Syttende mai – 17th May

There are lots of memorable international celebrations around the globe… In New York there’s the St Patrick’s Day, in Brazil there’s Carnival, and in Edinburgh there’s Hogmanay… what you might not know about is Norway’s answer…

On 17 May every year Norway comes to a standstill as the population commemorates the signing of their constitution on that date in 1814…

Norwegians pull out all the stops. “Syttende mai” as it’s known is the biggest street party Norway has all year, easily eclipsing New Year’s Eve…

Alfred Heaton Cooper Norwegian Fjords Illustrated Book

This is a serious party for everyone, especially for children… it’s a national day with a twist and food figures in a big way…

Before people take to the streets, they go for breakfast with friends and neighbours, sharing freshly baked bread, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, and a glass of fizz…

Then it’s time for a spot of flag waving, even the Norwegian Royal Family get stuck in… enjoying a day of constant waving…

Alfred Heaton Cooper Sketch Of Bergen Harbour

Then after all the parades and flag waving fun the national obsession with eating huge amounts of ice cream and consuming copious numbers of hot dogs kicks in… So, if you’re on a diet just forget counting the calories today…

All in all, the day is a riot of colour and celebration and to mark our Norwegian heritage Mathilde’s is joining in with the fun too… after all it’s an excuse for us to celebrate the deep seated love between Alfred Heaton Cooper and his beloved Mathilde Marie Valentinsen… a gentle Norwegian country girl who stole away his heart in the small Norwegian village of Balestrand, beside the iconic Sognefjord…

Photograph of Bergen in 1890’s

So, when you pop in for a bite to eat don’t forget to practice a little Norwegian and have a go at traditional Norway Day greeting of “Gratulerer med dagen!”, which literally means “Congratulations of the day”.

The Art of Drawing – World Drawing Day

Art is literally as old as the hills… but drawing it seems is one of the earliest forms of humankind’s desire to express itself…

A small piece of rock covered with a symbol akin to what we know as a hashtag found during an archaeological dig in the South Africa’s famous Blombos Cave in 2015 revealed the 73,000-year-old drawing…

Made using a red-ochre crayon the symbol was applied to the rock’s face and then seemingly discarded… but it’s not the only one of its kind, similar symbols have been found at sites in France and Australia… though this predates earlier known drawings by some 30,000 years!

This form of drawing may be simple; merely the making of a mark but modern dictionary definitions refer to drawing as the formation of a line by drawing some tracing instrument from point to point on a surface arranging lines to determine a form. The modern interpretation has come to include the use of colour, shading, and other elements in addition to the simple act of arranging lines on a surface.

William Heaton Cooper Sketchbook Allen Bank

Early civilisations such as the Ancient Egyptians decorated the walls of their temples and tombs with flat linear drawings depicting daily life, and created texts written on papyrus illustrated with similar designs.

In the post Roman period from 400’s to the late 1300’s, art in all its forms glorified God and shared religious messages to the masses – drawing in particular emerged as the main form of decoration, as monks used drawings to adorn bibles and prayer books.

Drawing in western culture became a highly regarded independent artistic art form in the 1400’s, with modern drawing beginning in earnest in Italy. This period in time later known as the Renaissance, saw the rise of drawing as a true art form, a form that came to be considered the foundation for work in all the arts.

Art students first trained in drawing before going on to painting, sculpture, or even architecture. Drawing was used as a tool for the study of form, which was becoming increasingly important both in terms of nature and in terms of the portrayal of the human body. The need for preparatory drawings also grew during the Renaissance, as many large-scale paintings were produced to decorate the interiors of churches, palaces, and public buildings. Drawings were an important tool in helping to create the finished work.

William Heaton Copper Sketchbook Allen Bank Colour

Renaissance artists continued to use pen and ink for drawing. But they turned increasingly to softer materials, such as black and red chalks and charcoal, to make larger drawings and to achieve a greater variety of effects, shading was also introduced to suggest solids forms and textures. Among the most celebrated draftsmen of the period are notables such as Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Certainly, many creative people have over the centuries have stressed the importance of drawing as a fundamental underpinning of their work in other art forms. As Degas said; “Drawing is the artist’s most direct and spontaneous expression, a species of writing: it reveals, better than does painting, his true personality.” There is no question that the term drawing applies to works that vary greatly in technique, indeed over the years it has been understood in very different ways and as a result is in reality quite difficult to define.

For example, during the Renaissance the term ‘disegno’ from the Italian word for drawing or design, has a much more complex meaning in art, involving both the ability to make the drawing and the intellectual capacity as the creative idea made visible in the preliminary sketch. This ability to invent, or create, put artists on a footing with God, the ultimate creator, and was used as a means of raising the status of painting from craft to art.

Alfred Heaton Cooper -Entrance To Bergen Harbour

John Ruskin commented in the Elements of Drawing: “All art is but dirtying the paper delicately.” Throughout history, drawing has been the foundation for artistic practice, commonly used as a tool for thought and investigation, acting as a study medium whilst artists were preparing for their final pieces of work. The Renaissance brought about a great sophistication in drawing techniques, enabling artists to represent things more realistically than before.

A sophistication seen across the varying styles of work produced by the artists from the Lake District’s Heaton Cooper family, who have all used the medium of drawing to great effect to capture and inform their artistic works.

The Scandinavian body of work created by Alfred Heaton Cooper, between 1890 to 1927, shows the artist’s process from sketchbook drawing done from life, up to the finished painting, precisely documenting all aspects of life and landscape in during that period to illustrate a series of guidebooks.

Alfred Heaton Cooper Norwegian Fjords Illustrated Book

William Heaton Cooper later, produced highly detailed drawings for the Fell and Rock-Climbing Club guides for over 50 years. These books became the bibles of the climbing fraternity, they depicted new routes as they were developed, often drawn on site working closely with the climbers who devised the routes at the very rock face.

And now William’s son, Julian Cooper, inspired by his local landscapes, uses drawing to focus on form and experiment with tonality, to depict planes and structure of a common enough element in almost every landscape, rock…. On a big scale they are mountains, on a small-scale they are the boulders or stones in a field… drawing captures their essence and informs his resulting works…

Alfred Heaton Cooper Ennerdale Sketchbook

The invention and popular rise of photography had a fundamental effect on artists’ drawing, the need for them to copy reality no longer existed… but instead this ushered in an age of experimentation, which saw the advent of Impressionism, Cubism, Dada, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Vorticism, Constructivism and so on…  All of these artistic movements experimented with a range of drawing media, previously frowned up on, charcoal, inks, graphite all became the common currency for drawing.

As abstraction became increasingly popular in the early 20th century, the role of drawing changed yet again…  becoming something of interest, rather than just an output leading to the creation of a work in another form… simply put “Drawing is the honesty of the art, there is no possibility of cheating, it is either good or bad…” (Salvador Dali).

 

International Sculpture Day

The Heaton Cooper Studio, like many galleries around the world is celebrating International Sculpture Day (27th April), an annual global celebration of sculpture, established to raise awareness, appreciation and enjoyment of sculpture as an art form throughout the world.

We, however, have more reason than most to celebrate this exquisite art form as one of our family members excelled in this medium…

That family member was Ophelia Gordon Bell, the daughter of accomplished animal painter Winifred Gordon Bell. By her mid-teens Ophelia was well on her way to becoming an accomplished artist in her own right, studying at the Regent Street Polytechnic Sculpture School, London, where she learnt to work in a variety of materials, including stone, wood, metal, clay and plaster.

 

Like many sculptors Ophelia was fascinated by the origins of the art form… small sculptures as personal possessions are some of the earliest forms of prehistoric art, and the use of large statement sculptural pieces of as public art goes back at least 4,500 years…

If you simply take a little time and consider this question… what we would know of ancient cultures without sculpture?

From the cave carvings of the pre-historic to the works of the great masters, sculptural art has been the one consistent way we as humans have expressed ourselves throughout the ages. Before the written word, sculptural art was the main form of expression, conveying our beliefs and views on the world around us.

We make immediate associations to long-departed cultures through in the main the sculptural works they left behind, for example the ancient Egyptians and the Sphinx, the Chinese Emperors and the terracotta army, the Greeks with their love of the human form and the Romans elevating their rulers to become gods.

Sculpture by definition is three-dimensional art made by one of four basic processes: carving, modelling, casting, constructing.

 

It is quite simply the most enduring form art known to human kind, it has played a major role in the evolution of our culture. Perhaps it endures to this day as our main form of cultural expression and of memorial because of the unique way in which it expresses itself, unlike other art forms, it patiently waits for us to sit and experience the ideas it seeks to convey…

Sculpture comes to life through the play of light during the day, the surroundings in which the piece sits and because it is solid and usually three dimensional, which means we can interact and view it in any number of ways as a result. Viewing a sculpture is very different than seeing a flat painting hanging on a wall. You can walk around it, look through it, over it or into it.

The materials used in sculpture are diverse, including metal, stone and clay, with cheaper, less durable materials; including wood, bone and antler. Perhaps it is this diversity that appeals, the textures produce quite different visual effects according to whether they are convex or concave, flat or modelled, coloured or uncoloured.

 

This is why sculpture continues to play such an important role in human expression – Ophelia understood all of this better than most and used her knowledge to great effect to create a body of work utilising a broad range of natural materials that to this day inspires and intrigues the beholder…

World Art Day

World Art Day is held on April 15th, each year, a date chosen by the International Association of Art to mark the birthday of Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday.

Da Vinci was chosen as a symbol world peace, freedom of expression, tolerance, brotherhood and multiculturalism. The overall idea is to emphasize the importance of art in the lives of everyone, but why celebrate art for just one day?

The Heaton Cooper Studio’s Archive Gallery shines a spotlight on the creative endeavours of mountain artists the world over… our aim is to encourage you to stop and appreciate the wonderful creativity that surrounds you… the creativity of nature, which generations of artists in the Heaton Cooper family have strived to capture…

Blea Tarn by William Heaton Cooper

Why have the artists in the family focussed on mountains? Quite simply humans throughout time have a deep-seated affinity with these leviathans in the landscape – mountains have in essence always been part of a commonly held system of ancestor worship since the dawn of time. We have immortalized fallen brethren in their edifice, we see them as sites of revelation and inspiration part of an ever-present quest to purify the spirit and find renewal.

Wastwater by William Heaton Cooper

Artists themselves are no different, depicting mountain landscapes seeking to reconcile the objective, visual, geological truth of mountains with the subjective, mental, emotional experience of mountain scenery. Some simply wish to represent or replicate their obvious beauty, whilst others opt to study and explore various aesthetic elements, like light, colour, and texture and some use mountain scenes to tell a story, illustrate an idea, or conceptualize a metaphor.

Whatever the artists’ reasoning the inextricable link between the worship of the ancestors and mountains is largely inseparable, it forms an interconnected web between history, landscape, and culture, one that has been formed over millennia, a web that to this day connects us to mountain landscapes…

Ullswater & Grisedale by William Heaton Cooper

And we at the Heaton Cooper Studio are proud to show this connection…

As part of the celebration of World Art Day 2019 we are honoured to be able to show a remarkable piece of Lake District mountain history. A bronze plaque listing all 20 names of the members of the Fell and Rock-Climbing Club who served and died in the First World War – a plaque that was for many years set into the summit of Great Gable, the seventh highest mountain in the Lake District.

We Remember – Fell & Rock Climbing Club

It’s accompanied by the Fell & Rock journals from 1914-1919, photographs of the dedication ceremony on Gable in 1924, a poem “We Bought Them a Mountain”, by Max Biden, photographs and crag drawings of Gable, and Fell & Rock guidebooks illustrated by William Heaton Cooper.

The exhibition marks the centenary of a campaign to buy Great Gable for the nation as a memorial to the 20 climbers who died in that Great War…This most vivid of memorials to the fallen, it could be argued is a very tangible link between ancestors, the act of remembrance and mountain landscapes…

It has been said art is the most genuine expression of the human soul… an expression that describes the story of humanity.