Ian Gregory, volunteer archivist at Buxton Museum, finds another thought-provoking curio from the collections:
Buxton Museum has a collection of ceramics. One of the items is a Ridgeway vase with a copy of The Willow Pattern; one of the most famous designs in British pottery. Its origins lie in the 18th century when what they called Chinoiserie was all the rage in Britain and Europe.
Chinese styles may have been popular but did Georgian people understand it as well as they thought? Cobalt blue on white is certainly a Chinese colour scheme but the story of The Willow Pattern is European, not East Asian. There are similar scenes on Chinese export ceramics but what the Chinese made for exports often differed from objects made for their domestic market. Many motifs on porcelain bound for the home market would have meant nothing to Westerners, but a great deal to Buddhists or Taoists. Bats were a symbol of darkness in Europe, for example, but one of good fortune in the East.
The Willow Tree by Eika Kato (1859-1942) watercolour collection of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery
Late in the late 19th century, a change took place; large numbers of Japanese prints arrived in Europe, and Western artists, especially those in France took an interest in them. Impressionist painters began putting figures on the edge of pictures, partly cut off by the frames. Post-impressionists depicted flatter images than their predecessors. Both practices derived from East Asian art.
Which is the deeper influence: The Willow Pattern and other Chinoiserie ceramics or the Post-impressionist borrowings from Japan? Most experts would say the latter.
It’s been two weeks since Buxton Museum and Art Gallery closed for refurbishment and there have already been dramatic changes to the building. The staff room has been emptied to make way for a lift and the builders have ripped out the old toilets. This means the museum staff are temporarily having lunch in an empty art gallery and visiting a portable lavatory. We are happy to endure these provisional measures to improve the facilities for you, dear public.
Closure has given us the opportunity to take stock of the museum shop and pack everything away. This entails counting hundreds of imitation Roman coins, gemstones and Woolly Mammoths. The retail is actually part of the redevelopment. Arts Council England are kindly funding Buxton Museum to help improve both the shop and the merchandise. Some of the items on sale when we re-open next Spring are based on the collections and they will help the museum to establish a stronger identity. Click here for more information about our funding.
Goyt’s Bridge over the River Goyt by G.M. Brown. Copyrighted.
Some of the front-of-house staff are mucking in and have begun to write content for the new gallery. I’m working on a digital trail around the Goyt Valley. We aim to supplement a walk around the heritage-rich location by revealing items from the museum. It is based on an old blog of mine but we hope to build on this with the help of the Peak National Park rangers who care for the Goyt.
Jasmine is busy with a similar assignment on Chapel-en-le-Frith, a small town in the Peak District. Her granddad once lived there and Jasmine is applying the family knowledge to form a picture of the town’s fascinating and little-known history. Our goal is to do this with a lot of places in the Peak District. Buxton itself is ready to explore with a fledgling trail; see pocket.wonders.co.uk
The museum’s temporary closure doesn’t mean we have stopped running events. Our pop-up museum was previewed outside Buxton Opera House on Heritage Day two weeks ago and it will be making more appearances over the next few months. Watch this space.
The Visitor’s Choice Award in the 34th Derbyshire Open Art Competition goes to Millstone Graveyard by Stuart Johnson. Well done, Stuart, you are the people’s champion!
Stuart with Millstone Graveyard
Stuart is pleased to receive the recognition of Buxton Museum’s visitors but also very relaxed. He is no stranger to success in the county’s premier art competition. In 2012, his painting, Mam Tor- Sunrise, also bagged the Visitor’s Choice Award. Last year, another of his creations, Kinder Downfall, received no less than the top prize, the Derbyshire Trophy.
Mam Tor – Sunrise
It seems that if you want to succeed in the Derbyshire Open, you should take a leaf out of Stuart’s book. I asked him why he thought his art resonated so well with both judges and visitors. He speculated that it is easy to relate to his choice of subjects; many of the images that Stuart selects exemplify Derbyshire, particularly the millstones of this year’s winning picture.
Despite his achievements, it is encouraging to some of us that Stuart has no formal training in art. It is merely a pastime he has kept up for fifty years, alongside walking, rock climbing and other outdoor pursuits. He takes his time in his own studio, allowing two or three weeks to complete a piece. We look forward to seeing what he brings in next year. If you feel inspired by Stuart’s endeavours and you would like to have a go yourself, check our website.
When most people think about the work of Don Bramwell they will be reminded of his accomplishments within the field of archaeology, working on sites in Derbyshire such as Fox Hole Cave and Elder Bush Cave. But a select few might also recognise his creative side through his archaeological drawings of finds like this bear skull seen below. The accompanying photograph (showing the actual bear skull drawn in his diagram) helps to highlight the precision to which he gave to these drawings and how invaluable his talent was to aid in the recording of these sites, at a time when it was much harder to get a perfectly clear image from a camera.
His talent for the arts was not just kept to archaeological objects and finds however, and while searching through boxes of archived material I have come across many detailed illustrative drawings, complete with watercolour additions, of plans and scenes strait from the digs themselves.
Some of his drawings are filled with vibrant colours and tiny detailed patterns. This sets them apart from most ordinary plans and sketches found in archaeology leaving these artworks to appeal to a widely varying audience – as who doesn’t enjoy the satisfying imagery presented in the images below?
Although, what actually caught my attention most were the charming little doodles and sketches found around the boarders of his notes. Scattered and hidden throughout excavation notebooks containing his daily musings regarding the current state of the dig and the everyday occurrences of the archaeologist are hordes of little scenes. Some revealing animals which could be spotted around the Derbyshire countryside set within the margin of a page complete with a backdrop of rolling hills and a tree studded horizon. There can also be found doodles of flowers so tiny that they could be easily missed if you were simply skimming though the journals looking for information about the excavations. I should also not forget to mention the small sketches depicting the archaeological tools of the trade. Possibly trial sketches for his more elaborate drawings and excavation plans seen above or simply just Bramwell sketching out the items he could see around him. Either way they are still just as well drawn and fun to discover.
Buxton Museum and Art Gallery has an art collection of over a thousand artworks but on occasion, it is also a venue for creating them. From the storm of paper, glue and scissors that was last week’s school half-term workshops, came a multitude of wonderful artistic inventions.
Led by Creeping Toad and Sarah Males, the workshops were held in the new project space and had a daily theme based on the museum’s collection of fossils and minerals. Some participants took inspiration from the stained glass; a legacy from the building’s time as a hotel.