X Close

Museums & Collections Blog

Home

News and musings from the UCL Culture team

Menu

Archive for the 'UCL Art Museum' Category

Object of the week 382: Isaac Cruikshank, French Happiness, English Misery (1793)

NinaPearlman24 May 2019

This blog post is written by Lisa Bull, UCL Museum Studies 2019-20

contrasted images of life in France and Britain during the French Revolution

Isaac Crukshank, French Happiness, English Misery, 1793, etching, hand coloured

UCL Art Museum is home to an impressive collection of French and British satires from the eighteenth and nineteenth century. This collection is the result of a generous gift by Professor David Bindman made possible through the Cultural Gift Scheme and it forms the basis for a series of exhibitions on visual satires chronicling the French Revolution. The new addition to this series will be Witnessing Terror: French Revolutionary Prints 1792-4 due to open at UCL Art Museum in January 2020.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries satire was the key means to spread news. Satire was and still is an effective means of stimulating debate due to its accessibility. Their intention to have a clear message and the relatively quick method of production meant they could be enjoyed by many. They are often aimed at ridiculing an individual, policy or group in society but while retaining an important moral message. Satires are still a key form of media utilised in most news forums, but here in the twenty-first century social media has filled this gap and is essential for us to keep in touch with current affairs.

My role is to help catalogue the works by British satirists in this collection, such as William Hogarth, James Gillray, Isaac Cruikshank, Thomas Rowlandson and Charles Jameson Grant. (more…)

Sculpture and photography: Edward Allington, Euridike 1986

NinaPearlman24 April 2019

Edward Allington: In pursuit of sculpture at UCL Art Museum till 7th June 2019. Part of UCL’s Year of Sculpture.

‘The exhibition is a beautiful teaser for what one hopes might one day be a larger retrospective’. The full review in Apollo Magazine can be viewed here.
Edward Allington, Euridike (1986), photographed in UCL Art Museum, 2012,

Edward Allington, Euridike (1986), photographed in UCL Art Museum, 2012, by Heini Schneebeli © Heini Schneebeli and the artist’s estate

For Edward Allington photography was part and parcel of making, experiencing and understanding sculpture. He wasn’t alone in this. Sculptors worked with photography in the late 19th century and the bond between the two mediums dates back even further, to the birth of photography itself. Artists like Rodin and Brancusi experimented with the new medium of photography early on, documenting their practice, using it to communicate with their audiences and collectors, as well as exploring juxtapositions of works in the studio. Photographing classical sculpture was integral to the work of photography pioneers such as Henry Fox Talbot and Roger Fenton, whose work influenced the type of photography and lighting favoured by art historians and museum registrars.

Combining sculpture and photography for Allington would have also been inspired by the work of American artists in the second half of the 20th century such as the architectural interventions of Gordon Matta Clark – comprising of carved or sliced derelict suburban buildings, or the landscape interventions of Robert Smithson – undertaken in remote and uninhabited areas. Iconic site-specific interventions by these artists, into spaces and places that already exist,  such as Matta Clark’s Splitting (1974) and Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970) would have reached Allington’s attention by way of a documentary photograph. It was the photograph that travelled and reached audiences far and wide. It was also the photograph that became the object of consumption. Allington, recognising that sculpture ultimately spends much of its life in storage or inaccessible, and therefore its visibility is mediated through photography, was determined to see photography become an integral part of his sculptural practice.

When Allington conceived of his small bronzes in the mid-1980s he was preoccupied with 19th century European parameters of scale – namely something small enough but with sufficient presence to occupy a space in a vitrine or a study of a connoisseur. He found inspiration in the small surrealist sculptures of Alberto Giacometti of the 1930s, that drew on the surrealist principles of assemblage, and produced a set of component forms which he proceeded to assemble into sculptures. These component forms, drew on Giacometti’s aesthetic language which itself assimilated African and Oceanic influences. Giacometti’s series of Disagreeable Objects (1931) often included phallic sensibilities and spikes. Echoes of this language are evident in Allington’s Euridke, 1986, pictured here.

Of the small bronzes Allington had written that it had been his intention to allow the small bronzes to ‘find their place in the world with the minimum positioning needed to clarify my intentions’ [1]. By this we can assume he meant, simply placing them in aforementioned environments.  However, as he became interested in increasing the scale of these works and formalising their position, giving rise to his own iconic series Pictured Bronzes, Allington embarked on one of the most significant collaborations of his career – with Edward Woodman. ‘Working with a photographer, […Woodman], I contrived to remove an ornament or object from the setting, and replace it with the bronze, which was then photographed. The completed work comprises the bronze, displayed upon a white shelf in the gallery, with a white framed photograph of the work in its ideal setting. Thus pictured, the bronze is complete’ [2]. The exhibition features a film in which visitors can see Allington and Woodman’s collaborative working method [3]

A recurring theme for Allington was sculpture’s capacity to subvert its surroundings and for sculpture’s capacity to change as a result of its placing. He was interested in casting sculpture in a role that animated its environment and everything in it.  He maintained that everywhere there is a space in which sculptures cohabit and interact with other things and that most sculptures are made with ideal settings in mind yet are more likely to exist in storage, a home, an institution or a photograph. The reference to the photograph was a nod at once to the conceptual work of the 1970s mentioned above, but also to the classical sculpture of ancient Greece, known to us only through descriptions in Greek texts and the Roman copies inspired by these descriptions. The copies were then subsequently photographed and enjoyed wide circulation by the European elite classes who embarked on Grand Tours to sites of cultural significance from the mid-17th century until the Napoleonic wars of the end of the 18th century.

Edward Allington, Euridike (1986), bronze, exhibition installation UCL Art Museum 2019

Edward Allington, Euridike (1986), bronze, exhibition installation UCL Art Museum, Edward Allington: In pursuit of sculpture, 2019. Photograph: Mary Hinkley

UCL Art Museum is not a white cube. Far from it. Its form is that of a traditional print room, with cabinets filled with prints and drawings that date back to the 15th century and extend all the way to the 21st. Scattered around are examples of sculptures, various copies used historically at the Slade School of Fine art to aid instruction and training of young artists as well as Victorian busts. The museum walls are yellow, Farrow & Ball Print Room Yellow, to be precise, and these are populated with plaster models by the acclaimed British neo-classicist sculptor John Flaxman, revered by Allington. These walls are not a fit for Pictured Bronzes, works that are in dialogue with a ‘white cube’ aesthetic.

Allington was interested in Flaxman for many reasons. A son of the industrial revolution, Flaxman was a pioneer in the art of reproduction techniques using novel methods such as plaster. So significant was the plaster revolution that when his Italian contemporary and friend the renowned Anthony Canova himself turned to plaster, it is said to have marked the end of the reign of terracotta in Italian sculpture.

Reproduction techniques preoccupied Allington. They were central in his own meditations on authenticity, origins and truth that recur in his own writings [4]. A frequent visitor to the museum and occasional collaborator, Allington undertook another site-specific exploration with the small bronzes. Together with a photographer, this time with Heini Schneebeli, he placed the small bronzes in UCL’s museums, including amidst skeletal reproductions in UCLs Grant Museum of Zoology, and amidst various artefacts in the UCL Petrie museum of Egyptian Archaeology. The image featured here reflects his purposeful placing of Euridke. In this work – the photograph that was later exhibited with the bronze sculpture, Allington was creating a conversation about sculpture and the art of reproduction and that which is lost. To the right of Euridike is a terracotta bust of George Grote, one of the key founders of UCL and a renowned Greek scholar. Grote also donated a significant collection that followed the principles of 17th century collecting where copies of works of significance carried value as collectables in their own right. These works were then used by art students at the Slade for the purpose of copying, itself instrumental to the process of learning. In terracotta sculpture the clay model is fired up and becomes the final work. When clay is used as the basis for a plaster cast the clay model is destroyed while the cast itself allows for endless reproductions.  Above and behind Euridike are examples of Flaxman’s plaster models, themselves studies that would later be scaled up and translated into marble. To the left is a sculpture of Henry Crabb Robinson, another founder of UCL, friend of Flaxman and many of his contemporaries, who was instrumental in bringing Flaxman’s studio work to UCL after the artist’s death. His efforts resulted in thirty-nine of Flaxman’s models being set into the walls under UCL’s dome with the full scale model of St Michael in the centre. The sculpture of Crabb Robinson is painted plaster, the paint imitating bronze. Euridike is also painted, in a green that echoes the naturally occurring patina that forms on the surface of bronze as a result of aging and exposure to various environmental changes.

Euridike is a cast, its placing casts its surroundings into a story, a story about casting and other reproduction techniques, institutional history, art education. The resulting work ultimately challenges our ideas and beliefs about origins.

For the exhibition Edward Allington: In pursuit of sculpture we chose place Euridike in a similar positioning but as we were not reproducing Allington and Schneebeli’s casting, merely referencing it, we chose a different painted plaster sculpture from our collection, a copy of Hermes of Olympia. We think Allington would have approved seeing as the origins and attribution of the original sculpture are widely disputed and copies abound. The photograph is not a work of art but a documentation of our exhibition installation, photographed by Mary Hinkley, and is purposely distinct in format from Allington and Schneebeli’s work.

 

Edward Allington: In pursuit of sculpture is part of UCL’s Year of Sculpture and continues till the 7th June, Tues-Fri 1-5pm. It is reviewed in Apollo Magazine here.

[1] Edward Allington Pictured Bronzes, with essays by Shin Ichi Nakasawa and James Roberts, Kohji Ogura Gallery Nagoya Japan in co-operation with the Lisson Gallery London, 1991, appendix p.V.

[2] Pictured Bronzes, appendix p.V.

[3] Edward Allington: A Sculptor at Work, edited and directed by Peter Colman for the Henry Moore Centre for Study of Sculpture by Leeds University Television in 1993.

[4] See for example, Edward Allington, ‘Venus a Go Go, To Go’ in Sculpture and its Reproductions, eds. Anthony Hughes and Erich Ranfft, London: Reaktion Books, 1997, pp.152-167.

 

 

Preserving Whistler’s murals

Anna ECornelius8 April 2019

This blog is from Graeme McArthur, Conservator at UCL Culture.

UCL’s Whistler Room, located next to the Octagon Gallery, is so named because it contains murals painted by the artist Rex Whistler, who studied at the Slade School of Fine Art and whose career was sadly cut short by the Second World War. These were originally completed in 1935 for a private residence on Gower Street; however by 1959 the house was due to be demolished. The murals were saved by literally cutting them out of the wall and removing them to their current location. They are part of  the UCL Art Museum collections and therefore come under the care of UCL Culture.

Two people crouch below a mural embedded in the wall

Removing a mural in the Whistler Room

The murals are painted in oil on top of house paint, supported by around 2cm of the original wall plaster with an auxiliary support of wood battens and plaster of Paris. Unfortunately the change in environment and support has caused severe stability issues. Ongoing conservation has been required since 1960 as the house paint layer keeps cracking and flaking away from the plaster beneath. Glazing was added in 1963 to try and alleviate these issues, but although it protects the surface from physical damage it has not improved the environment.

(more…)

Object of the week 378: Tess Jaray, Always Now

NinaPearlman22 March 2019

Today’s entry has been written by Viktoria Espelund. Viktoria gained her MA in History of Art From UCL and has worked with the UCL Art Museum team throughout her studies as a volunteer and later in a professional capacity as well.  We are thrilled to see her knowledge and expertise gain a wider audience through her recent contribution as a writer to a current exhibition at the Barber Institute of Fine Art in Birmingham. Her experienced is shared in this post.

Always Now (LDUCS 7876) is a print by the British painter and printmaker Tess Jaray RA (b. 1937, Austria).  This print is one of nine works that are held of Tess Jaray in UCL Art Museum’s collections and is incredibly special to me, being the first ever work I saw by the artist now showing new work at the Barber Institute in Birmingham. The aquatint derives from a painting completed in 1982. Whereas the painting is painted with a soft colour palette of lilacs and blues against a cream-coloured background, the print has been executed in bright turquoise on paper.

A turquoise geometric print by Tess Jaray 1982 from UCL Art Museum's collections number 7876

Tess Jaray, Always Now, 1982, aquatint, UCL Art Museum LDUCS 7876

Tess Jaray has been an influential figure in the British art world since the 1960s. As both a Senior Royal Academician and an Honorary Fellow of the RIBA, her career spans more than fifty years, throughout which time she has produced a vast body of work. Jaray arrived with her family to the UK as an infant in 1938 as part of the flight of Jewish refugees from the Nazis. Aged sixteen she embarked on her journey as an artist and enrolled first at Saint Martin’s School of Art in London later at the Slade School of Fine Art (1957-1960), studying under the likes of William Coldstream, Bartos Dos Santos and Ernst Gombrich. Jaray has further been a great influence on younger British artists through her writing and the thirty years spent teaching at the Slade (1968-1999).  (more…)

Object of the Week 375: Tomás Harris, Self-Portrait, c.1951

22 February 2019

Today’s entry has been written by Emeline Kaddour, as part of her History of Art Material Studies (HAMS) placement at UCL Art Museum. During her placement Kaddour catalogued our Tomás Harris holdings in preparation for a pop-up exhibition and lecture by Inigo Jones, freelance writer, on ‘Who was Tomás Harris?’ The event was well-attended, and included Neil MacGregor, founding director of the Humboldt Forum in Berlin and former director of the National Gallery and British Museum.

Today’s object of the week is a self-portrait by the artist, art dealer, collector, writer and double-spy Tomás Harris (1908-1964). It is owned by the UCL Art Museum as part of a larger collection of Harris’ works which include an early drawing, 15 prints (8 of them were recently accessioned), 26 printing plates and an oil painting. The museum also holds Goya prints that were formerly part of Harris’ own print collection.

Tomás Harris, Self-Portrait, c.1951 (LDUCS-3008)

(more…)

Object of the Week 364: Cast of rickets

NinaPearlman25 October 2018

Dr Nina Pearlman is Head of UCL Art Collections and curator of  Disrupters and Innovators: Journeys in gender equality at UCL (UCL Octagon Gallery till February 2019)

My object of the week is a plaster cast of a child’s leg deformed by the disease rickets (UCL Pathology Collection P59b), included in the Disrupters and Innovators exhibition in the display case that features UCL women scientists. Amongst these scientists is Dame Harriette Chick (1875-1977) who is credited with finding the cause and cure for rickets. Her many contributions to preventative medicine were recognised with both a CBE and a DBE.

This object gives me pause to ask, how were women scientists perceived in the early twentieth century? What anti-feminist sentiments did they have to contend with and how did they go on to make groundbreaking and lasting discoveries despite the persistence of the anti-feminist agenda, at the time labelled anti-suffragist?

(more…)

Object of the Week 361: Alice Joyce Smith, Drawing of Drapery, First Prize (Equal), 1918

5 October 2018

Alice Joyce Smith, A Study of Drapery, 1981 (LDUCS-6061) © the copyright holder

It’s not difficult to imagine what Alice Joyce Smith (b.1896) felt when she learned she had won the very first Drapery Drawing Prize awarded by the Slade School of Fine Art back in 1918. How she handled sharing it as First Prize (Equal) with fellow student artist Dorothy Josephine Coke (b.1897) is another matter. (more…)

UCL wins international awards for innovative work in museums

Anna ECornelius18 May 2018

Colour photo of six people standing in a row in front of a glittery wall. The woman in the middle is holding a pink award.

UCL Museums and Collections have won two Museums + Heritage Awards at a glittering ceremony in central London. Regarded as the Oscars of the museums and heritage industry, the awards recognise UCL’s collaborative work to improve the wellbeing of museum visitors and rebuild a giant-size whale skeleton.

(more…)

Focus on Slade Women Artists 2017 – 2018

MartineRouleau19 June 2017

 

Paula Rego, Under Milkwood

Paula Rego, Under Milkwood, 1954, Oil on canvas,
UCL Art Museum 5581. © The Artist.
First Prize Equal for Summer
Composition, 1954. All UCL Art
Museum’s paintings can be viewed online at Art UK

Spotlight on the Slade Collections is a research project supported by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, aimed at increasing access to UCL Art Museum’s Slade Collections through research, cataloguing, digitisation, collaboration and public engagement. Emerging out of this project for 2017 – 2018, UCL Art Museum will focus its research and events programming on a key component of the collection: Slade Women Artists.

Approximately 45% of works in UCL Art Museum’s collection are by women artists. Typically, permanent collections in Europe and the US contain between 3-5% of works by women. For their recent exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, art activists the Guerrilla Girls sent questionnaires to 383 European museums and collections to ascertain the gender and nationality balance within their collections. Of the 101 institutions that responded, only 2 collections contained 40% or more works by women.

(more…)

The trace is the appearance of nearness

MartineRouleau30 May 2017

Blog post written by Liz Rideal, Leverhume artist in residence at UCL Art Museum and Reader in Fine Art at the Slade School of Fine Art

Installation view of Terme Di Diocletian by Liz Rideal

Installation view of Terme di Diocleziano by Mike Dye

The trace is the appearance of nearness, however far removed the thing that left it behind may be. The aura is the appearance of a distance, however close the thing that calls it forth. In the trace, we gain possession of the thing; in the aura, it takes possession of us.

Walter Benjamin

All of the UCL Museums exist in compact spaces, the Art Museum is no exception with John Flaxman‘s (1755-1826) sculptural bequests crowding the walls, leaving small gaps for temporary exhibitions. The advantage here is that the plethora adds to the excitement around what is available to see, and the Legacy exhibition of Richard Cooper Jnr (1740-1822) makes an unusual eighteenth century complement to the permanent display. Cooper Jnr’s prints are exhibited so that one can compare, contrast and appreciate their repetition of landscape format and small scale. We can recognise the tropes made familiar by his precedents, Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), Claude Lorraine (1604/5-1682) and lesser known but more famous in his day, Herman van Swanevelt (c.1603-1655) with their reiterated Italianate views made popular by print and available in albums. It emerged that the museum curatorial assistant George Richards’s Masters was on The Dutch golden age. A landscape print of Richard Cooper Jnr’s ‘after Swanevelt’ was in the display, consequently I was able to expand his knowledge of this artist through sharing art historian Sue Russell‘s research into Swanevelt, thus making further connections – another unimagined benefit of my Leverhulme research grant.

(more…)