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Subject: ‘Arts and Crafts’
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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 Architecture, Arts and Crafts, Historical articles, History, Religion on Saturday, 4 May 2013
This edited article about architecture originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 242 published on 3 September 1966.
The nineteenth century was a great age of church building, especially in the growing towns and cities of Britain. Some of these grew out of what had once been country villages, and the small churches which had formerly been big enough for village congregations were no longer so. Many were pulled down to make way for larger churches, holding as many as a thousand worshippers. Others were enlarged, often in a different style of architecture, which explains why some large city churches look such a mixture of design.
Some idea of the amount of building that was done can be gathered from what happened in London. Under the energetic Bishop Blomfield no less than 200 new churches were built in the rapidly growing capital, in the thirty years after he became bishop there in 1826. Several of these, built in thankfulness for Britain’s victory over Napoleon, became known as ‘Waterloo Churches’. Most of them were built in the style of Greek and Roman temples, a style which had been in favour since the days of Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723).
Towards the middle of the 19th century there arose a revival of the style known as ‘Gothic’ in which all the churches of the Middle Ages had been built. Architects like Augustus Pugin, who had many imitators, looked back to the pinnacles, pointed arches, and lofty roofs of these churches, and designed similar ones for their own day. The craft of making stained glass was revived, and romantic artists such as William Morris and D. G. Rossetti created elaborate windows to portray the saints and the Bible story. All this helped to create an air of reverence, and even of mystery, which had been absent from the churches of the previous century, buildings so homely that they have been described as ‘little drawing-rooms of God’.
The building of such churches was entirely confined to the towns. In the country, village churches continued to be centres of village life, as they had been for centuries. But there now came rivals in the form of innumerable ‘chapels’ – sometimes several in one village – which were built by different groups of Methodist, Baptist and Congregational believers. Often a wealthy merchant, who had prospered in the country’s industrial revolution, met a large part of the cost involved in building one of these chapels, and the names of such benefactors are to be seen on the ‘foundation stone’ of many of them. In some parts of the country, even today, as many as five or six chapels may be seen in quite small villages, all built between 1830 and 1880. Labour and materials were fairly cheap, and such building went on apace.
Until quite recently ‘Victorian Gothic’ architecture had been looked down on, but today it is coming back into favour, like many other features of Victorian art, and there are certainly a number of impressive and well-designed churches, and even cathedrals, such as Truro, and Pugin’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Southwark, belonging to this 19th-century Gothic style. With a few exceptions, however, the chapel builders produced few buildings of lasting architectural value or importance in the 19th century.
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 Artist, Arts and Crafts, Historical articles, History, London on Friday, 12 April 2013
This edited article about Thomas Chippendale originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 223 published on 23 April 1966.
Thomas Chippendale’s workshop in St. Martin’s Lane where he made his elegant furniture
An unusual commemorative plaque made of black marble can be seen at Nos. 60-61 St. Martin’s Lane, near Trafalgar Square. This is an area once famous for its cabinet makers.
It is two hundred years since Thomas Chippendale first moved into the Lane to make the furniture that has since become something of a legend. There is a lot of “Chippendale” furniture around nowadays, and only a very small percentage of it is genuine. Chippendale’s designs were probably widely copied, even in his own day, and the process was made simpler when Chippendale published them.
The designs were included in a book he called The Gentleman and the Cabinet Maker’s Director. It proved popular and was reprinted several times. Without it, his name might have been forgotten, together with those of his contemporaries in the trade.
Furniture made to Chippendale’s earlier designs was rather heavy in appearance and the decoration was somewhat elaborate. Later he adopted a neo-classic style following the influence of Robert Adam.
Thomas Chippendale was elected a member of the Society of Arts in 1759. Sheraton, himself a leading furniture designer, was not enthusiastic. “As for the designs themselves,” he said, when talking of Chippendale’s work only 25 years later, “they are now wholly antiquated and laid aside, though possessed of great merit according to the times in which they were executed.”
Just how many of Chippendale’s designs were his own, rather than those of his employees, is doubtful. His was probably a fairly large firm, and its activities covered the whole range of interior decorating. The business was carried on after his death by his sons.
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 Arts and Crafts, Historical articles, History, Inventions on Wednesday, 27 March 2013
This edited article about the Victorian home originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 212 published on 5 February 1966.
Foreigners visiting Victorian England never ceased to wonder at its wealth, and the Frenchman Taine recorded that if one took a cab from Sydenham, where the re-erected Crystal Palace stood, one could travel for five continuous miles past houses representing an annual outlay of £1,500, and this was by no means the most fashionable part of London.
Some of this wealth was the direct result of the Industrial Revolution, but a good deal came from the countries overseas which were being developed, and with which the means of communication were being steadily improved.
The ordinary upper-class home reflected all this, whether it was in Bayswater, Edgbaston, Stockport, or Everton. The furniture was massive judged by modern standards. There was everywhere an attempt to imitate the “stately homes.” The living-rooms, with their soft pile Brussels carpets, were crowded out with thick padded settees and ottomans, elaborately carved tables of polished mahogany – a wood beloved of the Victorians – and of rosewood with marble tops, and enormous gilt mirrors.
The bedrooms were on a similar scale. The entire floor would be carpeted, with a strip of oilcloth in front of the wash-stand and matting on the wall behind it – basins with running water being quite unknown. There would be two dressing-tables, a swing looking-glass, a great bed, three pairs of candles, paper spills in pretty holders, and pin-cushions. On the wash-stand would be two porcelain jugs and basins, a dish for toothbrushes, two soap-dishes, and two water-bottles and tumblers.
Bathrooms were still a rarity, but in the bedrooms of the well-to-do a shallow zinc bath would be placed in the evening, together with a large jug of cold water: in the morning there would appear a brass can of boiling water, while in a corner of the room there was to be found a towel-horse with several towels of different sizes hanging on it.
So far as lighting was concerned, there were several changes during the Victorian era. To the very end of the century and even into the reign of Edward VII there were many houses, especially in the country, which depended on oil lamps and candles.
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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.
Posted in Architecture, Art, Arts and Crafts, Famous landmarks, Famous news stories, Flags, Historical articles, History, Industry, Leisure, London, Royalty, Science on Thursday, 21 March 2013
This edited article about the Great Exhibition of 1851 originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 207 published on 1 January 1966.
The Palace of Glass for the Great Industrial Exhibition, 1851
A New Britain appeared before the world at the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London, in 1851. The idea of the exhibition seems to have originated with the Prince Consort, and in July, 1849, he invited some members of the Society of Arts to Buckingham Palace to hear their views. What he had in mind was to show the world what Britain was doing in the way of manufactures. His enthusiasm proved catching, and he easily converted the others to his views.
But the Prince had also to win the manufacturers round to his way of thinking. They were frightened that trade secrets would be given away, but he made an appeal to them on the ground that the profit of the individual must be sacrificed for the good of the world, and to their credit many of them agreed to support him. The Prince was careful to keep his own name out of the project as much as possible, and he was annoyed when, as he said, it looked as if he were “to be advertised, and used as a means of drawing a full house.”
At first the public did not take the Exhibition very seriously, but the Prince was persistent, and in the winter of 1849-50 after five thousand guarantors had been somewhat reluctantly enlisted, a Royal Commission was set up. Sixteen acres of land on the southern side of Hyde Park were secured, and a design for a monster palace of glass was accepted from Joseph Paxton, who had built the conservatories at Chatsworth for the Duke of Devonshire. It was this glass palace which excited the most ridicule, and it was freely prophesied that it would prove impossible to erect.
Other criticisms were made, too. It was feared that the Exhibition would attract enormous crowds of very undesirable people, who would trample all over the flower-beds in Hyde Park, and as likely as not finish up by pillaging the houses in Belgravia and Kensington. This would be bad enough, but there would be sure to be hordes of very dubious foreigners, and at that time foreigners were regarded with grave suspicion. Colonel Sibthorpe, M.P., whom we have already seen, was a violent opponent of the railways, even went so far as to get up in the House of Commons and pray that “hail or lightning might descend from Heaven” to defeat Prince Albert’s plans. The American press foretold general massacre and insurrection.
One critic wrote to The Times to point out that when the guns in Hyde Park fired a Royal Salute the glass of the building would crash to the ground.
In spite of all opposition and sneers the glittering Palace steadily rose above the green spaces of Hyde Park, and Thackeray in his May Day Ode wrote:
A blazing arch of lucid glass
Leaps like a fountain from the grass
To meet the sun.
Two thousand workmen were employed on the building which was over six hundred yards long, containing nearly a million square feet of glass and providing over eight miles of table space for the exhibits.
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Posted in Art, Artist, Arts and Crafts, Famous artists, Historical articles, History on Thursday, 14 March 2013
This edited article about the woodcut print originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 196 published on 16 October 1965.
The art of printing from a wood-cut was one of the earliest known methods of reproducing a drawing other than by hand. In Britain it dates back to the Middle Ages, when pictures were carved in relief on a wooden block, covered with ink, and applied under pressure to illustrate hand-written religious manuscripts.
Such blocks were also used for printing playing-cards, which were coloured by hand afterwards. Later, with the development of printing, wood became the medium for reproducing whole books in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. Craftsmen cut out the pictures and text on wooden blocks, which were then inked by roller and applied to paper under pressure.
The first movable letters were also made of wood, and spaces were often left in the typescript for wooden picture-blocks to be printed in later. This accounts for many of the wood-cut illustrations of medieval books being slightly out of register.
One of the first great masters to use the method of wood-cutting to reproduce his works was the German artist Albrecht Durer (1492-1526), whose drawings were carefully copied on to wood by skilled craftsmen. His example was followed by other artists, including the portrait painter Hans Holbein.
From wood-cutting evolved the much finer art of wood engraving. For this more delicate process, a wider, sharper range of cutting tools was necessary, and the hard endgrain of wood was used instead of the softer broad surface. The result provided a better-wearing block giving much finer detail.
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Posted in Ancient History, Archaeology, Arts and Crafts, Historical articles, History, Royalty on Wednesday, 13 March 2013
This edited article about Knossos originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 191 published on 11 September 1965.
Arthur Evans exploring the remains of the ancient Minoan palace at Knossos
Sir Arthur Evans arrived in the Mediterranean island of Crete to look for old coins and stone tablets which he hoped would give him the clues to an ancient European method of picture-writing, similar to Egyptian hieroglyphs.
He found his tablets, and much, much more – the remains of an entirely unknown civilization, the oldest in Europe.
Before the arrival of Sir Arthur Evans and others with modern scientific training, the only evidence for an important civilization in Crete was in writings that were regarded at best as part myth. Homer, the Greek poet spoke in the Odyssey of the “rich and lovely” land of Crete, densely peopled and boasting ninety towns, one of them a great city called Knossos, ruled by King Minos.
But in modern Crete there was nothing to suggest past greatness; just small provincial towns slumbering in the bright sunshine. Even two thousand years ago a chapter of world history had already vanished. The Greeks certainly believed that in Crete there had once been a great civilization ruled by King Minos, but they were content to leave it at that. Practical science was not their strong point, and archaeology is a very practical science.
From then on, belief in King Minos and his court became more and more a mere legend. Homer was regarded as a great recorder of myths, not as an historian. That is until the German millionaire and amateur archaeologist, Schliemann, followed some of Homer’s “myths” and found reality. He dug up graves in Mycenae – “Golden Mycenae,” Homer called it – and found, against all the beliefs of the scholars, an amazing treasure in ancient gold and arms.
Schliemann next followed Homer’s clues to Crete. He negotiated to buy the land where he supposed the old city of Knossos once stood, but the deal fell through, and soon afterwards the German died.
Then, in the year 1900, Sir Arthur Evans – who had first toured the island a few years before – arrived to dig for his coins and tablets. His training and knowledge helped him to choose a good spot to begin excavations and he had soon unearthed scores of tablets, stored away in tunnels.
As digging progressed he realized that he had discovered part of a huge building linked with others by vast corridors, halls and passages. A quick preliminary investigation over a wide area left him in no doubt. He had discovered the palace of the no-longer legendary King Minos and the lost imperial city of Knossos.
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