Lecture: John Craxton’s Crete by Ian Collins

Four Figures in a Mountain Landscape by John Craxton © estate of John Craxton / Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives

Four Figures in a Mountain Landscape by John Craxton © estate of John Craxton / Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives

On Friday 18th September, Ian Collins, Curator of Dorset County Museum’s John Craxton Exhibition and Biographer of the artist, is giving a talk at Dorset County Museum which will focus on the period of the artist’s career when he was residing and painting in Crete.

John Craxton (1922-2009) was one of the most interesting and individual British artists of the 20th century. After years of travelling around the Mediterranean after World War 11, Craxton settled in Crete in 1960. His life story, starting with wanderings on Cranborne Chase, was as colourful as his later pictures of the light, life and landscapes of Greece.

Ian Collins with Sir David Attenborough at the opening of the John Craxton Exhibition - Jonathan North / DCM © 2015

Ian Collins with Sir David Attenborough at the opening of the John Craxton Exhibition – Jonathan North / DCM © 2015

The exhibition at Dorset County Museum in Dorchester charts 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. The exhibition runs until Saturday 19th September.

All are welcome to the talk on Friday which starts at 7.30pm. Doors open at 7.00pm. The talk is free of charge, but 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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Discover the Art of John Craxton this weekend

'Poet in Landscape', 1941, Ink and watercolour by John Craxton

‘Poet in Landscape’, 1941, Ink and watercolour by John Craxton

John Craxton once described the county in saying “The Dorset landscape is not an obvious physiognomy but, like a person, has many hidden aspects – the mysterious enigmatic earthworks, tumuli and barrows, the atmosphere of conspiracy from the great days of smuggling still lingers, the deep, impenetrable forests with King John’s hunting lodge to prove that time is ever relative”

On the 15th May, Ian Collins will be re-visiting the Dorset County Museum with his talk exploring John Craxton’s early life and his passion of the Dorset landscape and history that was an inspiration for the work he produced. Whilst staying with his artist uncle and aunt in a cottage on the Cranborne Chase.

Ian’s talk takes place a 7.30pm on Friday 15th May (doors open at 7.00pm). The event is FREE of charge but a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs.

Ian Collins with Sir David Attenborough at the opening of the John Craxton Exhibition - Jonathan North / DCM © 2015

Ian Collins with Sir David Attenborough at the opening of the John Craxton Exhibition – Jonathan North / DCM © 2015

On the next day, Saturday 16th May a private tour of Dorset County Museum’s current exhibition, A Poetic Eye: John Craxton on Cranborne Chase and Crete. The tour will be led by the exhibition’s curator, Ian Collins

The tour is a great opportunity to see the exhibition up close and hear the story of John Craxton’s journey from Cranborne Chase to Crete, exploring his journey into warmth, light and colour. Following the tour, a brunch will be provided in the Museum’s Tea Room.

The tour starts at 11.00am on Saturday 16th May and tickets cost £10.00. There are a limited number of spaces available and places must be booked in advance.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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For the love of Dorset: The opening of Dorset County Museum’s new exhibition ‘A Poetic Eye’ with special guest Sir David Attenborough

John Craxton ExhibitionFriday evening saw Dorset County Museum’s Victorian Gallery filled with visitors eagerly awaiting their opportunity to get the first glimpse of the museum’s latest exhibition of John Craxton’s art (1922-2009); from his time in Dorset through to his days in Crete. The exhibition is a wonderful chance to see many of Craxton’s private paintings for the very first time. Never before has such an extensive collection of Craxton’s works been shown together and allows the spectator to experience and follow his journey as a man and an artist; from his early days in rural Dorset in war-time, to his discovery of the vibrancy of life in Greece.

Curator of the exhibition, Ian Collins, Sir David Attenborough and Director of the Dorset County Museum, Dr. Jonthan Murden

Curator of the exhibition, Ian Collins, Sir David Attenborough and Director of the Dorset County Museum, Dr. Jonthan Murden

‘Poetic Eye’ shows Craxton’s obsession and love of rural Dorset’s landscape and his torment and feelings of imprisonment which came from England in war-time. Ian Collins, curator of ‘Poetic Eye’, described Craxton’s time in Dorset as ‘the place where he really found himself’. Craxton’s love of Dorset is shown so clearly in his many depictions of the local landscape which Collins’ attributes to his ‘love of Dorset, of the landscape, of the mythology of Dorset, and the legends of Dorset’.

The latter half of his career, and shown beautifully within the exhibition, depicts his transformation as an artist when he moved to Crete. The vibrancy of colours which he uses shows his true development as an artist and as a man who during his time in Greece brought out of him. The exhibition is very much Dorset based and shows an artist who wasn’t concerned with selling his paintings or even being part of the ‘art scene’ and has consequently, been ignored. ‘Poetic Eye’ uncovers one of Europe’s great artists of 20th Century and one of Europe’s most forgotten artists.

The Opening: Sir David Attenborough and the man behind the paintings.

Sir David Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough

Dorset County Museum warmly welcomed Sir David Attenborough and renowned art critic, Hilary Spurling to officially open the exhibition. Guests at the museum, were treated to Sir David and Hilary’s own personal accounts of what this exhibition meant to them. Sir David, who was close friend of John Craxton for over twenty five years, as well as a collector of his art works, gave a personal insight into not only Craxton the artist but Craxton the man. Sir David began by congratulating Dorset County Museum on securing such an important exhibition which shows both sides of John Craxton’s journey as an artist; from his war-time yearnings of an introverted painter, to his invention of line and use of coloured line to capture the vibrancy and colour of Crete. Sir David told amusing stories about his friend’s dislike for parting with his works, telling tales of Craxton taking pictures back after he had bought them because he wouldn’t accept they were perfected. Sir David described the exhibition as combining, ‘meaning, excitement and vibrancy’ as well as giving a heartfelt thanks to both Ian Collins, the curator of the exhibition, and Dorset County Museum for bringing Craxton back to Dorset and giving him the recognition as one of England’s great artists that he so deserves.

Hilary Spurling OBE

Hilary Spurling OBE

Hilary Spurling echoed Sir David’s gratitude to Dorset County Museum describing ‘Poetic Eye’ as bringing back to life a painter that has been previously ‘forgotten’. She went on to describe the exhibition as, ‘rediscovering Craxton and showing him in a richness and fullness that his contemporaries never had the chance to see’. She closed her thought-provoking speech by saying, ‘Craxton is very lucky to have Ian and we are also very lucky because it is us who reap the fruits’.

All that’s left to say, is don’t miss your chance to visit Dorset County Museum and see the ‘Poetic Eye’ exhibition which has so many people captivated by a man who’s paintings have previously gone under the radar. Craxton seems to finally be getting the recognition he deserves as one of Dorset’s and Europe’s great artists and the people of Dorset welcome home one of their great achievers.

A Poetic Eye: John Craxton on Cranborne Chase and Crete. exhibition is running until 19th September 2015. For more information, please visit www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or contact the museum directly on 01305 756827

Gabriella Crouch

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Am feeling quite jolly!

Darkened not dormant

This lovely example of Alfred Russel Wallace’s beautiful handwriting and cheerful nature was written to chemist and Wallace’s good friend Raphael Meldola. He wrote it on his 90th (and sadly last) birthday. It is particular favourite of Annette Lord, who has scanned and transcribed the Museum’s collection of 300+ Wallace documents.

Today marks 100 years since Wallace’s death and provides a good opportunity to reflect on his achievements. We’ve set up a display in the Museum to mark the occasion and show some of the most impressive Wallace specimens in our collection. Wallace travelled to remote, dangerous parts of the world in search of new and fascinating species. He was a meticulous and careful collector; you can’t help but marvel at how the incredibly long antennae of these beetles survived the journey back to Britain!

Wallace is now credited by many as co-author of the theory of evolution through natural selection, so it is very exciting to…

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Wallace in his own words

Darkened not dormant

Here in the Museum of Natural History’s archives, we proudly house over 300 of Alfred Russel Wallace’s documents. Letters, notes and postcards written by the great naturalist himself. Here you can see Sir David Attenborough holding one of his favourites.

Over the past two years, all of the Wallace paper items in our collection have been scanned, transcribed and uploaded to Wallace Letters Online, a worldwide documentation project that’s part of the Wallace 100 celebrations. But the most remarkable thing is that all this work was done by one woman!

Annette Lord has been a volunteer at the Museum for 3 years and has helped with many family friendly activities, but one day she popped up to the Entomology Department to ask about Wallace’s letters. Her curiosity was piqued and she soon set to work on the enormous task of making them accessible to Wallace fans across the world.

The…

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