Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Day Eleven: Saint Ives

Monday, August 11, 2008

Saint Ives Parish Church
Saint Ives Museum
Tate Saint Ives
Barbara Hepworth Museum And Sculpture Garden, Saint Ives

We plan to leave our hotel at 9:00 a.m. and walk to Saint Ives Parish Church, a 15th-Century church in the very center of the old town, very near the harbor.

Saint Ives Parish Church, erected between 1410 and 1434, was built in the early English Gothic style. It is a large church, with four aisles, and has a large church tower, 80 feet high. Much of the interior decoration—wood, stone, alabaster—is from the 15th Century, and it is a very beautiful and very peaceful church to visit. One of the church’s aisles was set aside for the fishermen of Saint Ives. During service, the fishermen would sit in this aisle, which provided a full view of their boats through the church’s only plain-glass window. The church’s most unusual feature is a wagon roof, with unusual and intricate wood vaulting. The church has a large and beautiful churchyard with ancient monuments.

Our next stop will be the Saint Ives Museum, a museum presenting the history of the town. The Saint Ives Museum occupies a series of old granite buildings in the heart of the old fishing quarter, right next to the sea.

The Saint Ives Museum is a very fine museum, with many interesting artifacts on display. It is well worth a couple of hours.

The museum has exhibits covering the history of farming, fishing, mining and shipping in the town. It also has a display of art from Saint Ives, as well as exhibits on the history of railroads and steamships in Saint Ives. Also on view are a traditional Cornish kitchen, old toys, Victorian clothing and many, many photographs of the town and its people from the 19th and 20th Centuries.

Once we have seen what we want to see at the Saint Ives Museum, we will walk over to Tate Saint Ives, part of the Tate Gallery network (Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate Saint Ives).

Tate Saint Ives opened in 1993. It occupies a fine purpose-built building near the coastline, nestled beneath the cliffs. Its focus is artwork of the Saint Ives artist colony, in existence since the 19th Century.

We will first go to the top floor and have lunch in the excellent café. It provides magnificent views over the houses and beaches below.

After lunch, we will view two of the three exhibitions that will be on display throughout the 2008 summer months at Tate Saint Ives: “Dawn Of The Colony: Saint Ives 1811-1888”; and “Modernism In Saint Ives”. There is no permanent collection on display at Tate Saint Ives.

With the exception of Barbara Hepworth, the artists who lived and worked in Saint Ives never acquired an international following. Saint Ives artists were local artists, producing work of local appeal. Saint Ives artwork from the 19th Century is invariably realist, with a touch of Impressionism creeping into an occasional canvas late in the Century. Early 20th-Century artwork occasionally reflects the artistic developments of the era, European and American, but generally in severely watered-down forms.

After World War II, the Saint Ives artist colony fractured into two, one group tenaciously holding to realism and the other group advocating a move to abstraction. Diplomatic relations were broken between the two factions, but neither group was of international importance, making this a purely local conflagration, ignored beyond town borders.

Once we have viewed the exhibitions, we will walk to the nearby Barbara Hepworth Museum And Sculpture Garden, which is administered by Tate Saint Ives.

Hepworth spent the last 36 years of her life in Saint Ives, and her home, studio and garden were left to the nation after her 1975 death. I have never thought highly of Hepworth’s work—“bargain-basement Henry Moore” is how her work has always struck me—but it should be interesting to spend an hour seeing where she lived and worked, and viewing the sculpture on display in the garden. The garden sculpture contains Hepworth’s favorite pieces, arranged as she left them at the time of her death.

When we leave the Hepworth Museum, we will stroll the streets and alleyways of Saint Ives for an hour or so, and locate a teashop in which to enjoy a full and formal British afternoon tea service.

We will probably return to our hotel for a bit before we go out for dinner.

When we leave Saint Ives the following morning, our goal is to have escaped town without eating a single Cornish pasty (unless Josh and his sister want to try one).

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