Saturday, 27 June 2015

Own Work - Life Drawing X

A mixed bag this week, two poses of an hour each.  The first went well, the second was a bit of a disaster.  Here are both for your delectation and delight.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Holiday III Tintern Abbey

Friday morning found us standing outside Tintern Abbey. It's hard to know what to say about this building it is so well known. Some facts: it was founded in 1131, and the abbey church rebuilt in stages in the second half of the 13th century; it remained pretty much unaltered until 1536 and the Dissolution of the Monasteries. For the next two centuries it passed into relative obscurity - the domestic buildings robbed for building stone, but the church left oddly intact - until the late Eighteenth century when it became a locus for the secular cult of Romanticism, and it has been painted, photographed and written about repeatedly ever since. It is, rightly, still on the itinerary of tourists and day-trippers. Rightly, because the church is such an elegant, slightly austere design, as befits a Cistercian house, and its setting is magical.  The reasons for choosing this particular place to found an abbey are obvious.  It is incredibly idyllic, beautiful.  An enclosed, remote place. The proportions of the church are superb.  The style is Geometric Decorated with touches of that next stage of Decorated Gothic, Reticulated - eg. the great west window.  Everything is clear and lucid.  There is no triforium as such but a plain, blank wall, like you might find in some German churches.
The first tours to the Abbey were started by The Rev. John Egerton, who lead parties of friends down river from Ross-on-Wye. Thomas Gray, the poet, and later William Gilpin, anglican priest and aesthetic theorist, made the 'Wye Tour', as it became known, in 1770s in search of the picturesque; "The first source of amusement to the picturesque traveller," Gipin wrote, "is the pursuit of his object - the expectation of new scenes continually opening, and arising to his view." The Wye valley with it's winding course and steep valley offered much to the 'picturesque traveller' including the Abbey then overgrown and surrounded with industry. Gilpin though confessed he wanted to get a ladder and assault the abbey church with a hammer to make it more picturesque for “though the parts are beautiful, the whole is ill-shaped”. The Abbey was only seen for its scenic, landscape value; for other later visitors the melancholic emotions it stirred. Gilpin wrote up his travels in 'Observations on the River Wye and several parts of South Wales, etc. relative chiefly to Picturesque Beauty; made in the summer of the year 1770', published in 1782. This did much to publicize the 'Wye Tour' and Turner, Coleridge, Wordsworth all followed in Gilpin's wake. "Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey" ('Lyrical Ballads') was written on Wordsworth's second visit in 1798.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Classic Car and Bike Show

The year has come around again and it is summer, the solstice, my father's birthday and once again The Bourne Classic Car and Bike Show.  Alas it could also be the last, as the guys who organize things are getting a-weary.  New volunteers and organizers are required.  As avid readers of this post will know this is one of my favorite local events.  It's all very mellow.  This year there were more cars and bikes than ever.  Here are my faves from this year's show.


Friday, 19 June 2015

Holiday IV St Cuthbert, Wells

At the other end of the High St from the cathedral is the Parish Church of St Cuthbert.  As you can see it has a spectacular 122ft high tower.   A tower that alone justifies this separate post.  A Somerset tower too, like those on the cathedral.  Something of a regional specialty; the signs of  a school of local well-trained skillful stone masons.   In fact St Cuthbert's was thoroughly re-modeled in the Late Middle Ages, so that from the exterior it looks thoroughly Perpendicular.  The spacious, multi-vista'd  interior with transepts and side chapels however displays the work of an earlier building period: the nave arcades.  Early English in origin they were (fantastically enough) partially taken down as part of the re-modeling, heightened by some 11ft and then rebuilt, capped with a new clerestory and a spectacular wooden roof.  There is another excellent roof in the southern side chapel.  There are in addition the remains of two mighty medieval reredoses on the east wall of both north and south transepts.  Both lucky survivors even in a mutilated state.  It is a shame then that none of the modern fittings are worthy of the architecture.

Own Work: VIII Life drawing & IX

Here are my efforts from the past two sessions.  Unfortunately the model booked for yesterday (Thursday) was unable to sit so some of the students took it in turns to sit. The work is, as always in the order of production.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Holiday III Wells Cathedral

The next day we motored over to Wells cathedral - the view coming Bristol Hill is stunning with Glastonbury Tor in the middle distance, like stepping into a mythic landscape, which of course it is.  Wells really is a gem among English cathedrals.  Small but just exquisite.  The craftsmanship is incredible; there are all sorts of figures hiding among the capitals and other carved detail of the Early English nave and transepts.  The chapter house, and those wonderful steps are Geometric Decorated; the architectural critic and historian Alec Clifton Taylor said it was the most beautiful in England.  The Lady Chapel at the far east of the cathedral is Reticulated Decorated; the retrochoir Curvilinear Decorated; the choir, for me the most wonderful part of a building full of wonders, is also Decorated but of a later date still - just at that moment when Curvilinear Decorated begins to freeze into Perpendicular. Look at the tracery.  The towers and the cloisters are fully Perpendicular Gothic.  There isn't any more to say, apart from 'Go!'  You will not be disappointed.  There's even a working Medieval clock with jousting figures to mark the hours.  And the city is pretty lovely too.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Holiday II Bath

On the first full day of our time in the West Country we headed east (through Bristol, making mental note to return) to Bath.  It was my first proper visit, and a packed day we had of it; and as as we parked in Bennet St just east of the New Assembly Rooms (1769-71 by John Wood the Younger; the Tea Room is the best interior) I thought I'd start there.  These are just photos of some of the things I liked.  I really should have been more methodical, more organised, but I suspect I'll be returning, for Bath is very beautiful.  Stepping out of the car I felt a real frisson of excitement.  The architecture, the building stone, the topography, the sense of being in a proper city - a classical city at that - all contributed to an overwhelming experience.  In common with some of the other towns I've written about on this blog, such as Oundle in Nothamptonshire and Hadleigh in Suffolk, it is the collective sum of the city that impresses rather than individual buildings; just think of that wonderful view through Pulteney Bridge (1764-74 by Robert Adam) and up Great Pulteney Street (by Thomas Baldwin).
Although there are a small number of Baroque buildings down in the city centre, the architectonic language of city that grew up in the 18th century is essentially Neo-Palladian; and unfortunately one of the great failings of Neo-Palladiansim was the inability to evolve an architectural language for public and civic buildings.  It is therefore telling that in context of Bath the two greatest architectural expressions in the city are The Circus, with its strange druidic and masonic imagery (1754-66 by John Wood the Elder with Wood the Younger), and The Royal Crescent, (1767 by John Wood the Younger) were both the work of a civic minded private enterprise and also 'domestic'.  For me their success, together with the north side of Queen Square (1729, also by John Wood the Elder), lies in the robustness, and plasticity of the architecture.  Both, too, have a hint of the Baroque about them.  The Circus is essentially a French, and Baroque, Rond Point; The Royal Crescent, which has a masculine almost Vanbrugh air to it, has a sweep and a scale, a monumentality that could only be produced during or after the Baroque. It is almost an equivalent of Bernini's great colonnades outside St Peter's.
The smaller spaces were a delight too: Margaret's Buildings, Saville Row, Beauford Square.  Delightful also the street names carved into the very stone of the buildings - crisp, clear and beautifully done.

There were only two real disappointments: the Abbey and the Roman Baths.  Neither would be an experience I would wish to repeat too soon.  The Abbey is very late Perpendicular Gothic, credit usually goes to the brothers William and Robert Vertue, was abandoned half finished at the Reformation, and is crammed full of monuments and furniture. The entrance hall to the Roman Baths is by the Scottish architect John Brydon and is probably the best classical interior in the city.  Suitably Imperial in scale.  Both however were incredibly busy and there was little space left for the numinous and I felt alienated in both - profoundly so in the Roman Baths.  I was put in mind of W B Yeats's 'greasy till' ('September 1913').  Perhaps they need to be experienced at some other time and season.