Prized Possessions: Dutch Masterpieces from National Trust Houses, The Holburne Museum, Great Pulteney Street, Bath BA2, until 16th September 2018

A Magus at a Table by Jan Lievens (Leyden 1607 ¿ Amsterdam 1674)

A Magus at a Table, Jan Lievens, 1631-2 © National Trust Images – Angelo Hornak

What a glorious summer but regrettably mine was less so as for the last 8 + weeks have been lost to a persistent, debilitating infection which has taken ever stronger courses of antibiotics to overcome – so fingers crossed victory is in sight.  It has meant that I am very behind in my writing. I should perhaps remember to ‘take the waters’ when next visiting Bath!

ST KATHERINE'S CHURCH, UTRECHT by Pieter Jansz Saenredam (1597-1665), at Upton House, Warwickshire

St Catherine’s Church Utrecht, Pieter Jansz Saenredam, 1636 © National Trust Images

I have visited six of the dozen houses from which this delicious selection of Dutch paintings has been garnered but sadly, so far, not the rest of them. Seeing those pictures that I know again was very much a journey into the past because in some cases it is almost fifty years since I first saw them and yet their beauty and the skill of the artist’s use of paint – for example Ter Borch’s exquisite rendering of a dress (Polesden Lacey) or Cuyp’s Dordrecht sky (Ascott) – has kept them fresh in my mind’s eye.

SELF PORTRAIT WEARING A WHITE FEATHERED BONNET by Rembrandt van Rijn.

Self-Portrait Wearing a White Feathered Bonnet, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1635 © National Trust Images – Chris Titmus

Portraits (people and houses), landscapes, genre scenes, interiors and still-lifes are among the subjects that make up the works on view. In some cases artists collaborated such as in the landscape from Petworth where the painter Hobbema has worked with Adriaen van de Velde who contributed the figural elements to the composition.

The Duet ('Le corset bleu') by Gabriel Metsu (Leyden 1629 ¿ Amsterdam 1669)

The Duet, Gabriel Metsu, 1660-7 © National Trust Images – Christopher Hurst

It is a wonderful journey back into the Dutch 17th century and it makes it easy to understand why ever since they were first painted such works have been so avidly collected and admired, including by  Sir Thomas William Holburne, founder of the Museum.

 

After the Holburne the exhibition will move on to the Mauritshuis in The Hague in October 2018, and then come to Petworth House in West Sussex in January 2019.

 

 

www.holburne.org

Meet the Breugels!

Bruegel: Defining a Dynasty, The Holburne Museum, Great Pulteney Street, Bath BA2, until 4th June 2017

Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Wedding Dance in the Open Air, Oil on panel, 36.6 x 49cm, ©Holburne Museum. Photography by Dominic Brown

Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Wedding Dance in the Open Air,
Oil on panel, 36.6 x 49cm,
©Holburne Museum. Photography by Dominic Brown

This is a very special show for it reveals the Holburne’s Wedding Dance in the Open Air, following conservation and technical examination, to be by Pieter Brueghel the Younger and not as previously thought a work by a follower. Congratulations are due to their then Director Jennifer Scott (who is now Director of Dulwich Picture Gallery) who discovered it in the Museum’s store room and who co-curated this exhibition with Dr Amy Orrock.

Jan Brueghel the Elder, A Stoneware Vase of Flowers, c. 1607–1608, oil on panel, 56 × 89.5 cm, © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridg

Jan Brueghel the Elder, A Stoneware Vase of Flowers, c. 1607–1608,
oil on panel, 56 × 89.5 cm,
© The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Visitors when they enter the exhibition can see a Bruegel family tree and the exhibition reveals the work of the family across four generations through thirty-five pictures drawn from the National Gallery, the Royal Collection Trust, the National Trust, the Fitzwilliam Museum, the Ashmolean Museum and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.  The Holburne Museum with its three works by Pieter Brueghel the Younger holds the largest collection of his paintings in the UK.

Still Life with Cheese, circle of Jan Van Kessel II, c. 1650 Oil on copper, 16.5 x 20.3cm, © Holburne Museum

Still Life with Cheese, circle of Jan Van Kessel II, c. 1650
Oil on copper, 16.5 x 20.3cm,
© Holburne Museum

The exhibition starts with the Adoration of the Kings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (note he did not spell his name with an h) which hangs alongside a similarly entitled work by his father-in-law Pieter Coecke van Aelst. It makes an interesting comparison. Bruegel’s sons Pieter and Jan and their descendants such as Jan van Kessel the Elder or David Teniers the Younger who married into the family are eloquently represented.

David Teniers the Younger, Boy Blowing Bubbles, c.1640, Oil on panel, 22 x 22cm, © Holburne Museum

David Teniers the Younger, Boy Blowing Bubbles, c.1640,
Oil on panel, 22 x 22cm,
© Holburne Museum

It is interesting to see how Pieter and Jan produced copies of their father’s compositions and variations of them.  Jan could arguably be said to be the first to have depicted floral studies in a style which continues to this day. This is an exhibition that celebrates Flemish painting and this prolific family whose works have not lost their appeal over the centuries.

Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Visit to a Farmhouse, c.1620-30, Oil on panel, 36.5 x 49.4cm, © Holburne Museum. Photograph by Dan Brown

Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Visit to a Farmhouse, c.1620-30,
Oil on panel, 36.5 x 49.4cm,
© Holburne Museum. Photograph by Dan Brown

http://www.holburne.org

“from the sweet and fluffy to the majestically terrifying”

Stubbs and the Wild, The Holburne Museum, Great Pulteney Street Bath, until 2nd October 2016

George Stubbs Horse Frightened by a Lion 1770 Oil on canvas 100.1 x 126.1 cm National Museums Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery

George Stubbs
Horse Frightened by a Lion
1770
Oil on canvas
100.1 x 126.1 cm
National Museums Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery

The Holburne is fortunate enough to have its own painting by George Stubbs (1724-1806) a landscape portrait of the The Rev. Robert Carter Thelwall and his Family who are depicted with their horses.  This painting serves as the introduction to the exhibition which focuses on Stubbs as painter of animals.

Work on paper ‘Finished study for ‘Anatomy of the Horse: 10th anatomical table’ George Stubbs 1756-58 Pencil on laid paper 35.5 x 19.5 cm © Royal Academy of Arts, London

Work on paper
‘Finished study for ‘Anatomy of the Horse: 10th anatomical table’
George Stubbs
1756-58
Pencil on laid paper
35.5 x 19.5 cm
© Royal Academy of Arts, London

Through drawings, paintings and prints it takes us into the wild side of Stubbs and eloquently reminds us of his genius. Even as a young man in Liverpool he was interested in dissecting animals to discover their inner workings.  It was only when he went to York that he studied and taught anatomy, including human bodies for a short while.  In 1754 he moved to an isolated farm in North Lincolnshire and spend some eighteen months dissecting horses and revealing their inner secrets layer by layer. It was at this juncture that he decided to give up painting portraits and to focus on horses and other animals, such as the new ones that were being brought in from the colonies. I would suggest that it really was a true vocation for Stubbs.

George Stubbs The Moose 1770 Oil on canvas 61 x 70.5 cm © The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, 2016

George Stubbs
The Moose
1770
Oil on canvas
61 x 70.5 cm
© The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, 2016

While the pictures were often meant to be scientific studies of the creatures, Stubbs imbues them with a portrait-like quality but in some works he also depicts the natural behaviour of the animals, especially in the studies of horse and lions.  I had always rather shied away from this as a subject but found myself so drawn in by the artist’s skill that I have to say he rather converted me. I was also fascinated by the exquisite works he executed on large ceramic plaques – no mean feat at that time.

George Stubbs A Lion and Lioness 1778 Enamel on Wedgwood ceramic 43.1 x 61.6 cm The Daniel Katz Gallery, London

George Stubbs
A Lion and Lioness
1778
Enamel on Wedgwood ceramic
43.1 x 61.6 cm
The Daniel Katz Gallery, London

I certainly look forward to re-visiting the exhibition and have no hesitation in urging you to go and visit this exhilarating show which as its curator Amina Wright suggests presents “the artist as an indefatigable explorer of the natural world and a bold technical innovator. It will also introduce some of the animal celebrities of eighteenth-century England, from the sweet and fluffy to the majestically terrifying.”

George Stubbs ‘Marmaduke Tunstall’s Mouse Lemur’ 1773 Pencil on paper 19.8 x 30.8 cm © Trustees of the British Museum

George Stubbs
‘Marmaduke Tunstall’s Mouse Lemur’
1773
Pencil on paper
19.8 x 30.8 cm
© Trustees of the British Museum

What more can one want!

 

The exhibition will be accompanied by a free audio guide featuring responses to Stubbs’s work by animal experts and artists.
Principal Sponsor Lowell Libson Ltd
Exhibition Supported by
The Friends of the Holburne, Bath Spa University
George Stubbs Tygers at Play before 1776 Oil on canvas 101.5 x 127 cm On loan from Private Collection, Hong Kong

George Stubbs
Tygers at Play
before 1776
Oil on canvas
101.5 x 127 cm
On loan from Private Collection, Hong Kong

http://www.holburne.org

Capturing Life

Impressionism: Capturing Life, The Holburne Museum, Great Pulteney Street, Bath BA2, until 5th June 2016

Young Woman Seated, 1876 Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) Oil on canvas 66 x 51 cm © The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham

Young Woman Seated, 1876 Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) Oil on canvas 66 x 51 cm
© The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham

The emphasis of this delightful exhibition is on the figure in Impressionist paintings and the twenty-eight works on show come from UK collections. The colours in the 1876 painting Young Woman Seated by Renoir provided the inspiration for the four themed areas of the show – ‘Painting of the Future’, ‘Private Worlds, Public Gaze’, ‘Modern Life’ and ‘Impressionism in Britain’ – but the lay-out is cleverly designed so that the visitor can see glimpses of each area wherever they are in the exhibition space and thus looking forward or glancing back they may experience the full impact of this very special show.

Study of a Harvester, about 1900 Sir George Clausen (1852-1944) Black chalk and pastel on brown paper, 38.8 27.5 cm © The Holburne Museum. Photo © Dan Brown

Study of a Harvester, about 1900 Sir George Clausen (1852-1944) Black chalk and pastel on brown paper, 38.8 27.5 cm
© The Holburne Museum. Photo © Dan Brown

Many of the artists included were part of the first Impressionist exhibition in Paris in 1874 but exponents of Impressionism in the United Kingdom are also recognised with the inclusion of artists such as Sisley, Steer and especially Sir George Clausen through a group of eight of his works on paper, including pastels, from the Holburne’s own collection.

The Fisherman, 1884 Jean-Louis Forain (1852-1931) Oil on canvas 94.7 x117 cm © Southampton City Art Gallery / Bridgeman

The Fisherman, 1884 Jean-Louis Forain (1852-1931) Oil on canvas 94.7 x117 cm
© Southampton City Art Gallery / Bridgeman

Seriously, don’t miss this exhibition!

Hélène Rouart in her Father’s Study, about 1886 Edgar Degas (1834-1917) Oil on canvas 162.5 x 121 cm © National Gallery, London

Hélène Rouart in her Father’s Study, about 1886 Edgar Degas (1834-1917) Oil on canvas 162.5 x 121 cm
© National Gallery, London

 

http://www.holburne.org

‘Must not be Shook’

A Handful of Dust – Georgian Pastels from the Permanent Collection, The Holburne Museum, Great Pulteney Street, Bath BA2, until 18th September 2016

Unknown Artist, eighteenth century A Market Woman with Fruit Pastel on paper, 81.3 x 66cm © The Holburne Museum

Unknown Artist, eighteenth century
A Market Woman with Fruit
Pastel on paper, 81.3 x 66cm
© The Holburne Museum

This year the Museum celebrates its centenary a 100 Years Here with a series of exhibitions.  One is quite delightful, featuring rarely seen 18th century portraits in pastel.  Pastel is a mixture of china clay, plaster and pigment which are rolled into sticks. However it is fragile and can deteriorate quite easily. Indeed Thomas Lawrence wrote on the back of one of his pastels ‘to be kept from the Damp &sun/and must not be shook.’ 

 

Be that as it may the effect of pastel when applied to paper is quite luminous especially for portraits as the examples here amply show.  It became a medium adopted by British artists for about a hundred years from the 1730s. Unlike portraits in oils pastels required no time for drying so Bath painters such as William Hoare and a young Thomas Lawrence often used it when depicting short-term visitors to the city.

Jean-Etienne Liotard (1702 – 1789) James Nelthorpe (c. 1718 – 1767), 1738 Pastel on paper, 62 x 50cm © The Holburne Museum

Jean-Etienne Liotard (1702 – 1789)
James Nelthorpe (c. 1718 – 1767), 1738
Pastel on paper, 62 x 50cm
© The Holburne Museum

The technique was revived by Impressionist artists as we will discover in another exhibition at the Holburne.

 

http://www.holburne.org

Arthur Atherley

A New Portrait, The Holburne Museum, Great Pulteney Street, Bath BA2

Arthur Atherley (1772-1844) Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) Oil on canvas, 1791 © Lowell Libson Ltd

Arthur Atherley (1772-1844)
Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830)
Oil on canvas, 1791
© Lowell Libson Ltd

It is particularly right and fitting that the Holburne Museum should have been able to raise the funds (£450,000) for this preparatory oil sketch of Arthur Atherley by Thomas Lawrence since the painter lived and worked in Bath between 1780-87.  Some five years later he exhibited a three-quarter length portrait of Atherley, for which this is the sketch, at the Royal Academy.  The sitter was nineteen and the artist twenty-two.  From January 28th the picture will hang in the Museum’s Brownsword Picture Gallery which is devoted to great 18th century British portrait painters, especially those connected with Bath.

The Museum’s Director Jennifer Scott aptly sums it up: ‘This is a fantastic achievement for the Holburne. We are immensely grateful to the Art Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund and to Arts Council England/Victoria & Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund for their crucial grants and invaluable support for this campaign. The response from our visitors, Friends, patrons and supporters at all levels has been overwhelming, enabling us to raise this large amount in a short time period. It is a reflection of both the quality of the painting itself, and the relevance of an outstanding early Lawrence portrait coming to the South West. We are also very grateful to Lowell Libson Ltd for giving us the opportunity to acquire this painting on a favourable basis. We can now implement an exciting l earning, interpretation and community engagement programme inspired by this compelling portrait – a fresh face for the Museum’s 2016 celebrations marking 100 Years Here.

http://www.holburne.org

A celebration of James Giles and Porcelain at the Holburne Museum

James Giles ‘Ingenious’ Painter of Porcelain, Until 10th November, The Holburne Museum, Bath

There are very many good reasons to visit Bath and certainly one of them is the Holburne Museum.  Lovers of 18th century porcelain would be wise to go as soon as possible to see the exhibition, in the Museum’s Ballroom Gallery, of Chinese and English porcelain, especially Worcester, decorated in the London workshop of James Giles (1718-1780).P1040758

The workshop was in business between 1743-1777 and Giles’s advert for it stated ‘This ingenious Artist copies the Pattern of any China with the utmost exactness, both with respect to the Design and Colours, either in the European or Chinese taste’. P1040764The exhibits come from three private collections; one is that of a great friend the late Stephen Hanscombe (1933-2013) who did much work on Giles, including two exhibitions at Stockspring Antiques where I had the great pleasure of working with him.

A ceramic feast not to be missed.P1040765

www.holburne.org

 

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