Category Archives: Exhibition

New Activity Packs Get People Drawing

Artful Line Activity Packs

As galleries across the UK look at how to operate within new social distancing guidelines, The Harris has taken a new approach to encouraging visitors to make their own drawings inspired by The Artful Line exhibition. In this guest blog, Holly Nesbitt tells us more about how and why they had to change their plans. 

The Artful Line is an exhibition that explores drawing in all its forms. We have a wide range of drawings on display, including four loans from The Courtauld Gallery and rarely seen works from our own collection.

We were very keen on involving visitors with drawing in the gallery. So we had a table with lots of drawing materials (including sketchbooks, paper, different drawing pencils and coloured pencils) and some drawing activities to do in the space, as well as ones to take home. Visitors could also send their drawings to us via email, social media or they could hand them to a member of staff and they would be put on a tv gallery in the space. This was really popular with visitors, especially families during the half-term holidays.

Just before the building closed due to Covid-19, all of the materials were removed from the space. When we reopened in July, the current guidance meant that we couldn’t have the materials back in the space. In spite of this, we still wanted to involve visitors with drawing.

To do this we created art packs that people could take home from the gallery. They include some different coloured sugar paper, different shade pencils, a rubber and an activity created by Gavin Renshaw and The Courtauld Gallery Learning Team. This was completed during lockdown and was released as a part of the online exhibition for the Artful Line. Gavin Renshaw was one of the artists commissioned to create a drawing for the exhibition, he created four drawings entitled Caliban, which he refers to in the activity.

Also in the packs is a sheet telling people where to find other resources. During the Artful Line online exhibition, we commissioned other artists to create drawing activities and resources for people to do at home. One of these was done by Kathryn Poole, another of the artists commissioned to create a drawing for the exhibition, and another resource was created by Oxheys, an independent artist collective, who created the activities that were in the gallery before Covid-19. For the online exhibition they created video versions of the activities. All of this can be find on our Artful Line exhibition page, which the sheet details. Visitors still have a chance to have their drawings featured on the tv gallery if they send their drawing to us.

Find out more:

An online tour of the exhibition, learning activities and details about how to visit The Harris in person can be found on The Artful Line webpage.

 

Artful Line Exhibition Reopens!

Four drawings by Gavin Renshaw in the Artful Line exhibition

We’re pleased to announce that the Artful Line exhibition at the Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library has now reopened, and the loans from the Courtauld Collection have been extended until mid-October. We hope this will give people an additional opportunity to see this fantastic exhibition that was only open for a short time before it closed in March.

Featuring works from the 17th century to the present day, the exhibition includes drawings from The Courtauld’s collection by artists including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Frank Auerbach, William Henry Hunt and Helen Saunders. Drawings by William Blake, Angelica Kauffman and Deanna Petherbridge are also on display.

To celebrate the history of the Courtaulds Ltd factory, Preston artists Gavin Renshaw, Kathryn Poole and Anita George created new works for the exhibition, inspired by the history of the site, now Red Scar Business Park, and the people who worked there.

To complement the exhibition, there is a virtual tour and a wide variety of resources by artists, educators and curators available online: https://www.theharris.org.uk/product/the-artful-line-2/

To ensure social distancing guidelines and local restrictions are met, The Harris requests visitors book one of two time slots to visit the museums and galleries: 11:00 – 13:00 and 13:30 – 15:30, and only visit with members of their household or social bubble. Tickets and further information are available through their website: https://www.theharris.org.uk/product/book-your-tickets/

New Resources for Schools

Prints made by schools

In a guest blog, Alice Hellard from the Courtauld Gallery gives us a behind the scenes look at the production of our new resources for schools and young people.

When the exhibitions at the Harris Art Gallery, Museum and Library and Braintree Museum moved online in May a great opportunity opened up to create some focused learning resources that captured some of the learning work we had planned to deliver in schools.

In March, artist educator Nadine Mahoney and I delivered a number of sessions at Braintree Museum for both primary and secondary schools. Focusing on Paul Gauguin’s four woodcut prints on display at the Museum, the sessions aimed to develop students’ understanding of Gauguin’s printmaking techniques and ideas around myth making. In the learning resources we again wanted to encourage close looking, interpretation and technique, this time focusing on two of the prints, Te Po and Manao Tupapau (1893-94).

In Preston, I was due to run school workshops in April and May with artist and Illustrator Gavin Renshaw. In January 2020 Gavin was commissioned by the Harris (alongside artists Anita George and Kathryn Poole) to create a work in response to aspects of Courtaulds Ltd heritage. Researching the brief, Gavin discovered the story of Caliban, a Courtaulds Ltd steam engine, and made a series of drawings that capture aspects of its renovation. For the online exhibition at the Harris it seemed natural to develop a practical drawing resource for secondary students that explores drawing as an approach to capturing narrative, and to talk to Gavin in more detail about his approach to drawing and heritage.

I was also delighted to have been able to reprint (with kind permission from Courtauld alumna Alma Zevi) a fascinating interview with Frank Auerbach as part of the Harris’ online programme. Auerbach’s drawing Study for an Oxford Street building site (1958-59) is in The Artful Line exhibition, and the interview gives some fascinating insights into the role of drawing to his process.

Find out more:

All of the resources are available to download from our Schools and Colleges Page

Take a look at the virtual exhibition tours and other activities on our partner museum websites
The Artful Line
Courtaulds: Origins, Innovation and Family

National Highlights – The Harris

In the latest blog celebrating collections around the UK, Adam, Visitor Services Assistant at The Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library, discusses three fantastic works on show in a current exhibition.

Architectural Fantasy
Image: Architectural Fantasy (c. 1740), School of Giuseppe Galli Bibiena. Courtesy of the Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library.

The Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, has a long connection to the Courtauld Gallery, as Courtaulds Ltd. formerly had a large factory in the city. The Artful Line exhibition at The Harris is the latest fruit of this partnership, and explores the process of drawing from a variety of angles.

My choices are all from this exhibition. I have not had the opportunity to visit the Courtauld Gallery in London and view the artworks there in person, and I believe it is impossible to fully appreciate a piece of art unless you have stood in front of it. I also had to include three pieces as favourites, as they are presented as a trio in the exhibition, and their thematic links would be lost if one was sidelined.

The earliest drawing of the three is Architectural Fantasy, from the school of Giuseppe Galli Bibiena, drawn in about 1740. The piece is an imaginary interior – possibly of a palace or a public building – whose architecture is extravagant to the point of absurdity. Clusters of Corinthian columns shoot upward to bulbous balustrades and Baroque cartouches, while two staircases lead to destinations unknown, but surely magnificent – a tree can be glimpsed behind one, suggesting an idyllic landscape. Yet a close inspection reveals all sorts of imperfections, from wonky urns to inconsistently-spaced flagstones. The contrast between the far view and close inspection enhances the sense that this was intended to be a whimsical drawing, more concerned with fancy than absolute precision. It is a pleasing contrast to the Harris building, which is a polished work of Victorian
neoclassicism.

On the right of the group is Helen Saunders’ Vorticist Composition. A portrait by Saunders has already made an appearance in this series, but this piece was created at the height of the Vorticist movement. It is a small drawing, yet the confidence and boldness of its lines immediately draws the eye. The drawing has a strong sense of movement despite not being identifiable as any particular object; the influence of the Cubists is apparent, but the angularity and completely abstract nature of the piece sets it apart. A close examination
reveals that the hatching, while roughly done, is grouped into distinct blocks, giving a sense of order amid the overall disorder. I knew nothing about the Vorticists before the exhibition opened, and its inclusion has encouraged me to explore more of the works of this dynamic but brief movement.

Preliminary Sketch for ‘A Broken Set of Rules’ is the final drawing. It was created by Deanna Petherbridge as part of her 1984 commission to design the sets for the Royal Ballet production of the same name. Its large size and stark lines give it a commanding presence, but one which harmonises with the drawings that flank it. Petherbridge’s style combines the assertiveness and abstraction of the Vorticists with the keen eye for detail of the Architectural Fantasy, and the result is a disordered jumble of columns, architraves, and pediments, all jostling for position and teetering on the edge of collapse. I’m a particular fan of the semi-transparent column in the centre of the drawing, which passes through another in a way M. C. Escher would have been proud of.

When taken together, the three paintings form an interesting response to the values of classical architecture. Architectural Fantasy undermines the seriousness of classicism, related as it is to the theatrical illusion and impermanence. Broken Set of Rules takes this further, distorting the familiar elements of classical architecture and encouraging the viewer question the values such architecture often projects – power, confidence, and tradition. Finally, Vorticist Composition rejects tradition entirely, and presents a fresh way of viewing space. As The Harris itself is a classical building these responses are particularly pertinent – many recent developments in the building have focused on making its austere Victorian spaces more approachable for modern visitors, while at the same time its self-assured exterior has become an iconic feature of the Preston skyline.

Before working at The Harris I had not given much thought to the process of curating when visiting galleries, and this exhibition has given me a small insight into the work that goes into creating meaningful relationships between artworks. At first glance these drawings did not seem to have anything in common with each other, and it is only after contemplating them that I began to understand why they had been hung as they had. All
in all, I’d go so far as to say The Artful Line is the first exhibition I’ve understood, rather than simply looked at.

Find out more: 

All of the works in The Artful Line exhibition are available to view in an online tour, Deanna Petherbridge talks about her work in a blog for the exhibition, and Ketty Gottardo, Martin Halusa Curator of Drawings, talks about Helen Saunders in a film for the exhibition and Open Courtauld Hour’s event about women artists.

5 interesting things about…..Paul Gauguin

Noa Noa display at Braintree Museum

Samuel Courtauld was a big fan of the work of the artist Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), in fact the Courtauld Gallery is one of the best places in the UK to see a range of work by the artist, so to celebrate the connections between Courtauld and his home in Essex, a selection of prints from Gauguin’s Noa Noa series are included in Braintree Museum’s Courtaulds: Origins, Innovation and Family exhibition. This week we take a closer look at some interesting facts about the artist and these unusual prints.

1. Gauguin was mostly self-taught and didn’t become a full-time artist until the age of 35 – before then, he worked as a stockbroker.

2. Gauguin moved around several times trying to find a more authentic and timeless place away from modern civilization. He worked at Pont-Aven, an artists’ colony in Brittany, and with Van Gogh in Arles in the south of France, as well as further afield in Martinique, Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands.

3. The Noa Noa prints, four of which are currently on loan to the Braintree Museum, represent Gauguin’s first foray into woodblock printmaking, and only his second attempt at any kind of printmaking.

4. The prints were created as illustrations for Gauguin’s memoir of his time in Tahiti, but rather than depicting daily life or actual Tahitian stories they were products of the artist’s imagination.

5. The prints on loan to the Braintree Museum weren’t printed by Gauguin himself, but by his son Pola (also an artist) more than fifteen years after Gauguin’s death. The blocks’ surfaces are so complex that it took Pola two years to figure out how to print from them!

Find out more:
The Courtaulds: Origins, Innovation and Family exhibition, including the four prints from the Noa Noa series and a selection of resources about them, is available on the Braintree Museum website.

The Courtauld Gallery has a lot of information about Gauguin online, including an in focus feature on one of his most famous paintings and a short film with Curator Karen Serres about his work. You can also watch a recent talk by Dr Rachel Sloan that explores these works as illustrations on YouTube.

Planning underway for collaboration with Ulster Museum

Noted being taken in a meeting

Last week, we were thrilled to host Anna Liesching, Curator of Art at Ulster Museum, to discuss future partnerships between the Courtauld and National Museums Northern Ireland, and to take a look at some of the many activities currently happening in and around the gallery. 

The week was packed with research and in depth meetings with curators, registrars, public programmes, and the research forum team, to plan our Autumn 2020 exhibition – details to be announced soon! – but we still found time to explore, including looking at some of the highlights of our works on paper collection during a visit to the store rooms and joining one of the MA classes of the Courtauld Institute to find out about the ongoing conservation work to Botticelli’s Holy Trinity at the National Gallery (find out more about the project here: https://courtauld.ac.uk/botticelli-holy-trinity-conservation).

We have lots more planned for our partnership in Northern Ireland, as well as the exhibition later this year we will be collaborating with NMNI to engage volunteers and schools in exploring the heritage of fashion and textiles in their area. Keep an eye on our news page to find out more. 

A busy half-term at Braintree’s Courtauld Exhibition

Visitor viewing Gauguin prints

Our partnership exhibition with Braintree Museum has got off to a tremendous start and last week welcomed over 200 half-term visitors to take part in activities related to the Courtauld family.

The exhibition Courtaulds: Origin, Innovation, Family looks at the history of the Courtauld family and their textile company from the founding of the first mill in 1816. Visitors can explore artefacts that illuminate the Courtauld family’s history – including a suffragette poster designed by Catherine Courtauld, from the Women’s Library, London; the remains from Augustin Courtauld’s Arctic flag from the Scott Polar Institute, alongside loans from the Courtauld Family’s Private Collection.

A highlight of the exhibition is a display of four prints by Paul Gauguin on loan from the Courtauld Gallery. The rare woodblock prints, from the Noa Noa series, were purchased by Samuel Courtauld in 1924, and depict imaginary scenes influenced by Gauguin’s time in Tahiti. By the end of the 1920s Courtauld held the most important collection of works by Gauguin in Britain, including 10 prints, five paintings and one sculpture.

There is also an opportunity to hear the memories of former employees of the Courtauld factories recorded by a fantastic group of local volunteers, alongside examples of the fabrics and clothes they produced, and archive material relating to the company.

The exhibition is open until 30th May 2020 and special events, such as curator’s tours, talks and hands-on crafts, will run regularly. Find out more on Braintree Museum’s website: https://www.braintreemuseum.co.uk/

The Artful Line opens in Preston

Visitors looking at the Artful Line exhibition

On Friday we were thrilled to open our new exhibition in collaboration with the Harris in Preston. The Artful Line: Drawings from the Harris and the Courtauld is a celebration of drawing in all its forms, exploring how and why we draw. As well as previously unseen drawings from the Harris collections, the show features four loans from the Courtauld collection and three new pieces commissioned from local artists who take inspiration from the local industrial heritage of Courtauld textiles.

There is also the opportunity for visitors to have a go at different drawing techniques, and even have their own work shown on a screen in the exhibition. The exhibition runs until May and will have special events throughout that time, for example workshops with local artists, talks and tours with curators and drop in activities for families at half term.

The exhibition coincides with the 40th anniversary of the closure of the Courtaulds factory at Red Scar, this was commemorated in the exhibition on Sunday with an open day for former employees to see the drawings and share their memories of working for the company.

Find out more about the exhibition and events on the website: http://www.harrismuseum.org.uk/exhibitions

The Bloomsbury Effect on ARTimbarc

Bus with Bloomsbury Effect Poster on side

In collaboration with our partners at Wolverhampton Art Gallery we have produced an audio guide to accompany our loans to the Bloomsbury Effect display, on show until 16th February 2020. The display features work by Vanessa Bell, Roger Fry and C.R.W. Nevinson and explores the tensions between tradition and modernity in artistic practice in the early 20th Century. The audio commentary offers insight from curators and archivists about the loans from the Courtauld Collection, the history of Courtaulds in Wolverhampton and the history of the Wolverhampton Society of Artists, as well as some of the key pieces produced by the society.

To listen to the recordings and find out more about the exhibition visit https://artimbarc.app/

Two new exhibitions announced for Spring 2020

Braintree Museum staff looking at Gauguin Prints

We are thrilled to be working with our partners on two exhibitions due to run through the spring of 2020. Both exhibitions are the result of long-term collaborations, that have included months of planning, research and visits to our collection. They are a fantastic opportunity for us to share great works from the Courtauld collection with our partners across the UK and to look at these works in new contexts.

From 1st February Braintree Museum will be focusing on the history of the Courtauld family and the textile business in Courtaulds: Origins, Innovation, Family. Alongside some fascinating artefacts, including a suffragette poster designed by Catherine Courtauld and the remains from Augustin Courtauld’s Arctic flag, will be a display devoted to the art collection of Samuel Courtauld centered around four Gauguin prints from the Courtauld Gallery. The original woodblock prints from Gauguin’s Noa Noa series were purchased by Samuel Courtauld shortly after they were printed by Gauguin’s youngest son in 1925.

New stories of past Courtauld company employees and family members recorded by volunteers as part of the Courtauld National programme will be woven into the exhibition alongside newly uncovered documents, images and testimonies.

In Preston, the Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library will explore drawing in all its forms in The Artful Line: Drawings from the Harris Collection and The Courtauld Gallery, which opens on 15th February. Featuring works from the 17th century to the present day, the exhibition includes drawings by Angelica Kauffman, William Blake, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Frank Auerbach and Deanna Petherbridge. Each drawing offers a unique insight into the mind of the artist and the process of making art.

The latest in a series of projects with the Harris to celebrate our links through the Courtaulds textile factory, this exhibition marks the 40th anniversary of the closure of the factory in Preston. Inspired by the site, the history of the company and the people who worked there, local artists Gavin Renshaw, Kathryn Poole and Anita George have made new work for the exhibition.

To find out more about the exhibitions please visit our partner websites:

Braintree Museum: https://www.braintreemuseum.co.uk/exhibitions/

The Harris: http://www.harrismuseum.org.uk/exhibitions