The summer holiday season is Nottingham Castles busiest
time and the team at the Castle have enjoyed welcoming thousands of visitors
over the past few weeks.
Weve also been beavering away with work on the Castle transformation. Heres what we have been up to over the last month:
- A Geotechnical Study has been completed on the feasibility of the proposed new lift, which will enable visitors to travel through the Castle Rock.
- Geological, arboreal, ecological and topographical surveys are now being undertaken on site. A team of ecologists are surveying the bat population of the Castle site.
- The Project Team has been busy reviewing the Conservation Management Plan for the Castle site. This provides an assessment of the values of different architectural elements, details any special permissions required regarding potential works and provides recommendations for future conservation and management.
- Plans are in place for students from Nottingham Trent University students to get involved in work on the Castle transformation as part of their courses. For example, students on the Museum and Heritage Management course will conduct research into how visitors will move around the site.
- Members of the Project and Design Teams enjoyed a fascinating tour of the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester, which has just completed a 15 million refurbishment and won several architectural awards. Colleagues were particularly interested in the new environmental conditioning and lighting systems, as well as the response from visitors to the improvement works.
Profile: Deborah Dean, Visual Arts Collections and Exhibitions Manager at Nottingham Castle
Ive been at Nottingham Castle since 2007 and my role is to
manage the Visual Arts team and programme, including exhibitions, events and
the care and display of the Citys collections of Fine Art, Decorative Art,
Costume and Textiles. Before this, I was Manager of the former Angel Row
Gallery, Nottingham, and of the City Art Gallery & Museum in
My Mum was born in Nottingham and I spent my early years in
the Midlands, so my first visit to the Castle was on a school trip, aged seven.
I never imagined that Id work here one day but I think this first visit to an
art gallery prompted my love of art and I later studied History of Art History,
followed by a postgrad course in Gallery Studies.
Ive been lucky to work on many interesting projects over
the years but highlights include working for the City Council on the
development of the Nottingham Contemporary building, and working with artist
Christina Mackie on her sculpture commission for the Castle, thanks to us
winning the 2011 Contemporary Art Society Annual Award. However, nothing quite
compares with the Castle Transformation Plan and Im very excited to be leading
on the new Creative City galleries.
Object of the month:
Elsie on Hassan, 1929-30, Oil on canvas, NCM 1930-49, by Dame Laura Knight
During a career spanning over seventy years, Laura Knight
became the most famous woman artist in Britain, achieving celebrity status and
she will certainly feature in the new Creative City galleries that are part of
the Castle Transformation. Among her many achievements, she became the first
woman artist to be elected to the Royal Academy and was also commissioned to
paint the Nuremburg trials at the end of World War II. At a time when many
women artists found it difficult to access the same training and opportunities
as their male counterparts, she was something of a trail-blazer.
Laura was born in Long Eaton, near Nottingham, to a
struggling family involved in the lace trade. She enrolled at the Nottingham
School of Art in 1890 when she was just thirteen years old and her early
drawings reveal her precocious talent and confidence in line drawing. It was
also whilst at the School of Art that she met her future husband, the
Nottingham-born painter Harold Knight.
Over her long career, Laura became known in particular for
her paintings of gypsy life, circus performers, dancers and the theatre -
especially glimpses of life back-stage, behind-the-scenes. This picture,
Elsie on Hassan, is a fine example and is one of several paintings purchased
by Nottingham Castle from the artist during her lifetime. Lauras obsession
with the big top began in the 1920s when she visited the circus at Olympia and
befriended the impresario Captain Bertram Mills, and in the early 1930s, she
joined Carmos Circus on a tour of Midlands' towns. In this painting, Elsie, a
bareback rider, sits on one of the dappled Knapstroper horses known fondly as
plum puddings. Both are in costume and appear to be captured at the moment
immediately before or after a performance.