Young Rembrandt exhibit in Leiden, the Netherlands

This Dutch 18 May 2018 video says about itself (translated):

Leiden has a new attraction where you can experience the work and life of the young Rembrandt. Exactly at the place where he got his first painting lessons, a special video presentation explains what the Leiden life of the young painter looked like.

With the Young Rembrandt Studio, Leiden is taking a first step towards making Rembrandt more present in the city. The Young Rembrandt Studio on the Langebrug street has only been open for a day and yet a lot of people come to take a look. First you have to walk past the souvenirs, and then you end up in the narrow building at a curtain.

Behind it is the 7-minute video. ‘I really liked it’, says a lady from Amsterdam. Together with friends she visits Leiden. “And without Rembrandt a visit to Leiden is not a real visit”, she says.

However, many tourists do not know that Rembrandt was born in Leiden and his first painting lessons were with history painter Jacob van Swanenburgh. Leiden Marketing has set itself the goal of making young Rembrandt a permanent part of what Leiden has to offer as a tourist city.

Big plans

‘This is one of the first places in the new Rembrandt Trail‘, says Lucien Geelhoed of Leiden Marketing. “And so we are going to develop a number of places, such as the Latin school [where Rembrandt had lessons] but also along the Rapenburg canal and around his birth house.”

No mass tourism

In addition, in 2019 it will be exactly 350 years ago that Rembrandt died in Amsterdam. And that has to bring money to both Amsterdam and Leiden. But Leiden people do not have to be afraid of mass tourism. ‘We are mainly targeting tourists who are interested in art and culture.’ It is the intention that young Rembrandt will get a permanent place in Leiden, so that the tourists will be able to find Leiden after 2019 as well.

This Dutch 17 May 2018 video shows an interview with an actor playing Rembrandt‘s painting teacher Jacob van Swanenburgh at the Young Rembrandt Studio.


English painter Annie Swynnerton exhibition

Mrs L Swynnerton, 1928, by Gwenny Griffiths, courtesy of Manchester Art Gallery

By Paul Mitchell and Margot Miller in England:

31 July 2018

Until the end of this year, the Manchester Art Gallery exhibition Painting Light and Hope is showing 36 paintings of forgotten Victorian artist Annie Louisa Swynnerton (1844-1933), a native of the city.

Painting Light and Hope is the first retrospective of Swynnerton’s work since before her death. Of the 39 paintings listed as in public collections, nearly half are held by Manchester Art Gallery and six are in London’s Tate. Single works can be found in a number of UK city collections and abroad in New York, Paris and Melbourne. Many more paintings are believed to be in private ownership, unknown or lost.

As the exhibition title suggests, Swynnerton was born into a time of struggle and also great expectations—a new era was opening up that promised an end to inequality and injustice encapsulated in her allegorical Sense of Sight (1895). …

Sense of Sight, 1895, courtesy of Walker Art Gallery Liverpool

Annie was born in 1844 in the working class district of Hulme in Manchester, the first of seven daughters to Ann and Francis Robinson, an attorney’s clerk.

Manchester was the motor of the Industrial Revolution and a city where fortunes could be made and lost. Francis Robinson suffered the latter fate. By the 1860s, he had risen to become a co-partner in a law firm which numbered the novelist Charles Dickens amongst its clients. The family moved to an eight-bedroom villa with two servants in a gated country estate, where the girls’ artistic talents were encouraged.

In 1869, calamity struck—Francis was declared bankrupt and the family home and contents were auctioned off. Two years later, Annie and her three sisters are recorded as living in two rooms in a terraced house back near Hulme, forced to support themselves.

Annie, whether because she was determined to be a professional artist or to develop the skills needed as a governess—one of the few ways women could maintain some sort of independence—attended the Manchester School of Art. There she won the top national scholarship and met her lifelong friend, Isabel Dacre.

In 1875, Annie, Isabel and others were finally allowed, after much petitioning, to join the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts, the main forum in which artists exhibited their work and from which women were excluded. However, the women remained subordinate, classified as “Lady Exhibitioners”—barred from holding office or attending life drawing classes so vital for artistic training.

The same attitude prevailed, nearly 50 years later in 1922, when Annie became the first woman to be elected to the Royal Academy, but only as an Associate member and being of an age (78) that disqualified her from office.

Another source says Laura Knight was the first woman ever to be elected to the Royal Academy. Yet another source says it was Laura Knight. Laura Knight became the first full member in 1936.

When the British Royal Academy of Arts was founded in 1769, Angelica Kaufmann, and Mary Moser, both of Swiss ancestry, were co-founders. After these two, this Academy admitted no women members until the twentieth century.

It is no wonder, that, as she looked back on her life, Annie declared, “I have had to struggle so hard.”

In the face of such prejudice, Annie and Isabel left for the more liberal art establishments in Rome and Paris to study, whilst pursuing greater freedom for women artists including founding the Manchester Society of Women Painters in 1880.

Annie’s sympathy with the working class and those who campaigned to do something about their situation is evidenced by the titles of some of her paintings, including The Factory Girl’s Tryst (1880), The Vagrant (1900s) and The Olive Gatherers (1889).

One of the first paintings in the exhibition is Reverend William Gaskell (1879), the social reformer and husband of the novelist and social critic Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865), whose daughters socialised with Annie. We are drawn towards Gaskell’s face, which Annie imbues with the feeling that this person has led a good and useful life.

Susan Isabel Dacre (A Mon Amie), 1880, courtesy of Manchester Art Gallery

More intimate is Susan Isabel Dacre (A Mon Amie) (1880)—a wonderfully tender and penetrating portrait that contrasts Isabel’s wistful face, full of light, with a totally black background, reminiscent of the chiaroscuro technique of Italian High Renaissance artists such as Caravaggio.

It is impossible, though, to pin Annie down to any particular movement or style in art. What is quite thrilling about the exhibition is that you can discover a talented artist experimenting with different styles, but also developing her own vision. All the works have in common an honesty and an optimism that reflects the age.

Some pieces show Annie’s engagement with the pre-Raphaelite movement, well known for its realistic style combined with mythological themes, such as the painting of nudes Cupid and Psyche (1890). The leading pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones declared of Annie, “I think most highly of her work—strong, powerful and beautiful in colour.”

Cupid and Psyche, 1890, courtesy of Gallery Oldham

With the support and friendship of Burne-Jones and other influential artists, Annie gained access to wealthy patrons and became well-known for her evocative portraits of their children, as in Geoffrey and Christopher Herringham (1889).

Geoffrey and Christopher Herringham, 1889, courtesy of Royal Holloway, University of London

At the same time, Annie brings nobility and beauty to her portraits of ordinary workers and peasants, as in An Italian Mother and Child (1886). In this painting, her earlier more subdued palette has given way to bolder colours and looser brushstrokes—the effect of working outdoors in the warmth and sun of Italy where she mostly lived after marrying the sculptor Joseph Swynnerton in 1883.
An Italian Mother and Child, 1886, courtesy of Manchester Art Gallery

Annie’s landscapes—”I was so entranced with the beauty of nature” she later wrote—became decidedly impressionistic and filled with light, as in the painting Capri (c. 1900s), which is a study of the “motion of water in the sunlight” and captures a backdrop of purple rocks lit up with a silver sheen. Houses huddled by the harbour in the island find their reflection caught in the water, more green than blue, all suggested by horizontal brushwork.

Capri c.1900s, courtesy of Private Collection on loan to Manchester Art Gallery

In the last room of the exhibition, the emphasis is on Annie’s involvement in the votes for women campaign—she signed the Declaration in Favour of Women’s Suffrage in 1889 and knew and painted the portraits of leading suffragists.

In pursuit of a feminist narrative, the catalogue is peppered with remarks such as that Annie “depicted realistic, unidealised female forms using layered and textured paint in her concern to portray real women’s bodies.”

Are her nudes realistic?

Oceanid, before 1908, courtesy of Bradford City Museums and Galleries

Oceanid, painted before 1908, is astonishingly sensuous. One shares the sensation of water running down the naked form of a sea nymph, and hears the waves lapping gently against her. Movement, translucency, light and bold colour envelop the robust figure enjoying a sea bathe. …

The nymph in fact conforms to the usual time-honoured portrayal of the ideal, perfect form. This, however, in no way diminishes the painting, which is a celebration of youth and beauty at one with nature. …

The most insightful assessment of the Annie Swynnertons of the Victorian world was made by the painter’s contemporary, Eleanor Marx, the daughter of the co-founder of scientific socialism, Karl Marx.

The authors of the article have abbreviated Eleanor Marx maybe too much. I have added additional quotations between [].

She described such middle-class layers as “earnest and thoughtful, who see that women are in a parlous state, and are anxious that something should be done to better their condition. These are the excellent and hard-working folk who agitate for that perfectly just aim, woman suffrage; for the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act, a monstrosity begotten of male cowardice and brutality; for the higher education of women; for the opening to them of universities, the learned professions, and all callings, from that of teacher to that of bagman.

“In all this work—good as far as it goes—three things are especially notable. First, those concerned in it are of the well-to-do classes, as a rule. [With the single and only partial exception of the Contagious Diseases agitation, scarcely any of the women taking a prominent part in these various movements belong to the working class. We are prepared for the comment that something very like this may be said, as far as concerns England, of the larger movement that claims our special efforts. Certainly, Socialism is at present in this country little more than a literary movement. It has but a fringe of working men on its border. But we can answer to this criticism that in Germany this is not the case, and that even here Socialism is now beginning to extend among the workers.]”

Eleanor Marx

“The second point is that all these ideas of our advanced women are based either on property, or on sentimental or professional questions. Not one of them gets down through these to the bedrock of the economic basis, not only of each of these three, but of society itself. .… [We will support all women, not only those having property, enabled to vote; the Contagious Diseases Act repealed; every calling thrown open to both sexes. The actual position of women in respect to men would not be very vitally touched. … For not one of these things, save indirectly the Contagious Diseases Act, touches them in their sex relations. Nor should we deny that, with the gain of each or all of these points, the tremendous change that is to come would be more easy of attainment. But it is essential to keep in mind that ultimate change, only to come about when the yet more tremendous social change whose corollary it will be has taken place.”]

The third point, Eleanor Marx insists, is that without “larger social change women will never be free. … [N]o solution of the difficulties and problems that present themselves is really possible in the present condition of society. All that is done, heralded with no matter what flourish of trumpets, is palliative, not remedial. Both the oppressed classes, women and the immediate producers, must understand that their emancipation will come from themselves. Women will find allies in the better sort of men, as the labourers are finding allies among the philosophers, artists, and poets. But the one has nothing to hope from man as a whole, and the other has nothing to hope from the middle class as a whole.”

Google wants film censorship to whitewash medieval Frankish monarchy

This video says about itself:

REDBAD Official Trailer (2018) Jonathan Banks Adventure Movie HD

During the year 754 A.D. the monk Bonifatius was killed in a Dutch town called Dokkum [in today’s Friesland province], according to history this was done by barbaric warriors. But was he indeed murdered in cold blood, or is that just the Christian take on the story?

Release Date: 2018
Genre: Adventure
Director: Roel Reiné
Writer: Alex van Galen
Stars: Jonathan Banks, Søren Malling, Renée Soutendijk

The film is about 8th century conflicts between the (polytheist) Frisian kingdom and the (Christian) kingdom of the Franks. The Frankish rulers used Christianity as a tool in their attempts to violently subject Frisians and other tribes.

The Frisian King Redbad is the hero of the film. According to tradition, Redbad was nearly baptised, but refused when he was told that he would not be able to find any of his ancestors in Heaven after his death, since he preferred spending eternity in Hell with his pagan ancestors than in Heaven with his enemies, especially the Franks. Reminiscent of a native Cuban in the 16th century. Captured by the Spanish invaders for opposing them, and about to be burnt alive at the stake. A priest asks the Indian to convert to Christianity; so, that after his horrible death he may go to heaven. “Do the Spanish soldiers go to heaven?” the Indian asks. “Yes, being Christians”. “Then, I do not want to go to heaven”.

As the trailer video says, now the film Redbad will soon be in the cinemas.

Unexpectedly, there was an attempt by Google corporation (its AdWords branch) to censor that trailer and that film. It is not that unexpected that Google corporation which censors critical sites, will do censorship: eg, their YouTube affiliate has censored German anti-nazis. The unexpected thing is that they now do not censor to save the ‘honour’ of United States President Trump, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, President Macron of France, media tycoon Rupert Murdoch or some other twenty-first century powerful person. The censorship attempt is to save the ‘honour’ of kingdom of the Franks autocrats who died 1300 years ago.

Google says they objected to the supposedly ‘offensive’ depiction in the trailer and the film of a Frisian princess being tortured by the Frankish rulers to force her to convert to Christianity. The censorship is in the name of defending Christianity. I doubt very much whether all twenty-first century Christians agree with early medieval Frankish autocrats abusing religion as a tool in their wars and oppression of Frisians and others.

Questions in the European parliament on this: here.

The producer of the film, Klaas de Jong, says about this (translated):

I really fell off my seat: it is bizarre that US Americans now want to determine what should be offensive to Dutch people.

Google corporation reminds me of the military dictatorship in Thailand. Which persecutes people for supposedly insulting a king. Not even the present king of Thailand (or the royal dog), but a king who died four centuries ago.

British journalist Dorothy Hartley

This video from Britain says about itself:

BBC Four documentary on Dorothy Hartley at Ermysted’s Grammar School – 2012

Food in England: The Lost World of Dorothy Hartley. Lucy Worsley journeys across England and Wales in search of Dorothy Hartley, the writer of what is now considered to be a masterpiece of food writing, Food in England.

First broadcast: 6 November 2012 Dorothy was the daughter of Ermysted’s headmaster, Edward Hartley and was born at the school in Skipton. Historian Lucy Worsley came to EGS in 2012 to film with former Head of History Doug Grant as well as some of the current boys.

The copyright in this recording is held by the BBC; this short extract from the programme is shared here for historical/educational purposes. All rights reserved.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

My fond memories of Dorothy Hartley

PETER FROST on one of his journalistic heroes, a woman who inspired his own Ramblings

Dorothy Rosaman Hartley wrote some of the best books on traditional English food, country crafts, rural traditions and much else beside. As well as books, many of which became definitive masterpieces, she also wrote a weekly column for the Daily Sketch between 1933 and 1936.

The Sketch may have been a low Tory paper but Hartley’s columns could be relied on to speak with the voice of the working women and men who were deeply engaged in the day to day feeding, farming and the many crafts of the countryside.

Now there is a chance to read many of her original Sketch columns in a book.

Hartley was born on October 4 1893 at the grammar school, Skipton, Yorkshire, where her father the Reverend Edward Tomson Hartley was owner and headmaster.

His wife, Amy Lucy Eddy, came from Froncysylltau, near Llangollen in north Wales, where her well-to-do family owned quarries. Amy it seems actually did most of the running of the school as well as teaching and catering.

Dorothy went to a convent school in Skipton until 1904, when her father retired through failing sight and became a country rector at Rempstone on the Nottinghamshire Leicestershire borders.

She then went to Loughborough High School and afterwards to Nottingham Art School until her education was interrupted by the first world war.

Like thousands of other women she went to working in the munitions factories.

When peace came she entered the Regent Street Polytechnic in London where she was a prize pupil, then taught at Nottingham Art School between 1920-22 and then in London.

It was at this time she took up writing and published a number of works on medieval life.

She wrote and illustrated her six-volume Life and Work of the Peoples of England and the Old Book, a medieval compilation.

Medieval Costume and Life not only recreated the clothes of peasants depicted in old manuscripts, but used photographs of herself wearing the garments.

In 1931 Hartley set off to travel by car across Africa — from Cairo to the Congo — and the photographs which she took on her journey were exhibited in London.

Between 1932 and 1936 Hartley toured the British Isles by bicycle and car, with pen, pencil and camera, writing weekly articles for the Daily Sketch on country people and their trades.

The articles covered such diverse subjects as horse-ploughing, crab fishing, thatching, bread making, and clog making. Many of the columns referred back to the 16th-century agricultural writer and poet Thomas Tusser with whom she would develop a lifetime fascination.

Till the end of her life if interrupted by an unwanted phone call she would answer “Go away, I’m in the 14th century.”

Medieval culture always held a particular fascination for her and she toured Ireland in the footsteps of the 12th-century prelate Gerald of Wales. This led to her 1938 book An Irish Holiday.

In 1933 Hartley made her home in a cottage at Froncysylltau and this remained her base for the rest of her life. Despite the long residence in Wales — and apart from one book on her Irish trip — she dealt almost exclusively with life in England.

During the second world war she wrote for publications of the United Nations and began work on her best book Food in England.

First published in 1954 it has has never been out of print. The detail of text and her charming illustrations made it accessible to a wide public.

In the post-war years she also taught at University College and Goldsmiths’ College in London, performed on television with Philip Harben and advised on the BBC Archers programmes.

Hartley died at Fron House, Froncysylltau in 1985. I still have most of her books on my shelf and refer to them more often than any other author. She never married but does occasionally mention the love of her life, a man she met in Africa.

In 2011 BBC4 broadcast a wonderful documentary presented by Lucy Worsley which is now easily available on Youtube. Now many of her original Daily Sketch articles have been collected and published recently in a book, Lost World, (Prospect Books). They are still worth reading.

How volcanism converted Iceland to Christianity

This 2017 video is about Ófærufoss waterfall in Iceland. It says abput itself:

Located near Eldgjá in central Iceland. Until the early 1990s a natural bridge spanned the falls, but it collapsed from natural causes. Pronunciation “oe-fai-ru-foss”.

a href=””>From the University of Cambridge in England:

Volcanic eruption influenced Iceland’s conversion to Christianity

March 19, 2018

Memories of the largest lava flood in the history of Iceland, recorded in an apocalyptic medieval poem, were used to drive the island’s conversion to Christianity, new research suggests.

A team of scientists and medieval historians, led by the University of Cambridge, has used information contained within ice cores and tree rings to accurately date a massive volcanic eruption, which took place soon after the island was first settled.

Having dated the eruption, the researchers found that Iceland’s most celebrated medieval poem, which describes the end of the pagan gods and the coming of a new, singular god, describes the eruption and uses memories of it to stimulate the Christianisation of Iceland. The results are reported in the journal Climatic Change.

The eruption of the Eldgjá in the tenth century is known as a lava flood: a rare type of prolonged volcanic eruption in which huge flows of lava engulf the landscape, accompanied by a haze of sulphurous gases. Iceland specialises in this type of eruption — the last example occurred in 2015, and it affected air quality 1400 kilometres away in Ireland.

The Eldgjá lava flood affected southern Iceland within a century of the island’s settlement by Vikings and Celts around 874, but until now the date of the eruption has been uncertain, hindering investigation of its likely impacts. It was a colossal event with around 20 cubic kilometres of lava erupted — enough to cover all of England up to the ankles.

The Cambridge-led team pinpointed the date of the eruption using ice core records from Greenland that preserve the volcanic fallout from Eldgjá. Using the clues contained within the ice cores, the researchers found that the eruption began around the spring of 939 and continued at least through the autumn of 940.

“This places the eruption squarely within the experience of the first two or three generations of Iceland’s settlers”, said first author Dr Clive Oppenheimer of Cambridge’s Department of Geography. “Some of the first wave of migrants to Iceland, brought over as children, may well have witnessed the eruption.”

Once they had a date for the Eldgjá eruption, the team then investigated its consequences. First, a haze of sulphurous dust spread across Europe, recorded as sightings of an exceptionally blood-red and weakened sun in Irish, German and Italian chronicles from the same period.

Then the climate cooled as the dust layer reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the surface, which is evident from tree rings from across the Northern Hemisphere. The evidence contained in the tree rings suggests the eruption triggered one of the coolest summers of the last 1500 years. “In 940, summer cooling was most pronounced in Central Europe, Scandinavia, the Canadian Rockies, Alaska and Central Asia, with summer average temperatures 2°C lower”, said co-author Professor Markus Stoffel from the University of Geneva’s Department of Earth Sciences.

The team then looked at medieval chronicles to see how the cooling climate impacted society. “It was a massive eruption, but we were still amazed just how abundant the historical evidence is for the eruption’s consequences”, said co-author Dr Tim Newfield, from Georgetown University’s Departments of History and Biology. “Human suffering in the wake of Eldgjá was widespread. From northern Europe to northern China, people experienced long, hard winters and severe spring-summer drought. Locust infestations and livestock mortalities occurred. Famine did not set in everywhere, but in the early 940s we read of starvation and vast mortality in parts of Germany, Iraq and China.”

“The effects of the Eldgjá eruption must have been devastating for the young colony on Iceland — very likely, land was abandoned and famine severe”, said co-author Professor Andy Orchard from the University of Oxford’s Faculty of English. “However, there are no surviving texts from Iceland itself during this time that provide us with direct accounts of the eruption.”

But Iceland’s most celebrated medieval poem, Voluspá (‘The prophecy of the seeress’) does appear to give an impression of what the eruption was like. The poem, which can be dated as far back as 961, foretells the end of Iceland’s pagan gods and the coming of a new, singular god: in other words, the conversion of Iceland to Christianity, which was formalised around the turn of the eleventh century.

Part of the poem describes a terrible eruption with fiery explosions lighting up the sky, and the Sun obscured by thick clouds of ash and steam:

“The sun starts to turn black, land sinks into sea; the bright stars scatter from the sky. Steam spurts up with what nourishes life, flame flies high against heaven itself.”

The poem also depicts cold summers that would be expected after a massive eruption, and the researchers link these descriptions to the spectacle and impacts of the Eldgjá eruption, the largest in Iceland since its settlement.

The poem’s apocalyptic imagery marks the fiery end to the world of the old gods. The researchers suggest that these lines in the poem may have been intended to rekindle harrowing memories of the eruption to stimulate the massive religious and cultural shift taking place in Iceland in the last decades of the tenth century.

“With a firm date for the eruption, many entries in medieval chronicles snap into place as likely consequences — sightings in Europe of an extraordinary atmospheric haze; severe winters; and cold summers, poor harvests; and food shortages”, said Oppenheimer. “But most striking is the almost eyewitness style in which the eruption is depicted in Voluspá. The poem’s interpretation as a prophecy of the end of the pagan gods and their replacement by the one, singular god, suggests that memories of this terrible volcanic eruption were purposefully provoked to stimulate the Christianisation of Iceland.”