Anning Bell Friezes - Chancellor's Court - The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, U.K.
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Mike_bjm
N 52° 26.962 W 001° 55.846
30U E 572665 N 5811557
Quick Description: Ceramic friezes decorating the pavilions at the top of each block in Chancellor's Court which were created by the artist and designer, Robert Anning Bell between 1905 and 1909.
Location: West Midlands, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 5/23/2020 1:35:01 PM
Waymark Code: WM12GEP
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member bluesnote
Views: 3

Long Description:
Ceramic friezes decorating the pavilions at the top of each block in Chancellor's Court which were created by the artist and designer, Robert Anning Bell between 1905 and 1909.

The original buildings of the University of Birmingham's Edgbaston campus on Chancellor's Court were designed by Aston Webb & Ingress Bell and completed in 1909. The buildings of red Accrington brick feature saucer saucer domes, with certain features which are reminiscent of Francis Bentley's Byzantine Westminster Cathedral. Buildings are also said to owe something to the pavilion plan of hospitals such as the Leeds General Infirmary designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, where wards diverge from a central front. That said, research by Eric Ives, suggests that the Great Hall was not originally intended to be in this central position.

"Stone dressings, especially on the entrance pavilion to the Great Hall, relieve the red brick, So do the main decorative elements - a row of nine statues by Henry Alfred Pegram over the main doorway , heraldic carving in the spandrels of the round-arch window, and ceramic frieze by Robert Anning Bell higher up the facade. Within their allotted spaces, these features complement rather than distract from the bold outlines of the buildings..."

Source

"Quite as remarkable as the mass and size of the first buildings at Edgbaston was the degree of artistic embellishment: ceramic friezes on the pavilions at the head of each block: another over the entrance with elaborate stonework below it...The ceramic friezes below the domes alone represent a substantial artistic achievement. They took twenty months to execute and cover nearly a thousand square feet. The artist was Robert Anning Bell, an associate, or even perhaps a pupil of Webb. Chamberlain knew his ceramic work in the House of Commons, as also the mosaic tympanum over the entrance to Westminster Cathedral.

The friezes illustrate the function of each block - 'A' and 'B', engineering, 'C', mining and metallurgy - the easy conclusion is that they assert the priority of science at Edgbaston. But the key point of the friezes is not that they depict science and technology, but the science and particularly the technology of the Midlands...So the friezes show boilers, pistons, lathes, presses, drilling, forging, pattern-making, pipe-laying, cable-laying, bridges and colliers with a coal tub - the Midlands at work."

Source: "The First Civic University: Birmingham 1890-1980 - An Introductory History by Eric Ives, Diane Drummond and Leonard Schwarz (ISBN:1-902459-07-05)

"Anning Bell Friezes

Architectural features on campus form a significant part of the University of Birmingham's cultural heritage. The Bramhall Frieze will complete the semi-circle of ceramic friezes decorating the pavilions at the top of each block in Chancellor's Court which were created by artist and designer, Robert Anning Bell between 1905 and 1909.

Bell was a central figure of the Arts and Crafts movement and master of many skills, from public commissions in stained glass and ceramics to figure painting and book illustration. Originally trained as an architectural draughtsman, he was an associate of Aston Webb, the architect responsible for Chancellor's Court. Joseph Chamberlain, then Vice Chancellor, would also have known his ceramic work from the House of Commons and the mosaic tympanum over the entrance to Westminster Cathedral.

The friezes comprise of a grid of 6" square tiles and cover neatly a thousand square feet.The technique used is called 'sgraffito' involves using terracotta tiles dipped in cream coloured slip. The skip is then scraped away to reveal areas of terracotta on a cream ground, giving a two-colour image. Bell's clear linear style was highly influenced by Italian Renaissance art and brings together his skills in the use of ceramics and illustration. The friezes represented substantial artistic achievement and took over 18 month to execute.

Chamberlain wanted the University to 'take some colour from its environment' so the frieze designs act to relate the University to the Midlands and its technological industries of engineering, metalwork and mining. Each frieze illustrates the subjects taught in that block and their design helps to assert science and industry as priority at Edgbaston. Blocks A, B and C, feature images of the Midlands at work; men at the furnace, using technical equipment, and engaging in physical hard work with pickaxes and anvils, under the gaze of well-dressed professionals directing the activity. What's difficult to see from the ground is the detail in the background of these friezes which represent integral parts of the scene; an impressive viaduct or fine electric cables and a grans suspension bridge.

The fourth frieze over the central building depicts the Goddess of Learning handing over the baton of scholarship to men in academic robes, witnessed by scholars of Western antiquity. The express the other side of Chamberlain's vision for Birmingham that it must embrace the general culture in the great European tradition as well as the Midland's industrial landscape."

Source

Artist: Robert Anning Bell

Address:
The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, United Kingdom.


Web URL to relevant information: Not listed

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