Henry Moore, Ai Weiwei, and More

At The Exhibition
Leeds Art Gallery in collaboration with the Tate Britain Gallery in London is hosting an exhibition of Henry Moore’s sculptures, paintings, and drawings.

There is a permanent exhibition of his sculptures at Leeds Art gallery. For this exhibition, however, pieces have come from many other galleries and from private collections. So this is a unique opportunity to see a lot of Moore’s work in one place.

Henry Moore was born in 1898 and brought up in Castleford, which is about 14 miles from Leeds. So many people in Leeds are acquainted with his sculptures. In fact, there is a large bronze Henry Moore sculpture on permanent show outside Leeds Art Gallery.

Moore died in 1986, and during his long life he drew on African primitive and pre-Colombian art to sculpt his favourite subject over and over again.

His favorite subject was people. Many of his sculptures are of women and most of them are simply figures – standing, sitting, thick and bulky mothers holding babies, delicate women with heads turned up to the sky.

And they range from the greater than life size (with a couple that are simply huge) down to many that are just a couple of feet tall or less.

Often their faces are twisted in some way – just in a simple distortion away from the regular – that seems to show their personalities.

Even though many of his figures might look like a cross between pre-Colombian art and a Picasso during his ‘bathers’ period, they hold together as figures.

They all ‘work’ as works of art. Their isn’t a dud among them. I think that is in part because Moore was a very good draughtsman.

I didn’t once get the feeling that the head on this one or that one was the wrong size, or the shoulder here or there was wrong, or this or that neck needed to be moved over a bit.

An Official War Artist
Moore was commissioned as an official war artist during the Second World War and he chose to paint and draw the civilian population sheltering in the London Underground during the German air raids.

He was famous before the war, but his drawings of people sheltering in the Underground made him internationally famous. The drawings went on tour – including to the United States to help drum up enthusiasm for America’s entry into the war in Europe.

They are very moving drawings in muted dark blue-grey with pale wraith-like people sitting or sleeping in long rows stretching into the dark interior of the tunnels.

If you get the chance, the exhibition is well worth visiting. It runs until 12 June.

Henry Moore Reclining Figure

Henry Moore Reclining Figure

Ai Weiwei Detained and Shown
Following up on my article on Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds exhibition at the Tate Gallery, I was very sad to learn that Ai Weiwei has been detained by the Chinese authorities. It is now more than a month since he was detained, with no word on what the future holds for him.

The Lisson Gallery in London is showing an exhibition of his work. The exhibition was planned before Ai Weiwei was detained so it is not a reaction to his detention. Having said that, his detention cannot have come as a complete surprise. The exhibition runs until 26 June.

There is also an exhibition of Ai Weiwei’s animal figures on display in the courtyard at Somerset House in London – so that is something else to see.

Quillcards Web Server Status
Now for something technical. We run this site on a virtual private server with a web host that is noted for its reliability. There are nonetheless times when maintenance is scheduled, and there is always the possibility of a piece of hardware failing unexpectedly.

As the rather spectacular recent outage with Amazon cloud storage has shown, even world-class services can go down for extended periods.

So it is with some pleasure that we can say that our uptime has been more than 99.85% over the whole period we have been running Quillcards.

However, we have always worked on the principle that if the service were to go down, members would like to know what is happening rather than be left in the dark.

And that presents a problem when the very service that could alert people to a problem is itself out of action.

So to deal with this, we have an admin site running on a separate web host to Quillcards.

We post messages on the admin site when maintenance is due to be run on Quillcards. And apart from that the admin site more or less just sits there and twiddles its thumbs.

Or rather it did until six days ago when the web host where it runs had a catastrophic failure on one of its servers.

Just to make it absolutely clear – this had no effect on Quillcards because the admin site that had the problem is run on a different server with a different web host.

The Failover Fell Over
Normally the server on which the admin site is running would ‘failover’ to another server and service would continue uninterrupted.

A ‘failover’ system works by one server continuously copying its information across to a second server in real time.

Meanwhile the second server monitors the health of the first server and if it detects that the information that is being copied across to it is corrupted, it stops accepting information and it takes over and becomes the main server.

Except that on this occasion the second server failed as well….

So now the company that runs the web host for our admin server has been working hard over the past five days reconstructing hundreds, possibly thousands, of websites – including our admin site.

Our admin site is now back up, but until yesterday it was falling over intermittently as the load on the servers kept spiking. Thankfully, it seems to have settled down now.

I have mixed feelings about what has happened. I have sympathy for the people at the web host company working hard to get the service back up, but something was badly wrong that allowed a failover server to fail at the same time as the original server.

So if you would like to take a look at our admin site and the webserver status updates, click here.

Was Leslie Howard Shot Down On Purpose
Leslie Howard, the film actor who played Ashley Wilkes in the 1939 film Gone With The Wind, was shot down in 1941 by a german aircraft while he was a passenger on a plane bound for Portugal.

It was widely thought at the time that he was targeted by the enemy because of his role in Pimpernel Smith – a 1941 anti-nazi film in which he starred and because he was thought to be a British spy on his way to convince Franco not to join in the war on the German side.

New light has now been thrown on this – as revealed in an article of 17 April in the Sunday Times – from transcripts held in the British National Archive and recently rediscovered by a German historian, Professor Neitzel.

The transcripts are of recordings made of the conversations of captured German pilots, including the conversations of one Corporal Heinz Dock.

Corporal Dock was secretly recorded describing to a cell mate in a detention camp in England how he came across flight KLA 777 by chance and chased it across the skies above the Bay of Biscay before shooting it down.

So Leslie Howard was not the victim of a targeted killing, but simply one of the unlucky people on that ill-fated flight.

Selfridges And Overfishing
On a positive environmental note, the famous London store Selfridges – which has a food emporium that can turn anyone into a food lover – announced on 5 May that it is no longer selling several dozen species of fish that are threatened by overfishing.

Selfridges has teamed up with a number of conservation partners, advisors, and collaborators on Project Ocean – the declared aim of which is to “celebrate the beauty of the ocean, highlight the issue of over-fishing, help us all understand the threats to the ocean and make positive choices about the right fish to buy and eat.”

The End Of The Line
A good place to learn about overfishing in the world’s oceans is the End Of The Line.

Overfishing has depleted the fish in the world’s oceans by 90% compared to fifty years ago – so that stocks are at the point of no return and unable to regenerate themselves.

It’s a sobering thought, isn’t it.

Facts About Overfishing - A Quillcards Ecard

Facts About Overfishing - A Quillcards 'Animals and Nature' Ecard


Reclining Woman - Henry Moore

Reclining Woman - Henry Moore - Outside Leeds Art Gallery

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    Comments

    1. says

      This is quite possibly the best Henry Moore-Ai Weiwei-web server breakdown-Leslie Howard-overfishing blog post I’ve ever read. Sure, I’ve heard of them separately, but to get them all in one place has saved me tons of time searching the web. Not sure how you’re going to top this.
      Jason

    2. says

      I’m glad you appreciate Moore’s sculptures. The Hebrew University has a large Moore figure of a woman on its Givat Ram campus in Jerusalem, where I studied for several years.

      As students, we were never able to appreciate this figure with its tiny head in relation to its body and I have to admit that my secret name for the piece (especially after seeing a bird perched on the head) was Birdbrain.

      But that was many years ago. I wish I could see the exhibition now in Leeds.

      • David Bennett says

        That’s interesting. I didn’t know that there was a Henry Moore sculpture on the Givat Ram campus.

        I just watched a BBC news report on YouTube that said he was the world’s foremost sculptor!

        I wish that I could have photographed more of his sculptures from the Leeds exhibition, but the pieces were from other collections and it was not possible. I just googled for images of the smaller sculptures and couldn’t see any. They must all be tucked away in private collections – which is a pity.

    3. says

      That’s two artists I’ll admit I’ve never heard of. I’m intrigued by the photos of Henry Moore’s sculptures in this post, though. Planning on visiting northern England this summer, so perhaps a stop in Leeds is called for.

    4. says

      Fascinating stuff David, you covered a lot there! Appalled to hear about the server problems you had, those sort of things shouldn’t happen!

      • David Bennett says

        Thanks, Nick,

        Yes – the server problems were at Dreamhost. You can read the whole sorry tale here on their status site.

        I am still mulling over what to do for the future because it affected other sites of mine on their shared servers.

        Thankfully, they all came back up, but I lost some recent images that I had to either recreate or grab from my local ‘Time Machine’ backups.

        Dreamhost allows one free backup of everything every 30 days, but with the server down, there would have been nowhere to back up to – unless I redirected the DNS to another web host and uploaded everything there.

        All my shared sites are based on WordPress, so I could back each of them up individually. However, I have heard several stories of how the subsequent upload doesn’t quite go according to plan ;-)

        If you have any thoughts on dealing with server problems…

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