Friday 2 August 2019

Iconic Bristol - the implications

I don't suppose many will recognise the above picture - but it had something of an iconic status in and around the city of Bristol when I was a schoolboy in that vicinity. It held pride of place in the city museum and art gallery and was on the cover of a small popular history of Bristol we had at home.

Yet/ And, the painting is actually a kind-of pastiche - an apotheosis of the Look and Learn illustration school although without the historical accuracy for which L&L strove. Also, I can't explain why the 'church' in the top right corner looks exactly-like the Wills Memorial Building, begun only some years after this picture was painted... maybe Board had seen the plans?...

The painting is The Departure of John and Sebastian Cabot on their First Voyage of Discovery, 1497 - and was done by a rather obscure artist called Ernest Board in the 1900s - indeed, it seems to be the only good painting he ever did.

Because this is a good painting; very pleasing in its details, colours, composition - the epitome of 'pageantry' to my mind; albeit (as was the case with the departure of Cabot) on a small scale. And a subject worthy of depiction - since Cabot discovered North America, and therefore is deserving of a significant share of the (surely?) excessive adulation given to Columbus.

In Bristol - a great and ancient city that nonetheless feels itself rather short of claims-to-fame - Cabot is still remembered; mainly through a strange eponymous tower built in a landscaped park shortly before Ernest Board's painting was done - and likely associated with its commissioning.

Presumably, the late-Victorian Bristolians had decided to emphasise their Medieval-Renaissance origins at about this time; by means of new, Gothic Revival, art and architecture.


No comments: