Sunday, June 12, 2011

York, Part II

Continuing on from Part II.

Next up on Thursday the 19th was York Castle Museum, 'the best day out in history'. The museum is best known for its recreated Victorian street, Kirkgate. It is the oldest recreated street in Britain (c. 1938) and apparently pioneered this visitor experience which is now used by thousands of museums worldwide. The street is named for Dr. John Kirk who desired to create a museum of everyday life and even rescued Victorian shop fronts. I was skeptical at first, having been at many such things before, more wary of the wooden 'lifelike' figures with their dated, badly applied make-up and flaking skin paint. However, I quickly revised that opinion because it was executed very well. There was little to none recordings of horses hooves on the cobblestones or market sellers hawking their wares in cockney accents. The window displays were magnificent, museum displays in their own right. I only wish my camera could take better pictures because I'd love to show some to you.

Hannah in the 1890s schoolroom.

Other parts of the museum celebrated themes of life - birth, marriage and death. There was also a current exhibition on about cleanliness throughout the nineteenth century to present day.

Two nineteenth-century wedding dresses, I'm sorry I can't be more specific, I can't find my notes.
I love seeing how styles of dress change over time and according to social/economic conditions of the time. Did you know that Queen Victoria was the first aristocrat to wear white for her wedding dress? Up until then wedding dresses were dyed (so that they could be worn again and also as a display of wealth). Dye was expensive and so only peasants and poorer classes wore white on their wedding day. The connotations of colour are powerful. White suggesting humility and a certain naivety, which applies less in our age - where white or cream are popular choices for wedding gowns because its an impractical colour to wear in every day life and we can't afford the dry cleaning bill - that's luxury for you.

Having dabbled in some museum studies this year, I have to say that my eye is now trained to notice methods of display and labeling of exhibits. We've even debated the use of mannequins, life-like/face/no face? I think that the mannequins used at York Castle Museums to display their costume collection are possibly some of the best I've seen. I love how they've used swatches of material to convey the effect of hair, and only the vaguest suggestion of facial features.

Then onto Leeds and its art gallery! An uexpected surprise, a beautiful spacious gallery. I loved the layout and colour schemes (trumping neutral, inoffensive white for brash blues, who knew that'd work so well?) The paintings they hold in their collection is impressive.

Waterhouse, The Lady of Shalott, 1894.
The colours, textures, composition! Oh this was bewitching in person!

Arthur Hacker, The Temptation of Sir Percival, 1894.

Evelyn de Morgan, The Valley of Shadows, 1899.

Francis Bacon, Head VI, 1949.

Percy Wyndham Lewis, Praxitella, 1921.

The Leeds Art Gallery café was equally as impressive, gorgeous mosaics everywhere, reminiscent of a nineteenth-century tea room. I had courgette and lime cake, that I throughly enjoyed. Unfortunately the only thing that out a damper on this particular visit was our struggle to find the shop which was inconveniently located somewhere near the rear of the building and had closed by the time we had found it at twenty to five. Which seems such an odd time to close. No lovely postcards for me on this trip.

That evening we got back and ate great Thai at The Old Siam, which was consistently busy, always a good sign! Afterward we went on a terrible ghost tour of York. Word of warning - if you're doing a ghost tour in York, avoid the one that meets outside York Minster. We encountered some hauntings of our own later on, courtesy of an eerie pub toilet. We did get to walk amongst the Shambles though which was lovely in itself.

Friday was our last day, and we made one final excursion, along the City Walls, to the York Art Gallery. The highlight of which you see below, along with 'Goodbye to all That' by Stanley Spencer.

David Hockney, Bigger Trees Near Warter (Or/Ou Peinture Sur Le Motif Pour Le Nouvel Age Post-Photographique), 2007.
Funnily enough, I preferred its postcard reproduction. Still not sure how I feel about this. It is eerie to look at.

York train station was large, clean but still retained a Victorian character. The rush of going traveling to all parts of the country, trains coming and going.


  1. The railway cafe is reminiscent of the V&A caf but with better lighting I think. :D I wish I could take better photos, I know my camera's good but I have a shaky hand. We should check out photog tutorials on youtube. :)) Though I noticed that no camera can ever properly capture the beauty of the original. Not even the museum postcards can quite 'get' paintings, especially Turner.

    Arianne from A + B in the Sea

  2. I loveeed York Museum when I was a kid. So much, used to enjoy the double whammy of a recreated Victorian street and recreated Viking times!
    I was at Leeds Art Gallery for the first time in years (2 weeks back) and I'd completely forgot how cool the collection is there.
    At least you found the shop, I'm trying really hard to think where it is and I'm coming up empty... The cafe is my favourite! Such nice food and I'm glad they restored the decor. It has the same sort of splendour as the cafe in the V&A.

  3. york looks lovely! Gotta love a museum day, my boyfriend works in one and I love visiting him in it!

  4. I love tiny old school desks! I want one so badly! Be sure to enter my £100 ASOS giveaway!


  5. GREAT GREAT GREAT BLOG! You're so original! :* Kiss from Italy! I'm following you! Hope you can also follow my blog!

  6. How fascinating about the wedding dresses! I had no idea.

    Have you been to Beamish museum? It's in a similar vein but with a working farm and village :) x

  7. York is absolutely beautiful. My boyfriend and I always walk along with our heads up and you realise how incredible all the tops of the buildings are above the shops :')