Monday, 16 February 2015

The William Blake Exhibition at the Ashmolean

This exhibition runs until March 1st, so time is running out to see it.
I visited last Thursday, and was surprised by how many other people were there in the gloomy conditions of the exhibition where many artefacts and pictures had been gathered together.
I photographed a banner outside, as there were no photographs allowed inside the exhibition, and just as well really because there were so many people looking round an intimate space. I should have done my homework on William Blake before attempting the exhibition; it's superb, but I would have got more out of it if I'd looked at some of the images beforehand.
So what other temporary exhibitions are there at the Ashmolean?
Gods in Colour - Painted Sculpture in Antiquity runs until June 14th, and is well worth looking at  because it turns on its head our notions of good taste in sculpture; garden gnomes would not have looked out of place in those days. Here's Alexander in 320BC taken from a sarcophagus:
And the coloured reconstruction beside the uncoloured soldier:
Close up of the red sash and breast plate decoration

 Here's a copy of a boar from Rome, known since 1509 and probably made for a garden. After the crowds at the Blake exhibition, it was a joy to be one of the only two people walking round this exhibition, and we were able to have all questions answered by the person in attendance in the room.
Next I looked at Ed Paschke's exhibition, again no photographs,but you can look at the website by clicking on his name.
From there to Hiroshige's Japan - Fifty three stations of the Tokaido.
Hiroshige established his reputation in the early 1830s with this print series depicting scenes along the major highway linking cities of Edo and Kyoto. He used a newly available Western pigment known as Prussian Blue to depict water and sky, this brilliant blue was particularly effective when applied using a printing technique called bokashi, which allows subtle colour gradation.
We were fortunate enough to be there on the day when the Curator of Japanese Art, Dr Clare Pollard was giving a talk, finding the first talk at 2pm full, she kindly offered to repeat the talk at 3pm. It was a great experience to be shown round the exhibition by such a knowledgeable and enthusiastic curator. I have included two photographs, firstly 'Desolate Winter Scene at Hamamatsu' which amongst others depicts porters warming themselves by a fire:

And the 'Suruga Bank of the Oi River near Shimada' where people can be seen crossing according to their station in life, either wading through the water, being carried by a porter, or in a carriage.

 Dr Pollard had fabulous skirt depicting various scenes including Mount Fuji which was of course very apt:
After the talk, I went down to the shop to buy the book on this exhibition, it had sold out in the hour I'd been at the talk, so have ordered it online, and in the meantime been lent a book by Steve, who came on the trip, it's about Hokusi, a forerunner of Hiroshige, published in 1970. The book is very sniffy about Hiroshige, so I'm really looking forward to learning more about the Hiroshige v Hokusi spat.
From there, I had a quick look at a few favourites in the permanent collection. There are lots, but here's a few:
 Above an ornamental panel designed by William De Morgan (1839-1917)
And below, a model for a relief cast in silver which was mounted in a cabinet door by Sir James Frampton (1860-1928)
And I come back to this time and again:
 It's entitled 'Mary Magdalene it was made in 1926
The Hiroshige exhibition is the first in a series, I'll look out for the next one.
www.ashmolean.org






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