August 2003

Including visits to Croatia in October 2002 and February and May 2003

The main fund raising event this year will be a lecture on Alfred Gilbert, "The Creator of Eros" to be given by John Julius Norwich at the Royal Geographical Society on Tuesday 21st October 2003 at 7 pm. It will be a fascinating lecture and of great interest to many art lovers. Gilbert, as Lord Norwich has written, is England's greatest sculptor, but remains a neglected figure, despite the major exhibition of his sculpture in the Royal Academy of Arts in 1982. The proceeds of the lecture will go to help establish a permanent paper restoration workshop in the Dominican and Franciscan Libraries in Dubrovnik and to send a student from Dubrovnik on a book conservation and restoration course in Spoleto, Italy. We are grateful to our sponsors, American Express and The Ultimate Travel Company, and to Lord Norwich for giving this lecture. Richard Dorment, who was the curator of the exhibition in the Royal Academy in 1982, is kindly lending his slides for the lecture. To apply for tickets, please send a s.a.e. to me with a cheque payable to I.T.C.M. Tickets cost 20 each.

I have visited Croatia three times since my last report of July 2003. I went back to Vukovar in October last year and again in February this year, on both occasions visiting Osijek and Beli Manastir. In Vukovar the rebuilding of the central roof of the Town Museum, housed in the 18th c. Eltz Palace, has been completed. This work was financed by the Trust through a piano recital by Ivo Pogorelich. The stone cornice will also have been restored by now. The curator, Ruza Maric, should be congratulated on her varied and inspiring range of exhibitions in a building only partially restored, with whole floors still missing. However, financial help is coming from the Ministries of Culture and for Restoration and Redevelopment. The Ministry of Public Works may also take part, especially in the clearing of the outbuildings, as well as the impressive and architecturally important cellars in adjacent houses. Vukovar, heavily destroyed in 1991, is still a heart- wrenching place and one fears that as years go by and other tragedies unfold, the world will forget Vukovar and the town will never regain its former dignity and prosperity. It would help if the park land surrounding the Museum was replanted and maintained as a public amenity.

In Osijek, my main objective was to see the works done in our Stained Glass Studio. I saw the wooden cases in which the set of stained glass windows donated by the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass travelled to Croatia, the way they were prepared and finally installed in the Church of St Martin in Beli Manastir. We looked at the windows in the Church of SS Peter and Paul in Osijek, eleven of which still remain to be restored. Out of 40 stained glass windows in this church, the "Cathedral" of Osijek, only one remained unscathed following the attacks in 1991/92. This is what made us work particularly hard, with the support of the Victoria & Albert Museum, to establish the workshop in Osijek. Drew Anderson, from the stained glass department of the Museum, visited them again in August 2002. At that point, the windows were not yet installed in the church in Beli Manastir and he advised them on many important aspects of this task. He was taken to see the projects that constitute their bread and butter work, apart from their work on the cathedral. Drew says that the young people working in the Studio are now very competent conservators and glaziers, which is what we always hoped for. He says that they are not daunted by any of the big projects in front of them, including climbing to great heights! Drew will go to Osijek again and help them establish themselves in their new premises within the Old Citadel, to which they have recently moved. The Croatian Restoration Institute is responsible for restoring some parts of the Citadel with a view to housing workshops precisely of that kind.

The works on the Church of St Martin in Beli Manastir, built in 1777, have been completed. The church is pictured in our leaflet for the Alfred Gilbert lecture as an example of restoration. The stained glass windows, enlarged to fit the old window openings by the addition of a plain white and red border, look wonderful and are greatly appreciated by the parishioners. The inscription on one of them, "To Annie Elizabeth - her husband W. Hodges surgeon 1875", is touching. I am pleased to report that the Trust was able to send a further donation towards the restoration of an old organ obtained by the parish priest from a church in Germany. Their own 18th c. organ had perished, together with all the other church furniture, in the fire which engulfed the church after shelling in 1991.

I was in Dubrovnik in May this year. The comprehensive works on the Franciscan Monastery, including the Library, are almost complete. At the Dominican Monastery, however, they are just embarking on extensive works on the Library wing. Nothing had been done there for many years. There are humidity problems, cracks in the walls, live wires clearly visible and no temperature controls. I was shown around and asked by the Prior of the Monastery, Fr. Kristijan Raic, to try and help raise awareness of their needs. At the time of my visit, a number of books had already been moved from their shelves in preparation for the works to commence. This was the reason why this summer the volunteer students from the Fondazione per il restauro e la conservazione di beni librari from Spoleto did not go to Dubrovnik. A group of ten did go there for the second year running last summer, when they accomplished, under instructions from Dr Nicholas Pickwoad, important preservation and conservation work on many books in both monasteries. They carefully recorded all pertinent details of books, incunabula and manuscripts that passed through their hands, leaving a valuable data base for the future. We hope to help with the preservation of these important collections and to establish a working relationship with the University in Spoleto whereby Dubrovnik would be included among the conservation centres and libraries around the world, such as the Library of Congress and the British Library, where students in final academic year go to gain valuable practical experience.

I had a very hot day in the gardens in Trsteno. It was hardly possible to walk through the 19th century part which had burnt down in the forest fire in 2000 and which is now replanted and flourishing. It was comforting to enter the coolness and deep shades of the Renaissance part of the garden and listen to the murmuring of water from the Fountain of Neptune. This is now a centre of our attention because a specialist from USTIGATE, a British company which makes, repairs and maintains fountains, went to Trsteno in June to examine the water action and advise on how to restore it to its original condition of almost 200 years ago when water last spouted from Neptune's trident, dolphins' mouths and the nymphs' trumpets properly. We await with great expectation the result of his investigations. We are grateful to USTIGATE for giving Robert Cherrill time to go on this investigative journey. The Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts covered the costs involved. This all happened through the intervention of an English charity, the FOUNTAIN SOCIETY, to whom we extend our warmest thanks.

Flax was planted near Ivanic Grad as usual this year and the quality of the fibre is exceptional. This is, no doubt, due to the careful scientific research by Dr Jasminka Butorac, from the Agricultural Faculty of the University of Zagreb, to establish the best seed for the prevailing conditions. A new person will be engaged to spin it on an old, and restored electric wheel, which they acquired recently, but we very much hope to buy an "electronic" spinning wheel, the Roberta Spinner, made in Australia, if it proves suitable for flax. This would greatly reduce the time consuming task of spinning by hand. The discovery of this spinning wheel is due to an article published in the December 2002 - January 2003 issue of GARDENS ILLUSTRATED, a BBC World Wide publication, which also led to many sales and much needed publicity. A weaver in America is kindly experimenting with our flax on the Roberta Wheel at present.

The following shops still towels made in Ivanic Grad, most, at no profit to themselves: NINA CAMPBELL, THE LINEN MERCHANT, THE GENERAL TRADING COMPANY, MARGARET HOWELL, EGG, CHELSEA PHYSIC GARDENS and WARWICKSHIRE AND WORCESTERSHIRE DESIGNS. To this list I am now happy to add LIVINGSTONE STUDIO, 36 New End Square, London NW3 IL8 and WOOTTON ORGANICS Ltd in Gloucestershire.

We were invited to take a stall in the PHYSIC GARDEN FAIR during the CHELSEA FESTIVAL in June this year. We sold and made contacts, including an old garden in Germany, GARTNEREI ARENDS MAUBACH near Wuppertal, which may prove of help in the future. We also made contact with Jack Lenor Larsen, the celebrated American textile specialist, which may provide us with an outlet for sales in the USA. Jack Larsen may also teach them how to make paper, to be used in artwork, with the residue of the flax plant after the fibres have been extracted.

An experienced textile conservator from the CROATIAN RESTORATION INSTITUTE in Zagreb is coming to spend six months as an intern in the Textile Department of the VICTORIA & ALBERT MUSEUM. A student is returning to ST PAUL'S CATHEDRAL to join the NIMBUS CONSERVATION team again for another three months and another, who completed a year at WEYMOUTH COLLEGE this summer, is returning home to Split.

With the help of art historians and architects in Croatia I am helping the WORLD MONUMENTS FUND IN BRITAIN to plan the itinerary for a tour of Croatia to take place from 15th May - 23rd May 2004. If you would like more information, please kindly contact either me or Naomi Gordon at WMF on 020 7730 5344.

The piano recital, by Turkish twins Ferhan and Ferzan Onder in the WIGMORE HALL last December in aid of our Trust and the ISTANBUL HERITAGE FUND, was well attended and enjoyed by all present. We thank Ferhan and Ferzan for their contribution to the Trust.

An exhibition of watercolours and drawings by Sir Thomas G. Jackson, Bt, RA, recording his travels along the Dalmatian coast in the 1880s, will be held at the CROATIAN EMBASSY from 30 October - 13 December, coinciding with the exhibition The Travel Drawings of "Anglo Jackson" at the Royal Academy in October.

I would be delighted to give more information on each subject mentioned. Please, if you are able, support the lecture on Alfred Gilbert to be given by Lord Norwich at the Royal Geographical Society on 21st October this year.