Amgueddfa Blog: Amgueddfeydd, Arddangosfeydd a Digwyddiadau

Tynnais y llun hwn ym mis Mehefin 2011, dan y ddaear ym mhwll glo Aberpergwm ger Resolfen. Yn y llun mae tri o lowyr oedd yn dangos y gweithfeydd i mi. Y fenyw yn y canol, Katherine Voyle, oedd daearegydd y pwll. Ei gwaith hi oedd astudio’r wythïen lo a phenderfynu pa gyfeiriad i ddatblygu’r pwll er mwyn gallu cloddio mwy.

Es draw i’r pwll glo i recordio cyfweliad fideo gyda Katherine am ei bywyd a sut y daeth i wneud y swydd hon. Rhan o fy ngwaith yw casglu hanesion pobl ‘go iawn’ er mwyn i genedlaethau’r dyfodol gael darlun cywir o fywyd yr oes hon. Gofynnais iddi a oedd yn deimlad rhyfedd bod yr unig fenyw ymysg 300 o ddynion. Dywedodd ei bod yn od i ddechrau ond ei bod wedi dod i arfer â’r peth yn ddigon buan. Roedd y dynion yn ei derbyn hi fel ‘un o’r bechgyn’ nawr, yn enwedig pan oedd hi’n gwisgo oferôls, ond roedden nhw’n cael sioc o’i gweld wedi newid yn ôl i’w ‘dillad swyddfa’!

Mwynglawdd drifft yw Aberpergwm – hynny yw, mae’n torri i ochr dyffryn yn hytrach nag i lawr mewn siafft ddofn. Mewn gwirionedd, roedd y pwll glo’n gostwng yn serth wrth i ni gerdded dros filltir i’r ffas lo. Yno, roedd peiriant enfawr yn brysur yn torri, a’r sŵn yn fyddarol. Ar ôl fy nhaith ac ar ôl cynnal cyfweliad fe gerddon ni fyny’n ôl i’r heulwen. Er nad oeddwn wedi gwneud unrhyw waith corfforol, roedd fy nghoesau’n brifo ar ôl cerdded i mewn ac allan!

Dywedodd Katherine, sydd o Abertawe, ei bod wedi gweithio ar lwyfannau olew ym Môr y Gogledd ac yn yr Iseldiroedd cyn dod i Aberpergwm. Yr amgylchedd a byd natur oedd ei phrif ddiléit, ac roedd yn gweithio ar greu llwybr natur ar y tir uwchben y pwll glo.

On 15 March we launch our new LGBTQ+ tours at National Museum Cardiff. The tours have been developed in partnership with Pride Cymru working with self-confessed Museum queerator Dan Vo and an amazing team of volunteers.

You may already have read Norena Shopland's blog about the Ladies of Llangollen, and Young Heritage Leader Jake’s post, Queer Snakes! There are so many more LGBTQ+ stories in our collection – stories that have been hidden in dusty museum closets for too long. Friends, it’s time for us to let them out!

To whet your appetite, here’s a quick glimpse at one of the works you might spot on the tour…

The Mower, by Sir William Hamo Thornycoft

The Mower is a bronze statuette on display in our Victorian Art gallery. It is about half a metre high and shows a topless young farmworker in a hat and navvy boots resting with his arm on his hip, holding a scythe. This sassy pose, known as contrapposto, was inspired by Donatello’s David - a work with its own queer story to tell.

The Mower was made by William Hamo Thornycroft, one of the most famous sculptors in Britain in the nineteenth century, and was given to the Museum in 1928 by Sir William Goscombe John. An earlier, life-size version is at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool and is said to be the first significant free-standing sculpture showing a manual labourer made in Britain.

Thornycroft became fascinated with manual labourers and the working classes after being introduced to socialist ideas by his wife, Agatha Cox. He wrote ‘Every workman’s face I meet in the street interests me, and I feel sympathy with the hard-handed toilers & not with the lazy do nothing selfish ‘upper-ten.’ In The Mower, he presents the body of a young working-class man as though it's a classical hero or god – a brave move for the time.

Queering the Mower

With the rising interest in queer theory, many art historians have drawn attention to the queer in this sculpture. In an article by Michael Hatt the work is described as homoerotic, which he describes as that ambiguous space between the homosocial and homosexual.

One of the main factors is the artist’s relationship with Edmund Gosse, a writer and critic who helped establish Thornycroft’s reputation in the art world. Gosse was married with children, but his letters to Thornycroft give us a touching insight into their relationship.

He describes times they spent together basking in the sun in meadows and swimming naked in rivers; and they are filled with love poems and giddy declarations of affection. ‘Nature, the clouds, the grass, everything takes on new freshness and brightness now I have you to share the world with,’ he wrote. Gosse was so obsessed with Thornycroft that writer Lytton Strachey famously joked he wasn’t homosexual, but Hamo-sexual.

Gosse and Thornycroft were spending time together when the first inspiration for The Mower hit. They were sailing with a group of friends up the Thames when they spotted a real-life mower on the riverbank, resting. Thornycroft made a quick sketch, and the idea for the sculpture was born. A wax model sketch from 1882 is at the Tate.

The real-life mower they saw was wearing a shirt, but for his sculpture Thornycroft stripped him down. He explained to his wife that he wanted to ‘keep his hat on and carry his shirt’ and that a brace over his shoulder will help ‘take off the nude look’.

Brace or no brace, it’s difficult to hide the fact that this is a celebration of the male body designed for erotic appeal. Thornycroft used an Italian model, Orazio Cervi. Cervi was famous in Victorian Britain for his ‘perfectly proportioned physique’ (art historical speak for a hot bod!)

Later in the century, photographs of The Mower and other artworks were collected and exchanged in secret along with photographs of real life nudes, by a network of men mostly in London – a kind of queer subculture, although it wouldn’t have been understood in those terms back then.

This was dangerous ground. The second half of the nineteenth century saw what has been described as a ‘homosexual panic’, with rising anxieties around gender identity, sexuality and same-sex desire. Fanny and Stella, the artist Simeon Solomon and Oscar Wilde were among many who were hounded and publicly prosecuted for ‘indecent’ behaviour.

These tensions showed up in the art world too. Many of the artists associated with the Aesthetic and Decadent movements in particular were under scrutiny for producing works that were described as ‘effeminate’, ‘degenerate’ or ‘decadent’. But works like The Mower suggest that art might have provided a safer space for playing out private desires in a public arena at this time.

 

Book your place on our free volunteer-led LGBTQ+ tours here, and keep an eye on our website and social media for future dates!  

 

The current display Imagine a Castle: Paintings from the National Gallery, London offers a great opportunity to see a selection of European Old Master paintings for the first time in Wales alongside Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’s own collection.

Comparing European and Welsh castles and the history and legends that come with them plays a vital part in defining Welsh cultural identity. Yet the history of castles in Wales is, for some, contentious.

To find out why we need to go back to the thriteenth century. During this time, there were many disputes between Welsh princes and English kings. Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (last Prince of Wales) was involved in many disputes with Edward I, who launched a vicious campaign on the Welsh. This resulted in Llywelyn losing his power, land, titles and ultimately his life.

Following this English victory, Edward began the most ambitious castle-building policy ever seen in Europe. His collection of fortresses became known as the infamous ‘iron ring’ and included those at Harlech, Caernarfon and Conwy. They were intended to intimidate the Welsh and subdue uprisings. Along with these English-built fortresses came new towns that were intentionally populated with English settlers. Welsh people were forbidden to trade or sometimes even enter into the towns’ walls. Yet, while these castles remind us of English power over the Welsh, the strength of their construction underlines that Edward was conscious of the formidable and ever-present threat of Welsh resistance.

To acknowledge the histories of castles in Wales, we have included works from two Welsh artists, the ‘father of British landscape painting’, Richard Wilson, whose works offer an eighteenth-century perspective, and contemporary artist Peter Finnemore.

Wilson’s work reflects his travels to Italy and the influence of the hugely important French landscape painter, Claude Lorrain, whose work can also be seen in this exhibition. Wilson painted many Welsh landscapes and is recognised as changing the face of British landscape painting. While his work encouraged artists to come to Wales, many of his later Welsh compositions, such as Caernarfon Castle (Edward’s main seat in Wales) remind us more of the warmer climates of Italy. As such, they also point to his inspirations outside of Wales.

On the other hand, Finnemore’s photographic works, Lesson 56 – Wales and Ancient Ruler Worship (made especially for this display), look at castles in Wales from a more recent Welsh perspective. Finnemore’s work revolves around his Welsh-speaking grandmother’s school textbooks that were written from an English standpoint. Her childhood drawings in these books humorously undermine the didactic English text. Ancient Ruler Worship depicts Castell Carreg Cennen and looks back to World War II. It is taken from a still in Humphry Jennings’s propaganda film, Silent Village, that portrayed this castle as a site of Welsh resistance during an imagined Nazi invasion. The film demonstrated solidarity with Lidice, a mining village in the Czech Republic that was totally destroyed by the Nazis.

Whatever we may feel about their history, many of Edward’s Welsh castles are now designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Edward left a unique and internationally important legacy of medieval military architecture that can only be seen in Wales.

Dippy yw ein henw ni ar y sgerbwd deinosor hoff, ac rydyn ni’n gwybod fod ganddo hanes diddorol. Ond ai Diplodocus fu’r enw ar y ffosilau yma erioed? Wel, na, mae hynny'n annhebygol...

Rydyn ni wedi clywed sut y daeth 'Dippy' i Lundain ym 1905 yn gast plastr o'r esgyrn ffosil gwreiddiol yn Amgueddfa Carnegie, Pittsburgh. A, diolch i balaentolegwyr, gallwn ei ddychmygu'n anifail byw yn pori coedwigoedd Jwrasig, 145-150 miliwn o flynyddoedd yn ôl, yn diogelu ei hun rhag ysglyfaethwyr gyda'i gynffon chwip.

 

Ond beth am weddill y stori? O ble ddaeth y ffosilau hyn?

AC-NMW

Ym 1898, diolch i'r diwydiant dur, Andrew Carnegie oedd un o'r dynion mwyaf cyfoethog yn y byd. Roedd yn brysur yn rhoi ei arian i lyfrgelloedd ac amgueddfeydd. Pan glywodd am y deinosoriaid anferth oedd yn cael eu darganfod yng ngorllewin America, dywedodd rywbeth fel “Dwi eisiau un o rheina!” ac anfonodd dîm o Amgueddfa Carnegie i chwilio am yr “anifail mwyaf anferth yma”.

Felly, ym 1899, yn nyddiau olaf Hen Orllewin America, cafodd sgerbwd Diplodocus ei ddarganfod yn Sheep Creek, Albany County, ar wastadeddau Wyoming. Y dyddiad, fel mae'n digwydd, oedd 4 Gorffennaf, Diwrnod Annibyniaeth America. Ac felly y cafodd y ffosil ei lysenw cyntaf gan dîm Carnegie, 'The Star Spangled Dinosaur'. Ond, ymhen hir a hwyr, cafodd y rhywogaeth newydd hon ei chyhoeddi yn swyddogol fel Diplodocus Carnegii.

Byddai safle'r cloddio wedi edrych yn debyg iawn i'r safle tebyg yma gerllaw yn Bone Cabin Quarry, yn yr un flwyddyn.

Mae'r lluniau yma o ddiwedd y 1800au o rannau eraill o Albany County, Wyoming, yn ein helpu i greu darlun (o Wikimedia Commons).

Enw cyntaf Dippy, 'Unkche ghila'

Ond beth am frodorion y gwastadeddau? Oni fyddai'r brodorion wedi darganfod ffosilau deinosor cyn y gwladychwyr Ewropeaidd? Yn ei llyfr, Fossil Legends of the First Americans, mae Adrienne Mayor yn dangos y gwnaethon nhw. Dychmygodd y brodorion ffurfiau gwreiddiol y ffosilau fel Madfallod Anferth, Adar y Taranau a Bwystfilod Dŵr, ac roedd sawl un o'r casglwyr deinosoriaid enwog yn dewis brodorion yn dywyswyr. Mae'r llyfr yma'n dangos fod y brodorion wedi sylwi ar y prosesau daearegol fel difodiant, llosgfynyddoedd a newid yn lefel y môr a’u bod yn sail i’w credoau am ffosilau.

( “Clear”, Pobl Lakota, 1900. Heyn & Matzen )

Y Lakota Sioux oedd brodorion y gwastadeddau lle cafwyd hyd i ffosilau Diplodocus. Ganwyd James LaPointe, pobl Lakota, ym 1893. Dyma hanes a glywodd pan yn fachgen:

“Roedd y Sioux yn galw'r creaduriaid hyn, sy'n cymharu'n fras â deinosoriaid, yn 'Unkche ghila'. Roedd y creaduriaid siâp rhyfedd yn crwydro'r tir mewn grwpiau mawr, ac yna'n diflannu. Mae esgyrn anferth y creaduriaid hyn, sydd bellach wedi diflannu, yn nhiroedd garw de a dwyrain y Bryniau Du. Dyw e ddim yn glir os wnaeth yr unkche ghila ddiflannu, ond mae daeareg y Sioux yn nodi eu bod yn dal i fod o gwmpas pan gododd y Bryniau Du o'r ddaear."

O lyfr James R. Walker, 1983, Lakota Myth.

Felly, trwy law Adrienne Mayor, dyma roi'r gair olaf i Wasanaeth Parciau Cenedlaethol yr UDA:

"Mae straeon a chwedlau'r brodorion yn cynnig persbectif unigryw i arwyddocâd ysbrydol traddodiadol ffosilau ac yn gyfle heb ei ail i ddangos y cysylltiad anhepgor rhwng pobl a natur." Jason Kenworthy a Vincent Santucci, A Preliminary Inventory of National Park Service Paleontological Resources in Cultural Resource Contexts.

Where do I start when talking about the experience that has been Dippy?! 

Well he’s certainly been a phenomenon for us here at Amgueddfa Cymru. Right from when we first started installing him back in October last year, people were standing on the balcony watching the very efficient team from the Natural History Museum putting him together piece by piece. Of course we saved the head going on until last! I was fortunate to be permitted into the enclosure and up close to some of the replicated bones, which was very exciting for me.

In the first half term in October we had 53,898 visitors to the museum, an increase of 258% on the previous year. On the Wednesday we had over 10,000 visitors, which is a first for us! What we had been prepared for by a previous venue, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, but that might not instantly occur to you, is that we needed more toilet rolls! Not a very glamorous aspect of Exhibitions & Displays, but a very important one for our visitors! In my last blog I talked a lot about Snake poo, so I’m moving on swiftly from toilet rolls now before I gain a reputation for obsessing about poo! Our front of house staff had their work cut out for them; ensuring visitors could access the whole museum, answering questions on Dippy and keeping them safe. I spent some time in the Main Hall and these amazing people worked so hard. But it wasn’t just in the Main Hall. The galleries were full, especially our Natural History galleries, which was great as we had additional visitors to the museum to see Dippy, but they stayed to explore more of what we have to offer.

We have a special Dippy shop which has been equally full and busy, with staff rushed off their feet – my favourite item is the glittery dinosaur.  There may have been debate about what dinosaurs looked like, but I’m pretty sure no one has found evidence for sequins as yet! Our colleagues in the restaurant and cafe made special menus to account for the increase in visitor footfall, as well as the opportunity to make dinosaur cakes!

In our Temporary Exhibitions Gallery, which was open to the public during holidays and weekends, our colleagues from the Youth Forum worked with artist Megan Broadmeadow to create a strong message about Fast Fashion from recycled clothes. I’m trying to work out where we can keep the pterosaur, which is brilliant. Our messages about the climate emergency within the exhibition and also when Extinction Rebellion Cardiff came and held a ‘die in’ are, for me, highlights of what a museum can achieve when we work with people from outside our organization and be led by their inspiration and creativity.

I’ve spoken with staff from across the museum and everyone seems to have enjoyed having Dippy here, it’s going to seem very empty when he goes at the end of this month – you have until 26 January to see him.