Friday, 5 August 2011

John Piper in Kent and Sussex and Charles Lock Eastlake at the National Gallery

John Piper: Brighton Pavilion, 1938
I have just returned from an intensive 3-week trip around the country, visiting over 30 historic country houses. I found good examples for the use of silver in interior decoration and some exciting colour samples in lesser known John Nash buildings. Of this more in a little while.

This post is just to draw attention to two colour-related exhibitions I must not miss and would like to recommend. They neatly span the 19th and 20th century. I have not been to either of them but will go soon.

The National Gallery, London, has put on an exhibition celebrating the life and work of its first Director, Charles Lock Eastlake (1793–1865), who translated the didactic part of Goethe's Zur Farbenlehre into English, published in 1840 as Theory of Colours .  He was a friend of Turner, whose heavily annotated copy of Eastlake's translation I have mentioned before, and later corresponded with Arthur Schopenhauer, discussing colour theory.
 Art for the Nation: Sir Charles Eastlake at the National Gallery
27 July – 30 October 2011
Admission free
Charles Lock Eastlake (1793–1865)
At the marvellous Towner Gallery in Eastbourne you can currently see John Piper in Kent and Sussex, which should be a feast for the eyes.

2 July – 25 September 2011
Masterpieces and hidden treasures tell story of John Piper’s love of the local landscape.

On my tour of historic country houses I didn't get to see much 20th century and contemporary art, but two small John Piper drawings at Chatsworth were one of the highlights on the trip for me. I love the way Piper interprets architectural colour in his collages and paintings. His palette is strong, with stark contrasts, and more often than not juxtaposed with a dark, threatening sky or background. His depictions of bombed out building during and after the war are particularly moving, with bright primary colours oozing out of darkness and destruction.

John Piper's baptistry window at Coventry Cathedral
He was later chosen by Sir Basil Spence (architect of my Alma Mater the University of Sussex) to design the large stained glass Baptistry window in Spence's new Coventry Cathedral.

Here at Sussex University he made a long rectangular tapestry for Spence's Meeting House (a particular interest of mine). His love for abstract colour design doesn't work quite as well in this particular tapestry (a much better example can be found at Chichester Cathedral) but he nicely mirrored the colour scheme of the surrounding glass in this circular building.
Interior of Basil Spence's Meeting House chapel at the University of Sussex, 1966 
The tapestry is currently being cleaned, while the Meeting House is undergoing major restoration.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Colour theory before James Clerk Maxwell

I haven't posted anything new on the blog for a while because I wanted to draw attention to the Languages of Colour project (see previous post). I have had very good poems, stories, non-fiction pieces and art work submitted. If I get enough funding for including everything I would like to include in good picture quality it should be a very nice little volume on colour. I shall be away for most of July, so the deadline can be extended to the end of July, should anyone like to submit any work after the end of June.

J.C. Maxwell's spectrum
 In other news, I am delighted that my work on Mary Gartside, the only known pre-20th century female colour theorist, is getting another outing. I have been invited to give a talk on colour theory at King's College London as part of a lecture series on James Clerk Maxwell, a Scottish physicist and colour theorist from the later 19th century. In 1861, when he was Professor at King's College London, he published the first of his papers on electromagnetism, and as part of his work on understanding colour, demonstrated the first colour photograph. My talk will focus on the 100-odd years before Maxwell, with a focus on Gartside:

Colour Theory before Maxwell

Date: Tue, 31 May 13.00 - 14.00
Audience: All welcome
A talk by Ms Alexandra Loske, University of Sussex
Details here:

Mary Gartside: Crimson, 1805

This talk aims to give a brief overview of theories on colour in the 18th and early 19th century. In the mid to late 18th century the influence of Newton’s 1704 publication Opticks dominates critical writings on colour. With the Romantic movement and the foundation of more organised cultural institutions such as the Royal Academy the notion of colour theory changes, culminating in extensive works by authors such as George Field in England and Goethe in Germany; the latter proving highly influential on the British art scene in the mid-19th century. I will take a closer look at one early 19th century colour theorist, Mary Gartside, who is an exemplary link between several English theorists and Goethe. Her story might explain and confirm certain trends in critical thinking and developments in colour theory in early 19th century Europe. The talk will be accompanied by numerous visualisations of colour theory, i.e. examples of colour charts, circles, spheres and stars from the original publications.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

"Languages of Colour" - Call for submissions: poetry, prose, non-fiction and art work

Dear all, I am preparing a small publication related to my doctoral research. If you are a writer, artist, art historian or scientist and feeling creative have a look at this:

The Frogmore Press is inviting submissions on the subject of COLOUR in art, poetry, literature and science. Successful submissions will be published in a volume with the working title Languages of Colour, with publication provisionally scheduled for autumn/winter 2011. The editor will be Alexandra Loske.

Mary Gartside: Coloured blot 'Crimson', 1805, etching and watercolour.
Photograph by Dominic Tschudin, The Colour Reference Library,
Royal College of Art, London
The Frogmore Press predominantly publishes poetry, short pieces of prose and literary reviews. This special volume intends to branch out into non-fiction, art history and the sciences. The volume will be illustrated.

We are inviting poems, very short pieces of prose, short reviews of classic works on colour, particular artists or works of art. Submissions may include images and may have been previously published, subject to copyright clearance. Translations are also welcome.

Maximum word length per submission: 1500; the shorter, the better.
We are particular interested in visual artists submitting graphic work to illustrate the volume.

For more information please email:

Deadline for submissions: 31 July 2011

Submissions should be sent with a s.a.e. to:

The Frogmore Press
Re: Colour
21 Mildmay Road
East Sussex