A graduate of the Royal College of Art London, Churcher also holds a Master of Arts from the Courtauld Institute of Art. For as long as her now failin...moreA graduate of the Royal College of Art London, Churcher also holds a Master of Arts from the Courtauld Institute of Art. For as long as her now failing eyesight held out, she would sketch artworks in the galleries that she visited, and jotted down notes about the paintings, especially if she was hoping to persuade the gallery to lend the artwork for exhibition in Australia. Selections from these notebooks have now been assembled into books that every art-lover will want to have. The first Notebooks was published in 2011, and its successor Australian Notebooks has just been released.
You can see examples of Churcher’s sketches and notes on the front cover of the book, and the book is profusely illustrated with full colour reproductions of the paintings, accompanied by her sketches. But be warned, immersing yourself in this wonderful book will give you itchy feet and make you long to be in the galleries represented so that you can see for yourself the paintings so lovingly described.
Russell Drysdale (1912-1981) is one of my all time favourite Australian artists and I had already made a note of the new exhibition that opened last w...moreRussell Drysdale (1912-1981) is one of my all time favourite Australian artists and I had already made a note of the new exhibition that opened last weekend at the Tarrawarra Museum of Art. Russell Drysdale, Defining the Modern Australian Landscape is published to accompany the exhibition, which runs from 19 October 2013 to 9 February 2014.
The exhibition takes a fresh look at Drysdale’s art in three media: painting, drawing and photography. Our home library already boasts a copy of Jennie Boddington’s superb exploration of his photographic work in Drysdale – Photographer, which I bought when there was an exhibition at the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) back in 1987. I’m looking forward to seeing some of these magnificent photos again, as well as many paintings and drawings that I have never seen before because they are usually tucked away in private collections. Yes, the iconic work The Cricketers will be on show for the first time since late last century, so this is an exhibition not to be missed.
The book features a foreword by Drysdale’s daughter Lynne Clarke, offering a rare insight into what it’s like to grow up with a father who ‘didn’t leave the house hatted and suited in the morning but was there in old clothes ready to paint’. Then there is an introduction by Victoria Lynn, Director of the Tarrawarra Museum of Art, and an essay by leading art critic Christopher Heathcote, who curated the exhibition. To me, with no academic or even school background in art appreciation, this is the value of a book like this because it explains Drysdale’s place in art history in an accessible way. And the full colour reproductions of the artworks are glorious.
The Art of ScienceThere is so much to love about the web these days, especially the community of friends we make and the news we share about interesti...moreThe Art of ScienceThere is so much to love about the web these days, especially the community of friends we make and the news we share about interesting things. But one of the things I love most of all is the virtual exhibition, that enables us to view artworks and historical artefacts of all sorts online, even when the exhibition is overseas or faraway interstate.
One such exhibition is Museum Victoria’s travelling exhibition, The Art of Science. When we miss the exhibition, we can still see some of the exhibits digitally. Visit their brilliant page showing butterfly eggs - eggs so small that no biologist could have viewed them in such detail without the wonders of digital technology, and you can click on these beautiful eggs In their fascinating shapes - they morph into the butterfly.
The website includes samples of the artworks in these categories:
Discovering new worlds Exploring Australia The Golden Age of Scientific Illustration Scientific Art in Victoria Science and Art in a New Nation Scientific Illustration in the Contemporary Museum Butterflies in Victoria, and Teacher notes But of course the website doesn’t have everything. Which is where the book comes into its own. It is a big beautiful book with 204 pages of stunning full colour illustrations, mostly full size. The pictures are so exquisite, and the production values of this book are so good, it is like having an art gallery in your own home.
I had two reasons for seeking out this beautiful book from the library: I love books about art and I love the delicacy of botanical illustrations, but...moreI had two reasons for seeking out this beautiful book from the library: I love books about art and I love the delicacy of botanical illustrations, but I’m also jazzing up a unit of work called ‘Fame!’ for my year 5 & 6 students and I’m on the lookout for biographical subjects for them to research. I want them to think about why some people are famous even though they haven’t done anything particularly worthwhile, and I want them to discover people who merit more fame than they have. In particular, I’m keen for them to encounter some of the remarkable, but often overlooked women of Australian history…
Collecting Ladies, Ferdinand Von Mueller and Women Botanical Artists is perfect for my purposes. First, I get to browse through and look at the beautiful botanical illustrations – and fantasise about owning some of them to adorn the walls of my house. (As if! Most of them are in the NLA Pictures Collection, and the ones that aren’t, are in the Mitchell Library; the Australian Rare Books Collection; the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts in Tassie; the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne; other galleries and museums around Australia; and the occasional lucky private collector.)
But in addition to enjoying the lovely paintings in Collecting Ladies, I also get to read about the fascinating Von Mueller, (1825-1896) who managed to make me feel both compassion for him – and rage
What I liked best about Plein Airs and Graces: The Life and Times of George Collingridge by Adrian Mitchell, is the way that the book explains in Chap...moreWhat I liked best about Plein Airs and Graces: The Life and Times of George Collingridge by Adrian Mitchell, is the way that the book explains in Chapter 7 the essential differences between the nationalist painters of the Heidelberg School, and their stylistic predecessors. Everybody knows about Arthur Streeton, Frederick McCubbin, Jane Sutherland and Tom Roberts, but if you don’t have a background in art history and appreciation, it’s not easy to articulate what it is that made their work so distinctive. In this very readable biography, Mitchell, author of Dampier’s Monkey: the South Seas Voyages of William Dampier, (reviewed on this blog) tells the story of this fascinating artist who emigrated to Australia at a pivotal time in the development of our art.
Collingridge never liked impressionism, and the beautiful paintings featured in the biography show that, but as a contemporary critic wrote:
George Collingridge … painted marvellously well … he was the first, and it is possible the only artist still to perceive and to pourtray (sic) that marvellous, delicate, lace-like fringe which the eucalyptus clothed mountain ridge makes across the dying light of the sky, when all below is black and all above grey, yet just on the world’s rim lurks a colour and a light, where clear eyes may see, and quick imagination mirror many things. (p. 89)
Because of copyright, I can’t show you any of the paintings reproduced in the book in full colour (on high quality paper), and most of them are from private collections, so buying the book is the only way to see them. An online search for Collingridge at the National Gallery of Victoria and at the Galleries of NSW and South Australia came up with nothing, which is really disappointing especially since Mitchell mentions that the NGV has got one. Links online are scanty and what I found was poor image quality: there is this one of a painting of Wiseman’s Ferry at Art Record, and there are three plastered with copyright notices at the online Collingridge Museum – but more happily the Art Gallery of NSW has a striking portrait of Collingridge by J.S. Watkins.
I found myself turning to the paintings again and again, so I would say that this biography belongs in any art lovers collection. Collingridge wasn’t interested in ‘landscape that opened out in front of the viewer and assailed the eye and the mind with its formidable stillness and emptiness’; he liked a subdued palette of greens, browns and greys and he was very skilful at blending all the different greens of the Australian bush. He liked shadows and filtered light and intimations of weather, and – reflecting his training under Corot in France, he liked outlooks across streams and valleys. Comfortable in his adopted home – never regarding it as melancholic or alien or moody, he liked depicting signs of settlement too – little cottages, pathways, or a boat somewhere… My favourite is a beautiful watercolour called ‘Hillside’ (1893) which features his wife, Lucy.
But that’s not all there is to this biography, because that’s not all there was to Collingridge. I took 12 A4 pages of notes about this book in my reading journal, tracing the achievements of this remarkable man. A Catholic Englishman, educated in Paris at the Académie des Beaux-Arts, Paris, where he studied architecture, wood-engraving and painting and became a pupil of Corot, Collingridge was also remarkable for his own writing and research.
Of course I gave it five stars. It's about dogs and how they shaped Australian art, and I'm soppy about dogs. I've scheduled my review at http://anzli...moreOf course I gave it five stars. It's about dogs and how they shaped Australian art, and I'm soppy about dogs. I've scheduled my review at http://anzlitlovers.com/ for August 19th 2012, but will eventually come back here and cross post it. (less)
Like most art books, Icons, Masterpieces of Russian Art is big and beautiful. It is 26 x 34cm tall, with 162 glossy paper pages in colour, and just a...moreLike most art books, Icons, Masterpieces of Russian Art is big and beautiful. It is 26 x 34cm tall, with 162 glossy paper pages in colour, and just a few in B&W. The icons are all from the Moscow State Integrated Museum-Reserve at Kolomenskoye and there’s a comprehensive introduction which explains the history of Kolomenskoye and how it comes to host its splendid collection. Most of the icons came from churches and monasteries that were destroyed all over Russia in the 1920s and 30s during the period of ‘militant atheism’ – which must have been heart-breaking for believers at that time, but has resulted in a unique collection all in one place. Some of the icons also arrived for safe keeping during WW2, another example of the extraordinary efforts people make to protect works of art during war. I think it shows the value that people place on art as an expression of their culture at a time when it is under threat.
Having read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which depicted the life of a political prisoner in a WW2 work camp, I was interested to see that prisoners ‘who included many members of the clergy and intelligentsia’ undertook some of the preservation work on these icons in their previous home, the Solovetsky Special Purpose Camp, formerly the Solovetsky Monastery. It is good to know that at least some of the victims of Soviet repression may have taken some small comfort from having satisfying and worthwhile work while they were in prison.
The Longing is the debut novel of Candice Bruce, a former art historian and academic, and it appealed to me straight away because like the novels of S...moreThe Longing is the debut novel of Candice Bruce, a former art historian and academic, and it appealed to me straight away because like the novels of Susan Vreeland and Tracy Chevalier, The Longing is an historical novel about art and artists – except this one is Australian. There are not many of those! The only other one that springs to mind is Patrick White’s brutal portrayal of the artist Hurtle Duffield in The Vivisector, but The Longing is not like that at all.
Yet in its own way it is as brave as White’s writing, for Bruce has succumbed to her muse and crossed into controversial territory with this novel. It tells the story of a contemporary art historian called Cornelia Bremer who is plunged suddenly into the onerous task of curating her first exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria.* While sourcing paintings of the American Romanticist and collector of Aboriginal artefacts Sanford P. Hart in rural Victoria, she comes across the story of two women from the 1850s, Ellie MacRorie from Scotland, and her Aboriginal servant, Leerpeen Weelan…
So there are three voices in this novel, Cornelia’s, Ellie’s and Leerpeen’s, and it is this last that ventures into the vexed issue of non-Indigenous authors appropriating the voice of an Indigenous person. Rohan Wilson also trod into this territory with his remarkable novel, The Roving Party so that he could tell the story of a massacre in Tasmania. He not only handled it respectfully, he did it so well that he brought the story to public notice in a way that transcended the History Wars. (See my review) . But there are those who feel that such writing is wrong, and that after centuries of suppression, Indigenous people should speak for themselves and no one else has the right to. I am undecided about this, but there are those who say that it is not my place as a non-Indigenous person to decide. It’s a thorny issue indeed.
Susan Vreeland is an American author of historical fiction who specialises in vivid novelisations of art and artists, and like Girl in Hyacinth Blue,...moreSusan Vreeland is an American author of historical fiction who specialises in vivid novelisations of art and artists, and like Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Luncheon of the Boating Party is based around a particular painting. Ever since I read The Horse’s Mouth by Joyce Cary I’ve looked out for books that explore the mind of the artist, and I had also enjoyed Vreeland’s Passion of Artemesia - about the first woman admitted to the Accademia dell’ Arte in Florence – and The Forest Lover - about the ground-breaking Canadian artist Emily Carr. So when I saw this one at the library, I snapped it up.
Luncheon of the Boating Party, by Pierre- Auguste Renoir was one of his major paintings, completed in 1880-1881. He painted it from life, depicting a group of his friends on the balcony at the Maison Fournaise on the River Seine in Chatou, a suburb of Paris. He wanted to show Paris enjoying the good life, in recovery from the horrors of the Franco-Prussian war, and he wanted to capture the conviviality of everyday people relaxing in an everyday situation (rather than the conservative themes of the pre-Impressionist era).
Most of the stuff that lands in my pigeonhole at work is either administrivia or wasteful paper catalogues for the library, but every now and again th...moreMost of the stuff that lands in my pigeonhole at work is either administrivia or wasteful paper catalogues for the library, but every now and again there’s a bit of treasure.
So it is with Meerreeng-an: Here is My Country, The Story of Aboriginal Victoria Told Through Art. It is stunningly gorgeous and every school in Victoria has been lucky enough to receive one.
The Story Cycle is arranged in nine themes arranged to explain central cultural concepts. There are stories and artworks showcasing •Koorie Creation myths; •the transmission of culture and law; •ceremonies, music and dance; •cloaks, clothing and jewellery, and •land management, foods, fishing, hunting, weapons and tools
Please visit my blog at http://wp.me/phTIP-3E8 to see some of these gorgeous artworks - I can't upload them because of copyright but there are links to Culture Victoria where you can see some of them and read some of the stories.(less)
I came across The Judgement of Paris via GoodReads where the Art Lovers group were reading it, and it’s a most interesting book. It’s the story of the...moreI came across The Judgement of Paris via GoodReads where the Art Lovers group were reading it, and it’s a most interesting book. It’s the story of the birth of the Impressionist movement and the initial hostile reception by conservative forces in Paris, but the book also traverses the tumultuous period of the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune so it’s interesting as a work of general history too.
To represent the opposing forces, King focuses on Ernest Meissonier (1815-1891) and Edouard Manet (1832-1883. At a time when the old Paris Salons attracted literally millions of visitors from all walks of life, Meissonier was immensely popular and fabulously wealthy because his works sold for a small fortune. He had a huge estate (which he endlessly renovated) and he was able to spend years trying to perfect his paintings because he didn’t have to worry about the wolf at his door. Manet wasn’t starving in a garret, but it was just as well he had an inheritance and a supportive mother because he could not generate an income from his art and didn’t become popular until after his death. Posterity, however, has reversed these positions…
A wonderful, wonderful book that introduces all the major art movements of the 20th century in a way that can be understood even by someone who knows...moreA wonderful, wonderful book that introduces all the major art movements of the 20th century in a way that can be understood even by someone who knows very little about art. Highly recommended, and so is the TV series based on the book, if it's still available...(less)
I loved this book: it was a window into the mind of a modern artist and (along with The Shock of the New it changed the way I looked at and understood...moreI loved this book: it was a window into the mind of a modern artist and (along with The Shock of the New it changed the way I looked at and understood modern art forever. It's too long since I read it to write a proper review, I should read it again!(less)
Brooks is one of Australia’s most successful and best-loved illustrators of children’s picture books. His collaborations with great writers like Jenny...moreBrooks is one of Australia’s most successful and best-loved illustrators of children’s picture books. His collaborations with great writers like Jenny Wagner and Margaret Wild have been sold all over the world to great acclaim and have contributed to Australia’s pre-eminent place in the world of children’s picture books. This memoir begins with the story of his childhood, and how he found his vocation, and then takes us through the story of how some of his books emerged from his imagination to the page. Now that I know whose face the bunyip is modelled on, I shall never be able to keep a straight face when I read The Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek to the children at school. (No, I’m not telling, you have to make this delicious discovery for yourself when you read the book!) To see a sensational snippet from this book, please visit http://anzlitlovers.wordpress.com/201...(less)
An interesting biography of the architects who won the competition to design our national capital Canberra - and got no thanks for it. To see my review...moreAn interesting biography of the architects who won the competition to design our national capital Canberra - and got no thanks for it. To see my review please visit http://anzlitlovers.wordpress.com/201...(less)
The experts on Amazon would quibble with me tagging this as a biography because they say Robb too too many liberties with the facts. I wouldn't know;...moreThe experts on Amazon would quibble with me tagging this as a biography because they say Robb too too many liberties with the facts. I wouldn't know; it was just a jolly good read which enhanced my enjoyment of Carravagio's paintings.(less)