COLIN WIGGINS – TOP LECTURER! PRINTS AND PRINTMAKING – RICHMOND ART SOCIETY


RICHMOND ART SOCIETY HOSTED COLIN WIGGINS FOR A LECTURE ON 4 DECEMBER

I rate Colin Wiggins one of the best lecturers I have heard for the last few years.

He is excellent and makes his subjects absolutely fascinating.  His passion, he says, if for the art of Prints and Printmaking.

Colin is Curator of Special Projects at London’s National Gallery, and was previously Head of Education.  In his lecture earlier this year, he dealt with the prints produced during the early years of the technique, Medieval and the early Renaissance, in particularly in Germany and Italy.

REMBRANDT

We were shown slides of wonderful Rembrandt etchings,  demonstrating how he created tone  with minute crosshatching. One of his prints is a self-portrait wearing a floppy beret, the archetypal artist’s beret.  A later slide showed us a print of Sir Joshua Reynolds wearing just the same kind of floppy artist’s beret.  

MEZZOTINT

This was known as La manier anglais.  The prints were very popular with all the English Milords, who had done the Grand Tour of the continent, and had a portfolio of prints of famous oil paintings to show off to guests.  The Mezzotints apparently sold in their hundreds.  There are some beautiful examples still available to buy, if you are lucky in your search.

We saw some examples of the finished Mezzotint, which is a ‘black to white’ process, i.e. the plate prints black except where the white areas have been burnished.  It is the opposite method from an etching.

The various methods were explained, in particular it appears that the Mezzotint requires a very painstaking procedure, using a rocker to cover the plate all over with tiny marks. These hold the ink and print the image on the paper as black. The laborious process was the task of the apprentices.  To get the white bits the plate was burnished with steel, thus holding less ink and printing pale grey or white.  More about Mezzotint from this information provided by the National Portrait Gallery, London

THOMAS GAINSBOROUGH

He was also a very competent printmaker, using a soft-ground etching –  luckily I have done quite a bit of etching so know what the soft-ground and the hard-ground etching is, as well as an aquatint. A good place to find out more is the British Museum Print Room, which you can visit and ask to see the boxes of prints done by various artists, including Goya, as there is a marvellous collection

ROWLANDSON

Colin talked at length about the work of Rowlandson, and showed us a lot of various images. They were full of humour. Some of the prints were hand-coloured.  The colour was usually applied by women, apparently, in a kind of conveyor belt system, i.e. one person doing all the yellows, one doing all the reds.

There is a an exhibition of the work of Thomas Rowlandson at present in the Royal Collection, The Queen’s Gallery Palace of Holyroodhouse, in Scotland.  Here is a link about it.

We laughed at ‘Exhibition Stare Case‘ with its voluptuous nudes falling down the stairs, to the delight of the men.  Colin pointed out the Rowlandson is never vicious.  By comparison we looked at:

GILRAY

His work is often very vicious and the work had little or no humour,  we looked at one called French Liberty – British Slavery, showing an emaciated Frenchman, with long toenails because he never cut them, and in the back a pot of snails, and opposite a grossly fat Brit eating roast beef.  We also saw images of the Prince Regent, as a ‘Voluptuary under the horrors of Digestion’, and ‘The three Mr Wigginses’, which Colin said might be distant ancestors!  The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge has a fine collection of Gillray prints.

GOYA

We saw a print of an etching from Goya’s painting of the Duke of Wellington. Wellington apparently hated the painting and would not display it.  Goya’s early etchings show the superstition rife in Spain, for instance the gruesome one ‘There is plenty to suck’. This is apparently in the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York.  Later, Goya made prints of images of the famous people he had painted such as Manuel Godoy, the evil and wicked minister, and the Duchess of Alba; the original portrait of her is in New York now.  The famous prints of the series, Disasters of War were produced post-Napoleonic war.

These are, we were asked to agree, a much more powerful statement than photographs, of war.

COLIN WIGGINS repeated that he is a huge champion of the art of printmaking.  He recommended we visit the exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, of Whistler, which includes some lovely etchings, particularly of the Thames.  NOTE TO SELF: This I must do!

We look forward to another lecture, as soon as possible, bring the history of printmaking up to our present time.  Meanwhile, there is always the BRITISH MUSEUM PRINT ROOM  to visit!

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NATIONAL GALLERY EXHIBITION – FREDERICK CHURCH AND THE LANDSCAPE OIL SKETCH


THROUGH AMERICAN EYES:  FREDERICK CHURCH AND THE LANDSCAPE OIL SKETCH
Frederic Church is one of America’s Hudson Valley painters. He lived from 1826 to 1900.

OLANA HOUSE EXTERIOR

OLANA HOUSE EXTERIOR

OLANA
We went to Olana, his Husdon Valley home and estate, one day in July last year, during what was a debilitating heatwave. Temperatures up on the high 30s!  We were on a visit to stay with family, who live in Ulster County, New York State, so it was within driving distance, and the car had  air con of course.

There are a number of interesting large houses on the banks of the Hudson River, which are usually placed on high ground giving fine views of this beautiful river.  The rich used to come there for the summer, to get away from the humidity of the city.
This particular house is very well preserved and quite unusual; it is built in the Persian style and was constructed at a time when Frederick Church had made himself a wealthy man from his paintings. So everything was of the highest quality.  The house is smaller than I had imagined it would be, and dark inside, with so many ornate surfaces and dark works of art, both paintings and sculpture and ceramics.

BOOK YOUR TOUR IN ADVANCE!

BOOK YOUR TOUR IN ADVANCE!

Remember to book your admittance though. We arrived at the ticket office a little after our booked time, due to the problem we had in finding a parking space.  The car park is tiny.  For that reason we had to wait for about 45 minutes before the next slot for visitors.  The house is kept closed and locked unless opened for a group tour, so all you can do is wander around the grounds, or buy stuff in the shop.  Luckily for us, there is a small barn where a film is shown, probably on a loop, about Olana and the Church family.

Inside we were conducted around and given a good introduction to Church and his work, but the guides are all volunteers so you may, or may not, get a good one. A bit like our own dear National Trust.

I liked the Church landscapes very much, and the family nicknacks were fascinating, as was learning about the background to the painter and his fellow artists of the Hudson Valley School.

RUSTIC FENCES ADD CHARM AT OLANA

RUSTIC FENCES ADD CHARM AT OLANA

HUDSON

The heat outside was still very enervating, and there is no cafe or drinks stall, so we decided to drive across the river to the small town of Hudson, where we parked.  Then we shrivelled up in the blast of midday walking along the deserted streets, to a well-reviewed Italian restaurant for a good lunch.

It is well worth going to Olana if you are there on holiday, and also try and see the other mansions in the Hudson Valley, they are quite different from our own stately homes, because they were designed for holiday residences and not long term family homes. In those days you travelled to your holiday home by river steamer, because the railroad had yet to reach that far up river.

NATIONAL GALLERY EXHIBITION

I was very interested to read the article in The Daily Telegraph Travel section of February 2, by Susan Marling, called ‘A brush with the sublime’, about the new exhibition at the National Gallery dedicated to Frederick Church.  The photographs too were excellent.  The exhibition is called:
Through American Eyes: Frederic Church and the Landscape Oil Sketch’
The exhibition runs from February 6 until April 28.

http://www.olana.org
http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/frederic-church
http://www.gotohudson.net/about.php