Sunday, 10 April 2011

Blackwell Arts and Crafts House

I went to the Lake District this weekend which is where my family home is. It is so relaxing at home and I easily get into the routine of lying around reading in the sun and eating lots of tasty food.  

I am also researching (well need to!) arts and crafts in the Lake District during the late nineteenth century and John Ruskin's involvement for my MA. I used research as an excuse to go to the Blackwell Arts and Crafts House in Bowness.  It was designed by M.H Bailie Scott between 1897-1900 and is now a Grade I listed building.  My favourite room is the White Drawing room because when I walk into it I feel it embodies the ideals of the movement I have been reading about, whilst at the same time being incredibly aesthetically pleasing.  Anyways, I've always liked Blackwell a lot, but was particularly excited to go today because they advertised that they had a Julia Margaret Cameron exhibit on. 

Julia Margaret Cameron was the photographer of the 1860s in my opinion. (She wasn't that highly regarded during her life.) Cameron photographed all of the 'celebrities' such as Tennyson, Darwin etc and was also the great aunt of Virginia Woolf!  I adore the intimacy of her work to pieces, and her method of intentionally having the lens out of focus to capture the soul of the sitter.  I am most fond of  her photographs of women, and her less successful illustrated allegories which have a strong Pre-Raphaelite focus (who I have a love hate relationship with.)

I knew that they only had a few of her photographs on loan but was disappointed, although I almost expected it, that the pieces displayed were of the men she photographed alone:  Tennyson etc.  I find this so disappointing because I think her portraits of women are so important to really understanding her work.  Aside from this, through places such as Blackwell continuing to select purely photographs of men from the nineteenth century, the history of the women is again forgotten.  Still, it reminded me of the importance of seeing things in the flesh in comparison to on a computer screen, particularly when analysing the work for essays, because although she is often dismissed as 'amateur' through her haphazard style, I found her work suprisingly organised, and categorised (matching gold bordered edges, perfect pencil name and date).

I also got chatting to some women who were evacuated there during World War 2 and the house became a school.  They had memories of the Headteacher flooding the back yard with water to freeze and form an ice skating rink for them in the Winter! 


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  2. oh goodness me!! how beautiful! i love julia cameron as well! my friend sent me a vintage postcard with one of her photos on and it hangs proudly on my wall :)