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.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Making the most of it (part 2) The Fitzwilliam Museum and shopping

After leaving the Botanic Garden, I walked back towards the city centre to the Fitzwilliam Museum; I realised I hadn't visited this year – doesn't time fly!

There are two temporary exhibitions on this month, neither had grabbed me as a 'must see' but as I had a whole afternoon to kill, I was more than happy to take my time and look around them. So, after a very tasty lunch and pot of tea in the museum café, I felt refreshed and headed upstairs to the shady quiet of the Shiba Room to see Flower Drawings: Redouté and his Pupils (the Fitzwilliam isn't big on sexy marketing of their shows!).

Of course, I've heard of Redouté (blousey roses meticulously painted by some French bloke that are reproduced on greetings cards suitable for great aunts) but I was taken aback by the paintings in real life . . . they are amazing! really really amazing! Reproductions simply don't do them justice. They are painted in watercolour on sheets of vellum, roughly A3 in size; the technique is stunning, no sharp outlines are visible and the modelling is so skilled that the flowers seems to float in space.

Nor did I realise – and I think that for me this was the most fascinating revelation of the exhibition – that Monsieur Redouté had a school of flower painting in Paris where he taught wealthy ladies (and yes, they were in the main female), in fact European princesses and the wives of aristocrats, diplomats and bankers. Look at them all in this painting by one pupil Julie Ribault, what an escape from stuffy drawing rooms and boring conversations about hankies and such!

Some of those ladies took their botanical painting very very seriously indeed, and they became (almost) as good as M. Redouté himself . . . look at those paintings on the postcards below – clockwise: by Louise d'Orleans, Adele Riché, Eugéne d'Orleans, Louise (again) and Pancrace Bessa.

Well, that was a totally unexpected joy! If you live near Cambridge it's worth a look.

The other little special exhibition is in the Octagon (I love this gallery space, the curators always seem to put on little treats here); this one is called Treasure Under Your Feet which is a nice title but needs a by-line . . . I'll call it "amazing archaeological treasures found in and around Cambridgeshire"

I spent a long time making notes about the exhibits; one was a hoard of 39 gold coins (staters) which were found hidden inside a cow bone! I'm making a collection of stylised animals from Saxon coins – this horse is a beauty!

There were so many fascinating things, not least the jewel depicted on the poster for the exhibition, a late tudor pendant, in real life it's teeny weeny! I was surprised by that, (the curator knew it would be a surprise, they had put a large photo of the jewel next to it) but nevertheless it is exquisite – apparently the metal-detectorist who found it, likes to imagine that it belonged to Elizabeth I, as she is wearing a pendant just like it in one of her portraits.

Next to the tudor pendant in the display was a gold ring, it had been found in the village just over the border into Cambridgeshire from my studio! And apparently a similar one was found in another village nearby – I must keep my eyes peeled when I'm out walking! I made a quick sketch, as the design was very intriguing (yes, I know my sketches are scruffy but I had hoards of Spanish students who were loudly chewing gum while looking over my shoulder).

Then I wandered off to make lots of reference notes I need for some prints I'm planning (all hush hush at the moment)

I'd filled up most of the afternoon, so it was time to get out into the fresh air and elbow my way through the 'rucksacks'* of language students to my favourite shopping zone in Cambridge – Trinity Steet and Green Street. I slipped into Cambridge Contemporary Art and enjoyed looking at ceramics by Bev Milward and Paddy Peters; prints by Clare Halifax and Liz Myhill; and paintings by Angela Harding. Then it was time to shop :-)

In the Rohan sale I found a perfect pair of trousers at a bargain price; and in Open Air I bought a present for Cliff and found a smart of new pair of walking shoes for myself! Of course when I went into Modish the evil shoe queen (her own description, not mine) 'made me buy' a pair of sandals (how does she do that?).

Phew! Quite a day!

And the Tardis has been fixed Well I have no way of telling if it is or not really, but after 6 hours I hope something got done – I know the Peugeot mechanics did something to it because the Bluetooth settings had been deleted and the clock was 8 minutes slow (guess who was late for Pilates!)

I now need to find the Tardis manual and work out how to set up the Bluetooth!


* 'a rucksack of language students'
thank you to Rachel for inventing this new collective noun

PS Bluetooth now reinstated in the Tardis, thanks to advice from the man at the hen feed store and no thanks to the experts at Peugeot - pah! what do they know! (gallic shrug)


  1. Not sure if you saw my comment yesterday Celia - but I'm off to the Fitzwilliam shortly to see the Redoute exhibition.

    Looking briefly at your post it looks like I'm in for a treat - I will have a proper read on my return!


  2. Have a good time! I'm looking forward to hearing what you thought of it.


  3. Wow, what a 'full on' day you had Celia. You crammed a lot in to a short space of time. I wish I could see the archaeological exhibition. It looks fascinating.I hope you'll be sharing the 'hush hush' work in the near future?....

  4. not yet a great-aunt, but i do enjoy m. redouté roses/flowers. they are quite soothing when the nerves are jangled. 'rucksack' is such an appropriate description.

  5. Those exhibitions wouldn't have appealed to me on paper but after reading about your visit I can feel a trip to the Fitz coming on next week.

  6. Oh that sounds like a fabulous day! Next time, take me with you ;)

  7. You certainly did make the most of it! What a wonderful detour and fascinating to read about the 'posh' ladies who paint!

  8. You certainly didn't waste any of your time did you? I think you had a marvellous time.

  9. We've only been to the Fitzwilliam a few times but it always struck me as a lovely friendly little museum - must go again now.

  10. When I was studying in Cambridge, at what is now Anglia Ruskin Uni, I promised myself as a treat at the end of my exams a day out at the Fitzwilli, to relax and to enjoy the exhibits. One thing I wanted to see was a very early tubula sliderule as one of my daily instruments was a "modern" one made by Otis King- this was before electronic pocket calculators you understand! The one I was interested in was wooden, about 2 or 3 feet long and if memory serves me correctly was Elizabethan in origin.

  11. Last saturday we dodged the 'EVL' students in cambridge on our way to the fitzwilliam. The boys did a great papercutting/bookmaking workshop. Afterwards I saw the redoute exhibition I was very suprised at how good it was.
    I too bought the postcards. I have to say Aricula was my favourite and it has inspired me to try to photograph them once I've grown some!

  12. Don't wish just to pick up on the least artistic point, but I just got the exact same pair of Rohan trousers, brand new with the tags on, in Oxfam. A tenner. Oh yes.

  13. Cambridge is just about an hours drive from here and certainly worth making.
    Love the art, culture,gardens, shops and more.
    Haven't visited the Fitzwilliam Museum yet so I'll add it to my list of things to do and see.


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