Friday, June 28, 2013

Research Hub at London's National Gallery

The National Gallery in London has revamped its research hub to enhance online learning about its distinguished collection of paintings.

The Gallery has grown into a centre for researching European painting from the 13th to the early 20th centuries by virtue of its size and the historical significance attributed to its paintings. Active investigations into  the history of the paintings: why and how they were made and the interpretation of their meaning, continues to uncover exciting discoveries which inform art history. The gallery collaborates with scientists and conservators and articles specifically devoted to the scientific study of the pictures is published in the National Gallery Technical Bulletin. All previous issues of the bulletin have been archived and are available to browse here.

As well as this handy resource, the section on 'Buying, Collecting & Display' provides an examination of  the evolution of the art market and a dedicated 'Research Resources' page consolidates information on projects, networks and services to aid research.

Definitely one for art historians and for anyone interested in the ethical and philosophical questions posed by the archiving and conservation of art collections.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

World's First Comic Book is The Glasgow Looking Glass

A comic held in the Library's Special Collections at Glasgow University is suspected to be the world's oldest example. The 'Glasgow Looking Glass' which satirises early nineteenth century social life, was created by the illustrator William Heath. Heath produced 17 issues of the magazine during its short run from 1825 to 1826 which John Watson, (one of Glasgow's earliest lithographic printers) then produced. The comic later became known as The 'Northern Looking Glass' to represent a more national outlook, and was apparently distributed to taverns where drinkers derived merriment from its colourful and bolshie depictions of the news and current affairs!

The comic is making headlines this week as the main talking- point of a conference run by the university's International Bande Dessinee Society, a forum for academics interested in the comic strip. At the conference, researchers from Glasgow University will argue that the 'Glasgow Looking Glass' deserves to be given recognition as the first example of mass-produced illustrations, predating all known modern-day comics. This goes further than previous academic theories which recognise the magazine's importance in setting a precedent for Victorian publications such as 'Punch,' but have yet to acknowledge its status as the first ever comic-book.

To see these examples, and other illustrations from the 'Glasgow Looking Glass,' search on the Glasgow Story website where it is possible to learn about the stories behind the illustrations. The Library's Special Collections at Glasgow University have also named the comic their 'Book of the Month.' 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Graphic-Novel Guide Depicts Scottish History

A graphic novel-style guide published earlier this year is using the graphic novel form to educate readers about Scotland's archaeological history. 'Telling Scotland's History' is a collaborative project between the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF) and graphic artist Sha Nazir. The guide brings together research by archaeologists, historians, scientists and other specialists in ScARF to form an overview of archaeological research in Scotland from prehistory to the present day.

Artist Sha Nazir previously created the graphic art for the book 'The Amazing Mr Mackintosh' held in GSA Library and is one member of the team at BlackHearted Press, a leading independent comic-book publisher. (Follow @BHP_Comics on Twitter to find out more about the group's publications and events). At the guide's launch in February, Sha spoke about the close relationship between visual storytelling and archaeology, likening prehistoric cave paintings and ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics to the same need artists have today to communicate ideas through visual means.

We wouldn't have believed it in thousands of years, but to see how the use of the graphic-novel format makes the subject of archaeology instantly more accessible and exciting, clich here to download.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

'Writing into Art' - University of Strathclyde's Conference on Ekphrasis

'Ekphrasis' is the word of the day. 'Ek - phra - sis.' I've been spelling it out this morning like a Sesame Street character, trying to get accustomed to slipping the word into daily conversation.

And it's not just for show. Today is the second day of University of Strathclyde's conference 'Writing into Art' at Kelvingrove Museum - a conference studying ekphrasis - the relationship between literature and the visual arts. The event, organised by Scottish poet David Kinloch is being attended by writers with an interest in ekphrasis, and visual artists whose work involves the use of text. David will be chairing a programme that combines critical and creative practice. For example, a workshop this morning takes its inspiration from notable GSA alumni Steven Campbell whose use of visual motifs in his paintings acted as narratives. Another, led by the artist Tom Chambers, will look at how young artists are working with text. Responses to the collections at Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery will inevitably, help to inform the discussion.

The illustrious history of literature and art is exemplified in Romantic times by John Keat's 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' in which the poet responds to the decorative scenes painted on the iconic work of art. There are modern-day examples of poets using works of art in their writing, for example, A.S. Byatt, as well as collaborations such as the one between Auden and sculptor Henry Moore. Interest in ekphrasis is growing with a rise in 'picture poems,' and criticism on the subject and continuing poet- artist collaborations.

GSA's Ellen McAteer has written a very interesting blog around part one of the conference, held yesterday at this link.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Rolling out the Red Carpet - 'Colouring the Nation'

A vibrant online exhibition from National Museums Scotland explains the history of 'Turkey red in Scotland', an ancient dyeing process that formed a thriving industry in the Vale of Leven, Dumbartonshire during the 19th century. The bright, fast red produced in the sophisticated process became the preserve of the wealthy who desired to have their cotton textiles dyed a sumptuous hue of crimson! Unlike colours such as black and yellow, the method of producing red remained an expensive process due to the complexities involved in its creation. Synthetic dyes eventually won out, but not before a beautifully ornate history had been spun as the 'Colouring the Nation' exhibition demonstrates.

The exhibition is based on a collection of 200 pattern books (the Turkey red Collection) which National Museums acquired when the Scottish industry ceased trade in the 1960s. Much like the Stoddard Design Library held by GSA Library, these pattern books were consulted as in-house design tools with a few kept as 'show books' for merchants and esteemed customers. The useful feature of the collection from a research point of view is that the books also form a record of the printing techniques used, something which the online exhibition has successfully adapted to interactive format. Over 500 of the designs from these pattern books are included in the exhibition, all of which are compelling not only for their variety and opulence, but for the stories they tell about the Scottish textile industry's international client-base.

This is a visual feast of colour for the eyes which vividly recalls the history of a glorious age in the history of Scottish textiles. Search the collection by theme or conduct research into the history of the industry and its textiles by reading the collection of interpretive essays.