Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Just add water? Not so simple!


Above:  'High Seas' by Budleigh Salterton artist Susanna Lance
Fairlynch’s exhibition of paintings inspired by the sea and coastal scenery have been much admired by visitors to the museum.  The display by Budleigh Salterton’s Venture Art Group members was deliberately based on a common theme to complement the Museum’s 2013 show entitled ‘Sea, Salt and Sponges.’

Inevitably the subject was found to have some difficult aspects. Whether painting a river, a lake, a stream or the sea most artists find that water presents one of the most challenging aspects of a landscape for them to master.


'Spume and Sails'
Budleigh artist and gallery owner Susanna Lance would wholeheartedly agree. Seascapes have been her speciality for the last 20 years and she continues to find both frustration and enjoyment in depicting subjects such as waves and ripples or the simple reflections of boats in still waters as in the study shown below.

Since moving to East Devon in 1988 she has specialised in marine art, turning professional in the early 1990s. “I look for movement and light in my subjects,” she says, happy to acknowledge that her paintings have met with considerable success.

“Some people often ask me if I’m a sailor because of the way that I’ve depicted the movement of water, but that’s because they are sailors themselves who spend a lot of time looking at the sea. I’m not a sailor - I just paint by instinct.” 

Born in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, in Malaysia, Susanna started her career as a supervisor in the jungles of Borneo assisting indigenous tribes to set up cooperatives. She spent several years travelling and working in various countries including India, Singapore and Norway before settling in this area where she runs Budleigh Salterton’s ISCA Gallery.  


'Yellow and Red Macs'
Susanna’s paintings have been shown at the Royal West of England Autumn Exhibition and she has also been awarded the Knight Frank Award at the Society of Women Artists (SWA) Open Exhibition. In summer 2012 her work was among paintings selected by the clothing designer Fat Face to celebrate talented artists in the South West of England by showcasing their masterpieces in all stores in the UK and Ireland.  

Click on http://iscagallery.co.uk/ for more information.



Sunday, 21 April 2013

Queen Victoria would not be amused!

How ironic that local primary school children may not be able to study Victorian and Edwardian history. For that’s in a town where the local museum is putting on three exhibitions this year relating to those important periods in Britain’s development. And where the town itself is full of landmarks dating from those times, including Fairlynch Museum itself.

This latest development in our schools, according to the Association of Independent Museums (AIM), would be as a result of yet another education initiative.  The Association is strongly opposed to the government's proposals to remove Victorian and early 20th century history from Key Stage 2 History, believing that it will have a damaging effect on children’s learning and appreciation of history.

Under the proposed curriculum changes 18th, 19th, and 20th century history would no longer be covered in primary schools; instead this would form part of Key Stage 3 taught at secondary school level.

AIM feels that the changes will prevent children from enjoying museum visits and being inspired by the history of these centuries at this important time in their education. Earlier periods are represented in far fewer museum collections and at historic sites.

The Association has pointed out that the history of Britain from the 18th to the 20th centuries was transformational and included widespread social, scientific and technological change which shaped present day society. Young people relate more easily to the period, and it is well represented in most museum collections, providing a powerful and popular teaching resource that can be easily accessed by schools as a day visit.

Museum organisations have joined with AIM in writing to Education secretary, Michael Gove, urging him to adjust the proposals for the History National Curriculum to ensure that “we do not exclude young people from inspirational learning experiences by clinging to too rigid a curriculum proposal”. 

Referring to the proposals’ “unforeseen but very undesirable consequence” of a “significant negative impact upon the learning experience of many young people”, the letter explains in practical terms what this means.  The letter is signed by Matthew Tanner, chairman of AIM; Diane Lees, chairman of the National Museum Directors Conference; David Anderson, president of the Museums Association and Brigadier Colin Sibun, director of the Army Museums Ogilby Trust - together representing the majority of museums in the UK. 
For more information about AIM click on http://www.aim-museums.co.uk/

Above: Portrait of Queen Victoria by the photographer Alexander Bassano

A case of interest for old things

My previous post at http://budleighbrewsterunited.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/latest-boys-toy-arrives-at-exeter.html  about the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital’s robot and the benefits that its arrival might bring for prostate cancer sufferers attracted as much attention from readers as anything that I’d written about Fairlynch Museum.

I suppose that there is a connection. In both situations old things feature prominently - in museums as well as in cases of prostate cancer.

So here we go with a follow-up which is very much to do with the latter.

Local residents concerned about prostate cancer will value the chance of hearing first-hand about latest news on the disease from the RDandE’s urology consultant John McGrath at a meeting on Thursday 9 May. The event has been organised by the Exmouth & Budleigh Salterton branch of North & East Devon Prostate Support Association and will take place at 10.00 am at the Manor Hotel on The Beacon, Exmouth.

To test or not to test? To talk about it or keep it quiet? How high can PSA go? Active Surveillance or Action Needed? And how successful will that action be?

There are lots of unanswered questions about cancer and perhaps as many relating to that annoying little gland the prostate as any other.

Discovering that two of my uncles had died from prostate cancer in their mid-70s helped to convince me that I’d opted for the sensible solution by deciding on surgery when my PSA started to rise. But are one’s genes the main factor involved in developing the disease? What about diet and exercise? And how likely are the side-effects from treatment going to be? And what is PSA anyway?

Come and find out the answers from an expert. New members of the Prostate Support Association are welcome. For more details contact the Branch Secretary David Warner on 01395 445614.   

Pictured above: Robotic surgery on a patient in progress



Thursday, 18 April 2013

Amelia's Adventures in the Museum: 1. The Costume Room


Find out what happened when Amelia explored the contents of the dressing-up basket in Fairlynch Museum's Costume Room and took a ride on Phoenix at http://www.devonmuseums.net/includes/documents/Amelia%20%20Adventures%20%20Costume%20Room.pdf

Monday, 15 April 2013

A view of Edwardian Budleigh Salterton

This early 20th century photo of Budleigh beach came to my attention courtesy of the useful Google news alert service.

It was first published in 1905 by the Detroit Publishing Company in a series of 'Views of the British Isles'

Monday, 8 April 2013

Art meets Science at Fairlynch

The sponge Clathrina Coriacea (Montagu, 1818) was greatly admired by Henry Carter
Image credit Fiona Crouch, Marine Biological Association of the UK

There’s an awful lot of science in Fairlynch’s 2013 exhibition ‘Sea, Salt and Sponges.’ There’s fearsome-looking medical equipment, a fine display of microscopes and much information about the geology of places ranging from India to Canada, not forgetting Devon of course. Not to mention the surprisingly intricate anatomy of sponges with all those complex chemicals that they produce which are providing useful weapons in the war against cancer and other diseases.

But Budleigh scientist and FRS Henry Carter (1813-95) whose bicentenary the Museum is celebrating was an artist in his way. He often shows himself in his writings charmed by the beauty of the marine species that he examined. Of the sponge Clathrina Coriacea (Montagu, 1818), pictured above, which he found on Budleigh beach he wrote “It veils the dark rock beneath with the most chaste and exquisite network that could be produced artificially. No representations of it hitherto do it full justice in this respect.


Under the microscope these natural wonders moved him greatly.  The species Rotalia spiculotesta shown above was one of the subjects of one of the naturalist Henry Bowman Brady’s (1835-91) celebrated 1884 monograph of foraminifera dredged up during the Challenger expedition. Carter had described it in 1877 as an “exquisite little organism”; it is now named after him as Carterina spiculotesta.  




A page from the 1869 issue of the Annals and Magazine of Natural History showing Carter's illustrations to accompany one of his articles  

He was proud of his skill as a draughtsman. “I employ no artist,” he wrote in 1872, “make my own drawings, and write my own descriptions to the best of my ability.”

Many scientists including Leonardo da Vinci have shown themselves to be talented artists. The best example of a 19th century scientist similarly inspired by the beauty of the marine environment was the German naturalist and supporter of Darwin's theories Ernst Haeckel, with whose work on sponges Carter was acquainted.

The work Kunstformen der Natur was a collection of prints based on Haeckel’s sketches and watercolours of marine organisms. It was published in two volumes as Art Forms of Nature in 1904 and has been described as influential in early 20th century art, architecture, and design, bridging the gap between science and art.


The 49th plate from Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur of 1904, showing various sea anemones classified as Actiniae

So contributions to the Fairlynch exhibition by members of Budleigh Salterton’s Venture Art Group have been welcomed at the Museum, which of course is also an Arts Centre.

The artists are mostly members of Budleigh Salterton Art Club who have come together with the aim of developing their technique through painting sessions.

There are works in oils, acrylics, pastels and watercolour, all for sale at affordable prices.

Artists exhibiting include Iris Ansell, Julie Bingham, Jane Briscoe, Sue Chapman, Teresa Creton, Peter Fletcher, Pam Harber, Jean Harmsworth, Audrey Holden, Wendy Markham, Dorothy Ormerod, Sally Roberts, Ken Simmons, Nick Speare, Chris Stacey, Sheila Stacey, Michelle Sykes, Judy White and Jenny Young.

The sea naturally features in many of the paintings. Water is notoriously difficult to portray in art.  Judge for yourselves how well the artists have risen to the challenge.

 'Summer Wave'  Wendy Markham  


 'Misty Morning'   Julie Bingham

'Moon Shimmer'    Nick Speare


'Sunnny Day at the Sea'   Teresa Creton

“The most interesting and challenging aspects for me are using texture in the painting of rocks, sand and sea,” says Teresa Creton. “I paint in an impressionistic style but I want my work to look realistic so the challenge for me is finding a balance between the two.”

Favourite views familiar with coast path walkers feature in many of the landscapes like these three paintings of Ladram stacks by Jean Harmsworth, driftwood on Budleigh beach by Chris Stacey and the Otter marshes by Iris Ansell.



But some of the artists have chosen subjects further afield, like Audrey Holden's 'Sunset Isles of Scilly' or Sue Chapman's 'The Lighthouse', seen below.






There's a good variety of paintings of coastal wildlife like Michelle Sykes's study of a seagull,
Jane Briscoe's 'Avocet' and Ken Simmons' watercolour 'A Fine Plaice.'

Something of the vivid and colourful life of the sponges that Henry Carter studied is conveyed in Dorothy Ormerod’s work ‘Ocean Floor’

Sheila Stacey's  'Seahorse & Sponges' was inspired by a photo taken by Singapore wildlife photographer Ria Tan.  The sponge in the painting, Pseudoceratina purpurea, was first described by Henry Carter in 1880 and incidentally has been identified recently as a source of cancer-beating chemical compounds by a team at Imperial College London.

I think Budleigh Salterton's most celebrated scientist would be delighted with this painting and with all the others on display at the Museum.

Fairlynch’s exhibition ‘Sea, Salt and Sponges’ is open from Friday 29 March until the end of September. The Museum is open daily except Saturdays from 2.00 - 4.30 pm. Admission is free. For further information see www.devonmuseums.net/fairlynch


Mayor cuts Cakus carteri to honour Devon scientist


Budleigh-born Fellow of the Royal Society Henry Carter had many species named after him, including a gecko, the frankincense tree and a rather unpleasant fungus. But it’s especially for his research into marine sponges that this army surgeon was internationally known in Victorian times earning the admiration of no less a person than Charles Darwin.  

So celebrating his achievements with a specially baked cake in the shape of a sponge seemed only natural. Budleigh Salterton’s Mayor Courtney Richards is shown with Cakus carteri, Fairlynch 2013 at the opening of a bicentenary exhibition at the town’s museum. Pictured left is Priscilla Hull, co-founder and President of Fairlynch Museum.

Museum assistant Sylvia Merkel admires Cakus carteri, a novel Victoria sponge

And the cake?  Naturally a Victoria sponge, provided by Fancyflours of Exmouth and enjoyed by more than 30 Friends of Fairlynch and local residents who attended the event.

‘Sea, Salt and Sponges’, the Museum’s 2013 exhibition to honour Henry Carter’s birth 200 years ago, is open daily from 2.00 - 4.30 pm except Saturdays and runs until October. Admission is free. For more details see the website at www.devonmuseums.net/fairlynch   

That Alan Cotton painting could be yours


Many visitors to Fairlynch Museum have admired this painting by local artist Alan Cotton. It hangs alone in the Environment Room, away from the Museum’s other pictures. That’s probably because it’s inspired by the ancient landscape of Woodbury Common with those mysterious Bronze Age burial sites that fascinated Budleigh archaeologist George Carter (1886-1974). 

“I love this picture”, says Fairlynch Art expert Angie Harlock-Wilkinson. “Alan Cotton pulls our gaze irresistibly into this beautiful, timeless evocation of the Otter Valley by leading it along the sinuous 'S'-shaped curves of the silhouetted trees into the blue distant hills on the horizon.  The hunched, ancient oaks look as 'at home' in this familiar landscape as the wildebeest might do on the African plains.”

Living in Devon since the late 1960s has been an inspiration for Alan Cotton’s art but he has portrayed landscapes worldwide.  In early 2005 he was invited by the Prince of Wales to be his tour artist and accompany him to Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. 

The Mediterranean has featured regularly in his work. Two examples from a Budleigh Salterton private collection will be coming up for sale on Monday 22 April 2013 at Bicton Street Auction Rooms in Exmouth.  The largest is a scene of the Grand Canal in Venice (75 x 60cm) and the other is entitled 'Market at Midday in Marakech' (50cm square).

Auctioneer Piers Motley-Nash thinks that each painting will fetch in the region of £400-600 and recommends a pre-sale viewing. “I believe that while some examples by Alan Cotton sold in galleries fetch five-figure sums they fetch far less at auction,” he says.  “The Venice painting was sold by Messum's in London for in the region of £10,000.”

Viewing is on Thursday 18 and Friday 19 April from 9.30am - 5.00pm and Saturday 20 April from 9.30am - 1.30pm. The sale on Monday 22 April begins at 10.00am. For more information click on http://www.piersmotleyauctions.co.uk/

Piers anticipates special interest in the works because of the artist’s association with the West Country. A past president and founder member of the SW Academy of Fine and Applied Arts, Alan Cotton has served on many art committees in South-West England - he is President of the Budleigh Salterton Art Club http://budleighsaltertonartclub.org.uk/ 

Born in 1936 Alan Cotton attended Redditch, Bourneville and Birmingham Schools of Art and Birmingham University. He was senior lecturer in Painting and Art History at Rolle College in Exmouth for a dozen years but resigned to paint full time in 1982, going on to become one of Britain’s most distinguished landscape painters.

Since the mid-1960s he has specialised in using a palette knife rather than a brush. Art historian Jenny Pery’s biography Alan Cotton: On a Knife Edge was published by Halsgrove in association with David Messum Fine Art Ltd in 2003.



RAMM’s Holly lends a helping hand at Fairlynch

Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery  
Image credit: Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery and Exeter City Council

It seems appropriate in 2013 to remember the links between Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum www.exeter.gov.uk/ram  and the much smaller Fairlynch Museum. 
It was exactly two hundred years ago that the first steps towards a museum for the city were taken when the Devon and Exeter Institution opened in 1813, with the aims of “promoting the general diffusion of Science, Literature and Art” and of “illustrating the Natural and Civic History of the County of Devon and the City of Exeter.”  And it was in that year that Henry Carter, one of the county’s great scientists, pictured below, was born in Budleigh Salterton.




So RAMM’s contribution to Fairlynch Museum's bicentenary exhibition in Carter’s honour was only to be expected. After all, the world-renowned sponge expert from Budleigh is known to have presented at least 38 zoological and botanical specimens to the city’s museum between 1875 and 1885 during his retirement, including British and Australian sponges, corals and mammoth hair from Eschscholtz Bay in North America.


Hair of Siberian mammoth Elephas primigenius  found in ice at Elephant Point at Eschscholtz Bay North Coast of America. Acquired by RAMM 2 February 1881 from a bequest made by Henry Carter
Image credit: Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery and Exeter City Council

Fairlynch was fortunate in coming into contact with Holly Morgenroth, now RAMM’s Curator of Natural History. Brought up in Otterton, Holly knows the Budleigh area well and immediately volunteered her help when Fairlynch’s Michael Downes turned up unannounced at RAMM with his plans for a bicentenary tribute to Carter. 

“We really appreciate Holly’s expertise and readiness to help make a success of our exhibition,” said Michael. “We may be a small museum but our ‘Sea, Salt and Sponges’ show to honour Henry Carter has been marked by lots of enthusiasm and goodwill from a wide range of contributors.  We have rare fossils, amazing Victorian medical equipment, beautiful crystals, strange-looking sponges and even some very special art work to make an enjoyable experience for visitors.”

Holly began her museum career in Plymouth as a volunteer in the natural history department while studying Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology at the city’s University.  After a year’s Museum Studies at Leicester University she worked at the National Museum of Wales in  Cardiff  before joining RAMM in 2010.  Her latest appointment at RAMM in January this year as Curator of Natural History came after a dream holiday in New Zealand, during which she spent a fascinating week’s work experience at Auckland War Memorial Museum.  

During her time in New Zealand with the natural sciences team she assisted with the curation of a collection of exotic butterflies, helped to sort their pickled fish and pressed seaweed collections and went hunting with the Curator of Entomology for giant weta - a large cricket- in the park that surrounds the Museum.

Holly, on the left, is pictured with a colleague Emily Feltham putting the finishing touches to a display of glass sponges kindly loaned by RAMM

The Venus’ flower basket sponges on display at Fairlynch

These extraordinary specimens including Euplectella aspergillum - better known as Venus’ flower basket - continue to fascinate and inspire naturalists and collectors alike today. The broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough chose Glass sponges as one of his top ten most beautiful and most remarkable living organisms among endangered species. They were featured in a BBC Two wildlife special entitled ‘Attenborough's Ark’ which was broadcast in November last year.  

 Also on display is a Glass rope sponge from RAMM's collection

Fairlynch’s exhibition ‘Sea, Salt and Sponges’ is open from Friday 29 March until the end of September. The Museum is open daily except Saturdays from 2.00 - 4.30 pm. Admission is free. For further information see www.devonmuseums.net/fairlynch




Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Scientist in The Cottage

Museum visitors are often keen to take away a souvenir of an exhibition. This 40-page booklet is an informative guide to the life and achievements of Budleigh scientist Henry John Carter FRS, the main subject of Fairlynch Museum’s 2013 exhibition ‘Sea, Salt and Sponges.’ Based largely on material from 19th century journals it offers some interesting insights into the Victorian era in which he lived.  

There are sections on Carter’s medical career, on his time in southern Arabia, his work in geology and especially his research into sponges for which he is justly celebrated. Much admired by Darwin for his research Carter returned to his home town of Budleigh Salterton after twenty years as a doctor in India. He settled in the family home of The Cottage on Fore Street Hill, better known today as Umbrella Cottage.

With a useful timeline to Carter’s life and fascinating images, many in colour and never previously published, the booklet written by Fairlynch Museum’s Michael Downes is an attractive bicentennial tribute to one of Devon’s great scientists  which contributes usefully to the history of the county. It is on sale for £3.50 with all profits benefiting Fairlynch Museum. 

The Scientist in The Cottage is available at the following outlets:

Best Books, Exmouth Tel: 01395 272888
Fairlynch Museum, Budleigh Salterton Tel: 01395 442666
Paragon Books, Sidmouth Tel: 01395 514516
The Card Shop Too, Budleigh Salterton Tel: 01395 446767
The Tourist Information Centre, Budleigh Salterton. Tel: 01395 445275

To order by post please send a cheque payable to Fairlynch Museum for £4.50 including UK postage to: Primrose Publications, Heather Cottage, 9 Exmouth Road, Budleigh Salterton, Devon  EX9 6AF 
Tel: + 44(0)1395 446407  Email: primrosepublications@gmail.com 
Below are some of the colour illustrations used in the booklet:

Budleigh Salterton in 1868: a watercolour painting by the amateur geologist Arthur Wyatt Edgell (1837-1911)


An illustration from Philip Henry Gosse's British Sea-Anemones and Corals (1860)

The sponge Coelocarteria singaporensis, named after Henry Carter
Image credit: Gary C. Williams, California Academy of Sciences

A typically Anglo-Indian ex-army officer on Budleigh beach as portrayed by Joyce Dennys 

 An 1849 engraving of the Devon and Exeter Hospital.
Image courtesy of the Devon and Exeter Medical Society

"A marvel of design"  (Sir David Attenborough). The Venus's flower basket sponge alongside the Swiss Re Tower, London, with the church of St Mary Axe in the foreground.  
Image credit: NOAA/Monterey Bay Aquarium and Aurelien Guichard