Trip to the National Gallery

After five hours of driving and a wet walk through the rainy capital, I was definitely ready to admire some Eastlake treasures at the National Gallery!
Just as the sun started to shine, Dr Susanna Avery-Quash (Research Curator in the History of Collecting and Curator of the Sir Charles Eastlake exhibition) greeted me inside the staff entrance. In her office I was met with an entire notice board covered with photographs of the Plymouth University ‘Young Explainers’. It was a lovely surprise that can be seen in the background of the photograph of me and Susanna.


Francesca meeting Susanna at her office in the National Gallery

Francesca meeting Susanna at her office in the National Gallery

Francesca's trip to the National Gallery

Francesca’s trip to the National Gallery

We then moved on to the National Gallery’s Library where I was whisked off to meet the Librarian and Archivist.

Pending my arrival, they and Susanna had got together some Eastlake treasures to show me. It was fascinating to be able to see and touch Eastlake’s little burgundy coloured passport with his name in modest gold lettering, and then to open it up and get an insight into his many travels around Europe from the array of consular stamps that he accumulated on his travels round Italy, France, Germany and the Netherlands. I also had the privilege of seeing some significant books from Eastlake’s own private art history library that bore the Eastlake stamp of ownership (a capital letter ‘E’ in a circle) on their title pages, including a first edition of Vasari and one of his incunabulae. Susanna and I then admired a selection of photographs, showing the contemplative face of Sir Charles Eastlake and that of his feisty wife Elizabeth. After a delicious light lunch, we were refuelled and ready to venture into the gallery. Susanna led me to some early Italian paintings that were acquired by Eastlake during his time as Director of the National Gallery as well as some portraits by Reynolds, including one of General Orme that Eastlake bought for the Gallery in 1862.

Furthermore, I was very interested to learn that in 1867, in the memory of her late husband (Eastlake died on Christmas Eve, 1865), the widowed Lady Eastlake gave the National Gallery Pisanello’s image of the Virgin and Child with Saints. This gift was followed by another one, just three years later: in 1870 she donated a painting by Giovanni Bellini of The Assassination of St Peter Martyr, to show her gratitude that the Trustees of the National Gallery had decided to buy the Eastlake Library for the nation.

The visit was a lovely way to culminate five months of research, the enormously successful Eastlake exhibition at the Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery and Susanna’s trip with me to Plympton (Eastlake’s childhood town). I feel that I can speak for all of the Young Explainers when I say that the entire experience has been a thoroughly rewarding and interesting pursuit, if at times an exhausting one. It has not only enriched my art historical and archival knowledge but has also enabled me to work alongside some lovely people with whom I hope to keep in contact well beyond my time at university.

Franceasca Didymus.

Lead Researcher and Research Co-ordinator for Young Explainers.

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Eastlake Mini Site

Feeling a little blue now that the exhibition is closed? The Eastlake Mini-Site is still available which includes all of the recordings that the Young Explainers produced for the project.

It also includes a copy of our Zine, which for the purpose of the site has been renamed the ‘Activity Booklet’.

So check out the link below to explore the site and its resources!

“Thanks SO MUCH for this: it is a fantastic record of all the hard work of the YE: well done to everyone involved!” –  Susanna Avery-Quash

Thank you, Vicky Smith and the Young Explainers team.

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Young Explainers winding down

Now that the exhibition has closed and all the art works are being transported back to their lenders it gives us as Young Explainers time to look back at what we have achieved. Although this blog is winding down keep a keen eye out for our next project which will be happening in the New Year as well as the personal evaluations which I will post on this site.

So, please do keep an eye out for further developments! But I would like to thank you all for reading and commenting and wish all you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


From Victoria Smith and the rest of the Young Explainers!


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Insight Profiles

Here is a link to one of the Young Explainers insight pages! Jo Lees talks about her time working with the project and what she has gained from the experience.





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Eastlake and Friends School Gallery Event pictures


Click the picture to find more pictures from the Eastlake and Friends School Gallery Event!

We all had an excellent time working with the children!

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Pictures From The Eastlake Family Walk

UntitleddHere are some delayed pictures from our Eastlake Family Walking Tour


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Eastlake & Friends

So it’s nearly time for St.Andrews Primary School to visit us Young Explainer’s at Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery and the final touches are being made to every aspect of the event. It’s been a great experience of putting together something that will engage school children with not just art, but a famous figure of their hometown Plymouth. From the beginning stages of simply asking who would be interested in being involved with working with children and dressing up, to research and investigation and lastly constructing storyboards and scripts it has been a massive amount of dedication and commitment, and lots of hard work. It’s great to finally see everything coming together.

The rehearsal was a great opportunity to see everything come together and see all the paperwork eventually turn into a great performance. The skills gained from this particular event have been so vast and so different to the research done for essays at university; we have gone further than researching art works, artists, movements and styles. The ability to work away from the notebook and into performance has enabled us all to work on so many key skills, especially skills that fall into the category of teaching, especially if this is what we wish to venture into later in life. The task of creating a school trip from start to finish has incorporated transferable skills from so many aspects: time keeping, telephone skills, structuring storyboards, script writing, research, rehearsals, public speaking, performance, organisation ect.

In particular, it’s been great fun creating booklets for the school children to learn from and definitely makes you realise how hard it is to go backwards from using the language and terminology that our lectures use across the road! It was definitely an experience and makes you realise how much preparation and realisation it takes to be a teacher and understand how you have to adapt to different audiences.

Here are some of the drawings made for the booklet to make it more visually appealing to the younger audiences:

national galleryeastlakecolour palette

And finally some photographs of us Young Explainers on our second rehearsal:

gallery play rehearsal -jamie & kerry

Jamie Ruers and me acting as Eastlake’s Assistants.

gallery play rehearsal -vicky, charlotte & abi

Victoria Smith, Charlotte Slater and Abigail Hodgson-Lorente acting as some of Eastlake’s Assistants.

As you can see we were working the facial hair! It seems fitting as we’ve had such a great year for it with celebrated names like Bradley Wiggins and how Movember is happening right now!

Finally, I thought I would add a quick update on the research and final planning for mine and Jamie’s Art Bite which will also be held on the same day as the school event –and in costume! (That should be a surprise for our audience!)

It has been great looking at some of the wonderful artworks on display within the exhibition, and a particular painting that has held a great deal of my attention is focused on Jacob van Ruisdael’s ‘A Waterfall in a Rocky Landscape’ circa 1660-1670. I’ve researched this in great depth as this is what will be the focus of my role within the gallery play and also partly in my Art Bite so it was important to investigate it thoroughly.

Ruisdael painted many waterfalls from the late 1650’s onwards and he was greatly inspired by the Amsterdam landscape painter Allart van Everdingen who had visited Scandinavia in 1644 and had made a number of drawings of rocky mountainous scenes with torrents and waterfalls. This is a clear example of the classical phase of Dutch landscape painting.

Eastlake endeavoured to collect work from Northern Europe –especially after 1859 –the year he acquired this particular work. Ruisdael being one of the most famous landscape painters of the seventeenth century and the leading promoter of the classical phase of Dutch landscape made it compulsory to be included in his collection.

As part of my research I went to view the Ruisdael collection at Ashmolean Museum of Art and Architecture in Oxford and took some great photographs of the work on display with permission from the gallery. He has incredible skill and the works are so intricately detailed.


ruisdael room

ruisdael blog

Anyway, I still have some cue cards to create and top hats and tails to get ready for Wednesday’s events, but I am sure to keep you update on how it goes!

Best wishes,

Kerry Messam

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