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Volunteers Week spotlight – Corrina from Ethnology

Volunteers are an integral part of National Museums Liverpool, and without them, important work would not be able to take place. To celebrate Volunteers Week we are meeting more volunteers as part of a bumper Volunteer Spotlight series so we can really celebrate the different contributions that our amazing volunteers make.

Alex (L) and Corrina (R)

Life has a habit of going full circle and that is certainly the case with Corrina: a volunteer with the Ethnology team. When she returned to the UK having taught English in Japan for fourteen years, Corrina revisited what she had originally had an interest in before her move, and looked towards the Walker Art Gallery, which she studied as part of her dissertation. This prompted her to make enquires into volunteering for National Museums Liverpool.

Initially Corrina had been interested in archive work  and she also wanted her volunteer role to link back to Japan: assisting the Ethnology department research and record the Japan collection in the museum collections store seemed perfect. Read more…

Father’s Day at National Museums Liverpool

4 June 2019 by Megan

The countdown is on. Father’s Day is round the corner and it’s safe to say most of us need a plan!

Don’t panic though National Museums Liverpool has something for even the pickiest of pas. So if he is a car enthusiast, art lover, astronomy nerd or would love a Sunday feast overlooking our beautiful waterfront take a look below at what we have on offer. Read more…

A final look at a fresh perspective

1 May 2019 by Jacob Spruce

Sadly this weekend is your last chance to visit the fantastic Fresh Perspectives exhibition at the Lady Lever Art Gallery which closes on Bank Holiday Monday, 6 May. GCSE and A-level students from five local secondary schools are exhibiting an inspirational array of artworks. Whether that’s a ceramic flamingo or an oil portrait, the level of talent on show this year is incredible.

To mark the end of this vibrant exhibition students from Birkenhead School who created a series of print and collage pieces on the theme of travel, will be running a free family printing workshop on Saturday 4th May between 1-4pm in the Activity Rooms. Families are welcome to drop in and have a go and make their own artwork using maps and bird imagery. Read more…

Exploring a fresh perspective

24 April 2019 by Siobhan

Five Wirral schools have been selected to show their work in the biennial exhibition Fresh Perspectives at the Lady Lever Art Gallery.

This unique opportunity allows local students a chance to display their work in a national gallery and enables our visitors to enjoy the work of the artists, makers, designers and creatives of the future.

With the exhibition half way through it’s run we thought we would take a closer look at the work and the views of the students and teachers from two of the schools involved. Read more…

Welcoming the Chinese new year of the pig

5 February 2019 by Ann

Happy Chinese New Year!

As we say farewell to the year of the dog and welcome the year of the pig we are looking forward to our annual celebrations at the gallery.  Did you know we have two galleries dedicated to Lord Lever’s Chinese ceramics which highlight his collection of 17th and 18th century porcelain which dates back to the 2nd century BCE ? Read more…

Our Favourite Queen Anne cameo

22 January 2019 by Charlotte

The cameo portrait of Sarah Churchill

Have you seen the new blockbuster film The Favourite? Featuring Olivia Colman as Queen Anne, the film is loosely based on the true story of the Queen’s romantic relationship with Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Malborough, and later, her cousin Abigail, Baroness Masham.

Coleman has already won a Golden Globe for Best Actress for her performance and the film is tipped to win big at both the Baftas and Oscars where in each case it leads the award nominations.

The Guardian describes the film as ‘a souped up and sweary quasi-Restoration romp full of intrigue and plotting – with wigs, clavichords and long corridors to storm down’ and I can’t wait to see it!

If you’ve seen it, or even if you haven’t, you might be interested in visiting the Lady Lever Art Gallery where you can see a small cameo portrait of Sarah Churchill.

If you can’t make it to the gallery, you can read more about Queen Anne, Sarah and Abigail as part of our online project Pride and Prejudice, which brings together art and social history items with an LGBT+ connection.

What do you think of the film?

Everyone welcome – especially unicorns

28 September 2018 by Ann

Unicorns learning about life in the Eighteenth century!

The Lady Lever Art Gallery was named in memory of Lord Lever’s wife Elizabeth and was built to house an art collection to share with Lever’s soap factory workers.  It’s always been about community and inclusion and today is no different.  It’s not uncommon for us to hear parents say they don’t think the gallery is for them as they fear they’ll be too noisy or it’ll go over the kids’ heads.  We’d like to shout from the top of our beautiful glass domes that we love noise, creativity and little ones and we’d love you to come and visit! Read more…

Teachers’ Evening – Get Involved!

24 September 2018 by Matt

Children in Museum

School visit

Want your class to experience a bit of hard work – Victorian style?  Ever fancied packing them off permanently on a ship to faraway climes?  Here’s your opportunity to find out how we can make this happen! Read more…

Leo Fitzmaurice: Between You and Me and Everything Else

3 September 2018 by Felicity

Portraits from National Museums Liverpool’s collection have been brought out of storage for the exhibition. Shown here in the conservation studio.

Here at the Walker, we’ve been working on something exciting with the Wirral-based artist, Leo Fitzmaurice…

Leo will create an assembly of portraits at the Gallery as part of a new exhibition, which asks us to look twice at what might, at first, seem familiar. Leo Fitzmaurice: Between You and Me and Everything Else (29 September 2018 to 17 March 2019) will include artworks from the Arts Council Collection and National Museums Liverpool’s own collection.

More than 30 portraits by artists including Frank Auerbach, David Bomberg, Milena Dragicevic, Ken Kiff, Marie-Louise von Motesiczky and Philip Sutton will feature in the exhibition, which takes place in Room 9 at the Gallery. Read more…

Sir Francis Seymour Haden: Breaking Up of the Agamemnon, No 1 (1870)

24 August 2018 by Ha-il Kim

Breaking Up of the Agamemnon, No 1 (1870), by Sir Francis Seymour Haden, Walker Art Gallery

As a volunteer at the Walker Art Gallery, I have been helping Exhibition Curator, Alex Patterson, to digitise works related to the Whistler and Pennell: Etching the City exhibition, currently on display at the Lady Lever Art Gallery. This exhibition explores the role that James McNeill Whistler and Joseph Pennell played in the Etching Revival (1830-1940) in Britain. It also shows how their contemporaries, such as Sir Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), Charles Méryon (1821-1868), and William Strang (1859-1921), were influenced by their art.

One of the etchings that really caught my interest was Breaking Up of the Agamemnon by Sir Francis Seymour Haden, which was one of three works by him included in the exhibition. It shows a large hulk of a vessel being demolished. The vessel is HMS Agamemnon, the Royal Navy battleship moored at the Naval Arsenal at Deptford on the River Thames, seen against the setting sun. Launched in 1852, the 230-feet long Agamemnon was one of the most intimidating of all wooden warships and the first British steam-powered flagship. The Agamemnon saw action in many battles, including the Crimean War, and was the predecessor of iron-hulled ships, which were introduced in the 1860s.

Breaking Up of the Great Eastern, No 2, 1890, by Sir Frank Short, Walker Art Gallery

Breaking Up of the Agamemnon reminded me of another etching, Breaking Up of the Great Eastern, No 2 (1890) by Sir Frank Short (1857-1945), also in the Walker Art Gallery collection. I came across the etching when I was researching scenes of Liverpool Docks. Both ships had illustrious histories, and I felt that the images of their breaking up expressed a deep sense of loss and sorrow.

Haden’s etching of the Agamemnon was a spontaneous response to what he saw on the Thames one day in July 1870, but it became the most important subject of his career, which he continued to work on over the next 16 years.

Early in 1870 the art scholar, artist and etcher Philip Gilbert Hamerton (1834-1894) asked Haden to etch a plate to be published in the first edition of his new art journal, The Portfolio (1870-1893). The journal, named after a folder in which collectors often kept valuable prints, championed etching as original art, rather than a reproductive medium. This concept played an instrumental role in the British etching revival during the second half of the 19th century. Haden, like the French Impressionists, always tried to work directly from life, and for this purpose, he always carried prepared copper plates wherever he went. He drew directly onto the plate to capture the movement of the light and its reflections in the sky, clouds, and water. The demolition of the Agamemnon may not have been a traditional subject for a study of ambiance, but Haden must have been entranced by its grandeur and spectacle.

In a letter to Hamerton, dated July 3, 1870, Haden wrote of the Agamemnon etching: “. . . I had thought of making the sun set behind the old hulk and the distant cupolas of Greenwich and of using the sinking luminary as typical of the departing glories of both . . . .” This shows that Haden indeed drew the initial sketch for Breaking Up of the Agamemnon, No 1 directly onto the copper plate. The sun is setting between the ship and Greenwich, conveying a poignant majestic reference to the glorious history of the Agamemnon. The rays of the setting sun rippling through the clouds are echoed on the stirring water in the foreground. Named after Agamemnon, the King of Mycenae who led the united Greek army to the Trojan War, the ship proudly displays the figurehead wearing a Roman centurion’s plumed helmet pointing towards the sun. The Agamemnon almost appears as if ready to set sail once again into the distant horizon. Although she is now tethered to a much smaller barge, with her ribs exposed and only one of three masts standing, the Agamemnon still looks magnificent. The image highlights the ship’s immense scale and power, but it also conveys a sense an ending.

Breaking Up of the Agamemnon was a very complex project for Haden. He said he had “never undertook a more perplexing job.” The initial spontaneity of etching was followed by many attempts at adding and deleting small details throughout the composition, resulting in 11 states (versions of the print) being made in total. However, the main image of the ship against a shimmering evening sun remained largely unchanged.

Breaking Up of the Agamemnon, No 1 was an artistic and commercial success. The plate was unfortunately too large to be printed in The Portfolio and instead was later published by Frederick Goulding, and sold through Colnaghi’s, bringing Haden a huge financial reward. The plate was so popular that he produced a second version of the subject Breaking Up of the Agamemnon, No 2 (1886) in mezzotint.

As for the etching Haden promised to Hamerton for the first edition of The Portfolio Hamerton instead selected another of Haden’s prints, entitled A Brig at Anchor (1870), which is also in the Walker Art Gallery collection. He etched it from nature by moonlight on the Thames.

A Brig at Anchor (1870) by Sir Francis Seymour Haden, Walker Art Gallery

To discover more about the art of etching and to enjoy Haden’s intricate works at first hand don’t miss Whistler and Pennell: Etching the City at the Lady Lever Art Gallery until 7 October and the fascinating video made by Liverpool John Moores University School of Art and Design explaining the process of etching.

 

 

 



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Welcome to the National Museums Liverpool blog! Written by our staff and volunteers, we’ll give you a peek behind the scenes of our museums and galleries.

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We try to ensure that the information provided on our blog is accurate and that appropriate permissions to use images have been sought. The opinions in each blog are very much those of the individuals writing.