In the U.S. the Smithsonian Institution has created an Open Access resource of staggering diversity.
Swiss/German side chair, late 17thC – early 18thC – Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
“Smithsonian Open Access,where you can download, share, and reuse millions of the Smithsonian’s images—right now, without asking. With new platforms and tools, you have easier access to nearly 3 million 2D and 3D digital items from our collections—with many more to come. This includes images and data from across the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives, and the National Zoo”.
As always with Open Access resources, despite millions of electronic artifacts in the Public Domain on the Smithsonian web pages, some do have license/usage restrictions. Always check before use!
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1966
For the inquisitive, there is a wealth of subject matter and themes to explore on the Smithsonian pages. Whether your interest is art, ceramics, photography, science or zoology…there will be a reservoir of interesting items to peruse.
A search of the archive for ‘film’ produces a delightful range of posters, lobby cards and images of garments worn in Hollywood movies.
“Discover the extraordinary story behind one of humankind’s greatest achievements: through more than 100 objects spanning 5,000 years and seven continents
Follow the remarkable evolution of writing from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs carved in stone and early printed text such as William Caxton’s edition of The Canterbury Tales, to the art of note-taking by some of history’s greatest minds, and on-wards to the digital communication tools we use today.” Source: The British Library web pages
This new exhibition provides wonderful insights into the both the future of writing and the past development of the craft.
From quill pen to digital tablet, how we create and communicate has been beautifully illustrated for us, ‘…in an interactive exhibition gives you the chance to reflect on works of genius that wouldn’t exist without the writing traditions of civilisations past’.
Finnish artists like Helene Schjerfbeck, Albert Edelfelt and Hugo Simberg represent home land creativity. However, you can also find internationally famous artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Edvard Munch.
The Finnish National Gallery also makes the collection meta-data freely available as an API, so that you can add standardised biographical data to your web installation or application, if using the API. See more details here…
We like the international flavour, and the wide variety of images, contained within such a flexible license, immensely. We know that we will be using this resource in our creative projects in the future.
Other freely licensed image collections are available. We have added a flavour of the resources below.
Following on from our recent article on book binding in Barcelona, we seem unable to escape our thematic journey on-line towards the bound artefact.
As booksellers and literacy project specialists we are especially interested in the concept of the book as a seasonal highlight, as to be expected at this time of year. The conversationsEast team were very pleased to see book-binding as part of the programme of the recent Chelmsford Ideas Festival for instance.
The opening lecture for the Centre, post-renovation, was Artistic Bookbinding in the Twenty-First Century, delivered by the American book historian and conservator James Reid-Cunningham. See more below…
The lecture, The Poet of Them All, concentrates on a remarkable collection of Shakespeare editions in miniature from the holdings of the Yale Centre and in concert with collectors Neale and Margaret Albert.
The richness, skill and indeed, even fun, of such collections is beautifully captured in the Reid-Cunningham lecture. The expressive art and craft skill of the binder in the twenty first century is also visually well expressed in the discourse. In an age of electronics it is sometimes easy to forget the power, even magic, generated by the carefully crafted, masterfully bound book. Whatever its size.
There is much to enjoy across the whole of the Yale Center for British Art. Research at the Yale Center benefits from concurrent funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, encouraging a wide programme of lectures, study and talks to disseminate the findings of the Center. As you would expect from such a world centre of excellence.
We particularly liked the Center’s new education programme Visual Literacy: Rethinking the Role of the Arts in Education. Using the great visual resources the Center holds to create interest in and higher utility in reading. Art becomes the book, becomes the writer!
Giving books is a great idea over the festive holidays, getting the family into an art gallery or museum is even better. We visited Seven Stories in Newcastle earlier in 2016, so we know you can achieve the same ‘Yale’ effect without a visit to Connecticut.
A visit to Sainsbury Centre on Friday 20th February, 2015
We had a group of seventeen fellows and friends who met up for the visit. We congregated at 10.30 for complimentary tea and coffee at the Modern Life café and then we were taken off by three guides to explore the Centre. We began with the Permanent exhibition on the ground floor and then after a short break proceeded to the basement exhibition areas to view the Reality exhibition, which was outstanding.
The Sainsbury Centre is one of the most prominent university art galleries in Britain, and a major national Centre for the study and presentation of art.
It houses the extraordinary art collection of Robert and Lisa Sainsbury, as well as the Anderson Collection of Art Nouveau and the University’s Abstract and Constructivist Collection. Alongside these permanent collections, there is a range of temporary exhibitions, with new galleries providing the largest climate-controlled exhibition space in Eastern England. Also on offer is an award-winning learning programme of gallery talks, lectures and art workshops. (See the programme of lectures, symposia and training here).
The Collections at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts represent some of the most remarkable works of art assembled in the UK. The Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection features work spanning 5,000 years of human creativity. The presentation of art from across time and place continues to inspire and surprise and uniquely presents art as a universal global phenomenon.
Picasso, 1901-2 Femme au Cafe
The Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection
Permanently displayed in the Living Area Gallery, the collection includes major holdings of art from Oceania, Africa, the Americas, Asia, the ancient Mediterranean cultures of Egypt, Greece and Rome, Medieval Europe, and including a significant number of works acknowledged as seminal examples of European modern art. Pablo Picasso, Edgar Degas, Francis Bacon, Jacob Epstein, Henry Moore, Alberto Giacometti and Amedeo Modigliani are all represented in the collection.
The Lisa Sainsbury Ceramics Collection
Although not formally part of the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection, the Lisa Sainsbury Ceramics Collection represents a major collection of 20th century studio ceramics, including a significant body of work by Lucie Rie and Hans Coper.
The Sainsbury Abstract Collection
The Sainsbury Abstract Collection includes paintings from the post second world war Ecole de Paris with a strong preference for lyrical abstraction and Tachisme, art movements that flourished in France from 1945 to 1960. Notable artists included in the collection are Jean Fautrier, Charles Maussion and Mubin Orhon.
The Anderson Collection of Art Nouveau
Alongside the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection sits another principle collection; The Anderson Collection of Art Nouveau, donated in 1978 by Sir Colin Anderson, a close friend of Sir Robert and Lady Sainsbury. The collection represents artists working across a range of disciplines and materials such as glassware and furniture, metalware and jewelry. The collection includes pieces by leading exponents of Art Nouveau such as Louis Comfort Tiffany, Emile Gallé and René Lalique.
Vorticist David Bomberg’s The Mud Bath, 1914
The University Collection of Abstract and Constructivist Art, Design and Architecture was established by the University in 1968. This Collection concentrates on the non-objective, constructive and concrete art movements of the 20th century and the related fields of architecture and design, such as the English Vorticists, the Russian Suprematists and Constructivists, the Dutch De Stijl Group and the German Bauhaus School.
All who attended enjoyed getting to know each other and spoke of possibly another visit soon. It was very much enjoyed by all and many used their ticket to linger longer in the afternoon. Also, a new Francis Bacon exhibition is coming soon. The Francis Bacon paintings are currently at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and will return for the Francis Bacon and the Masters exhibition in April.
Possibly another day out!
Christine O’Hanlon FRSA
(Public domain images are for illustrative purposes only – they do not seek to represent the collections in the narrative about this visit).
The weekend of June 28th 2014 marked the centenary of the death of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, at the hands of Gavrilo Princip. Arguably sparking the events that put in train the First World War.
This reflection revealed a surprising and diverse range of resources about the Great Conflict. Many, perhaps, at odds with the perceived understanding of the war and its consequences. Remarkable in as much that so much is yet to be discovered, even after a century has passed…
His ambitions were arguably localised, national, but the outcome of his act was trans-continental. With the destruction to come, the terrible devastation of war, linked to and having an unfortunate long echo back to the previous tumultuous tragedies in France during the 15th Century. The anguish is contemporary still.
Allas! what peple hathe your werre slayne!
What cornes wastede, and doune trode and shent!
How many a wyfe and maide hathe be forlayne,
Castrels doune bete, and tymbered houses brent
And drawen doune, and alle tortore and rent!
The harme ne may not rekened be ne tolde;
This werre wexethe all to hore and olde…
Thomas Hoccleve, Poet & Clerk, London
‘An appeal for Peace in France’ (1412)
Princip, part of a team of six Bosnian-Serb radicals dedicated to their plan, was standing outside a cafe in Franz Josef Street, reflecting on an earlier failed assassination attempt upon the Austrian Archduke by a co-conspirator that day. When, seeing the royal vehicle, engine stalled after taking a wrong turn, he leapt forward with his revolver, and from a distance of five feet, changed history.
This story of ‘cataclysm by happenstance’ continues to provoke debate and divide about how the next few months saw progress into war, but also about the wider legacy of Princip’s actions, even after a hundred years has passed. The narratives still differ, both historic and contemporary, often in surprising ways.
Modern Sarajevo remains a divided city, politically and culturally, to this day. With Princip seen as hero or devil depending upon the view of historical events taken from the city centre. To mark the Sarajevan centenary Andrew MacDowall, in The Guardian newspaper, has written an interesting and insightful article on how stands the political front-line concerning Princip.
In Eastern Sarajevo, from the view point of the Serb Republic, Princip is a national hero,. His actions freeing the city from Austrian dominance. However, for the Bosnian Muslim population Princip’s actions bought about an end to a golden era of Austrian administration. The Muslim population look to the grand edifices of civil society, schools and railways of the Austrian Empire as evidence of their argument.
Even after a hundred years, residents of a strife torn city cannot agree on a single, conciliatory view of their history. This set us thinking about that sunny day in 1914. What were, or what did, contemporaries to Princip think about the coming events and their out turn?
We turned to the Project Gutenberg on-line library. Looking through the project’s World War 1 bookshelf we discovered, amongst the usual, deeply moving and contemporary military narratives, a surprising and very different view of events and understanding of the ‘culture’ of war, particularly of conflict in other places.
This writer did not know of a Mills and Boon, Kiplingesque literary oeuvre developed around events of the war. Deeply at odds with the first person narrative of other, military writers, but perhaps born of a then contemporary optimism for Empire, incomplete knowledge and the heady ‘home by Christmas’ approach.
The Gutenberg archive also makes available to the general reader a selection of European political writing on the Great War. We found the account of pre-war diplomacy and events from Viscount Haldane both disturbing and revealing about political attitudes and actions towards European conflict. See more here…
Margaret Vandercook in her The Red Cross Girls with the Russian Army, (John Winston Co., Philadelphia, 1916) writes about war and combat as a sort of Mills & Boon romance adventure. Dashing young men in foreign places, capturing the swooning hearts of kindly young women. Published in 1916, it arguably represents a canon of juvenile fiction, that was blind to, or unknowing of the true horror of warfare at any front-line.
There is a sort of breathless, adventure story pace to the book, at odds with the newsreel and written narratives we have come to know about the Great War and other conflicts in the 20th and 21st centuries.
There is in this bookshelf collection a fascinating insight into the power of Empire and the loyalty created in military service.
In Talbot Munday’s Hira Singh – When India Came to Fight in Flanders lies the fictionalised story of a group of Sikh soldiers captured by the German army in Flanders and transported back to ‘Constantinople’, who then escaped and marched overland to Kabul in Afghanistan to rejoin the British Army in their fight in Europe again.
One hundred Indian troops of the British Army have arrived at Kabul, Afghanistan, after a four months’ march from Constantinople. The men were captured in Flanders by the Germans and were sent to Turkey in the hope that…they might join the Turks. But they remained loyal to Great Britain and finally escaped, heading for Afghanistan. They now intend to join their regimental depot in India, so it is reported.
New York Times, July, 1915 (Talbot Munday)
Although fiction, with some of the language jarring by modern cultural norms, and being written by a European, the story none the less provides insights into the nature of leadership, how men who were accomplished warriors from another culture, might have seen the conflict in Europe with empathetic eyes.
The archive does not contain any reflection from Indian sources, but when looking at the contribution of the Indian Army and Marine service to the conflict, there is little doubt that support there was.
How profound, prompted a look at the detail of the contribution of the Indian Army in the Great War? Details of the 1 million Indian troops who served in France, Mesopotamia and other battle zones can be found on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission web pages. See more here…
Closer to home are a range of projects and community activities to remember the Great War in detail. One such is the work done by Fellows in Chelmsford, as part of a Heritage Lottery funded project – Chelmsford Remembers, and which will be launched as part of the Essex Remembers event, which involves both Essex County Council and Chelmsford City Council, to held at Hylands House on the weekend of 13th/14th September.
We look forward to supporting Fellows in the project by delivering a ‘web special feature’ about this exciting social history journey of discovery. (You can find the Chelmsford War Memorial web site here – this is a wonderful resource, with images and detailed biographies of the 359 men commemorated on the Great War Memorial in Chelmsford, Ed.)
Even after one hundred years, the local and social is as telling and moving as ever. Princip would probably still recognise the physical landscape old Sarajevo, if not the political one, whilst great new discoveries and insights lay waiting in the family archives of Chelmsford we suspect.
A new web resource, dedicated to the art, politics and history of the great conflict. Referencing major UK museum collections, but also providing insights into history from a surprising variety of sources.
A new resource offering insights into how ‘… it was the ordinary men and women who were affected the most. This exhibition gives those personal accounts from across Europe for the first time, based on stories and items contributed by the public’.
Here at conversationsEAST, this was a story that had everything. High art, craft skills, invention, controversy and ladles of genius. Entwining a Texas entrepreneur, a seventeenth century Dutch painter and an obsessive journey into the ‘how it was done’.
Tim Jenison is a Texas based inventor and technologist with a deep interest in the painting of Johannes Vermeer (1632 – 1675). Put simply, Jenison is of the view that Vermeer could not have painted his interior scenes from life alone, the application of technology, Jenison insists, is how the stunning art works were created so long ago.
The short film below encapsulates the long journey of exploration that Jenison has undertaken to make his point. He has deployed art history skills, the talents of a craftsmen and the inquisitiveness of an inventor to make an argument, which whilst contentious is, none the less, powerful.
His five year journey involved making exact replicas of the furniture and musical instruments in a Vermeer painting, and through utilising the concept of a camera obscura and a mirror on a stick, Tim sought to recreate Vermeer’s picture, The Music Lesson.
The interiors of the room, it’s content and effects were built by Tim, even hand building the lens to seventeenth century specifications that he used to deliver his painting technique.
Is it a good argument? We have looked at another old master to see if his thesis is watertight. We have used images stored on the pages of the Google Cultural Institute. (If you have a love of the visual arts this is a storehouse and toolkit of very impressive proportions – Ed.)
Section of Il Canal Grande de Ca’Balbi verso Rialto 1721-1723 Antonio Canal detto Canalletto | Ca’ Rezzonico – Museum of the 18th Century Venice
Within the broad sweep of this large Canaletto, the texture of the oil paint, the slightly impressionistic depiction of the figures and the matte ‘depth’ of the boat clearly show Canaletto’s brush work and his hand.
Below is a similar size section of the painting, The Music Lesson by Vermeer, that was the object of Tim Jenison’s attention. In it the light falling from the window, the tone and smoothness of the wall surface by the window and increasing colour change away from the light source into the room are, to echo Jenison’s argument, extremely photo-like.
Section of Lady at the Virginal with a Gentleman, The Music Lesson c. 1162 – 1665 Johannes Vermeer | Royal Collection Trust, UK
This might disturb quite a lot of people
The work of Jenison and his collaborators is a wonderful example to anyone who has an idea or a need to find out, whether an RSA Fellow or not. Obsessive perhaps, but stunning in the execution of so many skills and techniques.
Was Vermeer really a tech geek?
Read the article, watch the film and tell us what you think….
Designed by Foster + Partners, this iconic building rests in the University of East Anglia campus landscape and is perhaps the pre-eminent collection of modern art in our region. The permanent collection housed at the Centre was relaunched with a complete re-display in September of 2013.
At the same time the Centre’s largest exhibition to date was opened – Masterpieces: Art and East Anglia. The exhibition was assembled from some 250 works, donated by over 60 institutions. The ranged from neolithic flint hand axes, tomb effigies from East Anglian churches to paintings from the Norwich School artist John Cotman.
The space, with its endless variety of ways to approach the works, still attracts a sense of wonder and deep engagement. The short video below, featuring the Centre Director and art historian Philip Mould, conveys this sense of connection well.
If you have never visited the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, you should. Not least to see how the curatorial energy of the Centre team has won them a deserved place in this competition.