A couple of weeks ago, I took myself off for the day in search of inspiration. I got the train up to Liverpool to visit the Walker Art Gallery and the Mucha exhibition. The gallery houses one of the largest art collections in England, outside London, with works from the 13th Century to present day.
One of the finest art galleries in Europe, the Walker Art Gallery is home to renaissance masterpieces, Tudor portraits and one of the best collections of Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite art in the country.
For 130 years it has housed Liverpool’s most outstanding art collection. Many of the gallery’s most important works have been on display in the city for nearly 200 years.
The gallery also has an outstanding display of contemporary art including work by David Hockney, Lucian Freud and Bridget Riley.
I started downstairs in the sculpture gallery, a room crammed full of marble and plasters. The stone carvings were wonderful, you can really appreciate the skill of the artists to invoke such beauty from a lump of stone. I didn’t get the artist or title of this one.
And I loved all of the little details around this winged cherub – ‘Puck’, Harriet Goodhue Hosme
Next was the Arts & Crafts room, this is always one of my favourites!
This gorgeous glass cup & saucer from Venice is called a Trembleuse (trembler) and was designed to stop the cup from tipping. I would love to explore that idea in my own work!
And this beautiful little Ruskin Pottery Vase uses lustre glazes, something I’ve been exploring myself… I think I need a lot more practice to get anywhere close to this!
A stunning example of an arts and crafts tile. The carving is so delicate the tile looks nearly flat from the side… I would love to get this depth in my work!
It was already lunchtime, so I went to sit outside in the sunshine and watch the world go by with a sandwich and a friend. He eyeballed me all the way through my meal!
After lunch, I headed upstairs to the painting galleries. The works are set out over various rooms with ranges of artworks from medieval times up to modern day. It’s tempting to show you every photo I took, but I’ve just picked a few favourites…
Christ Discovered in the Temple – SIMONE MARTINI, 1342
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I – NICHOLAS HILLIARD, 1573 – 1575
Henry VIII – HANS HOLBEIN THE YOUNGER, 1537
Information provided by The Walters Art Museum has dated this as one of the earliest copies of the Mona Lisa, painted between 1630 and 1660.
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – HARMENSZ VAN RIJN REMBRANDT, 1629 – 1631
Landscape – J.M.W. TURNER, c1845
Fox Leaving Cover – JAMES POLLARD, 1830
The Punishment of Lust/The Punishment of Luxury – GIOVANNI SEGANTINI, 1891
Echo and Narcissus – JOHN WILLIAM WATERHOUSE, 1903
An Idyll – MAURICE GREIFFENHAGEN, 1891
After a good look round all of the other rooms, it was time to tour the Mucha exhibition. Unfortunately photographs weren’t allowed, so I had to make do with a book of the exhibition. But the artwork inside was incredible, and so inspirational. Although I’ve never been particularly flowery, I do love Mucha’s style with the heavy, floral motifs around the subject. The simplicity of the lines also really appeals to me with just enough detail to suggest what you’re viewing.
My final piece of inspiration where it all came together was this carving. You can’t tell from the photo, but it’s about 6″ deep, and looking at it, something clicked. I could create tiles with depth. Wall sculptures combining all the things I love.
Relief of St Jerome Reading in a Cave – ANDREA ALESSI, 1470-2
So here are the results of my day with all of that wonderful art. You may have noticed that I love hares, they are the perfect subject for the focal point, surrounded by the flora from their natural world. The first is a Summer Hare surrounded by poppies.
An Autumn Hare with leaves & berries.
And a Spring Hare with tulips & daffodils.
I’m still learning as I go. Porcelain is wonderful and terrible to work with, the first hare cracked during the glaze firing, which got worse as I re-fired with the enamel decoration. I don’t mind so much that he broke though, I get to keep him on my wall… I still love him even with his flaws!
I also need to remove some of the thinner parts around the outer edges to make them less delicate, the others have suffered from my heavy handedness, but I think once I’ve ironed out the kinks, they’re going to be pretty nice!
So if you’re lacking a bit of inspiration, I would highly recommend taking yourself out for the day and looking at art, after a long time of floating around, it’s had a wonderfully positive effect on me! If you’re in the UK, the Mucha exhibition is open until 29th October. The gallery is free to enter, but the exhibition needs a ticket, I’d say it was well worth the £7 to get in 🙂