Wednesday 30 November 2022

I have been to....the Hepworth Gallery

 It was my birthday recently and I was supposed to be going down to London to visit the Tate Modern, however that plan was scuppered by rail strikes, so instead we motored a few miles up the M1 to Wakefield to the Hepworth Gallery. 

Barbara Hepworth was one of the most influential modern British abstract sculptors (along with Henry Moore), and although she lived in Cornwall for much of her life, she was raised in Wakefield. She went to Wakefield Girls High, which my wife also attended and actually had one of her old textbooks (back in the days when schools actually had books to give out). 

As ever, I shall restrict myself to things of slightly historical interest.

The gallery is a rather striking building, part Brutalist, part art installation in its own right. It is in a rather run down light industrial part of Wakefield, right on the Calder. I gather the critics from London were a bit surprised when they came to visit for its opening. 

There is a huge weir right outside, which reminds me of the one on the Don where it branches off from the Rotherham-Sheffield Navigation Canal.

Upstream from the weir is a tranquil boatyard.

Quiet flows the Calder. The gallery windows give various views of the river.

A triptych of bronzes outside.

This Henry Moore is just inside the gallery entrance. Funnily enough it was completed the same year I was born!

As we went mid-week, it was pretty quiet.

There were some fascinating workshop displays showing how many of the sculptures were made. These are wood masters and associated woodworking tools.

This is another version of the famous 'Wings' statue which adorns John Lewis in Oxford Street. This was commissioned in the early 1960s.

A slightly more distant view to give an idea of the size of it. It is huge.

Original plans for the sculpture. The hand written dimensions show the true horror of designing stuff using Imperial measurements. 3 and 7/8 inches etc. Didn't our illustrious leaders have some daft idea about bringing Imperial measures back?

This is a sequence showing how hollow bronzes are cast using sand moulds starting with a plaster model. More complex than you could ever imagine, and a very similar process to that used for cast armour plate.

This metallic orb was completed in 1967 and reminds me very much of the thought transplant machine in "Joe 90". A show which also premiered in 1967.

There were various other collections in display on a rolling basis in the other galleries.

I rather liked this one.

One exhibition which did catch my eye was about British Surrealism in the 1930s and 40s. I never even knew there was a British surrealist movement. This poster was designed by Max Ernst.

A poster urging support for Republican Spain by Marc Chagalle.

Poster advertising a Guernica display in London.

One of the British surrealist paintings, which I thought was rather good.

This brave chap is John Bunting, who single handedly tried to stop the Anschluss by blocking the road (which didn't work). He then pursued Himmler and other senior officers to this hotel in Innsbruck where he harangued them and was eventually arrested for onbstruction but then released on bail and escaped.

'Hitler must be defeated' by John Bunting.

A couple more of the paintings I liked.

The museum also has a lovely (but small) ornamental garden outside, which was very pleasant to wander around in the autumn sunshine.

Highly recommended to visit if you are in the area.

What birthday would be complete without Colin the Caterpillar.

Friday 25 November 2022

Rebasing step 1 complete.

 Before I went away I made some progress on my 6mm Napoleonics. For the first step I decided to focus on getting the Napoleonic figures back into useable elements without worrying too much about their rather ancient paint schemes! 

This was essentially the tedious job of prising them off the existing bases, reorganising them into sensible units and then sticking on their new bases. This process would also show up some gaps which needed to be filled, but fortunately I still have a moderate sized box half filled with even more  ancient Napoleonic figures of various types (including an embarassingly large number of Polish Lancers and Imperial Guard Grenadiers!)

After a few days, I ended up with the British, French and Prussian infantry and cavalry. Everyone is one 30mm x 20mm bases, so the same size as my recent ACW stuff and the on the same frontage as all my nineteenth century stuff - which means I can use my 1860s Austrians, Italians and Bavarians as supplementary units. In 6mm the uniforms look virtually identical to their Napoleonic counterparts, as do the flags.

I was slightly tempted to go with 25mm x 25mm but in the end decided against it. The main thing was getting the infantry in two ranks, which gives a lot more flexibility in terms of representing different types of elements - some of them had skirmishers as the first rank, some were just close order infantry, and the command elements also occupied various positions.

The other box has all the Russian infantry and cavalry, plus everyone's guns, leaders and wagons, limbers etc. In total there are 248 individual elements with around 1,400 figures and 25 guns. It isn't a huge collection by any standards, but adding in the useable nineteenth century figures adds considerably to that. I'm also fairly liberal in terms of swapping cavalry around, one bloke on a horse being much the same as another in 6mm, and there are 54 elements just of Napoleonic cavalry, plus a load more in the nineteenth century box (who again, are wearing uniforms virtually unchanged, especially the Hussars and Cuirassiers).

In the main I've gone with notional units of 3-4 infantry elements or 3-4 cavalry elements, but I tend to mix elements up for higher level games where formation strengths are so varied. A typical infantry 'unit' has four bases each of eight figures in two ranks, one of which is a command base with officers, drummers, flags etc. The cavalry elements have four figures on, purely for convenience as that is the standard Irregular 6mm cavalry element size.

The elements are deliberately set up so there are gaps at each end - contemporary sketches show that units always had gaps between them, not a wall-wall line of troops shoulder to shoulder so beloved of wargamers. 

Next job is to review the paint jobs on the figures. Many of these haven't been touched for 40 years, I've learned a few tricks since then and we have access to much better uniform sources now.

Thursday 24 November 2022

I have been away...

 The blog has been rather quiet recently as I've been away on a cruise around the eastern Mediterranean for a couple of weeks. I'd intended to keep some posts going, but limited connectivity and other stuff going on meant my best intentions came to naught. Now we've both got Covid and it is taking a while to get better, so my energy for writing is a bit limited. 

Anyway, we did go to a few places of vaguely historical interest so I'll put a few photos and commentary from each over the next few weeks/months.

Just a taster to whet your appetites...