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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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

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

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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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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Dorset County Museum to host Sci-Fi characters and Father Christmas on Cracker Night

Dorchester Christmas CrackerIt’s nearly time for Cracker Night again in Dorchester. The event that officially kicks off Christmas in the County town takes place this year on Thursday 3rd December from 5.00pm.

This year by popular demand, everyone’s favourite science fiction characters will be back at Dorset County Museum. Come along to see characters from the Star Wars films and Dr Who. Bring the children to see Father Christmas in his grotto – every child will receive a bag of goodies in return for a small donation.

Pliosaur meets Darth Vader

Delicious mulled wine and mince pies will be available to buy in the Victorian Gallery, 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 St Ives and British Modernism: the George & Ann Dannatt Collection will be on display in the exhibition gallery, and prints of some of the works will be for sale – another fantastic opportunity to pick up a very special Christmas present.

Entry to the Museum on Cracker Night is FREE and everyone is welcome. The ground floor 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

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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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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Dorset inspires exhibition by local artists

Barleyfields by Dick Hewitson

Barleyfields by Dick Hewitson

A new exhibition opens at Dorset County Museum, Dorchester on 10th January 2015. Dorset: A Contemporary Response is the annual exhibition from Bournemouth Arts Club. The exhibition will be a display of high quality work bringing together members’ individual responses to Dorset.

“We are really looking forward to this exhibition which has been inspired by how artists feel about the county of Dorset,” said Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum. “We anticipate a great variety in the work, but with the consistently high quality the club always demands.”

The selection for the exhibition will be made by Dr Brian Graham, a highly respected Dorset artist fascinated by the past and inspired by Bronze Age and Neolithic archaeological sites.

Running alongside the main exhibition will be a smaller display of additional works by club artists. This will consist of sketch books, small dimensional pieces and smaller works on paper. Julie Herring, recent Curator of Art at Bournemouth University, is selecting these works which will be arranged to complement the main show.

Most of the pieces on display will be for sale and there should be something to suit even modest budgets. Of particular interest this year will be Postcards from Dorset – a display of postcard-sized works, one from each exhibiting artist, all of which will be for sale at the fixed price of just £30 each.

Other artworks will range in price from £50 to over £1000 with many on sale between £200 and £500.

Bournemouth Arts Club exhibition runs at Dorset County Museum from 10th January to 14th March 2015. The Museum also has a well-stocked gift shop and a popular tea room. For more information phone 01305 262735 or visit www.dorsetcountymuseum.org.