12 February 2020
Introductory Q+A with Tour Director, Meg Boulton
What first led you to study Art History?
I started out as a Fine Artist (many moons ago) but found myself as fascinated by the history and context of trends in art as I was in the process of making. That being so, I began studying Art History at Postgraduate level and have been in love with the subject ever since. Art History can bring the past alive, and the images and objects that have survived have such fascinating stories and histories to tell. I'm never happier than when talking about the objects and ideas of the past and look forward to sharing some of the stories of Burgundy on my next ACE tour.
Why did you choose to specialise in Medieval Art?
I was somewhat of an accidental medievalist having started out studying Fine and Contemporary Art and fully intending to study Curiosity Cabinets and Cornell boxes, but an encounter with the 8th century Durham Cassiodorus changed all that. From the minute I stood in front of a medieval manuscript I was instantly intrigued by the complexity of the object, but also by the people and place that produced this extraordinary thing. From there I began studying the sculpture and architecture of the Medieval period in earnest, and remain enchanted by forms as diverse as the Easby Cross, made in Yorkshire around 800 to the monumental tympana of the Romanesque made some 200-400 years later.
What did your study abroad programme in Burgundy investigate?
This interest in the Romanesque was fostered by a study abroad job I held for nearly a decade - introducing undergraduates to the art of the Romanesque to the Renaissance. As part of this every year we spent a week in Beaune and the adjacent surroundings, examining the fascinating carved stones and painted surfaces of the region - and thinking about the particular mix of religious and secular authority that the region displays.
Why is Burgundy a significant centre for those interested in medieval art?
Owing to the particular milieu created by the Dukes of Burgundy as they sought to display a manifest power that rivalled that of the monarchy based in Paris to the North the region is steeped in artistic and visual riches. From Dijon, to Vezelay, to Beaune, to Fontenay, to Autun the region is full of cultural and artistic highlights. Personal favourites include the visceral carvings of Gislebertus' tympanum and capitals at Autun, Sluter's extraordinary Well of Moses at the Chartreuse de Champmol (intended as the mausolea for the Duchy), and the glowing eschatological vision of Van der Weyden's Last Judgement at the Hotel Dieu in Beaune.
Although France offers endless possibilities to visit castles and cathedrals, many medieval castles are often in ruins. At Guédelon, a castle and its surrounding village are slowly and painstakingly being rebuilt under the aegis of Michel Guyot. As part of this experimental process (begun in 1997) building techniques and technologies of the past are being recovered in a truly extraordinary endeavour - down to making the tools needed in the building processes. In fact, Guédelon is the only site in the world demonstrating how these incredible buildings were constructed using medieval technology.
What are you most looking forward to on the ACE tour?
As always, I'm most looking forward to sharing some of the cultural riches of a region with a group of enthusiasts. It’s always a delight to stand in front of a work and talk about it - and a great joy to introduce such extraordinary objects as those in Burgundy to a set of people with shared interests and passions. See more information on the Medieval Burgundy tour here.
Discover all of Meg's Art History tours here.