Gerard Murphy’s anatomy and life drawings

An anatomy drawing by Gerard Murphy currently on display in GSA Library caught the eye of one of GSA’s Continuing Education tutors. Inspired by what was on display she and a few others made an appointment to view his other anatomy drawings and his life drawings.

Gerard Murphy was a student at Glasgow School of Art in the 1930s. Following his studies at the Art School, he went on to be an art teacher in several schools near Glasgow.  The Archives and Collections Centre has recently been gifted his student material, including architectural sketches, life studies and several anatomy drawings.

Life drawing by Gerard Murphy, GSA student, 1930s

Life drawing by Gerard Murphy, GSA student, 1930s

Another life drawing by Gerard Murphy - notice the life model is the life model in the photograph below!

Another life drawing by Gerard Murphy – notice the life model is the life model in the photograph below!

While browsing through the sketches we recognised the life model as being the same life model who appears in some of the photographs in our collection!

GSAA/P/1/851 Students with life model (centre), 1930s

GSAA/P/1/851 Students with life model (centre), 1930s

However the star of the show was definitely Murphy’s sketch of one of the School’s plaster casts which had our visitors in absolute awe:

Gerard Murphy's drawing of GSA's cast of Michelangelo's Slave

Gerard Murphy’s drawing of GSA’s cast of Michelangelo’s Slave

For more information on the history of Anatomy drawing at GSA and our current display in GSA Library read our PDF guide Anatomy at GSA, and if you’d like to come and see the sketches for yourself, do get in touch.

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GSA Plaster Cast Collection

For my placement for my MSc in Museum Studies at The University of Glasgow I am working to improve the catalogue entries for the cast collection at The Glasgow School of Art.  This information will form a record of what the School possesses, and will also be added to a new online catalogue, due to launch later this year, which will include images alongside the descriptions. The catalogue entries are compiled from several sources: the pieces themselves; two box files of card catalogues with Polaroids from the 1970s, and information from the School’s archives.

The catalogue entries are compiled from several sources: the pieces themselves; two box files of card catalogues with Polaroid’s from the 70’s, and information from the School’s archives.

The catalogue entries are compiled from several sources: the casts themselves; two box files of card catalogues with Polaroids from the 1970s, and information from the School’s archives.

Frustratingly until recently casts have been seen as the ‘poor relation’ of sculpture and art collections. According to one of the School tour guides, visitors have been surprised and disappointed to discover these are plaster copies and have often branded them ‘fakes’.

However, despite occasionally being considered a poor substitute for the real thing, the potential of casts should not be undervalued. In form they are virtually identical to the original sculpture and aesthetically could be said to provide the same experience of the original works.

A cast collection provides an opportunity to see world renowned works up close as well as creating an entirely unique experience. The sculptures and fragments of architecture displayed around the School’s campus come from all over Europe and the Middle East, making them accessible to all, not just those afforded with the ability to travel.

But, why does Glasgow School of Art have a cast collection? Primarily they are an inheritance of the development of artistic training where in shops of established Masters students would make studies of replicas of classic Greek, Roman, and Renaissance originals. Antique sculpture was seen as one of the highest forms of art thus was one of the greatest mediums through which to study the subject.

After the establishment of art schools casts were used as models for the students to draw; from this they could study musculature structures and the forms of the body.

The School no longer uses these casts for official teaching, however students still draw from the casts in the corridors in their free time and casts are occasionally borrowed by Continuing Education classes to act as models. In the past few years efforts have been made to conserve, protect and document these pieces, in recognition of their unique importance both as works of art and in the history of art education at the School.

Guest post by Penelope Hines, MSc Museum Studies student placement, The University of Glasgow 

Exhibition featuring items from GSA’s collection currently on at the Fleming Collection

An exhibition entitled Learning to Draw/Drawing to Learn is currently on in Gallery Two at The Fleming Collection in London. Focusing on the practice of drawing, past and present staff and students of Glasgow School of Art reflect on traditional and current drawing practice and its place in art and art education. The works, selected for this exhibition by Professor Roger Wilson, Head of the School of Fine Art, and Stuart Mackenzie, Senior Lecturer in Painting and Printmaking, demonstrate drawing’s capacity for the exploratory, experimental and observational.

NMC 055, life drawing by William Somerville Shanks, c1910

NMC 055, life drawing by William Somerville Shanks, c1910

In preparing for Learning to Draw/Drawing to Learn Wilson and Mackenzie were fortunate to have access to an extensive archive of past work, including many items from GSA’s Archives and Collections. Indeed several items from our collections feature in the exhibition. These include a stunning, highly finished, life drawing by GSA student and tutor William Somerville Shanks from c1910; several small sketches completed by GSA tutor Fred Selby during his travels in Italy and the Middle East in the 1940s (see here for our previous post about him); and a recently acquired sketchbook featuring landscapes by former GSA 2nd headmaster Robert Brydall from 1873 (again, see here for our previous post about this item).

NMC 085, Farm wagon, Lincolnshire, by Joan Eardley, 1948-1949

NMC 085, Farm wagon, Lincolnshire, by Joan Eardley, 1948-1949

There are also two works by Joan Eardley who was a student at the school in the 1940s; a male nude by James McIntosh Patrick who studied at GSA in the 1920s under the artist Maurice Greiffenhagen (the work on show actually bears his corrections); and some sketchbooks by William Gray dating from 1916-1918, as well as the evening school medal he won in 1914.

NMC 605, Male figure study by James McIntosh Patrick, featuring corrections by Maurice Greiffenhagen, c1927

NMC 605, Male figure study by James McIntosh Patrick, featuring corrections by Maurice Greiffenhagen, c1927

Recent GSA graduate Vanessa Larsen's work will feature alongside items from the Archives and Collections

Recent GSA graduate Vanessa Larsen’s work will feature alongside items from the Archives and Collections

As well as these items from GSA’s Archives and Collection, the curators were also able to borrow from a growing community of artists who are increasingly electing to stay and work in Glasgow. The exhibition coincides with the development of new academic programmes centred on drawing, confirming GSA’s engagement with this highly relevant medium. All of the works in Learning to Draw/Drawing to Learn use the language of drawing across divergent artistic practices.

The Fleming Collection is at 13 Berkeley Street, London W1J 8DU (nearest tube: Green Park). The exhibition is on from 3rd September – 9th October. The gallery is open Tuesday-Saturday 10.00am-5.30pm (last entry is at 5.00pm) and admission is free.

See The Fleming Collection’s website for details.

New acquisition: Robert Brydall sketchbook

Detail of a landscape from Robert Brydall's sketchbook, 1873

Detail of a landscape from Robert Brydall’s sketchbook, 1873

Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections has recently acquired a sketchbook by Robert Brydall, a student and tutor at the School in the mid-late 19th century. The sketchbook is dated 1873, and contains landscape sketches completed during travels around Scotland. This new acquisition is a very welcome addition to our holdings, which until now featured very few examples from this early period of the School’s history.

Robert Brydall's sketchbook, 1873. The unassuming cover belies the charming landscape sketches within

Robert Brydall’s sketchbook, 1873. The unassuming cover belies the charming landscape sketches within

Robert Brydall

Robert Brydall

Robert Brydall (10th May 1839-6th April 1907), was a Glasgow-born painter, who worked predominantly as a lithographer and engraver, and taught for many years at Glasgow School of Art, where his students included David Murray, John Lavery, James Paterson and E. A. Walton. In 1889 he published “History of Art in Scotland,” at that time the only book dealing with the subject. It was characterised by the London Quarterly Review as “one of the best and most interesting histories of art ever written.”

The Archives and Collections Centre holds records which show that Robert Brydall was a staff member at the School from 1863-1881, during this time he held the following positions: Pupil teacher, Glasgow Government School of Art – 1863; 3rd Master, Glasgow Government School of Art – 1863-1877; and 2nd Master, Glasgow Government School of Art – 1877-1881. There are also a few letters addressed to Robert Brydall in the late 1800s Secretary & Treasurer’s correspondence.

Brydall left GSA to set up a private art school, the St George’s Art School, in Newton Terrace in 1881. It is unclear when the School ceased operating, but it was still being run by him in 1896.

He was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Glasgow Institute (1862-1907), and also showed work at the Royal Scottish Academy (1862-1887), as well as the Royal Academy (1906) and the RSW. The subjects of Brydall’s exhibited works included historical genres, landscape, and latterly views of Venice. He also showed a number of fairy subjects, including The Elf Dance (GI, 1871) and Fairy Treasure, (RSA, 1874) as well as works inspired by Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’, such as Bottom, the Weaver (GI, 1871), Titania Enamoured (GI, 1876), and Oberon & Titania (GI, 1894).

Recent GSA graduate Vanessa Larsen's work will feature alongside items from the Archives and Collections

Recent GSA graduate Vanessa Larsen’s work will feature alongside items from the Archives and Collections

This very recent acquisition is actually to form part of a forthcoming exhibition at the Fleming Collection in London. Learning to Draw/Drawing to Learn: Glasgow School of Art, which runs from 3 September – 9 October 2013, is a reassessment of the practice of drawing by Glasgow School of Art students and staff, past and present, selected by Head of the School of Fine Art, Professor Roger Wilson and Stuart Mackenzie, Senior Lecturer in Painting and Printmaking. As well as the Robert Brydall sketchbook, the exhibition will also feature other works from our holdings, such as sketches by the architect Fred Selby, and an awe-inspiring life drawing by GSA student William Somerville Shanks from around 1910.

For more information check the Fleming Collection website.

Animals at GSA: Archival proof

GSA tour guides delight in telling visitors that elephants and zebras were marched from a Zoo on Sauchiehall Street up the hill of Dalhousie Street and into the Mackintosh Building via the small wooden door to the right of the side entrance. Plans show there was an Animal Room in the Mack (where the shop is now), but rumours abound about the sorts of fantastical animals brought into the School for life drawing classes at the turn of the century, and even about how they got into the building (some believe there was a secret underground tunnel linking the Zoo with the Mack Building). But until recently, this has all been speculation. Only in the archive is there proof that animals were used in drawing classes…

Camel in the basement of the Mackintosh Building

Camel in the basement of the Mackintosh Building. Credit: Rosie O’Grady

News that student Rosie O’Grady was going to be filming a camel (in a project called camellemac) in the basement of the building prompted us to relook at the documents at the heart of the rumours.

GSA Archives and Collections hold records of the Director from 1846-present, including correspondence written by Frances Newbery, Director of GSA from 1885-1918. In amongst his letters we have documentary evidence (see letters below) that animals were indeed brought into the Mack Building for life drawing classes, and not just goats and chickens, but camels, zebras, yaks and maybe even an elephant!

GSAA DIR 5-2   GSAA DIR 5-17 No8

So, if you’d like to prove or disprove any wild and wonderful theories about the Art School, maybe it might be worth visiting the Archives and Collections Centre to get to the bottom of it.

camel in the basement

Camel in the basement. Credit: Abdi Adam