The Classical in 20th-century British Sculpture

Observant visitors to our Classics Department hallway in the Edith Morley building may have noticed a certain upscaling of our appearance in 2018. Pursuant to our collaboration with University Arts Collections (UAC) on our exhibit, From Italy to Britain: Winckelmann and the spread of neoclassical taste in Autumn 2017, which included four academic drawings of Classical sculptures made by Minnie Jane Hardman during her time as a student at the Royal Academy, Dr Naomi Lebens, UAC Curator enabled us to display facsimiles of six of Hardman’s drawings in the Classics hallway since the beginning of 2018. We have now added to these drawings several sculptures that the celebrated sculptor Eric Stanford carved in 1990, when was working in UoR’s art studios at Bulmershe on a major commission for Reading, namely the Spanish Civil War Memorial, now in Reading’s Forbury Gardens.

A clear connection between the two sculptures from the University Art Collections—Torso of Protesilaos, made of Bath stone, and Helen of Troy, made of Clipsham stone—is that they represent protagonists from Homer’s Iliad, so the Department of Classics was delighted to discover and display them. The Torso of Protesilaos, opposite Edith Morley room G34, depicts the Greek hero amid swirling waves that evoke the Trojan shore from which Protesilaos marched, despite the oracular warning of his impending death. When we suggested to Stanford that the waves might also recall the fire into which his widow Laodameia chased a brazen figure of her deceased husband, he was charmed by the thought that had, however, never occurred to him.

We have placed the head of Helen of Troy in the entrance to the Ure Museum (http://www.reading.ac.uk/Ure/), where she is in conversation with our statue of Aphrodite from Cyrene, on loan from the British Museum since the Ure’s redesign in 2005. The distorted perspective and exaggerated forms of Stanford’s carving overturn traditional archetypes of female beauty associated with Helen of Troy’s ‘face that launch’d a thousand ships’ (according to Christopher Marlowe). Helen’s elopement with Paris of Troy, despite being married to the King of Sparta, gave cause to the Trojan War and thus influenced much European art and literature. Helen’s prominent brow, large nose and wide-set eyes are features more common to non-European artistic traditions, such as African sculpture. Stanford here combines those traditions with Classics, under the clear influence of cubism.

Clio Art Ltd. has lent us a third Clasically-themed Stanford statue, also made in 1990, of Portland stone, namely Memnon. This son of the dawn-goddess, Eos, stands in the rigid posture of some Archaic Greek statues, with one leg slightly advanced. Yet his form recalls ancient sculpture as it so often reaches us: fractured, incomplete, and part buried. Stanford has depicted him with legs firmly engulfed in the plinth below, arms absent, as if broken off, and missing the top half of his head. Enough remains for us to recognise the helmeted warrior, facing sideways, stylised with a prominent lock of hair.

To launch the display of these three sculptures, the Department of Classics hosted a workshop, entitled The Classical in 20th-century British Sculpture in the Ure Museum on 17 Aril 2018, with presentations from artists, art historians and Classicists, old and new friends of Eric Stanford (http://www.reading.ac.uk/Ure/info/Classicsin20thCentury.php). A particular highlight of the day was a conversation with the sculptor himself and his wife, Helen Stanford, via skype, from their home. We look forward to presenting these talks via YouTube in the near future.

 

Reading Ancient Schoolroom 2017

Photo: Alex Wickenden

This year’s edition of the Reading Ancient Schoolroom ran for two weeks and welcomed several hundred schoolchildren to campus. Led by a team of specially-trained volunteers, some of them Reading students and others coming from as far away as Edinburgh to participate, the children experienced first hand what life was like in a Roman school. This year there was a focus on Roman mathematics (pictured above: maths teacher Dom O’Reilly with children from Dolphin School), but children also practiced reading from papyri, writing on ostraca and tablets, using quill pens, memorizing poetry, and studying Latin and Greek the way ancient children would have studied them. They also had the opportunity to sample Roman food made by our magnificent Roman cook, Reading undergraduate Charlotte Edwards, and special object handling sessions in the Ure Museum. For more information (and lots more pictures) see https://readingancientschoolroom.com/2017-schoolroom/. Schoolroom director Professor Eleanor Dickey was interviewed about the event on UKEd chat; you can listen to the interview at https://ukedchat.com/2017/07/17/ukedpodcast-episode-12/.

Ure Move: young curators at the Ure Museum

Ure Move, the latest of a series of projects curated by local secondary school pupils, under the tutelage of University of Reading undergraduates, celebrated its conclusion last Saturday with the Grand Opening of a new exhibition. The event hosted by the Ure Museum and the Department of Classics and funded by Universities UK as part of Universities Week 2014 has been an occasion for giving thanks to all of the participants in the project.

In a series of 18 workshops during the Spring term, both in the Museum and at the local schools — Kendrick, Maiden Erlegh and Addington  — the Ure Museum’s Student Panel engaged with pupils in the curation of the Museum’s collection. The University students have used knowledge and skills gained from their various areas of study (Classics, Archaeology, Business, Fine Art, Psychology, etc.) and a fresh approach to education to inspire the pupils of local schools to innovate in bringing the ancient world to life. The resulting creations — animations, an iPad application and other related artworks — engage visitors with new and original interpretations of the collection. The involvement of the panel in Ure Move has touched every aspect of the project, from the planning to the design of posters, supporting pupils during workshops and making voice recordings for the iPad application.

This is the third yearly project in which students and pupils have worked together in curating the Ure collection. In the first two — Ure View (2011-12) and Ure Discovery (2012-13), funded by Arts Council England as part of the Stories of the World Project, the use of animations to express pupils’ ideas wowed visitors far and wide. The animations, realised by digital artist Steve Simons, are all viewable on www.panoply.org.uk.

In Ure Move this year the student panel, responding to feedback from the previous years, put more emphasis on the active participation of the pupils not only in the planning of the animations — drawing story-­boards and writing scripts—but also in their realisation, using stop-motion animation technology. Their creations explain in a narrative and immediate way the pupils’ reinterpretations and the digital tablet application gives an interactive experience of curatorship to the visitor.

Continuing collaboration with the iMuse project of a local charity, AACT (www.aact.org.uk/wordpress/wordpress), enabled the use of iPads for Ure Move — also positively received by visitors to Ure Discovery as way of bringing visitors inside the collection and allowing them to view the animations alongside the artefacts and related museum information. The expertise and enthusiasm of Annette Haworth, trustee of that charity and visiting fellow of the University of Reading, enabled a focus on accessibility and also involvement of the Addington School, a special needs school, in this project. The Student Panel also encouraged Ure Move pupil participants to use media and techniques of their own choice to creatively express their interpretations of the collection and their involvement in the project. As well as painting and sculpture, they used also videos, voice recordings and photos.

The iPad application and the other art works of the pupils will be displayed in an exhibition in the University of Reading Main Library, from Tuesday 17th June 2014 through the end of August. The Ure Move exhibition will also move (!) to other locations. The Museum has been invited by arts charity JELLY (jelly.org.uk/tag/reading/) to have a pop-up exhibition of Ure Move at Reading Revival, a Reading town centre arts event the first weekend of July. Look for dates and locations of this and other pop-up exhibitions on the Ure Museum website, facebook page and twitter feed. The project Blog gives some insight into the making of the animations.

Guja Bandini

Meet our Ure Museum Erasmus Intern

317207_10151143606689807_1753912674_nMy name is Mariana Gomes Beirão, I’m Portuguese, 21, and I am currently doing a 3 month Erasmus internship in the Ure Museum as part of my MA in Ancient History, which I will defend next year.  I have a degree in Languages, literatures and cultures with a major in English and minor in Italian. While doing my degree I discovered my fascination for classics mainly due to one of my Professors’ passion for his job. Rodrigo Furtado greatly influenced and impressed me to the point of, inadvertedly, entirely changing my course of studies. I began taking optional lectures and saw that they interested me more than my mandatory ones. I knew then I had to alter my path.

Moreover, before starting university I applied for an integrated masters’ in the Portuguese Army and was accepted. In my first year I sustained and injury to my knee and was forced to abandon my military career. At first I was devastated yet now it seems clear that the Moirae did their thing and everything fell into place. I find interest in learning about people long dead instead of being the one doing the killing.

Furthermore, my former summer jobs include working as a security guard in a golf resort, as a client liaison for a holiday rental company and for the past 3 years I’ve been teaching Portuguese as a foreign language to British ex-pats living in Portugal (to get a bit extra for the tuition). Finally, the least interesting aspects (not that any of the previous ones were particularly fascinating):

Firstly, I am a very active person, proof of that is that my fiancée owns the gym I go to (which is where we met). I enjoy running, doing gymnastics and kickboxing. Secondly, I love animals, especially horses, once again the fates had it all sorted as my soon to be husband has a few specimen of my favourite animal. Thirdly, I possess a PS3 and I proudly call myself a gamer. Lastly, I have failed to become a vegetarian due to the fact that Portugal isn’t very keen on rabbit food as almost everything has at least a pig’s internal organ in it.

Dr Sonya Nevin on Classics Confidential

New on Classics Confidential:

In the fifth interview recorded at the Classical Association meeting and the second shot on location in the Ure Museum CC’s Anastasia Bakogianni talks to Dr Sonya Nevin about the project to create animations based on the characters and stories depicted on ancient Greek vases. This was also the subject of her presentation at the conference on the Classics and Museums (1) panel.

Sonya helped to create these animations as the Classics consultant working in collaboration with Steve K. Simons, who specialises in the digital restoration and animation of ancient Greek vase images. For more information about their on-going work see: www.panoply.org.uk

The first animation they produced based on Exekias’ vase depicting Achilles and Ajax playing a game of dice was entitled the Clash of the Dicers

It was produced as part of the Ure-View project, an outreach initiative that brought together Classics students and young people from two Reading secondary schools, Kendrick and Maiden Erlegh. The two groups were asked to work collaboratively to produce story boards based on what they saw depicted on ancient vases housed in the Ure Museum.

These animations also featured on the Stories of the World programme presented as part of Arts in Parliament series at Westminster Hall (24 July 2012). The animations help to draw attention to the importance of athletics in the classical world but they can also be used as a teaching resource.  An exhibition of a new set of animations from the recent Ure Discovery project, will be launched on 17th June 2013 at the Ure Museum.  The animations, with insights into their backstories, will be appearing on the Panoply website from that date.

Another animation The Cheat was created specifically for The Open University’s module The Ancient Olympics: Bridging Past and Presentwhich also drew attention to the links between the ancient Olympic games and their modern reincarnation.

As Sonya points out what all these animations have in common is that help to focus the viewer’s attention on the ancient artefacts. They utilise the new technologies available to us, but the stars of the show are the ancient vases themselves.

Click on the image below or follow this link to watch the interview!

Prof. Amy Smith on Classics Confidential

New on Classics Confidential:

In the fourth interview recorded during this year’s Classical Association conference, CC’s Anastasia Bakogianni talks with Dr Amy Smith, a member of the Classics Department at the University of Reading. This interview and the one with Dr Sonya Nevin that follows were recorded on the premises of the Ure Museum, with Amy’s kind permission in her capacity as the Museum’s curator. CC gratefully acknowledges its debt to Dr Smith and the Classics Department at the University of Reading for allowing us to film on location!

In this interview Amy talks about the Ure Museum’s long history, its early days and the excavation work of Percy Neville Ure, the University’s first Professor of Classics, and the museum’s development over the years. She also speaks about some of the current collaborations that the Ure is involved in with local schools in Reading and the British Museum.

In the second part of the interview Amy talks about her love for the iconography of the classical world and her engagement with digital classics. Lastly Amy tells us about a recent volume she co-edited with Sadie Pickup: Brill’s Companion to Aphrodite. The idea for the book arose when a headless statue of Aphrodite was chosen as the item on loan from the British Museum that would be displayed in the Ure Museum; thus we return full circle back to the museum at the heart of the Classics Department at Reading.

Click on the image below or follow this link to our Youtube channel to watch the interview!

Greeks & Egyptians-themed Day School

Thirty keen adult learners joined members of the Department of Classics for a Day School, planned in collaboration with the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, for a presentation of their research on the topic of Greeks & Egyptians, on 18 May 2013.

During the day 30+ participants learned about the interactions of ancient Greeks & Egyptians in Egypt, from members of the department and two of the Department’s recent PhD recipients.

Participants were also given the opportunity to view the Ure Museum collections, some relevant artefacts in which were discussed by Dr. Smith (Curator) and Prof. Rutherford (on the topic of mummified cats).

Participants gave enthusiastic feedback and called it ‘… a most enjoyable and stimulating study day…’, commenting that ‘the range of topics and their enthusiastic presentation were excellent’.

Collections-based Research in Classics at Reading

In its efforts to bring present and future students’ attention to the wide range of research facilities available at the University of Reading the Research Review has highlighted Dr Amy Smith and her research in the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology:

http://www.reading.ac.uk/research/ResearchReviewonline/res-welcometoure.aspx

In this audio Dr Smith introduces the Ure Museum and explains how the collection and its database are used by students and scholars, including the complications inherent in studying 3d objects and relevant conservation issues.

This is the second ‘unusual space people use for their research’ highlighted in a series that started with the ‘Gut lab’ (Nutritional Sciences).