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Wonderful Watercolours Sneak Peek 7

Kenilworth Castle with cattle by Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding

Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding (1787 to 1855)
Kenilworth Castle with cattle
pre 1855

Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding was a popular and successful painter, particularly in watercolour. He exhibited over 600 works during his life. From the early 1800s Fielding made several tours around Britain painting landscapes.

This watercolour and many others will be on display in Wonderful Watercolours: Views of Coventry and Warwickshire. The exhibition runs from 25 February to 22 July 2012 at the Herbert. Entry is free.


Wonderful Watercolours Sneak Peek 6

William Brooke, Ancient Passage Leading to the Hall, 1819

William Brooke (1772 to 1860)
Ancient Passage leading to the Hall

St Mary’s Guildhall was begun in 1340 by the merchant guild of St Mary. The building was soon also used by the mayor and governing body of the city, which was closely linked to the guild. It continued to be the city’s centre of administration until construction of the Council House was completed 1917. It hosted many royal visits and a royal prisoner – Mary Queen of Scots. More interesting historical facts about the Guildhall can be found on Coventry City Council’s website.

This watercolour and many others will be on display in Wonderful Watercolours: Views of Coventry and Warwickshire. The exhibition runs from 25 February to 22 July 2012 at the Herbert. Entry is free.

Wonderful Watercolours Sneak Peek 5

Bablake School by Edith Gittins

Edith Gittins (1845 to 1910)
Bablake School
1868 – 1887

Edith Gittins was a social reformer who campaigned for women’s rights. She founded the Leicester Women’s Liberal Association and was an active member of the Women’s Suffrage movement.

This watercolour and many others will be on display in Wonderful Watercolours: Views of Coventry and Warwickshire. The exhibition runs from 25 February to 22 July 2012 at the Herbert. Entry is free.

Object of the Month – February 2012

Coventry Blitz – General View, 1940,  By Ernest Boye Uden (1911 to 1986)

Coventry Blitz – General View by Ernest Boye Uden (1911 to 1986)

Coventry Blitz – General View
By Ernest Boye Uden (1911 to 1986)

This watercolour painting of Coventry in the Blitz is one of the Herbert’s newest acquisitions. It found its way to us in fairly unusual circumstances. The artist’s daughter got in touch with us from Canada where she now lives, to tell us that this painting was being offered for sale on a website run by an organisation called the Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum. She was really keen for the Herbert to purchase the work, as she felt strongly that it represents an important event in the city’s history and should be in a museum in Coventry where it could be seen and appreciated by Coventry people.

After a number of communications with the Anglo-Boer War Museum, we reached an agreement with them to buy the painting. Fortunately the sale price was not too high and we were able to use some of the funding we currently have from the Heritage Lottery Fund to purchase works of art on the themes of conflict, peace and reconciliation. This was an ideal use of this funding, as the Herbert’s focus on these themes stems from the experience of Coventry in the Blitz of 1940.

When we first heard about the painting, we didn’t know very much about the artist, but luckily his daughter was able to supply us with some biographical information. We also discovered that the Imperial War Museum has several works by him in their collection.

Ernest Boye Uden (known as Boye Uden to distinguish him from his father Ernest Uden, who was also an artist) was born in 1911 in Peckham in London. He studied at Camberwell School of Art and Goldsmiths College and by 1936 had exhibited work at the Royal Academy. When the Second World War broke out, he joined the Auxiliary Fire Service in London, and was on duty during the air raids on the East End and Docks. He was part of the contingent wetting down St Paul’s Cathedral when it was surrounded by fire.

In 1940 he became an official war artist, attached to the National Fire Service. When Coventry was bombed on the night of 14 November 1940, Uden’s division was sent to the city to support the local fire services. This painting records his view of the three spires as they entered the city. After the war Uden established himself as a successful artist, illustrator and watercolour painter. He was commissioned to produce work for a number of well-known companies, including British Gas, Daimler, Bass, Dunlop, Ferguson Tractors, ICI and the Radio Times. He died in Sudbury in Suffolk in 1986.

The painting has required some work by our conservation team to make it ready for display, including making a new mount for it and framing it. It will be on show for the first time as part of the Warwickshire Watercolours exhibition, at the Herbert between 25 February and 22 July.

‘From Highfield Road to Wembley Way’: Public Appeal

In April 2012, a new exhibition opens at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. ‘From Highfield Road to Wembley Way’ will celebrate Coventry City Football Club’s success in the 1987 FA Cup final. The unexpected win – the first in the Club’s 104 year history – brought together the whole city, who lined the streets to welcome the team back to Coventry. Whether you were a child, a teenager, or an adult; a staunch supporter or perhaps not even a football fan at all until that point; everyone remembers the day that Coventry City Football Club brought the Cup home.

Part of the exhibition will be dedicated to CCFC fans, and we are keen to gather their memories, stories, photos and memorabilia. A public appeal was launched in the Coventry Evening Telegraph and online from September 2011, and we have received a positive response so far!

Some of the memorabilia which has been offered for display include tickets and signed programmes from the final; a commemorative medal which was awarded to Coventry and District referees; a menu card from the celebration dinner held at the Club; and commemorative bottles of beer and wine. Home-made items include t-shirts, a scrapbook, and a banner made by Kay Preece (then Bridgland) which was displayed in the window of the Coventry Evening Telegraph. It is astonishing that fans have held onto these for 25 years!

Walsgrave Road house display

We are also building up an archive of home photographs. So far, these have mostly been of the Victory Parade through Coventry’s streets – which show houses decorated with flags, bunting, balloons and CCFC scarves. Sheila Basbrown sent us images like this of Walsgrave Road, as well as some of her and her colleagues dressed for work in ‘sky blue’ for the week running up to the final! Maurice Rattigan’s photos of his trip to Wembley clearly show the anticipation and excitement of the crowd, and the euphoria that followed. These photos are being uploaded to our Flickr site ( and we are encouraging anyone else who has memorable photographs of the run up to the final, the final itself, or the Victory Parade, to do the same!

Crowds outside the Council House

It has been great to hear people’s memories, which really show what a momentous occasion the win was for the people of Coventry. Two fans have even sent us poems! Some of these memories will be featured in a short film in the exhibition. If you would like to share your story, please email us at We would love to hear from you!

This post was written by Elizabeth Pratt, who is volunteering on this project.

A review of Secret Egypt

 Secret Egypt has been open to visitors for nearly three months now and it is a useful time to review what it has achieved. The headline news is the number of visitors who have come through the door of the exhibition. To date, over 25,000 visitors have enjoyed Secret Egypt making it the most successful exhibition ever put on by the Herbert. For certain, some of this success is due to the popularity of the subject of ancient Egypt but judging from the comments received from visitors, people have really enjoyed the exhibition itself. There have been a number of repeat visitors which is always a good sign as well as considerable use of the exhibition by schools and families who have experienced our excellent learning workshops.

What have people liked about Secret Egypt? A small sampling of the several thousand comment cards left by mainly young visitors to the exhibition provides some insight into what people have made of the exhibition. The interactive games appear to have been a particular success. One adult said:

‘It was a wonderful display. Thank you for adding activities for the children, it made the exhibit more exciting’.

The mummy was a particular hit and many seem to be excited by the fact that they were seeing a real ancient Egyptian: One comment said ‘I can’t believe I actually saw a real mummy’

For one young boy Secret Egypt appeared to confirm his future career path:

‘Thanks for the exhibition! It really gave me an insight into the life of Perenbast and the Ancient Egyptians from Finn (Future Egyptologist)’

Three speakers from Mummies, Myths and Magic - Joyce Tyldesley, Joyce Filer and Stephen Snape

The Secret Egypt events programme has been well attended with hundred enjoying talks by well-known Egyptologists such as Aidan Dodson and Joyce Tydlesley.  There are still plenty of excellent events left up until the end of the exhibition on June 5th so look out for details.

We are currently making preparations for Secret Egypt to travel on to its next venue in Torquay after it finishes here. The exhibition space is quite different at Torquay and there has been some detailed thought about how the exhibition will be laid out there. Secret Egypt will be on in Torquay until November 2011 and we hope it has the same sort of response to what it has received in Coventry.

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Trapezius: Lisa Gunn’s Blog

 Lisa's studio

At this stage all works for the Trapezius exhibition are in the final stages of production. Each piece is being finished off, cleaned and polished, ready to be transported to the Herbert on 31st March for the final installation process!

I am currently feeling quite enthusiastic about the work, and looking forward to seeing how each piece will look once everything is placed in Gallery 4. I am also excited at the prospect of exhibiting alongside Flora. I am interested to see the contrasts and similarities in our works once they are finally placed next to each other.

At the moment I am following up and collecting all of the work that needed to be outsourced. This includes: 

  • Laser cutting materials for the light box
  • Duratran printing process
  • Laminating, mounting and finishing
  • Cutting of bronze and aluminium
  • Final tidy and polish of bronze casting

I am also going through all of my personal checklists to ensure nothing is overlooked, and I have contacted my guest speakers to confirm the dates that they can come to give talks in the gallery throughout May and June.  

I have acquired all materials needed, drawn up new plans for installation, and I am drawing up diagrams for the larger pieces to be built. These works have been dismantled, packed and are ready for transportation to the Herbert where they will be reassembled. 

I have visited the Herbert on several occasions over the past few weeks to test the projections, and meet with Dom and the technicians to discuss the exhibition plans and building process. 

Flora and I have kept in touch throughout, and have frequently discussed the exhibition in its entirety, including planned talks, events, artist’s master classes and our ambitions to tour the exhibition in the future.

Attached are some images of the work in progress in my studio. They are dated from early January because I don’t want to give away too much information about the final exhibits and spoil the surprise!  

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Lisa's studioLisa's studio

Building Secret Egypt

With only two weeks to go the installation of the Secret Egypt exhibition is gathering pace.

It is amazing to see all those things that we have been discussing and drawing up on paper becoming a physical reality. It’s also an anxious time – is everything going to fit?  Do we have all the right equipment to do the job? Have we enough people to do all the things that need doing? On this last score there seems no need to worry as the staff of the Herbert have come together magnificently: Curators, conservators, members of the learning and outreach teams, site management assistants and volunteers have been working together to paint, build and move cases and props.

Conservator Martin Grahn checking a mount for one of the loans from Birmingham Museum

Secret Egypt has also been one of the most ambitious exhibition designs consisting of striking coloured banners to denote each section , nearly 30 major large graphic panels  with colourful images,  a vast landscape backdrop showing the Nile valley,  and many labels for the interactive and objects. Yet to come is the work of the creative lighting designer which will produce the theatrical setting to display the two hundred plus objects.  Put together we hope this will create a magical world which will both entertain and educate.

As all the work on Secret Egypt is going on we hear that school bookings for the facilitated sessions are doing extremely well with the first two months of the exhibition almost completely booked. So if you are a teacher from the school who hasn’t booked yet you might want to contact us soon!

Little did we know when we first had the idea of putting on an exhibition about ancient Egypt how events would turn so dramatically in Egypt itself.  Our thoughts go out to the people of Egypt with the sincere hope that a peaceful and long-term solution can be found for the current troubles. A sad casualty of the unrest has been some of the remarkable treasures in the Cairo Museum including statues of Tutankhamen. Ancient Egypt is an important part of the heritage and identity of the modern country and it is hoped that everything can be done to safeguard its priceless artefacts for future generations both in Egypt and the rest of the world.

You can view more pictures of the installation on our Flickr page.


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Object of the Month – February 2011

1950s evening dress

This 1950s evening dress is one of the star items on display in our All Dressed Up exhibition. The exhibition features men’s and women’s outfits from the 1890s, 1920s and 1950s.

In 1947 the French designer Christian Dior launched his New Look, inspired by the full skirts and corseted waists of the 1890s. After the clothes rationing and utility wear of the war years, women were eager to return to a more romantic and feminine look. Popular Hollywood film stars also had a huge impact on the way women wanted to dress.

In the 1950s a more glamorous and sophisticated style developed for evening wear which was a welcome change fromthe neat pencil skirts and sweaters of everyday wear. Fashionable evening dresses were often strapless with a boned bodice, narrow waist and a full skirt held out with layers of stiff petticoats. They were worn with stiletto heeled shoes and matching handbags.

In All Dressed Up, as well as this dress you can see more glamorous evening dresses, gentlemen’s morning and evening suits, underwear from the 1890s – including a corset – and a range of shoes and other accessories. They are displayed alongside paintings from the Herbert’s collection and a Triumph scooter!

All Dressed Up runs until 27 March at the Herbert and admission is free.

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Creating “Real or Fake” for Secret Egypt

To say you love your job because of the people is usually a cliché, but on one soggy, bleak Winter day I found myself well and truly confirming that cliché. We were filming for our latest team project “Real or Fake” the game which will feature in the forthcoming Secret Egypt exhibition.  A green screen is at the end of the day, just a sheet of green paper, but it turns our crew into excited big kids, me included.  The excited kids include film makers Jo Sampson, Simon Wellman and Jim Turner, our boss Rich Elms steering the script and me, taking photos. Our host for the game and former employee, Ben Goodwin arrives in a gold, lame jacket to complete the scene; I know I am in for an epic day.

The Legendary Lame JacketThe brief we were given was to produce an interactive game based on the Real, Fake or Copy section in the exhibition.  Our solution was to produce a “Blockbusters style game show”; Ben would be the host and introduce the objects, providing players with a few clues along the way.  I’ve never seen anyone camp it up so delightfully, adding a touch of the Dale Winton to our Bob Holness aspirations (now you can guess how old I am!).  Ben had found his lame jacket in a shop in Birmingham, the owner let him in with her key so being the only one there he was obliged to buy something, and luckily his choice was perfect. Read the rest of this entry

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