In this guest blog, Claire Willetts, Collections and Exhibition Curator from Braintree Museum, tells us more about our latest collaboration to conserve an important piece of their collection and local heritage.
This autumn we are extremely excited that two students from The Courtauld Institute of Art will begin a research and conservation project on our portrait of Miss Coope by Katherine Clausen. Fundraising in 2019 through Just Giving and our partnership with The Courtauld Gallery has supported this much needed conservation project. Unfortunately, the portrait of Miss Coope needed conservation when it was brought into Braintree Museum, with much of the paint actively flaking, we are at risk of losing this portrait completely and so this project is of huge value.
Miss Coope was Francis Henry Crittall’s secretary and worked from the company’s London Office at Holborn. It is part of a collection called the ‘Old Iron Portraits’ at Braintree Museum. The collection of portraits depicts Crittall family members and company employees including factory foremen, office workers and general managers. Commissioned in the late 1920s, the series of portraits were painted by rising students nominated by leading artists from the Slade School of Art, Royal Academy and the Royal College of Art. Forty-seven works of art called the Old Iron Portraits were created and the Museum is fortunate to have twenty-seven in our collection. They were displayed in Silver End Village Hall when it opened in 1928 and some years later they moved to Crittall Social Club in Braintree.
Over the summer we were invited to The Courtauld Institute Conservation studios and welcomed one of the students, Cat Dussault, to Braintree to see the other portraits in our collection and our Crittall Windows Archive. Cat is undertaking a Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings and she will be working with another student who will be studying for either a PhD or MA in History of Art or Curating. The conservation work will be undertaken by Cat Dussault as part of the PGDip, and the collaborative research will be as part of The Courtauld Institute’s Painting Pairs programme.
More information about the painting pairs program can be found on the website: https://courtauld.ac.uk/research/whats-on/painting-pairs-art-history-and-technical-study/
This partnership is an exciting opportunity to undertake further research and technical analysis of our portrait of Miss Coope, which will support conservation treatment and our historical understanding of this important painting within our collection. We will be sharing their findings and progress as they materialize next year.
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.
In preparation for the opening of Radical Drawing in October, the Herbert team joined us at the Courtauld on August 6th to take a look at our prints and drawings collection.
We were delighted to host members of the curatorial, learning, conservation and marketing teams at the Herbert, and we were joined by a wide variety of Courtauld staff from the Gallery and Public Programmes. In the morning we got a chance to take a close look at the 16 amazing works travelling to Coventry in October, where they’ll join works from the Herbert and the University of Warwick. Expert guidance was on hand from Rachel Sloan (Assistant Curator of Works on Paper), Kate Edmondson (Conservator of Works on Paper) and Barnaby Wright (Deputy Head of The Courtauld Gallery and Daniel Katz Curator of 20th Century Art).
The prints and drawings in the exhibition range in date from the 16th to the 21st Century and demonstrate a variety of techniques and themes, united by their innovative and creative approaches to drawn marks and lines.
After a great lunch, provided by Good Measure, we got to work on the details with meetings about the public engagement, events and marketing for the exhibition, as well as the opportunity to research the background of the works and some of the techniques used to create them. The highlight of the day was the opportunity to work so closely and collaboratively with colleagues to develop this exciting exhibition and associated programme of activities.
Radical Drawing: Works from the Courtauld and Coventry opens on 18th October 2019 at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum and runs until 19th January 2020. Check back soon for details of events and ways to get involved.
On 26th April we welcomed 18 staff members and volunteers from the Courtauld National Programme’s eight partner organisations to take part in the first of our annual networking events.
The partners from across the UK, which include The Herbert, Ulster Museum, The Harris, Braintree District Museum, Ashton College, Greenfields Heritage Site, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and The Ferens, are at the heart of the National Programme (part of the larger Courtauld Connects project) collaborating with the Courtauld Gallery on exhibitions, oral history projects, volunteer activity and workshops with schools and colleges. A key aim of the national programme is to build relationships that allow for the sharing of ideas and experiences across a variety of cultural and educational partners, and the networking days are an essential part of developing these connections.
The activities during the day were highly interactive, with a focus on developing relationships, sharing best practice and discussion around two significant strands of the programme; engaging new audiences and communities, and engaging young people aged 14-25. The workshops included input from members of the gallery, public programmes and digitisation teams at the Courtauld and presentations from partners about their experiences with the programme so far. The team at the Harris shared their approach to engaging new audiences through a café at the former Courtaulds Ltd site; Anna Liesching from Ulster Museum introduced us to innovative event programming, such as feminist Wiki-edit-a-thons; and Sarah Way spoke about volunteer recruitment and retention in the Courtauld digitisation project. We also heard about a successful pilot run by our own public programmes team with Greenfields Heritage Site to engage secondary school students with their local heritage through drawing.
Held at the new Vernon Square campus, there was also an opportunity to introduce our partners to the work of our staff and students, through a tour of the conservation facilities and Resfest. We were able to speak to and observe the work of third year Conservation of Easel Paintings students and to learn more about how the department could support the partner’s own collections through student projects. In the evening, Robert Rose, Museums Manager of Braintree District Museum, presented on the legacy of the Courtauld family in the local area to a large and diverse audience at Resfest, while other partners were able to find out more about the work of the Research Forum and get to know each other better in an informal setting.
The ideas and enthusiasm generated by the event show how important the networking aspect of the programme is and over the next four years we will offer more formal and informal opportunities for our partners to share their expertise and learn from each other.