The Laing Art Gallery

The Laing Art Gallery was our venue for the outing on Thursday, March 15th. One exhibition centred on Sting’s commissioned painting “Northern City Renaissance, Newcastle, England (2004-2008)” by leading contemporary American landscapist Stephen Hancock. The group found this impressive and very interesting. I would recommend this to anyone interested in the north east.

The rest of the exhibition showed scenes from the Laing Art Gallery’s collection depicting the Tyne’s sites of industrial, shipbuilding and coal-mining history. “Shakespeare in Art”, “Victorian Artists in Newcastle”, “AV Festival”-Torsten Lauschuman and some very nice watercolours provided a varied viewing experience. Some members then enjoyed lunch, shopping and the cinema to see “The Artist” so two U3A group activities joined together-great fun.

Leonardo Da Vinci Exhibition

On Friday 20th January, 2012 seventeen members of our Art Appreciation Group were lucky enough to visit an astonishing exhibition “Leonardo Da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan” at the National Gallery, London. This was a unique opportunity to look at the largest ever showing of Leonardo’s surviving paintings, as well as many of his glorious drawings which show how much preparation and work he put into getting details right while reflecting the proportions of nature as well as producing an ideal beauty in his work. We all agreed the exhibition, although hot and overcrowded, was an unforgettable experience not to be missed.

As our train sped towards London, I gazed in awe at the beautifully presented finger buffet being enjoyed by four of the most sophisticated members of our Seaham Harbour U3A Art Appreciation Group. They had produced wine glasses from their luggage in the manner of a magician pulling rabbits from a hat and were quaffing white wine in great style. Little did the other occupants of the carriage realise we were “doing London and Leonardo on a shoestring.”

We were able to spend as much time as we wanted in the National Gallery exhibition and, although it was too hot and too crowded, this was truly a remarkable experience.

This exhibition entitled “ Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan” brought together nine of his fifteen surviving paintings.There are so few paintings by Leonardo and they are so precious it was amazing to see so much of his work brought together. The fact that many of the paintings, in the first exhibition celebrating his work as painter, have never been seen in Britain before made this extra special. We did not expect to see so many of his drawings and were awestruck by his power of observation and accuracy.

Saturday dawned and London lay before us with a diversity of cultural and shopping opportunities. Two of us spent the day enjoying the British Museum in all its magnificence while four of our group enjoyed Mayhew Bourne’s production of The Nutcracker at Saddler Wells. Two of our members found The Lady killers at the Garfield Theatre highly entertaining while others took in a William Morris exhibition at the V and A. We all ended up enjoying the magnificence of St. Pancras Station, conveniently situated next to King’s Cross Station. This meant we could relax over a good meal or indulge in a little last minute shopping. On the train we were able to settle down, compare notes about our successful day and the exhibition, play with I pods, read kindles (or even books) and do what U3A members should all be good at-SNOOZE.

Durham Light Infantry Museum

Following our theme of north eastern artists and art about the north east we visited the DLI Museum to see an exhibition of John Cecil Stephenson’s work entitled “Pioneer of Abstraction”. John Stephenson, 1889-1965, was one of the core modernists of the 1930s and is arguably the most important 20th century artist to come from County Durham. His immediate circle included Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Piet Mondrian, Naun Gabo and Henry Moore. The art critic Herbert Read, another of his circle, said “he was one of the earliest artists in this country to develop a completely abstract style.” This exhibition, highlighting his work from 1933 to 1939 showed his path from figurative painting to abstraction.

It was interesting to see how his work in industry triggered his route to abstract art and many of us were surprised by how much we enjoyed his art, one of the comments being “I would be happy to hang some of these on my walls”. One of our members, Carol Hindmarch, had researched John Cecil Stephenson and was able to talk us through some of the exhibition which added to our enjoyment of the art. The cafe proved a great starting point for coffee and then lunch was pleasant, providing a nice venue for a leisurely chat.

As ever the group is great company and we enjoyed a day out.

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Woodhorn Museum, Ashington

Fifteen U3A members visited Woodhorn Museum near Ashington in Northumberland on the 17th May. The main purpose of our visit was to view the permanent exhibition by a remarkable group of men-The Pitman Painters. The group, largely made up of coal miners, first came together in 1934 through the Workers Education Association. They wished to study art appreciation so their tutor, Robert Lyon, encouraged them to do it themselves in order to understand what it was all about. Our group enjoyed the art which captures every aspect of life in their mining community. Having Jack Temple, an ex-miner, with the group added to the enjoyment of the day as he was able to provide insights into much of what was on display in the museum. A photographic exhibition of Northumberland scenes was also popular. From Freda’s photograph however, it seems the posterior positioning of one of the exhibits received the most critical acclaim.

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“Mary has given me permission to add a few words to her report above.   I wanted to comment on the very impressive mock-up of Ashington coal mine.  It was excellent and gave the impression of actually being there and feeling the claustrophobia, hearing the miners’ chatter and other sound effects.  It was here that Jack came into his own helping us to understand the various situations.  When we passed some coal tubs leading from a huge similar picture on the wall, which was quite an effective display, it reminded me of my Dad telling me that an empty tub was called a “chum’un”, which Jack verified.   I remembered my Dad telling me of a colleague who told him that a poor miner had died from “a chum’un on the brain”.  I was never sure whether an empty tub had fallen on him from a great height, or whether he meant a tumour.  Bless him.

I was also fascinated by a proggy and hooky mat demonstration and fancied a go.  I’m thinking of setting up a group!” (Freda)

Laing Art Gallery visit – 7 June 2012

On the 7th June, twelve of the group arrived at the Laing Art Gallery to hear a presentation by Dr. Barbara Morden entitled “A Family Well Disposed”. This interesting talk explored the representation of relationships and status in painting from the 18th century to the present. The work of well-known artists including Gainsborough, Hogarth and Hockney were discussed and then we had the chance to look at the fascinating exhibition “Family Matters: the Family in British Art” which is part of the British Art Debate.

Unfortunately this was the day the Metro was not in service due to strike action. Our numbers had been reduced from seventeen to twelve and some of us left early as the strike combined with the Coldplay concert at the Stadium of Light were bound to cause travel difficulties. However, as last year, we found Dr. Morden’s talk very interesting and informative.