Sunday, 17 August 2014

Saturday 16th August at Dumfries House

Today I had the pleasure of going on a Grand Tour of Dumfries House. After watching a short video in which Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay welcomed us to the premises and gave us a brief introduction into his involvement in the estate.

The tour was fascinating, and I certainly want to negotiate access again as there is so much to take in.

There were a number of rooms where we had to watch where we were standing as the original Axminster carpets from the 1700's were still intact. Instead, digital photographs printed onto fabric were positioned on top of the originals on the floor. The same technique was used to replicate the tapestries that are usually located in the tapestry room but are currently being restored. The resemblance to the originals is somewhat remarkable, and has made me consider digital printing as a possible process to use in making artwork.

One of my favourite parts of the building was the Pewter Corridor. The original decorated ceilings were completed in 1908, but in the 1960s was painted over in battleship grey paint. In 2010, a section of the original highly elaborate decorative pattern was revealed by a team who spent 3 months painstakingly picking off the layer of grey paint to reveal what lied beneath. From this single dome, other artists were able to replicate the design on the other domes along the corridor.

One of the domes along the Pewter Corridor

In the Blue Drawing Room the Chippendale furniture was covered in a blue fabric specially commissioned and pattern taken from an original surviving piece of 18th century damask.

The  plasterwork on the ceilings shows a high level of skill and craftsmanship to produce, and I am interested in working with some of the patterns taken from the designs.

Likewise, in the Pink Dining Room there was a selection of creamware by Wedgwood in the Etruscan-pattern design. I would like to draw from these objects.

One of the artworks on the wall was painted in monochrome, with the intention of making it appear like a sculpture. It was very effective, and is interesting to bear in mind when considering 'object painting'.

Some of the frames in the rooms were carved into the wall panels, and so the artwork to go within these frames was often specially chosen to fit the predetermined measurements.

In the Entrance Hall there was another curious object, a Grand Orrery, a form of planetarium. It was regarded as a gentleman's toy as at the time it was thought that women did not understand astronomy.

Along the gallery corridor were a number of Chinese chairs, again with superbly patterned backs. These are something I would like to spend more time with.

After the Grand Tour I met Thomas Brackney, Assistant Curator, who kindly showed me into an area of the House that the tour had not taken me through, namely the servants area of the House. It was along one of the corridors here that I discovered a curious device that was in effect, an old form of intercom system. There was a wooden panel with a circle above the name of each of the rooms in the House. Each room in the House had a bell which was connected to the corresponding circle on the device. When someone rang the bell, the corresponding circle on the panel would move, thus indicating where the servant should go to.

I was also taken into the kitchen, which had a large cog system that operated a spit roaster, on which whole animals would be cooked.

Along the corridors in the servants area were numerous drawings of sections of the building and furniture from the House. I would like to spend some more time working with these drawings.

I am particularly interested in taking from the side elevations of some of the items of furniture.

As always, I was keen to get my hands on one of the maps of the estate, and am thinking of producing my own version of a map.

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