Once again I am here telling you about our weekend in Cardiff. The meeting of BWARS was on at the museum in Cardiff so I accompanied your father down for a break. When we arranged it I wasn’t aware that one of you would be coming home for a wedding. However by the time I found out the hotel was booked. In the end as you only passed through briefly on Friday night and Sunday evening I didn’t feel I was neglecting you.
We arrived early for the first meeting and parked in the long stay parking. The entomology department has been reduced considerably due to cuts and they operate on a skeleton staff.
In spite of this there were several younger people at the meeting. After eating lunch, I skipped the ID session not wanting to spend hours looking at insects down a microscope. I signed up for the free art tour and we were shown around by a volunteer who took us to see the landscapes.
The first landscapes were from the early seventeenth century and appeared more as architect plans for a house and garden than paintings. They were designed to show off how wealthy the owners were and thus how much land they possessed. Of course now that the house and gardens no longer exist it is invaluable to historians who want to find out how these houses were laid out and how the gardens of the time were designed. On painting is of the front of the house and gardens and one of the rear. On the right you can see the sea in the background
We were lead on a whistle stop tour through some Poussin landscapes where we were shown how the story of the picture had diminished over time and the landscape had come to dominate the canvas.
The story of this particular landscape is of a general who had been falsely accused forces to commit suicide and here his body is being taken out of the city of Athens for disposal elsewhere. Late in the story he is pardoned so his grieving widow brings his ashes back for a proper burial in the city. The other painting in this pair shows the widow of the general gathering up his ashes so that she can return them to the city.
Well that’s all right then unless you are the dead general. Anyway this particular painting was bought by Clive of India who had similar problems to the general in the painting without (thankfully) the forced suicide. Perhaps he empathised with the plight of public humiliation of someone who had worked so hard for their country, perhaps he thought that his reputation would be cleared?
In the Nether;ands in the 17th century the merchant class grew after the end of the wars with Spain and as a result artists flourished as wealthy patrons looked for something to spend all that money on and show how wealthy they were. In this picture the scene is painted from a boat anchored on the water.
I expect if you were a merchant the last thing you would want on the wall sis a storm at sea, reminding you off all that investment perilously sailing to your customers. Consequently here it is very calm and the water is barely moving. Again for historians this provides a great deal of detail on costumes or ordinary sailors at the time and how the boats were designed. The sailing boat with the bent mast is a sail that is opened downwards under gravity rather than being hoisted. The operation requires fewer sailors and such sails were used on London barges of the time.
Then the pastoral movement provided bucolic scenes of plenty and contentment from artists that were removed from the daily privations. No mud, no toil, no smells, no poverty, no exploitation, just happy shepherds and milkmaids.
Here is a Gainsborough.
This soldiers farewell was one of my favourites, although the sentiments are maudlin and very Victorian the picture is almost photographic in the portrayal of the scene and so sharp. I felt I could touch the scene. (Of course I didn’t try). Fanciful I may be but not deluded.
At the end of the nineteenth century came the impressionists and here the landscapes have an unfocused dreamlike quality. thanks to the generosity of two sisters who bequeathed their collection to the museum there are many impressionist paintings.
The bottom painting on the right reminded me of lake Anguilara although it is London.
These next paintings were painted by Alfred Sisely and are a couple of views of the coast of Wales. He was born and lived in France, but was a british citizen. He had a French mistress with whom he had a number of children. However it was the law that if you were not married neither your partner nor your children could inherit. So his mistress put her foot down and they came to the UK and to Wales presumably to keep things quiet in case of a scandal and they were married in Cardiff. Once married there was no problem about the inheritance. During their honeymoon he went out painting every day and the result are these charming landscapes. He was one of the impressionists who believed in painting in the open air “en plein air”. The museum has two lovely paintings of the Welsh coast that he painted at this time.
It is curious to think that had the railway not been developed artists would have found it much more difficult to travel to out of the way places to paint. In addition paint was produced in tubes making more portable, no more grinding pigments and mixing them every time you wanted to paint. Canvases were pre-prepared so they could be carried around . Do you agree? This impressionist painting reminded me of those intense dreamlike landscapes of Van Gogh.
These tiny landscapes were lovely despite being over 200 years old they appear curiously modern. I think it is to do with their brightness, clean lines and clear colours. Again they had that photographic quality. I liked them.
Finally here are the last few landscapes the first in a John Singer Sargent known for his portraits but here he paints a tyrolean landscape with two figures reclining. Almost photographic it draws you in.
Here are a couple of twentieth century paintings one of men making hay more modern happy peasants and the other cute children by the seaside. Both were utterly charming and portray an ideal world. After horrific wars perhaps people wanted to believe that the world would become a better place or perhaps they were harking back to an earlier more leisurely romantic time. What do you think?