Rodin and Scotland: A Love Affair

Abbot Hall Art Gallery is currently showing one of Auguste Rodin’s best-known works – The Thinker is on show until 27 October. The iconic piece is on loan from the Burrell Collection in Glasgow. Pippa Stephenson, Curator of European Art, Glasgow Museums, explains how Scotland swooned for sculptures by the French artist:

Pippa

Auguste Rodin is a well-known and widely-appreciated artist, with exhibitions springing up worldwide, particularly in the wake of last year’s centenary since his death. However, it wasn’t always that way.

It took France, in particular, a surprisingly long time to appreciate the artist’s naturalistic and unorthodox approach to sculpture. The first public monument to the ‘Father of Modern Sculpture’ was not erected in France until 1904, indicative of the country’s reluctance to embrace his art.

Scotland, however, developed a somewhat earlier appreciation for Rodin. Examples of the artist’s work were shown at the 1888 Glasgow International Exhibition, a time when public opinion of Rodin’s reputation was still out to jury (by 1900, with the artist’s seminal exhibition in Paris, his worldwide reputation was firmly established).

In 1906, the artist received an honorary doctorate from Glasgow University. He gifted a bust, Saint George’ to Glasgow’s Hunterian Art Gallery in return, a token of his affection for the city. Recently, letters between Rodin and Francis Newbury, the visionary founder of the internationally-famous Glasgow School of Art, have been unearthed in the archives of the GSA. These few letters confirm that the pair were in dialogue around 1901, with Rodin asking Newbury to report on how his sculptures were being received in the Glasgow International exhibition of that year.

Recognising Rodin’s importance, Glasgow Museums bought two works from that exhibition, a plaster cast of ‘Saint John the Baptist’, and a cast of the ‘Burghers of Calais’.

It was the actions of William Burrell, however, which gave Glasgow its particularly special relationship with Rodin. Burrell was the owner of a successful shipping business, and took a keen interest in art, amassing an internationally-significant collection of over 9000 objects.

The collection opened to the public in 1983, and is currently undergoing extensive renovation, due to reopen in 2020. In the course of his lifetime, Burrell bought at least 14 bronzes by the artist, all of which are in the collection today. This gives Glasgow the second largest collection of Rodin’s in the UK (after the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the recipient of 17 sculptures gifted by Rodin himself in 1914), and one of the largest worldwide in a public collection.

Burrell’s first purchase, probably ‘Fleeting Love’, was made before 1901, which he lent to the aforementioned Glasgow International Exhibition. Photographs of Sir William’s Glasgow townhouse at 8 Great Western Terrace show Rodin bronzes on display alongside medieval tapestries and Northern European Renaissance paintings.

He bought these sculptures from local dealers including Alexander Reid, as well as directly through the Musee Rodin, Paris. He collected sculptures by Rodin up until 1937, including important pieces such as ‘The Thinker’, which is part of the British Museum spotlight tour, on display at Abbot Hall Art Gallery Kendal until 27 October.

More on the exhibition at http://www.abbothall.org.uk/rodin

A Summer of Rag Rugging

***UPDATE: The rugging will continue this October 22 & 24-27. Come to the museum during half term to take part in finishing this great textile project. Full details here.*** 

We’re creating giant rag rugs inspired by the rugged Cumbrian landscape! Sally Fallows is running drop-in workshops across Abbot Hall Art Gallery and Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House all summer long. The finished rag rugs and wall hanging will animate the learning centre at Windermere Jetty, Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories when it opens in 2017. Over 250 people have contributed so far – and there’s plenty left to do! So drop in and try your hand at traditional textile techniques with a contemporary twist.

 

Morning workshops at Abbot Hall Art Gallery
Monday to Friday until 2 September / 10:30 – 12:30 

Included with admission – children FREE 

Create an aerial view of Windermere in wool using a mix of hooking, prodding, crochet and pom-poms! Inspired by Winifred Nicholson’s views of Cumbria, on display at Abbot Hall Art Gallery until 15 October 2016. Nicholson designed over 180 rag rugs and commissioned local artists to make them. We also drew inspiration from Alexandra Kehayoglou‘s spectacular wool rug artworks.

 

Afternoon workshops at Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House
Monday to Friday until 2 September / 2:00 – 4:00
Included with admission – children FREE 

Help make a gigantic wall hanging inspired by the view from Blackwell – complete with fleecy sheep and boats sailing on Windermere. Enjoy an afternoon of crafting in an idyllic setting. Materials are locally sourced from William’s Wools and Faye’s Sewing Box – including local alpaca yarn from Town End Yarns.

 

Art on Tour: Putting Ourselves in the Picture III

On Friday 20 June, Candle at a Window and the Art on Tour team were welcomed to Holme Community School. We were shown to the main hall and a fantastic exhibition of their own art work – some of which had been inspired by a trip to Abbot Hall earlier in the year.

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Once Winifred Nicholson’s painting had been hung alongside their work, the school joined us in the hall for a celebration assembly. Two girls sang a very moving duet of ‘Candle in a Window’ before a more boisterous whole school rendition of ‘This Little Light of Mine’.

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Every child in the school had the opportunity to have a close look at the painting and explore the colour of texture of Winifred Nicholson’s work, tracing the strokes of her paintbrush. They had a chance to explore how the painting made them feel and to work with artist and writer Karen Lloyd to create their own poem.

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In the afternoon, the main hall filled with older members of the Holme community who were served tea, coffee and cakes by enthusiastic year 5 waiters. The group were serenaded with a range of music from children of all ages – from bell ringing infants, to violin, drum and flute solos, to choir and group singing. And our rag rug is coming along!

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At the end of the school day, parents, carers, younger siblings and other family members piled into the bursting hall, full of the smiling faces of performers and audience, joined in pure celebration.

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Join us for one of our next drop in sessions:

  • Dock Museum, Barrow, Wednesday 25 June, 1 – 3.45pm

Look out for further blogs as we capture the rest of the tour throughout the month.