'GALLERIES by Leigh Hatts
A feature of the rising cliff on Bournemouth seafront is the Italianate Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum perched near the top.
Its architect, John Fogerty of Lusaka Cathedral fame, echoed the conical roof towers of the next door Royal Bath Hotel to create an unusual skyline. This month the Museum is featuring the even more exotic skyline of Moscow as part of the Bournemouth Arts Club Annual Exhibition (daily except Sundays until November 26; admission 50p).
Earlier this year printmaker John Liddell, whose work can often be seen on the walls of Scribes Wine Bar off Fleet Street, visited Russia and produced a series of prints showing the onion domed churches which have survived to see the Orthodox millennium.
The London audience is already familiar with his delightful views of Dorset which also provide the subject matter for colleagues of his local art club. Past members of the 68 year-old group include Sir David Murray RA and Lucy KempWelch as officers and Picasso and Graham Sutherland as exhibitors.
Sir Hugh Casson has described the Russel)-Cotes as a "treasure house of the unexpected" and a visit as "rather like opening someone else's cupboard". Not only is there work by Gainsborough, Constable, Winterhalter, Frith and Byam Shaw but numerous diverse collections. The nation's equivalent jumble of treasure can currently be seen displayed at the British Museum in Treasures For The Nation: Conserving Our Heritage (daily until February; admission free).
The National Heritage Memorial Fund is just eight years old and on show are such rescued objects as the Calke Abbey State Bed, Mackintosh furniture, Samuel Palmer's Cornfield by Moonlight, Captain Oates' polar medal and even a gun turret recovered from Loch Ness. Display panels and photographs tell stories of larger projects.
Most surviving mediaeval art is in the hands of Anglican parish churches whose congregations now have diminishing resources and uncertainties about priorities. But the most dramatic recent restoration was at St Lawrence, Little Stanmore — a striking baroque church a short walk from Canons Park tube station. One wall had to be rebuilt entailing the replacement of murals and over £29,000 from the Fund helped to restore and clean the decorations of Antonio Bawd, Louis Laguerre and Francesco Sleter.
The 900 year old church of St Nicholas, Stanford-on-Avon has the finest 14th-century parish stained glass which has just been saved from collapse. The monuments, elsewhere left for families to conserve, have also been restored with Fund help.
The earliest decorative schemes in the English Church come from St Paul's, Jarrow which was dedicated in 685. Two sandstone panels (formerly languishing in the porch) showing a Roman hunting scene and birds pecking at a vine have now been redisplayed in a controlled environment in the church. Probably from the preNorman church at Penrith is a carved limestone crucifixion plaque with iconography suggesting Irish workmanship. Having accidentally missed being passed to a museum, the work has been rescued from private ownership to go to Abbot Hall Art Gallery near its old home.
An outstanding purchase on behalf of the British Library was the Rutland Psalter, known to have been at Reading Abbey in the 15th century but created elsewhere around 1260. The margins contain animals, monsters and everyday recreation scenes.
Art which has not yet won national approval but seeks to promote an unpopular message can be seen at St James' Church, Piccadilly in Masterpeace (daily until November 21; free). Here in an exhibition by major artists living in Cornwall "art speaks for peace" on behalf of the Christian pacifist Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Most of the artists are members of the Penwith Society founded by Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth and the Newlyn Society. Potter Alice Gaskell was recently a member of the CND national council. Showing together are Daphne McClure and her daughter Emma, a recent Woman of The Year Luncheon guest.