Monday, July 14, 2014

England Part 1

The last ten days in June, Melissa and I took a little trip to England for research, a conference, and a few days of sightseeing.  The kids stayed with a dedicated army of friends and relatives who kept them fed and clothed and happy while we were gone, and to all of you, we are very grateful.  Below is a photo dump of our trip, with a few highlights.  

The trip started out with a seven hour layover in Philadelphia. What do you do when you have a half a day in one of the best cities for art in the World? You catch  train into town fro the airport and you make a mad dash around the city to see as much as possible before you have to be back to the airport.

Our plan was to to hit the Rodin museum and then whatever else we had time for. 
 This is "The Thinker," as if you didn't know...but what you may not know is that it takes its inspiration from Dante.  In the Early 1880s  Rodin was working on a massive sculpture called "The Gates of Hell," meant to depict scenes from Dante's Inferno.  In the image below you can see Dante near the top of the doors near the center pondering his trip through hell.
 It's hard to appreciate just how massive and overwhelming this sculpture is.  At the bottom of the post here I'e included a shot with us in it to give you an idea.  What is really fantastic about coming to this museum is that if I have my facts straight, they have the first ever completed "Gates of Hell."  Rodin only ever did casts for it (cost being one of the major factors that kept it from being completed). But the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia had the money to do it, and here it is.  They did two, actually, and gave the second to the original Musee de Rodin in France. That's more than you wanted to know probably, but for me its a big deal. I wrote an essay two years ago called "The Lifespan of a Kiss," that was, among other things, about the History of Rodin's famous sculpture "The Kiss," and this museum contained all (or nearly all) the artwork that I studied for and referenced in that essay.  I'd only ever seen any of them in books, and here I got to see them in person.
 an image of damned souls clinging to one another as they spiral through hell.  You gotta give those Catholics credit...their images of hell are a lot more intense than the Mormon ones I grew up with (and I never really liked that one (in the link) looks like Christ is shunning people, and I don't think Christ is capable of shunning anyone. Rather, we choose to turn our backs on him, but that's another story).
 Here's a close up of Dante.  As I understand it, Rodin was a big Dante fan, and (as you will see below) Rodin used Dante's Inferno and "The Gates of Hell" as inspiration for decades to come.
 "The Kiss" was originally supposed to one of the tormented couples on "The Gates" but they were eventually removed because the image was too pure and exalted for the anguished theme of the gates.  There is this couple in the lower right corner, but they don't look nearly as at peace as the figures in "The Kiss."
 It is hard to do this bust justice in a photo. This is Rose Buret, Rodin's first love and first model.
 The "story" behind "The Kiss," is from Dante's Inferno, who writes of meeting two lovers bound together in hell, unable to consummate their passion. There names were Francesca and Paolo and they were brother- and sister-in-law and well, you can see what got them in trouble.
 This was the piece I was most excited about seeing, and I had no idea it was there.  This is the sculptor's equivalent of a sketch or study--an early terracotta mock-up of "The Gates" that shows the earliest known vesion of "The Kiss," when it was still part of "The Gates." So cool! Apparently it is on loan from the Musee de Rodin in France as a thank-you to the Philadelphia museum for paying to complete "The Gates."
 I think to appreciate Rodin's work, you have to appreciate the significance of sexual energy in human life, an energy that is too often demonized by Victorian ideas about passion, or trivialized by 21st century free-love mentality (both oversimplifications).  These two sculptures capture in my mind the paradox of Rodin's work and of sexuality in general---It's freeing, liberating, empowering force, as well as its potential to enslave. This is not a conversation that we have nearly enough today, I don't think.

See? Massive? Astonishing.  Fantastic!  Plus the woman at the front desk found out we only had a few hours in Philadelphia and gave us some free tickets to the Philadelphia art museum (below).  Rocky fans will recognize it.  And it is so large I don't even know where to begin. We only had about an hour, so we hit the highlights and then took the bus to Love Park a few blocks away.

 Robert Indiana created this iconic image in the started out as the cover of Christmas cards he sent out (and then failed to copyright).  An essay on this sculpture is somewhere in my mind, biding it's time, though I haven't attempted it yet.

 Okay, flash forwards twelve hours or so and we've flown to London, rented a car (pictured here), and driven two hours to Stroud, in Gloucestershire (pronounced "Gloss-tuh-sure").  This is part one of the research portion of the trip.  Stroud is in the Cotswalds, a remote, scenic, and very hilly part of the country, with roads built for horses and pedestrians and not for cars of any sensible size.
In Stroud we retraced the steps of my Franklin ancestors who were born, married, and buried in this region for centuries before emigrating to the US in 1905-6.  For a detailed look at all the places we went, and why we went there, see this map.  In short, The family had a history of rough-edged individuality that involved hard living and hard drinking, and it turns out, the valley that many of them came from (Stock End) had a reputation for lawlessness, and according to local history, the constables didn't like coming down to that area because of said lawlessness.

In fact, one source suggests that the reason churches like the one above (where several generations of Franklin's were married and buried) were built was to bring some civilization and morality to rural, lawless places like Stroud.

 We met with the warden of the church on Sunday afternoon and he gave us a tour.  He even turned on the recently refurbished organ and let Melissa play.

Here's a shot of the interior, standing just about where ( I presume) great great grandma Martha Cooke Steele Franklin and Edward George Franklin would have stood in 1887 when they were married.  Ed would die of the flu 4 years later and set the stage the family's conversion to the Church.  Martha remarried a man named Aurthur Steele and they met missionaries in 1901, were baptized in 1902, and then emigrated to the US a few years later with a larger group of LDS converts coming to the intermountain west of the United States.

 Also on Sunday we visited with Percy Brownjohn (93) whose sister married one of my distant cousins years and years ago.  He's the closest thing to a living relative I could find (though I'm sure there are others). He was a sweet old man who was happy to have visitors to his little cottage that he built himself from the ground up more than 60 years ago.

 Sunday evening we ended the day by visiting Stock End and the area surrounding Randall's Farm, where Martha and Edward lived and where my great grandfather was born in 1891.  I'd heard that this area was populated by family, and had always assumed it was Franklins, but we visited an old man who grew up in the area and told us that all the families in the area were Cooks--Martha's family.  This image below is "Grandpa  Cook," the Patriarch of the family in the early twentieth century. I don't know how he fits in to the family tree, but the man we spoke with knew him and worked on his farm and knew many of my cousins.  "I grew up surrounded by two families," he told me.  "Cooks and Franklins."

 The man had a lot of old photographs of the area, and this painting of Randall's farm that someone painted in 1995. This is the house that the Franklins lived in in the early 1890s--the house where my great great grandfather George was born.

Again, it is really hard to do this justice.  The green went on forever.

More later. This is just the first three days!

No comments: