Visiting artists’ studios

DSC02102Following 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


Hogarth’s ‘Marriage a la mode’

In my part-time job at Te Papa I sometimes get to spend hours with some of the national art collection. The visitor host art floor supervisor asked some of us to write a paragraph for a joint blog post about which art work currently on display we would like for Christmas (if we could have one, which of course we can’t!)

There is so much to choose from it was difficult, but this is my contribution. You can read the full post here.

“All I want for Christmas is William Hogarth’s Marriage a la mode print series, because it would give hours of pleasure deciphering all the details. Continue reading

Chief from Santa Christina

Recently I had to prepare a short talk on an object in Te Papa Tongarewa (Museum of New Zealand’s) collections. I chose two prints currently on display on level 5. These both relate to the second voyage of James Cook to the Pacific – this article on the Te Papa website is also about that voyage if you’d like more information.

“We might think armchair travel is relatively new, but it isn’t – it was also popular in the 18th century. If you couldn’t travel you could hopefully at least read about it and look at the pictures. All the images in this area relate to the voyages of James Cook – he made three voyages to the Pacific in the late 18th century, and was killed in Hawai’i on the third voyage. ‘The Chief at Santa Christina’ comes from his second voyage – the voyage artist was William Hodges, but this print was made back in England a few years later from a Hodges drawing or watercolour. Continue reading

The piano at Te Papa

Parekowhai piano use

He Korero Purakau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu: The Story of a New Zealand River (2011) by Michael Parekowhai. Photograph: Te Papa Tongarewa / Museum of New Zealand.

‘There is no object I could make … that could fill a room like sound can.’ Michael Parekowhai, 2011[1]

This week I heard two performances on this Steinway grand piano-turned-into-an-artwork. The name of the carved piano is: He Korero Purakau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu: Story of a New Zealand river – ‘Story of a New Zealand River’ is the title of a 1920 novel by Jane Mander. The piano was carved by Maori New Zealand artist Michael Parekowhai and “took more than 10 years to create”.[2] It is in the Te Papa collection. Continue reading

Shakespeare’s birthday

William Shakespeare was baptised on 26 April 1564 and died on 23 April 1616. His actual date of birth remains unknown, but is traditionally observed on 23 April, which is also Saint George’s Day. As he died on 23 April, it has a nice symmetry about it.[1] This year is also 400 years since he died – why do we love anniversaries so much? I don’t propose to try to answer that!

My small contribution to this much written about topic, is to mention an exhibition I saw last month when I was in Auckland. It is called ‘Shakespeare in his time’ and is on at Auckland Public Library until 19 June. In it are copies of the first, second, third and fourth folios… among other items such as his poetry, the work of contemporaries such as Ben Jonson, some of the sources for his plays such as Montaigne’s essays and Holinshed’s chronicles, references to the politics of the time such as religious controversies and the gunpowder plot… and so on. There were also a few free postcards. Continue reading

Island Bay beach art

This morning I went for a walk along Wellington’s south coast – as I often do, but this morning I went earlier than I usually do. Along the coastal path I met the man who for three years now has been turning driftwood and stones into sculptures. His name is Stavros and I started a conversation with him – he was so enthusiastic about what he does. It clearly brings him pleasure as well as to the many people who walk along the coast.


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Art and the environment

In my first post on this topic I discussed a few artists who have engaged with environmental problems in various ways. I barely skimmed the surface of a much larger body of work. So here is a bit more skimming!

In the Environmental Humanities online course I’m currently doing, we have just had a session on the relationship between art and Environmental Humanities. This was presented mainly through an interview with artist Susie Pratt, who is one of the presenters on the course. I didn’t realise until I did an internet search that Susie did her Masters in Fine Arts in New Zealand (

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