The other day I checked to see if there were any special exhibitions at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, as I'd have time to visit on Sunday afternoon. This is what I found . . .
French Tapestry and Illustration
For this exhibition, a highly significant bequest of eight French 20th century Aubusson tapestries is linked with a gift from the Walter Strachan Archive. Strachan (1903-1994) was a teacher, translator, poet, Francophile and promoter of the arts, known especially as the "defender in England of the livre d’artiste".
Now, I think the person who wrote that isn't gifted at marketing. In fact it's not exactly clear what the exhibition is of! But this photo looked intriguing so this afternoon I went along . . .
The exhibition is tucked away in the Octagon, a little gallery upstairs in the museum and it's a real gem! There was no catalogue, so I scribbled notes in the back of my diary . . . Walter Strachan (1903-1994) was a teacher of modern languages at Bishop's Stortford College from 1928 to 1947. He was also a gifted translator of European poetry. In 1945 he saw an exhibition in Paris of Livres d'Artistes and began a collection of limited edition artist's books created by some of Europe's most talented comtemporary artists. He became a friend to many of the artists and his collection includes hand printed New Year cards, letters and menus.
In 2007 Walter Strachan's archive was donated to the Fitzwilliam Museum, and this little exhibition shows a selection of the Livres d'Artistes and other illustrated items accompanied by letters and notes between the artists and Walter Strachan. Many of the artists also designed tapestries woven in Aubusson, France, and this exhibition shows eight beautiful tapestry panels. It's frustrating that I can't find more images to link to, but these were my favourites . . .
Jean Lurcat (1892-1966)
Herbe Bleue is his beautiful butterfly design I've shown above. His illustrations depict an array of wild and fanciful beasts! If I'm ever near Angers I'll definitely find time to visit the Musee Jean Lurcat.
Simon Chaye (b. 1930)
Eclosion is a design of birds in the branches of a pussy willow in shades of yellow ochre reds and black – I think this was my favourite in the exhibition. I loved how the areas between the branches were woven in different shades of ochre, giving the the design depth.
Marc Saint-Saens (1903-1973)
A pair of tapestries depicting night and day, the Le Jour design includes a little bird perched on one of the rays from the sun! (A larger more complex example of Saint-Saens work can be seen here)
Dom Robert (1907-1997)
Coq une de mai is a joyful design of a beady eyed black cockerel in a field of wild flowers. (I've found a very similar image here)
What an unexpected inspiring interlude! I celebrated by popping into Fitzbillies to buy a Chelsea bun. While I was waiting in the queue I read the framed 'thank you' letters in the window . . .
"thank you from my tummy" Stephen Fry
"I'll have three of everything" Professor Stephen Hawkings
(It's is a very very special cake shop!)
. . . and a new pair of Think! shoes from that lovely shoe shop – Sundaes in Green Street.