Tag Archives: art

Art Book of the Month, April 2016

Spine. The Costume of the Russian Empire, by C W Müller, 1804Costume of the Russian Empire, by C W Müller

Illustrated by a series of seventy-three colour engravings, with descriptions in English and French

William Miller, London 1804

A pictorial history of costume in the Russian Empire as it was at the beginning of the 19th century. An empire

“of an extent unknown to other modern nations…it touches the Frozen Ocean and borders upon the warm climates of Persia, Japan and China on the south.”

Not surprisingly, these costumes range from furs and ‘the skin of their rein-deer’ (Yakouti) complete with hair, to the skins of fish (Ostiaks), and – as in the case of the Tschutski of Siberia – ‘Men and women puncture their arms and faces in a regular manner’.  Eat your heart out Lady Gaga.

The elegant engravings are accompanied by hilarious descriptions, obviously from a more urbane explorer viewpoint, of the lifestyle of these people, long gone and long forgotten;

“The most part are satisfied with one wife” (Samoyed)

“Their manner of living, with respect to their food, is disgusting to the greatest degree.  They use no salt, and all their food is simply boiled”

“Their dances are pantomimical, and are not free from indelicacy” (Kamtshatka).

My favourite descriptions are of the Tungoosi, from the Lake Baikal region:

“ignorant of falsehood, treachery and robbery of any descriptions; they possess a gaiety of temper and openness of heart to the greatest degree; They will, with pleasure, divide their last morsel with their almost unknown guest; They fish and hunt with great skill; embroider in a very neat manner and – last but not least –  they are generally supplied with brandy, of which they are very fond.”

A priceless and utterly fascinating insight into primitive ethnicity and cultures that have pretty much disappeared from the face of the earth.


You can view this book in the Art & Design Collection at Westminster Reference Library.


Art Book of the Month, March 2016

In a new series on this blog, we’re shining a light on some of the treasures of the Art & Design Collection at Westminster Reference Library.

Toros y Toreros by Pablo Picasso
Toros y Toreros by Pablo Picasso
Texte de Luis Miguel Dominguin et une etude de Georges Boudaille

Thames and Hudson, 1961
Text in English and Spanish. Double Folio

“Yesterday, Pablo phoned me from Cannes. He had already told me he wanted me to do something for a book that was being published soon. So I spoke to him about it as we had already spoken before, without my yet being able to find out what the book was about or what he wanted me to do. I asked him if it was a preface, a text, a commentary that he wanted, whether he expected me to talk about art, about bullfighting or about the polar star. But he only answered that any one of these subjects would suit the purpose”

Toros y toreros is a book of drawings by Picasso, about bulls and bullfighting, published in 1961 with a written commentary by the celebrated Matador Luis Miguel Dominguin and an essay by Journalist and Art Critic,  Georges Boudaille. The frontispiece is a facsimile reproduction of the artist’s handwritten title page.

Picasso and Dominguin met in 1950, introduced to each other by Jean Cocteau.  They became close friends and apparently Picasso designed the famous matador’s chaquetilla and trousers. In the book there are a variety of sketches in both colour and black and white. Some of these are busy and detailed, others barely an outline.

On a cold March day, if only for a minute or two, you’ll feel transported to the hot terraces of a Plaza de Toros, your head in a tunnel of spinning colours and sounds.


Happy National Libraries Day!

National Libraries Day 2014Today, 6 February is National Libraries Day – we’d love to see you at the library today!

If you haven’t been in for a while, pick your nearest one and come and find out what we have to offer.

We’re holding an online competition to celebrate both National Libraries Day and the fact that this week has been National Storytelling Week:

Can you tell a story in fewer than 140 characters?
If you’d like to try, post your story on Twitter before midday on Monday, making sure you include the hashtag #NLD132.
There are prizes for the most retweeted story and we’ll pick our favourite reading- or library-related story too.
Find out more, and join in the judging by retweeting your favourite story at #NLD132.

This Saturday in Westminster Libraries you can find:

In addition to these special events we have literally hundreds of other events going on every day of the week across our network of libraries. Keep an eye on the Forthcoming events page for one-off events and at the regular events section of your own library’s events page for regular activities.

Or just come in and have a look at our wide range of books for both adults and children, use the library computers, ask a question, borrow a DVD or CD, find out about local history at the Archives Centre, use our amazing special collections or use the study space we offer.

If you can’t get to the library today, have a look at our brilliant online resources – you can download e-books, e-magazines and e-audiobooks for free, and use the Guardian newspaper archives, Naxos Music Library and KOMPASS business directory (and much MUCH more) from home too.

And if you can’t get to the library at all because you are disabled or caring for someone at home, don’t forget that we have a Home Library Service for you.

There are loads of reasons to love libraries this National Libraries Day. Come and find out why!


A Controversial Sculptor: Jacob Epstein in Westminster

Looking up in London by Jane PeytonJane Peyton in her book Looking up in London draws the reader’s attention to the often unobserved hidden architectural features above eye-level. I discovered a good example of this recently in Marylebone during a lunchtime walk along Wigmore Street. On the north side of Cavendish Square is Dean’s Mews, which contains a striking statue of the Madonna and Child suspended upon an arch.

Intrigued by this imposing but unlabeled sculpture I did a quick internet search and discovered that the sculptor was Jacob Epstein. This is not the only public piece of sculpture by him within the borough. He was also commissioned in 1908 for the British Medical Association (now Zimbabwe House) building façade 18 large nude sculptures. The architect for this building was Charles Holden who also designed the 1929 London Underground headquarters at 55 Broadway, Holden commissioned Epstein again to decorate this façade with the nude sculptures Day and Night above the entrance. These also stirred up controversy with protestors objecting to the sculpture on moral grounds.

Dean’s Mews, Cavendish Square: Jacob Epstain's Our Lady and the Holy Child

Now owned by The Kings Fund, the Dean’s Mews buildings were formally occupied by the Convent of the Holy Child of Jesus. The sisters had previously occupied cramped accommodation near Marylebone High Street but, needing more space for their teaching activities, they moved here in 1889.

Bombed in the Second World War, the convent commissioned the architect Louis Osman to restore the damaged buildings and also to create the linking bridge across the mews. It was his idea to include a statute of the Madonna and Child “levitating” against the bridge’s façade; the statue to be cast from roofing lead acquired from the bombed building. Osman independently commissioned Jacob Epstein to design the cast for the statue which caused a further artistic controversy.

Our Lady and the Holy Child by Jacob Epstein

This was due to people questioning whether it was appropriate for a Jew (Epstein) to create a Christian image and there were also requested alterations to the statue’s faces. The statue was formally unveiled on 14 May 1953. The Times reported this ceremony – you can read a facsimile in The Times Digital Archive (log in with your library card number). It’s also worth checking out other 24/7 resources for artistic and biographical information on Jacob Epstein, such as the Art & Design section and The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Please note that some of the listed art resources can only be accessed in-house at Westminster Reference Library. You will also need to visit the library if you’d like to consult Richard Cork’s well known biography of the artist.

Jacob Epstein by Richard CorkApart from the sculpture discussed above, other examples of Epstein’s work can be found in the borough at Tate Britain. The gallery includes his famous sculpture “Torso in Metal” [Rock Drill] – seen reproduced on the cover of Richard Cork’s biography, together with several other displayed paintings and drawings.

Jacob Epstein is of course not the only sculptor to create public works of art in London. Rupert Hill’s book Walking London’s Statues and Monuments is one of several guide books for the curious explorer of London’s treasures.


Chinese painting

The beautiful and traditional art of Chinese painting holds a fascination for many. Charing Cross Library invites you to join in with their long-established Chinese painting class, held every Saturday from 11.00am – 1.00pm in the library. Chinese Art Class The class is taught by an experienced teacher, Mr William Cai, who has practiced Chinese painting for over 40 years – and has been teaching it in the UK for more than 20 years. He has served in various institutions such as the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Missenden Abbey Adult Learning Centre, the University of Westminster, Imperial College and more. Adults of all levels of skill, from beginners to advanced, are welcome. Classes cover techniques including Xie Yi (which is a freely expressive style) and Gong Bi (highly detailed brushstrokes, very precise and without independent or expressive variation), and subjects such as landscape, flowers and birds. The courses also includes an introduction to and analysis of master works in Chinese painting, to help students understand and appreciate Chinese art. Through live demonstrations and hands-on exercises, Mr Cai guides students through to mastery of the basic techniques of Chinese painting, step by step. You can find out more by contacting the library or Mr Cai – more details on the Charing Cross Library events page.


Fun at Marylebone Library :-)

Saturday crafts drop in at Marylebone Library

Marylebone Library hosts children’s craft sessions every Saturday in the Children’s Library from 10.30am to 12.30pm. We started in October 2014 and since then our numbers have been climbing every week – we now have between 30 and 40 attendees weekly! The children really appreciate that a member of staff helps, supports and stays with them throughout the session. It’s a great community relationship builder – we’ve really enjoyed getting to know the people who come along. We have made Christmas decorations, had a session based on characters from Disney’s ‘Frozen’ (while singing the songs, of course!), made necklaces and bracelets from different shapes of pasta to name just a few projects.

So come and join us at Marylebone Library, it’s really lots of fun!


Remembering Together

Remembering Together artefacts at Paddington Library

Dementia is moving up the public consciousness and society is devoting more resources to dealing with our ageing population, many of whom may develop some form of dementia. Doctors and psychologists are researching ways to support people to live well with dementia and one way is to use the arts to work with people to bring memories alive in the present. This can involve the use of objects and pictures from the past which are meaningful for that person.

Paddington Library recently hosted a display of artwork by a group of artists from a range of arts backgrounds who had been volunteering on the Westminster Arts’ project Remembering Together, which was aimed at people living with dementia and their family carers. After 3 months of getting to know the participants, the artists designed personal items for the people they had worked with most closely, for example a memory cushion covered in photos or a pack of cards for a lady who loved playing bridge each week with a photo taken from her family life or their time together on the project. Some of the participants visited the display, which was shown in the library as a way of raising awareness of the positive impact artwork and the use of personal objects can have on people living with memory loss.

Remembering Together artefacts at Paddington Library“Going out weekly was something to look forward to, to meet new people to talk, engage in social activities, engage in creative activity and role play in an environment that was safe. Time for carers to meet up and talk freely with each other and give or obtain relevant advice. I enjoyed all the sessions as this was quality time spent with my mum in a different social environment and I really enjoyed the singing and creative work.”
– Sandra, carer

[Kathryn and Laurence]