200 years of John Ruskin

February 8th 2019 marks 200 years since the birth of art critic and social thinker John Ruskin (1819-1900).

In our collections, substantial letters from Ruskin appear in the Trevelyan (Walter Calverley) Archive (WCT). Sir Walter was a naturalist and landlord of both the Nettlecombe and Wallington estates. Ruskin’s link to Sir Walter came through a close friendship with his wife Paulina Trevelyan (Pauline). It is to Pauline that the majority of the letters from Ruskin are addressed.

The correspondence from Ruskin in the WCT Archive reflect the friendship between Trevelyan and Ruskin. He advises her on her own artistic practice, reflects on his own work as well as discussing art, society and family matters. In his autobiography, Ruskin described Trevelyan as ‘a monitress-friend in whom I totally trusted’. This trust appears to have been returned, as Trevelyan was one of the few to stand by Ruskin during the collapse and annulment of his marriage.

Extract from a letter from John Ruskin to Lady Pauline, advising her on her own artistic practice

Extract from a letter from John Ruskin to Lady Pauline, advising her on her own artistic practice (Walter Calverley Archive, WCT 39)

Both Trevelyan and Ruskin were supporters of the burgeoning Pre-Raphaelite movement. Trevelyan became an important patron of the movement, using the opportunity presented by roofing the courtyard at Wallington Hall, to showcase the style she enjoyed. The Great Hall at Wallington remains an important artistic monument, featuring eight large wall paintings by William Bell Scott. The floral designs which appear between the main panels were painted by Ruskin and Trevelyan themselves, among other figures from their social circle.

Their friendship came to an end when Trevelyan died in Switzerland, while she and her husband travelled with Ruskin. Both men were present at her death-bed.

Extract from a letter from John Ruskin to Lady Pauline, which includes his signature

Extract from a letter from John Ruskin to Lady Pauline, which includes his signature (Walter Calverley Trevelyan Archive, WCT 39)

The Trevelyan (Walter Calverley) Archive is available for public consultation and contains around 20 files of letters from Ruskin to Trevelyan, dating from 1848 to Pauline’s death in 1866. Images in this article are from a letter from Ruskin to Trevelyan dated 5th March [1849] which appears in WCT 39. Collections Captured also features images of Ruskin’s personal bookplate and annotations which feature in a book he formerly owned: The tea-table miscellany or, Allan Ramsay’s collection of Scots Sangs (18th Century Collection, 821.04 RAM).

Page from ‘The tea-table miscellany or, Allan Ramsay's collection of Scots sangs’

Page from ‘The tea-table miscellany or, Allan Ramsay’s collection of Scots sangs’ (18th Century Collection, 18th C. Coll 821.04 RAM)

The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals

A sow is dressed in a jacket and trousers being executed in front of a large crows in a public square

The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals by E.P. Evans, 1906 (Clarke Miscellaneous 180)

From the Middle Ages until the mid-eighteenth century a wide array of animals were brought to trial in Europe, charged with a range of crimes committed against both humans and other animals. E.P. Evans’ book The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals documents nearly 200 cases of animal trials from this period.

The frontispiece of Evans’ book shows a sow dressed in a jacket and trousers being executed in a public square. The pig had been charged with the murder of a small child and, following its execution, it was dressed up in human clothes to be displayed in the town.

Not all cases ended in capital punishment, however. Evans also documents cases where ecclesiastical trials of insects and vermin resulted in excommunication. For example, he writes about a case of rats who were defended by Bartholemew Chassenée – a renowned sixteenth century lawyer. The rats were accused of having ‘feloniously eaten up and wantonly destroying the barley-crop’ and Chassenée successfully defended the rats, who were unable to appear before the court due to the ‘length and difficulty of the journey and the serious perils which attended it’ – the ‘serious perils’ being the ‘vigilance of their mortal enemies, the cats’.

It wasn’t just animals who were subject to human law, however. Evans also writes of cases where inanimate objects were brought before the court. In one instance, a statue of a famous athlete, Nikôn of Thasos, had fallen and crushed a man. The statue was subsequently brought before a tribunal and sentenced to be ‘cast into the sea’.

While many of the cases Evans discusses may seem ridiculous to us, Medieval and early-Modern Europeans recognised that animals were capable of suffering pain and death. With contemporary movements like PETA and WWF working to establish animal rights, by granting animals agency in a court of justice, perhaps our Medieval and early-Modern predecessors were not too far wrong.

Aurelia Musso – The Exchange, Newcastle

One of the very special images we have within our ‘Local Illustrations’ collection is this picture: Exchange by Aurelia Musso.  Unusually for the prints that remain of this artist, it is a picture of a civic building, the Exchange on Newcastle Quayside (now known as the Guild Hall).

‘Exchange’, by Aurelia Musso and dedicated to David Landell, c. 1783 1793 (Local Illustrations, ILL/11/165). The Exchange is located along the Newcastle Quayside, now known as Guild Hall.

 

Aurelia Musso was a prolific artist, and highly regarded within Newcastle society in the late 18th Century.  Born in Piedmont in Italy in 1758, she moved to Newcastle in 1783 with her husband, fellow artist Boniface Musso, and their two children.  The early history of the Musso family is fairly scant, but Aurelia (nee Grezzini) appears to have had family links in Newcastle, with various members of the Grezzini family involved in wood carving trades and the making of high quality toys in the City.

Axwell Park by Aurelia Musso, commissioned by the Clavering family of Gateshead. Original held at Newcastle City Library and kindly reproduced with their permission.

Jesmond Mill by Aurelai Musso, commissioned by the Brown family of Benton. Original held at Newcastle City Library and kindly reproduced with their permission.

Aurelia Musso specialised in prints and her work was highly valued among the wealthy and powerful in Newcastle.  She was commissioned by several prominent families, including the Clavering family of Axwell Park, (Gateshead), John Bigge of Carville Hall (Wallsend), William Lamb of Ryton Hall (County Durham) and Ralph Carr of Dunston Hall (Gateshead), and often Musso’s images remain the earliest prints of these family estates and houses.  She appears to have been very much a part of this elite circle and was certainly a very fashionable artist during this period.

The image of the Exchange was presumably created whilst Aurelia lived in Newcastle, and can therefore be dated to between 1783 – 1893.  Not very long afterwards, in 1809, the frontage of the building was radically altered to the designs of architects William Newton and David Stephenson.  Whilst the interior and rear of the building remained intact, the old steeple and staircase were entirely taken down, and the present front was erected, with the clock placed in the front, largely obliterating the original Italian architectural style seen in Musso’s print.  The print below, dating from 1829, shows the building with its new facade, which remains to this day.

‘Guild Hall or Exchange’ 1829, William Westall (artist) and Edward Finden (engraver), held by Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The Musso family, although nowadays far less well know than during their lifetimes, play an important part in Newcastle’s history.  Aurelia’s husband Boniface was the tutor for a short time of architect John Dobson (link to profile), as well as the artist John Martin (link to profile).  John Martin moved to Newcastle initially in 1803 at the age of 14 to take up the post of apprentice to a coach-builder to learn heraldic painting.  Meeting the Musso family in 1804 however he was taken on by them, receiving classical art instruction.  After Aurelia’s death, Boniface moved with the family to London taking John Martin with him – although Martin proved to be a somewhat wayward apprentice and the apprenticeship was later terminated!

Aurelia died in 1793, only 35 years old, cause of death unknown.  She was buried on 17th September 1793 in St Andrew’s Churchyard, Newcastle.

Many thanks to Pat Halcro for her research for this piece.

WWI Home for Christmas – #ChristmasCountdown Door no. 24

#ChristmasCountdown
Door no. 24

The Newcastle University Special Collections team
would like to wish you all a very
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Postcard depicting a ward in the First Northern General Hospital

Postcard depicting a ward in the First Northern General Hospital, 1915 (University Archives, NUA/014017-25)

Postcard depicting a ward in the First Northern General Hospital

Postcard depicting a ward in the First Northern General Hospital, 1915 (University Archives, NUA/014017-26)

Postcard depicting a ward in the First Northern General Hospital

Postcard depicting a ward in the First Northern General Hospital, 1915 (University Archives, NUA/014017-27)

These 3 postcards consist of images taken on the wards of the 1st Northern General and feature both patients in flannel suits and ties, Royal Army Medical Corps personnel in uniforms, nurses, and the matron.

During the First World War the building that now houses the Hatton Gallery was requisitioned to house the 1st Northern General Hospital. This was normal practice throughout the war years, as army hospitals were needed across the country and on a large scale. The Fine Art building in which you are now standing was then part of Armstrong College, Durham University.

A note on the back of all 3 tell us they were taken around Christmas 1915 on wards on the ground floor of the Armstrong Building and were sent by a ‘D. Robinson’ to an address in Corbridge, Northumberland.

Find out more about how the First World War impacted on Newcastle University 100 years on through using original photographs and documents from the University Archives in ‘A Higher Purpose: Newcastle University at War‘ online digital exhibition.

Spirit Drinkers Beware – #ChristmasCountdown Door no. 23

#ChristmasCountdown
Door no. 23

Notice entitled ‘Spirit Drinkers Beware!!!!‘ (Rare Books, 616.932 BEL)

Cholera broke out in Gateshead on Boxing Day 26th December 1831. This notice was issued by the Gateshead Board of Health, in response to the outbreak of cholera, warning people that drinking spirits has been linked to the caused of the disease and that New Year’s Day is approaching and warning of the DANGER of drinking on this day.

Find out more about our Cholera scrapbooks here.

The scrapbooks are part of the Rare Books Collections. Find out more about it here.

December’s calendar – #ChristmasCountdown Door no. 22

#ChristmasCountdown
Door no. 22

Page from Kate Greenaway’s Almanack for 1892 (19th Century Collection, 19th C. Coll 020 GRE)

Catherine Greenaway (1846 – 1901), known as Kate Greenaway, was an English children’s book illustrator and writer. Her almanacs ran from 1883 up until 1897, with no 1896 issue being published. Each almanacks included a Jan-Dec calendar, beautifully drawn illustrations and short verses and poems. Her almanacs were sold throughout America, England, Germany and France and were produced with different variations and in different languages.

Greenaway’s Almanacks are from the 19th Century Collection. Find her out more about Kate Greenaway’s almanacks in Education Outreach’s Amazing Archives online resource.

Joseph Swan’s incandescent lightbulbs – #ChristmasCountdown Door no. 21

#ChristmasCountdown
Door no. 21

This letter was written by Joseph Swan to Rothbury photographer John Worsnop on 9th November 1897, in which he describes the first use of his incandescent lightbulb in a private residence other than his own, at Lord Armstrong’s house, Cragside. He writes, “…the effect was splendid and never to be forgotten”.

Sunderland-born physicist and chemist Sir Joseph Wilson Swan (1828-1914) is world-renowned for his invention of an early electric incandescent lightbulb, which became the very first to light public spaces and private residences. Swan conducted many of the experiments in perfecting this landmark technology at his home in Low Fell, Gateshead. He personally supervised the installation of lightbulbs at Cragside, the Northumberland residence of his friend, industrialist Lord William Armstrong, in December 1880. In this letter, he gives a vivid account of that momentous occasion.

Spiral Nebula in the Snow – #ChristmasCountdown Door no. 20

#ChristmasCountdown
Door no. 20

Here’s a snowy and wintery image from our University Archives.

Photograph of Geoffrey Clarke’s sculpture, in the snow, in front of Sir Basil Spence’s Herschel Building at Newcastle University, for the Department of Physics, taken 1963.

‘Spiral Nebula’ (also known as ‘Swirling Nebula’) was designed by noted post-war sculptor Geoffrey Clarke in 1962. It is a leading example of post-war public art. It is one of the few from this period that is situated in Newcastle.

It was commissioned by the architect Basil Spence as part of the design of the Herschel Building for the Physics Department of Kings College, University of Durham (which later in 1963 became Newcastle University). It reflects the scientific advances being made at this time,  such as Britain’s first satellite, ‘Ariel 1’, which was launched in 1963 (the same year as the building was opened and sculpture unveiled).

Read more about the sculpture’s history and its revival here.

‘Spiral Nebula’ was one of five pieces of post-war public art in the North East to be given listed status at Grade II by Historic England in August 2016 (announced by Historic England September 2016). Read more here.

This photograph is part of the photographic section of the University Archives. To see more images of ‘Spiral Nebula’ in situ and being constructed, visit CollectionsCaptured.

Me and Catharine Susan earns an honest penny – #ChristmasCountdown Door no. 19

#ChristmasCountdown
Door no. 19

The story starts with peg dolls sitting at a dinner table…

Page from 'Me and Catharine Susan earns an honest penny' showing two peg dolls at the table with empty plates

Page from ‘Me and Catharine Susan earns an honest penny‘ showing two peg dolls at the table with empty plates (Rare Books, RB 823.912 AIN)

“Empty plates!!
and not a penny left.

Something must be
done at once.”

You join two peg dolls on their journey trying to earn some money, through setting up (with varying successes) different businesses, such as a sewing and clothes alterations shop, a tea shop in their garden, becoming market gardeners and growing their own vegetables, selling buttonholes and teaching other peg dolls to dance.

Page from 'Me and Catharine Susan earns an honest penny' showing one of the peg dolls create buttonholes to sell

Page from ‘Me and Catharine Susan earns an honest penny’ showing one of the peg dolls create buttonholes to sell (Rare Books, RB 823.912 AIN)

Page from 'Me and Catharine Susan earns an honest penny' showing one of the peg dolls showing the 'Buttonholers' to dance

Page from ‘Me and Catharine Susan earns an honest penny’ showing one of the peg dolls showing the ‘Buttonholers’ to dance (Rare Books, RB 823.912 AIN)

Explore another Kathleen Ainslie book that we have in Special Collections; ‘Catherine Susan and Me’s Coming Out’, in our February 2017 Treasure of the Month Feature

Trevelyan Rounton Xmas 1919 – #ChristmasCountdown Door no. 18

#ChristmasCountdown
Door no. 18

'Rounton Xmas 1919'

Page showing ‘Rounton Xmas 1919’ from Trevelyan photo album, Volume 9 (Charles Philips Trevelyan Archives, CPT-PA-8)

Page 14 from the Trevelyan photo album, Volume 8, ‘Rounton Xmas 1919’.

The Trevelyan family were a  wealthy and important family who lived at Wallington Hall (a large country house) in Northumberland during the 19th and early 20th centuries. They played an important role in politics, culture and education.

Included in the photographs above:

Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan was a was a Liberal and then Labour M.P. and a wealthy landowner. He donated Wallington Hall to the National Trust in 1942, which is now open to the public.

Molly Trevelyan was the wife of Charles Trevelyan. She was the half sister to Gertrude Bell, who was an English writer, traveller, political officer and explorer.

Charles and Molly had six children; Kitty, Geoffrey, Patricia, Marjorie, Pauline and George.

Photograph annotations from top left to right:

  • Two top photographs annotated ‘K’, ‘P’, ‘Alisa?’, ‘MFR’, ‘HWR’, ‘MLB’, ‘GLT’, ‘Val’, followed by ‘BHR’, ‘Elsa’, ‘HB’, ‘FB’, ‘Molly’, ‘Marjorie’, ‘Bill’, ‘FPT’. The photographs show a large grouP of people posing outside for photographs. There are several generations of both Trevelyans and Bells represented.
  • Photograph annotated ‘a party of ragamuffins’, ‘F.P.T.’, ‘Killy’, ‘Marjorie’, ‘Biddy’, ‘George’. The photograph shows some of the children standing outside posing for the photograph, with a football at George’s feet.
  • Photograph annotated ‘B’, ‘P’, ‘K.B.’, ‘M’, ‘G’, ‘M’, ‘V’, ‘F’, showing the children sitting on one of the steps outside the house, posing for the photograph.
  • Photograph annotated ‘a roar of grandchildren’, ‘F’, ‘M’, ‘V’, ‘B.B.’, ‘M’, ‘K, ‘G’, ‘P’. The children have arranged themselves in height order, from smallest to tallest, against one of the walls outside the house.
  • Photograph annotated ‘Charles after a hot game of hockey’ , showing Charles sitting in his study.

The photograph albums belonged to Molly Trevelyan. This volume, alongside 38 others are part of the Trevelyan (Charles Philips) Archive.

Flick through the full 1919-1921 photograph album that this page is taken from, along with others from the Philips (Charles) Archive on Page Turners.