World Poetry Day with Guildhall Art Gallery

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Guildhall Art Gallery

As we celebrate World Poetry Day we reflect on Geoffrey Chaucer, as depicted in this sculpture (1902-1903) by Sir George James Frampton. Chaucer is thought by many to be the greatest English poet of the middle ages and the father of English Literature.  Born around 1340, he lived much his colourful life in the City of London and was the first writer to have a memorial in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey.

© Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London

His quizzical, rather knowing expression here is reflected in the observant, irreverent and often saucy tone of his much-loved work, 'The Canterbury Tales', which leave us in no doubt that despite his support for Christian values, he was not so keen on the institution of the Church.

Chaucer was not the only poet represented at our gallery to have been unhappy with the contemporary Church.  Do you know of another?

- Artwork selection and text by Gallery volunteer Jackie.

'George Herbert at Bemerton' (1860) by William Dyce, © Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London

'George Herbert at Bemerton' (1860) by William Dyce depicts a 17th century clergyman in the surroundings of his rural parish of Bemerton. As well being a preacher, George Herbert wrote poetry and hymns. Can you see his lute in the background?  

The spire of Salisbury Cathedral is clearly visible in the background. George Herbert would walk from his home to play music there. Is there a line of poetry or a painting that you would like to put to music?

- Artwork selection and text by Gallery volunteer Mary Jane.

'On a fine day' (1903) by Elizabeth Forbes, ©Guildhall Art Gallery, ©©©City of London

For World Poetry Day, we’re going to look at another visual artist influenced by poetry.

Although Elizabeth Forbes does not quote a poem as inspiration for 'On a fine day' (1903), it is easy to see a nod to the dream dance of the Faye and the Arcadian subject of the ritual circle dance.

It is a colourful and joyful work of five women dancing in a circle presumably celebrating nature and the sun in a country landscape. The colours chosen by Elizabeth are well balanced primaries. The long flowing dresses of the women are in shades of red and blue and are offset by the yellow gold hills in the background.  

This work could be compared with William Blakes “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (1784). Blake’s work uses the same subject of the dancing circle taking fairies as his models. In the poetic tradition, Blake references the last scene in Shakespeare’s comedy, when Titania instructs her fairy gathering-

“Hand in hand in fairy grace,

We will sing and bless this place.”

- Artwork selection and text by Gallery volunteer Janet.