Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Picasa Web Albums - Jackie - house of correction

Picasa Web Albums - Jackie - house of correction

Our Christmas treat! Yes, really. It was a wonderful, peaceful and not at all daunting place, despite the shackles and handcuffs in the hall. Missed the family, of course, but loved the quiet, snowcovered surroundings.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Foxy Slightly Foxed

Having borrowed my dear friend Maeve's copies for years, I decided it was time to subscribe myself to this splendid quarterly book. If you've not heard of it you can go to their website through the image. It is a joy for readers, reminding or informing about books that are often out of print (thank heavens for Abebooks and Amazon - pace bookshops - where you can usually find used copies).

I've just received the Winter edition, which provided a rapid nostalgia trip of childhood memories, with a piece on the books of Alison Uttley. (I notice that Awesome books have many of them for sale) The images such as this take me to my grandparents' house where I grew up and I can remember vividly the impression they made at the time. This must be accurate, because my boys were not interested. I think I must get some for myself, but am hesitating over the one where Little Grey Rabbit Got Her Tail Back, which I found frightening.

Why did these books disappear? What happened to my lovely copies? Too late now - but I implore today's generation to hang on to their children's books if they can, so they can be passed down. There are so many I would love to have now, although I do have the boys' set of Beatrix Potter, and Asterix and Tintin are now either in Australia or Sussex!

I am no technophobe - rather the reverse - but I do wish that reading proper books might be encouraged as there is really nothing like it, especially for young children. Being read to is lovely, but I remember that moment when I wanted to read at bedtime myself, and often long after the lights were out, under the sheets with a torch.

You're never alone with a book.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Going Modern - Being British

(The title of this piece refers to a renowned article by Paul Nash debating two types of British identity - the heritage of the past and progressive present.)

We are making a New World 1918
Paul Nash, Imperial War Museum

Time for an abrupt change of focus; first assignment done and dusted, now on to the next - What impact did the Firtst World War have upon visual culture? A meaty topic, to be approached in my case via a study of the work of Paul Nash, and his idealogical "Englishness", his unpopulated landscapes, and post-war his move to modernism and Surrealism. This painting was completed after the war, from sketches made at the time, and the huge irony of the title is obvious. But the sun keeps rising. Next week we go to the Imperial War Museum - great opportunity to really absorb this and other work of Nash. And taking a long hard look at the Formalism of Clive Bell.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In passing - Omega

Omega Workshops Pamela (1913), printed linen. Made in France. Picture courtesy Manchester City Art Gallery

Exhibition: Beyond Bloomsbury: Designs of the Omega Workshops 1913-1919, The Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, London, June 18 – September 20 2009.

Today, at the hurried end of our lecture on Cubisn and the Decorative: from Orphism to the Maison Cubiste, we touched on the Omega Workshop and this reminded me just how fond I am of the Charleston decorative style, and the wonder of the farmhouse at Firle.

The drive towards the farmhouse, passing ditches which no doubt housed the renowned Cezanne in the hedge, is a sublime experience. Having been fortunate enough to work with the administration on a voluntary basis, I realise that all is not peace and calm, and that they lead a precarious existence financially. But nonetheless, it is a magical place to visit and should be preserved because of its unique decorative qualities alone, not to mention its historic significance as the meeting place of the Bloomsbury Group.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Dove Grey Reader - a like minded reader

This picture has nothing to do with dear Dove Grey Reader, but was taken from our bedroom window (before the cottage was rethatched) while recuperating, reading and watching wonderful skyscapes with a view to painting them later (as if...).

More to the point, I do highly recommend Dove Grey Reader's wonderful blog. She has become quite a phenomenon, and I heard her in discussion at the Oxford Literary Festival last year, defending literary blogs in the august company of John Carey (relatively pro) and John Mullan (very anti). I think the men missed the point somewhat. Literary blogs do not take the place of their erudite literary criticism, but they do give an insight into a fellow-booklover's take on a wide variety of books. Most are very much to my taste.

She is a delightfully self-effacing lady, who has become sufficiently influential that publishers rush to send her reading copies. Also, I like to think of her in a bucolic landscape (do look at her wonderful wood collected for the winter and ruminations on wood fires). As we are about to get a woodburning stove, this is particularly appropriate. This is the strength of the Web - that someone in deepest Devon can be read worldwide (even Outer Mongolia apparently), with her gentle, perceptive musings on life and books.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Viennese insights

Josef Hoffmann (Austrian, 1870-1956) for Wiener Werkstätte, Square Brooch, silver lattice, repoussé gold, and opal, c. 1905
Josef Hoffman was leading member of the Wiener Werkstatte founded in 1903 and was an architect and designer, following the Gersamtkuntswerke principles of a "total work of art". Not only did he design the building, but every detail including cutlery. His jewelry mostly follows the grid system, with these beautiful square brooches 5 x 5 cms.
This study is leading me into some wonderful art books (I am up to limit of Bodleian stack requests) but for sheer beauty of the images (including the drawings for designs) my favourite is the Winer Werstatte Jewelry exhibition catalogue from the Neue Galerie, Museum for German and Austrian Art in New York in 2008, which I felt compelled to buy as even the Bod did not have it.
Now I must learn some German and go to Vienna, truly one of the foremost birthplaces of Modernism.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Art for art's sake

As one of the country's students, it is that time of year again, and despite my sub-standard health at present I am determined to get to my lecture today - Vienna: Modern Interiority. Knowing our dear course director as I do, "interiority" being her favourite term, this will probably mean interiority of the mind, as well as buildings. Fascinating fin de siecle period, with the Secession and the development of psychoanalysis, and one that I am finding more and more absorbing.

All of which is an excuse for easing off on any book that is not associated with the weekly topics. We are supposed to spend at least 6 to 8 hours a week in the Oxford libraries, which once I am fit I hope to do. This course is the Advance Diploma in History of Art, at Oxford University's Continuing Education Department. It lasts two years and it at the level of 3rd year undergraduate work. Having completed the 2nd year course, I know what to expect. Reading and researching is one of the keys, but even more importantly looking at art/buildings/objects/design of the 20th century.

Saturday should be our first study day which is based around Cubism, primitive art (visiting the Pitt Rivers) with Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907 (image copyright MoMA, New York) as a case study. Arguably this was the first cubist painting, and the Pitt Rivers visit is to look at the tribal artefacts which may have influenced Picasso.

Next week we go on to Fauvist Arcadia.... and so on ... I love it.

So, back to The Problems of Philosophy and the Worringer essay on Abstraction and Empathy, not to mention erudite journal articles on the Pucksdorfer Sanitorium by Hoffman, and Klimt't Stoclet Frieze with its Egyption iconography. Anyone would think I was clever!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Great day out in London

Corot to Monet - at the National Gallery on Sunday 20 July 2009Welcome Home The National Gallery, London
Fascinating exhibition from the NT's collection, tracing the development of landscape painting in France. Many treasures, for example this Theodore Rousseau

Resolved to read and learn more about Corot and the Barbizon School

Phedre at the National Theatre with Helen Mirren
Tour de force - didn't breathe for two hours. Highly recommended

Resolved to mug up on Greek mythology and to read the text with Ted Hughes verse

Thursday, April 23, 2009

King's Sutton Literary Festival 2009

Our 6th Festival was an resounding success. Apart from our pleasure in large audiences and illustrious speakers, as organisers we were particularly glad that this year was exceptional as it was an exceptional year in a sad way. Sara Allday, the inspiration behind the festival, and the energetic, brilliant organiser, sadly died in September. Her husband, Stephen, asked Rona Rowe to take on the organisation with the committee and we all pitched in to ensure a success.

My role of box office and website management meant that early on I was aware of the large numbers we were to expect. Ticket sales prior to the event were nearly 800, double that of 2008 which were considered excellent that year. Our speakers were a great draw, headlined by PD James, closely followed in popularity by William Fiennes, a local boy who is a nationally recognised writer. The next sessions to sell out were Lord Douglas Hurd and, separately, Lord David Owen, followed by Patrick Gale. Also a sell-out was our new Saturday evening slot, when Ruthie Culver and her musicians provided a poetry/jazz event while the audience enjoyed a delicious meal provided by Lisa Armstrong and her colleagues.

Running this type of event from home has interesting and sometimes infuriating side effects. For instance, phone calls at 10pm asking about availability of sessions which had been sold out for weeks, and advertised as such. Or, on the day, my husband received a call enquiring about food in the cafe at lunchtime. Some people are charming and make every year an opportunity to renew a friendship. There are several people who book for the entire festival.  We have kept tickets at the same level since the festival's inception 6 years ago - this must be some sort of record these days. However, the reason we sell so many tickets appears to be that, as a brand, we have recognition as a credible, quality event which generates a great atmosphere in the village and encourages readers of all ages.

We are fortunate to have a particularly useful local personality in Winifred Robinson, the radio journalist, who produced a feature on literary festivals, based on King's Sutton, for her programme, You & Yours on BBC Radio 4. This was broadcast on Friday 27 March, and gave us priceless publicity. In fact, our marketing is restricted to national and local press releases, a relatively small mailing list, some web publicit and large roadside banners. We are grateful for sponsorship in different forms from organisations; for instance, last year the local newspaper, the Banbury Guardian paid for our programme printing, this year and last we were supported by Savills, the estate agents, and this year we had the Hook Norton Brewery gave a donation. Every year we have beautiful plants and flowers from Purely Plants, www.purelyplants.co.uk, and help from King's Sutton Scaffolding. Since its inception the festival has been supported by the Old Hall Bookshop in Brackley, who also provide book sales.  A popular feature of the weekend is the huge sale of secondhand book sales organised by Peter and Sue Allen, who quietly get on with the job, raising over £1,000 with sales of books mostly at 50p or £1.

One of our strengths is that the whole event takes places in one venue, so whatever the weather it is possible to stay warm and well fed, as well as intellectually stimulated, all under one roof. The food produced is always cheerfully provided by local caterers, The Lazy Chef. 

Although raising money is not our priority, we are glad that we can donate our surplus to local causes, which has been the church preservation fund. In future years we are intending to extend this to other local organisations.

It is a privilege to be involved with the Festival. Now that it is on such a sound footing, it seems likely that it will continue. Our major strength is the quality of speakers - the same who appear at the big festivals, such as Oxford, Edinburgh and Hay. For a relatively small village, this is a remarkable feat and we are proud of our success. There is no reason to suppose we cannot continue with help from volunteers from the village, and taking advantage of our contacts. 

So, another year is planned, the dates are fixed as 7 & 8 March 2010. We hope to see you there.