or playing air guitar.

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Lights Fantastic! at Blackwell runs alongside the Light Within exhibition (18-25 February Easter holidays and May half-term). The exhibition is a collaboration between a digital sound artist called Paul Miller, who maps digital projections onto delicate glass sculpture by his collaborator, Greit Beyaert. High tech, right? Linked to this stunning exhibition, we have transforming our learning space into a giant magic lantern for families to experiment with light, colour and reflection. Families are invited to be creative and express themselves in ways that will radiate around the space.

As well as delivering activity that is deliberately site specific and encourages creativity, we encourage families to learn together. We create experiences where people feel safe, can express themselves, form memories, and at the end of the day, have fun together.

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Our schools programme is also linked to collections and exhibitions. To make school sessions relevant, we work directly with teachers so that the content is relevant to them and the National Curriculum. This is a new approach for us but we have found it hugely beneficial and liberating to collaborate with schools. It means we develop relationships with teachers and schools and means we are meeting demand from pupil learning needs. In June we are piloting two new initiatives. The first is a week of special events for primary schools exploring portraiture and landscape at Abbot Hall linked to our significant collection of portraiture and the Julian Cooper exhibition. The second is a digital art project at Blackwell where secondary pupils will work directly with Paul Millar and Greit Beyaert to create digital art that will be projected on the façade of Blackwell on 17 June 2017.

Constable’s “Cenotaph to the Memory of Sir Joshua Reynolds”

john-constable-cenotaph-to-the-memory-of-sir-joshua-reynolds-1833-6-n-1272-00-000029-a6We’re absolutely thrilled that as part of George Shaw’s exhibition, My Back to Nature currently on view at Abbot Hall until 11 March, we are also providing a temporary home to a Constable!

The National Gallery generously lent us three paintings that inspired George during his residency with the Gallery – one of them being Constable’s “Cenotaph to the Memory of Sir Joshua Reynolds”.

This painting depicts the memorial to Sir Joshua Reynolds erected by Sir George Beaumont in the grounds of his home at Coleorton, Leicestershire; the first stone was laid on 30 October 1812. The cenotaph has inscribed on it some lines of poetry by Wordsworth, specially composed in 1811. Reynolds’ name is legible on the cenotaph; busts of Raphael and Michelangelo are at either side.

Constable visited Coleorton and remarked on the cenotaph in October/November, 1823. He executed a pencil drawing of it, and this is presumed to have formed the general basis for the painting although the two are not close in detail.

The Constable will be on display  until 11 March alongside two other works by Piero del Pollaiuolo and Nicolas Poussin. Don’t miss it!

Curator Kerri explains why ‘Walking Tours’ are a wonderful way to get closer to art

george-shaw-blog“For me, this is an opportunity to find out what George got up to in his studio – what makes him tick and do what he does. And I want to know what it was like for Colin, working with a living artist in a gallery known for its old masters who died centuries ago.”

Working with artists is an exciting opportunity for any arts organisation. It’s an opportunity to learn about their working practice and connect more with their work. You get to find out about their time in the studio, some of the frustrations, moments of insecurity, and the moments of inspiration and joy.

This year at Abbot Hall we are lucky enough to be working with two artists. The first, George Shaw, has an exhibition with us that’s open until Saturday 11 March. The second is Julian Cooper, whose exhibition, celebrating his seventieth year, opens on Friday 7 April.

Through working with artists, curators are able gain an insight into a working practice and a rational that may not be seen by simply looking at an artwork. By going to an artist’s studio, by helping them shape an exhibition, they can create a bond with the artist and gain a deeper understanding of their work.

This week we are fortunate enough to welcome Colin Wiggins, Special Projects Curator at the National Gallery, who will be giving two talks at Abbot Hall. George Shaw describes Colin as his “handler”, who guided him through the duration of his two-and-a-half-year residency at the National Gallery. When George panicked six months in, realising that he’d lost his way under the pressure, Colin was there to reassure him it had happened to those who had gone before him, including Paula Rego and Peter Blake.

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Colin worked closely with George, as his main point of contact during his residency, and to help shape the outcome – the exhibition George Shaw: My back to nature, which is now at Abbot Hall, and the subsequent exhibition catalogue.

Lost and Found: Into the woods with George Shaw is a tour by Colin of George’s exhibition at Abbot Hall. It will shed light on the relationship between artist and curator, the way in which George responded to the National Gallery’s collection and the work he produced. It promises to be an interesting tour, full of personal insights and anecdotes.

Colin will also be giving a breakfast talk, Carry on Constable: Three National Gallery masterpieces reinterpreted, which will look at the three works on loan to Abbot Hall from the National Gallery. These works, by Piero del Pollaiuolo, Nicholas Poussin and John Constable, influenced and inspired George. Colin will discuss how George tackled the pressure of taking on the Masters, and how he found new meaning in the National Gallery’s collection to create new and poignant work.

These talks will open up George’s works, taking them from the walls and transporting them back to the studio at the National Gallery, revisiting the process of their creation and exploring the works that inspired their creation through Colin’s personal experience with George.

To book for either or both of these tours, please call 01539 722464.

 

 

Shop ’til You Drop

Shop ’til You Drop has seen us working with Year 10 GSCE Graphic Products students. The students were presented with a live brief, which asks them to research and produce a product which can be sold in the Museum’s shop, using Windermere Jetty as their client.  Following an introduction to the Museum, students were able to talk through the brief for the project, including:

  • the target audience, children aged 6-9 years old
  • where the product will be sold, in the Windermere Jetty shop
  • product price, pocket money priced items
  • the materials required to make the product

Following an introduction and time to do some initial research, the students came to Windermere Jetty for a site visit.

Each student has researched what other museums sell in their shops, generated ideas of what they would like to develop and have chosen two products to focus their attention on. You can see examples of the group’s work below.

The project is now coming to a close as we approach the Christmas holidays. The group has  shown a high level engagement with the project and the school is planning on running the project as part of the next course starting in September 2017.

Fragments of Luxury

The steam launch Britannia, built on the Clyde in 1879 for local landowner Col. Ridehalgh, was the largest private steam yacht on Windermere. Ridehalgh’s previous steam yacht Fairy Queen had been the largest until he had Britannia built to replace it.  This passion for ostentatious boats earned him the nickname ‘the king of the lake’.

Britannia’s interior was as luxurious as the finest private houses. Descriptions in the press at the time of her launch give us an idea of what she must have looked like; ‘overhead lights of stained glass, one of Windsor Castle, the other of Her Majesty’s Highland residence…woodcarving in which the rose is intertwined with the thistle to form a suitable setting for the windows…panelling in polished Hungarian oak and walnut surmounted by a rich gilt cornice…crimson velvet cushioned couches round the apartment.’[1]

The single surviving skylight, which is now in our collection, gives an idea of the quality of craftsmanship on board.

When Britannia was broken up in 1919 the skylight was rescued and used in a greenhouse, before being installed into the ceiling of the old museum building.

The skylight is made of teak and glass.  Many of the panes of painted glass were missing or broken. The surviving original painted glass is being restored by Lancashire Conservation Studios, and the missing panes will be replaced with replicas.  Old joints and repairs to the timber frame are being replaced with teak in keeping with the original.

The entire structure will be supported on a steel frame to be suspended from the ceiling in the new museum building so that once again visitors to Windermere can be impressed by Col. Ridehalgh’s taste for luxury.

[1] Westmorland Gazette, 28th June, 1879