Brunel and the Art of Invention
Press release issued: 19 April 2006
An exhibition inspired by the life and work of Isambard Kingdom Brunel Bristol opens at Bristol’s City Museum and Art Gallery this week. The exhibition, entitled Brunel and the Art of Invention, was curated by Dr Claire O’Mahony, Director of History of Art Lifelong Learning at the University of Bristol.
An exhibition inspired by the life and work of Isambard Kingdom Brunel opens at Bristol’s City Museum and Art Gallery this week. The exhibition, entitled Brunel and the Art of Invention, was curated by Dr Claire O’Mahony, Director of History of Art Lifelong Learning at the University of Bristol.
The exhibition is part of the Brunel 200 celebrations funded by Arts Council England, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Millennium Commission.
A pioneering engineer and industrialist, Isambard Kingdom Brunel was also an imaginative artist and collector. He is typical of the ways in which art, science and industry have worked together to achieve creative invention, encouraging new ways of thinking and seeing, from the Victorian age to the Brunels of the future.
The exhibition celebrates these inventive links, illustrating the cultural context of Brunel's Britain and its legacy upon the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The core themes of the exhibition are: Inventing Britain, Travel and Transport, The Art of Work, Ways of Seeing and Brunel: Artistic Engineer. Three paintings inspired by the plays of Shakespeare, which Brunel commissioned for his Duke Street house in London, are being brought together for the first time since his death.
The centrepiece of the exhibition is a unique loan from Royal Holloway College, Egham of William Powell Frith’s masterpiece The Railway Station (1862), a delightful panorama of Victorian passengers boarding a train on a platform in Brunel’s Paddington Station.
Many national institutions, including the Tate Gallery, the Royal Collection, the Museum of London, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, National Portrait Gallery, London and the Imperial War Museum, have loaned important nineteenth- and twentieth-century paintings and objects.
Famous artists like James Tissot, Luke Fildes and Stanley Spencer are side by side with local talents such as Samuel Jackson and Tony Forbes. The display also celebrates elegant industrial design from large-scale objects including an aircraft engine and a 1959 Downtown mini, to collectables such as posters from the golden age of the railways and model trains and ships.
The University of Bristol has loaned Brunel’s drawing instruments and sketchbooks, currently being digitised as the Brunel Archive, as well as a number of nineteenth-century illustrated books from the Special Collections.
A season of educational events will take place throughout May, including free lunchtime talks at 1pm on Thursdays and Saturdays and family weekend activities.
A free symposium 'Modern Voyages: Sea Travel since Brunel' and lecture series in the autumn 'Designing a New World: Art and Industry' have been organised by History of Art Lifelong Learning at the University of Bristol.
Brunel and the Art of Invention is at Bristol’s City Museum and Art Gallery between 15 April to 18 June 2006.
Dr Claire O’Mahony’s book to accompany the exhibition (also entitled Brunel and the Art of Invention) is published by Bristolian firm, John Sansome and Co.