I wrote some weeks ago about art challenging the way we think and artists being spokespeople for society [see ‘Spokesperson for society’ on August 28th, 2019] and also about ‘Taking a sketch instead of snapping a photo’ [on September 3rd, 2019]. My photo of the sketch taken by Rennie Mackintosh was snapped at an exhibition in Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool; and, on the wall of the gallery was a quote from Rennie Mackintosh: ‘All artists know that pleasure derivable from their work is their life’s pleasure – the very spirit and soul of their existence’. I feel the same way about my work as an engineer and I think that many of my colleagues would agree with me. In my welcome talk to new engineering undergraduate students last week, I used this quote and tried to convey the extent to which science and engineering is a part of my existence and how I hoped it would become a part of their life. I am not sure that I convinced very many of them.
We are lucky to live in a house with a great view of Liverpool cathedral [see picture in ‘Two for one‘ on January 2nd, 2019]. Hundreds of tourists visit every day and take pictures of the cathedral with their smart phones. A few even turn around and take a picture of our house! It is a modern disease: capturing pictures of a spectacle without actually looking at it and then probably never looking at the photograph. There is some small level of fulfilment in having taken the photograph; however, 120 years ago there were fewer tourists and they had no cameras. Instead, when Charles Rennie MackIntosh visited Naples on April 8th, 1891, he admired the tower of the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine and ‘took a sketch’. It must have taken him some time and concentrated effort. The level of pleasure and fulfilment from taking a sketch must have been much greater than from our modern experience of snapping a photo.
Of course, there was no Liverpool Cathedral in 1891 and ten years later, Rennie Mackintosh was disappointed that his proposals for it were not selected from the 103 submitted.