New Book | Art and Industry

Posted in books by Editor on May 20, 2021

Distributed in the US and Canada by The University of Chicago Press:

David Stacey, Art and Industry: Seven Artists in Search of an Industrial Revolution in Britain (London: Unicorn Publishing Group, 2021), 176 pages, ISBN: 978-1913491291, £25 / $38.

In seven linked essays, the author discusses paintings of industrial scenes by seven artists working in the period 1780–1830. Their unique and distinct responses to the subject-matter reveal a surprisingly coherent message. Joseph Wright of Derby invites us to consider the lives of the men, women and children working in Arkwright’s cotton mills at Cromford. John Opie, in his painting of a Cornish entrepreneur and a miner, acknowledges the value of new technology but leads us to reflect on class and the use of capital. Philippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg responds to the sublimity of the industrial landscape at Coalbrookdale but reveals the impact of an industry no longer subject to nature’s diurnal rhythms. Joseph Mallord William Turner presents an evolving response to the changes that Britain was undergoing. He observes with delight the opening up of pastoral scenery along the new canal routes but prompts the viewer to consider the environmental impact of industrial development. William Havell finds copper-mining employees in a place between heaven and hell in an industry subject to competition and the vagaries of demand. Penry Williams, in his paintings of ironworks at Merthyr Tydfil, raises the issue of the conditions that ironworkers and miners were facing as the gap widened between employer and employee. And the little-known and often-derided Henry Hawkins produces an image which lifts the lid on his slave-owning patron’s enterprise through an image of a slate quarry which suggests parallels with Dante’s Divine Comedy. Seven artists in search of an industrial revolution in Britain respond in their works with a coherent message on the impact of new technology, the use of capital and on conditions that saw the emergence of new social classes in Britain.

David Stacey is an independent art historian with a lifelong interest in British paintings of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He has contributed articles to The British Art Journal, The Burlington Magazine, and other art history journals. He graduated with a degree in engineering science from the University of Oxford and has a postgraduate degree in the history of art from Birkbeck College, University of London. He has worked as an international water resources consultant in South and South-East Asia and the Middle East and is a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He has two children and lives in London.


On Tour | Jan van Huysum Visits

Posted in exhibitions, museums by Editor on May 20, 2021

From the National Gallery’s press release (May 2021). . .

Jan van Huysum, Flowers in a Terracotta Vase, 1736–37, oil on canvas, 134 × 92 cm (London: The National Gallery, NG796).

Following the positive response to Artemisia Visits (2019), the National Gallery is delighted to announce Jan van Huysum Visits which will see Van Huysum’s magnificent Flowers in a Terracotta Vase (1736–37) travel to six locations across the United Kingdom in summer 2021.

The painting will visit Cornwall, Norfolk, the East Midlands, South Yorkshire, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Each display will explore one of six ‘Ways to Wellbeing’: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning, Give, and Care (for the Planet). Flowers in a Terracotta Vase will be on tour for approximately three months, from early June.

In each region, the painting will pop up in an unusual or unexpected non-museum venue; locations include a food bank and community library, a covered market, a former department store and community centres. The tour will promote ways in which art and culture can support wellbeing and reach audiences who have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 and the UK lockdown.

At the heart of Jan van Huysum Visits is engagement with local communities. In each setting the Gallery is working closely with the venue as well as a local museum or gallery to ensure that as many people as possible can engage with the painting and make it come alive in new and different ways.

Jan van Huysum (1682–1749) was a native of Amsterdam and the last of the distinguished still-life painters active in the Northern Netherlands in the 17th and early 18th centuries, an internationally celebrated artist in his lifetime. His spectacular Flowers in a Terracotta Vase—which shows over 30 species of flowers and plants in bloom, unfurling in exquisite detail—is no shy, hide-in-a-corner painting. It’s meant to dazzle and it does. Van Huysum is after, and achieves, excess: a celebration of nature, an entertaining puzzle, and a display of wealth, culture, and fashion.

The vase towers above the viewer who is placed firmly below, looking up at it in a niche suitable for a Classical sculpture. The vase overflows with all types of flowers, from florid roses, peonies, mauve and red poppies to the humbler primroses, apple blossom and bachelor’s buttons. In the Dutch Republic, horticulture was a subject of national pride. This is a rich man’s bouquet made to look winsome and natural, but in reality, it’s carefully orchestrated, displaying not only a passion for flowers but an immense knowledge and understanding of them. Butterflies, a yellow ant, a fly, and hothouse fruit are added to the exotic mix, bringing the garden into the house as was the fashion in interior decoration. But one or two of the luscious grapes are past their best, perhaps suggesting the brevity of life but more likely indicating that a painted picture lives on long after the insects and flowers have vanished. Crystal drops of cool water, feathery leaves, delicate petals breathing their scent, the quivering wings of the red admiral butterfly all evoke the senses of touch, of smell, even of taste.

Flowers in a Terracotta Vase celebrates the longevity of the painted image and enduring impact art can have on our hearts and minds. The Gallery invites audiences from across the nation to engage with this splendid picture during the longer, brighter days that summer will bring. The vibrancy and abundance of Flowers in a Terracotta Vase will resonate with so many who have sought comfort and hope in the natural world during a trying year. Whether it be tending to their own gardens, enjoying the beauty and wildlife of national parks and woodlands, or simply pausing to notice the dewy petals of fresh blooms, visitors will find echoes of that in the vivid colours of Flowers in a Terracotta Vase.

Jan van Huysum Visits is part of the National Gallery’s national touring exhibitions programme, which aims to share paintings across the UK, creating a range of ways for the widest possible audience to explore and be inspired by the collection.

National Gallery Director, Dr Gabriele Finaldi, says, “This astounding, large flower painting will make an unexpected appearance in unexpected venues across the country. I hope it will make people think about art and the beauty of nature, encourage their own creativity, and inspire them to visit their own local museum or art collection.”

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