A Chasm in Time by Patricia R. Andrew

 A Chasm in Time cover

A Chasm in Time: Scottish War Art and Artists in the Twentieth Century by Patricia R. Andrew is a beautifully produced book and a great read. Anyone interested in art and history will find it fascinating I’m sure, you don’t have to be Scottish!

I was most interested in the World War 1 art which features such images as warships in Scapa Flow and the Firth of Forth, but it isn’t only war and weaponry that feature in the paintings. I particularly like James McIntosh Patrick’s Tay Bridge painting, but I hadn’t realised that this was the view from the front of the artist’s house. The government had commissioned art which showed the civilian side of life during the war.

The Tay Bridge from my Studio Window

Tay Bridge
The domestic scene below is of the view from the back of the artist’s house, showing his wife hanging out the washing and their wee daughter helping.

A City Garden
a city garden

There was only one thing that annoyed me about this book – it should have been proof read more closely. I know, I know, you could say that for almost any book nowadays. I think people run a spell checker and think that will sort things out but it doesn’t weed out such things as abroad when aboard should have been printed, or panting instead of painting. There were also quite a lot of hyphenated words where no hyphens should have been, such as wit-nessed, com-bination and Cran-ston. I think these must have come about when the book was being set out differently and not corrected when the design was changed. But that’s me being nit-picking, it’s just that I know that if I had written such a lovely book I would have been furious at these mistakes.

I borrowed this from the library but I intend to buy a copy of it as I know I’ll want to dip into it now and again.

Good Evening, Mrs Craven by Mollie Panter-Downes

 Good Evening, Mrs Craven cover

For a week now our home has been a bit of a centre of misery as we’ve both had rotten colds. Jack got it first and generously passed it on to me – share and share alike! With explosive sneezing bouts occurring frequently we’ve both been too exhausted to do anything much, but when I’ve had the energy I’ve been reading.

But decisions, decisions – what should I read? I tried The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s on my list of Scottish books to read for the Read Scotland 2017 Challenge. But I only got a couple of pages into it before realising that my brain was not going to cope with the medieval style of English that it seems to be written in. I gave it up intending to go back to it when I’m back to normal.

I then picked up A.J. Cronin’s The Citadel, but the subject matter of medicine and Harley Street doesn’t appeal to me at the moment. So I put it down again.

I couldn’t find my copy of The Young Pattullo by J.I.M. Stewart – so opted to start reading Good Evening, Mrs Craven: The Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes. It had just dropped through our letterbox a few days before. It turned out that these short stories – often very short were just perfect for my mood.

They were originally published in The New Yorker magazine, giving people in America a flavour of what life was like for women in wartime Britain. There’s a date at the beginning of each story, presumably when it was originally published, the first one being 14 October 1939, so just a month or so into the war. The early stories are quite light-hearted and amusing but towards the end of the book nerves are getting frayed as food shortages and changes in life-styles begin to bite.

This is the first book by Mollie Panter-Downes (I can’t help it but her name always makes me smile) that I’ve read, and I’ll definitely be reading more. This one just hit the spot exactly.

I know that a lot of people prefer the original plain grey Persephone covers but I was particularly pleased that this one has as a cover which is one of my favourite World War 2 paintings, capturing what must have been the reality for people, women in particular, standing in queues for hours on end in an effort to get enough food to feed their family. The painting is by Evelyn Dunbar.

Evelyn Dunbar

Bridget Riley Exhibition

One day last week we went to Modern Art 1 in Edinburgh, this time to see the free Bridget Riley exhibition. Her canvases are massive, I must admit I’m not a huge fan of her Op Art work as some of it is just about guaranteed to bring on a migraine. I admire it though as I can’t really imagine how she managed to actually get it done so precisely as it has to be.

There’s information about her works on the walls and Riley says that she had to work her way through the black and white before going on to colour. You can see images of her work here.

It didn’t take us long to go around that exhibition, so as there was a blizzard going on outside we decided to look around the rest of the galleries. If you’re in Edinburgh and you like art it’s well worth taking the time to visit. You can see what else is on view here.

Most of downstairs has been taken over by Karla Black and Kishio Suga works. This is the sort of art that makes you think – I could do that! In fact anybody could do it, given a pile of cotton wool and powder paint, or some rocks from a beach and rope. I can’t tell you how unimpressed I am by that so called art.

In the old days whenever Jack and I saw something that made us almost speechless with disdain we would say – Oh my God Sadie in a sort of homage to a woman we knew who always said that when she was shocked at something. Nowadays though we seem to have updated it to – What would Freya say?! – an homage to a discerning twelve year old.

One thing that really impressed me was an early Francis Bacon painting. I’ve seen a lot of his work recently as when we went to The Guggenheim in Bilbao there was an exhibition on of his work, none of it really spoke to me, but the one below that I saw in Edinburgh did. The image below doesn’t do it justice as the actual painting is so detailed with the herringbone material of the coat really seeming three dimensional.

Francis Bacon

Guardian links

Spookily – just as I have started reading Shirley Jackson’s books, up pops a biography of her called Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin. You can read a review of it by Sarah Churchwell here.

There’s also an article by Frances Spalding about the Joan Eardley exhibition at Modern Art 2 in Edinburgh – the one we went to a couple of weeks ago, you can read the article here.

There’s also an article about Doris Lessing’s books by Nick Holdstock, and you can read that here.

In this article Nick Holdstock writes that he had been asked to make an inventory of Lessing’s over 4,000 books. He had hoped that Doris Lessing’s books might have notes in the margins, clues to her work maybe, but very few of her books had been written in.

How do you feel about writing in books? I have to admit that I don’t write anything in books, not even my name, although when I was first married I did do that on bookplates that I stuck in my books. I think that was because I was putting both my own name and my married name on them. I had a friend who used to write her name and the date and place that she bought the book on the inside cover. I thought that was quite a good idea but I’ve never done it myself.

I buy a lot of old books and often they were originally gifts, in fact I’m just about to start reading Miss Mole by E.H. Young and I noticed that it was given to Evelyn Heaton-Smith from Rodi – in July 1937. I love that, I want to know who they were, what sort of lives did they have?

Partly I think that it’s because I have so many books that makes me not bother to write even my name in them. I can’t really understand why anyone would want to write notes in books – to themselves. But I do have just one of my dad’s books and he wrote his name in it, it’s one of the very few examples of his handwriting that I have. Mind you people tend not to write anything at all nowadays, everything’s done on computers.

Children’s illustrated books

I still find myself eyeing up children’s books even although there are no wee ones in our family now, and sometimes I just have to add a few more to my collection. My most recent purchases have been:

Wenceslas cover

WENCESLAS by Geraldine McCaughrean and illustrated by Christian Birmingham. It’s obviously just a re-telling of the traditional Good King Wenceslas fairy tale but the illustrations are lovely and give a real sense of the falling snow. You can see for yourself here and can also see some of the other books he has illustrated, more for me to look out for!

And another book I bought recently is:

Minou cover

Minou – it’s a book about a cat called Minou whose ‘owner’ dies, so Minou ends up on the streets having to learn how to fend for herself. Minou lives in Paris and it was really the beautiful illustrations of Paris that attracted me to the book, but the story is a way of teaching little girls to be independent and confident, to rely on themselves. It was written by Mindy Bingham and illustrated by Itoko Maeno. You can see some illustrations here.

Some people on the internet are trying to sell this book for silly money – such as £88 but I bought a perfect copy (1st edition) for all of £3.

Guardian links

I didn’t find an awful lot to interest me in this week’s Guardian review, but I’ve read and enjoyed a few Michael Chabon books in the past so I enjoyed reading this interview with him.

I also enjoyed reading this article about Vanessa Bell, but I won’t be going to the exhibition of her work which is on at Dulwich Picture Gallery in London. She is of course famous as being one of the Bloomsbury Group and sister of Virginia Woolf.

I’ve gone right off doing any road trips in England for the moment, after they voted for Brexit – I think it’s fair enough that I spend money holidaying in Scotland instead and doing something for the Scottish economy – hopefully.

I read on a blog recently that the Brexit vote could be described in Austen terms as 48% voting for Sense and Sensibility and 52% for Pride and Prejudice. That just about sums it up.

Joan Eardley Exhibition

Joan Eardley

On Thursday afternoon we went to Edinburgh to visit the Scottish artist Joan Eardley’s exhibition at the Modern Art Gallery 2 Sadly this exhibition isn’t free, I think it cost £9 but we became ‘friends’ of the galleries which is well worth the money if you enjoy visiting art exhibitions. Firstly we parked the car at the wrong gallery and had to walk across the road to Gallery 2. Then when we did get there I was quite disappointed because there was just one small room with her Glasgow children paintings on display and I nearly left a comment saying I was disappointed that it was so small. Just as well I didn’t as it turned out that there are four more rooms full of her work upstairs. lots of them are landscapes of the wee village of Catterline that she stayed in for years, travelling between her cottage there and her studio in Glasgow. Catterline is north east of Aberdeen, and in the 1950s when she was painting there they still had a small salmon fishing business going on. She bought a cottage there for £30, it had no running water or anything but even so, I wonder how much those cottages cost nowadays!

It’s fair to say that Eardley’s paintings of the Samson children who lived in a flat beneath her studio in Glasgow are not things of beauty. They were living in abject poverty – a family of twelve children who were all models for Eardley, but when you see the actual paintings you see the detail in the background and she captured the essence of a time and place that no longer exists. There are three short films in the exhibition too where you can see her at work and old Glasgow of the 1950s in a film about renewal plans.

The Catterline paintings were my favourites though and there were a couple that I would happily have hung on walls in my home. Unfortunately as usual the gallery shop didn’t have any prints of my favourites.

The exhibition also has a lot of photographs of the Samson children and letters from the artist to friends and her sister. It’s so sad that she died of breast caner when she was only 42, especially as one of the letters says that she is going to the doctor because her bosom was giving her such a lot of pain. Obviously she should have gone to the doctor a lot earlier than she did.

If you’re interested in seeing images of her artwork have a look here.

You can see images of Catterline here.

Catterline

Art from the Second World War

 Art from the Second World War cover

Art from the Second World War is one of the books that I got for Christmas. It was published by the Imperial War Museum and it’s their collection of artworks.

I’m interested in the war although mainly from the social home front aspect, and many of the artworks depicted in this book are of war workers and even of people queuing outside a fishmongers and poulterers.

It’s a lovely book although some of the images are quite disturbing – such as the one of bodies in Belsen. I prefer to concentrate on the more domestic images.

It contains works by Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland, Henry Moore, Mervyn Peake ( I didn’t even know he painted), Laura Knight, Eric Ravilious and many more.

The image below was painted by Evelyn Dunbar.

Evelyn Dunbar

And the one below by Laura Knight (Dame) is of a balloon team.

A Balloon team Laura Knight

Another Trip to Edinburgh

Last week we decided to have another jaunt over to Edinburgh, mainly to visit the J.M.W. Turner watercolour exhibition which is on every January and then disappears for the rest of the year.

So we made our way along Princes Street to The National Gallery where we met up with a couple of family members who had never seen the watercolours. You can have a look at the collection and watch a wee video here. It’s a bit of an annual pilgrimage for us, but this time it was busier than usual, it serves us right for going on a Saturday!

After that it was time for lunch so we crossed Princes Street and went up South Saint David Street (I think – I’m not good with Edinburgh’s geography), turned left into George Street to have lunch at The Dome. It’s a fabulously ornate building in Edinburgh’s New Town (which of course is quite old by now, Georgian in fact.)
Dome

The Dome

The Dome was indeed originally a bank, it definitely has that feel about it, very opulent, all of our poshest buildings seem to have been built by banks – nothing changes does it?

The Dome

The Dome

You can see more images of The Dome here.

After that we went back up to Princes Street, really so that we could sign up to become ‘friends’ of The National Galleries.
Princes Street

Princes Street

Then we walked through the Christmas market, I thought it would have been cleared away by now but it’s still hanging on. It is really incongruous to see these fairground rides sitting cheek by jowl with Sir Walter Scott’s monument. I must say that they do get a great view of it from those swing seats but you won’t catch me up there!

Princes Street Gardens Christmas 7

Kirkcudbright – Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

harbour 1

Kirkcudbright was one of the places that I particularly wanted to visit when we were down in the south-west of Scotland recently with Peggy. I had been there once before, years ago when our boys were wee and we stopped off there just to break a journey. McClellan Castle below is a stone’s throw from the harbour.

McClellan Castle 1

a street  Kirkcudbright 2

It’s well worth visiting this wee town but I must admit that I was a wee bit disappointed that it doesn’t have an awful lot in the way of shops or interesting places to visit. I had read somewhere that there were quite a few art galleries around as the town has always been very popular with artists, but we only found two galleries, one that had been taken over by an Edinburgh gallery for some weeks, and one which had artwork by just one artist.

The house below belonged to the artist Jessie M. King. She’s probably best known for her book illustrations. They’re beautifully delicate and ethereal. She lived there with her husband fellow artist E.A. Taylor.

aTaylor and King 2

Taylor and King 1

There’s a mixture of building types in the town, from teeny wee medieval cottages to quite grand Georgian villas, and just a stone’s throw from the main street the streets are amazingly peaceful.

Broughton House

Below is the artist A.E. Hornel‘s house which is open to the public I think.

Hornel 2

And there are closes like the one below leading to much older wee medieval houses.

a close 2

a close

Dorothy L. Sayers was one of the many artistic people who frequented Kirkcudbright and she actually set one of her books there – Five Red Herrings – when it was dramatised for TV they filmed it in and around Kirkcudbright.

It’s a fairly remote part of Scotland, but it’s a pretty wee place and it’s worth a visit if yoy find yourself in that area.