The Berlin Painter and His World: Princeton University exhibition

By Alastair Harden, Acting Head of Classics

1On a visit to the British Museum with 6.2 Classical Civilization students in February, after looking at the Parthenon sculptures and the frieze from the Temple of Apollo at Bassae, I brought the class around the Greek Vase galleries. I know these galleries very well, so I confidently strode up to a glass case, ready to wax lyrical on one of the most beautiful pieces on the A-level syllabus: a magnificent volute krater depicting the final duel between Achilles and Hektor. I mentally gathered my notes and got ready to dispense wisdom when – much to my disappointment – the case turned out to be empty. Well, not quite empty: a card read “This vase has been loaned to the Princeton University Art Museum for the exhibition ‘The Berlin Painter and His World’.” This kicked off a very welcome chain of events that led to me trading the Block 3 Parents’ meeting for an aeroplane bound for New Jersey and attending the most important conference and exhibition on Greek Art to be held in a generation.

2I’d heard that Princeton was hosting the first exhibition devoted to a single vase-painter in almost forty years, so I emailed J. Michael Padgett, Princeton’s curator of Classical antiquities, chastising him for ruining my speech about Achilles and Hektor and fondly recalling the afternoon in 2011 when he took me to the store-room under the galleries in the museum at Princeton to examine some fragments for my doctoral dissertation. To my surprise and delight he replied straight away, inviting me to two events: the fizzy ‘gala opening’ of the Berlin Painter exhibition on March 4th, and a star-studded one-day symposium on April 1st. (Well, ‘star-studded’ to Greek Art enthusiasts. Or really to vase-painting enthusiasts. Well, really, to enthusiasts of early Athenian red-figure vase-painting, which thankfully I am.) I expressed my regret that I could go to neither, but after some string-pulling and many apologetic emails to my Block 3 parents I found myself gratefully bound for the symposium.

3‘The Berlin Painter’ is the name given by the Oxford scholar John Davidson Beazley to an otherwise-anonymous painter of the most beautiful painted pottery of the early fifth century B.C.: Beazley grouped together several vases which he judged to have been painted by the same person in a 1911 article entitled ‘The Master of the Berlin Amphora’, and in doing so he effectively initiated the study of Greek vase painting as a major art form. Beazley remained central to the study of Greek vase painting until his death in 1970, and I was working as a researcher at Beazley’s archive in Oxford (www.beazley.ox.ac.uk) when I left academia to come to Bedales.

The Berlin Painter was one of thousands of painters whom Beazley was to identify on stylistic grounds, but to all scholars of Greek art the Berlin Painter has a special place as the first painter to recognize the aesthetic potential of using the shape of the vase and the framing painted floral and geometric patterns to bring the painted scene to life. Before this, painters usually treated the shape of the vase as a blank field to be filled in, and simply divided the vessel into zones or panels, but the Berlin Painter seems to have had a gifted sense of how the complex shapes of the vases can complement the drawing. He (or she, though we presume the painter was male: that’s another discussion…) also observed anatomy in minute detail, and I hope all of my students share my enthusiasm at how the Berlin Painter renders the complex relationship of the serratus anterior muscles to the ribcage in a level of anatomical detail unprecedented in its accuracy, at a time when sculptors were also looking to complex anatomical accuracy to make bronze and stone resemble real living bodies.

4The exhibition in Princeton brings together a representative selection of pieces from museums all over the world, including the ‘name vase’, the ‘Berlin Amphora’ which Beazley discussed in his 1911 article; sadly the exhibition does not include the beautiful fragment which Beazley saw in Winchester College, pictured, but it was awe-inspiring to be in a gallery with so many pieces of such high quality. The symposium featured a brilliantly stimulating group of lectures, including a wonderful talk by Richard Neer about how Beazley’s sexuality and early Brideshead-like days as an Oxford undergraduate in the 1900s influenced his later scholarship, and a typically poetic paper by the renowned French scholar François Lissarrague on the painter’s astonishingly sensitive use of deep black backgrounds for the figural scenes. Mario Iozzo, director of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Florence (home of the famous François Vase), revealed that he found what all archaeologists long for: a secret message, barely detectable beneath the black glaze of one vase. His paper will quite literally have every curator of Athenian vases looking again for these tantalizing hidden words, which will occupy scholars for decades: they can only be seen with the naked eye under certain lighting conditions, preferably when the vase is being held in the hand, a nice reminder of the tactility of these objects in an era which is increasingly devoted to digital images and accessing artefacts primarily through the internet.

At the reception following the conference I re-connected with Prof. Lissarrague, who wrote the single most beautiful book on Greek vases (Greek Vases: The Athenians and Their Images) and, much less illustriously, examined my PhD thesis in 2013 (‘Animal-skin garments in archaic Greek art: style and iconography’). I also caught up with several other academics whom I knew through my five years working at the Beazley Archive: I was reminded of the joys of research, and I’ve already since been consulted by a curator at the Metropolitan Museum in New York about an animal skin on an ancient statuette. It has been very rewarding to spend even a brief time among academics and curators, and I plan to re-enter this world by writing a paper this summer on the Berlin Painter’s use of animal-skin garments: this will be one of hundreds of pieces of research inspired and stimulated by the epoch-making conference and exhibition, with its beautiful catalogue, and it was truly a privilege to have attended this monumental event.

On the day of the exhibition’s opening, Michael Padgett gave an excellent introductory lecture on the Berlin Painter which you can see here.

Block 3 experience The Tempest

To support the study of Shakespeare, the English department took all Block 3 to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre matinee performance of The Tempest in Stratford-upon-Avon on Thursday 12 January.

This was a very exciting opportunity as the production has had rave reviews including: ★★★★ ”Simon Russell Beale’s superb Prospero” The Guardian, ★★★★★ “State-of-the-art stagecraft” Financial Times and ★★★★ “The visuals are true to the hype of a breath-taking order” Daily Telegraph. The students also attended a Workshop about The Tempest at The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in the morning which very effectively introduced them to the main characters, themes and ideas about staging and interpretation. The overwhelming response from the students was that it had indeed been a wonderful experience. Read some of their anonymous responses below…

256px-rsc_theatre_stratford-upon-avon_13f2005Last week, I saw The Tempest, written by Shakespeare, and performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford, directed by Gregory Doran. 

The plot of The Tempest was about two people, a father and daughter, banished to an island by Prospero’s brother, who now fills his position as Duke. On the island, Prospero has two slaves, one magical and one monster. With the help of Ariel, his sprite, he traps his brother and the rest of the royals in a storm out at sea not far from the island. When the royal party are swept ashore, Prospero makes them suffer as he once did.

Throughout the performance of The Tempest I enjoyed the character of Ariel, played by Mark Quartley. As Ariel was a sprite, his movement was very quiet and elegant – he really made you believe that he was invisible and magical.

I also enjoyed the performance of Stephano (played by Tony Jayawardena), one of the people from the ship wreck, he was the King’s butler, and throughout the play, played a very drunk character.

One of the parts that truly made the show stand-out from all the other productions of The Tempest and made it exciting to watch, were the effects, the lighting and the stage set. When Ariel first appeared on stage, he was shown as a projection on a cylinder.  One of my favourite special effect moments was a part in the storm when Gonzalo went from being on the ship, to being underwater – they showed that very well…

See what the audiences are saying about The Tempest:

Read a review of The Tempest published in The Stage
View images from the production

…The Tempest was an amazing play about Prospero (Simon Russell Beale) who was overthrown from his Dukedom by his brother Antonio (Oscar Pearce).

Prospero managed to survive thanks to Gonzalo (Joseph Mydell) a trustworthy servant who gave him books of magic, food and water.

After the wedding of the King of Naples’ daughter, a storm brings them to an island where Prospero and his daughter Miranda are stranded.

My favourite character was Ariel because he played exactly as you would imagine: light and dainty but could also be cheeky and moody. Ariel’s costume was also how most people would imagine: it was blue and it had parts with glitter and green, his hair was also quite spectacular and it had been slicked back into three spikes. Another character I thought was amazing was Juno, one of the spirits, because she really looked like a goddess and acted like one. Her dress was very big and she moved very elegantly, almost floating.

Madhouse to milk can…

Nellie BlyJanuary 25 is a birthday shared by Robert Burns, William Colgate, W. Somerset Maugham, Virginia Woolf, Dean Jones, Etta James, Alicia Keys and several international footballers – Eusebio, David Ginola, Xavi and Robinho – amongst others, of course. However, as Hogmanay seemed so long ago now, A Room of One’s Own had featured in another assembly recently, and I had left my absolutely indisputable statistical research supporting the theory that the earlier you are born in the year, the better a footballer you are, I decided to focus my assembly on another significant event which occurred on that day in history.

Overlooking the deaths of Al Capone and Ava Gardner, Henry VIII marrying Anne Boleyn in secret, the establishment of Moscow University and Mendelssohn’s Wedding March being played at Queen Victoria’s daughter’s marriage, I spoke about Nellie Bly (the pen name of Elizabeth Jane Cochrane), who completed her then record-breaking round-the-world journey in 72 days in 1890.

Nellie was inspired to write after having read an “aggressively misogynistic” column in the Pittsburgh Despatch entitled ‘What Girls Are Good For’. She went on to work for Joseph Pulitzer’s newspaper, New York World, taking on an undercover assignment feigning insanity to investigate reports of brutality and neglect at a women’s lunatic asylum. Her enlightening expose directly affected change in the US in laws governing the care of the mentally ill. Nellie eventually convinced Pulitzer to allow her to attempt to better Phileas Fogg’s fictional circumnavigation; she did so, becoming quite the celebrity in her day.

Nellie went on to marry a millionaire manufacturer 42 years her senior and invented a new milk can and stacking garbage can. She later returned to reporting, covering Women’s Suffrage in the US and Europe’s Eastern Front in WWI. I hope her story inspired my audience…

 

Ullswater update

By Scott Charlesworth, Teacher of Chemistry and Block 3 Badley tutor

Day 1

A holiday to the Lake District, it is hard to believe that this is the second full-day of school but then again we are talking about Bedales, a place where we know there is much more to education than qualifications. Myself, I’m just starting my second year teaching at Bedales and my first as a Badley tutor.  I’m certainly looking forward to the year ahead and all that being a Badley tutor involves. Starting the year with a holiday to Ullswater may seem strange to an outsider, but here at Bedales we know that it is an extremely valuable, almost priceless, way for students to start their senior school life.

arrival photo

Arriving mid-afternoon, slightly early we took the opportunity to take a group photo before immersing ourselves in a week of non-stop action. Next various team-building activities were undertaken, each group doing something slightly different, as chosen by the instructor (each group having been assigned one for the week). The team building exercises were then put into context by a debrief from our outdoor instructors, who did an amazing job explaining to the youngsters the values of teamwork and how they were going to learn to be team players – a theme that was to continue throughout the week. A welcomed dinner gave us a much needed refuel, as well as offering more team-building activities in the form of dining hall cleaning duties. We were then shown to our team yurts, here our outdoor instructor produced a contract, filled with teamwork based clauses, for students to sign. Finally we jogged down to the lake to take a dip in the clear but cold water, which included a jump off the jetty. We then returned to get dry and finish the night with a hot chocolate.

It had been an exciting day, crammed full of skill building activities cleverly disguised as fun. I think we all went to bed eagerly anticipating the next day’s adventure. It had been a fantastic day for all involved – even the outdoor instructors have told us how much they have been looking forward to the return of our delightful Bedalians’ and the bus drivers were super happy with their quiet and well-behaved conduct on the coach.

Day 2

On our second day we awoke to more glorious weather, apparently we have brought it with us, I hope it’s not too wet back in Hampshire! Students started their day with after-breakfast duties, while the staff joined the centre’s regular morning meeting. This meeting was extremely helpful as it gave us an opportunity to make the instructors more aware of the Bedales ethos and what we wanted from the week, which seemingly affected our instructors’ agenda immediately, at least this is what I found back at the team yurt, where our day kicked off.

‘To the Team yurt,’ Dave excitedly hailed before darting off into the forest, leading a pack of excited young Bedalians’ and their young-at-heart Badley tutor. At the yurt Dave, our instructor for the week, delved into some teamwork theory, impressively adapting and improvising his plan in accordance with the information presented at the staff meeting, just minutes before! It was interesting to see the students react to the theory, even as Dave talked individuals started to change their role within the team, becoming more active players, a fashion that was to continue throughout the week.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gorge walking was our main activity of the second day, which Dave had thoughtfully selected as he felt our group needed an activity that broke their silent boundaries and gelled them together as a unit – this was certainly the outcome.  Starting with sorting out our gear for the day, we set off for the gorge on foot, taking a winding, rocky and rough path into a beautiful green valley with craggy peaks and humble stone buildings that have stood the test of time. One such building was nestled innately away within the hillside, it was hard to tell where the green grass stopped and the grey rocky walls started. Dave informed us it had been designed to house explosive TNT for a local lead quarry, built into the hillside so that if it were to explode, the roof would be forced off rather than the walls blown out – genius! In fact we were about to find out that this quiet rural valley was hiding more ingenious history, not only was it apparently once the world’s biggest lead mine, a feat that required some amazingly precise engineering in a time when Victoria ruled our glorious land but it had also, at the same time, been the site of the world’s first hydroelectric power source.

Moving on, we headed further up valley, pass the lead mine and with its lead contaminated tributary up to a stoney beach and across a bridge, where we hid our bags in the reeds before venturing tensely into the cold water. Tense is not a word I would use to describe the next few hours scrambling up the gorge, as students lost their social inhibitions, shivers and whispers turned to smiles and laughter, while timid actions turned into brave leaps into deep water – literally! It was really nice to see the group starting to come together. Not only were new relationships clearly being built, even between the Old Dunhurstians but, more vitally, important social skills were also being learnt, practised and explored.

Day 3

Thankfully and for strategic reasons we had an easier third day, although easy is probably not a word most people would associate with paddling a DIY raft across the breadth of Ullswater. It wasn’t particularly easy but the group’s efforts certainly did ease the hard work. The task was simple, provided they worked as a team; starting with orienteering they needed to firstly organise themselves and formulate a plan of attack, before heading off to score as many points as possible. Points mean prizes, ‘what prizes’ I hear you say, well raft prizes of course. It was simple, the more points the groups scored the more raft building equipment they earned. My group earned four barrels, four paddles, six spars (ten-foot wooden poles) and fourteen lengths of rope. They planned and built an impressive craft, which I was happy to hitch a ride on across the water. Although it turns out I’m ‘knot’ a great raft judge as by the end we were all in the water trying to hold it together as the knots came loose. Despite this set back it’s important to celebrate the successes of the task, in fact since we got here, Dave has continually stressed that failure is the route to success. What was impressive was witnessing the magic that Dave seemed to have worked over the few days we have been here, the team were working so much better together and getting along like much more of a unit than they had on arrival.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tomorrow we leave on a three day expedition, it should be a good test of all their newly acquired skills. As a tutor, it is really exciting and pleasing to see these youngsters come together, progress and flourish in such a small space of time. So although I’m going to enjoy the expedition and certainly don’t want to wish time away, I’m still looking forward to reporting back to you guys…

View more photos

Bedalians’ tangible links to the Battlefields

IMG_0898 IMG_0895

Block 3 students embarked in the comfort of Luckett’s coaches on 10 February, armed with preparation from teachers and Sir Hew Strachan’s lecture, a booklet covering all the sites we were to visit and an anthology of readings connected to World War 1. We arrived in Ypres (where we were staying for three nights) in time to visit the evocative ‘In Flanders Fields Museum’. That evening, after a hot meal, we enjoyed a quiz, won by Chris Bott’s group.

Day 2 saw us travelling down to The Somme, effectively following the line of the Western Front of 1914. We stopped at Notre Dame De Lorette, France’s huge and impressive World War 1 Cemetery and Ossuary. We also stopped at Vimy Ridge, a massive Canadian monument, adorned with mourning sculptured figures and visible for miles around with its preserved trenches and shell holes. We lunched in Arras (where Steep poet Edward Thomas had died, his life sucked out by a passing shell which left no mark on him) and went on to The Somme. Here we visited Beaumont Hammel (the setting for much of Birdsong) and Thiepval memorial to the missing and Lochnagar mine crater at La Boiselle.

IMG_0780

Millie Page is the great great granddaughter of Herbert Asquith, prime minister at the start of the war, and we visited the grave of his son, and Millie’s relative, Raymond Asquith. As we had discovered last year, Raymond lay next to W. Forbes, a Bedalian. That evening we dined at ‘Le Corner Pub’ in Albert before travelling back at night to our hotel in Ypres. Day 3 saw us touring the Ypres (‘Wipers’ to the British Tommy) Salient, starting in the town of Poperinghe (‘Pop’ to soldiers) which lay 5 miles behind the British front line and became a rest place for exhausted troops in the War. We enjoyed a film reconstructing, poignantly, an evening’s entertainment for soldiers in the war and went on to explore Talbot House (base of the worldwide Toc H movement) with its roof top chapel and unusual policy of equal treatment for officers (however high and mighty) and ordinary soldiers – “abandon rank all who enter here.”

IMG_0907

We then visited nearby Lijssenthoek Cemetery where last year our coach came to grief but this year managed to visit the grave of Maisy Redmayne’s great great uncle. We also paid respects to the Earl of Seafield since his great, great grandson, John Ogilvie Grant, had been prevented from seeing it the year before. That evening we took part in The Last Post Ceremony under the Menin Gate where Mila Fernandez (the great, great granddaughter of the French Commander Marshall Foch – something which greatly impressed our guides) and Luca Ashby-Hammond laid a wreath to commemorate the 65 Bedalians who lost their lives in the war. Luca was also able to trace his great great uncle’s name on the walls of the Menin Gate. The final day saw the now traditional visit to Leonidas Chocolate Shop before our smooth and trouble free return to Bedales. The tour gave the most tangible of links, personal, school-based and national, in this, the 100th commemorative year of the First World War.

IMG_0353 IMG_0365

By Jonathan Selby, Head of History


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.