“One can travel this world and see nothing. To achieve understanding it is necessary not to see many things, but to look hard at what you do see.” Giorgio Morandi. 
Giorgio Morandi (1890–1964) is one of my favourite artists. I was pleased to read that the artists he listed as his influences are also in my pantheon (Giotto, Piero della Francesca, Chardin, Cezanne and Seurat). Trying to come up with something that encapsulates the work of all these artists, I thought of solidity and stillness (generalisations, of course). When we were in Bologna last September we saw many of Morandi’s works. Since late 2012 the Morandi collection that used to be in a separate museum has been temporarily located at MAMbo (the Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna or Modern Art Museum of Bologna). Continue reading
I have just returned from a brief trip to Jerusalem (not the one in Israel! This one is a very small village next to the Whanganui River in New Zealand). I have written about it before (see this post). So here I will just add some photos.
I also stayed a night in Whanganui and bought the book called ‘Maps’ (UK Five Leaves Publications, 2011) at the local Saturday market. This is mainly a book of short essays about places. I haven’t finished it all yet, but it made me think of my trip in terms of maps. I have also written a post about maps before (see this post).
A few weeks ago I went on a Friends of Te Papa bus trip to Bulls in the North Island (about 150 kilometres north of Wellington). Recent marketing makes puns with the name, for example “Bulls: a town like no udder”; Bulls: unforget-a-bull; or the sign for the local police station “Const-a-bull”. As some of us were walking the short distance from a morning tea welcome at the local RSA club to the Bulls Museum, we passed a sign for the local physiotherapist. I thought of “bend-a-bull”; a better suggestion was “flex-a-bull”. But as they hadn’t invented any pun, they probably thought the whole idea regret-a-bull.
At Bulls Museum we were divided into two groups – one looked at the displays in the main building, while the other was given an informative talk in the ‘stables’ – a building housing various horse-drawn forms of transport and accessories (like a ladies side-saddle).
Ladies side saddle
Inside the museum
Horse drawn vehicle
One of the interesting displays was about the four horses that were transported back to New Zealand at the end of World War One. Yes, of the thousands that went, probably only four made it back home – including ‘Bess’ who has her own monument near Bulls, which we saw from the road – a Category 1 listed historic monument: “Of the 3817 New Zealand horses that served during the war, Bess was one of a very small number of horses to return home. On her death in 1934, Powles erected the small stone memorial over her grave. A unique and important memorial, the structure is the only one in the country to commemorate the horses that served New Zealand during the First World War. It is also one of the very few to commemorate the role of horses in war in the world.” [From the Heritage NZ listing.]
Bulls Museum information about war horses
One of the horses
Memorial to Bess
WW1 horses display
From the museum we continued in our two groups to visit two historic houses – Lethenty and Beccles. Lethenty is a Category 2 listed building, built in 1915 following a fire in the earlier house. (Its water tower is also a listed historic feature).
Lethenty back view
Lethenty water tower
Rose in the garden at Lethenty
Beccles appears not to be listed with Heritage NZ, but the remains of a redoubt (from the 1860s wars) at the back of the property are. At each house we had an informative talk from the owner or family member. Beccles was begun in the 1880s and later a large room was added by the then owner as a church meeting room. It has been altered over time by various owners. (You can see some more photos and information at this link.)
After lunch we drove along Parewanui Road to the coast. The first stop was the 1862-built Te Wheriko Church. It was moved in 1897 to its current location due to flood risk from the Rangitikei river.
Te Wheriko church (1862)
Te Wheriko Church window
On the way back to Wellington we stopped at Sanson to see the 1877-built church, designed by Wellington architect Charles Tringham, St Thomas Church, a Category 2 listed historic building.
St Thomas window
St Thomas (Sanson)
St Thomas, signatures of builders
It was a well organised and enjoy-a-bull trip!
Since the devastating Christchurch earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 there has been more awareness of the need to seismically strengthen some New Zealand buildings. Further earthquakes in 2013 (known as the Seddon earthquakes due to their proximity to Seddon at the top of the South Island) brought this home in Wellington. The modern BP building was damaged in those quakes and has since been demolished. St Mary of the Angels is a historic Catholic church in central Wellington and two of the Seddon earthquakes occurred during masses – one in the morning and one in the early evening. The building visibly moved, including the columns. Although no damage occurred, the decision was taken to close the church and hasten the plans for earthquake strengthening.
“This book is about the power of language – strong style, single words – to shape our sense of place. … Landmarks has been years in the making. For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to the work of writers who use words exactly and exactingly when describing landscape and natural life.” (Robert MacFarlane, Landmarks, Penguin Books, 2016, p. 1).
MacFarlane’s book is in the genre of ‘nature writing’ that seems to be enjoying a renaissance now – or perhaps it has been there but has recently become more mainstream. Gilbert White’s The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne is an early exponent of the genre (originally published 1788, my Folio Society edition is from 1994 – it was an unbound copy which I bound myself. However I haven’t read it!). Continue reading
I am reading David Johnson’s book Wellington Harbour (Wellington Maritime Museum, 1996) for my evening course on Wellington’s architectural history. In a post of – almost exactly – two years ago I wrote about my great-grandparents in Wellington – this was some research I also did for my evening class so it’s not surprising it is the same time of the year. Johnson includes a painting and some information on the ship they arrived in Wellington on – the St Leonards, and some background information on 1880, the year they arrived. Continue reading
Following World War Two, Alexander Liberman (an artist, but also art director of Vogue) photographed many artists’ studios in France. The book blurb says he “feared that many traces of a heroic epoch might vanish”. He was fascinated by the relationship between the artists’ surroundings and their work… and said: “I have tried to show the creative process itself”. I have a copy of Liberman’s book (revised in 1988) and despite the title of “The artist in his studio” he includes at least two women – Sonia Delaunay and Natalia Gontcharova.
Nearly two years ago I wrote this post on Art and Literature ‘pilgrimages’ and briefly mentioned my visits to Cezanne’s studio at the edge of Aix-en-Provence and Monet’s studio, house and garden at Giverny north of Paris. I have also visited Delacroix’s and Moreau’s studios in Paris and Renoir’s in the south of France. These are all museums now, of course, as the artists are long dead. Continue reading