New Exhibition: ‘Under the Surface’ Paintings and Carvings by David West

Big Fish by David West © Maisie Hill 2017

Big Fish by David West © Maisie Hill 2017

For the very first time, Under the Surface brings together 70 of David West’s most important works from both private and public collections.  Spanning 60 years, it reflects the different strands of his development as a painter, sculptor and craftsman, deftly illustrating the progression and interaction between his use of paint and wood, in what is a landmark exhibition for this Dorset artist. 

Born in 1939, David West went to Sutton and Cheam School of Art (1956 – 1958) and Camberwell School of Art (1958 – 1960) where he studied painting and printmaking.  However, West found the emphasis on accuracy which was a feature of his student days too restrictive, and on leaving Camberwell he began to explore his love of decoration and strong pattern.

In the 1960s his work took an unexpected direction as he began to explore flexible ways to construct paintings within a three dimensional framework, which led naturally on to painting on wood.  Initially, wood was a substitute for canvas, but he soon became interested in its possibilities, and gradually there was more constructing and carving and less painting.

Gig and Fish by David West © Maisie Hill 2017

Gig and Fish by David West © Maisie Hill 2017

His carved wooden models are full of acute observation and humour, and reflect the strong interest West has in architecture, and the self-contained world within buildings.  His dolls houses were inspired by watching his daughter’s imaginative play, and the idea that within the basic structure of a house is a place where imagination can be released.

Some pieces portray actual houses, such as Parnham House and Forde Abbey, others are pure inventions.  Later models include a shop and theatre, and Dorset County Museum is lucky enough to have The Spode Set, a miniature theatre carved in wood based on the ‘Spode Italian’ ceramic design.  West’s woodcut prints became a natural extension of his carving.

West’s move from London to Lyme Regis in 1981 inspired in him a love of the Dorset landscape and coast, and a fascination with the ebb and flow of tides and water.  This influence can be clearly seen in his work as he began to carve sculptures based on walks along the beach at Lyme Regis.  He has taken an active part in life in Lyme Regis, and in the 1990s had a significant role in the restoration of the Town Mill, where there is a room named after him.

In fact, it was the commission to carve and gild a set of organ pipe shades for St Michael’s Church in Lyme Regis which led to using gold leaf to develop the 200 drawings inspired by his trip to Japan in 2008.  Variations of footpaths, waterfalls, fishponds and mountain streams are among the many gilded carvings and woodcut prints in the exhibition.  These were followed by works related to the Dorset landscape and coast, a series of gilded carvings, ‘Night Waves’ and ‘Moon’, combining influences from both Japan and Dorset.

Dorset County Museum is pleased to be welcoming David West back following a successful exhibition at the Museum almost 30 years ago.

This exhibition is supported by the Mansel-Playdell & Cecil Trust and PGP

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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Undersea Fun with the Dorset County Museum’s Craft Academy

craft-academy-dorset-county-museumLooking for something to do with the kids this this half term?  Come and join us for a morning of messy fun at Dorset County Museum’s Craft Academy on Wednesday 15 February 10.30am – 12.30pm

Taking inspiration from our current spotlight exhibition ‘Nautilus: Beautiful Survivor – 500 million years of evolutionary history’ based on the book by Wolfgang Grulke in the Victorian Hall children will have a chance to learn and create creatures that live in the sea and their environment.

We’ll provide the materials and the inspiration – you’ll create a wonderful piece to take home with you. Even better, it’s absolutely FREE thanks to sponsorship from Battens Solicitors.

Each time you create a masterpiece at one of our sessions, we will stamp your Craft Academy passport. If you collect three stamps we’ll give you a special certificate.

The next Craft Academy sessions for 2017:

  • Wednesday 12 April

  • Wednesday 19 April

  • Wednesday 31 May

  • Wednesday 2nd August

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Damian Clarke plays Dulcimer and Hurdy Gurdy at Museum’s Lunchtime Concert

Damien Clarke playing the hammer dulcimer © Damien Clarke 2017

Damien Clarke playing the hammer dulcimer

On Thursday 16th February 2017 between 1.00pm to 2.00pm. Local touring musician, Damian Clarke will be playing Dulcimer and Hurdy Gurdy at the Dorset County Museum Lunchtime Concert

He has been performing since 1986, mainly with the international folk band “Pressgang” which he founded. He has toured in 12 countries and made several albums.

Damian, who is also an artist and lives in Dorchester, has appeared on television programmes including BBC’s period drama series ‘Wolf Hall’, playing his instruments from the past – the Hammer Dulcimer and Hurdy Gurdy which he has taught himself.  He is probably the only performer on these instruments in the UK who regularly plays concerts and sings with them.

He also has some great stories from his years on the road, playing in many interesting places. He plays a mix of folk songs from the British/Celtic tradition as well as some of his own contemporary songs.

The lunchtime concert is FREE although a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs.

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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Spotlight Exhibition: MIX: artwork by Maddy Down , Helen Francis and Peter Runeckles

End of Summer by Maddy Down

‘End of Summer’ painting by Maddy Down

From 4th February 2017 to 25th March 2017, The Dorset County Museum will host an temporary exhibition showing the work of three local artists.  They all have a long association with the Museum through their voluntary work in various departments. 

Maddy Down, Helen Francis and Peter Runeckles work in a wide variety of styles and media including oils, watercolour, pastels, textiles and enamels.  They have arrived at this point on their creative journeys by very different routes.

Maddy Down‘s interest in painting was prompted by gaining a degree in Art History at Winchester in 2001.  She was brought up in the Yorkshire Dales but has lived in Dorset for 45 years. The Dorset coast, cliffs and landscapes are her inspiration.  She conveys what she feels rather than a purely literal response.

Helen Francis trained at Loughborough College of Art gaining a BA (Hons) in Textiles specialising in embroidery.  After graduating she worked at the Hampton Court Palace and the Victoria and Albert Museum as a textile conservator.  An interest in historic needlework and costume continues through her work as a volunteer at the Museum.

Influenced by her garden, flowers and everyday objects Helen makes still life pictures using fabric, paint and thread.  Layers of dyed silk are used to create depth and intensity of colour.  Mark making with hand and free machine embroidery are added to accentuate the design.

Peter Runeckles has been painting since his school days when he was taught by R B Talbot Kelly the wildlife artist.  Since then he has worked independently producing paintings and sculptures.  He also joined a print making group at Bournemouth Art College.  Peter’s works in this show include paintings in oil and acrylic, Humbrol enamels, water colours, etchings and screen prints.   Peter has exhibited previously in Poole, Bournemouth and Dorchester.

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

An Exhibition of Merrily Harpur’s Artwork

Merrily Harpur at Work

Merrily Harpur at Work

Dorset County Museum is pleased to present an exhibition by Merrily Harpur, the well-known cartoonist and illustrator, her work having appeared regularly in all the national broadsheets, and in books by Kingsley Amis, Miles Kington, Gerald Durrell, John Michell and others.  She also found time to write the authoritative study of Britain’s mystery big cats – the panther- and puma-like creatures regularly spotted in our countryside, not least in Dorset.

Rodden the Wind from the Sea by Merrily Harpur

Rodden the Wind from the Sea by Merrily Harpur

However she has always been a secret painter of landscapes, and upon moving to this county fell hopelessly in love with its beauties and surprises – the unexpected changes of angle and perspective that West Dorset offers with each half mile travelled.  She paints en plein air or, more accurately, in situ – sitting in the car, enjoying the scent of turpentine and listening to Radio 3. If you spot a mossy, mud-bespattered car in an unlikely corner of a field or lane, this could be her – probably paint-bespattered – attempting to conjure up, in paint, the genius loci – the particular magic of our place.

She now lives and paints in Cattistock, where in 2013 she inaugurated the Fox Festival, and wrote the libretto for Nick Morris’s acclaimed oratorio The Fox That Walked on Water.

Merrily’s work will be on view from 16 January 2017 – 1 April 2017 in the museum’s Tea Room, and it will be FREE to come and view. Her work will be for sale during the exhibition.

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Meet your favourite Sci-Fi and Superhero characters at the Dorset County Museum

StormtroopersIt’s nearly time for Dorchester Christmas Cracker night. The event that officially kicks off Christmas in the County town takes place this year on Thursday 8 December from 5.00pm.

This year by popular demand, everyone’s favourite Science Fiction and Fantasy Movie and TV characters will be back at Dorset County Museum. Come along to see a host of characters from the Superheroes from the Marvel Universe, Star Wars, Doctor Who and many more….

Delicious mulled wine and mince pies will be available to buy and the Tea Room will be open for tasty snacks and refreshments.  A browse in the Museum shop will reveal a wide range of gift ideas including toys, games, books and jewellery.  The current exhibition Speed to the West: A Nostalgic Journey an exhibition of 20th Century Railway Posters will be on display, with prints and railway memorabilia on sale in the shop for just a few more weeks – another fantastic opportunity to pick up a very special Christmas present.

scifi-and-superheros-at-dorset-county-museumEntry to the Museum on Cracker Night is FREE and everyone is welcome. All the galleries will be open on the night.

For further information and other forthcoming events contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Mammoth Book Sale at Dorset County Museum

Book Sale at Dorset County Museum

The Dorset County Museum’s popular annual sale of second-hand books will be taking place on 11, 12 and 14 November 2015 between 10am to 4pm.

Thousands of quality books will be sold at bargain prices – fact, fiction, hardback and softback. Hundreds of subjects and genres will be represented including Dorset, travel, history, music, art and gardening.  A wide selection of fiction will also be available including hard and soft backs. A few minutes’ careful searching could reveal untold treasures!

In addition, there will be a sale of Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society publications at knock-down prices – available only to buyers who visit the sale in person.

All proceeds go towards the upkeep of the Museum and its extensive collections.

Dorset County Museum Book Sale 2012Donations of good quality second hand books will be gratefully received up to and including Friday 11 November.

The Museum’s well-stocked gift shop is also worth a visit with Christmas lines now available, and the popular tea room awaits weary bargain hunters.

Everyone is welcome and entry to the sale is FREE – it would help the Museum if visitors could bring their own bags as supplies of plastic bags will be limited. Please note the Museum will NOT be open on Sunday 13 November.

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

An Evening with the Curator Speed to the West: A Railway Journey in Art

‘Speed to the West:  A Nostalgic Journey’ by Paul Atterbury and Richard Furness

‘Speed to the West: A Nostalgic Journey’ by Paul Atterbury and Richard Furness

This Thursday, 24th March at 7.00pm at Dorset County Museum in Dorchester, Richard Furness will talk about the development of the humble railway poster, and give a tour of the West Country using a series of stunning railway posters to coincide with the Museum’s extensive poster exhibition which runs until January 2017.

The talk will cover the historical development of railway posters over 130 years from the early Victorian lithographs through to modern digital images.  It will be based on the five south-western counties of Somerset, Wiltshire, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, which will be used to illustrate the enormous change in styles before we tour the region with some of the finest pieces of commercial art ever produced in the UK.

The talk is a stunningly visual introduction to the extensive poster exhibition being hosted by Dorset County Museum, which the BBC Antiques Roadshow expert Paul Atterbury and the Speaker have jointly curated.

Available to buy on the evening at £9.99 will be the brand new book ‘Speed to the West:  A Nostalgic Journey’ by Paul Atterbury and Richard Furness.

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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Half Term Fun with Craft Academy

Craft Academy at Dorset County MuseumLooking for something to do with the kids? Come and join us for a morning of messy fun at Dorset County Museum’s brand new Craft Academy on Wednesday 17th February in half term from 10.30am to 12.30pm

Using the Victorian Gallery displays as inspiration, can you help us create an online collection of fabulous things?

We’ll provide the materials and the inspiration – you’ll create a wonderful piece to take home with you. Even better, it’s absolutely FREE thanks to sponsorship from Battens Solicitors.

Each time you create a masterpiece, we will stamp your Craft Academy passport. If you collect three stamps we’ll give you a special certificate. If you’re able to collect all five this year we’ll give you a prize!!

Two children admitted with each accompanying adult, suggested age range 5 – 11 years.

The next Craft Academy sessions for 2016:

  • Wednesday 30th March
  • Wednedsday 6th April
  • Wednesday 1st June
  • Wednesday 3rd August

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Museum launches a new exhibition of stunning railway advertising posters of the 20th Century

Nothing is more evocative of the golden age of travel than the railway poster, and Dorset County Museum is thrilled to be staging an exhibition featuring over 50 famous examples that opens on 19th March. These beautiful works of art were created between 1916 and the 1970s with one aim in mind: to encourage holiday makers to escape the humdrum of every day life and travel by train to the resorts, towns, countryside and special places of Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.

A truly classic railyway poster advertising the trip to come: GWR poster from 1938 by Charles H. J. Mayo

A truly classic railyway poster advertising the trip to come: GWR poster from 1938 by Charles H. J. Mayo

The posters conjure up a bygone age of steam engines and old fashioned bathing suits, sunny beaches and the gentle clinking of boats in harbours. There are stunning and iconic landscapes too, immediately recognisable, painted in wonderful colours and promising days out filled with sunshine and relaxation. Town and city views are populated with elegant people, a streamlined locomotive heads a Pullman train – these images bring together the excitement, spectacle and nostalgia of the age.

On display alongside the wide range of posters are some 21st century items that use classic poster design principles, locomotive nameplates, old station totem signs and diverse railway publicity materials and ephemera celebrating the great holiday routes in the West of England. Together they will, without doubt, provoke many nostalgic travel memories.

Speed to the West has been curated by Antiques Roadshow expert and writer Paul Atterbury and Richard Furness, collector, writer and publisher of the Poster to Poster series that have become the definitive books on the subject, supported by the staff of Dorset County Museum.

Paul Atterbury said “During the interwar years the ‘Big Four’ railway companies found that art sold tickets, and between them commissioned an astonishing range of posters from the leading artists and designers of the day. This tradition was maintained, even expanded, in the 1950s and 1960s by the newly nationalised British Railways, whose legacy is a second golden age of posters. This is a wonderful collection that is well worth coming to see, and I’m very pleased to be involved with this exhibition.”

Richard Furness said “Dorset is a beautiful county whose coastline is the subject for some wonderful artwork. Having been studying, collecting and writing about railway art for many years, I am delighted to be playing a part in bringing this unique collection to Dorchester. This exhibition brings together posters spanning a century, and is rounded off with the latest GWR poster which demonstrates that the slogan ‘Speed to the West’ is still actively in use today. Visitors should have a lot to see and reminisce over. Do come and see us!”

Dr Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum said “I’m really excited about this exhibition. The posters and railway memorabilia we’re exhibiting are within living memory for many people, forming a direct link to the past. Added to that, the posters are, of course, things of beauty in their own right and it’s great that they will be here in Dorset for people to see all year.”

A book, illustrating in colour the posters in the exhibition plus others that enrich the story, will be on sale throughout the exhibition priced at £9.95.

  • The exhibition ‘Speed to the West’ A Nostalgic Journey opens at Dorset County Museum on Saturday 19th March 2016 to Saturday 7th January 2017

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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