Back For Good!

Treasured: Celebrating the unknown, unexpected and unseen treasures of the University’s museum collections – one object in particular sums it up perfectly (and it also happens to be one of my favourites!)

Interior of St Paul's Cathedral, Dundee, 1913 Lithograph by Stewart Carmichael (1867 - 1950)

Interior of St Paul’s Cathedral, Dundee, 1913
Lithograph by Stewart Carmichael (1867 – 1950)

In a dark and distant time, long before the existence of the Museum Collections Unit and the wonders of the annual art audit, this work slipped into a void, not to be seen again from some 50 years!

The last inventory to locate this artwork was in 1963; by 1981 when the next inventory was made it had been lost and was recorded as ‘missing’. Until, in 2009, the print was found by an intrepid curator sent out to scour every inch of the University looking for artworks to inventory (yes, we are that cool). There it was, unframed and a bit tatty, among a stack of reproduction prints in a forgotten corner of the Warden’s office at University Hall. The shrieks of delight could be heard resounding across the town. The print was rushed to the conservator a bit of TLC (cleaning, mounting and framing), making it ready for its big debut at the Gateway Galleries, and making sure it will stay in tip top condition for audiences to see over the next 50 years (and more!). What better object to put on display for an exhibition celebrating the lesser spotted Treasures of the University’s collections.

If you haven’t already been, get along to the Gateway Galleries for the Treasured exhibition, to see this rediscovered picture, and find out some of the other reasons we think it’s a treasure…

..as an example of the work of Stewart Carmichael – although better known for his paintings in the Celtic Revivalist and Symbolist style,he originally trained as an architect in Dundee;

Allegory of Scotland, 1925, by Stewart Carmichael

Allegory of Scotland, 1925, by Stewart Carmichael

..for the skill the artist shows in using the lithographic technique – drawing onto a stone plate and then taking a print on to paper – accurately depicting the impressive structure of the stone pillars and pointed arches, while creating atmosphere with the strong contrasts of light and dark, and context and scale with the figures;

Details from Interior of St Paul's Cathedral

Detail from Interior of St Paul’s Cathedral

..because it’s part of the hugely important Recording Scotland Collection – the Recording Scotland project was launched during the Second World War in order to create a permanent pictorial record of Scotland at a time when it was under threat from bombing and growing industrialisation. Similar projects were instigated across Britain and the Recording Britain Collection (covering England and Wales) is held by the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Ceres, Fife, around 1900-1935. Oil on board, by S J Peploe. Also in the Recording Scotland Collection.

Ceres, Fife, around 1900-1935. Oil on board, by S J Peploe. Also in the Recording Scotland Collection.

Jessica Burdge, Collections Curator

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