Postcard from Oxford: Ashmolean Museum


Joseph Mallord William Turner (1175-1851): Walton Bridges

This was my fourth visit to the wonderful Ashmolean Museum.

Anne wanted to attend a literary lunch at Denman College – meeting Clare Mackintosh, author of I See You, a brilliant psychological thriller – so we decided to share the driving from Devon, and I got to spend the day enjoying once more this amazing trove of art.

With so many works of art on display, it’s difficult to pick out just a few favourites, but here are my five from this particular excursion.


At the Ashmolean: Turner’s Walton Bridges

These bridges were mentioned in a previous postcard, way back in February when Anne and I were in Australia. We were enjoying a stroll around NGV (National Gallery of Victoria). As I mentioned back then: it was a lovely surprise to see ‘Walton Bridges’.

The Walton Bridges were erected in the 1780s and were painted by Turner (twice) in 1805 for exhibitions in 1806-7.


Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875): Montfermeuil, the Brook in the Wood, 1867

Turner used his artistic licence to create this idyllic pastoral landscape, minus the various houses that would have been visible to anyone present at that time.

This painting – like the one is Melbourne – brought back into sharp focus the many times in my life when, forty plus years ago, I drove from my home in Shepperton and crossed a more modern version of these bridges en route to Walton Station for my daily commute to London.

How time flies?


At the Ashmolean: Corot’s Montfermeuil, the Brook in the Wood

This oil-on-canvas painting is an example of Corot’s later work.

His palette is more monochromatic and the overall effect more blurred.

I see similar skies over Salcombe. The challenge is to capture the atmosphere before the clouds move on.


At the Ashmolean:  Etty’s  The Repentant Prodigal’s Return to his Father

Willian Etty (1787-1849): The Repentant Prodigal’s Return to his Father

This painting combines two scenes from the story of the Prodigal son: centre stage, the embrace between father and son; and, to the left, the return of the elder brother from working in the fields.

Etty was unique in his ability to make a successful career out of combining history painting – such as this one – with his love for Venetian colours.

He was especially keen on life drawings and studied life at the Royal Academy schools – and this painting includes four lovely ladies, in various classic poses, in the background!

I’m very much looking forward to getting back into class. The Salcombe Art Club Main exhibition ended on Saturday, and I’ll be back ‘in harness’ on Tuesdays (with Michael Hill) and Fridays (with Ian Carr).

On the occasional Monday, there’s a life drawing class too …


At the Ashmolean: two paintings by Walter Richard Sickert’s

Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942): The Piazzetta do San Marco, Venice, 1900

Although Walter Richard Sickert was born in 1860, in Germany, the son on Oswald Sickert, a Danish-German artist, the family relocated to Britain in 1868 where they obtained British nationality.

Sickert visited Venice in the Spring of 1900.

This first painting, The Piazzetta do San Marco, Venice, with the Campanile on the left and the basilica of San Marco on the right, was dedicated to a Mrs May (Polly) Price. Polly was the daughter of one of Sickert’s closest friends, a Mrs Middleton.

I fully intend to visit Venice again soon. Wherever you look. there is a composition with perfect light, just waiting to be painted.

Sickert, as a painter and printmaker, was a member of the Camden Town Group in London – a small group of English Post-Impressionist artists active 1911-13 and influenced by Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin.


Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942): The Brighton Pierrots, 1915

This second painting, an oil-on-canvas, depicts members of the troupe of Pierrots who performed on stage in Brighton in 1915.

Sickert visited his patron and friend Walter Taylor and studied these Pierrots, making many sketches before returning to London and creating this image.

His Pierrots perform in front of rows of empty deck chairs, and presents a depressing insight into life in Brighton at that time.

However, the painting was sold very quickly and then Sickert was commissioned to paint a second version. You can see that one at the Tate.

Apparently, Sickert rarely commissions. Neither do I!


Lunch at the Ashmolean

I thoroughly enjoyed my day at the Ashmolean, not least because the rooftop restaurant is first class, albeit with a first class price tag!

I’m very much looking forward to seeing Anne browse through the new Denman catalogue. I’m sure she’ll find something she will enjoy, and that I can disappearing into Oxford again soon.

This post is one of my POSTCARD series, sharing all things ART with you when I go travelling. 

SHAF Arts Trail: Jean Fenton

Jean Fenton is one of 60 artists opening their studios for the SHAF Arts Trail. Jean – together with Cally Gooding, Peter Truscott and Jackie Richardson – will be exhibiting at Avon Mill, in the Upper Cafe.



Jean Fenton SHAFThe South Hams Arts Forum (SHAF) is a lively, actively engaged association of artists and craftspeople from across the region. Over the past decade, SHAF has regularly staged a number of exhibitions in the South Hams, and is glad to announce that the annual Arts Trail has this year been extended to include the Half-Term week and will run from October 14th – October 29th in most venues.

SHAF membership is extremely diverse, so while some artists create in purpose-built studios, others produce their work at the kitchen table. Consequently, the Arts Trail will lead visitors to some artists working in their home studios and to others exhibiting in galleries and exhibition halls.

At each venue, visitors will find artists happy to discuss their art-form, explain the processes involved and provide the opportunity to view, appreciate and buy unique pieces of work.

Following the Arts Trail also gives visitors an unusual opportunity to explore the glorious South Hams as they map their route and discover more and more artists’ venues (as well as cream tea venues).


Jean Fenton SHAF

Meet Jean Fenton, Artist

Jean is a textile artist, living on the edge of Dartmoor in the beautiful rolling hills of the South Hams in Devon, UK.

Jean has a fascination for natural landforms and studied Geological Science at Plymouth University. Her work reflects her deep love of nature and her local landscape and she is inspired by her physical surroundings.

Jean hand dyes all her fibres, giving her the specific palette she wants and allowing her to be creative with fibres from local sheep grazing in Devon and Cornwall. Afterwards, she stitches her pieces to reflect the distant hills and tors of Dartmoor.


Meet Jean Fenton, Tutor

Jean Fenton SHAFJean offers workshops, via the website, on how to use a spinning wheel, drop spinning, silk fusion, circle weaving, needle felting and wet felting.

These workshops cost from £15 upwards.

Courses can be tailored to suit – up to 30 people, all ages.

Materials are also available: pure wool skeins, spindles, and kits, fibres for adding texture and a whole lot else besides.



SHAF Arts Trail brochures are available in libraries, information centres and many other places in the South Hams. There are 18 SHAF Arts Trail venues, each with one or more artists displaying their work and available for you to see them at work, and to answer your questions.

In case you can’t get your hands on a copy, here are the details for Jean Fenton’s venue in Loddiswell– and the opening times.

This venue is being shared by four artists: Jean Fenton, Cally Gooding, Peter Truscott and Jackie Richardson.



You can contact Jean by email at or call her on 01364 649444 or visit her website:  



Visit the SHAF website for more details.

Louvre Museum

POSTCARD from Paris: Louvre Museum

The Louvre is one of the ‘big three’ museums in Paris. Comprising an impressive group of buildings – and offering the opportunity for much walking! – it is said to be the largest museum in the world.

The other two ‘big’ museums in Paris are the Museé d’Orsay which was featured in the previous postcard (with Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art from the years 1848-1914) and the Centre Pompidou (with 20th century works created after 1914) which we didn’t have time to visit during this trip.


The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays!

The Louvre Museum is always top of the list when Anne and I visit Paris. However, this time, we arrived on a Monday afternoon and the Louvre is closed on a Tuesday, so we had to hold fire on our excitement for an additional 24 hours.

We took the advice from to purchase our fast-track ticket from the Paris Tourist Office at 25 Rue des Pyramides.  For the newest information about the Paris Travel Guide, click here.

If you think the queue we joined – on the left of the featured image above – was long, the one for those without tickets – on the right – was ten times longer. The tickets were no more expensive … and those in the longer queue were understandably frustrated.

Once inside, despite the crowds outside, the galleries were relatively empty.


The Louvre marquees

The pyramid outside the building is eye-catching enough but, inside, apart from the paintings, the architecture is wonderful.

There are great sweeping stairways and three marquees: Mona LisaVenus de Milo and Winged Victory.

Long, long corridors, with hundreds of framed original paintings on display. And, you must remember to look upwards too, at the ceiling.


The Louvre boasts 35,000 art treasures inside

One of the world’s most authoritative museums, the Louvre’s collection ranges from arts and crafts of ancient civilizations right up to the middle of the 19th century.

The brochure boasts that there are 35,000 artistic treasures inside. We didn’t have time to count them … It’s also impossible to see everything in the Louvre in one day!

Antonio Canal by Canaletto

We consulted the free tour guide and identified the exhibits of most interest to us.

We were delighted to see paintings by our favourite artists: Archimbold, Bosch, Brueghel, Caravaggio, Carpaccio, Constable, Delacroix, Dürer, Gainsborough, Goya, Guardi, Ingres, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt, Rubens, Titian, Turner, van Eyck, Vermeer

One by Canaletto sparked a discussion as to when we might return to Venice. This stunning location is always on our to-visit list and, one day, I might find time to paint some scenes of Venice myself.

The paintings by Arcimboldo, Bosch and Brueghel also provoked discussion; they reminded us of the exhibition we’d seen at Les Baux-de-Provence only a few days earlier. I wrote about it in this postcard.

The Mona Lisa, of course, warrants a visit. It is tiny, and the crowd between you and it is huge.


One last indulgence: the Louvre gift shop

In all, we spent a good couple of hours walking up and down and around, and eventually had to admit, we needed to stop … and come back another time.

One last indulgence was a visit to the gift shop … where I treated myself to the Guide to the Louvre, which has proved very helpful in writing this postcard – and which I shall treasure.


The treasures outside the Louvre

Back out into the sunshine, we were delighted to see this sculpture.

Usually, I also take a photo of the label. But, by now, we were so weary, we just headed to the nearest eatery for much needed refreshment.

Next to the Louvre are the Tuileries Gardens and yet more art to enjoy: statues by Maillol, alongside works by Rodin and Giacometti.

We have walked through these gardens on a previous visit and no doubt will do so again.

We will be back!

This post is one of my POSTCARD series, sharing all things ART with you when I go travelling. It’s the third and final one for this particular trip. The previous postcards were from Paradou, and Paris (the Musée d’Orsay)