George Shaw

My last Yale post is about the work of George Shaw shown in an exhibition at the UCBA. I feel I should have known his work better:  images of intense, post-war, humbrol-painted, dispassionate romanticism, the techniques of nature painting applied to the Coventry housing estate where he was brought up. Images of intense urban desolation. Caspar David Friedrich meets the suburbs.

There was a particularly beautiful portfolio, called Twelve Short Walks of what are described as etchings, but are presumably aquatints, using the technique of watercolour on the plate:-

image

image

image

Standard

Ruskin and the Idea of the Museum

Tristram Hunt was giving the Paul Mellon lecture on Ruskin and the Idea of the Museum.   It was a very impressive way of exploring Henry Cole’s original mission and intent by contrasting it with the ideas and beliefs of his much more famous contemporary, John Ruskin, who did not like Cole, was hostile to the rigid method of teaching drawing in the Government Schools of Design and its doctrinaire and utilitarian intent.   I had not realised that the first School of Design was established in 1837 in Somerset House in the Great Room as soon as the Royal Academy had vacated it, a very obvious symbol of the government’s determination to shift the teaching of drawing from the practice of art for its own sake to the benefit of industry and manufacture, a sterile methodology which William Simmonds experienced fifty years later just before the Schools of Design were turned into the Royal College of Art.

Standard

Beinecke Library

One of the many pleasures of going to New Haven yesterday was seeing the Beinecke Library again. I remember it being a revelation when I first saw it in 1976 because of the quality of materials used in a 1960s building – its translucent marble walls and the great illuminated interior book stacks, both treasure house and shrine.   It has not lost that sense of exterior mystery and interior revelation:-

image

image

image

image

image

Standard

Yale Center for British Art

One of the pleasures of going to the Yale Center for British Art at the moment is that a postgraduate student has labelled the relevant pictures in the top floor display with the date they were exhibited in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.   This may be a recondite interest, but not for me, because it demonstrates more clearly than I have ever previously seen, except perhaps in Art on the Line, how the existence of the Summer Exhibition transformed the way artists painted.

First off is Samuel Scott’s The Thames and the Tower of London, shown in 1771:-

image

Benjamin West’s The Artist and His Family was shown the following year:-

image

In the same year, James Barry exhibited his Education of Achilles (the reviewer in the Middlesex Journal was underwhelmed:-

image

Gainsborough was there as well with a big picture of Lord Pulteney, described as Portrait of a gentleman:-

image

In 1773, Benjamin West showed The Cave of Despair(the exhibitions were still in Pall Mall):-

image

Thomas Jones showed his View of the Campi Flegrei from the Camoldolese Convent near Naples in 1784:-

image

You get a very clear sense of how artists were exploring new forms of art – a more public subject matter, literary and sensationalist, trying to appeal to a wider and more democratic audience. It’s all there on the top floor.

Standard

Yale University Art Gallery

In all the time I’ve spent at Yale, I’ve never really had a good sense of its Art Gallery, which has existed since 1832, nearly as old as the National Gallery (it was described as a ‘Pinacotheca for Colonel Trumbull’), and is spread across two buildings, one which is Tuscan Romanesque, opened in 1928 and designed by Egerton Swartout (no, I hadn’t heard of him either) and the other, much more famous, designed by Louis Kahn early in his career, when he was teaching in Yale.

This is the Tuscan Romanesque part:-

image

image

And this is Louis Kahn in 1953:-

image

image

image

image

Standard

Kroon Hall

I walked past Michael and Patty Hopkins’s Kroon Hall, off Hillside Avenue which houses Yale’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and shows what the university’s great wealth can achieve in terms of new buildings, looking as if it belongs in the Cotswolds, not New Haven:-

image

image

Standard

Benjamin Franklin College

Last time I was in New Haven, there was much discussion of the architecture of the brand new colleges, Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin, designed by Robert Stern, Yale’s former Dean of Architecture, in homage to the work of James Gamble Rogers, the late Gothic Revivalist, whose work dominated Yale in the 1920s and 1930s. I am not usually persuaded by these exercises in collegiate faux gothic (eg Demetri Porphyrios at Magdalen College, Oxford), but this is done with confidence and brio as Gothic Survival, not Gothic Revival:-
image

image

image

image

Standard

Arts and Crafts Exhibition

A daytime flight to New York made it possible for me to get to grips with Jessica Douglas-Home’s fascinating biography of William Simmonds, the painter/sculptor/puppet-maker who was trained at the Royal Academy before the first world war and then worked as an assistant to Edwin Austin Abbey in Fairford and helped on the detailed design of the tank during the war.   I only half knew that in 1915, at the height of the First World War and despite opposition from the RA itself, the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society mounted a big exhibition at Burlington House which, in spite of late opening, a blackout, no catalogue and Zeppelin attacks, was a huge success, including a gallery devoted to the work of William Morris, Burne-Jones and Walter Crane and work by Gimson, Barnsley, Arnold Dolmetsch and Henry Wilson, the Society’s President.

Standard

Viand

Thank goodness for the New York diner.   There’s a classic on Madison Avenue, just down from Hermes.   I hate to think what the rent must be.   I could have ordered Corned Beef Hash, but didn’t:-

image

Standard

Gillian Ayres RA (2)

I may have posted the attached before, but had forgotten that the piece I wrote about Gillian for her last exhibition in Beijing is available online:-

https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/article/tribute-to-gillian-ayres-ra

Standard