Autumn Visit To The Galleries of Manchester

Back in June I received notification of this locally organised trip and, October being a pretty ‘clear’ month, I decided to book the day out. In the end it came hot on the heels of the Edinburgh 48 hour ‘day out’.

“Autumn Visit to the Galleries of Manchester.
Wednesday 12th October 2016

Manchester, or “Cottonopolis” was one of the great cities of Victorian England. That wealth is reflected to-day in the magnificent art collections housed in the city galleries.

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Fairytale Fashion : a History Wardrobe Presentation

History Wardrobe

It’s been some time since I last attended a History Wardrobe presentation. However, that has now been corrected as yesterday I spent the afternoon enjoying yet again Lucy Adlington and Meredith Towne’s humour, expert knowledge and style at the Bagshaw Museum in nearby Batley. Continue reading

The Garden Museum

Some exhibitions, especially those national museum ‘blockbusters’, are just too unwieldy but the bijou exhibition Fashion and the Garden occupied just over half an hour of my visit the the Garden Museum on Thursday. Just a short walk along the Albert Embankment (opposite The Houses of Parliament) from Westminster Tube Station, the Garden Museum is right next door to Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury. GM exterior Formerly known as the Museum of Garden History, The Garden Museum is based in the deconsecrated parish church of St Mary-at-Lambeth. I’d met up with my friend Rosanna (the mosaics maker) with whom I had recently been to see The Isabella Blow Show at Somerset House. Garden Museum Church

Inside the Garden Museum with Rebecca Louise Law Installation

After morning coffee in the Museum Cafe (we couldn’t resist a tiny home-cooked apple tart as well – all the food served looked very acceptable!) we headed under Rebecca Louise Law’s installation ‘The Flower Garden Display’d’ for the Fashion and the Garden exhibit that I had read about recently in the press. Booklet

The Accompanying Booklet

Put together by Nicola Shulman, sister of British Vogue editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman, the displays cover fashion and garden connections between the 17th and 21st centuries.

TV Introduction

unknow artist-796785

This portrait of Lettice Newdigate (1608) by an unknown artist is the first known example of a Knot Garden in art.

Influences of gardens on fashion extend over time from knot gardens reproduced through embroidery on clothing to Philip Treacy hats such as the Orchid.

Philip_Treacy__Orchid

Philip Treacy Orchid Hat

I noted that an interest in flowers is a very English characteristic. They have featured in English clothing designs throughout the centuries where they are absent, for example, in France. There were exquisitely embroidered gloves and pockets; flowers feature in the silk designs of Anna Maria Garthwaite and other 18th century Spitalfields silk weavers; phaeton carriages were built very high so that owners and their families and guests could drive around their landscape parks and show off; and then there are the clothes that we wear when visiting gardens or even when gardening.

It’s a small show but perfectly formed.

We had time to visit the permanent collection – gnomes; gardening tools from trowels to lawnmowers; rare books; paintings such the recently acquired ‘Portrait of a Black Gardener‘ by Harold Gilman; posters, ephemera and garden seed packet displays.

Yates Seeds

Yates Seeds. No longer sold in the UK but still available in Australia and New Zealand.

The Museum’s garden was created in 1980. At its heart is a knot garden designed by the Museum’s President, The Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury (who was then also re-making the gardens at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire). The reason for the seventeenth-century spirit of the design is that our garden also houses the tomb of the great plant-hunters, gardeners and collectors, John Tradescant the Elder (c.1570-1638) and Younger (1608-1662), the rediscovery of which originally inspired the creation of a museum of garden history in the deconsecrated, and then derelict, church of St Mary-at-Lambeth.” From the Garden Museum website.

Tradescant Tomb

The Tradescant Tomb

In addition to the tomb and monument to the Tradescants is the tomb of Captain William Bligh of ‘The Bounty’.

Tomb of Bligh

Captain Bligh Tomb

Fashion Galore! and The Georgians Revealed

In addition to Uproar! at The Ben Uri Gallery I managed to fit in two further shows in London this week. On Monday (half price day) I accompanied a friend to see “Isabella Blow : Fashion Galore!” a spectacular exhibition of fashion and accessories from the collection of Isabella Blow at Somerset House.

British Library

And  on Tuesday I met my sister at The British Library to see “The Georgians Revealed : life, style and the making of Modern Britain”. A far cry from each you might think but not so! There was Ms Blow with her aristocratic background, her celebrity lifestyle, her fashion journalism  and her promotion and patronage of design and style and fashion in clothes and shoes and hats. And there were the Georgians apparently just as obsessed with the cult of celebrity, with their outrageous fashions, with the first newspapers and popular magazines and with their aristocrats living in homes just like the one Ms Blow grew up in.

Born Isabella Delves Broughton brought up at the family seat is Doddington Park, near Nantwich, Cheshire. She became fashion director of The Tatler. She worked at Vogue and was an innovative editor the Sunday Times Style magazine.  Blow is credited with discovering such designers as Alexander McQueen, milliner Philip Treacy and Hussein Chalayan, as well as models Sophie Dahl and Stella Tennant.

Postcard

Postcard from Isabella Blow : Fashion Galore!

Sadly, I have the impression that Isabella Blow could not cope with the changes and developments of the mood of fashion in the 21st century and she took her own life on 7 May 2007. Bu the exhibition certainly reflects a passion for fashion and is filled with colour and style and flamboyance reflected through the work of the designers she collected and promoted in particular Philip Treacy and Alexander McQueen.

Blow flyer

If I have one complaint about the exhibition, which was simply spectacular, it would be that the first few showcases illustrating Blow’s early life displayed scrapbooks and letters which everyone wanted to study closely and led to a jam of people at the start of the show which later easily dispersed.

Georgians large

The Georgians Revealed  marks the 300th anniversary of the accession of King George I in 1714 and reveals the unprecedented economic, social and cultural changes in Britain under the four successive kings of the House of Hanover. By 1830, when George IV died, every aspect of daily life had been transformed.

The show is divided into three broad areas illustrating their influences on :

1) Public places, private spaces

“New ideas of taste and politeness influenced much of Georgian life from the elegant new streets and squares to the entertainments enjoyed at home. London and the major provincial towns were transformed by classical architecture, providing new public buildings and comfortable homes for the elite and middle classes. Gardens and parks were radically redesigned. Formal parterres gave way to expansive lawns and exotically planted flowerbeds. In the home, luxury and comfort were to be had in refined new styles of interior decoration and a range of fashionable furniture made to order.

But the population of the British Isles tripled to some 24 million, there was disorder and want too. The poor often had just a single room to house a family, and popular public places, such as pleasure gardens and coffee houses, were also sites of bawdy entertainment, crime and scandal. Nevertheless, new middle class homes and gardens reflected the growing wealth and confidence of Georgian Britain and created a lifestyle to which many still aspire.” [Source The Exhibition Guide]

2) Buying luxury, acquiring style

Georgian Fashion

“The East India Company was central to the import of luxury goods during much of the Georgian period. As Britain grew more powerful in the successive wars of the 18th and early 19th centuries, the company extended its monopoly over trade with the East Indies. Tea, coffee and sugar changed the lifestyles as well as the diets of the Georgians. British manufacturers enticed consumers with cheaper goods that copied those from abroad.

Shopping became a popular social activity. Advertising in newspapers, printed handbills and beautifully designed trade cards, encouraged spending on a wide range of luxuries. The fashion industry was born, as newspapers and magazines began regular commentaries on celebrity clothes and accessories. All who could afford it aspired to be fashionable.” [Source The Exhibition Guide]

3) Pleasures of society, virtues of culture

“Sociability to the Georgians was central to daily life, inspiring a huge increase in public entertainments. Theatre was well established, playhouses became larger and new theatrical genres catered for a wider and more diverse audience. Assembly Rooms were built where gentile society could show off their dancing skills, take refreshments and gamble. Pleasure gardens and masquerades added spice to social gatherings. All these opportunities to see and be seen, and to be reported on in print, fed a new culture of celebrity.” [Source The Exhibition Guide]

Georgeobelisk

Outside, in the British Library courtyard, is the Georgeobelisk a 6 metre high eye-catcher which evokes the playfulness of temporary theatrical constructions that were popular during the Georgian period to mark special occasions or important historical events.

Cityscapes

I recommend both exhibitions if you can get to them!