Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Unready Reading Room

I was looking for images for a project and came across this amazing image drawn by Muirhead Bone, a Scottish artist from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It's a picture of the British Museum Reading Room, under construction. It's a little confusing, because the drawing is listed as being done in 1907, but the Reading Room is listed as being in use since 1897. Go figure.

Just in case you're wondering what it looks like now, here's a recent image:

It's always stunning to me to get a glimpse into how these spaces were built. They appear so sublime - and yet, someone had to work to make them that way. In fact, if you want to humanize it a little, know this: the ceiling surface is a type of papier-mâché.

I'll throw in these other pictures of the British Museum (below) for extra fun. I love looking at old pictures of familiar places.


Aimon said...

The Muirhead Bone painting instantly reminded me of Piranesi's "Imaginary Prisons", for some reason.

I really enjoy the rich diversity of your posts. My thanks for a lot of fascinating reads.

-- Simon G.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the prod! Want to trade links now that I am writing again?

Anonymous said...

This post- inevitably the image stuck in my head for a week, and then yesterday, at the Tate in London, it was actually there on the wall in front of me, like an old friend. Quite perturbing. Part of a special archive exhibition of drawings. But thank you for the introduction: it's such a beautiful work.

Dan Svo said...

The notes from the Tate indicate that the drawing was done while the room was being "cleaned and painted." this explains why the picture was done after the construction of the room.

Great drawing, great blog.