William Brockedon’s sketchbook

I must admit I’d never heard of William Brockedon until this week.  To summarise his Oxford National Biography article…. He was born in 1787 in Devon , took over his father’s watchmakers business when he was 14, caught the eye of two local Devonshire patrons in 1809 and with their support went to study at the Royal Academy and pursue a career as a painter.

He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1812 onwards, mainly showing portraits and religious subjects.  In 1815 he headed to the alps and produced topographical paintings which were later engraved and widely circulated. By Brockedon’s own estimation he crossed the alps nearly 60 times by 30 different routes.

While that last statistic is pretty impressive the reason why I am writing about him, is that YCBA holds one Brockedon's Derbyshire sketchbookof his sketchbooks, enticingly entitled…

‘An Album containing 24 drawings, in black and white chalks, and graphite; Album also contains one wash drawing, mostly of Derbyshire scenery, with exception of last plate: a full-length portrait’.

I had a look this morning and it was fantastic.  Most of the sketches are untitled but it looks like Brockedon travelled via Nottingham and Sheffield to Derbyshire.  His first stop was Castleton where he sketched Peak Cavern/the Devil’s Arse and Peveril Castle before heading south to Dovedale.

Here are a selection from his Castleton sketches:

Peak Cavern (B1977.14.1496.5)

Inside Peak Cavern (B1977.14.1496.6)Peak Cavern (B1977.14.1496.13)Peveril Castle (B1977.14.1496.9)
















































As well as being an artist with work in museums including the V&A and British Museum, Brockedon was also an inventor, a founding member of the Royal Geographical Society and a fellow of the Royal Society.

I’ll upload more images from his sketchbook in the next couple of days.

Exploring the photo archive at YCBA

Lucy and I arrived in New Haven late on Wednesday night. The jetlag has begun to subside, we’re settled into our apartments and are beginning to explore New Haven and the Yale Centre for British Art.

The view of the Green from my apartment

The view of the Green from my apartment

On Thursday we had a tour of the YCBA building and departments and spent the afternoon wandering around the fourth floor, which houses their permanent collection of 18th century art. We gazed at Turners, Constables, Hogarths, Reynolds, Stubbs and of course their Joseph Wrights.

The reference library at YCBA

The reference library at YCBA – note the lack of students on a sunny Saturday!

Over the last two days I have got stuck into the photo archive. This archive comprises of 8 bays of roller racking stuffed full of boxes containing black and white photos of selected artist’s known works. The artists are organised alphabetically, starting with Abbot and ending with Zucci.

Lucy hard at work. The photo archive is in the bays on the right hand side.

Lucy hard at work. The photo archive is in the bays on the right hand side

The works photographed might be in the collection here at YCBA, in other museums across the world or in private collections. Although it is not a complete and up to date listing, it is proving to be a really useful resource in my quest to map what Derbyshire 18th century landscapes exist.

A card in the photo archive showing a William Marlow oil of Matlock.

A card in the photo archive showing a William Marlow oil of Matlock.

Derbyshire curators head to the Yale Centre for British Art

 Next week I fly to America to take up a 4 week curatorial fellowship at the Yale Centre for British Art.  This was something that I applied for back in July, when it all seemed a very long way off…

One of the aims of the Enlightenment! project has been to undertake collections mapping and gain a clearer overview of relevant Derbyshire collections in the public domain. This has been an on-going project and included Neil Howe’s ephemera report and the object catalogues that Ruth Litton worked on. My 4 weeks at YCBA will build on their research to give us a better picture of what Derbyshire artworks are out there.

I will also hopefully uncover more information about  Derbyshire; the chronology of its buildings, road infrastructure, water engineering, and evolution of industries. I plan to make myself useful indentifying some of their Derbyshire sketchbook views too.Our engraving of the De Loutherbourg

YCBA have a fantastic collection including several Joseph Wright’s, a couple of Stubbs’s showing Creswell Crags, and theoriginal ‘View near Matlock’ by De Loutherbourg – of which we have an aquatint in our collection. I am most excited about seeing their watercolours from John Webber and William Day’s 1789 tour of Derbyshire. Through the Enlightenment! project we’ve bought 3 pictures from this tour, with a fourth possibly on the cards – watch this space…

I plan to share my findings on the blog and hope that my fellow travel companion, curator and ‘fellowshipee’, Lucy Bamford might do the same. Lucy is the art curator at Derby Museums and her fellowship will focus on the works of Joseph Wright. All very exciting and a tad nerve-wracking, but I am sure we’ll have a fantastic experience.