Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Own work - Another arch from Serlio

Here's a little something I made last week.  I hope you like it.  Its currently at the framers.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Own work - Life Drawing XVI

There was one two hour pose last Thursday.  Here's what I made of it.

Sunday, 25 October 2015


On the day that the clocks have changed and the golden leaves are floating down from the cherry tree in the back garden, I'm returning to a damp summer's day and the trip the bf and I made through Lincolnshire to Gunby Hall.
Leaving Sleaford we went deeper into the county crossing the fens and the wide Witham valley stopping next at Tattershall and the great complex there of castle, church and almshouses.  They are the work of Ralph Cromwell, Treasurer of England, and originally the complex was bigger still with buildings to house the college of priests and a grammar school.  Some of this was not even started by the time of Cromwell's death in 1456 and it was left to his executor Bishop William Waynflete to complete the work - the Cromwells were childless.
The parish church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, was completely rebuilt from 1469 onwards.  John Cowper was appointed mason 1474.  It is a vast glasshouse of a church, the architecture a little chill - there is no cusping at all in the tracery, but the interior as a real nobility.  It would have been sumptuous when all the windows were filled with stained glass, but most of what remained after the Reformation was removed in the 18th century to decorate St Martin's in Stamford.  The leftovers have been collected in the chancel east window. Unfortunate too that it never benefited from the hand of a Gothic Revival architect such as 'somethingofthechameleon' favourites G F Bodley and Sir J N Comper who would have filled it with gorgeous things as the architecture demands.  Of the surviving Medieval fitments the best is the Pulpitum built in 1528 Robert de Whalley, less than ten years then from the beginnings of the English Reformation.
And now to the castle.  Odd to consider that really not much of the castle survives, except that what does survive is stupendous: the great donjon tower built by Ralph Cromwell, an almost fairy tale vision of Late Medieval architecture.  It was part of a massive remodeling of an existing fortress, however apart from the moats, and the gatehouse, everything else has gone - chapel, hall, walls, towers gatehouses.  All gone.  Just grass and a few foundations.  For the survival and restoration of the tower we have to thank the Tory politician and Viceroy of India Lord Nathaniel Curzon, who in the early years of the last century rescued the spectacular fireplaces from being shipped to the U.S and commissioned the Scottish born Arts and Crafts architect William Weir to re-floor and re-roof the tower.  New stained glass was installed, and Ernest Gimson and/or the Barnsley brothers designed and made new bridges for the moats and display cases for the small museum installed in the remains of the gatehouse.  All this done, Curzon handed over the castle to the National Trust.  Curzon also bought furniture, including tapestries for some of the rooms.
The tower is an ingenious piece of Medieval planning: each floor has one enormous room in the centre surrounded by smaller spaces in the corner towers or else buried in the thickness of the massive walls.  It is also one of the earliest brick structures in Britain.  In one year of construction 322,000 bricks were supplied for the donjon alone.  A colossal undertaking.  And it was not Cromwell's only house.  The mortar, I believe, was once painted red to match the bricks, and each of the corner turrets was originally topped with a short spire. At the very top of the tower, (it is 110 ft high), is unexpectedly a courtyard, almost like a cloister.  From the battlements there were incredible views of the county - the great low lying ridge of the Lincoln Edge to the west climaxing in the north-west with Lincoln cathedral, the Minster, proud and glorious on her hill, and then in the south across the vast level expanse of the fens the mighty finger of Boston Stump, and all the time the weather, a great bank of cloud piling in from the west like we were in the midst of some Neo-Romantic, visionary, painting.  I think I nearly cried with the sublimity of it all.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Wimpole III The church of St Andrew

Nestling in the purlieu of the house is the parish church of St Andrew.  There is no village to be seen.  It was shipped south in the 18th century to what is now New Wimpole lining the A603, leaving the parish church like a piece of flotsam, beached.  The church as it is now is an almost complete rebuilding of that period (1748-49), replacing a medieval structure with a west tower, and it is a work of Henry Flitcroft.  In the 19th century somebody thought it a good idea to gothicize it.  Not much of an effort was made, but that was more than enough.
Both inside and out is a straightforward oblong box, but attached to the north side is a tomb chamber, a left over from the Medieval church.  I can't think of what else to call it as I doubt it has contained an altar for hundreds of years, and mausoleum sounds too grand. Anyway it contains an array of monuments - apparently the best collection in the county. (Apologies  - I only photographed the baroque-y ones.) I think it originally only communicated with the church through a small door, either way the large arched opening dates from 1960 and was designed by Sir Albert Richardson.  Some of the windows contain Medieval glass, saved - one would like to think- from the old church.  And there is some later glass by William Peckitt of York.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Walsingham II The Church of St Mary

Walsingham's parish church stands a little aloof from the village it serves.  From the road the tower is perfect, but seen in conjunction with the body of the church it is too small. Still, it is a beautiful building, possessing both a south porch and a rarer west porch.  The window tracery is a bit mannered, the little arches being straight and not curved.   To step into the church into it's great white, pristine space is to step not back into the ancient past but something more recent, for in July 1961 the church was gutted by fire.  By all accounts the pre-fire church possessed a remarkable atmosphere.
St Mary's was rebuilt by Laurence King who was then favoured by the sort of Anglo-Catholics who in the past would have patronised Martin Travers and the Society of Ss Peter and Paul.  There is plenty of work by King at the Anglican Shrine.  His work slips between Modernism and the Gothic Revival and the Back-to-Baroque of MartinTravers depending on context.  Often all three get jumbled up together.  He has too that Travers trick of rubbing ochre on to statues to prematurely age them.  It can be seen on the statue of St Catherine of Alexandria below, where it also adds a third dimension to what is essentially a graphic image. I suppose the rebuilt St Mary's is one of his jumbles.  The church was rebuilt exactly as it was before the fire, and then furnished with Gothic Revival furniture from elsewhere and new furnishings of King's design hovering around between Gothic and Baroque with the odd bit of Sixties Psychedelia added in.
The interior, sparkling white, and almost embodies what Hewlett Johnson, 'The Red Dean', wrote:

'....with great cool spaces, with whitened walls, with windows through which one could see the trees and fields and clouds, enlivened here and there with a splash of colour, or a patch of heraldry....an altar rich in hangings set on riddels, broad and majestic in its form, but severe in its splendid restraint....Flowers should stand in glass vases upon the altar or in great bowls on the floor beside it; or on a low stand by the chancel steps.  And there should be flowers in the porch to welcome me....The few lamps, ceremonial or otherwise, should be largely conceived and hung by great cords from the roof....The pulit should rise all alone unjostled by any seats, and the font in splendid isolation should face the altar from the west, with its own rich cover nobly hung by a great chain or cord from the roof. Nor should it lack homely or intimate touches.  Round the empty ailse there should be chapels or corners for speacial purposes, and the children should not be forgotten.  But the main impression should be that of space, broken only by a few significant and exquietly beautiful things; and every detail of the church, from the latch on the door to the buffet beneath my feet, should bespeak a car and a thought worthy of God's House.  Such a church, with its impalable air of freshness and vitality would recall us time and again to meditation and refreshment.'

Almost but not quite.  There is a coldness here, which I think is partly down to the mechanical carving of the rebuilt piers and arches, the institutional flooring and the strange colours things, like the roof, are painted.  Was it really necessary to repaint the hanging rood (by Comper) and the Lady Chapel reredos (by Bodley)?  To denude them, thereby?  The detailing of the west lobby is really excellent, the organ case above is not.  The most splendid thing in the church is the great seven sacraments font, which escaped the fire without serious damage.  Shame that King didn't replace all of the font cover that was destroyed in the fire.

Saturday, 17 October 2015


On Wednesday I went up to London and in a very hectic day took in five exhibitions.  Things started at the RIBA Headquarters in Portland Place with the exhibition 'Palladian Design: The Good, the Bad and the Unexpected'.  I'm not a great fan of English Neo-Palladian design, which always strikes me as an anemic homage to the master, and this exhibition did nothing to change my mind.  It didn't do much either for my opinion of Inigo Jones as a draughtsman, the same I would say for the drawings of the master himself.  For sheer technical brilliance the prize went to Cyril Farey's perspective drawing of the parliament building at Stormont in Northern Ireland designed by Arnold Thorneley.  The Exhibition was also graced by one of Quinlan Terry's atmospheric linocuts of King's Walden Bury, which he designed with Rayond Erith for the Pilkingtons in the late 1960s. Henry Flitcroft's drawing of that strange up-tight little building Chiswick House for Lord Burlington was incredibly delicate but dull.   This exhibition is a lightning tour of the influence Andrea Palladio has had in the four hundred plus years since his death in 1580.  His greatest influence was here in the British Isles, first with the work of Inigo Jones in the early to mid 17th century, and then in the 18th century with Lord Burlington and his circle, the Neo-Palladian school.  It is mainly, therefore, a history of the architecture of Britain and her Empire. Reference is made however the Palladianism in Prussia and Russia.  Much less is made of the influence of Palladio, and British Palladian architects like William Kent, on French Neo-classical architecture.  It should not be forgotten that the British Neo-Palladians looked as much to Roman Antiquity as they did to Palladio himself.  Part, in fact, and wholesale attempt by Lord Burlington to replace the influence of  France with that of the Italian peninsular. That desire for the Antique perhaps explains the presence of a model of St Martin-in-the-Fields by James Gibbs, which is essentially a Late Baroque building, with Serlian, not Palladian details. (Serlio, I think, is the hidden influence in British architecture, an almost continual ghostly presence from the Elizabethan age onwards.  Perhaps he deserves his own exhibition.)  It is the great west portico of St Martin's makes for the church's inclusion though perhaps for the wrong reasons.  Good to see a drawing by Asplund, with its rather whimsical lettering, but I somehow think that the influence of Palladio is not direct, but mediated through French Neo-classicism.  Of the modern work of architects influenced by Palladio I found the work of Oswald Ungers thoroughly convincing; another happy discovery were the Modernist villas designed by John Penn in Suffolk. Their planning was wonderfully clear, even if visually their appeal was slightly lacking. By and large, I couldn't help but feel that this was just too large a subject for the space available.  A disappointment of sorts then.  But then the catalogue is a lovely thing, and I picked up a copy for myself and a friend, for I was also a man on a mission.
After lunch in Polpo, Beak St, I headed into Mayfair and the 'Monument' exhibtion of works by Ed Kluz in Albemarle St..  On the way I got sidetracked by the current exhibition at 'Borough' at Waterhouse & Dodd (47 Albermale St  Until 24th Oct.).  This was a group show centred on the work of David Bomberg and of his pupils in the life drawing class Bomberg ran between 1945 and 1953 at the then Borough Polytechnic in south London. Pupils included Leon Kossof, Frank Auerbach and Denis Creffield.  This was a minor revelation of profoundly strong picture making - not all to my taste, but no one could doubt the integrity of the what was produced.  Wholly convincing.  Miles away in its ferocity from the world of Lord Burlington and the Neo-Palladians.  The discovery of this show was for me the work of Dorothy Mead, but there were also impressive work by Richard Michelmoore, Miles Richmond and Leslie Marr - the fantastic 'Ronda' of 1958.  If I only had the money to spare.  Bomberg thought deeply about art and wrote extensively.  There is an illuminating essay by Roy Oxlade on Bomberg's aproach to art, 'David Bomberg: Notre Dames of the Mind' in the first edition of  the magazine 'Modern Painters' (Volume 1 Number 1 1988).  It's worth a read.  Bomberg saw art as a spiritual activity: 'There is in man the desire to see perpetuated, in some form of imagery, his inward spiritual urge to a higher and more complete existence. In periods when artist can be inspired - given freedom to express this inspiration, we get great art.'
Make the effort to go if you can.
Finally I arrived at J M Martin (38 Albemarle St. Until 31st Oct.) and the work of Ed Kluz.  A suitable title 'Monument'.  For not only are mounments - cathedrals, country houses, and the Crystal Palace - Ed's subjects, but the work is on a commensurate scale.  Collages; vast, austere works, though rich in colour, and deeply atmospheric. Austere in the sense of being great empty landscapes, as though the subject had been scooped by some gigantic hand and dropped into a slightly sinister fenland landscape.  I suspect, for although I'm fortunate to own a work by Kluz I don't know his work well enough, that these works on display represent a new direction for the artist.  The Crystal Palace, with its seemingly infinite pieces of card reminded me (in a good way) of those models people, mainly men I suspect, made of matchsticks.  This isn't to denigrate Kluz's work - far from it - merely to link it into British Popular Art, which I know to be important to Kluz and artists like him.  Another exhibition I would urge you to go and see.  They really are quite dazzling.
From there I popped into the Royal Academy, and ignoring the Ai Weiwei exhibtion went in search of Danile Maclise's immense Waterloo Cartoon (Weston Rooms, until 3rd Jan 2016).  At over 13m wide, this staggering work (1858-59) is merely the preliminary drawing prepared by Maclise for the mural painting that decorates the House of Lords.  It has been restored, with Arts Council Funding, as part of the commemorations of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.  I was struck by the detail, but also the pathos. This is a sophisticated work honouring both the triumph and the suffering.  And at the centre of things Wellington pensive and humble in victory.  The calm centre of the storm. In the adjoining gallery there were some really wonderful French engravings on display telling the French side of the Napoleonic Wars.  Over in the Tenant Gallery there was a big display of the sketch books of the architect Chris Wilkinson RA (until 14th Feb 2016).  Not my type of architecture at all, but lovely drawings, beautifully composed on the page.  Anyone who keeps a sketchbook should visit and take time to study.

My final port of call was the wonderful shop 'Pentreath & Hall' in Rugby St, co-owned by my friend Ben Pentreath and his business partner Bridie Hall, and it was at his request I picked up that second copy of the exhibition catalogue at the RIBA.  Ben unfortunately was held up in Dorset so I couldn't hand over the book in person.  However I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of Ben's lovely staff and also meeting Ben's partner Charlie McCormick who had just opened a pop-up shop next door. I really should have tried the cake; it looked wonderful.  Charlie has just started a new business venture that's sounds very exciting.  You can read about it here

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Walsingham I

Walsingham is one of the major pilgrimage sites in Britain, and since my late teens the place has a held a deep attraction to me- a place of refreshment, a place of incredible serenity, that is also in quite my favourite part of the world: North Norfolk.  In the Middle Ages it outshone all other Marian shrines in England such as Ipswich, Willesden or Egmanton, vying with the great shrine of Thomas a Beckett at Canterbury in popularity.  Pilgrims traveled from across northern Europe to visit.  Suppressed at the Reformation, the shrine was revived between the Wars, on a different site, by the then spikily anglo-catholic parish priest, Fr Hope Patten.  The church commissioned by Hope Pattern from Milner & Craze, 1931-7, looks like it has dropped in from suburban London and has decided to stay.  At least is has a pantiled roof.
Regardless of the attractions of the shrine Walsingham is a beautiful, if somewhat faded, village - the affluence of the North Norfolk coast has yet to trickle south.  Village, however, is not quite an accurate description, for the High St, in particular, has a bit of an urban feel.  The Shell County Guide to Norfolk is happy to call it a small town.  There are old buildings and several lovely Victorian shop fronts, which once housed the butcher and the baker but are now crammed with any amount of saint-sulpicerie.  There are also the remains of the Priory, which sheltered the original shrine, and now part of the grounds of a small country house, and the friary - again part now of a house. The religious live dominates: retired clergy slowly wending their way home with the shopping and nuns cautious behind the wheel of an automobile as they navigate the narrow streets. Unfortunately 'The Martlet', which was a fantastic stationers and book-bindery, has closed earlier thuis year; however there are a couple of good antique shops and an excellent farm shop.  One thing to look out in the following photographs for are the black-glazed pantiles.  A speciality, I think, of East Anglia, if not Norfolk only.  I can't think of anywhere else.
And then, quite unexpectedly and quite deliciously on the very edge of the village, and formed out of the former railway station, is a Russian Orthodox church.
Anyway, on Saturday, with all my contradictions and stupidities, I went on pilgrimage.  The weather was perfect, and it was in its way quite a profound experience.  Here are some of the images I took.