A saturday of Samuel Butler and Soviet Art

Spent a satisfying Saturday afternoon with Andres at a talk on Samuel Butler in the newly refurbished Divinity School at St Johns. The college has a large collection on the Victorian art critic, photographer and writer and at the moment there is a display in the Old Library. Currently there is a two year project that is seeking to catalogue and publicise the collection. There have been, and are, plans for various events. The talk today was given by Dr Clarice Zdanski and she focused on how Butler influenced her own approach to understanding and teaching art. She is keen to take art out of the classroom and students on tour in part inspired by the book Alps and Sanctuaries of Piedmont and the Canton Ticino.

She certainly inspired me to go away and read some of Butler’s work – starting, I think, with Erewhon which influenced Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I knew little about Butler this morning but what an interesting character he seems. His photography was most definitely ahead of its time. He worked hard to capture the everyday beauty and poverty of Italy with a wonderful simplicity. When not translating the Odyssey or arguing that it was in fact written by a woman, he was writing about art and his love of all art, especially art that had been overlooked or was not considered canonical. Not only did he nip into chapels in the Alps to take in the fescos but apparently he was also a fan of graffiti (way before we all became Bansky fans!). Perhaps most significant was his dismissal of the academic in favour of personal experience.

Well it was hard to follow up such an afternoon but we managed it by heading to the exhibition – A Soviet Design For Life. It’s down in the basement at the uni library and is a fascinating selection of Catherine Cooke’s collection that the library holds. Well worth a visit.

After that? Well I kindly let Andres cook dinner! A perfect end to a perfect day!

Leave a Reply