Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Inspiring interlude

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.



  1. Yes, most inspiring! I'm, going to make some coffee and come back for a "good look" at those links as soon as the "girlies" run out of steam...

  2. What a gorgeous day you had! They were going to take me to the Fitz on Mother's Day but we went to the new shopping centre instead. I think I missed a treat.

  3. To be quite honest I was yet to discover art in paint form, until I started to discover blogs like yours Celia. I haven't ever made time for it in my life, strange, because I do appreciate other's art, even though I cannot draw and paint myself. I love these tours around the galleries, places which I may never get to visit myself. The Dom Robert is just amazing, the colours are breathtaking. Something which I do know a lot about are chelsea buns! How amazing you can get them sent through the post from the bakery. Your shoes are absolutely gorgeous, may I say elegant, yet practical. I must look to see if this shop has a website? x

  4. Yet again you have pointed me in the direction of something inspirational! Thank you Celia.

    Those Chlesea buns are jolly good too.

  5. Thank you for a lovely post Celia - I think a trip to the Fitz is order for one day this week! (And of course Fitzbillies!)

  6. What a nice day you had in Cambridge.
    We loved Fitzbillies when we went there last year.
    Hannah from Hannah's Country Kitchen often goes to watch what their bakers do - and writes about it on her blog.

  7. What a gorgeous piece your photo shows! I've read that artists such as Cocteau, Bracque and Picasso were invited to Aubusson to "express themselves" through the medium of wool. I'd sure be curious to see what they came up with!

  8. Dinahmow - those kittens are keeping you on your toes!!!

    Threadspider - what a shame you missed it, but I'm sure you had a good time at Grand Arcade.

    Louise - I wasn't familiar with any of these French artists, but love their British contemporaries (Ravilious, Piper, Bawden, etc). I'm so pleased you enjoyed them too.

    CS - mmm FCBs yum yum!

    Gina - hope you have time to visit, they keep these little exhibitions so low key!

    GBVC - I've drooled over the wonderful posts Hannah has done about her visits to Fitzbillies - lucky girl!

    WWA - hi, I think Jean Lurcat was instrumental in encouraging artists to work with the tapestry weavers at Aubusson - try Google Images and you'll be sure to find some. I particularly like the tapestry designs by Chagall. It's incredible how the weavers can interpret the different styles.

  9. Celia, I have borrowed your Dom Robert image, for my blog. I hope that is OK. Thanks. x


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