Two Temple Gardens is a magical place (above left). Currently it is showing an exhibition about John Ruskin (above right) called the Power of Seeing. Nestling near the embankment at the bottom of the Temple it is built in a medieval style but was in fact built in the Victorian era by William Waldorf Aster to use as his estate office. Before this I had never heard or been to it before. It is open to the public from January to April each year, and each year hosts a different exhibition. Ruskin is this year. Entrance is free. It is open late on Wednesdays.
The inside is a wonderland, with blush dark wood, tiled and carpeted floors, a vaulted stained glass window (above right), and a plus stair case. The main room is a wooden paneled hall complete with chandeliers and ornate carved details (above left).
Each end of the hall has detailed stained glass windows showing pastoral scenes, the windows set into alcoves each containing plush green leather sofas. Specially commissioned sculptures relating to Ruskin sit atop slatted pedestals (above right). Also for your delectation I give you a detail of some of that ornate carving (above left). Frankly it is worth going just to have a snoop around the building. There is a nice looking cafe there which I think will tempt me back.
Onto the show, which is worth going to as well and basically divides into two parts, work by Ruskin and stuff he collected. The cabinet above left neatly encapsulates this including as it does several metal objects he owned (including a rather fine vase) and a gentle graphite drawing of the two metal flowers that sit there bottom left of the cabinet. Ruskin being who he is there is lots to do with Sheffield (and most of the works are on loan from various institutions there). So you have this dull brown, smoky industrial landscape with what could quite easily be a shell hole in the foreground, being a view of Sheffield by Stanley Royle.
As you ascend the stairs you are greeted by these two hanging screens? are they screens, lets say they are screens. I failed completely to find out when they were made or by who but they are beautiful. , swirling foliage, and on the one on the left this peacock like bird, nestling among those pink and red flowers. The one on the right darker and autumnal with a cheeky little art barely visible and perched on the right.
Upstairs in a smaller room, are a collection of ephemera that Ruskin owned, including busts of various people, old books, pieces of architecture, the odd psalter illustrated pages of medieval manuscripts. The Two Temple surroundings really come into their own here especially the shelving shown above.
Architecture was obviously an interest of Ruskin's. This can be seen from the piece of building, cornices that are scattered around the show. Pictures of buildings, done in fine detail by Ruskin (above right) and others.
More on the illustrated book line with some fine medieval manuscripts with those ornate golden borders that we all love to see. In one cabinet in a special presentation box is a fine Turner Watercolour (above right) all soft yellows, purples and blues. I read somewhere that the Impresionists where the first to use purple as shade but having looked at the Turner watercolour I am not sure this is true.
Books of flora and fauna, in this case fauna being birds where also among the collection with types of birds loving illustrated. Presumably in this example the male and female of the species. Ruskin also had a thing for pretty rocks and gems. There are two cabinets repeat with iridescent rocks. Geology was an interest of his it would seam and her wrote a treatise on it (and other things) and did a number of detailed watercolours showing the striations in slate in particular.
More or less opposite is another collection, this time of botanical print. For reasons that were not made clear the photographing of some of them was forbidden. While I am on the subject there are also some early daguerreotypes in the show. Feint displays of silver and black which you have to peer close up to make out what they depict. You are not allowed to photograph them either but they are interesting to see.
Turner was a big inspiration to Ruskin and in the first room you come to there is a corner dedicated to works by him, or inspired by him that Ruskin owned (or indeed produced such as the watercolours at the top of the blog). I particularly liked the watercolour you can see above, with its almost menacing shady tree in the middle distance and the characteristic Turner indistinct buildings in the background.
Having just spoken about Turner I will now have the gall to talk about me! I have a show starting Tuesday 5th Feb until March 3rd at the Indo Bar. It is a group show and I have one painting in it (see below). Come along and see it in person.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.