A blog by a man with significant sight loss and his encounters with the aid of his white stick (a long cane with a ball on the end). There is no guide dog, but the white stick can be 'anthropomorphisised'. Sometimes the white stick speaks.
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Many of the
exhibitors were in the same place as last year and with recent meetings and
shows at Judd Street (RNIB and Action for Blind) and my discussions with Guide
Dogs at the VocalEyes reception at the House of Lords, I went more with the
intention of finding a few twitter contacts and searching the hashtag
#SightVillage for interesting exhibitors.
I made my way
from South Kensington Underground with the very helpful staff at the station by
way of the Circle Line (It is no longer a circle) to High Street Kensington. From there I headed towards the Town Hall,
remembering the way, and was met by Ray from QAC who was doing a sweep.I was then checked in and started on my visit
having established which rooms were in use.
some interesting camera based technologies which will read a simple
document.Many of the stands have
documents ready but I had a leaflet from the V&A which turned out to be
about Harry Winston’s Diamonds. This is one way to name drop.One type of equipment sounded interesting,
but costing around £2,000 was more than I was willing to pay.A cheaper piece of kit costing £500 was more
attractive but only worked on English text and facilities such as converting to
a readable text file for “paperless” purposes was an extra.I am no longer interested in magnifiers but
would like to have a document read to me, annotate it and store for reference
(and throwing the piece of paper away- A quoi sert un morceau de papier,
I ran into a
couple of stands from last year and chatted away.I tried out the Ultracane and discussed its
development.Some people recognised me
and I tried out a carbon fibre white cane on sale by QAC themselves (we met on
twitter).The Olympus stand remembered
me from the Judd Street day and said hello.Of course I could not recognise any visually impaired people so asked
one of the QAC volunteers to help me find some stands.I found Toby Davey from VocalEyes and I got
an unusual audio description of the coffee downstairs! (see below)
On the way
downstairs I ran into Megan from RNIB Books and we discussed issues.A coffee and a piece of lemon cake can best
be forgotten but the catering staff kept scratching their faces or hair while
handling food.The lemon cake was
wrapped tightly in cling film and it extruded and tasted like wallpaper paste.
Toby was right about the coffee.
My last stand
visit was with a tactile map overlay on a touchscreen.This was done on a plan of Rochester Railway
Station in Kent.I have been to this
station as it has both HS1 and regular tracks.A useful try out of technology in development.
I am devoting
more attention to Front of House details and for visually impaired people.This includes the box office on the phone, in
person, an audio CD and a greeting at the event itself.The National Theatre ticks all these boxes
and a performance is stress free.
On a cold
November lunchtime, some early arrivals were let into the box office area as
the NT staff were going through the details of the performance back up for
visually impaired visitors.My companion
counted 2 dogs and about 6 canes in the audience and I had a chance to speak to
a few visitors who are regular theatregoers with and without audio description.In any live performance for visually impaired
audiences there are really 2 live performances and the research by Tony and
Bridget with the NT staff in putting the whole show together is
commendable.That said the play is the
This House is
a play by James Graham and has started in the studio space of the National
Theatre known as The Cottesloe.The play
is sold out for the run though will be transferred to the Olivier Theatre in
2013.The play recalls the events in the
House of Commons between 1974 and 1979.This is shown as the fall of the Heath government, the arrival of the
Labour government under the leadership of Wilson then Callaghan then the
victory of the Conservatives in 1979 under Thatcher.
Theatre CD had been sent to me a few weeks ago and it contained much
information.This includes information
on the set, characters and descriptions with a useful glossary of parliamentary
procedure pre-television broadcasting.At
the time only major broadcasts on radio were live and one had to listen to
transcripts of events in a programme which still goes out on the BBC- Today in
The play is
really interesting as it deals with the relationships of the opposing team of
“whips”.By tradition the whips do not
speak to the public and the Whips Office is usually an important part of the
“greasy pole” of many political leaders.They are supposed to know all the secrets.I remember many of the events referred to in
the background. Each year has an echo such as the Silver Jubilee in 1977 and
the surprise resignation of Wilson in 1976.
The set is laid
out to resemble the green benches of the House of Commons.The dialogue is very quickfire with typical
adversarial snippets when scene shifts occur from office to chamber.
Many of the
characters have multiple roles and appearances.In order to keep things simple all the Conservatives (Tories) have
“Posh” accents and are often described as Tory Twats.The Labour characters are usually given Northern
English accents.There are non English
roles such as MPs from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.Most
of the MPs are referred to with the name of their parliamentary constituency
and the Speaker refers to them in this way.Among themselves, the MPs use other terms of endearment including first
names.We have, for example, a reference
to Plymouth – Alan Clark (famous for sex and diaries) and Chelmsford – Norman
St John Stevas (pompous constitutional expert and deceased).
is filled with snippets of details which kept the Labour Government on a knife
edge.The Labour government managed to
survive for most of a 5 year term. The whips office has a blackboard on which
the razor thin majority is gradually stripped away.At the time calculators and computers would
have been available but a blackboard is a useful prop.
about the set, Tony McBride had walked the length of it and had stopped where
important parts of debating procedure are embedded in the chamber.There are 2 redlines which represent 2 sword
lengths apart when in debate.The Serjeant
at Arms still has a sword in the chamber and the Speaker still wore a full
bottomed wig and gown.One of the new
Labour Whips plays with his stick of office (not unlike my Whitestick).
introduced to the cast and were taken round the props.The audience is seated on the benches and
there is a working bar on the set with Irish Whiskey (surely shome mishtake).Chris Godwin took me round the set and as he
plays the member for the Western Isles, I asked him how his Gaelic was.To my surprise he answered in Irish.I was able to sit in the Speaker’s Chair and
it can revolve revealing a cleaner’s cupboard complete with Izal loo paper, not
Bronco.We were also able to handle some
of the costumes including a very expensive Savile Row suit said to be worth
£10,000 in today’s money.The suit has
apparently made several performances on TV, film and theatre, and is worn by
Julian Wadham who plays the role of Humphrey Atkins.
itself unrolls as a timeline with much of the drama being between the two
deputy whips.In real life, this was
Jack Weatherill played by Charles Edwards and Walter Harrison played by Philip
Glenister. (Obituary on BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20080858
)For political junkies, broadcasts of
the real events and dramas in the House of Commons can be found on the BBC and
other channels as well as on radio.At
the time transcripts of debates in the house were taken by Hansard and with
some redaction, appeared in the Parliamentary Report.This continues to this day and is available
on line at http://www.theyworkforyou.com/search-hansard/?gclid=CMCkyJXh77MCFSTLtAodbQ8Abw
the cast who were present during the Touch Tour included:
Godwin - (Walsall N/Speaker in Act
Giles Taylor -
(Speaker in Act I/Mansfield/Serjeant at Arms in Act II/West Lothian/Ensemble) Tony Turner –
(Bromsgrove/Abingdon/Liverpool Edgehill / Paisley / Fermanagh /Ensemble) Rupert
Vansittart - (Esher/Belfast W/ Ensemble) Julian Wadham
- (Humphrey Atkins, Tory Whip) Gunnar
Cauthery - (Clockmaker/Peebles/Redditch/Nuneaton/Ensemble)
Suffling, the Stage Manger, was also present.
will transfer to the Olivier Theatre in February 2013.
The seating in this show added to the drama and if this can be replicated in a
larger theatre it should transfer well.Much of the detail will go over the heads of those who have forgotten
the late 1970s but the detail does not detract from the drama of the apparently
wasted effort in politics at the time, though having listened to several
political books recently (Andrew Rawnsley on the End of the Party (Labour)) it appears
that little has changed.For the sake of
balance the term Omnishambles comes to mind.
By the way
the part of the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles was not creepy enough!
I ran across him when he was canvassing to be Rector of Edinburgh University in
the 1970s. (Gordon Brown had at least been successful in getting that post.)
Portrait Gallery in London (near Trafalgar Square) is one of my regular locations
for dropping in for a coffee and “view”
the odd painting from time to time.The layout
is a bit labyrinthine though the guards are helpful in finding an object,
painting or temporary exhibition.Some
months ago I visited some photos and prints to do with Richard Hamilton and was
taken to the location.I soon found
myself in the company of other visitors who were quite happy to share their
thoughts and read out the odd picture label.
occasion of the BP Portrait of the Year I went to the front desk. It is
upstairs or up lift (elevator) and got further directions.I wandered around and liked a few portraits
and went back to the start and asked one of the attendants for some help.Sarah and Peter took me round and we
discussed several paintings.As usual
the subject of titanium dioxide came up in some very bright pictures.Peter also paints and we discussed Zinc Oxide
and Lead Oxide.The bookshops are also
helpful in finding the occasional postcard and even a book.
Thursday of the month is the date for the NPG “Visualisation” for visually
It is also a chance to meet other people.We tend to gather across from the information desk.You can always ask to be taken to the
painting in advance to see what you can make of it and the neighbouring
pictures.Often a reference is made to
some other portraits in the vicinity.
Collins organises much of the activity and is a mine of information as is the
NPG website. (http://www.npg.org.uk/learning/digital/sen/picture-descriptions.php) I am not so familiar with
this one and Esther explained the accession numbering system (No 1 is
Shakespeare) Esther was also pleased that I had wandered into the BP Portrait
show on my own as they have encouraged the attendants to engage more with
visitors in general and I have noted this though I have become more familiar
over the building and organisational structure.There are usually a few interns
at our sessions and gradually more awareness of visually impaired visitors is
quite a story behind McClintock and his search for Franklyn who went
missing.The painting itself is quite
stylised and reflects the almost photographic detail at the time.Having heard Sir Ranulph Fiennes speak at a
lunch before about his state of being frostbitten and exhaustion on some of
these expeditions, this McClintock portrait resembles more a renaissance ideal
of the “Victorian Arctic Explorer”.The
race for the Arctic and Antarctic was underway and was often between Norwegian explorers
such as Amundsen and Nansen and the British explorers.With global warming and the disappearance of
some of the Arctic ice does this painting represent a scientific record at all?Did the gadgets arrayed around McClintock
provide any scientific data at all?Fascinating topics for discussion.A portrait can direct so much interest.
portrait was that of King James VI/I as painted by the Flemish painter Daniel
Mytens.King James is sandwiched between
his son Charles (later King Charles) and his daughter Elizabeth (later Queen of
Bohemia).Our describer was Marion Cole,
who reminded me that we had met before at the description of Ayuba Suleiman
Diallo by William Hoare. (http://profwhitestick.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/stamp-collecting-connects-hoare-with.html)
of King James is rather motionless and illustrates the King’s show of
power.He is seated in his chair of
estate and is in the dress of a Knight of the Garter with all the associated
regalia.Marion said that the pose
resembled that of Pope Julius II and King James had maintained his position in
the Church of England while setting in train a divine right theology which
proved a disaster for his son Charles.
Prof Whitestick by the portrait of King James I
National Portrait Gallery, London
star can just about be made out and the King is shown with the garter on his
left leg.King James is shown with
almost platform shoes to increase his height appearance.Marion described the portrait geometry with
the colours of red and white dominating the king, and a blue frame of the
inside lining of his Garter mantle. I asked
about the rapier and it is described as jewelled.Marion could not identify the clasp like
object and I wondered if it could have been a dagger hilt.We had a discussion about some diamond
described as black.A passing guide
remarked that diamonds have no shining effect until the facets are cut, so this
diamond may have been a precious stone left unset, though we wondered how a
glittering diamond would have been portrayed.
National Portrait Gallery has an exhibition on Prince Henry Stuart.He is the sister of Elizabeth Stuart (I am
photographed with the Robert Peake portrait of Elizabeth Stuart the Winter
Queen of Bohemia).Prince Henry died
quite young and some treasures have been put together.The exhibition is interesting as it reflects
Jacobean history.King James I/VI has a
mixed reputation, the “Wisest fool in Christendom” springs to mind.
My visit to
the Lost Prince exhibition is covered in a separate post relating to the
exhibition itself with references to the portraits in the Stuart family both
here in London and some of those from Scotland. The link is:
I attended 2 access
events for the Bronze exhibition.The
first was an In Person event on a Friday evening on 9th November and
the second was on the 12th November and was an early entry audio
description around the exhibition followed by a practical discussion on casting
bronze, lost wax process, patina and secondary treatment of finished bronzes
with alabaster and colouring.
After a few
introductions from Beth Schneider and Molly Bretton, the new Access Officer, we
introduced ourselves and met some of the volunteers. I met Sylvia and Alice and
then had a chance to talk with others in the group over some drinks.
Left to right, Molly, Prof and Beth
Royal Academy In Person
9 November 2012
was led by David Johnson and Carlo Keshishian and was a mix of doing 3D works
with some sculpture or staying mainly with 2D drawing, cutting and sticking,
with Bronze as a theme.There were some
prints around for inspiration and plenty of help in describing.
Royal Academy In Person
9 November 2012
David gave a
visual presentation of some of his work followed by Carlo who did likewise
before we were set off in starting a work and then passing it on to another
participant.I started in 2D and was
working away with graphite sticks and experimented with imprinting coin shapes
and figures on to others’ works. I carelessly put the graphite stick in my
pocket with the coins at the end.(I had
several hand washing moments of crying out “Out damned spot” as I did not find
the graphite stick until the Saturday lunchtime the next day!)
Royal Academy In Person
9 November 2012
sessions Carlo was doing a sound workshop and there were all sorts of noises … er
… sounds emanating from the corner as people were trying out some of the
instruments in rehearsal for a take.Sylvia was meanwhile telling me about a
recent visit to a sulphur mine in Indonesia.I had a yellow crayon in my hand and started adding yellow cube shapes
and the chemical symbol of sulphur S.When Sylvia mentioned how little the miners were paid I converted the S
to $. With the music I had added musical clefs and notation.
Prof with Janie, holding up sculpture
Royal Academy In Person
9 November 2012
Janie in the sculpture table and we started and added to other works.Working with clay is something I had tried
and it is fun learning some of the techniques such as coil and pinch pot for
some work.Again taking the theme of the
Bronze exhibition we were adding to the works on process/progress.The music had
stopped and I tried out some of the instruments and had great fun with a Thumb
Left to right, Beth, Carlo and Prof making music
Royal Academy In Person
9 November 2012
This was an
enjoyable evening and we were able to spend about 90 minutes in the Bronze
exhibition, making this my 3rd visit and a chance to concentrate on
the portraits and more of the gods.
Art Jam and wine
Royal Academy In Person
9 November 2012
Academy programme for the visually impaired is popular with an early entry, an
audio described visit to some highlights and a handling workshop with coffee,
tea and Bakewell Pudding!
I went to
this one on my own and it was a 9am start.I arrived about 0845 and was asked by the staff in Piccadilly if I was
going to the RA.(Another great case of
Front of House - I have noted this before at the RA if there is any change of
forecourt layout and access to the building)
Quite a few
of the regulars had gathered and we went to the Reynolds Room where I met Alice
and Sylvia again, as well as Molly from the RA.Leaving coats and bags we left on tour with Bridget Crowley.
We stopped at
the dancing satyr and Bridget described it from her standing position.We then stopped at several bronzes: a statue
of St Elizabeth, the elephant, a bas relief of Vulcan, a statue of Ganesh and
the Bulgarian King with fine eyelashes, alabaster eyes.
the Reynolds Room we had an interesting talk with examples arranged with
Bridget and Harry Baxter.At a previous
meeting over the Hockney exhibition, Harry had gone into detail about Lead White
and how Lucien Freud had apparently bought up the stock.Passing around copper sheeting Harry had
tried to get some tin to share with us though it contains lead.Alabaster was in short supply as Anish Kapur
had bought it all up!
Harry Baxter with Prof Whitestick trying out materials for casting bronze
Royal Academy audio described event
12 November 2012
lots of questions as we passed around a mould for a bronze and tried to guess
what could be cast from it.Bridget had
arranged to get some bronze sweeps from a Limehouse foundry and we were given
A3 photos of some of the bronzes.Harry
described the secrecy to this day of the chemistry of the patina.
This was my 4th
visit to this bronze show and one learns so much on each occasion. Alice
patiently allowed me to zigzag as we went from description and we discussed
some of the other objects which we both liked such as a Brancusi and a Henry
Moore piece which I find myself liking more.
website has more information on the In Person event series here:
I first became aware of Lely’s portraits when I visited Ham
House, near Richmond in Surrey.His
painting of Elizabeth Murray (Countess of Dysart in her own right) has haunting
and I swore I could recognise the eyes Lely painted from these visits in the
I was alerted to the Lely exhibition by a tweet and put it
on the list of things to do.A friend
came with me and we noted a few of the pictures we discussed.
The Finding of Moses
Musee des Beaux. Arts, Rennes
Reuben Presenting Mandrakes to Leah
The Rape of Europa
Chatsworth House Trust (shown above)
Nymphs by a Fountain
Dulwich Picture Gallery
A Boy as a Shepherd
Dulwich Picture Gallery (shown below)
Boy as a Shepherd, c. 1658-60
Oil on canvas, 91.4 x 69 cm
Dulwich Picture Gallery, London
Man Playing a Pipe
Courtauld Gallery (shown below)
The Concert, c. 1650
Peter Lely (1618-80)
Oil on canvas, 123.1 x 234 cm
The Courtauld Gallery, London
A Pair of Lovers in a Landscape
Musee des Beaux. Arts, Valenciennes
Portrait of Sir Thomas Thyme
Portrait of a Woman
Cimon and Ifigenia
Mr & Mrs James Birch
There is a catalogue on sale for £25 and I bought 4
After the Lely exhibition we visited a small show of Lucien
Freud etchings which had been given to the Courtauld by Auerbach.I had missed the Lucien Freud exhibition when
it was on at the National Portrait Gallery, though I had not shown particular interest
in going to it at the time.
We wandered through the first and second floors and renewed
acquaintances with some of the pictures including:
Church Tower (around 1919)
Marianne Werefkin(1860-1938) Private collection
This reminded me of the church in Murnau by Kandinsky, which
I had seen in the Symbolist Landscape exhibition in Edinburgh during the summer.
Kandinsky Private collection
On the Theme of the Last Judgement (1913)
Kandinsky Fridart Foundation
The Red Circle
Kandinsky Private collection
Many thanks to Jenni Lloyd from Sue Bond Public Relations (www.suebond.co.uk) for sending me the three photographs shown in this post. Jenni also very kindly sent me the text of the wall panels. Thanks also to the staff at the Courtauld Gallery for coming back to me after my visit.
By a stroke of serendipity or even synchronicity the CD
review programme on BBC Radio 3 on this day had included a new issue of
recorder music.Details taken from the
BBC Radio 3 website are as follows:
follia di Napoli
Maurice Steger (direction, recorder)
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC902135 (CD + DVD)
This comes very close to a concert party and the CD has
arrived (Thursday 15th November and sounds terrific.)
My first visit to the Courtauld is noted below.
12th July 2012
The Courtauld Gallery takes up the Strand
side (North side) of Somerset House.
I had seen some of the pictures years ago, though not long
after I lost my sight I was taken to the Gilbert Collection which was then
housed in Somerset House (South Side).
Somerset House (http://www.somersethouse.org.uk/) was once the domain of bureaucrats and has
been transformed following years of neglect and misuse.Anthony Trollope refers to clerks who entered
employment at Somerset House aged 16 and “retired” as clerks aged 60 (Talking
Book Miss Mackenzie).
My previous trip was when I was new to using a cane and I
found the steps and courtyard difficult to negotiate.The whole site had been a large car park and
houses an area for performances and a skating rink in the winter.
I went with a friend to the Courtauld Gallery and the
admission concession is £4.50 with the companion going free.
The building is very attractive inside once you are off the Strand.If you
can, climb the magnificent stairway to the top.(We took the lift down) and at the top, look down.With my peripheral vision I could make out a
spiral of rectangular shapes with some eccentricity of an ellipse and a very
stretched spiral.Chambers had designed
this stairway fitting it in to the available space.It is not as pretty as the GoMA stairway in Glasgow but impressive
The rooms are very pleasing with plaster work and ceiling
paintings.The Courtauld is a collection
of collections though quite different from the Wallace Collection.The latter bears the stamp of Sir Richard
Wallace, whereas the Courtauld has continued to be developed from the original
triumvirate of Courtauld, Lee and Witt.Samuel Courtauld left his own “personal” collection and the Institute
which is part of the University
of London has some claims
I was aware that I would find many old friends from art
appreciation days and various talks. Reference is often made to the Courtauld
usually of the “You will find another one at the Courtauld” variety.
I have listed some of the artworks which were either known
to me or had been mentioned in some talk or lecture.With
my peripheral vision I had difficulty in making much out of the Rubens.It could have been the lighting and the
themes as I enjoyed Rubens Het Steen in the National Gallery and the Rainbow in
the Wallace.The glare from the bright
natural light combined with room lighting and reflective glass made “viewing”
awkward.My friend thought the same.
We had no problems with the Impressionists and I was able to
recognise most of them.The delightful
pair of cassone (marriage chests) are elegantly displayed much as an IKEA
flatpack had been disassembled.All the
panels were on view and the pair is unique. We had discussed the panel of Piero di Cosimo
in an ‘Art through Words’ session at the National Gallery.
Having learned so many things at the sessions for visually
impaired people at the National Gallery and other galleries, it was fun trying
out a gallery with so many genres.
The items I enjoyed are listed below - though not
recognising all of them instantly with the exception of Van Gogh, Cranach,
Manet, Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, Pissarro and the ballet figures of Degas.I have made a few comments we discussed
between ourselves and with some other visitors.
The Bridge at Courbevoie The Woman Powdering Herself (1888-90)
Vincent Van Gogh Peach Trees in Flower
A Bar at the Folies-Bergere
La Loge (1874)
Antibes (1888) White, pink and blue
The Lac d’Annecy The Card Players
Venice: a view of Realto Bridge (1768)
Portrait of Captain Sir William Peere Williams (1750s)
Pieter Bruegel The Elder
Landscape with the flight into Egypt
Ecco Homo (1622/3)
Religious and classical themes.The lighting was not ideal. stuff
Lucas Cranach 1
Adam and Eve (1526)
An amusing incident.My companion was reading out the caption and on saying that Adam was
scratching his head, two women commented that they had not noticed that.(Ways of Seeing)
Zanobi di Domenico, Jacopo del Sellaio and Biagio di Antonio
Cassone (The Morelli Chest)
These cassone are beautifully laid out with the rear panel
on show and the lid raised in order to show off all the paintings.
Sketches are on show on the very top floor.This is an exhibition ‘From Mantegna to
Matisse’ On occasions the meticulous drawings are clearer than the end
result.The lighting was also suitable
for my vision.
The Emperors Charlemagne and Sigismund (1507-10)
Rembrandt van Rijn
Two men in discussion (1641)
Vincent Van Gogh
A Tile Factory (1888)
Pieter Bruegel The Elder
A storm in the River Scheldt with a view of Antwerp
Pieter Janz. Saenredam
The South Ambulatory of St Bavokerk Haarlem, 1634
The Louvre, East Façade 1664
John Roberts Cozens
Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome (1780)
A view from Somerset Gardens Looking towards LondonBridge
The Post Impressionist section is on show on the top floor
and the artists which I liked and have become familiar with are well
Female Nude 1879-81
Heinrich Campendonk The Dream 1913
Friend of Kandinsky and belonged to same circle: der Blaue
Reiter (Blue Rider)
On the theme of the Last Judgement 1913 Improvisation on Mahogany
Women by the Sea 1919
Maurice de Vlaminck
Fishermen at Argenteuil 1906
The Port of L’Estaque 1906
July 14 at Le Havre 1905
Fishermen at Collioure
Study for a portrait of Van Gogh VI 1957
Over the river at Bankside the Tate Modern Gallery has a
show of Munch with many self portraits.
Lordship Lane Station, Dulwich 1871 La Place Lafayette 1883
I had admired Pissarro when the Paris by Night was discussed
in ‘Art through Words’.On that occasion
the National Gallery made tactile diagrams with perspective lines.This helped in fixing the geometry in some
Impressionist works.I had later gone to
the Clark exhibition on at Royal Academy which had many Pissarros.
Tall trees at the Jas de Bouffan around 1883 Farm in Normandy around 1992
Note: The access is a bit tricky once the Somerset House
complex has been reached.The gallery
entrance is to the right of the drive way with the gift and book shop on the
left hand side.There are lower floors
accessible by lift for lavatories.
I bought a catalogue of the collection and the following two
Camille Pissarro : Lordship Lane Station, Dulwich, 1871
I called up the Portland Gallery in
advance to check out opening times, got instructions on how to get there and
finding the gallery, was taken to the Peploe pictures which are on show until
29th November. I was guided and introduced to some of the landscapes
from Barra and the Hebrides and could make out the machair-traigh on Barra.
The two Barra paintings are hung together. On top is the Barra beach showing a scene from the Atlantic side of the island. The west coast beaches of the Outer Hebrides are renowned for their shimmering sand. Barra is the southern end of the archipelago. Peploe met his future wife Margaret Mackay, who was from Loch Boisdale (the next main island north in the chain), on one of his trips to the island. The lower painting has some rolling hills. Having been to the beaches of the Outer Hebrides many times, I recognise this scene.
Landscape in the Hebrides signed (verso) Oil on panel 6 x 9
ins Painted circa 1903
There are some street scenes from
Paris and Brittany and still life paintings. While left to enjoy them I was
invited to ask the curator of the exhibition, Emily Johnston, if I had any
After my studying of the pictures I
was introduced to Emily who took me round and we discussed some of the
pictures. Peploe’s use of colour is something he is obviously famous for,
though it was almost the sparing use of colour in some examples which stood
out. Certainly the still life pictures stand out clearly with interesting
geometries for the fruit and angles of the other objects in these compositions.
Still Life with Wine Decanter, Glass and Apples Signed (lower left) Oil on
canvas 12.5 x 15.5 ins Painted circa 1905
I discussed the coffee pot picture with Emily, explaining how much I could
discern and detect. We then moved on to a picture which had attracted my
While Peploe’s use of colour is
outstanding, this picture titled By Firelight stood out for me. It was painted
around 1908, is oil on canvas and measures 20 x 16 inches. It shows a woman
seated by a fire, although the fire itself is not shown. Instead, a pink tinge
on the white can just about be discerned. When I went back to this painting I
put on my sunglasses and it is amazing the difference this makes. I noticed
this effect with some of the Symbolist Landscapes in Edinburgh in the summer.
Rocks, Iona Oil on board 15 x 18 ins Painted circa 1920
Peploe’s picture of Iona shows the
rocks and the water in clarity of lines though the colours are almost verging
on being suggested. This picture is titled Rocks, Iona and was painted around
1920. It is oil on panel and measures 15 x 18 inches. I went to Iona a lot in
the 1970s and have been back once since I lost my sight. The island of Iona is
off the coast of Mull and has interesting geology and had a marble quarry, the
remains of which can still be visited.
At the end of my visit, I bought
the sales catalogue which has some interesting biographical notes as well as
the provenance of the pictures. For reference, the paintings which I found attractive
are listed below:
There are two small pictures of
scenes in the Hebrides, one on a Barra beach. The first is titled Landscape in
the Hebrides and was painted around 1903. It is oil on panel and measures 6 x 9
inches. The second, called Barra and painted around the same time, is also oil
on panel and measures 6 ½ x 9 ½ inches.
A Street in Paris painted around
1911. It is oil on panel and measures 10 ½ x 14 inches.
The Silver Coffee Pot painted in
1904. It is oil on panel and measures 10 x 16 inches.
Ile de Brehat, Brittany painted
around 1911. It is oil on canvas board and measures 13 x 16 ins.
Roses painted around 1920. It is
oil on panel and measures 16 x 12 ins.
White Roses and Fruit painted
around 1921. It is oil on canvas and measures 20 x 16 ins.
Many thanks to the staff of the
Portland Gallery and to Emily Johnston for discussing and describing these
pictures and also for sending me the three images used in this post. Pictures credit: Portland Gallery, London.
There is an exhibition on Peploe
currently on in Edinburgh. Details are as follows: