The Arts In Berwick

The Arts In Berwick

January 25, 2019 Off By exploreberwick

The Arts In Berwick — Visual Arts — Painting
A Fragment of Fresco

A fascinating fragment of Tudor Berwick is the fresco discovered in the Old Bridge Tavern in 1900. Restored and transferred to the Museum when the Tavern was demolished, it has an inscription reading “Wisdom and science which are pure by kind, Should not be writ in books but in mind”.

Research has revealed that almost the same verse appears in a notebook written by Thomas Brampton, a Norfolk landowner, in 1570-80. How and why this got onto a fireplace in Berwick remains a mystery.

The Arts In Berwick — Visual Arts — Painting
Mackintosh on Holy Island

The Scottish architect, designer and exponent of Art-Nouveau Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) first came Holy Island on his honeymoon in 1900.

In the next few years he returned many times to make a series of flower studies. Some of the same geometric plant-motifs that appear on his buildings in Glasgow are found in these watercolors of flowers he did on Holy Island.

In Berwick itself, other Art-Nouveau inspirations can be seen in the flamboyant glazed entrance to the Brewers’Arms pub and some decoration on Church Street Police station.

The Arts In Berwick — Visual Arts — Painting
In Search of the Picturesque

When Burns spent a day in Berwick in 1787, he noted it was “An idle town, but rudely picturesque”. The term “picturesque” was top of the artistic agenda at the time, and in 1794 Sir Uvedale Price published his “Essay on the Picturesque” codifying how artists could create compositions with “variety, movement and asymmetry”.

When Samuel Prout (1783-1852) came to Norham in 1814, he found just what Sir Uvedale ordered. He wrote in his journal:-

“I most sorrowed in being obliged to make memorandum only under my umbrella at Norham, a very picturesque village with a ruined castle grouping in the best composition imaginable, all I think could be wished for at a village scene, but the rain fell in incessant torrents and I could only catch the slightest sketches.”

The resulting picture, worked up from sketches afterwards, has a serenity that gives no hint of the rain. This was typical of many artists at the time.

In 1808 John Varley (1772-1842) had stayed with his patrons the Tankervilles at Chillingham Castle, making sketches at Bamburgh and Holy Island. One of his views of Holy Island Priory is illuminated by the setting sun, and like Prout, has a peasant in the foreground to create “movement”. In addition, Varley’s work reflects his personal fascination with astrology and the psychology of melancholia. The two artists were also exponents of the comparative new medium of watercolour, with Varley having Linnell, Copley Fielding, Cox and De Wint among his pupils.

Another enthusiast for the style was William Daniell (1769-1837), who included a view of Berwick in his Picturesque Voyage Around Great Britain (1814-15). But, although their compositions corresponded to the requirements of contemporary critics, they also resembled the calm Italianate landscapes of Richard Wilson (1714-82) and antiquarians like the Buck brothers.