Event: Clare Pollard Talks about Ornamental Meiji Textiles at the National Museum of Ireland

OATG - Clare Pollard Talks about Meiji Textiles

Japanese fukusa wrapping cloth; silk embroidered with gold and coloured silk, c. 1878, National Museum of Ireland, 1879.204. © National Museum of Ireland.

Event date: Wednesday 28 September 2016, 4.15 – 5pm (viewing), 5.15pm (presentation)

The OATG has organised a viewing later this month of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century decorative Japanese textiles from the Ashmolean Museum’s collection, followed by a presentation by Dr Clare Pollard on discoveries made during a recent visit to Dublin.

Dr Clare Pollard is Curator of Japanese Art at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford. She has previously worked as Curator of the East Asian Collections at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.

Location: Ashmolean Museum, Jameel Centre Study Room 1 (for the viewing) and Ashmolean Museum Education Centre (for the presentation).

Admission is free for members, £3 for non-members. Registration is essential.

For more information, and to book your place at this event, please contact the OATG events organisers (oatg.events@gmail.com).

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Exhibition: Pure Land – Images of Immortals in Chinese Art

Ashmolean - Pure Land

Exhibition dates: 1 March – 2 October 2016

Pure Land is the name for the realm of the Buddha and other deities depicted in paintings since the Tang dynasty (AD 618–907).

Pure Land Buddhism is particularly associated with the cave temples at Dunhuang in northwest China, near the eastern end of the Silk Route.

During China’s war with Japan in the 1940s, many artists took refuge in Sichuan province, and from there some journeyed to Dunhuang and painted copies of the famous cave temple murals. This display shows rare examples of their work alongside other images of popular deities, particularly Guanyin, in paintings, textiles and porcelain.

For more information about the exhibition, visit the website of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK.

To read a fascinating and detailed blog post about the exhibition, visit the blog of the Eastern Art department at the Ashmolean Museum.

Exhibition: Scenes of Last Tokyo – Japanese Creative Prints from 1945

Ashmolean Museum - Scenes of Last Tokyo

Exhibition dates: 2 February – 5 June 2016

In the early twentieth century a new artistic movement emerged in Japan: the Sosaku Hanga (Creative Print) movement. Breaking away from traditional printing methods, which involved a division of labour in publishers’ studios, Creative Print artists designed, cut and printed their own work. The Scenes of Last Tokyo series, a collaboration between nine of the leading print artists of the time, was published in 1945, shortly after the end of the Second World War. The series shows nostalgic views of fifteen famous places in Tokyo as they were before wartime air raids destroyed much of the city.

Although not explicitly textile-related, the prints inevitably form a record of contemporary Japanese fashions, and will appeal to anyone with an interest in Japanese design across all media.

For more information, visit the website of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Event: OATG’s 2016 AGM followed by a Textile Show and Tell Session

Ashmolean Museum - OATG AGM - Child's tunic with flowers, North India

Event date: Saturday 30 January 2016, 1–4pm

The OATG’s 2016 AGM will begin at 1.30pm and will be followed by refreshments and the Members Show and Tell. Non-members are welcome. We will finish by 4pm.

OATG members are welcome to bring up to three textiles each at 1pm for display.  There will be tables and easel space available for display purposes.

If you are not sure of the details about your textile there is a good chance that other members will know something about it, so don’t be shy and bring something if you can. We are hoping that like last year there will be a wide and interesting range of textiles on show, though of course you will be welcome with or without a textile!

There will also be a trail of textiles that have recently been put on display in the Ashmolean Museum. Members can collect this print-out from the Ashmolean Welcome Desk at any time on the day.

This event will be held in the Education Rooms of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

We look forward to seeing lots of you there on the day!

Event: A Life in Boxes – Discovering the May Beattie Carpet Archive

Kathy Clough - Beattie Archive talk

Event date: Saturday 21 November 2015, 12 pm and 2 pm

Kathy Clough was the Beattie Archive Assistant at the Ashmolean Museum from April to October 2015. Her task was to rehouse and foliate some 30,000 documents, and along the way she came to know and love May Beattie. Kathy’s posts about her discoveries here on the OATG blog and published in the OATG’s magazine Asian Textiles show how diverse the material is, sometimes incomprehensibly technical and at other times revealing May’s quirky sense of humour. Kathy will be talking about the Beattie Archive, and there will be a range of objects on view, which help tell May’s story.

The event will be held at the Eastern Art Study Room, Floor 1, Ashmolean Museum, Beaumont Street, Oxford, OX1 2PH.

OATG members free, non-members £3.

For more information, please visit the OATG website.

Feature: Summer Travels with May Beattie, Fifty Years On

Now that the summer holidays have definitely drawn to a close, I’m happy to publish the third installment in our Beattie Archive mini-series from Katherine Clough, all about May Beattie’s summer adventures hunting carpets through Europe and Turkey. Through photographs and excerpts from her diary entries, we can experience some of May’s summer holidays vicariously, and get an insight into how the Beattie Archive was compiled.

For many the summer months are a time for adventures, relaxation and travelling abroad, with September signalling a return to working life. This blog post considers one of May Hamilton Beattie’s own summer excursions – in pursuit of carpets – in the summer of 1965, fifty years ago. Beattie travelled extensively in Europe, Central Asia and North America, visiting and recording carpets she encountered photographically, with analysis sheets and by recording her thoughts in detailed diary entries. In 1965 May and Colin Beattie left their Sheffield home by car to travel on a circuit through Europe to western Turkey and back again, driving through many countries, and stopping to visit rugs en route.

Map roughly showing the Beatties’ route by car in Summer 1965, as deducted from her diary notes in MBA Ref 63.

Map roughly showing the Beatties’ route by car in Summer 1965, as deducted from her diary notes in MBA Ref 63.

The opening paragraph of May’s diary shows how their journey did not always go to plan, but once at their destination she launched straight into intensive work on a rug collection:

July 1965

We left Sheffield on Sunday the 18th, crossed as usual to Ostende, after suffering two punctures and discovering a weak-walled tyre on the way down and non-acting brake lights. Hardly a cheerful beginning! We were off the boat by 4.20 a.m. and in Düsseldorf by 10.30. There were more rugs there than I was aware of and some interesting fragments. I worked at top speed and still did not finish everything by 4.30 when we had arranged to meet outside. Col. had missed his way back to the car so I foraged in the lunch basket and sat in the sun outside the Museum and ate brown bread and butter and bananas, having had no lunch.

Car problems would hit several times that summer, with May writing about how she veered the car into a ditch on 26th August, on the road out from Konya in Turkey. Fortunately, neither Colin nor May were hurt and ‘there was not much apparent damage to the car apart from the fact that the gear lever came away in the hand’ on impact (MBA Ref 63, f.669). After a couple of days’ delay waiting for the repair work, they were soon travelling again.

A photograph from another journey to Konya, Turkey, in 1973 captures Beattie’s recording of carpets en route with the carpet photographed while held out in front of a car (MBA Imag 24, f.46).

A photograph from another journey to Konya, Turkey, in 1973 captures Beattie’s recording of carpets en route with the carpet photographed while held out in front of a car (MBA Imag 24, f.46).

At the front of her 1965 diary May filed correspondence with museums and collectors that she hoped to visit, sent in advance of their journey. Her diary notes list her encounters with museums, religious buildings and members of the community as well as detailed descriptions of rugs inspected, offering insight into particular carpets, but also into her life as a researcher in the 1960s. For example, a local doctor is very helpful following a visit to a bishop’s house in Romania in early August (MBA Ref 63, f.609):

Pure gold was forthcoming – an official list of the numbers of rugs and fragments at present in the Evangelical churches. This was more than I hoped for, and luckily the typewriter was in the car so that I got to work in the office and copied the list and such correspondence as was relevant.

The thoughtful doctor also provided ‘a letter to look at church rugs, which will allay the fears of the good ladies with the keys, who naturally think it odd that anyone should want to spend a day making notes on rugs’ and the nearby museum allowed her ‘to take small pieces of rug’ (MBA Ref 63, f.609). Textile fragments from another part of the archive are labelled with the same town names as on her 1965 trip – these notes could potentially provide provenance and further contextualization to the material. Beattie built up an extensive collection of such carpet samples, creating a useful resource for today’s researchers, especially as non-destructive methods of analysis are preferred these days for museum artefacts with restrictions on destructive sampling.

This box holds over seven hundred individually-labelled envelopes containing tufts and threads of carpets collected by May Beattie from carpets in museums and field sites on her travels across Europe. A similar box contains a further four hundred samples from rugs in Central Asia, the United States and the Middle East. Both are in the process of being rehoused.

This box holds over seven hundred individually-labelled envelopes containing tufts and threads of carpets collected by May Beattie from carpets in museums and field sites on her travels across Europe. A similar box contains a further four hundred samples from rugs in Central Asia, the United States and the Middle East. Both are in the process of being rehoused.

In another research stop-off, Beattie found a Dr Ditroi ‘quite charming’ in facilitating her research: ‘I spent an hour on the floor of his office looking at rugs – a perfectly good but coarse Lotto, kileem style, and a ‘Tintoretto’ type – very odd’ (MBA Ref 63, f. 598). She also recorded her frustrations and the effects of her perseverance in attempting to access some museum stores: one custodian ‘klinked his keys’ and ‘bristled with indignation’ at her persistent determination to visit Turcoman rugs (MBA Ref 63, f. 596). Walking round museums Beattie also noted paintings depicting carpets – an ongoing activity that would build up into her ‘Rugs in Pictures’ image index that makes up seven out of the seventy-five boxes of the total IMAG archive material and over 1,300 folios.

All of May’s diary entries were typed out on the move after long days of viewing carpets, with accommodation often little more than a tent, making the detail included even more remarkable. May did take a short break from research, over two-thirds of the way into their trip – it seems mainly at Colin’s request – to enjoy the scenery of Kuşadası Bird Island, near Ephesus, for a couple of days. They then set off again driving north round to Greece, and on to museum visits in Florence and Milan in Italy. Finally, the last sentence of her travel diary on 9th September 1965, writing from Milan, records her hunting for a different kind of textile: ‘To-morrow we must search out woollen clothes for we are back to northern Europe and its rain and cold’ (MBA Ref 63, f.703).

Katherine Clough
Beattie Archive Assistant
Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology

All images taken by author © Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology