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NEWSLETTER - January 2017

CHAIRMAN'S REPORT

A HAPPY AND HEALTHY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL

As usual, I should like to thank you, our Members, and the FLAG Committee for all the support which you have given in the past year. However, since this year marks our Fiftieth Anniversary, I should like, in particular, to pay tribute to the founder members of FLAG whose hard work and vision enabled FLAG to become the thriving local society that it is today with a membership of just under 300. I should like to thank in particular Hilary Bostock, our first Chairman and still a member, and Molly Carless, our Vice President, who organised so many wonderful excursions as well as carrying out a multitude of other tasks. I should also like to acknowledge our debt of gratitude to Christine Percival who was Chairman on at least two occasions and who, sadly, is so ill now.

FLAG was founded on January 20th, 1967. The annual membership fee was 10 shillings and by 1970 the membership had risen to an impressive 101. We are doing our utmost to continue the high standard of talks and excursions and to maintain a caring attitude to the welfare of some of our older members which is characteristic of FLAG. The Officers of FLAG and the rest of the Committee will do their very best to follow in the illustrious footsteps of their predecessors. Please remember that our Fiftieth Anniversary Tea will take place on April 20th and we should be delighted if you were able to attend.

Graham White, Dec 2016.

OUR VISIT TO THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WALES CARDIFF
6th October 2016

The National Museum of Wales is one of a number fine buildings in Cardiff's beautiful civic centre. Having been born and brought up in Cardiff, I have a soft spot for the Museum which my wife Marian and I still visit every few years. It is a fascinating place with truly magnificent displays about Welsh life combined with some splendid paintings which never cease to interest us. The highlight of the art is probably the wonderful collection of Impressionist works bequeathed by the enterprising and generous Davies sisters in the 1950s and 1960s.

However, the OId Master collection is also very good and there were some beautiful Turner watercolours on display at the time of our visit. On the other hand, my childhood memories are of wet and boring mornings spent in a room filled with stuffed animals; I am sure that the Museum contained a lot more but this is all I remember. I used to walk past the Museum every day on my way to university but I am ashamed to say that it would never have occurred to me (or my friends) to enter the building! However with age sometimes comes wisdom and now I love the wonderful displays, I love the friendliness of the staff and, nostalgically, I love their Cardiff accents.


When FLAG went to the Museum in October, we were the guests of the Friends of the Museum who were waiting to welcome us as we arrived and who provided us with tea or coffee and Welsh cakes. After lunch, some of the group were given guided tours of a few of the art works by one of their knowledgeable Members. I had a chat with their previous chairman who, we discovered, had been a year behind me in school. As the Friends of a National Museum, they are of course bigger and wealthier than FLAG with 800 members but their organisation is very similar. They organise fundraising excursions like us and visit many of the places which are local to us which perhaps should make us appreciate even more our beautiful and varied region.

Instead of regular evening meetings for the membership, they hold a series of monthly Saturday morning lectures which are open to the general public. Their current project is to raise half a million pounds for the delightful Welsh National Folk Museum at St Fagans on the outskirts of Cardiff. Strangely, however, too much money can present difficulties. An unexpected problem occurred when one of their members left them nearly half a million pounds in her will and the former Chairman said ruefully that they would have declined the legacy if they had known the problems that this would cause. The Charity Commission refused to accept their audited accounts which no longer met their criteria until they got rid of the money which they eventually passed on to the Museum.

Please do not leave us sums of half a million pounds. We left the Museum after a most interesting day with the feeling that we could easily have spent another day there. Personally I am delighted to report that I did not see a single stuffed animal.

Graham White, Dec 2016.

FLAG PROGRAMME NOTES
February 2017 – April 2017

Tuesday 21 February

A very welcome return to Dr. Nick Baker who entertained us last year. This time his talk will be on The Lindisfarne Gospels & The Golden Age of Northumbria.

Around the year 700 AD, Eadfrith, bishop of Lindisfarne, toiled in his monastic scriptorium. This man was responsible for the Lindisfarne Gospels, one of the most famous books of faith in the world. This volume, now in the British Library, boasts portraits of the four evangelists, stunning ‘carpet' pages and exquisite details of birds and cats. Eadfrith drew on numerous artistic influences which circulated around Northumbria at that time. This talk will investigate the making of the gospels and consider the form and function of its rich decoration. We will also explore other near-contemporary artworks, such as the enigmatic Franks Casket and Ruthwell Cross, showing that this was an imaginative and exciting period in our island's story.

*****

Tuesday 21 March

Another very welcome return to one of our most popular speakers, Margaret Louise O'Keeffe, this time telling us about Gustave Caillebotte: The Forgotten Impressionist.

In 1966, the Wildenstein Gallery in London hosted an exhibition of the works of Gustave Caillebotte to raise funds for the Hertford British Hospital in Paris. The show was a revelation, bringing Caillebotte's name to the general public's attention but, even now, he deserves to be better known.

Caillebotte was a fascinating man and a talented artist who painted scenes of modern life, including city streets, domestic interiors, family portraits and leisure activities such as boating and gardening, both of which he loved.

He was also a very important patron, collector and exhibition organiser.

Personally wealthy, he had no need to sell his own pictures and used his fortune to support his Impressionist friends, from paying their rent to purchasing their paintings. He died young and bequeathed his dazzling collection to the French State which initially refused it.

This slide-illustrated talk will cover the range of style and subjects in his intriguing career and, also, the controversial saga of the Caillebotte Bequest. You will discover why, according to Denys Sutton, 'The name of Caillebotte deserves to be inscribed in gold letters in the annals of artistic patronage in France'.

*****

Tuesday 18 April

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

It will be followed with a talk by Graham Sutherland:

'Have Bell... Will Travel'

He is a well known local speaker. describes his life as a town crier and will, no doubt, be interesting and amusing, just right after an AGM!

*****

Lyn, Dec 2016

NOTE:

Our evening meetings take place at 7.30pm, (AGM 7.15pm) in St Peter's Conference Centre, Dormer Place. There is car parking on the street in Dormer Place and St Peter's Car Park is just round the corner in Augusta Place. The small car park at the centre is reserved for church members.

FLAG's TREASURER'S REPORT

I set out hereunder the donations made to the Gallery since 1 February, 2016 to the present day:

  • £500.00 Donation towards the Big Draw
  • £2000.00 Donation towards the conservation works and events for the Shopping Exhibition
  • £500.00 Donation towards the oral history project in conjunction with the Shopping Exhibition
  • £1000.00 Donation towards the cost of the catalogues for the Camouflage exhibition
  • £100.00 NADFAS donation
  • £300.00 Donation towards the Big Draw
  • £200.00 Donation towards the Family exhibition launch
  • £6000.00 Donation for the purchase of the Terry Frost maquette
  • £765.00 Donation towards the conservation and fitting of the showcase for the Aylesford Basin

Linda Nelson, Dec 2016

VISIT TO DERBY CATHEDRAL QUARTER
DEPART 8.30am

Wednesday 5 April 2017

We visit the historic heart of the city of Derby.

A day to do whatever you choose in Derby Cathedral Quarter.

The Cathedral has the second highest perpendicular church tower in England and contains many treasures including the tomb of Bess of Hardwick, the intricate Bakewell Screen and the oldest set of 10 bells in the world.

There are two museums within the area. The Museum and Art Gallery is home to a fascinating range of nationally important collections including the largest collection of works by Joseph Wright of Derby.

Pickford's House is the professional showcase and family home of Georgian architect Joseph Pickford. Illustrating aspects of domestic life from 18th to 20th centuries, Pickford's House shows the contrast between the master and the servant, the grandeur of Georgian architecture and the changes that occurred in the house over its 250 year life.

A donation to the Cathedral and the Art Gallery is included in the cost of this trip.

There is also The Silk Mill which is currently undergoing significant development so opening is limited. We will find out whether it is open on the 5 April.

The Cathedral Quarter has just won the City Location category at the Great British High Street Awards so that means plenty of interesting shops in the area as well as a good selection of cafes and restaurants.

Leaving 4.30pm.

Organiser – Lyn Buckle 01926 339499

*****

A separate booking sheet will be enclosed for the Derby excursion and for the Anniversary Tea party.

FRIENDS OF LEAMINGTON ART GALLERY
50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
1967 – 2017

We invite you to join us for our celebration afternoon Tea Party.

Thursday 20th April
3.00pm for 3.30pm

Kingsley School Hall
Beauchamp Avenue
Royal Leamington Spa
CV32 5RD

To Present our Gift
Of a Terry Frost maquette
To the Gallery

Guest Speakers:
Artist – Anthony Frost & Poet Bob Devereux

They will talk about Sir Terry Frost's life, and work with poems and ancedotes. Cost £15.00

PARKING:
Some parking available in Kingsley car park, at the front of the school in Beauchamp Avenue. Street parking available OR Covent Garden car park.

Pedestrian access
either from Beauchamp Avenue or from Beauchamp Road, opposite side of Christchurch Gardens.

Lyn Buckle, December 2016.

Art Gallery & Museum News
Exhibitions


This summer we enjoyed celebrating the work of the Camouflage Directorate that was based in Royal Leamington Spa during World War 2 with the exhibition CONCEALMENT & DECEPTION: The Art of the Camoufleurs of Leamington Spa 1939 – 1945, which ran from 22 July to 16 October 2016. The exhibition was funded by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, the Art Fund and FLAG and this support enabled us to produce an impressive publication to accompany the exhibition and run a broad range of events throughout the summer and early autumn.

Our current exhibition showcases the work of artist Colin Hitchmough, who was based in Leamington Spa until recently and was a tutor at Warwickshire College for many years. The exhibition (28 October 2016 - 8 January 2017). includes paintings from the 1970s onwards alongside some wonderful new works including the impressive Dictionary of Silences triptych, which is on display for the first time.

On 20 January we will open our next exhibition, Journey through Japan, which includes a series of photographs on loan from the Horniman Museum. They were taken by Marjorie Bell and her cousin Leslie when they visited Japan for two months in 1903 with Marjorie's mother Hester. The photographs will be displayed alongside a range of Japanese items from the collection at Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum. The exhibition will be accompanied by a range of workshops and events, including a chance to try your hand at Taiko Drumming!

This will be followed by our biennial OPEN exhibition. As usual, we shall invite submissions of work completed after January 2016 from professional artists based in the West Midlands. Works will be selected for the exhibition by a panel of judges and the exhibition will take place from 13 April to 25 June 2017. There will be one overall prize winner who will receive the OPEN 2017 award of £1,000. Visitors to the exhibition will also be given the chance to vote for their favourite artwork. The work of art which receives the highest public votes will be presented with the People's Choice Award of £500 (which has been very kindly sponsored by FLAG). All exhibited works will be for sale. From January 2017 we shall be joined for one day per week by University of Birmingham student, Anita Ubertone, who is carrying out an MA in History of Art and Curating. She will be focusing on research and preparation for the OPEN 2017, as part of her placement.

EVENTS & PROJECTS

As well as supporting the publication and events that accompanied the Camouflage exhibition, FLAG have also supported a number of events and projects through the year. The Big Draw in October has been a regular event for many years and we are very grateful for FLAG's contribution this year. In addition, we received support for the Intergenerational Oral History Project this year. Every year FLAG provides support for the valuable work that the NADFAS volunteers do. In September their efforts and skills were acknowledged when they were awarded the Special Award: Collections at the West Midlands Museum Volunteer Awards. Imogen Frost, who is overseeing the work of the volunteers in Vicki Slade's absence, has contributed an account of the enjoyable Christmas celebration attended by the NADFAS volunteers and members of the FLAG committee.

COLLECTIONS


This year FLAG arranged the purchase of a significant Terry Frost sculpture with local links, which was gifted to LSAG&M to mark their 50th Anniversary in 2017. The work was recently displayed in the exhibition Sir Terry Frost R.A. (1915-2003) A Leamington Lad and is a painted steel maquette measuring approximately 50 x 50cm which was made when Frost was working on a commission for University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust.

In addition FLAG have paid for the conservation of the recently acquired Aylesford Well basin. The marble basin is from the well that stood over the original source of spa water in the town. It was thought that it had been lost when the well house was demolished in 1961, but, fortunately, it had been rescued from the rubble by local resident Pavel Hodác and has now been acquired by Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum. We are very grateful to FLAG for funding the cleaning by conservator Veronika Vlková and the fitting out of a showcase to display the basin in the Museum.

To commemorate FLAG's 50th Anniversary, we shall be showcasing 10 items from the fine art and social history collections which were acquired with support from FLAG or have undergone conservation funded by FLAG. These items will be the subject of a trail funded by West Midlands Museum Development which uses an interactive audio guide. Designed for children and families, the guide is led by “boss cat” who is on the search to find a ‘missing' painting which has been moved by some mischievous mice! Lots of fun for all the family!

GALLERY STAFF NEWS

On 8 October Henry Slade Jones made a speedy entry into the world. Vicki and Rich have impressed us all by reacting so calmly to an unexpected home birth! Vicki remains on maternity leave until October 2017 and we hope to be re-advertising for maternity cover for her post in January.

After many months of discussion and consultation Warwick District Council have passed plans for a re-designed Arts Service. From January David Guilding will be Arts Manager, looking after the Art Gallery & Museum, Spa Centre and Town Hall, while Vicki and I will share the newly created position of Collections & Engagement Manager. This post will be supported by Alice as the art Curator and a social history Curator (to be appointed). We are very sorry to be saying goodbye to Jeff Watkin, who will be leaving in March 2017 after nearly 30 years at Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum. His own message is printed below. His impact as Heritage & Arts Manager has been hugely significant and he has been a wonderful colleague and friend.

We were also very sorry to say goodbye to Penelope Thomas, who left on 16 December after 2 ½ years as Learning & Engagement Officer. Penelope has been a dynamic, skilled and inspiring member of our team and will be sorely missed. She is moving on to a full-time, HLF funded job at Hartlebury Castle and we wish her all the very best for the future.

Chloe Johnson
December 2016

*****

MESSAGE from Jeff

The start of 2017 will herald a new and exciting era for Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum. As many FLAG members will know, for the last year or so the council has been looking at new ways to deliver its arts services. Until now these have been provided by two separate teams, each with their own manager, one operating the Art Gallery & Museum in the Royal Pump Rooms, the other the Royal Spa Centre and Town Hall.

Following a staff restructure adopted by the council on 14 December, from January the two teams will be integrated into a single Arts Service led by one manager, who will oversee the operation of the arts services delivered from the three buildings. The aim is to create a larger, more robust and co-ordinated service, better able to meet the challenges confronting the arts sector in the UK at a time of declining public funding. The head of the new team, as Arts Manager, will be David Guilding, who has brought exciting new programming to the Royal Spa Centre since he took over its management in August 2012.

With one exception, the Art Gallery & Museum team have all been found jobs in the new structure, so there will be plenty of familiar faces around the Art Gallery & Museum for the foreseeable future. These will include those best known to FLAG members: Chloe Johnson and Vicki Slade, who will share the post of Collections & Engagement Manager, and Alice Swatton, who will remain as Curator of Visual Arts. They will be joined by the council's Arts Development Officer and two, yet to be appointed staff: a Learning & Engagement Officer (as successor for Penelope Thomas, who left in December) and a Curator of Social History. There will also be a few less familiar faces, when members of the teams previously based in the Royal Spa Centre or Town Hall start to work alongside their new colleagues in the Royal Pump Rooms.

The one exception to the Art Gallery & Museum staff transferring to the new structure is me. As part of the restructure I shall be taking retirement from the post of Heritage & Arts Manager, leaving in early March. This is just short of 30 years since I joined the council in June 1987, when I became manager of the old Art Gallery on Avenue Road. It was there that I first encountered FLAG and I still have vivid memories of the early committee meetings that took place in that building (sometimes continuing until well after 11 pm!). My years in the post have been very enjoyable and fulfilling, especially the opportunity to lead the team that in 1999 transferred the Art Gallery & Museum from Avenue Road to the Royal Pump Rooms, where the service has thrived in its award-winning new home.

Throughout the years FLAG has been steadfast in its support of the Art Gallery & Museum, and I am extremely grateful for the unfailing kindness and understanding of its members. Looking to the future, although there may bit of bedding-in time required for the new arts service, I am confident it will continue to provide a fabulous selection of arts opportunities for our district's residents and visitors. Although it will still need the help of FLAG, of course!

Jeff Watkin, Dec 2016.

*****

VISIT TO NADFAS VOLUNTEERS


On Monday 12th December several FLAG committee members visited the Art Gallery & Museum to see the wonderful work being done by the NADFAS volunteers. This Christmas get together was a great opportunity for the NADFAS volunteers to show past and current conservation projects they've undertaken, and to give a fascinating insight into the processes involved. Janet Warren, who has been volunteering with us through NADFAS for the past 12 years, showed archive boxes that had been skilfully custom-made by the group to hold Victorian parasols. They were also working on their current textile project. This involves condition checking and making garment bags to store and conserve a variety of outfits, from a Macebearer's uniform (c.1945-1955) to a high visibility safety jacket worn by a Ford Factory Worker!

Thank you to all who attended, for the hard work of the NADFAS volunteers and for the funds and support from FLAG who enable this important work to continue.

Imogen Frost, Dec 2016


Former FLAG Chairman and Flag Member, Diana Adams reminiscing with the Volunteers.

Diana remembers how the links between Nadfas Volunteers and FLAG were formed many years ago. Diana is so pleased and delighted that the partnership still exists and is ongoing.

*****

OUR AUTUMN VISIT TO HOGARTH'S HOUSE AND HAM HOUSE
14th September 2016

HOGARTH's HOUSE

When Hogarth bought a pleasant brick house in 1749 at Chiswick, 'four miles from Town', he looked from his shady walled garden across the great common field. Now it stands by the roaring six carriageways of the A4, a rare oasis of calm. Artists saved it from demolition in 1900 and German bombs failed to destroy it in 1940. Within its modest rooms with help from displays of personal items, prints and paintings we learnt about the work, family and friendships of William Hogarth. His early years had included a time 'Under the Rules of the Fleet Prison' where his father, confined for debt had taken his family. William had the benefit of a good education and was apprenticed to a silver plate engraver. He soon joined the artists' academy in St Martin's Lane and made lifelong friends, from the theatre, artists and writers. He mastered the skills of copper plate engraving and studied history painting under Sir James Thornhill and then eloped with his mentor's daughter Jane, as the family thought he was not good enough for her.

The popularity of his prints and steady stream of commissions ensured a comfortable income, but piracy of his work infuriated him and he campaigned for copyright laws. He was a leading voice against cruelty to animals, which led 'to hardening of the spirit and violence'. Of course his subjects often show the dreadful poverty, vices and suffering of the age and the inevitable consequences. He was a supporter of Coram's Foundling Hospital and encouraged fellow artists to donate their work.


M Lowe Sept 2016

A sensitive portrait of his servants is on display, painted in 1790 and his self-portraits with his pug 'Trump'. He was caricatured as a pug and called 'Pug the Painter'. He was less than five feet tall and another self-portrait shows him concentrating on a painting, his soft cap balanced at the back of his shaven head.

We learnt about other residents of the house, including a Lutheran preacher Georg Ruperti, Henry Cary, writer and translator and melodramatic actor, Newton Treen 'Brayvo' Hicks.

*****

HAM HOUSE, Richmond
14th September 2016

We crossed the Thames and passed through Richmond to Ham House which was built in 1610 by Sir Thomas Vavasour, Marshall to James Ist. The house we toured was the creation of Elizabeth, daughter of 1st Earl of Dysart. She skilfully maintained good relations with Oliver Cromwell while her Royalist father remained in exile in Holland, and yet secretly communicated with Charles II, at great personal risk. With her second husband 2nd Earl of Lauderdale she transformed Ham House sparing no expense, adding suites of state apartments, including one for the occasional visits of Queen Catherine of Braganza. To avoid excessive wear we were admitted in small groups to these apartments, which retain the 1680 blue damask hangings, original decoration, parquet flooring and intricate plaster ceilings. Only the most honoured guests would have been admitted to the ante-chamber and then on to the French style bedchamber.

The Long Gallery runs the length of the west range and is hung with family and royal portraits in 'auricular' frames fashionable in 17th century. The green closet is a unique survival of a cabinet room of the 1630s and still has a large collection of portrait miniatures and cabinet (small oil) pictures.

Elizabeth also spent extravagantly on the park and gardens, with aviaries of ornamental birds, grass plats, a wilderness with summerhouses, secret gardens and numerous statues. In a walled court we saw 20 lemon and orange trees enjoying the hot sunshine. In 1683 they managed to overwinter 62 such trees while the nearby Thames froze for two months.

The 5th Earl of Dysart kept the house as 'a fragment of another age', would not admit George III. No damaging refurbishments took place so that when House was given to the National Trust in 1948 it contained a neglected, but rare and rich interior, complete with contents.

Marilyn Lowe, Dec 2016.


John Bacon‘s Statue of Old Father Thames, the River God in Coade stone at the front of the house.