Sunday 30 October 2011

One hundred years ago & Happy Birthday to my aunt

My mother aged about 13 years
My mother was born 100 years ago in 1911. I often wonder how she would cope with the world today.
She never had to work out why her hard drive wasn’t backing up the computer properly, indeed she wouldn't  know what I was talking about.  Why suddenly a turquoise line appeared down her new Apple Mac screen, and the integrated house fire alarm system suddenly started screeching and wouldn't stop.  She didn’t drive; my father chauffeured her everywhere she wanted to go.
She died nearly 40 years ago, and did not see her grandchildren grow up.  In fact some of them were born several years after she had died.   I feel so privileged in comparison to have been able to see my five grandchildren mature to become lovely young people.
I wonder what she would think of holes in the wall from which cash appears at the touch of a button, mobile phones, recording devices for the TV and instant live news from around the globe.
Whatever, would she think of me being able to Skype my sister-in-law in Canada, and in fact, talk to, and see her great grandchildren across the Atlantic.
These thoughts came to me recently on a warm summer evening in the garden, when several of us said goodbye and good luck to one of our neighbours who is 92.  She trotted around talking to everyone, no spectacles or hearing aid, and when she left she zoomed speedily off in her silver car. Her husband died last year, and she is finding the house and garden too much for her to manage alone. It was only after she had left that it dawned on me that my mother would have been 8 years old when this lady was born. Perhaps my mother would, in fact, have adapted to life today in the very same way that this lady has done. 


My mother's sister, is 98 years old today. She has had over 50% more life than my mother.

Wishing my Aunt a Very Happy 98th Birthday today

A picture of my aunt walking along the seafront at Llandudno, Wales in the early 1930's.................
wearing fabulous silk beach pyjamas

Friday 28 October 2011

Tuscany, Italy

......and of course H gathered lots of chestnuts for roasting
We both love visiting Italy, and have travelled there many times over the years. Sometimes we hire a car, but this time we caught buses. It is a good way of becoming familiar with the neighbourhood and challenges your ability to make your own way around.
We have seen so much over the years, visiting the south of the country to the north and all bits in between. We now like to take our time and just concentrate on one or two of the Renaissance greats.
This year it was the turn of Luca della Robbia and family, noted for their terracotta roundels. Their sculpture conveys charm rather than the drama of the work of some of their contemporaries. They developed a pottery glaze that made their creations more durable in the outdoors and thus suitable for use on the exterior of buildings.
The principle colours used in their glazes were blue and white often highlighted with yellow. Many of the roundels and large religious plaques were completely surrounded by sprigs of leaves and fruits, which added green, and various other colours to the mix, but by and large the pallet of colours used was fairly limited.
One of the buildings showing della Robbia tondo (roundels), and familiar to many, is the Ospedale degli Innocenti, in Florence. The tondo are on the outer and inner courtyard of the building, showing babies wrapped in swaddling clothes.
Ospedale degli Innocenti, Florence - Andrea della Robbia
courtesy Warburg via wikipedia

Virgin and child showing a wreath of fruit, cones & flowers - Andrea della Robbia -Louvre
courtesy Jastrow via wikipedia
We stayed high up in the hills above the medieval city of Pistoia, perhaps not a name that trips readily off the tongue, but a wonderful little city with many gems from the Renaissance both architecturally and artistically. It is rather like a mini Florence but without all of the tourists, a place we love.
Piazza del Duomo, Pistoia
Ospedale del Ceppo, Pistoia, with wonderful frieze by Giovanni della Robbia.

The hospital was founded in 1277, and named after the ceppo, hollowed out tree trunk, that was used to collect donations for its work.  It was one of the first hospitals in the world, and is still used today. 
The della Robbia frieze shows the Severn Works of Mercy.

To clothe the naked
To shelter the homeless and to visit the sick
To bury the dead
To feed the hungry and to give drink to the thirsty.
This frieze was added to the building in 1514 - 25, and only the last panel has deteriorated over the past 500 years.
A wonderful lunette over the entrance to San Zeno Duomo, Pistoia, depicting Madonna with Child and Angels  by Andrea della Robbia.
We purchased our own, rather inferior, memento of the della Robbia's..............

............another day, another time the beautiful city of 
The della Robbia family is quite a complicated setup - Luca (1400 - 1482) founded the sculpture studio, eventually he was joined by several of his sons, Giovanni Girolamo, Luca the Younger, and Ambrogio. Four of his nephews amongst them Andrea della Robbia, and eventually Andrea's son Giovanni, were all involved in the studio. When Luca died, his nephew Andrea, became the most influential sculpture in the family workshop.

Sunday 16 October 2011

The colours of Anna Maria Island, Florida.

For the past three years in March, we have joined my brother and his wife on Anna Maria Island, Florida. They live in Canada and along with many of their compatriots make the journey to escape the end of the northern winter. Canadians travelling south are affectionately known as Snow Birds.
When I think of Anna Maria Island, the colours that spring to mind are azure skies, turquoise sea, sugar white beaches and lots of blobs of shocking pink, orange, yellow, and purple. Think in terms of a David Hockney painting.
Anna Maria Island is a barrier island off the coast of Manatee County. It is bounded on the west by the Gulf of Mexico, and on the north by Tampa Bay. It is 7 miles long, at its widest no more than 2 miles. It connects to the mainland by bridges and causeways. Whilst there I have recorded images that I have found both interesting, fun, and quirky.
Front and back of a Sand Dollar found on the beach and given to me by my lovely sister-in-law.

Brown Pelican
I love these Real Estate signs by local artist Emerson
Great Blue Heron
100 year old City Pier
image taken by H - too early in the morning for me

Friday 14 October 2011

NORMAN CORNISH - ARTIST (todays post has been done by H, special thanks to him)

Miners on the Pit Road (detail)
via The Guardian
Once in a while a lecture given to our local Fine & Decorative Art Society will leave a lasting impression. None more so than a recent lecture about the art that emerged from mining communities in the North of England during a period approximating 1920-1970.
Miners, during their time-off from heavy toil underground, were encouraged to join clubs where intrinsic artistic talent could blossom.
The fruit of this unlikely artistic movement was notable in towns such as Ashington in Northumberland and Spennymore in County Durham.
From the bleak hardship of colliery life sprang the warm comradeship and social cohesion of mining communities. Pubs and workingmen’s clubs provided the social setting in which miners could find not only temporary relief from their toil but also exchange views, for example, on wages and working conditions. Silver and brass bands, parades and galas were ubiquitous expressions of powerful solidarity amongst mining communities.
This was the rich social landscape that provided a ready source of inspiration for budding artists.
Needless to say, the unique physical landscape created by coal mining was also a source of inspiration. The winding gear, mountains of mine-waste, railway sidings, trucks and locomotives, pedestrian walkways, footbridges and tunnels, was the real-life background to a now largely bygone era.
Pit Road
kind permission Robert McManners.
By good fortune our lecturer, Robert McManners, brought with him several copies of a book he jointly authored with Gillian Wales in 2009 entitled “The Quintessential Cornish”. I was lucky to procure the last of these, so popular and appreciated was the subject matter.
The book is a biography of Norman Cornish, perhaps the most outstanding of all the artists of this genre, now almost ninety years of age and much honoured in his lifetime.
The most productive, and for me deeply moving, period of his artistic life was the thirty years during which he combined art with his work underground as a coalminer. He was a bright pupil and won a place at Grammar School. Family needs, however, took priority and he joined his father in the pit at the tender age of fourteen. An opportunity later arose for Norman to attend Art School, but the miners’ welfare society decided that its rules forbade such sponsorship, and the place went unfilled. Norman, whose pictures now change hands for many thousands of pounds and hang in prestigious galleries, is self-educated.
Norman Cornish has never lived in any place other than Spennymoor, Co Durham. His sketches, pastels and paintings are drawn entirely from the closed world of this intensely mining community. His work, for me, is extremely moving.
My own personal concerns gravitate towards those at the bottom end of the social order, for whom sustaining the most basic living standard is a constant struggle. This may explain why, more than anything, I am stirred emotionally by music emanating from communities whose survival is a constant battle against social deprivation and physical hardship. I just love the plaintive sound of brass band music and male voice choirs from mill and mining towns in the North of England, and Wales.
The social-realism of Norman Cornish’s art has stirred similar emotions.
A big “Thank You” to the authors of this marvellous book and to Norman Cornish for his life work. 
Gala Day
front and back book cover
'I paint human beings. I paint their hopes and their shapes and their attitudes and the feelings I have when I look at them. The images come from the people. They create them. I am just the medium'. 
Norman Stansfield Cornish.
Further post done by here

Monday 10 October 2011

The Circus (No 2)

The Pump Rooms in Pittville Park, Cheltenham Spa
via wikipedia
Cheltenham is an historic spa town whose development started in the early 1700's with the discovery of healing waters.  It became very popular after the visit of King George III in 1788.
Today it is well known for hosting major annual Literature, Jazz, Science and Music festivals; featuring nationally and internationally famous contributors and attendees.
In a tiny alleyway off the High Street in Cheltenham I found a mosaic wall featuring an event that happened in 1934.


Once upon a time the Circus came to town.
The wind band played....
the drummer banged and....
the Ringmaster proclaimed, roll up, roll up, for the elephants 
The girl in red.....
her brother and father
and their little dog jumped for joy.
Here come the elephants....
Suddenly, without warning, the elephants stampeded, enticed by the irresistable aroma drifting from Bloodworths Seed Merchants shop. One elephant entered the shop and another got half inside.
The elephant keeper struggled to get them out....
the local policeman watched with both alarm and amusement....
as did the spectators....
and the band played on.
courtesy Andrew Tomlinson - article and picture from the Gloucestershire Echo 1934


Change Of Diet Idea In Cheltenham

Three elephants from Chapman's London Zoo Circus were passing with two keepers along Albion-street, Cheltenham at lunch time today when opposite the shop of Bloodworth and Sons, seed merchants, a small stampede occurred, and one elephant finally entered the shop and another got half inside.
Even an elephant likes a change of diet, and Jumbo can be decidedly awkward when he plans to vary the menu himself.
Mr. W. T. Goodhall, manager of the shop was attending to his books when he heard shouting. Looking up he saw a giant shape shambling through the doorway.
Imagine his surprise when, with mind calmy engrossed with pounds, shillings and pence, in walks an elephant and without so much as a by your leave, helps itself to seed potatoes, dog biscuits, meal and other elephantine luxuries.
One of the keepers was unable to get in to the shop until the elephant, which completely filled the threshold, had entered. Once inside the keeper set about forcibly changing the elephants mind. His task was made more difficult for another elephant was already half way through the door.
The other, still in the road, was being kept under control, and after about five minutes of belabouring the intruders were evicted. Fortunately very little damage was done.

Gloucestershire Echo, Monday, March 26, 1934.
Link here for The Circus (No.1)