Friday, 18 July 2014

Colours and how they have changed … Primary – Chromatic


On a warm summer’s day with the bells of the Glockenspiel ringing in my ears I walked through Leicester Square to see the Making Colour exhibition, at the National Gallery off Trafalgar Square …

Art and Science coming together

… an opportunity to see the wide-ranging materials used to create colour in paintings.   These worlds of art and science, and how we see colour has been fascinating me – a non-artist, but always a learner – for a while …


A few years ago there was a tv programme on the Himba people of Namibia and how they perceive colour … very differently from us … having had the privilege of being able to visit the Himba tribe on a visit with my mother to the Skeleton Coast and Namibia …

A member of the Himba
tribe of Namibia


… obviously this whetted my learning appetite, and I’m lucky my brain remembers, so whenever dyes and pigments are discussed I am interested to see more.


… the mechanics of colour vision are complex … and we each are different … colour, along with light, shadow and movement, defines everything we see.  But what do we see? 


The exhibition opens new ideas about colour not before thought about … how we perceive and register colour … how the brain and the eye respond to colour in unexpected ways …
Recreated a Medieval Palette - details and on how
to make an illuminated manuscript can be found at
Randy Asplund's site - photo c/o his website


The natural world gives us many colours, but they are not permanent … so artists have always strived for a way to ensure the colour lasts – their work holds its own … at least during their life-time!


The exhibition starts with the early handbooks and instruction manuals transmitted from master to pupil, and from workshop to workshop by tradition and example.


The 14th century Cennino Cennini (1370 – 1440) was an Italian painter influenced by Giotto … and is remembered mainly for having authored “Il libro dell’arte”, often translated as The Craftsman’s Handbook: ‘the how’ to on Renaissance art … and interestingly other advice on lifestyle etc…


Moses Harris' (1730 - 1788) early colour wheel
Seen at a recent Exhibition at the Royal
Pavilion, Brighton - more informationcan be found here; photo c/o site



Early art (pre-history) relied mainly on plants and coloured minerals – pigments … surprisingly some are local, other appear to have been brought it …






Egyptian Book of the Dead
c 1300 BC
… early dyestuffs evolved … the Egyptian civilisation is distinguished by its wide use of colour.  To the reds and yellows of pre-history, the Egyptians added dark and light blues, greens, violet, white, and gold.


New painting techniques evolved  … the proper preparation of the surface and the use of different binders to create the painting and ensure its durability … as we can see in the legacies of painting or objects we know today …


They were the first society to give us a chromatic palette – albeit a natural one – which is incomparably richer than its prehistoric kin.


Barrel of Ochre
However to return to the exhibition … this is concerned with paints and pigments of the medieval era and the mediums used to stabilise them on application … and on to the industrial chemistry of the 19th century – opening new doors … often unintentional … for artists and for other disciplines.


Colour palettes … were first set out by the physician Theodore de Mayerne (1573 – 1654/5) in his ‘de Mayerne manuscript’, then others including Moses Harris produced colour (the Prismatic) wheels …


Newton investigating optics
c/o Science Ray

… before Newton, in the early 1800s, with his mathematical eye, who had first demonstrated that white light could be separated into pure prismatic colours and that these colours could be recombined to make white light again.




Newton also systemised colours: he arranged the colours of the spectrum in a circle that placed complementaries opposite each other.  (Complementary colours are pairs of colours which, when combined in the right proportions, produce white or black).


Verdigris or
Copper Carbonate

We then move into the Exhibition and chambers to see the different artist’s palette in relation to various paintings and objects from the National Gallery itself, or a few precious items from other sources – art collections, Natural History Museum, private collections …


The Virgin in Prayer by Sassoferrato
(1640-50) c/o National Gallery


… explaining how each pigment is made, applied or ‘set’, how the materials were prepared etc … with an art work to show the colour, a video to explain some of the techniques, various charts giving further explanations, some ground pigments and mediums to show the differences …




We use three primary colours since human colour vision is trichromatic … but we are forever exploring and searching out new ideas, new ways of looking at colour … at the world around us …

  • Each colour of the rainbow is explored … starting with
  •  
  • ·       the beautiful, brilliant blues … signifying richness
  •  
  • ·       then greens as important components of the palette as reliable blue … as essential to the landscape as blue skies with yellow suns
  •  
  • ·       reds indispensable for all painters (and purple) … displaying wealth, or mixing the red plant dyes to over-glaze and bring out the translucency of colours
  •  
  • ·       opaque strong yellows (and orange) – sunlight … or mixed with other traditional artificial pigments …
  •  
  • ·       Whites, browns and blacks – the natural earth colours …
  •  
  • ·        Gold and Silver – where gold could be beaten to tissue fineness – a Florentine florin is the best … an artist could get 100 sheets from one florin …
  •  
  • … gold which does not refract, therefore brightens the space where it is used, or displayed … as too silver … both will glitter out of tapestries, shine out in processions …

Degas'  "La Coiffure" (c1896) - used three reds
Details and explanation of painting and colours
can be found here ... photo c/o The Science of Art



I asked earlier “What do we see?” – this I will need to come back to … to be able to give a reasonable explanation, or to open your thoughts to these challenging concepts …









Visitors with chromatic suitcase
The exhibition finishes with a scientific experiment that I didn’t check out – but now I’ve ‘researched’ the notes I had on the Himba peoples of Namibia, remembered about synaesthesia and colour, and drafted this post … I will, as one journalist advised, make a second visit … so the whole can fall into place.



I also need to check out The National Gallery exhibition again … but as I ventured into the sunshine from this wonderful exhibition – what should I be greeted with but a mass of people with chromatic colours all around …










Should you glance on mornings lovely
Lift to drink the heaven’s blue
Or when, sun veiled by sirocco,
Royal red sinks out of view –
Give to Nature praise and honour
Blithe of heart and sound of eye,
Knowing for the world of colour
Where its broad foundations lie.”

Making Colour Exhibition at the National Gallery, London 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Glockenspiel – Leicester Square memories, Trafalgar Square exhibitions …


In London town they say you see many things … surprising things and some which bring back funny memories long forgotten, yet this one had disappeared into the recesses of my mind …

Glockenspiel and Clock with, in front, the Cantonal Tree
… years ago, not quite centuries, but decades have passed since I visited Swiss House for some food or drink or to pass the time of day … what I had not forgotten was we had to go down stairs, sit on high bar stools where I had the most amazing Drambuie Cream Sorbet …



Creamy Cherry Kirsch Icecream
… a texture and taste I long remember, though whether or not it was Drambuie, I doubt – I’m not a happy camper with a whisky – so perhaps Cherry Kirsch … more suitable for the Swiss House … delicious is all I can say and remember …


… I’ll never find out now, I guess … and as I see a link for over 127 Kirsch Ice Cream recipes … I won’t even try!!

Ultramarine blue
Cockerel on 4th plinth
in Trafalgar Squre

Still I had two reasons for going to London … to see “Primary Colours” – an exhibition at the National Gallery on pigments and their relationship with paintings from medieval days …


… and then round the corner to the National Portrait Gallery to see the exhibition on Virginia Woolf: Art, Vision and Life …


The Cantonal Tree
I’ll post shortly on both those … I went by bus from Victoria station to Piccadilly, then walked through the masses of students and throngs of visitors towards Leicester Square …


… as I was about to walk into Leicester Square at midday suddenly the most amazing Swiss bells ring out – I’m startled … I’m right underneath … cowbells in London?


Photo taken by Dickon Love
when installing the clock
 I was mesmerized and stood listening for the five minute playtime, and watching as the minute/second hand went round, it was spoon shaped, then I noticed the procession of animals and cow-herders …



c/o Figures by BBC
… the original Glockenspiel on the Swiss Centre – consisting of 27 bells, an astronomical clock and a procession of 23 farmers herding their cows to Alpine pasture was given to the City of Westminster on its 400th anniversary in 1985 by Switzerland and Liechtenstein as a token of centuries of friendship.

Swiss Centre
1960s
architecture

When Swiss House was demolished and the area redeveloped … the Glockenspiel needed to be refurbished, which was done by Smith of Derby (clockmakers since 1856, and in fact back to 1708 – interesting firm with lots of fascinating clock installations … I see another post sometime!) …




the installation was recreated into two parts this amazing ‘clock tower’: a Cantonal Tree displaying the 26 Coats of Arms of the Swiss Cantons and the Glockenspiel Clock …


Old Glockenspiel installation
I only heard the daily chimes that ring out:

Times of chiming given: 
M-F 12.00pm, 17.00, 18.00, 1900 and 20.00
 Sat and Sun:  12.00, 14.00, 15.00, 16.00, 17.00, 18.00, 19.00 and 20.00


But when the Glockenspiel was formally re-inaugurated in 2011 a demonstration was given of the way it could be played live - by plugging in a keyboard …

Alphorn concert in Vals, Switzerland

… and six Alphorn players were placed on various roofs around Leicester Square, some hidden … so that a degree of mystery surrounded the sudden emanation of sound …


… in the streets traditional bell-playing folklore groups from various parts of Switzerland paraded towards the Glockenspiel at the newly named Swiss Court … when the Glockenspiel was programmed to give solo performances and played in unison with the bell-ringers.

Must have been wonderful to have been there …


Two of the bells taken by
Dickon Love on installation

The details of the bells are given at this site … the bell number, region, weights, diameter, music note … all the bells were cast by the Bell Foundry, H Ruetschi in Aarau.




Each of the bells has the inscription of a different Swiss canton in the inscription band, with the name of a different Westminster ward along the sound bow.  On the waist of each bell is a shield of shields of the canton to which it is dedicated.

Federal Charter of 1291

The precursors of Switzerland established a protective alliance at the end of 13th century (1291), forming a loose confederation of states which persisted for centuries.


Liechtenstein has been included due to its working proximity to Switzerland, albeit it is a separate microstate ‘doubly landlocked alpine country’ - bordered on two sides by Switzerland and on the other two by Austria.  The bell for Liechtenstein is dated 1791 ... reference to relevant Constitutional Documentation. 


Gutenberg Castle, Balzers, Liechtenstein
is a museum

So anyone who is visiting London … I highly recommend a visit to listen to this amazing instrument … fascinating to watch, and highly entertaining to listen to – amidst the cacophony of tongues roundabout.


Westminster City
Coat of Arms

Strange but true … cow-herders can be seen in Leicester Square …


Website: Smith of Derby showing some slides ... and giving us a few more details:  viz the design islike a free-standing totem pole, featuring 23 figures - 11 moving farmers and their animals - against a typical Swiss Alpine backdrop, images of the 27 cantons,  27 bells and 4 Swiss Jacomas representing bell ringers and two clocks.


Website: Westminster Lover's Guide re Glockenspiel - for information

Website: Anglo-Swiss Friendship - Memorial 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Monday, 7 July 2014

Cheeses, Tour de France, World War One, Poetry …


The inspiration for today’s post has come from the Tour de France as the route visits some top cheese-making regions, including its starting point last Saturday in Yorkshire …



… through the Yorkshire Dales, the setting of the James Herriot veterinary books – which as many of you will know has incredible scenery and names! 



Buttertubs Pass is a challenging cycle climb featured as the second of the three King of the Mountains climbs in Stage One.


The limestone buttertubs

Buttertubs – so called deep limestone potholes – are said to come from the times when farmers would rest there on their way to market … then during hot weather could lower the butter into the potholes to keep it cool …



Peak District National Park
Edale Valley from Mam Tor


Day Two goes through Blubberhouses - possibly from the Anglo-Saxon ‘the houses which are at the bubbling stream’ – through the Peak District now our first National Park … pretty moorland, rolling hills and dales to wildflower meadows and leafy forests … this is home to some of the country’s finest scenery …







Yorkshire lanes 

Could they look … as they raced around the tiny lanes, up the gruelling hills, and down the spine of England … no, I don’t think so …





Platter stops of cheese, breads, fruits and salads sounds a much better idea … for spectators along the routes … at the pubs, or picnics in the peaks … or at home just sampling our own selections, the tv remote to hand, between the tennis, Grand Prix and the Tour … (it’s been a busy weekend – I have a flat backside!) …

Kit Calvert cheese



Two Yorkshire cheeses: Kit Calvert is a lovingly handcrafted buttery, creamy textured cheese; named after the father of Wensleydale cheese, who helped save the Wensleydale Creamery from closure in 1935.





Or … the award-winning Shepherds Purse Yorkshire Bluehere is a recipe using this cheese .... 



Across La Manche to Le Touquet and on to Lille … but then an important acknowledgement for stage 5 – the commencement of World War One, one hundred years ago … on the cobblestones of Ypres, Belgium …

Ypres cobbles ... 

… what could be worse for a cyclist than the nine cobbled sectors … but many will be thinking of the carnage of a century ago …



Ypres will always be remembered as the strategic position during WW1 which stopped Germany’s planned sweep across the rest of Belgium and into France from the north …

Canadian Headquarters Staff, by William
Nicholson.  The painting depicts five
Canadian generals and one major
standing unposed in front of the bombed
Ypres Cathedral and Cloth Hall


… the neutrality of Belgium was guaranteed by the British; once Germany invaded Belgium this brought the British Empire into the war.


It would have been unacceptable for the Tour not to commemorate the Centenary of the start of World War I in its own way … that we shall see tomorrow and Wednesday …


To fast forward one hundred years and be introduced to some other cheeses along the Tour route …



Cathedral Marcel Petite Comte -
a disused fort
There’s a cheese at Stage 11 in the eastern region of France – the Jura – called Cathedral Matured Mountain Comte Aop … all the cheeses are aged in the Cathedral Marcel Petite Comte, a disused fort …





Epoisses Bourguignon

We could also try Berthaut’s Epoisses … first made in the 16th century by Cistercian monks … which has, since WW2, made a revival as an artisanal cheese … often eaten with Trappist beer rather than wine.



If we move on to Stage 15 … we will find Cave Aged Roquefort, the pungent, tangy and creamy cheese aged in local limestone caves, home to a natural blue mould, Penicillium roqueforti.



Cave Age Roquefort
It is claimed that this cheese was first mentioned in the writings of Pliny the Elder in AD 79 – he was certainly prolific … his last work was the Naturalis Historia, an encyclopedia into which he collected a great deal of the knowledge of his time ... providing us today with so much information about the Roman period.



Before we disappear off to raid the delicatessen shelves, or the supermarket cheese counters … on July 2nd in 1566 Nostradamus died.


French cheeses ... 
Did he prophesise that in 2014 we would be enjoying so many cheeses, that clever entrepreneurs would develop new cheeses for us to enjoy while we idled away hours watching our favourite sports programmes?




Tour de France route 2014

He did write a cookery book containing among other things, recipes for jams and jellies.  The title of it roughly translates as ‘An excellent and most useful work essential to all who wish to become acquainted with exquisite recipes’ …  I expect there would be cheeses in there too …





 
My iphone photo
of Waitrose's
magazine cover


Most of this eclectic information came from Waitrose’s Food and Drink magazine provided free at outlets … on occasion, as far as I’m concerned they come up total trumps …





Sheep painted the classification
colours of the leaders in the race .. not
easy to explain!

The third and last of the British Stages has finished in London … along from the Olympic Park through the centre of London, past the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben … finishing off outside Buckingham Palace …




… now to cross the Channel and find those French cheeses I’ve listed .. and many more …


Reeth Post Office duly decorated ...
in Tour colours
One last snippet – for those of us who can get the Waitrose magazine – the Poetry competition is mentioned – the second-round winners are revealed … the third round opens to entries …



… but they are great poems to read to invalided relatives or friends … and I can see my mother enjoying these and smiling happily as I read them out to her …  not to be for us …


Platter of cheeses ... 

… but a thought for all carers, Nursing Home Managers … something very different – I know I shall be taking a copy up to the Nursing Centre I continue to visit for their Care Manager to use as she thinks fit …



Happy touring … oh and before I forget completely ... Jenny of Jenny Freckles, who blogs at Saltaire Daily Photo ... has some stunning shots and comment on the Yorkshire Tour de France! 

Here's her link .. it's where David Hockney created some wonderful new artistic creations - using his ipad .. about 3 or 4 years ago .. i.e. in the dark ages, before the ipad was so well known!


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Blog Sandwich Update 3 – Coffee Break for Canada Day and 4th of July …


Time for a coffee?  I was at our local Museum of Art down here on the South Coast for an art history lecture on St Catherine’s Monastery, in the Sinai Peninsula … its official name is Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai


I got to town early to do a few things and thought I’d have a snack-lunch at the Towner Gallery before the talk …



I had nothing to read with me ... but the Coffee Lover’s Magazine “Caffeine” was available for a browse through … and as always – a blog post or two comes to light …


… so time for a coffee update … one of the articles is called “The Summer of Cold Brew” – which takes me back to my childhood … and cold coffee drinks …



… Wiki describes Camp Coffee as a British icon of nostalgia … with many of us remembering it from our childhoods … I particularly remember making coffee flavoured Victoria sponges, coffee mousses with boiled evaporated milk …


… and then cold-milk coffees sitting on the lawn in wonderful sunshine – as we have now and so too does the Wimbledon tennis …
 
A bumpy lawn .. with a few impediments
around - we didn't have a pond ... 

… we had a bumpy grass court at home … and enjoyed the long evenings playing tennis, running around … and drinking coffee – nothing stronger for us (in those days) …


Now we can get Cold Brew … by taking the inspiration from how you brew beer, to how you make coffee … there are a number of companies giving us a cold brew …


Cold Milky Coffee

Sandows will be brewing up some special editions … especially from their pop-up bar situated on the South Bank of the Thames this summer … it’s different to hot brewed coffee – one that shows many coffees in a completely new light.


The tip is to drink it via a straw … back to those memories again …


Sandows Cold Brew

I did enjoy football back in the 1960s … but now I could do without watching any of it … but this magazine also told me that football and coffee were imports to Brazil.




Poster from the Sandow
website
Coffee was introduced in 1727, while football arrived 150 years later – when British businessmen who lived and worked in Brazil in the latter part of the 1800s, brought balls over providing the early insight into the ‘wonderful game’ …



Coffee was the driving force of the Brazilian economy at this point and slowly the two cultures opened up their doors to all … as we know today coffee and football are both ubiquitous cultures … though beer comes in too!



Flour Power: now this is what really caught my eye … an ex Starbucks man turns waste into a wonder food …  here’s an excellent 3 minute video showing the attributes of coffeeflour

Coffee berries - the cherries ...  these are the
husks that are discarded and left to rot

Many facts that I certainly didn’t know … more fibre than whole grain wheat, three times more iron than fresh spinach, three times more protein per gram than fresh kale, one ounce of coffee flour has twice the potassium of a banana …


… the coffee cherries can be utilised and turned into an alternative (gluten free) flour and be used in many different innovative ways …


The vast majority of cherries that surround the bean are simply discarded, some are dried and sold to create cascara (a tea) and some are used as fertiliser … but most is wasted and pollutes …


A farmer in Brazil
Dan Belliveau is an engineer who designs factories and while working for Starbucks came across the problem of coffee waste … instead of leaving the cherries lying around rotting, filling up the water-ways … it can now be turned into a value added product boosting the income of small coffee farmers …



Watch this space I say … coffee flour appears to be an excellent idea – a gluten free meal that can be used in a huge range of baking applications in place of flour …


And now with the sunny day slowly setting its sun across the Downs I shall quietly stand down, watch a little more Wimbledon Mixed Doubles … and in 2015 the commercial roll out is set - I shall keep an eye out for this Coffee Flour …



Happy Canada Day – one Canadian in the Women’s Finals on Saturday, another Canadian with an opportunity tomorrow in the Men’s Semi-Finals tomorrow …

"The Coffee Bearer"
Orientalist painting by
John Frederick Lewis (1857)

… and Happy Fourth of July to all Americans …



…. though with thoughts to all those with trials and tribulations going on for their near and dears …





Blessings to one and all … whoever said blue and green should never be seen?  Wonderful green grass with blue sky and a shining yellow orb blasting out its heat ... we're enjoying our summer .. 


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories