Friday, 7 March 2014

Aberdeen Art Gallery

Aberdeen Art Gallery have gone down the same route as the Edinburgh galleries and are now allowing photographs. So I dashed in to try and get a few of my favourite pieces before they changed their minds.

This is Family Group No 3 (Angle) by Henry Moore. It is one of the smalled Moore sculptures I've seen and also one of the nicest. If I ever have a mantelpiece, I should like this sat upon it (I should stop here or I will be putting myself top of the suspect list if it ever disappears)

Another of the Aberdeen pieces I would like, though perhaps too big to slide under a jacket or balance on a mantlepiece. It is The Thank Offering made in 1939 by Benno Shotz.

Apparently the University of Glasgow have a bronze version of this (I can't find it online) but I think the grain of the sandstone seems to emphasis the curves of the sculpture.

L.S. Lowry usually makes us think of his stick people and factory scenes - this painting (1941) has both but they are not so noticeable in comparison to the Derelict Building. It's got quite a different feel to what we come to expect from him. He also did a lot of great and very simple sea scenes. You'll have to excuse the reflections in the glass in this one - most of the pictures in the gallery are glazed but here I feel it's worth putting up with them to see the picture.

No glass on The Model and the Drifter (1995) by Jack Vettriano. The man seems to get a bit of stick from the art establishment from time to time - I expect the great success he's had has encouraged much of this criticism.

Wood on the Downs (1930) by Paul Nash

I believe every gallery in the world has a Degas Bronze. Doesn't make them any less lovely. This one is Position de Quatrieme Devant sur la Jambe Gauche (1882-95)

This is the first painting I saw of Bessie MacNicol. I thought it had some characteristic similarities to EA Hornel, which is hardly surprising as she visited Kirkcudbright and was influenced by his style. When I visited Hornel's house last year, I saw a portrait Miss MacNicol had done of the great man - it makes an appearance in this blog.

The picture here is Autumn from 1898, perhaps the nicest of the paintings of hers I have seen.

To Pastures New (1883) by James Guthrie  also has an EA Hornel connection. For a while a stuffed goose was exhibited in Mr Hornel's house and it was claimed that Guthrie used it as the model for one (perhaps more) of the geese in this painting.

Herakles the Archer (1908-09) by Emile-Antoine Bourdelle

The next three paintings somewhat defeated my camera. This is a slightly blurry picture of The Reaper (1863) by Thomas Faed from Gatehouse of Fleet near here. There are two pictures by him in the gallery - the second one came out even worse in my photos.

This painting is Una Maja Bonita (1856) by John Phillip . He was born in Aberdeen and not surprisingly features strongly in the gallery. He painted a range of subjects but is best know for his Spanish paintings.

They used to have two paintings by Waterhouse on display but just now only Penelope and her Suitors (1912). It's wonderful but the glazing completely defeated my camera. I did manage this detail. You can see the whole thing here.

Undine (1875-99) by Albert Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, There is no explanation on the label to say why the date of the sculpture goes to 1899 and the sculptor died in 1887 - perhaps the studio continued to run copies off the mould.

There are a few excellent Scottish portraits in the gallery including many by Raeburn, though I didn't manage to photograph any of those well enough to post. Surely second only to Raeburn, if not equal, is Allan Ramsay in the world of Scottish Portraits. This is Miss Janet Shairp in 1750.

Scottish Fishermen (1959), a stained glass pane by William Wilson 

 Ian Hamilton Finlay's La Femme de la Revolution (2003). The table features elegant place settings for several prominent women of the French Revolution - I'm sure the dinner wouldn't have been as polite as the setting suggest as these ladies came from both sides.

Riviere (2000) by Alison Watt.  I've always felt that I could just fall into this huge painting. I've seen many paintings by her on my travels and can't recommend too highly popping into Old St Paul's church in Edinburgh to see her spectacular Still.

And finally a small word about the gallery itself. Aberdeen is famous for granite and the pillars in the main court of the gallery are made from various granites from near and far.

Each pillar has a little brass plaque on it to say where it comes from. Peterhead is about 30 miles from Aberdeen.

This one is a little more exotic, it's Emerald Pearl granite from Norway.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

White Scar Caves - Ingleton

Last weekend I met my old pal, Bev, for a few days wandering around Yorkshire. On Sunday morning we found ourselves at the Whitescar Caves near Ingleton, having driven the 40 odd miles from Hardraw. Driving through the Dales offers many spectacular views but on a Sunday morning the road needs particularly careful watching to avoid the unusually numerous cyclists (have they not heard of breakfast in bed and the Sunday papers). We arrived with enough time before the tour for a much needed cuppa and a bite to eat in the cafe.

The Whitescar caves were discovered in 1923 when a Cambridge Student by the name of Christopher Long thought it a good idea to climb into a crack he had found in the ground. Wearing shorts and a hat with four candles mounted on the brim, on that first morning he made it as far as this waterfall which must be a couple of hundred yards from the entrance. Mr Long didn't live long enough to see the caves developed but in 1925 the tunnel was blasted out by local miners and opened for the first visitors in April of the same year.

Much of the cave has an unworldly appearance due to the action of rainwater seeping through the local limestone over the millennia. On it's way the water dissolves some of the limestone and deposits some of it back on the roof where it leaves the rock and deposits some more on the ground where it lands, often in the form of stalactites on the roof and stalagmites on the floor. The average growth rate for a stalactite is about 0.13 mm (0.0051 inches) a year but it can be as fast as 3mm (0.12 inches) a year. At these rates even the smallest of stalactites and stalagmites are likely to be hundreds of years old and many of those we saw will be several thousand years old.

The damp limestone coated rocks look quite slimy but they're not at all really, just wet.

Many of the formations have been given names, usually based on what somebody thinks it looks like (usually somebody who has spent a long time under the ground!). This one is  called the Witches Fingers.

This is The Judges Head.

For most of the walk the path follows the route of a stream. Gratings have been mounted over the stream to walk on. On the day we were there, the stream was safely a couple of feet below our feet most of the time but on other occasions the water has been known to lap over the grating. Any higher than that and they close the caves. On larger floods the water has been known to flow out of the cave entrance.

The Devil's Tongue.

Sometimes in small pools of water, the limestone crystallises into shapes that look likes lots of tiny cauliflowers.

There are fossils to be seen at several points in the caves.

I'm told that this is fossilised coral.

There were a couple of long sections where standing upright was impossible.

The tour ends in a cavern known as the Battlefield - that's what rubble covered floor (caused at the end of the last ice age probably, when the roof collapsed) reminded Hilda Guthrie, who discovered it, of. When it was discovered in 1971, an underground lake had to be swam and a huge rock known as Big Bertha had to be swam under before climbing up into the cavern by a different route. Some of that original route can be seen in this little film on Youtube. In 1991 a 65 meter passage was blasted into the cavern and it was added to the tour. The guide tells us that though the caves goes on for some way after this, it is unlikely that the tour will ever go further as the local authorities are opposed to further blasting here.

A large number of much thinner straw stalactites can be seen on the roof of the cavern - these are some of the faster growing stalactites.

The floor of the cave has quite a lot of mud on it which was laid down centuries ago and is still damp. In places it has cracked and limestone has deposited in the cracks to produce this crazy paving effect.

The whole walk was about 1 km in length (or about 2/3rds of a mile) and of course the same back. This map of the caves was taken from a notice board outside (an easier to read one is here on the caves website)