The Enchanted Garden in Newcastle

The garden as a stage for magical, nostalgic and atmospheric encounters in mostly British art: Victorian/Edwardian childhood idylls – Beatrix Potter, Walter Crane, “The Secret Garden”, Cicely Mary Barker’s “Flower Fairies”; fantastical elements in Burne-Jones, Rossetti, Simeon Solomon; the enclosed world of the garden, symbolic or abstracted, for 20th-century painters as diverse as Stanley Spencer and Patrick Heron. The show will move on to London’s William Morris Gallery in October.” Jackie Wullschlager [Brief mention in Critic’s Choice  in this weekend’s FT]

The exhibition at The Laing Gallery opened in Newcastle yesterday … and I just happened to be in town. I’d met with two friends together with whom I’m reading and discussing (and enjoying) Thomas Mann’s “The Magic Mountain” (854 pages)

They live on Tyneside and I’m in Leeds. Sometimes we meet at pubs or cafes between our two cities and sometimes I travel up to Newcastle for the day. Yesterday was one of those days.

Welcome to The Laing

Interestingly, I wrote here about a previous visit to The Laing: “The Arts and Crafts House; then and now”.  So, I’d looked at houses and now I was seeing gardens.

From the Pre-Raphaelites and French Impressionists to the Bloomsbury Group and 20th century abstraction, artists have taken inspiration directly from the gardens around them. These secret, enveloping and sometimes mysterious spaces are seen through windows, in panoramas and often repeated in different lights and seasons. The Enchanted Garden will feature artists including Claude Monet, Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Beatrix Potter, Pierre Bonnard, Lucien Pissarro, William Morris, Patrick Heron, Francis Bacon, Stanley Spencer, Vanessa Bell, and Duncan Grant.

The Enchanted Garden will bring the Laing’s painting ‘The Dustman or The Lovers’ by Stanley Spencer into the context of major works by British and French artists from across the UK and beyond which explore the garden as a ‘stage’ for the extraordinary, the magical, the atmospheric and the nostalgic.” [Laing Introduction]

No photography is allowed in the exhibition but I’ve managed to cobble together some thoughts and pictures available elsewhere on the internet. My favourite painting was

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In the Spring c.1908

Harold Knight (1874 – 1961) oil on canvas
132.3 (h) x 158.2 (w) cm
Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear Museums
© Harold Knight, reproduced courtesy of Curtis Brown Group Ltd [source]

A relaxed tea in the garden on a sunny Edwardian afternoon: delightful.

Many connections were made throughout the three-room show between literature and art. The FT review mentions some of these. Here is the Pine Tree Fairy shown alongside 5 other Flower Fairies with their poems.

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A tall, tall tree is the Pine tree,
With its trunk of bright red-brown—
The red of the merry squirrels
Who go scampering up and down.

There are cones on the tall, tall Pine tree,
With its needles sharp and green;
Small seeds in the cones are hidden,
And they ripen there unseen.

The elves play games with the squirrels
At the top of the tall, tall tree,
Throwing cones for the squirrels to nibble—
I wish I were there to see!

Several books were on display including Arthur Rackham’s illustrations to Lewis Carol’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” open at The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party [source];

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quotations from Vita Sackville-West’s “The Garden“;

pages from Beatrix Potter’s exquisitely illustrated children’s books (I didn’t note the particular pages selected)

and the three most important events in the Bible take place in gardens : The Garden of Eden, The Garden of Gethsemane and the Garden Tomb.

There was also a beautiful little painting believed once to be the work of Giotto but this has now been disproved. ‘Noli Me Tangere’ has many versions and I’ve been unable to find the exact one but for the sublime colours to have survived since c1350-1375 is nothing short of a miracle.

The choices were well chosen to fit into their particular theme and many of the paintings were from the Laing permanent collection.

 

Polgoon, Penlee and Penzance

One of the Cornish days was just spent around and about Penzance. With a day visit from Lynne (dovegreyreader) we all three enjoyed a lovely sunny visit to Penlee Gallery “The artistic heart of West Cornwall’s history”. There’s a nice cafe where we had lunch before wandering around the galleries.

Next up was a short taxi ride to Polgoon Vineyard just a couple of miles out of town. What a beautiful location! We learned about this venture set up in the early 2000s on a sunny slope looking out to sea and the microclimate which enables the owners to produce award-winning wines and ciders. The tour includes a walk through the vineyard to the grape vines (some nurtured outside and others in poly tunnels) and orchards. A description of the various traditional and modern processes (pressing and fermentation) involved and finally, a tasing of five different wines. I’d tasted the cider in Newquay where the waitress had recommended booking the vineyard tour.

Chandelier in the shop

Apple trees in blossom

We learn about growing grapes

What a view!

Penzance has three bookshops! All three are excellent and we visited them all. The Edge of the World is the main stockist of new books on the main drag – Market Jew Street; Barton Books on Causewayhead stocks art books (art in the broadest sense of the word) mostly new but a few secondhand and is a special delight; Newlyn Books in Captain Cutter’s House on our very own Chapel Street, just a stone’s throw from the Egyptian House, “offers an eclectic collection of excellent quality antiquarian and second hand books in its new premises in Penzance. A traditional second hand bookshop, where you are free to browse the selection of books with everything from art and design, books of Cornish interest and other travel titles to cookery, lifestyle and more. A wide range of fiction is also available.” In the antique mall opposite us I picked up a full set of the Famous British Authors cigarette cards for a bargain price! There was also a very decent selection of secondhand books which might be overlooked by browsers unaware of their existence on the first floor of the mall.

Breaking the Journey : The Elan Valley

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Yesterday I drove from Hawarden (I’d spent the night at Gladstone’s Library again) down to visit my friend in south Wales. It’s long, but beautiful, journey mostly along minor A roads. After the early morning mists lifted (around Welshpool) the sun came out. Occasionally my route was diverted onto minor roads through unknown (to me) villages and hamlets and with marvellous views of distant mountains.

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Zennor Head and Lower Tregerthen

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A couple of years ago I read the late Helen Dunmore’s fictional account of the time D.H.Lawrence and his wife Frieda spent in Cornwall during the First World War. “Zennor in Darkness“. Thus I was intrigued to visit this village : to walk to Zennor Head and back and take in the cottages at Lower Tregerthen both a mile or so out of the village in different directions. The bus service in winter runs roughly every three hours but I found arriving at 12.08 and leaving at 14.52 gave me sufficient time to do both walks there and back; to visit the pub The Tinners Arms for fresh crab sandwiches and local apple cider and to call in at the church to see the famous mermaid carving which I had also read about.

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Cornwall’s Tin Coast : Exploring Botallack

Right at the very end of Cornwall, just to the north of Lands End, lies The Tin Coast a seven mile stretch of coast with a rich mining history. It’s part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape, inscribed in 2006, UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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