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Posted in Art, Historical articles, History, Institutions, Literature, London, Royalty, Science on Tuesday, 14 May 2013
This edited article about the Royal Society originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 255 published on 3 December 1966.
Bust of Charles II, with Lord Brouncker (left), the first President of the Royal Society, and Francis Bacon (right); frontispiece to Bishop Sprat's History of the Royal Society, 1667, by Wenceslaus Hollar
So many things changed in England at the time of the Civil War of the 17th century, when a king was executed and the country was ruled for a time without a sovereign lord. Men were thinking out new ideas; new solutions were found to old problems. Men were engrossed in science and mathematics, and their discoveries laid down the foundations of our present knowledge.
In this quest for knowledge, it was not the universities that played the major part, but the Royal Society, which was founded in this century.
Although groups of learned men had been meeting quite regularly in both Oxford and London, it was not until the King, Charles II, was restored to the throne in 1660, bringing with him a more settled political atmosphere, that the group meetings blossomed into a society.
On 28th November, 1660, after a meeting at which Christopher Wren (then better known as an astronomer) had given a lecture, a suggestion was made for founding a society to promote inquiry into mathematics and science. A list was made of 40 people considered suitable for membership. They were to pay one shilling a week subscription.
King Charles II regarded the Society with interest. In 1662 he granted it a Royal Charter of privileges and became its patron. Since then the reigning monarch has always been a patron of the Society.
Specialised study of one subject was a thing unknown in the 17th century, and the early members of the Royal Society included men of widely differing talents: Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn, whom we know through their diaries; John Locke, the political theorist, and John Dryden, the poet.
The Royal Society began to be a specifically scientific society from the time when Isaac Newton became a Fellow in 1671. Regarded by many people as the first ‘modern’ scientist, Newton did his greatest work on gravity, astronomy and light while he was a member of the Royal Society. He was its president from 1703-27 and, attracted by his fame, its membership and reputation grew.
In more recent times, the Royal Society has been active in the realms of scientific investigation. It played a large part in the founding of the National Physical Laboratory, which was opened in 1901 and has organised much of the work done there. Through a special committee, the Society assists the work of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
The Royal Society has always been a source of encouragement to scientists. The aims of the Charter of 1662 have been faithfully observed, and the Fellows of today are as actively engaged in the pursuit of science as were its members in the 17th century.
Posted in Art, Historical articles, History, Prehistory on Friday, 10 May 2013
This edited article about Primitive Man originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 249 published on 22 October 1966.
They were living in a cave on the slopes of the Pyrenees, overlooking a mountain stream. The boy and girl had been watching the branch of a beech tree floating down the stream and it had set the boy thinking. He caught the branch and sat astride it in the water, but it sank under his weight.
The girl suggested they might fasten several small branches together. This they did, cutting them laboriously with their small, flint-bladed saws and lashing them with stout vine stems, to make a small platform. After several spills they managed to climb aboard and found themselves drifting downstream.
That night, when they returned to the cave, they ate well and were happy. There were only five of them in the family and they lived a lonely life, for they seldom met strangers. When they had finished their meal that evening, their father showed them his latest discovery in the cave, a bracelet carved from mammoth ivory. He placed it with the family’s sacred treasures, the little quartzite pebbles in which lived the souls of the family. He had painted each one with a simple, geometric pattern in red ochre. There were five still intact. Two others, belonging to the two little boys who had died, had each been split neatly in half, their ‘life’ taken from them just as the lives of the children had been taken, but the pieces were still carefully preserved.
These people were Azilians and they lived in Europe at the same time as the Tardenoisians, some nine or ten thousand years ago, when the forests had begun to grow again in Europe after the melting of the ice.
Perhaps they were descendants of the Magdalenians. Often they lived in the same caves that the Magdalenians had occupied thousands of years before, and the ornaments our family found were relics of reindeer horn and mammoth ivory which the Magdalenians had left behind them, while the tiny flints had been left by their Tardenoisian contemporaries, on their journeys northwards.
Azilian remains are found chiefly in Northern Spain and France. There were not many of these people but they reached as far as Scotland and settled near Oban and on the island of Oronsay.
They were a sturdy, thickset race, who could have been the ancestors of the people who now live in central Europe.
The mystery which is always associated with the Azilians is that of their painted pebbles, which have been found with their remains in northern Spain and south-western France. They painted them in all manner of strange devices, spots, stripes, crosses and zigzags, which were probably totemic signs, with some sacred or magical significance. Piles of these pebbles have been found, neatly and quite deliberately split in half. This custom of breaking a man’s possessions and burying them with him is often found amongst primitive peoples.
Posted in Animals, Anthropology, Art, Historical articles, History, Prehistory, Weapons on Wednesday, 8 May 2013
This edited article about Primitive Man originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 247 published on 8 October 1966.
The cave was dark and bitterly cold as the hunters tramped in silence for nearly a mile through its shadowy, damp gloom.
At last there was light ahead, from the glow of a dozen small stone lamps. The cave ended in a circular chamber, and at the far end was a stone bench on which sat the hunters’ chief.
The chief was wearing a great head-dress of reindeer horns, a heavy fur cloak, necklaces and armlets. Beside him stood a musician, blowing a final summons on his carved bone pipe.
The walls of the chamber were covered with paintings of animals. A huge bison, on a curving piece of rock, was startlingly rounded, shining and lifelike. Scattered on the floor were fragments of stone on which the artists had made trial sketches, horns in which they kept pieces of red and brown ochre and manganese for paint, and stone palettes.
The chief exhorted the hunters to be brave and tireless. Then he rose, picked up a superbly carved spear of mammoth ivory, stepped forward and pointed his spear at each of the paintings in turn. As he did so he incanted a magic spell, so that each of the depicted animals should quickly succumb to the hunters’ weapons.
The hunters set forth across cold, windswept tundra. After many hours they reached a wide plain. Spring was giving way to summer and it was along this plain that the herds of reindeer moved on their way northwards to new pastures. The hunters pitched their camp on the side of a tributary valley.
They did not have many days to wait. Within a week one of them spotted the leaders of the reindeer herds only a mile away, coming up the main valley from the south. As they drew close, some of the hunters drove them into the side valley, where the others awaited them. Soon the valley was crowded with hundreds of jostling, terrified animals and the entrance was barred . . .
The slaughter of reindeer went on all day and, as the sun set, the tribe rejoiced at their spoils, for they had acquired enough food, skins, horns and bones to keep them well fed, warm and busy for months.
These people, like the Aurignacians, were members of the Cro-Magnon race. They were Magdalenians, the last of the Old Stone Age people of Europe, and they are thought to have lived from about 70,000 to 50,000 years ago.
The Ice Age was drawing to a close, but during the 20,000 years that the Magdalenians were flourishing, the climate was still extremely cold.
The Magdalenians were skilled at making flint and stone implements, though these were never so fine as those of the Solutreans, a race of people who came into Europe in late Aurignacian times and may have been descended from the lost Neanderthals. The Magdalenians preferred weapons and tools of bone and ivory and, like the Aurignacians, they were brilliant artists.
The Solutreans disappeared from Europe with the period of cold which came at the end of the Ice Age, but the Magdalenians lived through it, and it was when Europe at last began to grow as warm as today, and the arctic animals retreated northwards, that the Magdalenians, unable to adapt themselves to changing conditions, gradually faded out of existence.
Posted in Art, Arts and Crafts, Historical articles, History, Prehistory on Tuesday, 7 May 2013
This edited article about Prehistoric artists originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 246 published on 1 October 1966.
As the dawn wind rustled through the short grass, two boys stepped out from their cave. They were already as tall as their father, the elder one nearly six feet, and they walked well, shoulders square, heads held proudly, as they made their way up the bare hillside. Both wore fur cloaks, for even in mid-summer it was cold in France, and great ice sheets still covered the northern plains of Europe.
The tribe had come to this part of the country only a few weeks earlier. Sparse grass soon gave way to bare rock, and in the strangely silent dawn the boys kept close together, with a growing conviction of danger.
Suddenly came a sharp cry, half human, half animal. A large stone hurtled towards them, falling a few feet short. Peering over the top of the rock was a strange creature, jabbering incomprehensibly. His short, hairy body, bow legs and long arms were human, but his head was unnaturally large. The eyes were deeply sunk behind heavy eyebrow ridges and below his wide snout his chinless jaw sank into a thick neck.
The boys took to their heels. So monsters really did exist! The old people of the tribe sometimes told tales about them, when they gathered round the fire at night to warm themselves.
The rest of their people were now astir and the women were preparing a meal over the fire in front of the cave. A large hunt was to take place soon, and when the boys had eaten they watched the preparations. A large stock of weapons had already been laid in: spearheads of bone and ivory, finely worked flint knives, tools, chisels, scrapers, awls and fine bone points, which the women used as needles.
One craftsman was decorating his bone tools with incised lines. Nearby, a stone mason was making another engraving tool. Two or three younger men were fashioning horn and bone trinkets for themselves and the women.
In the deepest recesses of the cave, working by the light of small stone lamps with wicks of moss floating in fat, the true artists were painting the bare rock walls with realistic animals – bison, rhinoceroses, reindeer, woolly mammoths and wild horses. They used red ochre for their work, and as the boys watched they believed the hunt would be successful. For each animal the artist painted, its living counterpart would appear and magically succumb to their weapons.
The boys and their tribe were Cro-Magnons, one of several races who drifted into Europe from North Africa and the Near East during the closing phases of the Ice Age. The earliest, who arrived 70,000 years ago, were the Aurignacians, the first artists of the world. The primitive Neanderthals were still living in Europe at this time, but as the Aurignacians prospered and increased the Neanderthals gradually faded away.
The Stone Age culture of the Aurignacians lasted about 30,000 years. Europe was still cold, but there was abundant fish and game. They had time to develop their artistic talents and to try and control their destinies. At first they used magic, but later they became aware of a power in life greater than themselves and formed religious beliefs.
A number of their camps and caves have been found throughout central Europe in Italy, Spain and France. A few of these Aurignacians reached as far north as Britain, which had not yet been divided from Europe.
Posted in Art, Artist, Famous artists, Historical articles, History, London on Saturday, 4 May 2013
This edited article about John Constable originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 241 published on 27 August 1966.
The plaque commemorating John Constable, the painter, can be found on the wall of No 76 Charlotte Street. This old and battered house, although his home from 1822, was far removed from the windmill at East Bergholt, Suffolk, where he was born.
Even though it was clear from his youth that he had a strong artistic bent, his father intended to put him into the Church to follow the career of a priest. After consideration it was decided that he would be better employed as a miller like his father. So, for a time, John Constable was a miller. During this phase that lasted only a year he spent much of his time sketching in the fields near the mill. At this point his father gave up and was persuaded into letting his son go to London to study art. Constable returned only once to his father’s work, this time as a clerk, but he did not stay. He was then fortunate enough to be admitted to the Royal Academy as a student on 4th February, 1799.
Significantly, his first picture shown at a Royal Academy exhibition in 1802 was a landscape. This drew the attention of West, the president of the Academy, and led him to tell Constable that ‘light and shade never stand still’, and it was this advice that Constable later said was the best he had ever received. Simple advice, but it made a great change in Constable.
His painting became well outside traditional methods and styles acceptable in his day and his experiments were also too original, and his way of seeing and his manner of expressing himself were also entirely new. Moreover, he had followed the styles of none of the fashionable artists, and it was not until 1814, when he was 38, did he sell a picture to a stranger. He had to wait a long time, too, before he could marry the girl of his choice, as she was the daughter of a prosperous solicitor and he just a miller’s son and an unsuccessful artist, the match was considered unsuitable. He won her eventually despite the opposition and carried her off to London.
His house was by that time full of unsold paintings and he held public exhibitions there but with little effect. One day a Frenchman bought the picture now known as The Hay Wain and another showing a reach of the Thames near Waterloo Bridge. This was a lucky sale, for the Frenchman took the pictures to Paris and exhibited them there. At last his painting achieved the recognition it deserved. The vivacity and freshness of his work caused great excitement among the French. The French king, Charles X, awarded Constable the first of several gold medals and the path to wider recognition seemed to be open.
However, in England nothing had changed and it was not until 1829 that he was elected a member of the Royal Academy. Still people would not buy his work and he died a bitterly disappointed man only eight years later. Afterwards some of his friends, determined that his countrymen should see that which they had rejected, bought The Cornfields and presented it to the National Gallery, where it may still be seen.
Posted in Architecture, Art, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, London on Wednesday, 1 May 2013
Hertford House on the north side of Manchester Square
Manchester Square was developed by Samuel Adams on plots leased from the Portman family, who owned a substantial estate in the area. George Montagu, 4th Duke of Manchester, acquired the lease for the plot on the north side in the 1770s. Its layout followed the grid of earlier seventeenth-century squares, with roads entering the square in the middle of three sides rather than at the corners. The Duke began building a mansion unsurprisingly called Manchester House, which became the family’s London residence. It was completed in 1788 by the architect Joshua Brown, and was much altered in the nineteenth century, after being bought by the 2nd Marquess of Hertford, who built new storeys on the wings and erected a conservatory above the entrance porch. Unsurprisingly he changed its name to Hertford House. In 1871 the 4th Marquess left the house and his art collection to Richard Wallace, his illegitimate son and hero of the Siege of Paris, who was created a baronet in the same year. It is now home to the Wallace Collection.
Posted in Architecture, Art, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, London, Trade on Tuesday, 30 April 2013
This edited article about Henry Tate originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 236 published on 23 July 1966.
It was through lumps of sugar that London got its Tate Gallery, which was opened to the public on July 21, 1897.
In 1834, when 15-year-old Henry Tate started work in a Liverpool grocer’s shop, sugar was sold in either granular form or in large pieces weighing several pounds (one of these pieces was called a “loaf”). Tate realized that it would be much more convenient if people could buy their sugar in small lumps, each containing about as much sugar as a teaspoon would hold.
When he set up in business as a sugar refiner a few years later, Tate invented a machine for cutting sugar loaves into small cubes for household use. The idea proved tremendously popular and Tate made a huge fortune from the sale of his sugar lumps.
Tate believed that some, at least, of the wealth he had made from the public should be devoted to the public good. He built and equipped the Hahnemann Hospital in Liverpool, provided libraries for Liverpool and Manchester universities, and public libraries at Brixton, Streatham and Lambeth.
A life-long enthusiast for 19th-century art, Tate formed a collection of nearly 100 paintings by the outstanding artists of his day. In 1892, he offered his collection to the nation on condition that the government provided a site for a gallery to house them. He also promised £80,000 for the cost of building the gallery.
This offer was accepted and the Tate National Gallery of Modern Art was built on the banks of the Thames. Two years later, Tate doubled its accommodation at his own expense. Other benefactors added new galleries to the Tate, which now houses some 3,000 works by British painters and sculptors and about 500 by foreign artists.
Posted in Art, Art competition, Artist, Arts and Crafts, Famous artists, Historical articles, History on Friday, 12 April 2013
This edited article about the Royal Academy of Arts originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 224 published on 30 April 1966.
Private View Day at the Royal Academy
On April 26, 1769, scores of ladies and gentlemen of fashion crowded into a small room in Pall Mall, London. They were there to see the first exhibition of painting and sculpture to be held by the Royal Academy of Arts.
It all began on December 10, 1768, when King George III granted a charter establishing a society for promoting the Arts of Design and authorizing an annual exhibition of works by contemporary artists. It was decreed that there should be forty members called “Academicians,” and the king appointed Sir Joshua Reynolds as the Academy’s first president. Ever since then the reigning sovereign has had the right of approving the president, who is elected by his fellow Academicians.
Over ten thousand works of art are sent to the Academy each year. From these a body of Academicians called the “selection and hanging committee” choose about 1,500 entries to form the Summer Exhibition, which, since the end of the eighteenth century, has been held from the first Monday in May until after August Bank Holiday.
Every artist elected a member of the Royal Academy is presented with a diploma and has the right to put R.A. after his name. Before receiving the diploma the new Academician must present to the Academy a specimen of his or her art. In this way a valuable collection has been built up for exhibition in the Academy’s Diploma Gallery.
The Academy moved into its present home in Burlington House in 1869. Besides holding exhibitions, the Royal Academy maintains a school of art.
Posted in Ancient History, Archaeology, Art, Arts and Crafts, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Superstition on Thursday, 28 March 2013
This edited article about Tutankhamen originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 214 published on 19 February 1966.
Peering into the stone-walled room by the light of their torches that morning of February 16, 1923, Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter gasped at the mass of treasures. Their torch beams played over gold-painted couches carved in the shapes of animals. There was a golden throne, and gold-plated chariots; vases, caskets, and a profusion of rich furnishings.
All these were valuables which the Egyptians had buried with a Pharaoh whose reign ended in 1355 B.C.
At the far end of the room, twin statues of the long-dead Pharaoh flanked a door which opened into another room. This was the burial chamber and it was almost filled with a huge gold-sheathed shrine. Within the shrine was the mummy of the Pharaoh, in a case of solid gold set with precious stones.
Opening off the burial chamber was another treasure house of golden shrines, chests, statues of ivory and delicately carved models of all the things the Pharaoh had known and used during his lifetime.
Few archaeological discoveries have so electrified the world as did the finding of the tomb of Tutankhamen. The tombs of greater Pharaohs had been discovered in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes, but they had been stripped of their treasures by vandals centuries previously.
For Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon, the discovery was the reward for seventeen years of patient work. When they began their search in 1906, in the Valley of Kings, archaeologists thought that nothing more of importance remained to be unearthed.
Posted in Art, Arts and Crafts, Famous battles, Historical articles, History, Invasions, Royalty on Wednesday, 27 March 2013
This edited article about the Bayeux Tapestry originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 212 published on 5 February 1966.
Some believe Queen Matilda,pictures above, commissioned the Bayeux Tapestry, by Richard Hook
In 1066 William, Duke of Normandy, defeated the English in the Battle of Hastings. That battle and the events leading up to it were recorded in a tapestry which can still be seen in the town of Bayeux in Normandy
The Bayeux tapestry, as it is generally known, is believed to have been made at the request of Bishop Odo of Bayeux, a brother of William the Conqueror.
The earliest known mention of the tapestry occurs in an inventory of the ornaments of the Cathedral of Bayeux, taken in the year 1476. In 1562, members of the strong Protestant sect known as The Calvinists pillaged the Catholic Cathedral. The tapestry, along with other treasures, was handed over by the clergy to the municipal authorities for safe keeping. Shortly afterwards it was back in the hands of the ecclesiastical authorities.
In 1730, Father Montfaucon, a Benedictine from the monastery of Saint Maur, made a reduced copy of the tapestry. The second volume of his “Monumens de la Monarchie Francoise” contained engravings of this. At the time of its discovery by Montfaucon in 1730, the tapestry was in two pieces. In spite of the expert manner in which it has been mended, the join may still be detected.
At about this time, the ends were beginning to deteriorate, and in order to save the work from destruction, the clergy arranged for it to be lined.
The tapestry remained intact through the French Revolution. When the local battalion prepared to go to war they improvised carts to transport military equipment. One of these needed a covering. The tapestry was suggested as being suitable, and the administration ordered its delivery. But when M. le Forestier, Commissary of Police, heard what was happening, he ordered that the tapestry be returned.
About this time, some of the citizens of Bayeux formed themselves into a commission for protecting the tapestry and other works of art in the district.
In 1803, at the request of Napoleon Bonaparte, then First Consul of France, the tapestry was placed in the National Museum in Paris for the public to see. It was returned to Bayeux after three months.
Back in Bayeux, it was put on view in the Hotel de Ville (the Town Hall). The mode of exhibition was to wind the tapestry from one cylinder on to another, but the necessary rolling and unrolling was performed so carelessly that, within half a century, the priceless work would almost certainly have been destroyed. To prevent this happening, and remembering its great age, the clergy in 1816 requested that the tapestry be returned to the Cathedral. The Municipal Council refused this request, and began thinking of a permanent resting place for the tapestry.
In 1840, the Municipal Council of Bayeux announced that a special building was being erected for housing the tapestry. In 1842, it was relined and restored and placed on view in the special building. It has remained there to the present day.