Category Archives: Birmingham

Christmas in Painting and Applied Art: Edward Burne-Jones

Sir Edward Burne-Jones, The Star of Bethlehem, 1890
(Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, UK)

Image credit: Wikimedia.

In 1886, William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones were commissioned a tapestry for Exeter College, Oxford, with The Adoration of the Magi being offered as a subject. The completed work, after Burne-Jones’s sketch, was presented to the college in 1890 and has been hanging at the Exeter College Chapel since. The Adoration of the Magi was to be the most commercially successful tapestry produced by Morris and Co: over 10 versions were woven and can now been seen all over the world: at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, in South Australia, and at the Manchester Metropolitan University.

Still in 1890, Burne-Jones had received an opportunity to revisit his design as a full-scale painting, The Star of Bethlehem, which has been presented to, and housed at, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. A photograph from Victoria and Albert Museum archives shows the artist walking up and down the ladder with his easel, while working on the watercolour painting. The watercolour differs from the tapestry design primarily in the choice of colours. The subdued reds and gold of the tapestry become the rich blues and green of the painting.

Exeter College Chapel
The Star of Bethlehem
in BMAG’s hall

When I visited Birmingham in December 2008, I had the chance to take a photo of the painting, as it hangs in one of two Burne-Jones’s halls at the Art Gallery (full-size photo). You can compare it with the original tapestry that can be viewed online, in a virtual tour of the Exeter College Chapel. The image on the right is a screengrab taken during the tour.

Some Flickr Pointers

I noticed that Flickr link in my Lijit widget wasn’t working. I corrected it but I thought I’d use the opportunity to give you a peek at my “private” Flickr life.

I started using the site in 2007, partly because of Robin Hamman‘s paeans. I’ve loved photography already but as with blogging it took overcoming a certain inner hurdle to start putting the photos up for all to see.

I love Flickr; in May, during Futuresonic Festival, I even delivered a talk on Online Photography; and before then in January I wrote a lengthy article on how (not) to use Flickr. Working as a Social Media Manager, I notice, of course, that nobody uses Flickr as they “should”, myself including. But it’s good to strive to use it better.

Flickr is an ocean, deep, beautiful, and sometimes dangerous. They upped security and safety levels, and you can always ask to take you “to kittens” but chances are, you will keep looking. I don’t think it will be totally bad if a young person stumbles upon the imagery of sexual kind. My concern is whether or not there will be a sensible adult with them to explain things.

As for me, I was amazed when last year I got followed by the multitudes of leather fans. I love leather clothes, so this season I don’t even have to try to be fashionable. But to have your own self-portrait in leather pants and hand-made sweater accumulating views and comments was something different.

My experience of Flickr has been great, all the more so because for the second time a photo I took was included in Schmap City Guide. In 2007, one photo was featured in Schmap Liverpool Guide. In 2009, another photo (which you will not find in my personal photostream) got included in Schmap Manchester Guide. It was made at one of the events where I went as my company’s employee, and it is credited to the company.

So, by way of giving a few pointers to what you’re going to find if you visit my Flickr:

All sets, and particularly Knitting and Lake District

Carmarthen Cameos (South Wales)


Bolton (a Lancashire town in Greater Manchester county)


North Wales

Castles (only Welsh so far)

Museums, Art Galleries, Exhibitions (Beck’s Canvas, Liverpool Walker Art Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum)

Concert and Music Events (Tina Turner, Barbra Streisand, Toshio Iwai)

Russian Places (some of my childhood places)

York (I loved the city, will go again some time)

Yorkshire: Leeds and Scarborough

Lancashire: Oldham, Blackburn and Blackpool

Merseyside: Liverpool and Southport

Cheshire: Chester, Altrincham, Warrington, and Stockport

Midlands: Birmingham

Public Lectures (Slavoj Zizek rules!)

Festivals: Futuresonic, Manchester International Festival, Text Festival

The photo above is Cleopatra’s Needle from London 2004 set.

Victorian Art in the Walker Art Gallery

Although I didn’t get the chance last year to attend any events during Liverpool’s residency as a European capital of culture of 2008, I travelled to Liverpool just a week before Christmas for a meeting. And there I finally got to visit Walker Art Gallery, just in time to catch a retrospective exhibition dedicated to John Moores Prize winners of the past years, as well as the John Moores 25 Contemporary Painting Prize.

Before then, in September-October 2008 I was researching into Art and Poverty when I had to deeply delve once again into the 19th c. European painting, and particularly, the works of Pre-Raphaelites. Earlier in December 2008 I visited the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery that had the stunning Holy Grail Tapestries on display, as well as an exhibition of work of Ford Madox Brown. And between November 2008 and January 2009 I went to the exhibition of work of William Holman Hunt at Manchester Art Gallery. Not exactly because I loved it too much, but because twice I went with friends.

(I didn’t have to fill any photography permission forms at the Walker, but this was a requirement in Birmingham. On my Flickr, you can view the Walker set and the BMAG set).

I am posting this photo from one of the Victorian halls at the Walker also with the view to introduce a great blog about Pre-Raphaelites that I found recently: Pre Raphaelite Art. The blog is updated very, very often (something I’d love to do here and elsewhere) and is a wonderful treat to all who love Pre-Raphaelite painting. If you haven’t found it yet, I hope you do now. As for me, I’m grateful to the blog’s author for using a LinkWithin widget; I didn’t know about it.

And to round it off, a cast of William Holman Hunt’s hand from the Walker:

Liverpool - Walker Art Gallery, The Cast of Hand of William Holman Hunt

Birmingham – The City of 2009?

Liverpool has been the European capital of culture in 2008. But astrologically, the year 2008 was the year of Rat. I never actually checked if any world city has had a rat as its symbol. Having visited Birmingham recently for the first time, and seen this lovely sculpture at the Bull Ring Shopping Centre, I think I have found my symbol (and definitely a city to come back to) for the year ahead.

You see, back in Russia I have got a collection of soft toys, all in the guise of one or another character of the Chinese calendar. There is a pretty pair of Sheep, a faithfully looking Dog, an impressively pinky Pig, and a very old and blind Lion, among others (the Lion is the same age as me, and has lost both his green eyes to the Time).

I don’t have this collection with me now, and generally I have done well without it all this time. However, 2008 being a lean year and not entirely enjoyable one for me, I am hoping to brace myself well for 2009 with the help of this ox that looks very determined. Instead of drinking potions offered by MacCartney and Jackson in their famous video, I will look at this photo in the hope that the sculpture will give me “the strength of a raging bull”.

…I can just hear Sir Paul pronouncing “the strength of a raging bull” in that video. What? You don’t know which one?? Oh don’t say, say, say!..

Birmingham – Mr Fish at the Indoor Market

OK, this isn’t the most regular image from me, but I admit, this was the first time on my memory that I came face to face with the game (poultry, that is). I was impressed, although I couldn’t find enough courage to photograph a dead goose that hang at the corner, its severed head being wrapped up in a cellophane bag, resting on the stall’s surface. Apart from a plenty of people on Saturday’s afternoon, this was one of the biggest impressions of visiting Birmingham.