Joseph (Mathias) Wolf was born on the 22nd January 1820 in the little village of Mörz, near Koblenz, Germany. His father, Anton Wolf (1788-1859) was a farmer and headman of the village. As a boy, Wolf loved spending time outdoors, observing and sketching the local wildlife. Sometimes, he would shoot specimens to dissect them at home in order to achieve a better understanding of their anatomy, plumage or fur. He would also capture live birds and mammals to draw them. He built special traps to catch large birds of prey without harming them. His obsession, apparently, earned him the unflattering nickname ‘bird fool’ from his father. Watching wildlife became a lifelong passion and, although he killed some for study, he abhorred the mindless slaughter of animals that many Victorians regarded as a ‘manly’ pastime and sport. According to his biographer and friend Alfred Herbert Palmer (1853-1931), son of artist Samuel Palmer (1805-81), Wolf accused these ‘sportsmen’ of having “no desire to know about a thing. Their only desire is to kill it.” He also called man “the most destructive and carnivorous animal in the world.”
Curiosity: 2 miniature portraits of Napoleon Bonaparte
Artist: Maestro di Pavia
Measurements: Full-length portrait: 183×118 mm
Head portrait: 74×62 mm
These two miniature portraits have come to the University museum’s collection through the bequest of George Powell of Nanteos. As with so many of his objects, we have unfortunately no idea how, when and where he bought them. Holland and Meyrick explain that “Powell was very taken with Romantic struggles for liberty and nationhood. Like many other collectors in the 19th century he collected material associated with Napoleon Bonaparte.” This and the exquisite execution of the portraits might have been his reasons for acquiring them. Continue reading →
The phrase ‘alternative facts’ is a recent addition to our vocabulary. It has come to prominence in a political climate in which views and actions are shaped more by emotions than by reliable intelligence. Reflecting this shift, Oxford Dictionaries declared ‘post-truth’ to be Word of the Year 2016. And yet, alternative facts are as old as language itself. Continue reading →
2017 is the ‘Year of Legends’ in Wales, and we delved deeply into our collection to see what treasures relating to this fabulous theme might come to light. We selected a few, some of which will be included in a small display at the School of Art; others will only be viewable online. This is an on-going project and from time to time we might add to this post, so keep an eye out for updates.