Beatrice Webb, co-founder of the New Statesman.
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Promoted

New Statesman and the Webb Memorial Trust Essay Competition

Essay competition run by the New Statesman and the Webb Memorial Trust. First prize: £1,000.

The Competition

All interested young people are invited to submit an essay of no more than 2,500 words answering the following question:

The question this year is;

How can business reduce poverty?

The deadline is 22 October 2014.

The winning essay will be published prominently in the New Statesman magazine and on our award-winning website at Christmas.

A first prize of £1,000 will be awarded to the winner. The runner-up will receive £500.

Entrants must be between 18 and 25 years of age.

The results will be announced at an awards reception in London in December (all those whose entries are shortlisted will be invited).

 

Please submit your entry to Roxanne Mashari at info@appgpoverty.org.uk

Submitted entries will be judged by a panel including:

Richard Rawes (Chair, Webb Memorial Trust)

Jason Cowley (Editor, New Statesman)

Paul Hackett (Director, Smith Institute)

Lord Kinnock (Labour peer)

Kate Green MP (Chair, APPG Poverty)

More to be announced

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The Webb Memorial Trust shares a rich history of collaboration with this magazine. Beatrice Webb co-founded the New Statesman in 1913 with her husband, Sidney Webb, the socialist campaigner who became a Labour MP in 1922. In recent years our associated ventures have included supplements tackling issues of poverty and inequality in the UK today, with contributions from leading think-tank directors, heads of charities and policymakers.

In February 2012 the New Statesman, supported by the trust, produced a 15-page policy report that questioned not whether the government should be tackling poverty, but how. Kate Green MP, Chris White MP, Andrew Harrop and Paul Hackett were among the advisers and legislators who made the case for a fairer society.

In March 2013 we produced a second supplement, which focused on the myths about poverty that are grabbing headlines. How accurate are the perceptions of “benefit scroungers” and what effects do these attitudes have on those living below the poverty line? Christian Guy, Kate Henderson, Alison Garnham, Deborah Hargreaves and others discussed low pay, in-work poverty and the social housing stigma, highlighting proactive projects that have made a difference.

This year we collaborated on a third supplement debating whether civil society rather than the state should be the driving force behind the alleviation of poverty. Kenny Imafidon, Ruth Lister, Max Wind-Cowie, Paul Bunyan and John Diamond all contributed ideas on wider society could do to have a real impact, independent of government.

Never has the work of the trust been more important. Tough economic conditions, rising use of zero hours contracts and cuts to the welfare state have put more people than ever at risk of living in poverty. The New Statesman is proud to be partnered with this great institution.

The two supplements can be downloaded from the New Statesman website at: newstatesman.com/page/supplements.

 

 

 

 

SAMUEL COURTAULD TRUST
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The monochrome set

In Pieter Bruegel’s hands, even black and white paintings can be full of colour.

Grisailles – monochrome images usually painted in shades of grey and white – have a long tradition. Early examples appeared in the 14th century as miniatures or manuscript illuminations and then later on the outside of the folding panels of altarpieces, where they imitated sepulchre statues and offered a stark contrast to the bright colour of the paintings inside. With their minimal palette, grisailles also offered painters a chance both to show off their skill and to add their bit to the age-old artistic debate about paragone: which was superior – sculpture, with its ability to show a figure in three dimensions, or painting, with its powers of illusion? By pretending to be sculpture, grisailles could better it.

The first artist to paint grisailles as independent works for private enjoyment and contemplation was the Netherlander Pieter Bruegel the Elder (circa 1525-69), whose folk scenes of peasants carousing or of hunters in a snowy landscape have long been staples of art’s quotidian, earthy strand. Only about 40 works by him are now known and of those, just three are grisailles (not a term he would have recognised; he referred to the pictures simply as “painted in black and white”). This trio of survivors has been reunited for the first time, at the Courtauld Gallery, with an accompanying selection of copies and engravings – a mere ten pictures in all – for a fascinating one-room exhibition.

The grisailles show a deeper and more intellectual artist than the sometimes slapstick figure who would dress as a peasant in order to gatecrash weddings in the Brabant countryside and record the drunken and playful goings-on in his pictures. They reflect the position of the Low Countries in Bruegel’s time, caught between the Catholicism of their Spanish overlords and the emerging Protestantism that had been sparked by Martin Luther only eight years before Bruegel’s birth. These tensions soon erupted in the Eighty Years War.

Of the three paintings, two show religious subjects – The Death of the Virgin (1562-65) and Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery (1565) – and one is a scene that would have been familiar in the streets around him, Three Soldiers (1568). This last, lent by the Frick Collection in New York, shows a drummer, a piper and a standard-bearer in the elaborately slashed uniforms of German Landsknechte mercenaries. Such groupings featured often in German prints and Bruegel’s small picture is a clever visual game: painting could imitate not only sculpture, but prints, too. What’s more, the gorgeously coloured uniforms (mercenaries were exempt from the sumptuary laws that restricted clothing to sedate colours) could be shown to be just as arresting even in black and white.

If this is a painting about painting, the ­religious works have, it seems, added layers of meaning – although it is always difficult with Bruegel to work out what that meaning is and how personal it might be. The Courtauld’s Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery shows Jesus stooping in front of the Pharisees and saving the accused woman from stoning by writing in the dust, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” That he spells out the words in Dutch rather than Hebrew, which was more usual in other images of the scene (and which he uses on the tunic of one of the learned men observing the mute play), suggests that this picture – a plea for clemency – was intended to serve as a call for religious tolerance amid mounting sectarian antagonism. While the gaping faces of the onlookers recall those of Hieronymus Bosch, the flickering calligraphic touches and passages of great delicacy are all his own.

The picture stayed with Bruegel until his death, so it had a personal meaning for him; more than 20 copies were subsequently made. Included in the exhibition are the copies painted by his sons, Jan and Pieter the Younger (a coloured version), as well as the earliest known print after it, from 1579, by Pieter Perret, which shows some of the detail in the crowd around the central figures that has been lost in the discoloured panel.

If the sombre tones of grisaille are suited to the pared-down faith advocated by Luther, the death of the Virgin was a familiar topic in Catholic and Orthodox iconography. Bruegel’s picture, from Upton House in Warwickshire, depicts an episode that doesn’t actually appear in the Bible. A group of Apostles and mourners has gathered around the Virgin’s bed, the scene lit by the heavenly light emanating from the dying woman and the five flames from the candles and the hearth that correspond to the five wounds suffered by her son on the cross. Domestic items litter the room – a slice of orange, slippers, a dozing cat – and there is a sleeping attendant, unaware of the miracle of Assumption that will shortly unfold. Here is a moving nocturne in which the mysteries of religion emerge from and disappear back into the shadows.

While Bruegel’s peasant works display a delight in physical pleasure, these three bravura works, painted for humanist connoisseurs and for himself, portray the sober, spiritual concerns that come to the fore once the last drop has been drunk. 

The exhibition runs until 8 May. For more details, go to: courtauld.ac.uk

Michael Prodger is an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman. He is an art historian, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Buckingham, and a former literary editor.

This article first appeared in the 11 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The legacy of Europe's worst battle