29 Jan 2020

Volunteer Views:
Start of 2020

I am very excited by the presence of the Breughel entitled Autumn, in Galleries 23/24 and I am fascinated by the detail. The animation of the human figures is a delight, and the plodding cattle have a convincing solidity. It all comes to life for me like a Disney film clip. I can hear the flapping wings of the geese and the squeals of pigs. There is someone high in a tree on the left picking apples, and probably throwing them too. The difference between the dark rectangle of wood found in the store and the completely restored piece is a glorious transformation. 

The whole back story is of course a treat, including the fortunate finding of an appropriate frame of size and correct period. I understand that the picture is possibly a collaboration of two artists, unnamed members of the Jan Breughel workshop. Perhaps the lead artist is actually Jan the Elder? The pale background landscape giving a view of a river, a sailing boat and mountains may be contributed by a contemporary colleague, according to the BBC Four programme and expert advice. 

[After restoration] Autumn, c.1605-1610 Joos de Momper the Younger and workshop of Jan Brueghel the Elder

Some visitors come in looking for the picture having watched the November TV programme: Britains Lost Masterpieces. Others are caught by surprise and are delighted. Whether it is attributed to an Elder or a Younger Breughel it is an object of pride to Brummies in particular. Value is irrelevant, the finding and ownership is a point of pride. There will be a queue for the poster when it is available. I was asked for a postcard in the first week! Find out more about the two Lost Masterpieces that are on currently on display.

I will also just briefly mention two temporary displays. One is of fine costume named Dressed to the Nines . It is a fascinating display of finery to be worn when going out and appeals to a wide range of visitors from all backgrounds. The display includes a 1930s beaded evening dress, an embroidered court uniform which belonged to Neville Chamberlain, plus cocktail dresses by Christian Dior and Norman Hartnell. Most of these items have never been exhibited before. I had hoped to see a Mary Quant piece, so I do hope someone can present one to the collection. There is certainly no way that I would have worn anything longer than a mini skirt in the 1960s, and boots of course!

Dressed to the Nines exhibition

The second display is Birmingham Revolutions - Power to the People , which exhibits varied material from 250 years of protest and campaigning by the people of Birmingham. There are banners, photographs, paintings and artefacts. I am riveted by CRW Nevinson's darkly brooding anti-war painting of dying soldiers entitled La Patrie from 1926. I viewed it side by side with a visitor who was visibly moved by the image. There is a feedback station where you can share your own memories and opinions of Birmingham protest, so do please let the team know your thoughts.

La Patrie, by CRW Nevinson (1916)

Birmingham Revolutions – Power to the People exhibition at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Both the Dressed to the Nines and Birmingham Revolutions: Power to the People exhibitions are on until 4th Sept 2020. Free entry. Opening times: Monday - Thursday 10am - 5pm, Friday 10.30am - 5pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am - 5pm.