Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms

IMG_1609The Lindisfarne Gospels, the St Cuthbert Gospel, the Book of Durrow, the Alfred Jewel, the Vespasian Psalter, Beowulf, items from the Staffordshire Hoard, the Domesday Book, these and many other gems are all there in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition at the British Library, from October 2018 to February 2019. It is an astonishing array of manuscripts and artefacts, and some, like the great bible that Abbot Ceolfrid at Monkwearmouth (Sunderland) had loaded on to his boat by two men to take to present to the pope on 16th June 716, have not been on show in the UK for centuries (and in the case of the Ceolfrid Bible – not since 716!).

 

IMG_1626The accompanying catalogue (see above) is packed with details of each exhibit, every one of which is photographed beautifully, and there is also fascinating background information in a series of essays, which include Anglo-Saxon England and the Continent (Joanna Story), Language, Learning and Literature (Andy Orchard), Interactions with Ireland (Bernard Meehan), The Emergence of a Kingdom of England (Simon Keynes) and Conquests and Continuities (Julia Crick). Each of these essays is lavishly illustrated with many full-page illustrations of manuscripts, including that of the comet drawn at the bottom of the page of the Eadwine Psalter shown here, heralding, according to many at the time, impending significant events – as in the conquest of England.

IMG_1628An early manuscript in the exhibition is the earliest copy of the Rule of St Benedict. Made in England around 700 AD it shows a very ‘pure’ (in my opinion) form of Uncial script with larger initials written in red, outlined in black and with a black horizontal ornamental line, and surrounded by red dots made with a quill. This form of Uncial incorporates many pen nib angle changes and so would have been slow to write. For the letter N, for example, the pen nib angle is changed to 90° to the horizontal guideline for the first vertical stroke, the base triangular serif is then constructed with the left-hand corner of the nib, a change of pen nib angle to 0° for the narrow top serif and that thicker diagonal stroke, and then back to 90° for the second vertical stroke and again a constructed serif. Try it yourself and see how much longer this is than when you write a simple majuscule N!

IMG_1631And what real gems there are here! This magnificent page from the Harley Golden Gospels, so well named, is a riot of gold, pattern and colour. There is, as would be expected in a manuscript of this period (first quarter of the ninth century), interlace, but also a type of Greek key design, an intriguing pattern of semi-circles and white dots in triangles, but what caught my eye was the pattern half way down the right and left borders. This angular design, outlined in white, shows an understanding of perspective not always evident at this time. The two doe-eyed golden lions on a rich blue background, have their feet trapped in interlace – no wonder their tongues are sticking out in frustration!

 

Screen-Shot-2017-02-15-at-16.56.19-e1487178017944Having copied out the David as Psalmist page from the Vespasian Psalter, the horns blown by the musicians to the sides of the main image are fascinating, not least because only one of the four looks happy in playing their music!

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1632How amazing, though, that an example of those very instruments, the River Erne Horn, is on display as part of this exhibition. The wooden horn was made by splitting the yew wood into two, hollowing out the middle, and then sticking it back together again, reinforcing the join with bronze hoops. There is also a bronze mouthpiece, with the metal bent back to make a rim for the player’s mouth.

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The Tiberius Psalter was made in Winchester in the second or third quarter of the 11th century, and has a series of prefatory drawings in the typical lively outline and coloured wash of that time. The incredible imagination of the artist is shown in this enlargement of St Michael (in this instance) and the dragon. The saint is poking his spear at a rather benign animal sitting on his haunches with a wonderfully curling tail, a slight snort coming from his nostrils, and a cheeky little animal representing his tongue, also about to attack the saint, and also with another tongue poking out of his mouth.

 

IMG_1634There are so many wonderful examples of manuscript illumination and scripts which are such a delight to the eye and a joy to the soul. But, of course, a favourite must be Eadui Basan, shown here in a Charter for King Cnut granting land at Ticehurst in Sussex to Ælfstan, archbishop of Canterbury. His identifiable writing includes an idiosyncratic construction of the letter d. For more information about this, please see The Art and History of Calligraphy

This exhibition is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see in one place a whole range of significant manuscripts and artefacts. It really is a ‘must-see’, but if that isn’t possible, then the exhibition catalogue, with its essays, fabulous images and detailed information about each exhibit comes a good second.

Patricia Lovett: Exhibition at Sevenoaks Library 2017

Patricia Lovett and Lord Sackville 7oaks Library-1I was delighted and honoured to be invited by Sevenoaks Museum to put on a small exhibition of my work at Sevenoaks Library. It is small because there are but two shelves in a display case. However, I was thrilled when Lord Sackville kindly came to see a piece I had done on stretched calfskin vellum with leaf gold on gesso of the Sackville family coat of arms which is on display (Photo kindly taken by Roger Lee).

 

IMG_0521Because there is restricted room, many of the pieces are small, and these certainly are! Two dice, about an inch long on each side. Here’s more about them in a previous post.

 

 

 

CIMG2505This piece came about in a way because of a large new Roll of Honour I had been asked to do by Plaxtol village, more details here. I loved painting the cob nuts and hops at the base of this panel and did this again to decorate this poem by Poet Laureate Andrew Motion.

 

 

 

 

CIMG2794Many subscribers to my free online monthly newsletter will know that I love using colour in a pen. This is what I did here, combining red and blue, to indicate the two people in this piece, one finding ‘in this shadowland of life one true heart’ and the other being that true heart. Those phrases that I found particularly poignant, I wrote in one colour and added shell gold background to the letters (powdered gold in gum Arabic base) for emphasis.

 

 

 

 

CIMG0563This butterfly and caterpillar piece is on stretched calfskin vellum, with the writing in shell gold. The caterpillar, feeling that its world is at an end, is sheltering under the shape of a hill, whereas the butterfly, which the caterpillar turns into when that world doesn’t end, is flying free from a valley-shape.

 

IMG_0523I know that some people may think this a little weird, but I had wanted to make a flagellum since I saw one on display in the British Library. Flagella were often used during Lent to ‘beat’ the devil out of a sinner’s body, the strips of the flagellum having biblical texts written on them. This seemed rather archaic, but I do hate the way business-speak contorts the English language.

 

IMG_0525So I wrote out all those phrases and words which I find so annoying – faux=fake, compact=small, I hear what you say=I’m not actually listening, economical with the truth=lying etc. and figured that these were beating the living daylights out of the language we love! With Chinese stick ink and vermilion ink on strips of vellum, with the phrases separated by gold leaf dots on gesso, it seems a fitting combination of new words and old techniques. here‘s more.

 

 

CIMG0596This is a simple copy of David as Psalmist from the Westminster Psalter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CIMG2912And this one I wrote about recently in a blogpost – again combining colours in the pen as I write, ‘controlled random’ writing. It is a verse from Rabindranath Tagore’s poem Gift, and worth reading in full. More about it here.

 

Gilding and painting a miniature of a female martyr

cimg2855I had been asked to speak at the Houghton Library, and teach and give a demonstration at Harvard as part of the wonderful ‘Beyond Words’ exhibition there. Taking a lot of tools and materials on a plane is not sensible, and so I decided to almost finish a tiny miniature shown in the exhibition, which is a cutting from an Italian mid-fifteenth century Anitphonal (Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Typ 983), and then add some more gold and paint more as a demonstration. The original female martyr, holding her martyr’s palm, had a bit of a double chin and a rather unfortunate expression, so I decided to do a bit of cosmetic surgery on her, and make a few adjustments (if only it was that easy in real life!).

 

cimg2833I selected a piece of vellum which had hair follicle markings on it and traced down the outline in red (minium) which is traditional. I then laid gesso ready to receive the real gold leaf.

 

 

 

 

 

cimg2834I planned from the start not to gild it all so that I could show how it was done when I went to Harvard.

 

 

 

 

 

cimg2835Then it was on to painting the base colours. At this point, as always, any painting skills that you think you might have seem to go out the window (!).

 

 

 

 

 

cimg2855However, once the shades and tones, fine lines and details are added, suddenly the whole thing seems to come to life. The face, hair, hands and delicate white tracery on the blue background are very finely painted indeed, the dress and left-hand side of the initial ‘D’ less so. It is quite possible that the ‘master’ did the former, and an apprentice did the slightly less-well executed ‘colouring in’. It was a very interesting exercise and I do hope that Harvard find it a useful addition to their teaching repertoire.

Gold on Parchment, exhibition at Cornelissen in London

Cornelissen_smIt was a great privilege to work with L Cornelissen & Son at 105 Great Russell Street in London (just along from the British Museum) to mount the very first exhibition they have had at the shop. They are on a very busy thoroughfare and most people visiting the British Museum go past their front door. The exhibition was in the window and so it could be seen even when the shop was closed. The shop itself is wonderful as can be seen on the right – and it really is almost impossible not to go inside! Kathy Pearlson from Cornelissen, who set up the exhibition, did a terrific job of making sure that every piece could be seen and that the exhibition looked wonderful.

image12The exhibition was arranged on behalf of the Heritage Crafts Association for London Craft Week 2016, echoing the theme of ‘paper’ for their first anniversary. Some of the best calligraphers and illuminators in the country were asked to submit one or two pieces of their work on vellum for the exhibition, and the response was terrific! For those who didn’t mange to see it, here are some of the pieces exhibited. The photographs were kindly taken by Yanko Tihov. On the right: Sam Somerville.

 

 

 

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Tim Noad, on the right

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

image2Mary Noble (this piece is tiny!)

 

 

 

 

 

image21Ronnie Cruwys – also see her website ‘Drawing the Street‘, and again a small piece

 

 

image16

Ann Hechle

 

 

 

 

 

 

image17Patricia Lovett, another small piece

 

 

 

 

 

 

image24Peter Thornton, small again

 

 

 

 

 

 

image23Peter Halliday (I am featuring this piece in my British Library book, The Art and History of Calligraphy, to be published in 2017).

 

 

 

 

 

 

image9Ewan Clayton

 

 
image5John Woodcock (another tiny piece)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

image11Gemma Black

 

 

 

 

 

 

image10Jan Pickett

 

 

 

 

 

 

image13Jan Mehigan

 

 

 

 

 

 

image8Cathy Stables

 

 

 

 

 

 

image28Lin Kerr

 

His Hands Magic – Michael Renton

Sun.Moon.OriginalMichael Renton was a jack-of-many-trades and a real master of all of them!  He started as wood engraver, having left Harrow Art School to ‘do’ rather than study. His apprenticeship lasted five years, but rather than the pedestrian engraving of his training, he wanted to do things more imaginatively. His Sun and Moon design for a book jacket on the right are a good example of this. Throughout his life shied away from ‘Art’ (with a capital ‘A’); Michael wanted to make things for a living, not as a way of life.
The Stour DorsetMichael realised that he needed to improve his drawing and while at City and Guilds to do this he found the lettering classes by William Sharpington. Sharpington ran a signwriting workshop and, after delayed National Service, Michael set up on his own as an engraver and lettering craftsman, with signwriting in association with Sharpington.

 

 

Martello Bookshop High Street Rye East Sussex England Uk Bookshops ShopfrontBut Michael longed for the country, and in 1963 settled first in Winchelsea, near Rye in Sussex, and then to a small outbuilding on a farm near Icklesham. He stayed here for 20 years and there are example of his work in the surroundings, such as that for the Martello Bookshop in Rye.

 

Michael Renton gravestoneMichael also cut letters in stone receiving commissions from many eminent institutions and individuals, and he even carved his own gravestone, see right. The slightly curved edges of the MR rectangle are reflected in the curved lines of the lettering – making this so very individual and personal, yet classic at the same time.

 

 

 

 

michael_renton_carving_0When Michael moved to Winchester in 1994, it meant that it was easier for him to work on the lettering for the Cathedral. The clear signage in red and black letters painted on limed oak panels are distinctive. His painted Royal Arms above St Swithun’s gate and his cut lettering for the sign for the Visitors’ Centre are just two examples of his versatility.

 

Michael Renton cardThe exhibition – His Hands Magic – at the Lettering Arts Centre at Snape Maltings from 3rd April to 28th June 2015 is a chance to see Michael’s work in detail. There are examples of his painting, letter cutting, wood engraving and drawings. There is also an excellent and detailed book about Michael, with essays by Harriet Frazer, John Nash, Simon Langsdale and others, and concludes with Michael’s writing about his experiences learning wood engraving. The book is lavishly illustrated with photographs of Michael and his wonderful work. It’s available from the Lettering Arts Centre and through the website here.

David Kindersley Centenary Celebrations

David Kindersley letteringI happened to be waiting in Exhibition Road to go into the Victoria and Albert Museum many years ago, and noticed the letter-cut sign on the wall. The more I looked at it, the more intrigued I was. The lettering looked so perfect and so even; it was cut over two blocks of stone, and yet no letter was actually on the join. In addition, the steady diagonal on the right-hand side almost drew in to the lettering the obvious bomb damage. It seemed a supreme example of craftsmanship. I learned later when talking with David that, when he was approached to cut the inscription noting that the damage to the building was as a result of air raids, he was asked what sort of stone he wanted to cut the lettering on for it to be attached to the building; his reply was that there was perfectly good stone already on the walls!

IMG_0015David’s lettering was exceptional, his eye for design, and particularly spacing quite phenomenal (one of his quotes was on the lines of a bad space is worse than a bad letter). This year, 2015, celebrates his centenary and there are a number of events planned. For details see the Cardozo-Kindersley workshop website here. One major event is the exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum; this is on from 21st April to 14th June and coincides with more of David’s work at Kettles Yard, both in Cambridge. If you haven’t been to either then both are worth a visit on their own, but take in David’s exhibitions while you’re there!

wall picHis inventiveness and skill are shown here in a picture from the wall in the Cardozo Kindersley workshop – examples of lettering of various styles and designs, and beneath that a cupboard with the tools of the trade. David learned letter cutting with Eric Gill when the latter was based at Pigotts in High Wycombe in December 1934 starting when David was 19. His father, it was said, liked to do things properly, and so he paid for David to be apprenticed. Whilst with Gill, David worked on many important commissions.

 

 

IMG_0004When Gill died in 1940, David was asked to take over the workshop, but once he had sorted out Gill’s affairs, he set up his own workshop at Dales Barn in Barton. David was a leading figure in setting up the Crafts Council and became Chair, stepping down because of concerns of underfunding (’twas ever thus!). David’s lettering for the Ministry of Transport was widely praised, but in the end they chose a lower case monoline style for motorway signs. Yet his clear and readable letters are still seen throughout Cambridge and in other towns and cities which have an eye for good design!

pod57Many commissions flowed from the workshop in Barton and when it was moved into a converted infants’ school in Cambridge itself, not least the magnificent gates for the British Library, designed by David and his third wife, Lida. They are a fitting addition to a remarkable building.

 

 

 

 

IMG_0394The workshop is currently preparing for the exhibitions and centenary events and here is a selection of David’s work being considered for inclusion. Again it shows just how versatile and talented he was.

There is not only the exhibitions but also an evening at the British Library with Tanya Harrod, Fiona MacCarthy and Lida and Hallam Kindersley on Friday 12th June (tickets here). The London exhibition is at the Patrick Bourne Gallery on 15th June, with pieces of David’s work for sale alongside new pieces by the workshop. Then the Centenary Walk is previewed here, and also a wonderful set of playing cards with David’s work featured on the backs of the cards – a delightful video shown here.

All in all a great way to celebrate the life and work of such a wonderful man, a true Alphabetician!

Cotton to Gold Exhibition 31st January–19th April 2015

two-temple-placeTwo Temple Place is a fascinating building – it looks rather like a castle outside, built of Portland stone with a crenellated roof, stone carvings by Nathaniel Hitch, stone windows and a magnificent golden galleon weather vane of the Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus’ ship. The weathervane is significant in that it represents the route of William Waldorf Astor’s ancestor, John Jacob Astor and the links between Europe and the US. The house was built for William Waldorf Astor by John Loughborough Pearson in 1895, and was intended to be used as the Astor Estate Office, with an upper flat for Astor’s own use.

Two Temple PlaceInside there is a stunning Cosmati pavement and fantastic woodwork, as in this wonderful staircase on the right. When the Astor family sold the house it was owned by various businesses and damaged by a bomb in 1944.

The building is now owned by the Bulldog Trust, and in 2011 opened as the first London building specifically to show publicly owned art from the UK regional collections.

 

 

 

Icon of Eleousa, Blackburn Museum and Art GalleryThe exhibition Cotton to Gold, co-curated by Dr Cynthia Johnstone, IES, University of London, and Dr Jack Hartnell, Courtauld Institute, shows the extraordinary collections of the industrial magnates of the north-west of England, the home of cotton manufacture. During the 19th century wealthy cotton mill owners spent their huge wealth on a rather eclectic assortment of items including Roman coins, Tiffany glass, medæval manuscripts, Byzantine icons, ivories and even preserved beetles! Three publicly owned museums in the north-west – Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, Haworth Art Gallery (Accrington) and Towneley Hall (Burnley) have joined together to present the best artefacts from these great collections.

BB mss - HART20918, Lombardy Missal, c.1400There will also be mediæval manuscripts on show, mainly Books of Hours. These were manuscript books for the lay person who could then follow the Offices of the Day in their own homes. In Psalms it says ‘seven times a day will I praise the Lord’, and indeed this is what happened in religious foundations, starting with lauds or matins at dawn, prime (6 o’clock), terce (9 o’clock), sext (noon), none (3 o’clock), vespers (sunset) and compline (9 o’clock) followed.

 

BB mss - HART20884, Book of Hours, Bruges, c.1490Many Books of Hours, as in the two shown here, were beautifully illuminated with rich jewel-like colours and lots of gold.

If you want to know more about how the manuscripts were made, then I am running a hands-on workshop and giving a talk. More details about these and the exhibition here.

 

Exhibition Opening Times: Monday, Thursday–Saturday: 10am–4:30pm Wednesday Late: 10am–9pm, Sunday: 11am–4:30pm, Closed on Tuesday. Admission Free 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holy Writ

Peter HallidayGreat calligraphy exhibitions in superb venues don’t come around very often. The last one, in my very biased view, was the terrific Calligraphy Today exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum Museum in Cambridge which I co-curated with the Keeper of Manuscripts and Printed Books, Dr Stella Panayotova. This was an exhibition of selected pieces from the permanent collection of contemporary calligraphy that I put together for the museum. I was delighted to see that a piece from that collection was on display at the recent Holy Writ exhibition at Lichfield Cathedral. The artwork was Peter Halliday’s wonderful Burning Bush (right).

And Holy Writ was the latest great calligraphy exhibition in a superb venue – Lichfield Cathedral. The exhibition has now closed, but it was so fantastic that I thought it worthwhile putting up some of the images as a blogpost here. The hugely creative calligrapher Peter Halliday was the curator of this exhibition, and he brought together manuscripts and contemporary calligraphy from all three faiths based on Abraham – Islam, Jewish and Christian.

Michelle Brown nd Peter HallidayProfessor Michelle Brown was part of the associated activities connected with the exhibition and gave one of her superb lectures on the Lichfield Psalter, and here she is with Peter with another of his exhibition artworks on the right.

 

 

 

Stephen Raw and 'Abraham'Stephen Raw’s powerful artwork of the word ‘Abraham’ in its Western, Hebrew and Arabic scripts was used as the image for the exhibition. This picture of Stephen at the side of his work gives an indication of size.

 

 

Mustafa Ja'farMustafa Ja'farReligious artworks from all three faiths were included, and, although very simple, this is a stunning piece by Mustafa Ja’far.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mustafa, Peter and EwanMustafa (left on photo on the right) was at the exhibition on the same day as Professor Ewan Clayton MBE (right) – gifted calligrapher and Craft Skills Champion in 2013 – and another exhibitor in the exhibition.

Fouad Kouichi Honda

 

 

Another striking piece was by Fouad Kouichi Honda, where strong calligraphy forms the decoration and the message.

 

 

 

 

St John's BiblePart of the St John’s Bible, master-minded by Donald Jackson, was also on display, showing that scribes and illuminators can create modern artworks based on historical techniques.

 

 

 

 

 

Masters and Apprentices

Masters and ApprenticesThe Lettering and Commemorative Arts Trust’s exciting new shop and gallery space at Snape Maltings in Suffolk has a new exhibition – Masters and Apprentices. It emphasises the importance of passing on skills, and focuses on the seven letter carving apprentices funded through the Trust, as well as four generations of Masters, tracing their skills back to Edward Johnston and the British Arts & Crafts Revival.  The exhibition is on until 29th June 2014. A fully illustrated catalogue is available.

Masters and ApprenticesThere are few, if any, recognised qualifications for letter carving, yet it is one of the oldest of skills, going back to ancient times. Throughout history trainers working in letter carving have been passing on the skills and knowledge to trainees, yet due to that lack of qualifications, it is impossible to tap into government funding to learn the craft.

 

Masters and ApprenticesLCAT have done extremely well to have put seven apprentices through training, and the work of some of these and their masters is on show in this exhibition. The exhibition’s curator, Gary Breeze, has emphasised skills transfer from Edward Johnston, who many regard as the father of modern calligraphy, working at the first half of the last century, and who was a great influence on his one-time student and then colleague and friend, the sculptor, letter carver and letter designer Eric Gill. David Kindersley trained and worked with Eric Gill, and also trained many others including his wife, Lida Cardozo Kindersley.

Photographs by David Holgate

Worship and Glory exhibition

Litany of LoretoAn exhibition of amazing craftsmanship and true artistry is on until December at the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace. The main attraction is the twelve Litany of Loreto embroidered pieces made in the early 20th century. Sadly the RSN website contains few images, but these here may tempt you to get to the exhibition.

Litany of Loreto

 

The panels are in muted colours, and show incredible skill with the needle. Shading is done purely by cross hatching using slightly darker colours.

 

 

Litany of Loreto

 

This close up shows just how subtle the embroidery is, with slight shading on the upper eyelid, and just the hint of tears.

 

 

 

Litany of Loreto

 

And this shows a larger section of that panel where the hair really does look as if the slight wave has been painted rather than stitched. Note too the wonderful expression on the child. It is quite astonishing that this has been achieved by needle and thread alone.

 

 

Litany of LoretoAnd finally an even larger section showing where the detailed sections above came from.