Sunday, 24 January 2016

Leeds Queer Stories / Museums & Communities

Following this week's MOOC from Future Learn, "Behind the scene of the 21st century museum" by University of Leicester and National Museums Liverpool, and its reflections on community groups and their place in the museum I would like to talk about the "Leeds Queer Stories" displays at Leeds City MuseumLeeds Queer Stories is part of the Arts Council England funded project within Leeds Museums and Galleries to engage with new audiences and has emerged from the successful Leeds Art Gallery queer cultural project PoMoGaze. 

Leeds Queer Stories Flyer
Leeds Queer Stories Flyer 

Leeds City Museum is a Community and Social History museum, by this I mean that people from Leeds can easily understand and relate to this museum as it tells their stories. Last October, a new display created by two community curators, Marek Romaniszyn and Jude Woods, opened at the museum. These displays were not only the work of curators but also of a community group, Queer Stories, which aims to collect stories and promote Leeds LGBT*IQ history and communities.  

Leeds Queer Stories Health Display
Leeds Queer Stories Health Display
Leeds Queer Story  Disability  and Political Display
Leeds Queer Story
and Political Display

This initiative has proven to be popular and volunteers collected objects from the community in order to exhibit them at the museum. 
Working with community groups can be perceived as challenging by museums but as Sheila Watson's article in this week's MOOC,"Community Collaboration", points out it is also essential if museums want to reflect their city and its inhabitants.

Leeds Queer Stories Lesbian Display
Leeds Queer Stories Lesbian Display 

Displays at Leeds City Museum were created as glimpses into the LGBT*IQ history past and present, most of the items are from Leeds and reflect people's lives in this city. Some cases reflect political challenges but most of them show the diversity and fun within the community. The curators let the objects speak for themselves, only a few words are written on the side to briefly explain the content of the display. The most eye-catching display is the one on entertainment and sports, which includes a beautiful costume along with posters and badges from the 80s. As said political and social issues are also at the heart of the display, showcasing how hard the community has fought inequality. For instance, posters promoting disability in the workplace or women rights zines are shown. 

Leeds Queer Stories Political Display

Leeds Queer Stories Political Display
Leeds Queer Stories Political Display 

Also, visitors are invited to share their own Queer story. Leeds has really powerful and interesting stories, and museums are here to tell these stories and welcome everyone. Most items are personal and belong to someone in Leeds who has allowed the museum to exhibit them. The public has a chance to glimpse at someone's life and learn from it.  
Exhibition open until 15th May 2016 

Leeds Queer Stories Entertainment and Leisure Display
Leeds Queer Stories Entertainment and Leisure Display

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Sensuality and Women in Sculpture

This series #FindingKuhne brings you with me while I am trying to discover more about the American sculptor: Kuhne Beveridge (b.1877), you can find articles about this research project here and here. For this article, I would like to thank the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds which allowed me to look at its archives on Kuhne Beveridge. 

Kuhne Beveridge Veiled Venus 1900 Paris Leeds
Kuhne Beveridge, Ella von Wrede, The Veiled Venus (1900). Leeds Art Gallery (Leeds).
After looking at Kuhne's biography here, the next step in my #FindingKuhne project was to look at other artists' works and find similarities with Kuhne's works. At the end of the 19th / beginning of the 20th century, sculptors were inclined to work on the woman's body while emphasising their sensuality through suggestive poses and nudity, the Femme Fatale

In sculpture, Auguste Rodin was extremely talented in depicting sensuous women, for instance with Torso of Adele (1880).

Kuhne Beveridge Veiled Venus Rodin Torse Adèle 1880
Auguste Rodin, Torse d'Adèle (1880). Musée Rodin (Paris).
Following Rodin's teaching was, among a plethora of students, Kuhne Beveridge who studied with him for several years at the end of the 19th century. While studying in Paris, Kuhne was in direct contact with other artists but also a lot of artworks from a few decades earlier. She visited museums and other artists' studios in order to gain skills and inspiration, from the Romanticism of Auguste Préault to the Realism of Rodin.   

Rodin was one of the first "stars" in sculpture, especially in America. Women artists, especially sculptresses, were numerous on the other side of the Pond and viewed Rodin as their "Master". Kuhne referred to Rodin as her dear and talented master throughout the years, "Mon très cher et talentueux maître" (courtesy of Musée de Rodin).

However, Rodin was not the only sculptor to depict women in "upward-reaching or stretching postures, expressing ecstatic emotions in what can be interpreted as images of liberation"(1). The Veiled Venus follow the same iconography, mixing the ecstasy of Therese d'Avila, and the sensuality of the end of the 19th century.  
Here is a selection of artworks sharing similar iconographical references with the Veiled Venus:
Giovanni Dupré, The Death of Abel (1853). LACMA (Los Angeles). 
In this sculpture, by the Italian artist Giovanni Dupré (1817-1882), the main character is no longer a woman but Abel. He has the same position as the Veiled Venus with his body stretching and his arms above his head. However, the character is dead, unlike the vivacity of the Venus.
Auguste Clésinger, Femme piquée par un serpent (1847). Musée d'Orsay (Paris). 
This sculpture's similarities with the Veiled Venus are striking: the woman is lying on the plinth and seems to expand as if the plinth was too small for her, especially for her upper body. Both heads are moving out of the plinth, trying to reach out to the viewer, to interact with him/her. The sensuality of the piece and the tensions in the body are similar to the Veiled Venus

Auguste Préault, Ophélie (1876). Musée d'Orsay (Paris).

Auguste Préault's low relief depicts Ophélie after her drowning, floating on the water. The waves and her drapery seem to be as one, creating the same effect as in the Veiled Venus

To analyse further the Veiled Venus' sensuality, have a read of a Queer interpretation of the sculpture here


(1) Helen Susan Fort, The Figure in American Sculpture: A Question of Modernity, Washington, University Press of George Washington, 1995.  

Kuhne Beveridge, Correspondance with Auguste Rodin (29 letters), Paris, Musée Rodin (unpublished).

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Vespertine York #2: Coffee Trail

Last June, I volunteered with the Vespertine team, for their second event: Coffee Trail, sponsored by York Food & Drink Festival, York Cocoa House and York Archeological Trust. is a series of free, monthly, twilight events, happenings and performances, hosted in some of York’s most intriguing and beautiful spaces and places of heritage (as said on their website).

I participated in their second event, named Coffee Trail which aimed to showcase a hidden story of York's coffee house. Before being a tea lover nation, Britain was in love with coffee. Those coffee houses were social gatherings like pubs and cafés nowadays.The event revolved around a coffee train in York, following different performances and food tastings. 

The first stop was at York Cocoa House, where visitors had the opportunity to taste chocolate flavoured coffee and to listen to The History Girls.  At this stop, visitors would learn about the history of coffee houses in York, which had been popular in the 18th century.
Octopus Collective at Vespertine #02 

The second stop was run by Octopus Collective Breadboard Orchestra. Visitors were invited to create their own piece of improvised music with several pre- recorded sounds such as sing violin bows, coffee beans / grinders, chopsticks and other small objects. It was really popular and playful while being associated with a tasting of chocolate flavoured beers. 
Banners Vespertine #02

The next stop was in the middle of Stonegate. Volunteers were holding banners with stories  from journal headlines relating to coffee houses. It is interesting to note that those coffee houses were perceived as "dangerous" places because different parts of the society could meet and interact with each other. They were soon to be banned. The poetry group "A Firm of Poets" was in charge of declaiming poems related to the event, my favourite one was on Manchester.

A Firm of Poets at Vespertine #02

On their way to the last stop, the beautiful Barley Hall, visitors were invited to have a look at the window display created by Jean McEwan, an amazing artist who works on a lot of community-based projects. The display's theme was the exclusion of women from the so-called democratic coffee house debates and discussions, created from women's zine and and coffee filters.

The Frozen Time Collective Vespertine #02

The last stop was in Barley Hall. Visitors were invited to wear a casque which would transcribe their brain activity into sound. This activity lead by the Frozen Time Collective played with the idea that at the end of the trail your brain would be more active thanks to all the coffee you have eaten/drunk. 

To sum up, it was a very enjoyable evening, a rare treat in York! All the stops were well thought out and engaging. You learnt more about the history of coffee houses and how popular they actually were at the time, while discovering local artists and places in York. 

I strongly encourage you to follow Vespertine and to come to one of their events!  

Friday, 8 January 2016

Reading List: New Year's Resolution

Being a PhD student means mainly that my reading list is a Danaus pithos, there is no end! Beginning this new year with a fresh start, along with being healthy and spending less time in front of the TV, my biggest resolution is to READ MORE and to write reviews on this blog. 

So here is my reading-list for January:

Interior Decoration:

Aprahamian, Peter, Ann Gore, and Alan Gore. The History of English Interiors. London: Phaidon Press, 1994. 

Day, Lewis Foreman. The Application of Ornament. London, B.T. Batsford, 1888.

Edwards, C. D., and Professor Gareth Shaw. Turning Houses into Homes: A History of the Retailing and Consumption of Domestic Furnishings. New edition edition. Aldershot, England ; Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2005.

Haweis, Mary Eliza Joy. The Art of Beauty. London : Chatto & Windus, 1883.

Hayward, S. P. “The House Useful and Beautiful : A Study of Late Victorian and Edwardian Theories of Furnishing and Interior Decoration.” Ph.D., Royal College of Art, 1990.

Long, Helen Clare. “The British Domestic Interior 1880 to 1914 : A Study of Fixed Decoration in Middle-Class Housing.” Ph.D., Brighton Polytechnic, 1990.

Neiswander, Judith. The Cosmopolitan Interior: Liberalism and the British Home, 1870-1914. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2008.

Neiswander, Judith Ann. “Liberalism, Nationalism and the Evolution of Middle-Class Values : The Literature on Interior Decoration in England, 1875-1914.” Ph.D., Queen Mary, University of London, 1988.

Orrinsmith, Lucy. The Drawing-Room: Its Decorations and Furniture. Macmillan, 1878.

Yapp, George Wagstaffe. Art industry, furniture, upholstery, and house decoration. London, J. S. Virtue & co., limited 1879], 1879.

Gothic Revival:

Aspin, Philip. “Architecture and Identity in the English Gothic Revival 1800-1850.” Ph.D., University of Oxford, 2013.

Lepine, Ayla. “Queer Gothic: Architecture, Gender and Desire.” Accessed October 13, 2015.

Lindfield, Peter Nelson. “Furnishing Britain : Gothic as a National Aesthetic, 1740-1840.” Ph.D., University of St Andrews, 2012.


Reid, Hew. “The Furniture Workers : From Craft to Industrial Union, 1865-1872.” Ph.D., University of Warwick, 1982.

Riall, Ernest. “Making Fashionable Furniture in England and France during the Age of Elegance,” 2012.

List made possible thanks to the best bibliographical tool ever: Zotero


Monday, 4 January 2016

Heraldry and Wallpapers: a Nineteenth Century Love Affair

Following an article on Herbert Cole and the use of Heraldry in Decoration, here is an analysis of the use of heraldry in Gothic Revival wallpapers in England. This article is based on my Master's thesis, available here (In French). 

Heraldry is commonly used in Gothic Revival wallpapers to revive History or family history. Hanging heraldic symbols on your walls is a social statement as well as a political one. 

Links between Architecture and Heraldry

Architecture and heraldry are extremely close in their meanings, they both aim to promote a rich or powerful family and to impress the visitors. In 1624, Henry Wottom in Elements of Architecture, emphasised the role of heraldry upon architecture: 

"To descerne him, will bee a peece of good heraldry, than of architecture." 

This idea is also used by Rowley Lascelles in his 1820 book, Heraldic Origin of Gothic Architecture, in which he compared the birth of Gothic architecture directly to heraldry. For him, heraldry gave birth to architecture elements such as crowns or coronets which come from heraldic motifs. 

Reviving family prestige 

Family prestige is one of the raison d'être of Augustus W. N. Pugin, the famous architect and designer. Across his whole career as a designer, he emphasized the role of heraldry as a way to remember the past, mainly your own past. Using medieval symbols to promote the family was not new to the 19th century, and many examples can be found across the 18th century. 

For example, Horace Walpole, in a letter to Sir Horace Mann (1750), praised the heraldry of Lady Pomfret, a notable supporter of medieval architecture. He referred to her pedigree as "infinitely richer and better" than Sir Horace Mann, and is impressed by her links to King Edward I.

However, with Pugin, heraldry has a moral meaning: you should learn from your ancestors and  learn from the medieval way of life, especially if you have chivalric ancestors whose main duty was to protect the population. This attitude contrasts with the one from the upper class, particularly towards the poor. An attitude shared by the politician Benjamin Disraeli as expressed in his novel, Sybil or the Two Nations (1845).  

Creating your own History

Augustus W.N. Pugin's father was not from a very prestigious background and felt the need to create his own lineage and his own heraldry. This heraldry is visible in Pugin's house La Grange. His wallpapers depict a small blackbird, a bird which is said to hunt in cathedrals, with vegetal tracery and his motto: "En Avant". 

L-shaped fragment of wallpaper, bird motif in roundel with scrolling foliage and gothic-style lettering, A.W.N. Pugin, UK, ca. 1840-44. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 
Pugin works for prestigious patrons and often had to create wallpapers for them. His designs were often linked to the past of the family he worked for but some wallpapers with heraldic elements are extremely similar. These similarities can be explained by the rules dictated by Pugin on how to create this heraldic designs, he does not try to re-create medieval heraldry but to create a "modern" (Gothic Revival-esque) heraldry. Each ornament has a place and meaning, and thoughts should be given while placing it on a wall. 

Pugin uses different techniques to adapt his creations to his clients, for instance in the wallpaper created for Lord Dough, Pugin clearly has worked with a medieval heraldry, with many traditional symbols re-designed or re-arranged by Pugin to make them look flatter. Whereas in his wallpapers for Henry Sharples, the style is much simpler and more "modern". 

Specimen of wallpaper featuring heraldic motifs, using green flock and gold paint; After designs in the gothic manner by Pugin, with heraldic motifs; Colour woodblock print and flock, on paper; One of three pieces (E.119-1939 and E.136-1939) made for J. G Crace for Lord Gough, of Lough Cutra Castle; England; Mid-19th century. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 

Specimen of wallpaper with gold heraldic motifs, outlined in black, and black and white circles containing stars, on a blue ground; After designs in the gothic manner by Pugin; Colour woodblock print, on paper; Made for J. G, Crace, for Henry Sharples, Oswaldcroft; England; Mid-19th century. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 
Heraldry Wallpapers and its audience

Heraldry wallpapers become more and more popular throughout the 19th century, for instance around twenty-two wallpapers designs are registered by the manufacturer Jeffrey & Co in 1848 with heraldry motifs. Designers of the Reform Movement such as Owen Jones start incorporating heraldry emblems into their decorative repertoires. 

Manufacturers start to produce wallpapers with heraldic symbols and to sell them. Several styles co-exist, the Pugin-esque style which is fairly plain and minimal, and the more flamboyant style with bright colours and perspectives. In this case, heraldry is merely a decorative element and used in dark places such as corridors and staircases, as recommended by decorators such as Charles Eastlake. 



- ALDRICH Megan, The Craces: Royal Decorators 1768-1899, Brighton, John Murray, 1990. 

- BANHAM Joanna, "Wallpapers" in ATTERBURY Paul, WAINWRIGHT Clive, Pugin a Gothic Passion, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1994.

- CROS Joëlle, L'Influence Médiévale sur l'Art et la pensée à l'époque Victorienne 1837-1877, PhD Thesis, Bordeaux, Université Bordeaux Montaigne, 1987. 

- HART Vaughan, "A Peece rather of good heraldry, than of Architecture heraldry and the orders of Architecture as joint emblems of Chivalry" in RES: Anthropology and Aesthetic, n°23, 1993, pp. 52-66. 

- LASCELLES Rowley, The Heraldic Origin of Gothic Architecture, London, Josiah Taylor, 1820. 

- LINDFIELD Peter, "The Countess of Pomfret's Gothic Revival Furniture" in The Georgian Group Journal, Vol. XXII, pp. 77-94.

- PUGIN Augustus N.W., Floriated Ornaments, London, 1849.