Sunday, 16 June 2019

Franco Zeffirelli RIP

Directing Romeo and Juliet

Franco Zeffirelli, master of grandeur in theater, film and opera, dies at 96

By Emily Langer
The Washington Post
15 June 2019

Franco Zeffirelli, the Italian director and designer who reigned in theater, film and opera as the unrivaled master of grandeur, orchestrating the youthful 1968 movie version of “Romeo and Juliet” and transporting operagoers to Parisian rooftops and the pyramids of Egypt in productions widely regarded as classics, died June 15 at his home in Rome. He was 96.

A son, Luciano, confirmed the death to the Associated Press but did not cite a cause.

Mr. Zeffirelli — a self-proclaimed “flag-bearer of the crusade against boredom, bad taste and stupidity in the theater” — was a defining presence in the arts since the 1950s. In his view, less was not more. “More is fine,” a collaborator recalled Mr. Zeffirelli saying, and as a set designer, he delivered more gilt, more brocade and more grandiosity than many theater patrons expected to find on a single stage.

“A spectacle,” Mr. Zeffirelli once told the New York Times, “is a good investment.”

From his earliest days, he seemed to belong to the opera. Born in Italy to a married woman and her lover, he received neither parent’s surname. His mother dubbed him “Zeffiretti,” an Italian word that means “little breezes” and that arises in Mozart’s opera “Idomeneo,” in the aria “Zeffiretti lusinghieri.” An official mistakenly recorded the name as “Zeffirelli.”

Mr. Zeffirelli grew up mainly in Florence, amid the city’s Renaissance riches, and trained as an artist before being pulled into theater and then film by an early and influential mentor, Luchino Visconti. Mr. Zeffirelli matured into a sought-after director in his own right, staging works in Milan, London and New York City, where he became a mainstay of the Metropolitan Opera.

His first major work as a film director was “The Taming of the Shrew” (1967), a screen adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. But Mr. Zeffirelli was best known for the Shakespearean adaptation released the next year — “Romeo and Juliet,” starring Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey in the title roles.

He reportedly reviewed the work of hundreds of young actors before selecting his two stars, both of whom were still in their teens. With a lush soundtrack by Nino Rota, and with its equally lush visuals, the film won the Academy Award for best cinematography and was a runaway box office success. Film critic Roger Ebert declared it “the most exciting film of Shakespeare ever made.”

It “is the first production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ I am familiar with in which the romance is taken seriously,” Ebert wrote. “Always before, we have had actors in their 20s or 30s or even older, reciting Shakespeare’s speeches to each other as if it were the words that mattered. They do not, as anyone who has proposed marriage will agree.”

In the opera, an art form already known for its opulence, big voices and bigger personalities, Mr. Zeffirelli permitted himself to be deterred by neither physical nor financial constraints. “Opera audiences demand the spectacular,” he told the Times.

Mr. Zeffirelli had notable artistic relationships with two of the most celebrated sopranos of the 20th century, Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland. But certain Zeffirelli sets seemed to excite the opera world even more than the performers who sang upon them.

One such example was his production of Puccini’s “La Bohème,” an extravaganza set in 19th-century Paris famous for its exuberant street scene and magical snowfall. After its 1981 premiere at the Met, it was said that the audience lavished on Mr. Zeffirelli a grander ovation than the one reserved for conductor James Levine and the singers who played the opera’s bohemian lovers.

“For the first time,” Mr. Zeffirelli told the Times, “audiences will have a sense of the immensity of Paris, and the smallness of this little group’s place — the actual space of a garret. The acting is now intimate and conversational, which is exactly what Puccini wanted. Since the garret is raised, every whisper and gesture will come across clearly in the theater.”

His production of Verdi’s “Aida,” performed at Milan’s La Scala in 1963 with soprano Leontyne Price and tenor Carlo Bergonzi, featured 600 singers and dancers (including scantily clad belly dancers), 10 horses, towering idols, palm trees, and sphinxes littering the expanse of the stage. “I have tried to give the public the best that Cecil B. De­Mille could offer,” Mr. Zeffirelli told Time magazine, referring to the Hollywood director’s biblical epics, “but in good taste.”

It was sometimes said that Mr. Zeffirelli was beloved by everyone except music reviewers, some of whom disparaged his style as excessive to the point of taking attention away from the music. Writing in the Times, Bernard Holland panned Mr. Zeffirelli’s set for Puccini’s “Turandot,” set in China, as “acres of white paint and gold leaf topped by the gaudiest of pagodas” and quipped that “if the gods eat dim sum, they certainly do it in a place like this.”

In time, the Metropolitan Opera replaced some of Mr. Zeffirelli’s productions, although the modernistic newcomers — notably Luc Bondy’s dreary “Tosca” in 2009 — did not always prove as popular.

“It’s like somebody decides that the Sistine Chapel is out of fashion,” Mr. Zeffirelli told the Times. “They go there and make something a la Warhol. . . . You don’t like it? O.K., fine, but let’s have it for future generations.”

As for those who had criticized his direction of “Romeo and Juliet” for similar reasons, he retorted, “In all honesty, I don’t believe that millions of young people throughout the world wept over my film . . . just because the costumes were splendid.”

Destined for the opera

Mr. Zeffirelli was born in Florence on Feb. 12, 1923. His father, Ottorino Corsi, was a Florentine businessman, and his mother, Alaide Garosi, was a fashion designer. Her husband was a lawyer, and he died before Mr. Zeffirelli was born.

His mother continued a fraught relationship with Corsi, once attempting to stab him with a hat pin. “The opera? My destiny?” Mr. Zeffirelli observed in a 1986 autobiography, “Zeffirelli.” “I think there is a case to be made.”

After the death of his mother when he was 6, he became the charge of an aunt. He recalled his upbringing in the 1930s in the semi-autobiographical film “Tea With Mussolini” (1999), which he directed and which starred Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Joan Plowright as English expatriates in Florence who take in a parentless child during the era of fascist rule.

Mr. Zeffirelli attended art school before studying architecture at the University of Florence. His studies were put on hold during World War II, when he fought alongside anti-fascist partisans. His interests shifted more toward film, particularly after he saw Laurence Olivier star in the 1944 Technicolor film adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Henry V,” which Olivier also directed.

“The lights went down and that glorious film began,” Mr. Zeffirelli recalled in his memoir. “I knew then what I was going to do. Architecture was not for me; it had to be the stage.”

He met Visconti while working in Florence as a stagehand. Visconti, with whom he lived for a period, gave him his push into professional work, hiring him to work as a designer for an Italian stage production of Tennessee Williams’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” in 1949.

Mr. Zeffirelli soon began designing and directing at La Scala and later the Met. He designed, directed and adapted from Shakespeare the libretto for the production of Samuel Barber’s “Antony and Cleopatra” that opened the Met’s new opera house at Lincoln Center in 1966.

Mr. Zeffirelli said he found it invigorating to shift from one art form to another. His theatrical productions starred top-flight actors including Albert Finney and Anna Magnani. On television, he directed “Jesus of Nazareth,” an acclaimed 1977 miniseries with a reported price tag of $18 million and a cast that included Robert Powell as Jesus, Hussey as the Virgin Mary, Olivier as Nicodemus, Anne Bancroft as Mary Magdalene and James Earl Jones as Balthazar.

Mr. Zeffirelli received a best director Oscar nomination for “Romeo and Juliet.” (He lost to Carol Reed for the musical “Oliver!”) He also garnered a nomination for best art direction for his 1982 film adaptation of Verdi’s opera “La Traviata,” starring Teresa Stratas and Plácido Domingo, one of several such operatic film adaptations he made.

His other notable films included “Hamlet” (1990) starring Mel Gibson and Glenn Close. Less acclaimed was “Endless Love” (1981), starring Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt in a tragic story of teen romance, which Mr. Zeffirelli admitted was “wretched.”

Politically, Mr. Zeffirelli positioned himself on the right, serving as a senator in the political party Forza Italia. “I have found it an irritating irony that those who espouse populist political views often want art to be ‘difficult,’ ” he wrote in his memoir. “Yet I, who favor the Right in our democracy, believe passionately in a broad culture made accessible to as many as possible.”

He described himself as homosexual, preferring not to use the word “gay.” In 2000, he adopted two adult sons, Pippo and Luciano, both former lovers, according to the newspaper the Australian. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.

Looking back on his life and career, Mr. Zeffirelli once told The Washington Post that he was struck by “how much is risked to become something” — “to make something of his life,” he continued, speaking of himself in the third person. To show that “he’s not a bastard.”

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Kind Hearts and Coronets - behind the scenes

Alec Guinness (left, dressed as General Lord Rufus d’Ascoyne) with producer Michael Balcon

Director Robert Hamer, left, delivers his instructions to Joan Greenwood and Dennis Price

Greenwood autographing photographs

Greenwood with cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, who would go on to shoot The Servant, The Great Gatsby and Raiders of the Lost Ark

Greenwood, Price and Hamer

Price and Valerie Hobson

Price, Hobson and Hamer

Guiness waiting for his call

Costume designer Anthony Mendleson, with Greenwood

Preparing for the murder of Lady Agatha d’Ascoyne (Hobson)

Price and Hamer

Greenwood having a cup of tea 

I read [the screenplay] on a beach in France, collapsed with laughter on the first page, and didn’t even bother to get to the end of the script. I went straight back to the hotel and sent a telegram saying, ‘Why four parts? Why not eight!? — Alec Guinness

Friday, 14 June 2019

Wednesday night's set llsts at The Bit, York

Ron Elderly: -
Autumn Leaves
Love Is The Drug
Just My Imagination*

Da Elderly: -
You've Got A Friend
I Believe In You
I Don't Want To Talk About It*

The Elderly Brothers: -
All I Have To Do Is Dream
When Will I Be Loved
Crying In The Rain
I Saw Her Standing There

* there was a second set at the end of the night for those still around who wanted to play again

What started out as a mild, dry night in York turned foul, hence The Elderlys' inclusion of Crying In The Rain in their set. The Habit was busy for most of the evening with a boisterous and enthusiastic audience. Previous host Dave was standing in for Simon and he kicked-off proceedings with Bob Dylan's Don't Think Twice It's All Right. There were one or two new performers including a couple from Boroughbridge who covered Tom Petty's Free Fallin', Simon and Garfunkel's Mrs Robinson and The Beatles' If I Fell. As we went round for a second time they sang Paul Simon's Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard. Taxi driver Chris and his wife arrived mid-way through proceedings and he asked me to accompany him on Neil Young's Birds, Only Love Can Break Your Heart and Sam Cooke's Bring It On Home To Me. With a full-ish house at the close of the open mic, The Elderlys ran through some lively Elvis, Chuck Berry, Springsteen and Beatles numbers unplugged and folks got up to dance!

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Bod Dylan: Rolling around America

All aboard the Bob Dylan express! How Rolling Thunder revved round America
When Dylan chanced upon a huge Roma gathering in France, he was transfixed – and formed his own travelling supergroup. As Martin Scorsese brings its ragtag magic to screens, we hitch a ride back to 75

Richard Williams
The Guardian
Tue 11 Jun 2019

In May 1975, his marriage breaking up, Bob Dylan spent six weeks in the south of France. His host, an artist named David Oppenheim, had recently provided a painting for the back cover of Blood on the Tracks, an album of seemingly confessional songs that had taken Dylan back to the top of the charts. Critics acclaimed its songs as evidence that, after almost a decade of straying from the straight and narrow, he was prepared once again to bare his soul.

But Dylan, as usual, was restless. A year earlier he had toured for the first time since his motorcycle accident in 1966, reuniting with the Band, his old accomplices. It had been a commercially successful but artistically sterile experience. He was looking for something new, and he found it when Oppenheim introduced him to the Camargue, a land of salt marshes, wild horses and a village called Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Celebration … Roma girls dress a statue of St Sarah at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.

There he witnessed the annual gathering of Roma, arriving from across Europe for the spring festival in celebration of Saint Sarah. Later he claimed that it was after spending his 34th birthday watching them carry her effigy from the sea to the shore, and listening to them sing at night, that he had a dream in which the song One More Cup of Coffee came to him, fully formed. But it was the more general sense of a travelling community with a natural way of expressing its culture that inspired the next and typically unexpected phase of his career.

“There was a Rolling Thunder energy and that was his invention,” Joan Baez says in Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story, the documentary by Martin Scorsese released this week on Netflix. Using verite and concert footage, some of it first seen in Dylan’s long-buried feature film Renaldo and Clara, Scorsese reframes that energy while adding a layer of meta-reality that reflects Dylan’s enduring fascination with masks, disguises and alternative facts.

After his return from France, Dylan based himself in a Greenwich Village apartment and underwent a full reimmersion in the folk scene from which he had emerged a dozen years earlier. In the clubs and coffee houses, fellow performers clustered around him: old friends like Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Bobby Neuwirth and Roger McGuinn and new ones such as the violinist Scarlet Rivera, whom Dylan had approached when he saw her carrying her instrument case on the street.

Some of them took part in the sessions for his new album, Desire, with Rivera adding a touch of Romany abandon as she wound her fiddle lines around Dylan’s voice. The songs ranged from a demand for the release of Rubin “The Hurricane” Carter, a boxer imprisoned on a murder charge, to a startlingly direct address to his wife, Sara. The unit stayed together, accumulating extra members, as plans were made for taking the show on the road.

Dylan wanted to perform, but he needed to escape from the music industry machine. If there were precedents for the adventure, they include the transcontinental bus trips made by Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters in the mid-60s, the Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus in 1968 and Paul McCartney’s decision to exorcise the ghost of Beatlemania by taking Wings out on a small-scale, low-key, unannounced tour of British colleges in 1972.

Outside, the world was a turbulent and bloody mess. The Watergate scandal was still echoing as the last US forces in Vietnam were airlifted from the roof of the Saigon embassy. The Khmer Rouge had taken over in Cambodia and civil wars were raging in Lebanon and Angola. Dylan had long since withdrawn from overt political commentary, but there was a statement implicit in his decision – made as America geared itself up for its Bicentennial celebrations – to open the tour in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where the Pilgrim Fathers had arrived in 1620 and survived a hard first winter in their new settlement only through the kindness of the indigenous Wampanoag tribe.

New recruits included the singer Ronee Blakley, direct from starring in Robert Altman’s Nashville, the guitarist T-Bone Burnett, and the poet Allen Ginsberg. Having decided to film the tour – on and off stage – for Renaldo and Clara, a movie in which all the participants would be ascribed fictional roles, Dylan recruited the young playwright Sam Shepard to provide a screenplay. He added Baez, who would share scenes in the film with Sara Dylan, the woman for whom Dylan had left her 10 years earlier. Others drawn “like metal shavings to a magnet”, as Shepard would write in his Rolling Thunder Logbook, included Joni Mitchell, Ronnie Hawkins, Harry Dean Stanton and Mick Ronson, the ex-Spider from Mars. Jacques Levy, an off-Broadway theatre director with whom Dylan had been writing lyrics, devised the show’s structure.

“This was Dylan at his most generous,” Burnett observed in his foreword to Shepard’s book. “He had offered his stage to old friends, new acquaintances and in some cases complete strangers.” At the wheel of his Winnebago, Dylan drove some of the troupe while others were transported in a converted Greyhound bus. Ginsberg and his lover Peter Orlovsky acted as baggage porters even after the poet’s slot was axed in rehearsals, when Levy slashed the eight-hour running order in half.

“Welcome to your living room,” Bob Neuwirth told the audience every night before introducing the first of several guest spots. Some of Dylan’s performances were professionally recorded and are included in a new 14-CD box set. The revelations include a wonderfully tender solo delivery of Easy and Slow, a song picked up during his encounters with Irish folk musicians, and several magnificent duets with Baez, their voices fitting together much better than they ever had in their younger days.

As for Renaldo and Clara, whose intended sources of inspiration (according to Shepard) included Marcel Carné’s Les Enfants du Paradis and François Truffaut’s Tirez sur le Pianiste, Dylan spent a couple of years working on a four-hour version that fascinated some, mystified many more, and disappeared soon after its release in 1978. The concert and backstage footage – although not the dramatised sequences – now forms part of Scorsese’s film, along with several mischievous red herrings. It’s a stylish palimpsest beneath which the ghostly outline of the original film can be clearly discerned, although the several enigmatic absences include that of Sara, who had the part of Clara, opposite Dylan’s Renaldo.

The new film’s highlights include the night Baez adopted the whiteface makeup and hat bedecked with flowers and feathers that Dylan had worn throughout the tour; the morning Dylan and Ginsberg paid homage at Jack Kerouac’s grave; and the afternoon a room full of middle-aged Jewish women, who thought they had gathered for a mahjong session, found themselves listening in bemusement as Ginsberg read the Kaddish he had written for his own Jewish mother. A very on-her-mettle Joni Mitchell runs through Coyote, the song about her affair with Shepard, in Gordon Lightfoot’s living room in Toronto while Dylan and McGuinn watch her fingers, trying to pick up the chords. Some of Dylan’s stage performances, notably a howling, full-throttle Isis, are colossal in their blazing passion.

The Rolling Thunder Revue ran against the grain of the music industry. As a business plan, it was never likely to catch on. The biggest concerts, at Madison Square Garden and the Houston Astrodome, were benefits for boxer Rubin Carter’s defence fund. A second set of shows, in the spring of 1976, visited larger venues but petered out with a final concert to a half-empty convention centre in Salt Lake City.

A year later, amid the stirrings of punk in England, something of its freewheeling methodology was revived by the first Stiff Records tour, in which Ian Dury, Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe travelled together, sharing rhythm sections and shuffling the running order. Closer in musical terms was Bruce Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions project of 2005, with its onstage informality and a mixture of original and traditional songs.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself, or finding anything – it’s about creating yourself,” Dylan says in a new interview in the film. By the time Renaldo and Clara appeared, he was making a new album, Street Legal, and preparing for a marathon world tour with a different lineup, still powerful but retaining little of Rolling Thunder’s raggle-taggle spirit. And in January 1979, a few weeks after that band’s final show, another encounter with Christianity – this time of the evangelical variety – gave him the cue for the next phase of his life. Around the bend, a slow train was coming.

• Rolling Thunder Revue will launch on Netflix and in selected cinemas on 12 June. Bob Dylan: Rolling Thunder Revue, the 1975 Live Recordings box set is out now.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Bob Dylan and Mick Ronson and The Rolling Thunder Revue - reviewed

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese review – passion on tour
This freewheeling doc hitches a ride in Dylan’s ’75 tourbus, with Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and a young Sharon Stone in tow

Peter Bradshaw
The Guardian
Tue 11 Jun 2019

‘Life isn’t about finding yourself or finding anything,” says Bob Dylan. “It’s about creating yourself.” At 78, the musician moves into a new phase of self-creation with this intriguing, fascinating, perplexing, sometimes exasperating film directed by Martin Scorsese – which is to say Scorsese has supervised a witty curatorial edit of archive film material, and in effect collaborated with Dylan in another artistic act of self-reshaping.

The film is about Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue show of US and Canada in 1975 – a 57-date tour in which the troubadour appeared in whiteface makeup, with an extraordinary changing list of support acts that included Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Roger McQuinn, Ronee Blakley, “Ramblin’” Jack Elliott, Bob Neuwirth and the violinist Scarlet Rivera. And these weren’t massive arenas he was playing, they were little halls and venues, with publicity sometimes limited to flyers handed out on the day to astonished denizens of the little towns in which the Ken Kesey-style tour bus would cheerfully roll up with the grinning Dylan at the wheel. Try to imagine it happening now.

What was it like for Dylan to be spearheading this event, a kind of musical rumour meandering through an America that was just recovering from the mortification of Watergate and gearing itself up as best it could for its bicentennial celebrations? “It was so long ago I wasn’t even born,” says the wry Dylan now with a shrug, and his interviewee appearances are all very funny, that voice as dry as prairie grass.

The film does not quite wish to tell you what it was like in any obvious way. There is something weird and mischievous going on. The concert footage and backstage scenes appear to be drawn from the same trove of archive material that formed the basis of Bob Dylan’s lengthy and ill-fated 1978 film about the tour, Renaldo and Clara, which he co-wrote with the late Sam Shepard – who is interviewed here. Like that film, the Rolling Thunder Revue does have some personae who may not be, strictly speaking, factual. The footage is attributed to a certain dyspeptic film-maker who is actually the performance artist and comedian Martin Von Haselberg, husband of Bette Midler. A certain politician is interviewed and you may think: “Wait, that guy looks like the actor Michael Murphy.” It is the actor Michael Murphy. Could it be that this is all a modern commedia dell’arte in which, with Scorsese’s discreet assistance, Dylan is retreating behind masks, masks that might allow him to tell a higher truth?

Possibly. Scorsese drops further hints with clips from films concerned in various ways with theatrical performance: Georges Méliès’s The Vanishing Lady (1893), Marcel Carné’s Children of Paradise (1945) and Tony Gatlif’s Latcho Drom (1993). Sometimes the creative semi-remembering is a bit opaque, and there were times when I could have done with some more straightforward documentary realism. But it’s churlish to complain when this is all so gripping, both as a time capsule and as a showcase for Dylan’s unique presence and glorious performances from Baez, Mitchell and also from Patti Smith who was not actually a member of the Rolling Thunder tour but is shown performing before it got started.

Allen Ginsberg is another intensely 70s figure shown here on tour, at once egotistical and yet deferring utterly to Dylan’s majestic importance. There is a great interview with Sharon Stone, who appears to have gone briefly on tour with Rolling Thunder as a young woman and is (delicately) interviewed about her experiences – including bursting into tears when she discovered that Bob Dylan’s Just Like a Woman was not, despite what he’d caddishly told Stone, based on her. Could it be that she was not the only young female fellow traveller on whom Bob used that line?

The emotional centre of the film is Dylan’s protest song Hurricane, about the boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter who was falsely imprisoned for murder. That song, and the Rolling Thunder tour, were an important part of the momentum that overturned Carter’s conviction – though he would not be finally released for another 10 years.

This is an immersive experience, like being plunged back into the 70s. There is passion there. No matter how chaotic or bleary things get, no one is in any doubt that the music counts.

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Moonscapes at the Watts Gallery, Guildford

Artemis by Charlie Barton
Artemis - Charlie Barton

"It's impossible not to wonder at the Moon and about the Moon, it's full of myth and magic. My inspiration to paint the moon came from a number of influences, as a child I listened endlessly to David Bowie's Space Oddity; I was rocketed up in that tin can to a wondrous world way beyond my world… I grew up on Salisbury Plain where we would ride across the cratered "Impact Area", a pock marked landscape that seemed to me just like the surface of the moon. As there was no light pollution on the Plain the night sky was often a visual feast of stars. My late father who navigated on the first Round The World sailing race, gave me huge inspiration when describing the night sky on his voyage. His sextant was always an object of fascination to me. On his death in 2000 I was drawn to contemplate the cosmos & found myself lured to the Moon."

"I paint in oil, & sometimes pigment. I begin my process by painting on the floor where I apply a resin called Alkaflow to create the texture of the lunar surface, once dried, the canvas goes back onto the wall where I apply more paint. This process is repeated so I build up layers of paint."

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Endymion by G. F. Watts

Windsor castle by Abraham Pether

Lambeth Palace by Moonlight by Henry Pether

Pool of London, Billingsgate to the Tower, Moonlight

A River Scene with Cottage by Sebastian William Thomas Pether

On show at the Watts Gallery are four paintings by Abraham, Sebastian and Henry Pether, widely known as the ‘Moonlight Pethers’. The works depict either recognisable landmarks in Britain, or imaginary views against a backdrop of a silvery moon and a waterside setting. Abraham Pether’s Windsor Castle, made in 1809, is a typical example of the artist’s nocturnal scenes that reinforces his reputation as ‘Moonlight Pether’. Henry Pether’s Lambeth Palace by Moonlight and Pool of London, Billingsgate to the Tower, Moonlight demonstrate the artist’s accuracy and eye for detail in representing architectural subjects and skill for moonscapes. Sebastian Pether’s A River Scene with Cottage shows an imaginary setting with a lake and a mountainous landscape that reflects the moonlight.

For Abraham and his sons, Henry and Sebastian Pether, moonlit and dramatically illuminated scenes became signature works. During the early 19th century this family of artists established a reputation for producing a series of nocturnal, atmospheric paintings, which were both part of an artistic and a scientific enterprise. In addition to his career as an artist, Abraham Pether had an extensive knowledge of scientific subjects and gave lectures on electricity. ‘His philosophical and mathematical researches deserve every praise: he was an admirable mechanic, and had constructed telescopes, microscopes, and almost every instrument relative to science, upon the grandest and most improved principle’, an obituary reported. Both Abraham’s sons, Henry and Sebastian followed their father’s example and continued the tradition of moonscapes.

Hamlet and the Ghost by Frederic James Shields

Image result for harvest moon helen allingham
Harvest Moon by Helen Allingham

Moonbeams Dipping into the Sea by Evelyn de Morgan

Luna by Evelyn de Morgan

Moon Cabinet by Rupert Senior

The Moon Cabinet - Rupert Senior

Exploring the blurred boundary between Art and Science, the Moon Cabinet draws inspiration from orreries, the moon and beyond. The swirls in the burr ash grain look like the surface of the moon and are interspersed with craters and sub-craters, gilded in yellow gold, palladium and 'moon gold' leaf. Opening the doors reveals a magnificent blue night sky. The craters are now transformed into planets within a solar system that seem to float in space. At the centre is a black hole.

It is a key cabinet. Behind the craters are stainless steel hooks, fashioned like little satellites spinning off into space.

Cosmoscope by Simeon Nelson with Rob Godman and Nick Rothwell

Cosmoscope - Simeon Nelson with Rob Godman and Nick Rothwell

Begun in 2016, Cosmoscope was a major interdisciplinary research project led by Simeon Nelson, Professor of Sculpture at the University of Hertfordshire. It brought together leading biomedical, astro and experimental physicists at University College London, Oxford University and Durham University, and psychologist Monia Brizzi.

Inspired by historical astronomical instruments and models of the cosmos, Cosmoscope presents a narrative of the origins, evolution and nature of life. The installation explores quantum, human and cosmic scales from the biomedical study of blood flowing through the human heart, to the order and disorder of atoms and molecules, to the dynamics of cosmic formation and meaning.

Accompanying Moonscapes, an exhibition that explores the interactions between art and astronomy in the late nineteenth century, Cosmoscope illustrates how the latest ideas and research in art and science continue to draw upon and inspire each other today.

Full Moon by William H. Rau

Homeward Bound (The Pathless Waters) by William Holman Hunt

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The Sower of the Systems by G. F. Watts

Image result for hampstead hill looking down heath street
Hampstead Hill, Looking Down Heath Street by John Atkinson Grimshaw

Image result for james nasmyth copernicus crater
Copernicus Crater by James Naysmith

Landing on Tuesday 2 April
Orbiting until Sunday 23 June 2019
Watts Gallery | Friends free

Join us in the year of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing for Moonscapes, the first exhibition to explore nineteenth-century visions of the moon.

Presenting a selection of works by significant artists including William Holman Hunt, John Atkinson Grimshaw, Evelyn De Morgan and G F Watts, Moonscapes will consider the Victorian fascination with the earth's closest cosmic neighbour, bringing into focus the many ways in which nineteenth-century artists have drawn inspiration from the moon. The exhibition will be accompanied by a programme of contemporary art interventions that will accent the key themes of the exhibition through light, sound and space including: Cosmoscope by Simeon Nelson with Rob Godman and Nick Rothwell; The Moon Cabinet by Rupert Senior; Artemis by Charlie Barton and Year 2 Arsenic 1 by Garry Fabian Miller and work by Mary Branson as Artist in Residence.

Year 2 Arsenic 1 by Garry Fabian Miller

The appearance of the moon, and its changing phases, has been the subject of debate and visual interpretation since time immemorial. The development of astronomical telescopes in the seventeenth century sparked intense lunar interest in Britain, leading scientific pioneers to found the Royal Astronomical Society in 1820.

Artists were similarly beguiled by the complexities of the cosmos. Some, such as G F Watts, became closely associated with astronomers - in his case Sir John Herschel, President of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Artists were captivated by the painterly challenge of depicting nocturnal landscapes, and saw the moon as a symbol of nature's enormity. For Abraham Pether and his two painter sons, depicting the moon became the family business. Known as the 'Moonlight Pethers', their glowing landscapes balance detailed technique with intricate meteorological observation.

Conversely, Pre-Raphaelite artists such as William Holman Hunt sought to represent the eerie lunar atmosphere by portraying solitary figures in contemplation of the moon. Holman Hunt's luminous watercolour The Pathless Waters (Homeward Bound) 1869 captures this mood of nocturnal melancholy.

From the 1880s, oil paintings featuring the personification of the moon were produced by symbolist painters including Evelyn de Morgan and G F Watts. In De Morgan's Luna 1885 the moon is embodied by the figure of a young woman seated on a crescent, with the artist representing the Roman Goddess. Watts's dynamic vision for the creation of the cosmos is illustrated by the Sower of the Systems 1902, in which a robed, faceless figure sweeps across space, radiating arcs of gold to form galaxies.

Moonscapes will also examine the scientific tools that astronomers have used to expand lunar knowledge. From an intricate orrery (a mechanical model of the Solar System) to a globe mapping the moon's cratered surface, these complex and beautiful objects show how enterprising scientists attempted to decipher the mystery of the lunar orbits. Early stereoscopic photography will close the 384,400 km distance and bring the moon into focus in astonishing detail.

The exhibition features Cosmoscope, a monumental sound and light sculpture created by artist Simeon Nelson with Rob Godman and Nick Rothwell at the University of Hertfordshire's School of Creative Arts, who have kindly supported this artistic collaboration.

Look out for events and talks featuring leading experts, including Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock (BBC The Sky at Night), Robert Massey (astronomer), Professor Craig Underwood (Surrey Space Centre) and Dr Daniel Swift (writer).