Memoirs of an Octogenarian : In the beginning.

Grandad Beall

Edmund Beall with Grandson David Addison, c1938

Mum & Dad wedding

Frank and Constance Addison – David’s parents.

The Coronavirus ‘lockdown’ has provided me with time to reflect on where I am and what are my priorities. To put it another way – an opportunity to be selfish!  Apart from time to concentrate on my academic research – reflected in my Blogs on the Northwick Collection and my life-long enthusiasm for sharing thoughts on paintings in my chats on paintings blogs – it has also presented an opportunity to reflect on eighty years of living in a changing world and to share these thoughts and comments within this new series of blogs – ‘Memoirs of an Octogenarian’.

Now having time to trawl through my countless written notes and text files, plus floods of newspaper cuttings, the long term aim is becoming clearer.  Starting out, years ago, on producing memoirs for my ever-increasing family has broadened into an awareness, often produced from frustration, of the ignorance of contemporary society – a constant re-inventing of the wheel and ignorance of the past. Here I should point out that I have never been a slave of the past – we do need constantly to move on, but moving  forward should not be by ignoring the past and, importantly, learning from that past.

These ‘Memoirs’ are not primarily a biography – but a collection, of essays on subjects which have engaged my attention from time to time as I navigated this ever-changing world. Subjects often prompted by younger generations – including grandchildren, colleagues, and students but also involvement in a variety of organisations, events, and places.  In other words – a collection of ramblings!!

As a starter – it is only fairly recently that have I begun to be aware of what an individual owes to his or her parents – and, indeed, a lack of both awareness and understanding of those formative figures in one’s life. For instance – I now recognise that both my parents grew up in the world of the First World War and its aftermath and that I grew up in the world of the Second World War and its aftermath; and that my father’s life combining the academic with pastoral, social, and educational concerns has been echoed in my own life. Unfortunately my father died before I had really got going on my career – I now realise that I would have liked to discuss such matters with him.

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David Addison : student : Newcastle (Durham University): c1956.

The above was in lodgings with two other Fine Art students in our first term – my work is on the right. The fencing sword was not mine!!!  Note also the beard – I stopped shaving as soon as I got to University. By the Christmas vacation that beard had grown into something to be proud of – by me, but not by my parents, my sister, or back in the streets and buses of my home-town (Ipswich). I was now a rebel – a dubious character!!                                 Enough for now – my blogs under ‘Memoirs’ will be discussing my reflections, and some opinions, on what might be considered trivial matters – toys, toilets, telephones, typewriters, etc.

  David Addison. 

 

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European Tour, an artists view.

European Tours.

A previous blog referenced the ‘Grand Tour’ to Italy in the eighteenth century which led me to reflect that the Cheltenham collection holds quite a variety of paintings of depictions of European countries visited by British artists. The subject matter quickly turned from portraiture and places like Venice or Rome  to a wider view of the delights offered by European countries.                                                                                                                          So let’s explore!                                                                                                              What is clear is that relevant works in the Cheltenham collection span the generations from the Grand Tour places of the eighteenth century right through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – but to put them in context I draft in significant examples from other public galleries. In terms of the ‘Grand Tour’ subjects there are the following examples at Cheltenham :-

Guardi, Francesco; The Island of San Giorgio in Alga, Venice, Italy; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-island-of-san-giorgio-in-alga-venice-italy-61819

Guardi, Francesco; The Island of San Giorgio in Alga, Venice, Italy; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum

 

Guardi, Francesco; The Grand Canal, Venice, Italy, Looking towards Santa Maria degli Scalzi and Santa Lucia; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-grand-canal-venice-italy-looking-towards-santa-maria-degli-scalzi-and-santa-lucia-61820

Guardi, Francesco; The Grand Canal, Venice, Italy, Looking towards Santa Maria degli Scalzi and Santa Lucia; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum

 

Tironi, Francesco; Venice, Italy (The Grand Canal from the Campo San Vio towards the Bacino); Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/venice-italy-the-grand-canal-from-the-campo-san-vio-towards-the-bacino-62071

Tironi, Francesco; Venice, Italy (The Grand Canal from the Campo San Vio towards the Bacino); Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum.                                                                                                                                In terms of the most well-known Grand Tour Venetian artist, Canaletto, I choose some typical examples from other galleries :-

Canaletto; The Piazza di San Marco, Venice; Sir John Soane's Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-piazza-di-san-marco-venice-123954

Canaletto; The Piazza di San Marco, Venice; Sir John Soane’s Museum.

These Venetian based artists were operating mainly in the mid to later eighteenth century – but whilst British tourists went mainly to places like Venice there were British artists who explored other areas of Italy and ventured to, or rested in, other European countries.

Wilson, Richard; Italian Lake Scene; Bradford Museums and Galleries; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/italian-lake-scene-23637

Wilson, Richard; Italian Lake Scene; Bradford Museums and Galleries

 

Jones, Thomas; Rooftops in Naples; The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/rooftops-in-naples-142210

Jones, Thomas; Rooftops in Naples; The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology

By the nineteenth century the scene began to change. The founder, in 1899,  of Cheltenham Art Gallery, Baron de Ferrieres with his important bequest of nearly fifty paintings, including important examples of  seventeenth century Dutch work, also reflected a change of direction in collecting to embrace contemporary paintings of the Low Countries. Unfamiliar names and places appear – examples being :-

Koster, Everhardus; Ruins over the River Birchel at Zutphen, The Netherlands; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/ruins-over-the-river-birchel-at-zutphen-the-netherlands-61884

Koster, Everhardus; Ruins over the River Birchel at Zutphen, The Netherlands; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum.

Springer, Cornelis; Fortified Buildings on the Banks of a Canal; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/fortified-buildings-on-the-banks-of-a-canal-62048

Springer, Cornelis; Fortified Buildings on the Banks of a Canal; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum;

Bodemann, Willem; Wooded Landscape; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/wooded-landscape-61669

Bodemann, Willem; Wooded Landscape; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum.

Yet Italy retained its charm for artists well into the twentieth century – and the Cheltenham collections reflect this interest.

 

Fisher, Janet C.; Rainbow over Assisi, Italy; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/rainbow-over-assisi-italy-61785

Fisher, Janet C.; Rainbow over Assisi, Italy; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum.

 

Bell, Arthur; Portico dei Comuni, Siena, Italy; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/portico-dei-comuni-siena-italy-61655

Bell, Arthur; Portico dei Comuni, Siena, Italy; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum

You might enjoy browsing Italian landscape and townscape on the ArtUK website – not just the Wilson (Cheltenham’s Art Gallery) but other galleries in this country.

 

 

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Art Appreciation No.2.

U3A Art Appreciation : No.2.

Grand Tour Reflections.

A while ago we discussed a painting, hanging on the walls of Cheltenham Art Gallery, titled ‘The Duke of St.Albans and his family’.

Smuglewicz, Franciszek; A Family Group of the 5th Duke of St Albans; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/a-family-group-of-the-5th-duke-of-st-albans-62041

Smuglewicz, Franciszek; A Family Group of the 5th Duke of St Albans; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum.

It has been assumed that this was a record of the family on a Grand Tour in Italy – although, usually, such excursions were made by young men accompanied by their tutor. This seems more like a short package tour, with a resident artist recording the event for the family to take home, hang it in their house encouraging admiration and envy.

The group discussion here in Cheltenham thoroughly explored the painting, its meaning, and its social context. It seemed generally agreed that the painting somehow seemed ‘unrealistic’ – almost like a stage set with ‘props’ (bits of ancient sculpture and architecture).  Perhaps it was not even painted in Italy! – but back in England where a rather ‘hack’ artist sketched individual members of the family and then ‘composed’ a required, appropriate, setting.  This ‘staging’ was not unusual at the time – major artists like Reynolds and Gainsborough at times followed the same practice : Gainsborough’s ‘Mr & Mrs Andrews’ or Reynolds, Earl of Egmont and his second wife..

20 Gainsborough NG

Gainsborough, Thomas : Mr & Mrs Andrews : Nat Gal. London.

Reynolds, Joshua; John, 2nd Earl of Egmont and His Second Wife Catherine; Bradford Museums and Galleries; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/john-2nd-earl-of-egmont-and-his-second-wife-catherine-23029

Reynolds, Joshua; John, 2nd Earl of Egmont and His Second Wife Catherine; Bradford Museums and Galleries.

It is, of course, necessary to add that the Earl of Egmont and Mr & Mrs Andrews are firmly planted on British soil!

Reference to the Grand Tour reminds me of an interesting snippet gleaned in my researches into Lord Northwick and his Art Collection – Lord Northwick of Northwick Park, Blockley, and Thirlestaine House, Cheltenham.  As a young man (then Sir John Rushout, Baron) Lord Northwick spent some ten years on his Grand Tour, mainly in Italy where he made the useful acquaintance of several significant cultural figures. He was an enthusiastic collector – initially of medals and cameos. In the 1790’s he had made the acquaintance of another English young Traveller – John Merritt of Rokeby who, in a letter home, made the following comment :-

‘His acquaintance we have formed some time, we were both medalling, but, however, in a very different way, as his collection is upwards of twelve thousand, and he gives up his whole time to it from morning to night.  In short, he is a most excellent antiquarian, which I am not; has a smack of the baronetcy, which I have not; and looks much oftener at Julia Mammea and Faustina the Younger than he does at pretty women about him – which I do not.’

 

 

 

 

 

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Cheltenham U3A Art Appreciation.

Art Appreciation No.1.

Deprived of our monthly discussions and arguments concerning paintings, and with the temporary closure of our home at the Art Gallery & Museum (The Wilson) with its access to the permanent collection of paintings, I am prompted to explore ways of continuing our explorations.  Hopefully members, and others, are able to ‘tune in’ to my (intermittent) Blog ‘Addison Art’ and so I thought I would attempt to add posts for our Cheltenham U3A Art Appreciation members (and others).                                                                                            So here goes!!                                                                                                                                            As a starter – Theodore von Holst, great-uncle of the Cheltenham composer Gustav Holst, who was born in london, the fourth of the five children of Matthias and Katharina von Holst.   Theodore’s early drawing talents were noticed by the Romantic artist Henry Fuseli, and also by Sir Thomas Lawrence, the outstanding portrait painter of his generation. Lawrence bought some of his early drawings and Fuseli tutored him until he entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1824.                                                                                     Like Fuseli, von Holst seemed to specialise in famous European literary subjects, often of a ‘Gothic’ nature, including Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare, and Mary Shelley and was the first artist to illustrate the novel ‘Frankenstein’ (in 1831) – but he was particularly fond of the German Romantics, including Goethe, E.T.A.Hoffmann, and Friedrich de la Motte Fouque. Whilst his exceptional imagination and draughtsmanship were widely praised, particularly by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelites, his choice of subjects were not generally popular with an apparent fixation on the demonic, the supernatural, and the erotic.  He nevertheless was able to exhibit in the major London exhibitions and also had a following as a portrait painter.  Regarded as a Cheltenham artist, with his musical family roots in the von Holst family resident in Cheltenham, the Cheltenham Art Gallery has a number of his paintings and drawings, with several on show at the Holst Birthplace Museum.  I include here a few examples of his work :-

von Holst, Theodor Matthias; Bertalda Frightened by Apparitions; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/bertalda-frightened-by-apparitions-61849

von Holst, Theodor Matthias; Bertalda Frightened by Apparitions; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum at Holst Birthplace Museum.

This subject is taken from a short tale ‘Undine’ (1811) by the German writer Friedrich de la Motte Fouque (1777-1843). The heroine Bertalda is tormented by a host of fantastical creatures, conjured up by the wicked supernatural creature ‘Kuhleborn’. These have been sent in an attempt to drive her away from the household of the hero, Huldbrand, and the lovely water-nymph Undine, whose evil Uncle is Kuhlebornand who is intent upon keeping the marriage between Undine and Huldbrand intact.  (Yes, I am confused as well!!)

 

von Holst, Theodor Matthias; The Wish; Yale Center for British Art; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-wish-247699

von Holst, Theodor Matthias; The Wish; Yale Center for British Art; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum at Holst Birthplace Museum.

A work still following the mysterious or mystical theme. This painting was purchased by Lord Northwick (d1859) and hung in the extensive picture galleries of his Cheltenham property, Thirlestaine House (now Cheltenham College).

 

von Holst, Theodor Matthias; Gustav von Holst and His Brother, Theodore; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/gustav-von-holst-and-his-brother-theodore-61850

Theodore von Holst, ‘ Gustavus von Holst and His Brother, Theodor’; Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum at Holst Birthplace Museum.

 

 

 

 

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