The Bermuda Collection

Jason Bereswill

Exploring Islands

Amongst the sweeping panoramas on display in Illusion & Abstraction: Capturing the Landscape, Jason Bereswill’s Grape Bay Lawn stands out like a beacon, the magnitude of the 66 x 50 inch oil painting capturing the attention of visitors, drawn in by its rich photorealist detail.

Whilst the painting will come down in January when the show closes, Jason has generously donated the work to the Bermuda National Gallery and it will now be housed in our permanent collection, to be used for education and exhibition purposes, and to be enjoyed by visitors to the gallery for years to come.

After completing an MFA at the New York Academy of Art in 2005, Jason secured a place on an artist residency programme at the Eden Rock hotel in St Barths. It was to be the beginning of a fascination with islands for the American artist, whose work is rooted in travel and the exploration of foreign landscapes and takes in the rock formations and dense foliage of St Barths, alongside studies of Bermuda’s sweeping South Shore and the tree-lined trails of the Adirondacks.

Grape Bay Lawn by Jason Bereswill, 2019. Oil on canvas 66″ x 50″. Collection of Bermuda National Gallery. Gift of the artist.

His interest in the intricacies of the natural world is evident in Jason’s portfolio of Bermuda works. Rocky and vast sheets of limestone dominate Horseshoe Bay, while refractions of sunlight dance on the waters below the dark caverns at Admiralty House. By contrast, Grape Bay Lawn draws the eye to the manicured gardens of Paget onto which dense palm groves creep at the edges, a reminder of the power of mother nature and our futile attempts to tame her.

We caught up with the artist to discuss the pull that Bermuda has on him and how, whilst grounded in his studio in New Jersey, his paintings of the island provide a window to our shores.

Jason Bereswill in his studio. Image courtesy of Instagram.

BNG: When did you first visit Bermuda and what brought you here?

JB: I first came to Bermuda in September 2017 with my wife during our 5th wedding anniversary.  We were invited by friends who live on the island, who I had met in St Barths. They’ve been great supporters of my work, and thought if I came to Bermuda I might be inspired enough to want to paint the landscape in depth. They were certainly right about that. 

BNG: How many times have you visited Bermuda and what keeps bringing you back?

JB: At this point I’ve been five times. I had planned to return in 2020, but then 2020 happened and everyone’s plans went out the window.  I do have a strong desire to come back.  Aside from the stunning views and the particular quality of Bermuda light,  I tend to develop an obsessive mindset about the areas that I visit to paint.  On my first trip, maybe the first two, I went all over the island to see it in a broader scope. My friends were a great help in steering me to hidden, forgotten, and hard to reach views. The island can be a tricky place to explore, but I needed to get a sense of how the parts relate to each other, and see those parts at different times of day in different light- so it was a lot of moving around those first trips.

The more I return, I find myself revisiting the same couple of places. And I think I’m starting to define what my paintings of the island can be.  It’s hard to not be there developing that.  It’s even harder being in my studio in New Jersey in the grey winter light right now looking at two large inviting paintings of the Horseshoe Bay, Middle Beach, Hidden Beach stretch.  A friend commented recently that those paintings are a window to Bermuda, but I kind of wish they were a door. 

Students in the 2021 Art + Tech summer camp programme study Grape Bay Lawn.  

BNG: Your work is rooted in the details to be found in the landscape. What is it about the landscape in Bermuda that intrigues you?

JB: Most of my paintings are centered around rocks and beach / water.  So it’s understandable that the majority of the work I’ve made on Bermuda focuses around the staccato beaches beside Horseshoe Bay.  It’s one of those places in the world that makes me feel most alive. I feel in tune with something greater than myself there. Hard to pinpoint, but since it’s primarily geological I guess it’s tapping into something of the origins of the Earth?  But perhaps what surprised me most when painting in Bermuda was the juxtaposition of the Casuarina or Cedar trees or maybe the Juniper against the Palm varieties.  Those combinations are a mix of texture that’s great fun to paint, the wispy vs hard-edged, and I suppose they embody my ideal of a windswept exotic paradise.

Study for Grape Bay Lawn by Jason Bereswill, 2017. Oil on canvas . 14″ x 18″.

BNG: I understand that you paint a number of studies on location, which you then work from in your studio, along with a number of photographic studies.  Could you please talk us through you process?

JB: I paint many studies from life on location; 3-4 paintings a day when I’m on island. I also take lots of photo reference at the same time, but there’s really nothing that replaces the experience and truth of those plein air paintings.  They inform the larger studio paintings through their color and light, and act as a kind of time capsule for stepping back into the experience of being in the landscape. It’s that sense of being there that a lot of my work is trying to tap into. 

My early exhibitions involved me physically painting in the gallery space while the show was open to the public, with large canvases inkjet printed with blown up images of my plein air paintings and photo reference up to the size that they would actually be if you were standing where I was when I painted them from life. Then, over the course of the show, I loosely painted the canvases as though I was painting from life. The whole idea of those shows was to paint in public the way I do in the field, and to temporarily transport the viewer from the gallery out onto location with me. The printed canvases acted as surrogate experiences for encountering me painting on the beach. If you see me painting en plein air, you get to see the view I’m painting and my painting of it at the same time. The print collapses the experience into one object, both view and paint. That’s often how I work with my reference in the studio too. It brings me a little closer to being on site again. 

BNG: Could you please tell us about Grape Bay Lawn?

JB: The study for Grape Bay Lawn was painted early in the morning on a beach-front property in Grape Bay that friends were moving out of when I arrived on my first visit to Bermuda. I went for a look before sun up, expecting to want to paint the sun rising above the ocean horizon. Instead, I was enamored by the greens revealed by the blast of first light across their lawn. It’s a more private space than other places I’ve painted in Bermuda, with a glimpse of the house through the trees. I was thinking about their time living in that house, enjoying that lawn, and the view behind me, as they were leaving to begin a new experience in another part of the island. 

See Jason Bereswill’s work in Illusion & Abstraction: Capturing the Landscape, on display at BNG through to January.

The Bermuda Collection

Molly Godet

Capturing Bermuda

The Bermuda National Gallery’s permanent collection celebrates our island’s unique cultural heritage. After careful consideration, BNG acquired a number of new artworks this year, beginning with the purchase, announced earlier this year, of artworks by Jayde Gibbons and Gherdai Hassell.

In addition to these, the gallery has been gifted a small selection of works by former Bermuda Biennial artist Molly Godet (Bermudian, 1949-2017). Camden (In Distress) was bequeathed by the late Nea Willits (along with several artworks of note by local and international artists), whilst The Edge of Civilization and Elycot were donated by Molly’s children.

Top: Camden (In Distress) by Molly Godet, 2011. Watercolour on paper. Collection of Bermuda National Gallery. Gift of Nea Willits. Above: Elycot by Molly Godet, 2007. Watercolour on paper. Gift of Eve and Charlie Godet Thomas.

The artist, known for her striking watercolours and graphic sense of composition, told BNG in 2008: “I paint about Bermuda. Not the pretty pink cottage, but the pink cottage which shows its soul, be it peeling or crooked. Not the beautiful pink sand beaches, but the pink beaches that sport cut-foot rocks, grabbing undertow and washed-up reminders of that other world out there. There is a stubborn willfulness about Bermuda, which no armies of landscape gardeners can delete. That is the Bermuda I strive to capture”.

As part of the permanent collection, these artworks are an important cultural resource and will be used for exhibition and education purposes.

2008 Bermuda Biennial artwork The Edge of Civilization by Molly Godet, 2006. Collection of Bermuda National Gallery. Gift of Eve and Charlie Godet Thomas. 

The Edge of Civilization by Molly Godet is currently on display in The Bermuda Biennial: A Retrospective,  which runs through to May. 

The Bermuda Collection

New Acquisitions

The Bermuda Collection

The Bermuda National Gallery is pleased to announce the acquisition of new artworks by Gherdai Hassell and Jayde Gibbons to be included in the permanent collection. Both artists exhibited in the Bermuda Biennial, sponsored by Bacardi Limited, and Gherdai’s first solo exhibition, I Am Because You Are, is currently on view to the public. As part of the permanent collection, their artworks will be used for exhibition and education purposes.

jayde gibbons all the kings men bermuda national gallery
Above and top: All The Kings Men by Jayde Gibbons, 2019. Photography and mixed media. 72 x 96 in. Collection of Bermuda National Gallery. 

All The Kings Men by Jayde Gibbons, which was exhibited in  the 2020 Bermuda Biennial Let Me Tell You Something, adds to our photography collection, which includes works by James Athill Frith, Richard Saunders and John Pfahl alongside contemporary works by Meredith Andrews, James Cooper and Antoine Hunt.

To mark Gherdai Hassell’s first solo exhibition, currently on display through to the end of September, we have purchased two portraits: Atlas of Afterimage and Points on the Circle. These sit in the collection alongside historical portraits by Joseph Blackburne and Thomas Driver and contemporary works by Jacqueline Alma and Henry Ward. 

Atlas of Afterimage by Gherdai Hassell, 2020. 24 x 30 in. Mixed media, oil paint, acrylic paint and collage on canvas. Collection of Bermuda National Gallery. 

Peter Lapsley, Executive Director said “The BNG Collections are a wonderful resource and when a new work or works are added it is always after a very considered review. That is to say we are thrilled to have the chance to add these works by Jayde Gibbons and Gherdai Hassell to the collection. These young Bermudian artists are masterful storytellers and their works will remain as relevant for future generations as they are for this moment”. 

Points on the Circle by Gherdai Hassell, 2020. 24 x 30 in. Mixed media, oil paint, acrylic paint and collage on canvas. Collection of Bermuda National Gallery. 

Gherdai added: “The Bermuda National Gallery collection should reflect a wide variety of artistic offerings from local artists. I’m thrilled to have my work included in the collection. When works become part of public collections, they become permanent parts of culture. I’m so happy to have BNG as a steward of this work. I am humbled by this acquisition. It is my hope that with us opening this door, we can leave it open for other upcoming young artists to follow.”

BNG’s permanent collection celebrates Bermuda’s unique cultural heritage. At the core of the collection, which includes the European Collection and the African Collection, is the Bermuda Collection, which brings together the best of Bermuda art produced over the last 350 years.

Gherdai Hassell (left) and Jayde Gibbons (right) at the opening of the 2020 Bermuda Biennial, in which they both exhibited. The artists were in the same GCSE art class at Berkley Institute in 2007.
The Bermuda Collection

Identifying a Local Landscape

John David Kelly

Currently on display for the first time is one of our most recent acquisitionsUntitled by John David Kelly (Canadian, 1862-1958). Painted circa 1893, it is believed that the painting depicts Bermuda, distinguished by the dark cedar tree to the right. Consultation with both the National Museum of Bermuda and the Bermudian Heritage Museum confirmed it as such with  evidence  suggesting that that the two men depicted are Bermudian, identified by the “the tool (scythe) which was used to cut tall grass or very thin branch trees” and the “cloth head tie used to keep the sun and dust off the head”. 

Whilst the exact location depicted in the painting cannot be verified it is thought to be Harbour Road, looking out towards the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club. The fluidity of the painting suggests that it was painted on location and this is further supported by records which show that Kelly travelled to Bermuda for six weeks in 1893 due to ill health. 

Untitled by John David Kelly (Canadian, 1862 – 1958). Watercolour and gouache on paper c. 1893. Collection of Bermuda National Gallery.

Here, he met his future wife Alice Palmer Bigelow who was visiting from NYC. Several of the paintings that Kelly made during his time in Bermuda were exhibited in Canada between 1895 and 1901 and it is believed that this painting may in fact be A Glimpse of the Atlantic, Bermuda which was exhibited at the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1895.  

After graduating from the Ontario College of Art, Kelly joined the Toronto Lithography Company in 1884 and became one of its most prominent illustrators. He was one of the founders of the Arts Students League of Toronto (1886) and in 1904 became a member of the Ontario Society of Artists. His work is held in the permanent collection of museums across Canada.  

The Bermuda Collection

Black History in Bermuda

Free Poster with Purchase

A limited number of BNG posters featuring Theatre Boycott Upstairs Right by Robert Barritt, 1959, will be given away with purchases of Black History in Bermuda: Timeline Spanning Five Centuries recently published by Citizens Uprooting Racism Bermuda (CURB).  

Formally trained in fine art at Mt. Allison University, Robert Barritt exhibited frequently in Bermuda during the 1950s and 1960s. He ventured beneath Bermuda’s postcard-perfect surface, where few Bermudians, and possibly none of his white contemporaries dared go, tackling issues of poverty and social injustice.

The artwork, which is one of two of his works in the Bermuda National Gallery’s permanent collection, was created in response to the 1959 activism of the Progressive Group that began the process of desegregating Bermuda, which was not complete until schools were desegregated in 1970.

Posters are only available directly from the CURB office in Hamilton. Please email or call 707 1496 for more information.

Above: Black History in Bermuda: Timeline Spanning 5 Centuries, published by CURB. Top: Theatre Boycott Upstairs Right, 1959, by Robert V. Barritt. Oil on board, 20 x 24 inches. Collection of Bermuda National Gallery. Gift of the artist. 
The Bermuda Collection

Dog Days Of Summer

Catherine Draycott

The long, languorous days of summer sing from the pages of Llewellyn Emery’s acclaimed children’s books Nothin’ But A Pond Dog and The Fires of Pembroke. Catherine Draycott’s accompanying illustrations capture the idle joy of the school break and the boundless imagination that can be sparked only by empty weeks stretching endlessly ahead.

The autobiographical books, which recall Llewellyn’s childhood growing up near Devonshire Marsh in the 1950s, effortlessly capture the Bermuda of days gone by and remind us of the value of storytelling and the power of our personal narratives.

The illustrations reside in the Bermuda National Gallery’s permanent collection. They recall a very different Pembroke to that of today; when the landscape was green and overgrown, a luscious playground for children to explore untended. Conceived on scratchboard, Catherine’s work echoes the enduring joys of childhood – climbing trees, fishing off the rocks and the unwavering bond that exists only between a child and his dog.

Catherine, who completed a BFA at the School of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston before going on to complete a Masters in Classical Archeology at Oxford, now works as Assistant Professor of Archeology at Durham University where her research bridges art history and archeology.

As children across the island get ready to go back to school, we sat down with Catherine to discuss her timeless illustrations and how, for her, painting has always been led by storytelling.

From my perch I can trace the funnel of smoke to its source.
The Fires Of Pembroke p4, by Catherine Draycott, 1999. Scratchboard.
Collection of the Bermuda National Gallery.

BNG: The books are autobiographical. How did you attempt to capture real people, in this instance children, who you only knew as adults if at all?

CD: I had a lot of experience figure-drawing, and could do that easily from my head, but the idea of how to capture the spirit of the children came from several things: one, we were both children growing up in Bermuda. I am not a ‘Pond Dog’, which is of course the heart and soul of Llewellyn’s book, but I could go for things that seemed to me to be shared memories, such as playing in the trees and fishing off docks. There are also more universal childhood experiences such as squabbling with siblings and resisting being dressed for church.

I was guided by Llewellyn’s words, but those memories of childhood helped, and he was able to check that it represented – or rather did not misrepresent – his memories. I was also very influenced by the illustrations of Ezra Jack Keats, whose books I vividly remember reading in the Youth Library in town as a child.

BNG: How did you work together as author and illustrator? What was your collaborative process when it came to developing the illustrations?

CD: Once I had the draft, I read through it thinking of what motifs might work as full page illustrations and what might be smaller motifs. I drew up some ideas and executed some of them in scratchboard to see what the effect would be in black and white. I showed them to Llewellyn and he was happy with most of what I did. It was an easy working relationship – he is a really easy-going person and it was such a pleasure doing these for his book. It was an honour and I felt a responsibility to get it right for him.

BNG: The images are engravings, created on scratchboard. Could you please explain the technique and talk us through your art making process?

CD: I honestly cannot remember how I came about trying the scratchboard. I had initially done some pencil drawings of my own dog to try to capture Barker, but they were too realistic – we needed something more fun. The drawings on which the eventual illustrations were based were in pencil and then ink.

The commission was for black and white illustrations. I remember thinking that painting in the figures of the characters could turn out heavy handed and lose the line. It may have been one of my friends, also an artist, who suggested I try the scratchboard. I liked that it had the effect of a wood-cut or lino-cut print, without necessitating the equipment –  it was really very simple, although it could also be a bit frustrating when the black surface would come off in chunks and I had to do repairs. It is not a fine-quality material. However, the kind of mark making quality of cutting away made images that had a kind of folk-tale feel, which I thought complemented the contents of the book.

Who has volume 3?
The Fires Of Pembroke p49, by Catherine Draycott, 1999. Scratchboard.
Collection of the Bermuda National Gallery.

BNG: You once said of your work “I try to combine a painterly effect with narrative images in my art. I see myself as much as a writer as a painter, honing the craft of storytelling through paint.” Could you please expand on this?

CD: When I was at art school I started to write, mostly poems. I also read a lot of magical realism in poetry and stories. By the time I came out of art school I wanted to write nonfiction work and began a career as a freelance journalist.

I was still captivated by magical realism and that definitely affected the subjects I chose to paint. It was not enough to paint a portrait or still life, it always had to be a moment in a narrative – something that would make the viewer’s mind wonder what had happened or would happen. I’ve always felt that a lot of the best art is like that – it captures a moment of potential and that is why and how it resonates.

BNG: You completed a BFA at the School of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, where you trained as a studio artist in ceramic design, painting, printmaking and drawing. How did you develop your practice?

CD: I started out doing ceramic design in Bristol, England, and then transferred to the SMFA, where I focused on drawing, print making and painting. It was when I was doing ceramic design that I started to read things like Leonora Carrington and became interested in surrealism and magical realist narratives.

I realised I wanted to focus on two-dimensional art and so I transferred to Boston. I was very lucky to be able to do so. It allowed me to immerse myself in drawing, printing and painting. It also allowed me to take academic classes, which has brought me to where I am now. I did printmaking of all kinds, but focused on oil painting. The style suited Llewellyn’s books. In fact, the technique of the engraved scratchboard is related to Sgraffito ceramic decoration, a technique of scratching and carving clay, so perhaps I had some sense of it from that part of my life.

I can see most of Pembroke and all the way to the horizon.
The Fires Of Pembroke cover and p90, by Catherine Draycott, 1999. Scratchboard.
Collection of the Bermuda National Gallery.

BNG: You worked as an artist, illustrator and journalist in Bermuda before moving to the UK to complete a Masters in Classical Archeology at Oxford, the field in which you now specialize. Could you please tell us about your earlier career here in Bermuda?

CD: When I graduated and returned to Bermuda, I was interested in writing. The academic courses I had done had showed me that I was actually good at it. I wanted to go on to research in anthropology, but I had also done creative writing courses – mostly poetry. So I sought work writing, which I did as a freelance writer for the Bermudian, the Royal Gazette and the Bermuda Sun newspaper, as well as illustrating for the Bermudian Publishing Company, which is how the books came about.

I was very involved in the Bermuda Society of Arts, sitting on their governing body and coming up with various events and initiatives. I showed paintings in their members’ shows and was offered a show with Masterworks, so I added in doing my own artwork to the mix. After that, I got a full time reporting job at the Mid-Ocean News. But reporting, for me, ended up being frustrating, because I really wanted to be able to do research.

BNG: As Assistant Professor of Archeology at Durham University, your research bridges art history and archeology. What took you down this path? In what ways do your interests overlap?

CD: Having decided to go back to school, I had a choice between following the dream of anthropology or capitalising on my art background. I decided the latter was more sensible and did a course in Early European Art at Christie’s Education in London. I ended up doing a research report on a Roman statue of the Artemis of Ephesos in a museum in London and it was marked by a scholar at Oxford. I was encouraged to do a post-graduate degree at Oxford in Classical archaeology, which can be art-oriented. I opted to do an MPhil. It was terrifying. I stuck with it and emerged having done well and with a project idea for a DPhil (Oxford PhD) dissertation that was funded by the UK Art and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) as it was then.

My master’s degree focus was on ancient Greek and Roman art, but I became much more interested in the people who were not Greek or Roman, who don’t get as much attention. My DPhil was on art in Anatolia, modern Turkey. I am working on a book stemming from this, but my interests extend to looking at the environments in which the art was produced. These have often been neglected in favour of focusing on the forms and iconography of monuments in isolation.

The art not only shows what was important to people in these areas, but it also begs us to ask what life was like in the areas the art was made; how people made a living, and how the art and monuments in the built environments relate to that.

Fishing off the rocks is an art some never master. Fishing with Barker is well-nigh impossible. The Fires Of Pembroke p75, by Catherine Draycott, 1999. Scratchboard.
Collection of the Bermuda National Gallery.

BNG: Do you still have a fine art practice?

CD: I don’t, although I have been known to do archaeological illustration. I am very interested in archaeological and scientific illustration and the boundaries between that and ‘art’: how one chooses techniques to convey complex information visually; what techniques do what; the aesthetic aspects of those choices, beyond conveying form and the value of the resulting drawing as an art object in its own right.

I often have ideas for drawings. I have bought a small sketchbook, pencils and charcoal with the intention of drawing miniature works; the idea being that it wouldn’t take much time to achieve something but I have yet to commit pencil to paper. I tend to be impatient with visual creating more than I am with writing, which is why I have gravitated to writing. The process suits me better in that sense as I am very busy with mounds of work, but perhaps I will stop avoiding it and do it one day.

The Bermuda Collection

Celebrating Bermuda’s Beauty

The David L. White Collection

As we slowly emerge from 4 weeks of shelter in place, and restrictions placed on access to our beaches and nature reserves are lifted, the beauty of our island home shines like never before.

Simples pleasures such as walking the trails or dipping a few tentative toes into the ocean take on a new significance. To celebrate this renewed respect for our natural habitat and to mark the start of Heritage Month, we shine a light on the David L. White Collection, a key component of the BNG’s Bermuda’s Collection.

The collection, which celebrates Bermuda’s beauty seen through the eyes the American Impressionists, marks one of the most significant gifts to Bermuda’s cultural heritage. The seventy seven artworks were generously donated to the Bermuda National Gallery by David L. White, OBE, Chairman Emeritus and Trustee, who described himself as “a temporary caretaker of these Bermuda treasures”.

He said at the time of the gift: “Throughout the last twenty-five years of collecting, I have never thought of these works as belonging to me. I have always known that at some time they would have to be available to all Bermudians”.

Representing Bermuda’s history and celebrating her natural beauty, the collection provides a glimpse into life on the island in a quieter time and reminds us both how much and yet how little has changed.

South Shore by Francis Dixon, 1925. Oil on board. 8 x 9 ½ inches. Bermuda National Gallery permanent collection.
East End of Elbow Beach by William Chadwick, c.1922. Oil on canvas. 20 x 24 inches. Bermuda National Gallery permanent collection.
Springfield, Somerset, by William Howe Foote, c. 1922. Oil on board. 7 x 8 ½ inches. Bermuda National Gallery permanent collection.
Hamilton Harbour by Edmund W. Greacen, 1931. Oil on canvas. 8 x 9 inches. Bermuda National Gallery permanent collection.
Bermuda House, St George’s by Rupert Lovejoy, c.1925. Oil on board. 14 x 16 inches. Bermuda National Gallery Permanent Collection.

These images and more are published in Cross Currents: Impressions of Bermuda which celebrates the David L. White Collection. The book is available to purchase for $30 from the Bermuda National Gallery.