Thursday, 31 March 2011

Favourite Blogs: from Post-War London to Knitting with Ravilious

One of the pleasures of modern life is the discovery of an interesting blog. It's a cross between making a new friend and finding a quirky shop or a cafe, or a garden hidden away in a corner of the city. I'm very bad at keeping lists and find that I rarely use them anyway, following the path of a particular moment's inclination from one website to the next, but here are a few favourites.

Tirzah Garwood, The Dog Show, 1929
For a fascinating exploration of fine art printmaking you can't beat Adventures in the Print Trade, author  and print dealer Neil Philip's long-running blog. Neil is as knowledgeable as he is enthusiastic, and as a writer he achieves the difficult feat of combining technical know-how with a breezy style. His 2010 post on Tirzah Garwood (Eric Ravilious's wife) is typically thorough and serves as a perfect introduction to the work of a talented wood engraver who gave up a promising career to raise her children.

Another long-standing blog is All Things Considered, which is maintained by Angie and Simon Lewin of St Jude's Gallery in Norfolk. Like Neil, they are driven by a desire to share their enthusiasm, in their case for British culture past and present. Yes, there's a promotional angle too, but a great deal of the material posted on the site seems to be put there simply for the pleasure of sharing it. I'm particularly enjoying the ongoing series of posts devoted to the 'About Britain' series published in 1951 for the Festival of Britain.

It's great that people take the time to post images and information that it would otherwise be impossible to find - I've tried to do the same with the material I've gathered on Eric Ravilious and the Sussex Downs but don't manage to post half as much I'd like to...

Of course there are many other extraordinary art-related blogs out there. Another favourite is Art Inconnu, which features artists both dead and living who are either unknown or underappreciated. Occasionally a reader will protest that a certain artist is neither of the two, but this is rather missing the point of what this kind of blog is about. A blog is subjective, reflecting the passions and tastes not of museums, newspapers or corporations but of individuals. I enjoyed this post on William Victor Higgins, one of the pioneers of the Taos art colony. I'm planning to post some material on the artists of Santa Fe and Taos. In fact it's criminal that I haven't already, since I lived there for five years and visit regularly...

WV Higgins, New Mexico Skies, 1943
Some blogs you visit from time to time, knowing that there will always be something new and startling on offer. How to be a Retronaut is one such, providing regular injections of thought-provoking photographic weirdness. Colour photos from the days before colour photos, carefully chosen bits of archive material, and snippets of old film give one a frisson of what life would be like as a time traveller - interesting, isn't it, how much we associate historical periods with the medium we're using to seeing them in? I like these pictures of London in 1957.

Retronaut: London 1957
Then there are the quirky, personal blogs created and maintained by people who spend their time doing interesting things and enjoy telling the rest of us what they've been up to. Dru Marland has been doing this for ages, and when you visit her blog Upside Down in Cloud you may find her doing urgent Morris Traveller maintenance, painting hares or exploring some glorious, forgotten corner of the country. The Quince Tree, meanwhile, is the creation of a devoted Ravilious fan (among other things), who recently came up with the strange and wonderful idea of knitting in Rav's palette.

The Quince Tree: an unusual knitting pattern...

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