A Poetic Eye: John Craxton on Cranborne Chase and Crete

Figure in Tree Lithograph by John Caxton (1944)

Figure in Tree Lithograph by John Caxton (1944)

John Craxton (1922-2009) was one of the most interesting and individual British artists of the 20th century. His life story, starting with wanderings on Cranborne Chase, was as colourful as his later pictures of the light, life and landscapes of Greece.

A new exhibition at Dorset County Museum in Dorchester will chart Craxton’s journey from Cranborne to Crete, from early paintings of dark and menaced war-time landscapes to joyful scenes painted under bright Cretan skies.

“John Craxton was one of the art world’s best-kept secrets, but his reputation has surged since his death,” said exhibition curator Ian Collins.”The retrospective exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge earlier this year attracted a huge number of visitors and we are hoping for a similar reaction here.”

“This exhibition will bring together many paintings and drawings never previously exhibited,” said Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum. “It covers an extraordinary range of work from his early life in rural Dorset to Greece where he lived after the Second World War.”

Born in London into a large, musical and bohemian family, Craxton’s nomadic habit began early – staying lengthily with relatives and family friends and briefly at school after school until being pronounced unteachable.

From an early age Craxton lodged with an artist uncle and aunt in an ancient cottage, a short walk from the Pitt Rivers Museum in Farnham. Within this Aladdin’s cave of treasures from all periods and places, Craxton educated himself in art history and archaeology while revelling in untamed Dorset.

At 14 he saw Picasso’s Guernica in Paris with the paint still wet, and at 16 he was drawing in the French capital until forced home by looming war. Rejected for military service, he drew his first masterpiece at 19 – heralding a long series of haunted paintings and drawings which were studies in entrapment. A procession of solitary figures in dark and threatened landscapes were all emblematic portraits of the artist himself.

Mentored by Graham Sutherland, and enjoying a close friendship with Lucian Freud, Craxton won youthful fame with pictures hailed as highlights of the Neo-Romantic movement (a label the artist hated). He had great charm and luck. In the week that the Craxton family home was blitzed, his textile designer friend EQ Nicholson was moving into Alderholt mill house, on the Dorset-Wiltshire border. Craxton moved in too, and reflected the surrounding scenery in many of his war-time pictures.

In the first post-war summer, of 1945, John and Lucian went to the Scilly Isles as stepping stones to warmer climes. A year later John Craxton led the partnership to Greece, where, while always travelling widely, he would be based for the rest of his life.

Pictures initially inspired by Samuel Palmer and William Blake, and then by Picasso and Miro, finally owed more and more to Cretan frescoes and Byzantine mosaics as Craxton developed a linear colour language all his own. His singular art evolved from dark to light and from disquiet to joy. But to the end he visited Cranborne Chase – with late elegiac paintings and drawings of dead elms which seemed to come full circle with his war-time pictures of six decades earlier.

The new exhibition at Dorset County Museum, curated by Ian Collins, John Craxton’s biographer and executor, will explore Craxton’s journey into light and colour – following his travels from Dorset to Greece. The exhibition will run from 28th March to 19th September 2015, moving to Salisbury Museum early in 2016. The Museum is open from 10.00am to 4.00pm, Monday to Saturday.

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Museum fundraising event great success

Marion Tait, Honorary Curator of the William Barnes Collection presenting a cheque for £3000 to Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum.

Marion Tait, Honorary Curator of the William Barnes Collection presenting a cheque for £3000 to Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum.

Staff and volunteers at Dorset County Museum are thrilled with the success of a fundraising fair held in Dorchester on 30th August.

A total of £600 was raised by the event through many home and produce stalls, children’s activities and refreshments plus a raffle and tombola. The funds were supplemented at the end of the day by a surprise donation of £3000 made anonymously. This generous donation will enable the Museum to secure an important portrait for the William Barnes Gallery – a painting of Giles Dugdale. Dugdale was a founding member of the Museum and played a crucial role in bringing the literary genius of William Barnes, Dorset’s greatest dialect poet, to light. The Museum had already received £500 from the William Barnes Society towards the purchase of the portrait. The balance of the money raised will be put towards the refurbishment of the William Barnes gallery in the Museum.

William Barnes Collection Manager, Marion Tait with Dorchester Town Crier, Alistair Chisholm who opened the fair

William Barnes Collection Manager, Marion Tait with Dorchester Town Crier, Alistair Chisholm who opened the fair

Town Crier Alistair Chisholm opened the proceedings at St Peter’s Church hall and read a poem especially written for the day. Dorset folk musician and storyteller Tim Laycock performed a range of Dorset songs to a highly appreciative audience.

Marion Tait, Honorary Curator of the William Barnes collection at the Museum organised the event together with Museum Trustee, Liz Arkell. Thanks also go to other members of the Museum, the William Barnes Society, St Peter’s church choir and the many friends and local businesses whose time and support made the event such a great success.

 

 

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Museum runs literary fundraising event

Rev. William Barnes © DCM

Rev. William Barnes © DCM

Dorset County Museum will be running a fundraising event on 30th August 2014. The event will take place between 10.00 am and 3.00 pm at St Peter’s Church hall, High West Street, Dorchester. Stalls will include home-made produce and preserves, books and bric-a-brac, a raffle and tombola and children’s clothes and toys. Refreshments will be available and there will be plenty of activities for children.

Between 11.00 am and 12.00 pm Tim Laycock, well-known folk musician, actor and storyteller will be performing Dorset music and songs.

The event will help the Museum update the William Barnes Gallery which is dedicated to Dorset’s greatest dialect poet. Some of the money will also be put towards the purchase of a portrait of Giles Dugdale – an author and previous member of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society which runs the Museum. The portrait, together with a collection of manuscripts, books and cuttings relating to William Barnes, are part of a private family collection and are being sold for £3,000.

Giles Dugdale

Giles Dugdale, Oil on canvas, 1923. Wilfred Gabriel de Glehn RA (1870-1951)

“Giles Dugdale played a key role in bringing the literary genius of William Barnes, Dorset’s greatest dialect poet, to light,” said Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum. “He was also co-founder of the Museum and therefore his portrait is an important part of our Dorset heritage.”

The William Barnes Society has already donated £500 towards the purchase of the portrait. It is hoped that the fundraising event on 30th August will raise the rest of the funds needed to keep the portrait in its rightful place in Dorset County Museum.
For more information about the project, or to make a donation,please contact Jenny Cripps at the Museum on jenny@dorsetcountymuseum.org

For more information please Tel: 01305 262735 or visit our website at www.dorsetcountymuseum.org.

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Dorset County Museum Runs Literary Fundraising Event

Giles Dugdale

Giles Dugdale, Oil on canvas, 1923. Wilfred Gabriel de Glehn RA (1870-1951)

Trustees and volunteers at Dorset County Museum in Dorchester are running a literary fundraising event on Saturday 30th August 2014.

The event is in aid of much needed refurbishment in the William Barnes Gallery – part of the Writers’ Dorset section of the Museum. A proportion of the money raised will also go towards the purchase of a portrait of Giles Dugdale – an author and previous member of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society which runs the Museum. The portrait was painted in 1923 by Wilfred De Glehn, a distinguished British impressionist artist. This portrait, and accompanying collection of manuscripts, books and cuttings relating to William Barnes, are being offered to the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society from a private family collection for £3,000.

William Barnes of Dorset by Giles Dugdale

William Barnes of Dorset by Giles Dugdale

“Giles Dugdale played a key role in bringing the literary genius of William Barnes, Dorset’s greatest dialect poet, to light,” said Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum. “He was also co-founder of the Museum and therefore his portrait is an important part of our Dorset heritage.”

The William Barnes Society has already donated £500 towards the purchase of the portrait. It is hoped that the fundraising event on 30th August will raise the rest of the funds needed to keep the portrait in its rightful place in Dorset County Museum. The event will take place between 10.00 am and 3.00 pm at St Peter’s Church hall, High West Street, Dorchester on Saturday 30th August. Stalls will include home-made produce and preserves, books and bric-a-brac, and refreshments will be available. There will also be a number of activities for children. All are welcome.

For more information about the project, or to make a donation, please contact Jenny Cripps at the Museum on jenny@dorsetcountymuseum.org

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Please help acquire this significant painting for Dorset County Museum

Giles Dugdale

Giles Dugdale, Oil on canvas, 1923. Wilfred Gabriel de Glehn RA (1870-1951)

This portrait, and accompanying collection of manuscripts, books and cuttings relating to William Barnes, are being offered to the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society from a private family collection for £3,000.

All donations are welcome. Please speak to a member of the Museum team at Reception or contact Jenny Cripps on 01305 756823 or via email jenny@dorsetcountymuseum.org.

Thank You For Your Generous Support

________________________________

Giles Dugdale

Dorset was Giles Dugdale’s beloved home for many years. As a young man he had read for the Bar at Trinity College, Cambridge.  But his heart was not really in his studies and he chose to relinquish a legal career in favour of a literary one.

William Barnes of Dorset by Giles Dugdale

William Barnes of Dorset by Giles Dugdale

It was reading Llewelyn Powys‘ essay on ‘The Grave of William Barnes’ that first inspired Dugdale’s interest in the Dorset dialect poet.  With a nod to Powys’ work, Dugdale then published a selection of Barnes’ poems and biographical notes in a volume ‘Poems Grave and Gay’ in 1949

Dugdale’s admiration of Barnes grew with his knowledge of the poet’s works, sustaining him through his later life. In 1953, two years before his death, Dugdale wrote what is considered to be the seminal Barnes biography, ‘William Barnes of Dorset’, securing the legacy of both the subject and his biographer.

Dugdale’s other interests included art, architecture and archaeology, and he was an important member of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society.

 

A Century Ago

Poole High Street Project

It was November 1913, a year before the outbreak of a devastating war. The East Dorset Herald was reporting the ‘Death of Dr. Russel Wallace – The Grand Old Man of Science’ at his residence, Old Orchard, Broadstone. From an unpromising childhood with poor schooling and no scientific training to speak of, he rose to become ‘a stimulating and original thinker, a finely trained observer, a naturalist of world-wide reputation, a vigorous conversationalist, a notable explorer and great traveller’. ‘His supreme achievement was his discovery of the process of Natural Selection simultaneously with Darwin’. During his adventurous career he travelled in the Amazon (being shipwrecked on the return voyage) and later journeyed around the Malay Archipelago, observing and collecting specimens of the flora and fauna. It was here, while suffering from a bout of fever, that he conceived the theory of natural selection. Back in England, he wrote a…

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Wallace: The Greatest Tropical Naturalist of the 19th Century by David Croman

Alfred Russel Wallace

Alfred Russel Wallace, O.M., L.L.D., D.C.L., F.R.S.

Dorset County Museum is pleased to present a talk on the subject of one of Charles Darwin’s major contemporaries.  The event forms part of the celebrations marking the centenary of the death of the great naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace.

David Croman, former Head of Department at Salisbury College, Principal Examiner and teacher, will be speaking about the adventures, triumphs and failures of Wallace as an explorer, biologist, anthropologist and geographer and will reveal why he is now thought of as the greatest tropical naturalist of the nineteenth century.

The talk is free of charge but a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs.  The event takes place on Friday 29th November. Doors open at 7.00pm and the talk will commence at 7.30pm.

For further information please see www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or telephone 01305 262735.

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Alfred Russel Wallace and Natural Selection by Dr. Peter Raby

Wallace100Alfred Russel Wallace was one of the late nineteenth century’s most outstanding scientific thinkers. He is probably best known as the co-discoverer (with Charles Darwin) of the principle of natural selection but he also made significant contributions in many other fields and founded the discipline of biogeography.  Followers of Wallace still regard him as the pre-eminent field biologist, collector and naturalist of tropical regions – he collected over 125,000 natural history specimens in South East Asia alone.

Alfred Russel Wallace

Alfred Russel Wallace, O.M., L.L.D., D.C.L., F.R.S.

However, his work in many areas is not well-known even today and his significant achievements remain poorly recognised.  In his talk, Dr. Peter Raby of Homerton College, Cambridge, who wrote a biography of Wallace in 2001, will seek to redress the balance.  He will describe how Wallace wrote to Charles Darwin excitedly outlining his new theory of natural selection, throwing Darwin into a panic.  Just two weeks later Darwin’s outline and Wallace’s paper were jointly presented in London. The following year Darwin, using much of the material from Wallace’s meticulous research, published ‘On the Origin of Species’ to wide acclaim.  Wallace, meanwhile, was still on the other side of the world – his crucial contribution to the work largely overlooked.

Dr. Raby’s talk, The Man who Selected Darwin,  complements the Museum’s current exhibition Alfred Russel Wallace: A Centenary Celebration which provides a rare opportunity to see its entire collection of brightly coloured bird skins from Wallace’s Malay Archipelago trip in 1854-1855.  Dr. Raby has also written widely on drama
and the theatre and is the editor of the Cambridge Companions to Oscar Wilde and
Harold Pinter.

The lecture takes place at 7.30pm on Wednesday 23th October 2013. Entry is FREE and the doors are open from 7.00pm.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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