Category Archives: Jacquetta and objects

Past, Present, Man, Nature: 2. “Pots before Words”

Past, Present, Man, Nature: celebrating Jacquetta Hawkes.

An online exhibit by Alison Cullingford, Special Collections Librarian, University of Bradford.

Intro | Credits | Previous | Next

2. “Pots before Words”

Jacquetta in hat ca. 1930

Jacquetta in hat ca. 1930

Fortunately for Jacquetta, she was able to find a path in life which allowed her talents to develop: aged nine, she had decided to become an archaeologist.  In 1929, she gained entrance to Newnham College, Cambridge, where she read for the new archaeological tripos.  To her surprise, she obtained first class honours.  On her first serious excavation, at Camulodunum, near Colchester, she met Christopher Hawkes, its director, a brilliant archaeologist.  They married in 1933, and had a son in 1937.  Meanwhile, both built strong careers in archaeology, and co-wrote several articles and a book, “Prehistoric Britain” (1943).

A travelling scholarship took Jacquetta to Mount Carmel, where encounters with the local people and a Neanderthal skull had profound effects on her imagination.  She published articles on Windmill Hill and channelled ware; her first book was on the archaeology of Jersey.  Her own first excavation in sole charge was in County Waterford in 1939.

Arrowhead

Arrowhead

Pot balanced on book

Pot balanced on book

These images show an arrowhead kept by Jacquetta and a photograph of a pot.  Jacquetta’s passion for the past stemmed from her emotional and intellectual response to individual objects like these.   In a 1952 script for Woman’s Hour, she explained that she was “very fond of things”, because of their appeal to her senses, the enjoyment of using knowledge to set things in their “historical setting” like a Queen Anne chair, and because objects could offer a truthful insight into the deep past.  The desire to make useful and beautiful articles was, she felt, something very deep in man’s past, pre-dating words.

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Past, Present, Man, Nature: 1. A Cat that Walked by Herself.

Past, Present, Man, Nature: celebrating Jacquetta Hawkes.

An online exhibit by Alison Cullingford, Special Collections Librarian, University of Bradford.

Intro | Credits | Previous | Next

1. A Cat that Walked by Herself

Jacquetta as a child, on motorbike with bear

Jacquetta as a child, on motorbike with bear

Jessie Jacquetta Hopkins was born in 1910 in Cambridge.   Her father was Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins, who won the Nobel Prize for his work on vitamins.

Her outstanding academic ability does not shine out in her surviving reports from Perse School.  Her memories of learning were of exciting personal experiences that sparked her passions for nature and the past: discovering a Saxon jaw in their antiquity-filled garden, pretending to be a cave man, bicycling around Cambridgeshire to understand church architecture, brass rubbing.  She went her own way at school, identifying with Kipling’s Cat that Walked by Himself, resisting uniforms, organised games and Girl Guides.

Image of finch in 1927 nature notebook

Image of finch in 1927 nature notebook

Jacquetta’s nature diaries, of which this page from 1927 illustrating a finch is typical, show her life-long interest in ornithology and her artistic talent.  The notes are candid and quirky, revealing her determination to think for herself and explore the world around her.

A Poet in Stone

A new exhibition at Tate Britain takes a fresh look at sculptor Henry Moore, whose work has perhaps become over-familiar through its ubiquity in public spaces. The exhibition, which opens on 24 February, brings the sculptures to new indoor settings, and finds a darker side: “The trauma of war, the advent of psychoanalysis, new ideas of sexuality, primitive art and surrealism all had an influence on Moore’s work”.

A Land, by Jacquetta Hawkes

A Land, by Jacquetta Hawkes

Jacquetta Hawkes greatly admired Moore’s work, particularly his feeling for the individual qualities of the stones he used.  In her best-known book, A Land (1951), she praises his  “understanding of the personality of stones, allowing their individual qualities to contribute to his conception”.  She compares the way he uses the echoes of past creatures and climates (a fossil squid in the thigh of one of his figures, the two colours of Hornton stone) with the way a poet may “take fragments and echoes from other earlier poets to sink them in his own poems”.  Moore contributed remarkable colour drawings to the book.  Our Writer Fellow, Christine Finn, studied Jacquetta’s ideas about stone and sculpture and her links with Moore and other sculptors in an exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds in 2004, Partners in Stone.

The Hawkes Archive contains several social letters and postcards from Henry and Irina Moore, about birthday parties, music events, travels in stone, and tennis!

Excavating an excavator

Christine Finn viewing the Hawkes Archive on arrival

Christine Finn viewing the Hawkes Archive on arrival

Jacquetta’s official biographer is Dr Christine Finn, Writer Fellow at the J.B. Priestley Library.  Christine is herself an archaeologist and writer, and shares Jacquetta’s humanistic and passionate response to the deep past.  She compares the process of studying Jacquetta’s Archive to archaeology, going through layers and recreating past lives.  As part of our celebrations of Jacquetta’s centenary in 2010, Christine will lecture on this theme at the Society of Antiquaries on 28 January 2010.

Christine’s online biography of Jacquetta, hosted by Stanford University.