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Visualising History: for the Royal Geographic Society

The following appeared today on Geography Directions, the associated site for the Royal Geographic Society – IBG Journals and Geography Compass, Wiley-Blackwell’s review journal covering the entire discipline. The piece is about of the value of  well researched paintings, headed Visual History. Emigration__Plymouth_Cattewater_and_depot_IMG_0644_d.JPG

More impressive to see the original article however by their kind permission we reproduce the article here plus a few other relevant notes of interest, enjoy, comment.

Visualising History: Geography, Art and Exhibitions.
The link http://blog.geographydirections.com/ (see text below) may be of interest to you, families who have emigrated and others including the generous people who have helped research ‘Emigration, Plymouth Cattewater’ and ‘The Port of Chester 1863‘.  Port_of_Chester_1863_d.jpg
You are very welcome to copy this onward.
You can leave a comment on the article which in turn may produce more information from other interested people.
Unfortunately a combination of other pressures and technical problems (how do you convert j’ pegs and PDF’s into editable word…?) have thus far stopped me from publishing all the very comprehensive information I have however I hope this will be resolved: I hope!
Some better news, the original painting is still available, the picture is available as a signed numbered print from https://www.frickers.co.uk/art/new-marine-print-gallery/ my web site, prices start at £157.00 and using PayPal or Bank to bank we can cope with other currencies.
Dr. F. Ferbrache wrote:

Emigration, Plymouth Cattewater (oil painting by Gordon Frickers, (www.frickers.co.uk/art/home-page/) reproduced with his kind permission).

Many different forms of representation have provided inspiration to geographers: works of literature, art, photography, political analysis, tutorials and journal articles, to name a few.

Recently, I had the opportunity to view some paintings produced by marine artist Gordon Frickers, which provide detailed insight on geographies of the modern and ancient marine world.  Frickers’ paintings are underpinned by comprehensive research of written texts, photographs and objects to produce a visual portrait that is as accurate as possible.  One of his scenes Emigration, Plymouth Cattewater, is an illustration of emigrants departing Plymouth in the 19th century¹.  This particular painting reveals a largely forgotten business at a time of significant historical migration, and invites the viewer’s curiosity.  It seems clear that geographers cannot understand the world without paying attention to such visual forms of representation.

In 2009, the RGS-IBG hosted an exhibition: Hidden Histories Made Visible.  Its aim was to bring into full view those people who have been only partially visible in other representations i.e. photographers, Sherpas and cartographers who made expeditions possible but who remain in the shadow of explorers such as Livingstone and Mallory.  The exhibition is the subject of Felix Driver’s paper in TIBG.  He illustrates the way in which the exhibition challenges assumptions about the history of exploration and geography – in this case celebrating the role of the supporting team rather than the individual explorer.  Driver demonstrates how the exhibition’s choreography conveys this message, and reminds us that any representation of the world – even an exhibition – is always partial.  For anyone organising an exhibition, this is a useful read.

After viewing Frickers’ work and reading Driver’s account of Hidden Histories, one is reminded of the value to geographers of paying critical attention to visual forms of representation.  In conjunction, a number of recent and current exhibitions might inspire geographers with alternative perspectives:

The Robinson Institute by Patrick Keiller at the Tate Modern

Writing Britain: wastelands to wonderlands at the British Library

Geographical blueprint: the art of the handcrafted globe at the Royal Geographical Society

Felix Driver, Hidden histories made visible? Reflections on a geographical exhibition,Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00529.x

Gordon Frickers’ website provides further information about his paintings and associated research.

The Port of Chester 1863‘ was also a significant point of departure for emigrants, albeit less so than the major ports of London, Liverpool and Plymouth.

Frickers’ The Port of Chester (1863), shows this port at its busiest period.


Dr. Ferbrache also wrote:

The value of art as a form of academic and, in particular, geographical knowledge was reinforced recently when I had the opportunity to view Emigration, Plymouth Cattewater, an oil painting by marine artist Gordon Frickers.  While this piece is undoubtedly a beautiful work of craftsmanship, the painting holds most value for me as a visual representation through which to ‘see’ and understand spaces, places and landscapes associated with a remarkable period of international migration: the European emigrations that characterised the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.


What is particularly special about this work is the precision and accuracy that underpins its visual composition, and which has been constructed from comprehensive research of historical written texts, photographs and objects.  While academic geographers, such as myself, would more commonly represent this research in written form, Frickers’ skills mean that this moment of emigration is captured visually, and in a much more public and tangible form.  Knowing the research background of Emigration, Plymouth Cattewater, the painting provides a rich illustration to understanding the ships, people, places and emigration depots that shaped Plymouth’s geography, and the rest of the world via migration (Massey et al., 1998).

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Leave a Comment » | Cultural Geography, Early View, Economic Geography, Society News, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers | Tagged: design, Emigration, exhibition, Exploration, Gordon Frickers, hidden histories, Marine art, Plymouth, Royal Geographical Society, Visual representation | Permalink
Posted by fionaferbrache

Gordon Frickers, 11 Sept 2012