East Devon Branch report: Feb to Jul 2018

At our Branch Annual General Meeting in February, our indefatigable chairman Hazel Harland and all the other officers and members of the committee were unanimously re-elected to serve for a further period of twelve months. After the AGM, Dr Robin Wootton, always a highly regarded speaker at our branch, gave a talk intriguingly entitled ‘Bestiaries, Buffon, Bewick and Bunk: the Art and Craft of Animal Illustration’. In a superbly illustrated talk, Robin took his audience at a rapid pace from cave paintings, the earliest known examples of animal illustration up to present day book illustrations. A major part of the talk concentrated on the 18th century and, of course, included the contributions by the Comte de Buffon and the wood engraver Thomas Bewick. Members were able to examine illustrations in some early editions of books from the speaker’s own collection and others on loan from the Devon & Exeter Institute. We were enchanted by their beauty, wonderfully preserved colours and exquisite draughtsmanship.

For our last talk of the winter season in March, another very popular speaker Dr Susan Andrew spoke about the life and work of the well known ecclesiastical carver and sculptor Harry Hems. She delighted the audience with her talk highlighting his extraordinary accomplishments and prodigious energy but also not ignoring his difficult personality and his brushes with the law. Members were especially pleased to see illustrations of some of the many examples of his work to be found across Devon and also from around the world. It was also good to learn something of his methods and the history of his workshop in Exeter.

In September, as a prelude to our winter season of talks, the Association President Dame Suzi Leather will be our principal guest at the Members’ Lunch to be again held, by popular request, at the Belmont Hotel in Sidmouth. The President has kindly agreed to give a short talk after the meal. Our winter series of talks begins in October when Hugh Meller, the well-regarded author of an authoritative book on the subject, will speak about ‘The Country Houses of Devon’.

Philip Wilby

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