Friday, December 15, 2006

Hopetoun House, Scotland

Hopetoun House, near Edinburgh

Hopetoun House is one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in Great Britain. The house, located on about 150 wooded acres just outside of Edinburgh, was begun in 1699 by the well-known Scottish architect William Bruce. The commission came at the request of Lady Margaret Hamilton, whose husband, John Hope, had purchased the land with the intention of building a great estate, but died before it could be realised. Hamilton carried out the wishes of her husband and began construction of the house upon the marriage of her son to the sister of the Marquess of Anandale, an avid art collector. Upon the death of the Marquess, his collection passed to his sister and thusly formed the basis of Hopetoun's remarkable offerings of paintings and tapestries.

Hopetoun was greatly expanded by another famous Scottish architect, William Adam, in the 1720s, when it took on its present shape and ornamentation - a massive colonnade along the new front facade, two anchoring pavilions, and a highly fashionable enfilade of receiving rooms that were testament to the growing wealth of the Hope family. Adam died before the work was finished and two of his three architect sons, Robert and James, completed the project in the early 1750s.

The estate provides a tremendous study in 18th and 19th century country-house life through a private archive located in a small anteroom in the original core of Bruce's design. The documents reveal a detailed story of how rooms were used - and changed - over the course of the last 300 years. There are numerous accounts of the day to day operations of the estate, as well as family letters and instructions to staff regarding the visits of a German prince in 1819 and George IV in 1822, shortly after a major renovation of the yellow and red drawing rooms and the conversion of the state bed chamber into a formal dining room. The receipts and sketches from this era in the house's history offer their own unique glimpse into early 18th century design, and how tastes travelled from the Continent and from London all the way up to the Scottish countryside.

Hopetoun, which has been maintained by a private trust since 1974, is divided into two sections, public and private, as the family still occupies one wing of the house. The entire estate continues to undergo renovations largely funded by The Heritage Lottery and has recently established a textile conservation studio and restored the Round Pond and Jet d'Eau at the rear garden.

The house and surrounding grounds are open to the public from Easter to late September, but pre-arranged tours can be scheduled throughout the year. The estate is also hosts weddings and other corporate and private events.

Lads and Lasses

A late 19th-century Staffordshire Highland couple from Tim Wright Antiques in Glasgow well represents the shop's fine collection of Scottish decorative arts and memorabilia. From Weymess and Mauchline wares, to treen bowls and quaiches, you'll find it in the shop's comfortably-appointed rooms in a former 19th-century town house on Bath Street.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Live and Let Live

Faux-Roe deer antlers
Cast resin with a white-painted finish
A set of three, each a different size

Friday, December 08, 2006

An Englishman's Take

Images from the Scottish Highlands by Glyn Satterley:
Cairnsmore Stalking Ponies and
The Ghillie's Burden, Harris

Foresight, 18th-Century Style

Skokloster Slott, situated on Uppland's Lake Mälaren, near Stockholm, is one of Scandinavia's greatest examples of Baroque architecture and contains one of the largest art collections in Europe. The castle was begun by Carl Gustaf Wrangel, a high-ranking Swedish army officer, in the mid-17th century but construction was never completed. That it survived in tact, despite being uninhabited, is largely due to Wrangel's eldest daughter, Margareta Juliana Brahe, who stipulated upon her death in 1701 that the castle be maintained precisely as it had during her father's lifetime. Even the guns in the armory were to be kept polished and in working order. The castle and grounds are a time capsule of 17th century courtly life.

The castle was designated a national museum in 1967 and underwent a major restoration in the 1970s by Öve Hidemark, court architect to King Carl XVI Gustaf. Hidemark's revolutionary approach to the conservation of historic buildings became the foundation of Sweden's national preservation program.

Rooms are furnished with elaborate textiles, Dutch gilded-leather tapestries, 17th and 18th century furniture, and old master paintings. An intricately painted library on the top floor houses thousands of rare books and maps. There is also an armory and the massive, unfinished banqueting hall, set just as it was in 1676 - bare floors and work tables laden with tools - upon word of Wrangel's death.

Clever Cups

Åsa Lindström
Snaps glasses
Porcelain, gilding
Blås & Knåda, Stockholm

Contemporary Crafts in Sweden

Ceramics by Mia E. Göransson (top) and Barbro Johannson, are among the works featured at Blås & Knåda, a Stockholm consortium of 45 ceramists and glassblowers. Along with studios shared by the artists, there is an exhibition gallery and a retail shop. The workshop has been open since 1975.

Ruth Duckworth, Modernist Sculptor

Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery Presents First U.S. Retrospective on Celebrated Ceramist Ruth Duckworth

Media only: Amy Hutchins (202) 275-1694
Laura Baptiste (202) 275-1595
Media Web site:
Public only: (202) 633-1000

“Ruth Duckworth, Modernist Sculptor” will be on view at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum from Sept. 1 through Jan. 15, 2007. It is the last stop for this nationally touring comprehensive retrospective.

The exhibition positions Duckworth within the modernist movement and provides an assessment of her contributions to the contemporary art world. It features 80 artworks including wall reliefs, free-standing sculpture and sculptural vessels. Many of the pieces are from the artist’s private collection, including carvings and maquettes that are exhibited publicly for the first time.

“The museum is pleased to present Ruth Duckworth’s groundbreaking ceramic artworks at its Renwick Gallery. Her work truly influenced the direction of 20th-century modernism,” said Elizabeth Broun, the museum’s Terry and Margaret Stent Director. “At age 87, Duckworth continues to inspire legions of artists and designers, working full time in her studio.” Duckworth works with a wide range of materials and techniques, including stone carving, metal fabrication and bronze casting, but her most important output has been in clay. A progression of her vanguard vessels and wall reliefs shows her moving away from functionalism to explore purely sculptural qualities.

“Ruth Duckworth, Modernist Sculptor” is organized in three sections, linked by chronology and theme. The exhibition’s first section features Duckworth’s early works, from her initial years as a studio artist living in London. The second section contains Duckworth’s abstract figurative works, free-standing ceramic sculptures and wall panels. The exhibition places Duckworth’s work in context with other modernist sculptors of her era and demonstrates the artist’s appreciation of Bronze Age implements and Cycladic figures from ancient Greece.

The third section presents a selection of the artist’s mature work. The exhibition also includes a 30-minute video, “Ruth Duckworth: A Life in Clay,” that runs continuously. “Duckworth’s porcelain sculptures, with their translucent and opaque surfaces and colored oxides that stain the surfaces, reveal her mastery of form and surface design,” said Robyn Kennedy, the exhibition’s coordinator and Renwick Gallery chief. “Through bold and subtle contrasts, her abstract figures and vessels entice a sense of touch and exemplify craftsmanship. Her ability to employ and master porcelain’s inherent physical properties for its expressive potential, informs her use of this medium and approach to sculpture.”

About the Artist

Born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1919, Duckworth moved to England in 1936, during the rise of Nazi power. There she studied art at Liverpool School of Art, Hammersmith School of Art and Central School of Arts and Crafts in London, and she organized her first exhibitions. In 1964 she accepted a one-year teaching appointment at the University of Chicago but continued in this faculty post for 13 years and has lived since in the United States. Duckworth’s work is represented in the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collection as well as major collections in the United States, Europe and Japan. She also has received many honors, including a 1993 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Museum of Women in the Arts and a 1996 Gold Medal from the National Society of Arts and Letters. The Museum of Arts & Design named her a Visionary in 2003.


“Ruth Duckworth, Modernist Sculptor” is curated by Jo Lauria and Thea Burger for Art Options Foundation. The James Renwick Alliance, Helen Williams Drutt English, and Colleen and John Kotelly support the exhibition’s presentation at the Renwick Gallery.


A major monograph that places Duckworth and her work squarely within the modernist movement and the world of émigré artists accompanies the exhibition. The book, also titled “Ruth Duckworth, Modernist Sculptor” and published by Lund Humphries Publishers, contains a critical analysis of Duckworth’s creative output during the past 50 years by co-curator Jo Lauria, a biographical essay by the British writer Tony Birks, an introduction by artist Martin Puryear. The book is available at the Renwick Gallery store for $60.

The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum is dedicated to exhibiting American crafts and decorative arts from the 19th to the 21st centuries. It is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W., near the Farragut North (Red line) and Farragut West (Blue and Orange lines) Metrorail stations. Museum hours are from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily, except Dec. 25. Admission is free. Smithsonian Information: (202) 633-1000; (202) 357-1729(TTY). Recorded information: (202) 275-1500. Please visit the museum’s award-winning Web site at

Not Your Usual Souvenir

Three designs from Constantin Boym's "Real Plates" museum souvenir series for Conduit, 2005, exclusively for the Cooper-Hewitt.

Top to bottom: Chelsea Bird, Floral Bouquet and Floral Monogram

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Gothic Twist

Thomas Paul's Gothic side plates, serving tray and dinner plate, 2006