Thursday, 2 May 2013

Two Bath Exhibitions for the Price of One!

The facade of the "Holburne Museum"

The building was designed by Charles Harcourt Masters and built in Bath stone in 1795-6 to be the "Sydney Hotel," a social gathering place rather than a residential hotel.   During its life it has undergone several changes, and from 1913-16, it was converted into the present home of the Holburne Museum.  A glass and steel extension in a contemporary style has been added to the rear of the museum recently.   The building stands in Sydney Gardens,  near the home of Jane Austen who lived in Bath in the early 19th century.  The hotel and gardens are mentioned in her diaries.    

The museum holds permanent exhibitions of paintings, drawings, pottery and sculpture, as well as staging special displays.    We visited "Painted Pomp" on Wednesday, an exhibition of paintings from the time of William Shakespeare.  Apart from the paintings of noble men in their finery, and ladies in their splendid dresses, collars and pearls, there was a display of Flemish handmade lace and gentlemens' undershirts, all delicately embroidered in black designs on white lawn, and with beautiful lace collars.  These must have taken months to make and cost a fortune.  

They were also two modern costumes on display from the "Globe Theatre."   A video showed the sequence of dressing both a man and a woman.  Starting from the simplest garments next to the skin, and ones that could be washed easily, we watched the underskirts, shirts, doublets, hose, leggings and bodices added layer by layer, until each person was finally laced into their fabulous finery.  Royalty and the gentry needed hours to get dressed, and with a team of servants doing all the hard work.  An exhibition well worth seeing.

The "Octagon" Art Gallery.

This building was originally the "Octagon Chapel, and stands in Milsom Street.  It was built in 1766, and is a Grade 1 listed building.   William Herschel, the astromoner was the organist here in 1767.  It was once the home of the Royal Photographic Society, and is now used to stage various exhibitions of photography.  

We saw a collection of photographs by Norman Parkinson, the well know fashion photographer.   Mostly in black and white, and dating from the 1930's it showed many of his photos for "Vogue" magazine and other publications.  The models were beautiful, all so slim and immaculately dressed, and posed in simple but striking positions.  Several of the photos were taken in Bath.   Jean Shrimpton appeared in several photos and also Celia Hammond, two models that I remember from my younger days.  Another lovely exhibition.

The ceiling of the Octagon.

Standing on the floor, I pointed my camera directly above me and under the very centre of the octagon in the roof.  The ceiling and walls are decorated in white stucco, with delicate patterns of floral wreaths and rosettes.  All were so very beautiful, and what workmanship!

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