Wordsworth exhibition places art at the heart of the Lake District landscape
A revolutionary new exhibition, unfurling in two stages over the next three months, is set to open at Dove Cottage in Grasmere, Cumbria on May 4 2012, bringing a new dimension and level of interaction to the world-famous Wordsworth gallery.
Pen, Paint & Pixels, Touring the English Lakes across 250 years (May 4 2012 to January 6 2013) is an exhibition promising to be one of the liveliest ever staged at the venue, thanks to innovations in the delivery of the visitor experience and a re-energised ambience within the gallery.
The exhibition draws its inspiration from the different media used to communicate the beauty of the Lake District landscape over the last 250 years. It takes three moments in time and studies the same places within the Cumbrian landscape over two-and-a-half centuries, to examine social, topographic, geological, environmental and cultural evolution.
The first freeze frame is Gray’s account of a tour in Cumbria, written in 1769 and constituting the first piece of real travel journalism ever produced in this country. The second is the work of Joseph Farington RA, who followed Gray’s route to produce first exquisite watercolours and then engravings of the places described by the writer. Both paintings and the coffee table-style engravings are on display with maps, to create a sense of place.
Moving on to the 21st century, the third element of the exhibition is provided by digital photography, taken within the last few years by John R Murray. Murray was bequeathed Gray’s ‘travel log’, became fascinated by it and set out to follow in Farington’s footsteps, to capture the same places, but using a modern artistic medium.
Visitors to the exhibition can travel in time, by analysing the same locations encapsulated in differing artistic media, while enjoying both literary and visual tours of the Lakes. They will move from powerful written descriptions, to the sometimes flamboyant paintings which communicate the embellishment typical of the ‘Picturesque’ movement in art and on into the realms of 21st-century digital images.
Using works such as Farington’s view of Derwentwater and Skiddaw looking north from Brandelhow Wood and his watercolour of Derwentwater and the Vale of Keswick looking north as their reference point, visitors can judge what has changed over time, what has proved intransient and what probably only ever existed in Farington’s imagination.
The extraordinary aspect to this exhibition emerges once the visitor has been inspired by the stunning displays. The gallery goer can become landscape explorer, by requesting the co-ordinates of the Farington locations and buying the exhibition book, which is integral to the experience, adding insights into the photographic challenges experienced by Murray after 250 years of landscape evolution.
Armed with these elements, visitors can then follow in the footsteps of artist and photographer and take the exhibition outdoors and to a fourth level, which involves their own photography at identical locations to those captured over the last 250 years by their artistic predecessors. They can visit as many, or as few, of the viewpoints as they wish, adding a new element to their schedule of things to do in the Lakes.
Their tourism experience will be both enriched and enhanced, as art becomes instrumental in the delivery of sense of place within the Lake District landscape and they discover the same fun that early tourists visiting the Lakes would have had with their Claude glasses.
Stage one of this exhibition runs from May 2012 to July 2012, when stage two of Pen, Paint & Pixels launches. This will re-energise the exhibition with another wow factor in the form of an App that will combine GPS technology with the words and pictures from the exhibition. The exhibition will then run to January 6, 2013 with all media elements in place.
The App will give those summertime visitors to Dove Cottage with smartphones the added delight of creating their own accurate versions of the viewpoints featured in the gallery, once they have left Grasmere armed with co-ordinates, book and App and explored the various iconic locations on their artistic ‘treasure trail’.
Dove Cottage expects to appeal to a whole new audience through this dynamic exhibition, adding relevancy to art for those who do not typically regard themselves as art lovers. Tickets for Pen, Paint & Pixels go on sale on May 4, 2012 at Dove Cottage, Grasmere.