Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Sensory tours for the visually impaired at Ferens Art gallery

Now today I nipped to the Ferens Art Gallery here in Hull to discuss the content of some visually impaired specific, sensory tours they are doing.

I spent ages with Nikki who will be taking the tours and wanted to know what they would be offering that was specific for VI children and adults and was very pleasantly surprised.
Ferens has some remarkably fine paintings and the talk covers 6 in particular.
 I was there last saturday to see their Open Exhibition and was blown away by some of the work, but then they have an excellant show each year. ( Tracy Savage from Bridlington is brilliant)

Any way this Cornelious Norbertus ( got to love that name) Gijsbrechts
Trompe L'oeil of a Studio with a Vanitas from 1664 is included and there are tactile artifacts to accompany Nikki's clever description of the painting, within a painting, which is typically Baroque.
This picture is from
but the original  is here in Hull!

The Lion at Home 1881 by the fascinating Rosa Bonheur which is 100" wide by 70" deep is also here, large as life and perfectly stunning.
I love it.
Rosa was way ahead of her time, wore trousers when women only wore long skirts . She had to have a Police permit to wear trousers! and cropped her hair short .............when women wore their hair long.
Atta girl!
Plus she actually had the lions living with her at home ..... so thats why she got such realistic cats on canvas I reckon!

Cant seem to lift that piccy up but heres a link........ do look at the majesty of them and trust me, that lions could ruffle your hands in and the lioness has a velvet looking face........amazing brush work.
But she never went to Africa, so Im wondering why she thought prickly cacti should be in the foliage around them....

Another painting to get the tour description has no obvious tactile bits to help in its descriptions.....other than one very old lipstick and a vinatge shot silk scarf.
Lipstick you say?
Well its from way back and old lipstick has a particular smell, so cleverly Nikki has that for you to smell....
This one is an all time favourite of mine, its simply stunning and if you follow the link below, you will be able to zoom in and I defy you to find any brush strokes on this womans face!

Its well worth looking at Yorkshires 100 favourite paintings anyway on that site, cos cleverly you can get a really up close view of them all.
This is  by Gerald Brockhurst 1939 called  By the Hills.
But he did everso many By the Hills, used the same wishy washy hills and painted Merle Oberon for example and many others, in the foreground.
This is Marguerite Strickland who in her own right was quite a character in her old age.
To me shes like an alternative Mona Lisa. Not looking us in the eye because hell, shes beautiful enough not to bother with us and confident  enough not to worry what we think !

Another huge picture is The Fish Market by Joachim De Beukeler 1570 and Nikki has several tactile artifacts to assist in its description.

The Fish Market - Joachim De Beuckelaer
So all in all, some great paintings and some clever descriptions to help the VI imagine what has been painted, along with some artifacts to hold, smells to sniff at ( though the Dale Air 'stags scent' probably isnt quite as liony as it should be, though it is a rank enough mammal smell ! )
Great that they are trying to bring the VI into art galleries, because theres so much more than just painting to be learned about in there.
You want to try something?
Try and describe what your looking at on The fish Market, start from the top back, the sky, clouds, bird way up on high, the canal on the back right, come closer forward, the groups of women, the heavy load on the barrow, the two furtive women with black veils on the left ( that no one knows anything about, were they a religeous head covering? but these two feature in many of his paintings!) then the front threesome and the fish, how you can almost feel the slippery scales, so cleverly are they painted.
Now do it all again in words that would bring the image to the mind of someone who cant see it, and probably has never had sight, so has no visual memory to aid them forming that picture in their mind.....
not easy is it................


  1. Hi liniecat - thank you for the comment on my blog. I am interested in what you said about VI people - what did I do that made it successful in this regard? I really like this post of yours too! Gilly

  2. I have been thinking all afternoon about your challenge to describe the fish market painting. What a challenge. I continue to be fascinated by your topic boxes, too- again, this idea keeps me thinking! Thanks Liniecat!