For this Field module we have the chance to visit a vast number of art galleries and museum collections across the length and breadth of the country. It is a great opportunity to engage with and reflect upon my engagement and encounters with artifacts, their curation and the contexts that I will experience within these institutions. The connections between objects and context is within the core of this module and therefore will need to be recorded carefully and systematically in my blog.
Wunderkammer, or cabinets of curiosities, arose in mid-sixteenth-century Europe as repositories for all manner of wondrous and exotic objects. In essence these collections made from things around the world, such as, specimens, diagrams, and illustrations from many disciplines; marking the intersection of science and superstition; and drawing on natural, manmade, and artificial worlds, can be seen as the precursors to museums.
We began our research by looking at National Museum Cardiff, where Jon Clarkson went into a deeper understanding for the motives both Gwendoline Davies and Margaret Davies collected and achieved this Welsh beloved collection. They had a high interest in more conservative pieces of the Royal Academy ranging to the more avant-garde New English Club work. Even before the war they had begun collecting paintings and other works of art, notably French Impressionists and post-Impressionists: Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Cezanne and Pissarro.
Originally their wealth came from their grandfather, David Davies, who made his fortune during the industrialisation of Victorian Wales. Coming from a social conscience family, the Davies sisters were very aware they owed their wealth to the labours of ordinary Welsh people, and at an early stage came to feel that they had a duty to ‘give something back’.
During the First World War, the sisters had spent time at the front running a canteen for French troops, witnessing first-hand the terrible suffering of the soldiers. During these years the sisters came to feel that after the war they must do something for the Welsh soldiers returning from the trenches, to help enrich their lives through the experience of art and music. The sisters were also aware of a need to improve the standards of art, design and craftsmanship in Wales, so in 1919 they bought the mansion from their brother to set about turning it into an arts and crafts centre for Wales. Their work since has been bequeathed to the National Museum in the 1950s and 1960s, making National Museum Cardiff one of international standing.Intriguing propositions in relation to art and its context and where it sits in the world. I am hoping that throughout our road trip I will be able to spot some interesting commonalities between institutions and begin to further question their relationships.