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Specimen of the Week 380: Malignant melanoma of the eye

By Subhadra Das, on 10 May 2019

Today’s specimen of the week comes from UCL Pathology Collections. The Collections are displayed at the UCL Pathology Museum at the Royal Free Campus of the UCL Medical School in Hampstead. The museum includes a medical teaching collection of nearly 3,000 specimens of human remains illustrating the history of disease. To open up these specialist medical displays to a wider audience, we’ve developed a trail of 10 specimens of well known diseases. As the museum only opens to the public for special events, we’re sharing the trail as part of the Specimen of the Week series.

In honour of Skin Cancer Awareness Month this May, today’s specimen of the week is a malignant melanoma of the eye.

Melanoma is a cancer — an uncontrolled growth of cells — that usually develops in the pigment-containing cells of the skin. The main cause of melanoma is over-exposure to ultra-violet light rays, either directly from sunlight or artificial sources like tanning beds.

Melanoma most commonly occurs in people with lighter skin, particularly white people living in tropical or subtropical climates. The highest instances of melanoma are in Australia and New Zealand.

If detected early, a melanoma can be surgically removed before it spreads to other parts of the body. Sadly, that wasn’t the case here.

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Plural Animal Wednesdays

By Hannah L Cornish, on 24 April 2019

This blog is about a centuries-old quirk of the English language that has become a Grant Museum tradition.

If you follow us on twitter (@GrantMuseum) you may have come across Plural Animal Wednesday (#PAW), our weekly tweet about collective animal nouns. These are the words used to describe groups of animals, you are probably familiar with a herd of sheep, a flock of birds and a swarm of insects. There are, however, an astonishing number of obscure and wonderful plural animal names, enough to keep us in tweets for years and years.

#PAW was the brainchild of former Grant Museum Curatorial Assistant Emma Louise Nicholls. It all began on 16th November 2011 with a crash of rhinos (because rhinos are Emma’s favourite), and has continued every week for 7 years. All our plural animal discoveries are kept in a big spreadsheet and we are now approaching 400 entries. So why are there so many? Where do they come from? How long can we keep finding them to boost our social media content? Read on to find out.

A 'crash' of white rhinos Ceratotherium simum by Chris Eason CC-BY 2.0

A crash of white rhinos Ceratotherium simum by Chris Eason CC-BY 2.0

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Sculpture and photography: Edward Allington, Euridike 1986

By Nina Pearlman, on 24 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.

 

 

Petrie and Edwards: Gateway to the World of Egyptology

By Anna E Garnett, on 16 April 2019

In January 2019, we were delighted to receive a grant of £110,000 from the DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund for our project proposal: ‘Petrie and Edwards: Gateway to the World of Egyptology’. The aim of this project is to completely redesign the Petrie Museum’s entrance gallery to create a much more welcoming entrance to the Museum. The current entrance is somewhat cramped and cluttered, with much of the space occupied by an office. There is very little room for visitors to dwell and, more importantly, the layout is completely inaccessible to wheelchair users. The scope of this project is to remove the office infrastructure and use the expanded gallery space to make the entrance more accessible. While our access route for visitors will remain available via the DMS Watson Science Library next door to the Petrie Museum, this project will create a much clearer pathway through the Museum for visitors to reach the entrance gallery.

The Petrie Museum’s current entrance gallery

Here, visitors will find a clear introduction to the Petrie Museum’s world-class collection that will celebrate the life and work of the Museum’s founders, Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie and Amelia Blanford Edwards, as well as other lesser-known characters who are integral to the history of the Petrie Museum. These new displays will also promote critical engagement with the collections, and the history of the Museum, through the presentation of new research. Modern, conservation-standard cases will provide opportunities for expanded, fresh interpretation and allow us to develop new object displays.

These displays will integrate images and documents from the Petrie Museum’s internationally important archive and personal items that have never been displayed before, including Petrie’s excavation satchel and tools. The space will continue to incorporate our Audio Described guide to the Museum, made in collaboration with VocalEyes and available for free download, so the new displays will also be accessible for our visually impaired visitors.

Petrie’s satchel

With this project, visitors will have the opportunity to explore a new ‘gateway’ space where they will acquaint themselves with Petrie, Edwards, and other characters from the history of the Museum, before moving into the main galleries to see the stunning results of Petrie’s excavations. We will also enhance visitor orientation as part of this project, including new signage, which we hope will make finding the Museum much more straightforward.

Over the coming year we will present more information on the project in the Museum, which will include new temporary panels in the entrance stairwell to make visitors aware of the upcoming changes to the space. During the period when the major entrance refit will be happening later in 2019, we will be closing the Petrie Museum for a short time to allow this work to happen safely. We will post updates on this closure period in due course, to support visitors planning their visit around this time.

We hope that this project will significantly improve the overall visitor experience by offering an accessible introduction to the collection that explores historical and contemporary issues and facilitates engagement for all. So watch this space!

Anna Garnett is the Curator of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UCL

 

Preserving Whistler’s murals

By Anna E Cornelius, on 8 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.

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Specimen of the week: Trichobezoar

By Katie Davenport-Mackey, on 29 March 2019

Our blog this week is from Subhadra Das, Curator of Science Collections at UCL Culture.

Today’s specimen of the week comes from UCL Pathology Collections. The Collections are displayed at the UCL Pathology Museum at the Royal Free Campus of the UCL Medical School in Hampstead. The museum includes a medical teaching collection of nearly 3,000 specimens of human remains illustrating the history of disease. To open up these specialist medical displays to a wider audience, we’ve developed a trail of 10 specimens of well known diseases. As the museum only opens to the public for special events, we’re sharing the trail as part of the Specimen of the Week series.

This week’s specimen is a trichobezoar — a mass of undigested hair from the stomach and large intestine of a young girl. As with most of the specimens in UCL Pathology Collections, we know little about the person the specimen comes from beyond their sex and their age, but this rare condition provides an interesting window into the practice of medicine, and its cultural significance extends into the realms of magic. Read the rest of this entry »

Object of the week 378: Tess Jaray, Always Now

By Nina Pearlman, on 22 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).  Read the rest of this entry »

Specimen of the Week 377: The Lobster Claw

By Graham Isted, on 15 March 2019

Hello and welcome to the next instalment of Specimen of the Week. This week’s specimen is a mighty claw (LDUCZ-H671) from the lobster species Homarus gammarus, also known as the European or common lobster. Lobsters are great, whether you like them to be freely going about their lives at the bottom of the sea or perhaps prepared by a chef on a dish with some butter. Either way, I am fairly certain there are aspects of their lives you are unaware of and this blog will hopefully either make you hungry for more knowledge or perhaps just dinner.

Lobster claw LDUCZ-H671 Homarus gammarus

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Specimen of the Week 376: Carcinoma of the breast

By Subhadra Das, on 8 March 2019

Today’s specimen of the week comes from UCL Pathology Collections. The Collections are displayed at the UCL Pathology Museum at the Royal Free Campus of the UCL Medical School in Hampstead. The museum includes a medical teaching collection of nearly 3,000 specimens of human remains illustrating the history of disease. To open up these specialist medical displays to a wider audience, we’ve developed a trail of 10 specimens of well known diseases. As the museum only opens to the public for special events, we’re sharing the trail as part of the Specimen of the Week series.

All of the entries for the UCL Pathology Collections Top 10 Medical Trail have been written by Nazli Pulatmen, who worked with us for her MA Museum Studies placement in the summer of 2018.

Today’s specimen of the week is an advanced example of breast cancer. The specimen shows how the cancerous tissue has expanded to such an extent that it has completely misplaced and replaced the healthy tissue within the breast. The patient reported that the lump began at about the size of a pea and developed to this enormity over the course of 10 months.

Image of a cross-section of breast tissue showing malignant cancerous growth

Breast.25.1: Carcinoma of the breast. The cancerous tissue appears solid compared to the normal, fibrous breast tissue surrounding it.

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

By , on 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)

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