New exhibition reveals the art of archives
The archives of some of the greatest names in literary history provide the source material for a series of striking contemporary paintings in a new exhibition at the National Library of Scotland ['Hugh Buchanan paints the John Murray Archive'].
Renowned Scottish artist Hugh Buchanan, whose work is in the royal collections, spent a year within the Library's John Murray Archive to produce the 19 paintings. They feature the works of nine authors including Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Sir Arthur Conon Doyle, Sir Water Scott and James Hogg. The paintings are being shown alongside original material from the world-famous archive.
For the past decade, Hugh Buchanan has concentrated on paintings of libraries and archives and is best known for capturing the effects of light on objects. The paintings reveal the fascinating beauty and depth of the archive in tattered maps, worn passports, elegant or indecipherable handwriting, leather bindings, gilded lettering, postal marks and wax seals.
Each painting is accompanied by comments from the artist on how he worked to create the compositions and on the material he found in the archive. He said that 'capturing the detail of a glistening yet broken wax seal, a scrawled literary manuscript, intimate letter or precise and elegant ledger not only evokes the pathos of age, but also some aspects of the lives of the people who created the documents, be they a great novelist, intrepid traveller or publisher's clerk.'
The curator of the John Murray Archive, David McClay said: 'While the archive can provide an unparalleled store of information and insight into the lives, personalities and writings of authors and their readers, there is another often overlooked aspect of these archives; their beauty and interest as objects.
'With the exhibition of Hugh's watercolours alongside some of the original manuscripts and books from the collection people have a unique opportunity to see some remarkable literary treasures examined through the special creative and artistic talents of Hugh Buchanan. Lovers of these authors, art and archive enthusiasts will, I'm sure, all be equally fascinated and thrilled with the exhibition.'
'Hugh Buchanan paints the John Murray Archive: Austen, Byron, Conan Doyle, Etc…' runs from Thursday 25 June to Sunday 6 September 2015 at the National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1EW. Entry is free.
Afterwards the exhibition will transfer to the prestigious John Martin Gallery, 38 Albemarle Street, London, only yards from John Murray's office — the very place where Scott and Byron first met.
The John Murray Archive is one of the world's greatest literary and publishing collections. The National Library of Scotland began acquiring the collection thanks to generous support of Scottish Government, the Heritage Lottery Fund and other fundraising supporters. The Library continues to expand the collection through donations and purchases. The archive was inscribed in UNESCO's UK Memory of the World register in 2011.
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25 June 2015