Events: Upcoming textile events

Several new talks and exhibitions coming soon….

Portrait of John Frederick Lewis. The cloth he is wearing features in the exhibition along with this portrait.

A new exhibition Inspired by the east: how the Islamic world influenced western art opened yesterday at the British Museum. It has been organised in conjunction with  the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, with the whole exhibition moving there in June 2020.

“The show takes a deeper look at the art movement of ‘Orientalism’ – specifically the way in which North Africa and the Middle East were represented as lands of beauty and intrigue, especially in European and North American art. Often blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, Orientalist art reached its heyday in the mid-1800s, as Europeans and North Americans were looking overseas to fundamentally learn more about other cultures, but its popularity had faded by the 1940s with the decline of the British Empire.” British Museum website.

Julia Tugwell, co-curator Middle East, has written an excellent blog on the subject here.

Location: Room 35, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG. 10 October 2019 – 26 January 2020.

 

Dr Fiona Kerlogue will give a lecture to the Oriental Rug and Textile Society (ORTS) in London on 16 October on the subject of Malay Gold Thread Embroidery from Jambi on Sumatra. Focussing on a collection at the Horniman Museum in London Dr Kerlogue will “explore the historical evidence for the influence of trade connections and the colonial presence on the materials and style of gold thread embroidery in Malay Sumatra, and explain the contexts in which the embroidered pieces were used.” ORTS website.

Location: St James Piccadilly Conference Room, 197 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LL 18:00

 

Andrea Aranow will be lecturing on Japanese Textiles in Philadelphia on 20 October. She will be looking at how patterned kimono cloth is produced from a variety of fibres including cotton silk and bast fibres. With over 200 examples from her collection available to view this should be a very enlightening session. Full details can be found here.

Location: Rikumo, 1216 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19107 14:00-15:30

On Saturday 26 October Dr Elena Phipps will give a presentation to the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California (TMA/SC) entitled Sacred Surfaces: Carpets, Coverings and Mesas in the Colonial Andes. 

“Textiles formed the surfaces of Colonial life in the Andes, and especially those associated with ritual and faith relating to the sacred realms of Christian as well as indigenous religious contexts. Carpets—woven of knotted pile or flatwoven tapestry– were not in themselves a form used in the region prior to the Spanish arrival. But these were introduced very early on in the 16th century by the Spanish who brought with them examples produced and influenced by Hispano-mooresque and Middle Eastern traditions. Andean weavers adapted to the form and techniques of their production, creating remarkable examples that manifest the complex interchange of the period.” TMA/SC Newsletter

Location: Luther Hall, Lower Level St. Bede’s Episcopal Church, 3590 Grand View Blvd. Los Angeles. 26 October 09:30 refreshments, 10:00 programme. Open to all with no reservations required.

Back in the UK Stefano Ionescu will deliver the annual May Beattie lecture at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford on 30 October. The title of the lecture is Anatolian Rugs in Transylvanian Churches: In the Footsteps of May Hamilton Beattie, and it is co-sponsored by Hali.

Location: Headley Lecture Theatre, Ashmolean Museum, Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2PH 17;00-18:00 followed by a reception. Please note – this talk is free but booking by 23 October is essential.

An exciting new exhibition has opened recently at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. Entitled East Jazz it presents “more than 30 unique Central Asian robes and fabrics from the collection of Alexander Klyachin and more than two dozen canvases of post-war abstract painting, collected by Swiss collector Jean Claude Gandyur. Having expanded and supplemented the exposition with works from the collections of the Pushkin Museum to them. A.S. Pushkin and the Paris Pompidou Center – Museum of Modern Art – Center for Industrial Design, exhibition curators will talk about the interaction of eastern and western cultures.”

Location: The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Ulitsa Volkhonka, 12, Moscow, Russia, 119019. 01 October – 15 November 2019

Looking ahead, next year the V&A will have a major exhibition on Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk tickets for which have now gone on sale. “This exhibition will present the kimono as a dynamic and constantly evolving icon of fashion, revealing the sartorial, aesthetic and social significance of the garment from the 1660s to the present day, both in Japan and the rest of the world.” (V&A website). Full details can be found here.

Location: Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL. Opens 29 February 2020.

 

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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