I met a woman who met Man Ray

Man_Ray_1934Another in the series “I once met” and the sub category “I once danced with..” used when the meeting was only with someone who knew the person (almost always famous.) This is a reference to the popular song “I danced with a man who  danced with a girl who danced with the Prince of Wales.” An earlier Jot concerned a meeting with a doctor who had worked with Wittgenstein when he was a hospital porter at Guy’s in WW2.

In the 1990s I knew a dealer in modern first editions who had known Man Ray in the 1960s. Her name was Elizabeth Spindel and she sold books from her Canonbury home in North London. She said he made jokes but could not remember any. I asked what his friends called him (he was born Emmanuel Radnitzky) and she said “Man.” This was amusing as in the 1960s, especially amongst hipsters, everyone was known as “man.”

A piece from the Fresno Bee in 1990 by his brother-in-law Joseph Browner has a good insight on the great surrealist: “Man Ray..was a kind of short man who looked a little like Mister Peepers, spoke slowly with a slight Brooklynese accent, and talked so you could never tell when he was kidding.”

 

Joyce dancing & other bizarre anecdotes of bohemian Paris


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In the twenties the hard-bitten ex-pat journalist Sisley Huddleston
(whose father was such a Francophile that he named his son after a French painter) was the go-to man in Paris for political, literary and social low-down. So it was likely that from his seventh floor studio in Montparnasse he would come up with some hilarious observations on the more outré bohemian behaviour of the times.

In his Bohemian Literary and Social Life in Paris ( 1928), reviewed by Kenneth Kininmont in John O’London’s Weekly for November 17, 1928, he describes, among many other things, James Joyce dancing a ‘ serpent dance with Adrienne Monnier, who kept the famous little bookshop, the resort of many writers, in the Rue de Odeon’.

He also remarks on Rodin’s liking for cooked tripe and recalled a night spent with the Dadaists in their little theatre in Montmartre, where Tristan Tzara, the inventor of ‘a horrible noise-making machine, of the coffee-mill tribe, called a Dada-phone, was putting on one of his plays, entitled ‘Premiere Aventure celeste de M. Antipyrine’. This involved a cast of eight standing in a row and reciting through tubes of cardboard, speeches, of which the following is a translated example:

The equatorial bite in the bluish rock weights upon the night intimate scent of ammoniacal cradles the flower is a lamp-post doll listens to the mercury which mounts which shows the windmill holding on the viaduct before yesterday is not the ceramic of the chrysanthemum which turns the head and the cold the hour has sounded in your mouth once more an angel which falls.

Tzara‘s ‘Premiere Aventure..’ was written in 1916.Perhaps the idea of reciting through tubes of cardboard inspired’ Edith Sitwell to recite her poetry through a megaphone in the entertainment entitled Façade (1923).{RR] 96_530x

 

An artist among the Charing Cross Road bookshops

IMG_3272Found in the art instruction magazine The Artist (London, November 1934) an interview with the artist and art therapist Adrian Hill about his recent oil painting ‘In Charing Cross Road.’ Here are a few extracts -most of Hill’s talk is about  technique, but there are some insights on the choice of subject:

… there were some who questioned the impulse behind the work, and wondered whether the scene was worth the skill and discernment that the artist had brought to the task

I admit that I shared a little of this feeling. Charing Cross Road is a central and important thoroughfare, but it must rank in the C3 class amongst London highways. Indeed, there is so little of the beautiful or the picturesque about the neighbourhood that I asked Adrian Hill if the idea of sitting down to paint it came to him suddenly, or if he had deliberately hunted for such a subject.

“No, I wasn’t looking for it,” he said. “It came to me. It was a gift from the London traffic. I was waiting to cross the road when I suddenly found it in front of me, complete in design and detail, asking to be painted.”

“As far as size is concerned, did you see it as a 24″by 20″?”

“No, I thought at first of making it bigger – about 40″ by 30″ – but it was an experiment in the ay of subject, and I decided to go modest. If ever I do a similar scene, I shan’t hesitate to paint it on a grander scale!”

“You had no misgivings about tackling it inside the studio?”

“None at all. I believe I should have painted it mush less spontaneously and confidently if I had had the subject in front of me. The details would have been so insistent that I should have been led into making a still life study of books instead of an impression of a bookshop, which was what I was after.”

“But I suppose you had to use a model for the books?” Continue reading

The Bruno Hat hoax 1929

13883Found – Society Racket: A Critical Survey of Modern Social Life (Long, London 1933) by Patrick Balfour (Baron Kinross) – a journalist. At the time of this book he was ‘Mr Gossip’ at the Daily Express and the character Adam in Waugh’s Vile Bodies was probably partly based on him (Adam becomes ‘Mr Chatterbox’ at the ‘Daily Excess’.)

Balfour covers the 1929 hoax surrealist exhibition at the Guinness’s house in Buckingham Gate SW1:

‘Then an invitation was sent out to a “First exhibition of Pictures by Bruno Hat” in Mr and Mrs Guinness’s house. It was accompanied by the following biography:

Mr Bruno Hat came to England with his father in 1919 from Lubeck. After having lived in this country a short time, Mr Max had married an English woman, and bought a general dealers shop in Sussex, where he lived until he died in 1923. The shop is now managed by Mr Bruno Hat with the help of his stepmother.

Mr Bruno Hat is now 31 years of age. Apart from some two months or so at a Hamburg art school, he is entirely self-taught. In frequent visits to London, exhibitions provide him with little little more than a glimpse of contemporary movements in painting. He has never, until now, exhibited a picture. A month ago, however, several examples of his work were taken to Paris, and the opinion there was so immediately favourable that successful arrangements have been made for an exhibition there In the early winter. Continue reading

A contemporary critic responds to Wyndham Lewis’s ‘Blast’

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The Vorticists at the Restaurant de la Tour Eiffel: Spring 1915 by William Roberts

On the eve of the First World War ‘ T.P. Weekly’s John O’London records his response to the recently published first issue of Blast.

July 2nd. —I find it is not necessary to resist extravagant gospels; they cancel each other. Yesterday Futurism, today Vorticism. I should like to know the precise moment at which one becomes a fogey when ism succeeds to ism. Mr Ezra Pound does not make this plain in his “Salutation the Third”, printed in Blast, wherein one reads:

These are they who objected to newness,

HERE are their TOMBSTONES.

They supported the gag and the ring;

A little black BOX contains them.

So shall you be also,

You slut-bellied obstructionist,

You sworn foe to free speech and good letters,

You fungus, you continuous gangrene.

I have seen many who go about with supplication.

Afraid to say how they hate you

HERE is the taste of my BOOT,

CARESS it, lick off the BLACKING.

Ezra’s boot it at least tangible, and inter alia it goes far to fulfil one of the declared aims of the Vorticists, “to destroy politeness “ – Continue reading

Beresford Egan on Beardsley

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          ‘Fleurs du Mal’ (1927)

Found in Beresford Egan’s Epitaph, a Double-Bedside Book for Singular People (Fortune Press 1943) this piece by him on Aubrey Beardsley. Beresford Egan was always compared to Beardsley and was probably a little fed up with it. In appearance and temperament he was nothing like the 1890s aesthete. His technique was also somewhat different, as he explains. Apart  from his illustrations and books he also worked as a film actor and he can be glimpsed in Powell and Pressberger’s masterpiece A Canterbury Tale.

Beresford writes:

But poor, dear Aubrey! What of him? His shadow has overcast my life, as it has overcast the lives of others in the realm of black and white. Aubrey Beardsley died in the “arms of the church” and fell into the claws of the literary vultures. His bones have been picked bare, but his legendary spirit will continue to haunt us, until a critic is born who can see further than ‘The Yellow Book’.

Beardsley – that name has become a critical cliche. Who, among the black ink brotherhood, has not been compared with him? – except, of course, the followers of the “crosshatch” school still performing in ‘Punch’. There appears to be no overshadowing master of this technique: not even Tenniel, Charles Keene, nor Lindley Sambourne. The “crosshatchers” are never charged with plagiarism, although I have seen many an exponent whom one might justifiably accuse of being cast in the Harry Furniss (forgive the pun). Continue reading

King Kong – a poetic film

kingkong33newposterFound– a one page ‘flyer’ put out by a surrealist group in Leeds for a season of ‘Surrealists go to the Cinema’ held at Bradford cinemas in November 1994. It reprints a 1934 review of the 1933 King Kong directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The review was by Jean Ferry a French writer and later ‘pataphysician’ who saw it as a poetic film ‘heavy with oneiric power’ but, curiously, he does not attribute this to the makers of the film… It reads:

I had so definitely given up the idea of seeing a poetic film that, beside any attempt at criticism. I cannot help reporting the appearance of that rare phenomenon, greeted as you would expect by howls of derision and contempt. I hasten to add that what gives this film value in my eyes is not at all the work of the producers and directors (they aimed only at a grandiose fairground attraction), but flows naturally from the involuntary liberation of elements in themselves heavy with oneiric power, with strangeness and with the horrible. … It appears, finally, that the tallest King Kong, for there were many of them, as you may have guessed, was but a metre high. But you see we knew it already. And this is why I think the inept laughter of the public is only a defence mechanism to force itself to think that this is only a mechanical toy and, having succeeded in this, to escape the feeling if unheimlich, of disquieting strangeness, that we cherish and cultivate, for our part, so carefully, and which nothing brings to life as readily, and rightly so, as being in the company of automata. I think that the film would be no less moving, no less frightening, if it was not about a supposedly living beast but an automaton of the same height making the same movements. In any case, whether the monster is real or false, the terror he provokes takes on no less of a frenzied and convulsive character through its very impossibility. Continue reading

Thomas Bewick tracks a package…

bew2Found -in a reprint copy of Bewick’s A History of British Birds (Newcastle, 1809) a  handwritten note pasted at the front endpapers from George Gulliver (anatomist 1804- 1882) stating that the book contains ‘.. 9 proofs of wood cuts of birds, an illustrated receipt, and an autograph letter of Thomas Bewick, dated April 14, 1823 (Newcastle) to Mr L .Edmonston: all inserted at the end of this volume.’ He continues- ‘They were given to me by Mrs Edmonston. Her husband, Dr Laurence Edmondston, has now (1862) been a medical practitioner upwards of 40 years at Bolton Sound, Shetland, which place he is a native. He knew and corresponded with Bewick about birds and the cuts were sent at different times by Bewick to Dr Evanston with the writing on them. George Gulliver. Bewick’s letter is present and reads:

‘Newcastle 14 April 1823.  Dear Sir, I received your kind letter of the 10th and have ever since been in anxious expectation of receiving the Ivory Gull, as it’s not yet come to hand. I fear the box may have been detained or else forwarded to Newcastle under Line by mistake as Wednesday is the date which you have limited me for its return. I thought it necessary to apprize you of its non arrival, that an enquiry if necessary might be set on foot without further delay– I have only to thank you for your very great kindness and attention endeavouring to procure from me so many specimens of rare birds which will always be most acceptable to me.I am dear sir your obliged and obedient Thomas Bewick.’  Continue reading

A modern painting in every student’s common room

Undergraduate taste in art mag cover 001Thus begins the front page article published in the January 19th 1951 issue of John O’London’s Weekly. In it the art critic F.M.Godfrey recounts the campaign of Anthony Emery, a mature undergraduate at Pembroke College, Oxford, to supply examples of modern art for the Common rooms, hostels and Unions used by every undergraduate in Britain.

The crusade to inspire students with the right attitude to ‘ the good, the beautiful and true’ had begun just after the war at Emery’s own college, where, shocked by the ignorance of modern art shown by serving officers, he ( a wartime officer ) and some like-minded friends had pledge to subscribe a £1 each to established a small collection for their common room. Inspired by the guidance of Sir Kenneth Clark, who had chosen for them a painting each by John Minton, John Piper and Duncan Grant, they had gone on to choose their own pictures.

As Godfrey remarks, Emery’s manifesto, which he called ‘A New Oxford Movement’ had the spirit of the reformer about it. And Godfrey himself echoed his sentiments.

‘Our appalling ignorance towards modern art must be eradicated when we are at the impressionable …age of under twenty, and we must conquer the schools to secure a lasting influence upon our manhood. If we had a ministry of culture and in it a department for the dissemination of modern art, here are the brains and the will to conduct it. For already half of Oxford has succumbed: Pembroke, Worcester, Brasenose, Exeter and New College, Magdalen and St Edmund’s Hall are outbidding one another in the effort to acquire the largest collection of modern painting in the United Kingdom ‘. Continue reading

Arthur Hacker R.A. (1858 – 1919)

Copyright Leeds Museums and Galleries / Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The Temptation of Sir Percival

Found- an anonymous article in Pearson’s  Magazine (London 1898)  on the artist and Royal Academician Arthur Hacker. Of note because there is not much about him – a short Wikipedia entry and this piece from Art Magick. He mainly painted genre and historical scenes,mythological and allegorical subjects (some verging on kitsch) and for the middle part of his career was a successful portrait painter. He studied in Paris under Leon Bonnet, renowned portrait painter and life long friend of Degas. The article, chatty and light in tone, sees the artist in his successful mid career.


Pictures and their Painter – Arthur Hacker

Born in London in 1858, Arthur Hacker. became a student at the Royal Academy when he was seventeen.. As Millais said when he presided for
the first and only time at the annual banquet, so soon to be followed by his death: “I received here a free education as an artist – an advantage many a lad may enjoy who can pass a qualifying examination, and I owe the Academy a debt of gratitude I can never repay.” The qualifying examination is a full-length drawing from a Greek statue carefully shaded, with another drawing showing the anatomy of the figure. It is a matter of three or four month’s hard grind, and brings out the faculty for taking pains, for not only has the drawing to be very accurate, but the modelling must be intelligently and delicately rendered, and to do this the drawing must be stippled very finely, a trick which can only be acquired by practice.

240px-Hacker_Arthur_SyrinxMany clever students have had to try two and even three times before they have sent in a drawing acceptable to the Academician. Arthur Hacker was successful at the first attempt.
He was a student at a time when attention was directed to the training given in the Paris studios, and thither he went at the end of the three years spent in the Academy Schools to the atelier Bonnat, where he worked hard for two years. And students do work hard in Paris, for they begin at eight in the morning, working to twelve. Then comes the breakfast-lunch, which is taken in some cheap cafe, where you get four or five course for a franc, including a glass of vin ordinaire.

Work goes on again from two till five, and again in the evening, and though there are students’ balls and parties, and outings to Fontainebleau, a Paris studentship is a time of unremitting hard work, with the added problem of making both ends meet.

Many a student has starved in an apartment at the top of one of those large houses which in Paris house so many families, in order to take advantage of the training offered by the Beaux Arts or Julien’s, and though, when you look back upon those days from the standpoint of success they seem bathed in the colour of romance, the hard work, neglect, poverty, and unsatisfied longing of frustrated ambition is bitter indeed at the time.

Mr. Hacker has lived to work out some of the ideas which came to him doubtless in his student days, and from dreaming of fame to winning the guerdon the time had been very short, for at the early age of thirty-five the Academy elected him to an Associateship; and, furthermore, two years ago purchased his large picture (now in the Tate Gallery) under the terms of the Chantrey Bequest. Between two and three thousand pounds is spent annually in pictures and sculpture, interest on the money left to the Academy by the sculptor, Sir Francis Chantrey.

Mr. Hacker is much sought after for portraits, and this year’s Academy will see no subject-picture from his hands. We shall give in a subsequent number a reproduction of his most charming portrait of that clever artists, Miss Ethel Wright. This picture hangs in Mr. Hacker’s studio. The sitter gave him as many as fifty sittings, and the result is that the portrait has subtle charm about it which is not always found in all great portraits.

Mr. Hacker ought to be a happy man, for he has found customers for all his important pictures, and this is a great stimulus to ever increasing effort. It takes away one’s belief in oneself to find one’s work returning time after time to adorn the studio walls or little the place, the frames having been used for newer works. The painter who can make a collection of his own pictures, as did Corot and our own Linnell, must have an abundance of belief in himself, for painting for posterity is a poor business. Recognition is so stimulating.

Joan Abbay – Art & The Holy Grail

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Found —  a slim volume of poetry from 1927 Lodequest: A Ballad of the Grail (Ancient House, Ipswich 1927) by Herbert Hudson. His wife produced the illustrated cover and also contributed one of the poems. She was Joan Abbay an East Anglian artist, and this is the only example of her work currently online, although it is possible some of her paintings are occasionally sold at auction.

The introduction to the book places the Grail legend in context, quoting from Jessie L Weston’s The Quest of the Holy Grail (1913)- (also an influence on a somewhat better known poem*):

“Every student of mediaeval literature will bear witness that there were strange current stirring in those days, that more was believed,that more was known than the official guardians of faith and morals cared to admit; that much, very much of this undercurrent of yearning and investigation was concerned with the search for the source of life; life physical, and life immortal. I contend that the Grail romances were a survival that period of unrest….The secret of the Grail I hold to be above all a human problem. When seekers after Truth will consent to work together in harmony, doing full justice to each other’s views, then,and not till then, the secret of the Grail will cease to be a secret.” Continue reading

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An 18th Century joke

Found – a scrapbook of press-cuttings mostly from the Irish newspaper the Cork Gazette. This cutting entitled Bon Mot dates from about 1789. Most cuttings are about oddities, strange wagers (can a walking man cover 20 miles faster than a walking horse?) horrible executions, daring feats, obituaries, a letter from Dean Swift, marriages of royals etc., The following is a genuine 18th Century joke. If they had stand up comedians then this would presumably have them ROTFL.

An eminent painter, conversing with a gentleman upon the subject of his profession, very judiciously observes, that the air, the character of a person, was as essential as the face to constitute a just likeness: – that a person, so situated as only to have his face discerned, might not be known, even by his intimate acquaintance, for want of the character which his air would contribute. “ For instance”, says he “a man standing in the pillory.” – “Very true,” interrupted the gentleman “a man in that situation would certainly be without character.”

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Whistler Stories

Found – Whistler Stories (Harper, New York 1913) put together by Don C Seitz. Many of the stories associated with the artist James McNeill Whistler are ironic jokes about his incredible self regard (‘…responding to an admirer who stated that there were only two great painters – Velasquez and himself. “Why drag in Velasquez.”’) or withering put downs. This exchange with Oscar Wilde is a good example of the latter:

 

Wilde asked the artist’s opinion upon a poem which he had written, presenting a copy to be read. Whistler read it and was handing it back without comment.
“Well,” queried Wilde, “do you perceive any worth?”
“It’s worth its weight in gold,” replied Whistler.
The poem was written on the very thinnest tissue-paper,
weighing practically nothing. The coolness between the two men is said to have dated from that moment.

The next story is a rare one – someone turns the tables on the great artist:

Whistler had a French poodle of which he was extravagantly fond.  This poodle was seized with an affection of the throat, and Whistler had the audacity to send for the great throat specialist, Mackenzie.  Sir Morell, when he saw that he had been called to treat a dog, didn’t like it much, it was plain.  But he said nothing.  He prescribed, pocketed a big fee, and drove away.  The next day he sent posthaste for Whistler.  And Whistler, thinking he was summoned on some matter connected with his beloved dog, dropped his work and rushed like the wind to Mackenzie’s.  On his arrival Sir Morell said, gravely:  “How do you do, Mr. Whistler?  I wanted to see you about having my front door painted.”

Lastly a tale that shows his self opinion was justified, although it took a few decades…

An American millionaire, to whom wealth had come rather quickly from Western mines, called at the Paris studio with the idea of capturing something for his gallery.  He glanced casually at the paintings on the walls, and then queried:
“How much for the lot?”
“Four millions,” said Whistler.
“What?”
“My posthumous prices!  Good morning!”

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Madge Gill and the Bournemouth crime

Found - a curious and very rare spiritualist book The Spirit of Irene Speaks published in Bournemouth in 1923. The title refers to a notorious murder in 1922 of a young cook, Irene Wilkins, who had travelled down to Bournemouth to London in response to a potential employer from an advertisement she had placed in a local paper. She had been met at the station in a large Mercedes and her body was found in a field the next day battered to death. Eventually a chauffeur was arrested, one Thomas Henry Allaway. An astute car designer had noted the car's registration number at the station and he was also recognised by a telegram clerk… The book claims that through 'psychometrics' (in this case the psychic tracing of the murderer through clairvoyant communications from an object from the murder scene) a medium had solved the case and there is a weight of convincing evidence in the book and suggestion of police co-operation. No account of the case found online mentions this aspect of the case.

However the book is notable for other reasons. It has a long plea at the beginning by Dr Abraham Wallace for the repeal of capital punishment as being irrational and unchristian and a further article on 'The Futility of Capital Punishment.' The endpapers of the books are designed by the cult outsider artist Madge Gill. She is mentioned in the text as having produced these 'automatic drawings'. She is called Madge E. Gill from London ('this lady through her mediumship obtains gorgeous oriental designs in marvellous colour schemes, and quite unusual in conception.  She also, under control, does the most beautiful embroidery and needlework…)

Madge Gill (1882- 1961) was a prolific outsider and visionary artist.  She was introduced to Spiritualism by an aunt when she was in her teens in East London. Later when she was about 40 she began creating thousands of mediumistic most done with ink in black and white. She claimed to be guided by a spirit she called "Myrninerest" (my inner rest) and often signed her works in this name. Many feature a young woman in intricate dress  often thought to be a representation of herself or her lost (stillborn) daughter, and female subjects dominate her work. Her drawings are characterised by geometric chequered patterns and organic ornamentation, with the blank staring eyes of female faces and their flowing clothing interweaving into the surrounding complex patterns.These endpaper drawings, different at both ends (rear endpapers pictured) do not have the female face…a book on her came out in 2013 by the musician and occultist David Tibet.

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‘There will be no beautiful women on Mars’–and that’s official

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Speculation on whether there is life on Mars and what form it might take has been going on since the planet began to be seriously studied. Writers of fiction have let their imaginations run riot, with ludicrous results, but even scientists have been guilty of groundless speculation. Two items from the Peter Haining archive —an incomplete clipping dated 1924 from the Daily Express and a chapter from The Universe in Space and Time of 1935 throw interesting light on the subject.

Back in 1924 the Daily Express published a report by a certain Monsieur Camille Flammarion, ‘the famous French astronomer’, that ‘ the people of the earth will be both shocked and disillusioned if ever they become acquainted with the Martians’. “First of all”, he states, “there will be no beautiful women there. They may be beautiful according to Martian standards, but to us they will probably look frightfully hideous.” It’s all to with the ‘rarer’ atmosphere of the planet, apparently.

Continue reading

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John Thomas Smith as Hamlet

‘The Keeper of the prints showing A.E.C. how the Balcony scene should be performed' (Pen and ink drawing by Edward Chalon)

One of the most famous Keepers of Prints at the British Museum was John Thomas Smith (1760 - 1833), who was also a gifted amateur artist, an antiquary, and a writer on art and artists, whose two most acclaimed books were the scurrilous Nollekens and his Times (1828) and the exceedingly scarce and sought after Vagabondiana (1817), which contains forty or more etchings of well known mendicants in the metropolis based on his own sketches.

But in his early days Smith had hopes of becoming an actor, and in 1787 was promised an engagement with the Royalty Theatre in London. Unfortunately, this fell through and he set up as a drawing master instead. But if the portraitist Alfred Edward Chalon (1780 – 1860) is to be believed, Smith retained an interest in performing throughout his life. Here we have a pen and ink drawing by Chalon of the Keeper as a distinctly middle aged and podgy Hamlet. It may have been sketched following the publication of the sitter’s biography of the brilliant sculptor Nollekens, which portrayed him (possibly with truth) as a miserly curmudgeon. It has been said that Smith decided to write the book--dubbed ‘the most candid biography in English literature’--after the disappointment of not receiving the generous bequest he had been led to expect from his friend.

Smith died in harness aged just 66 in 1833. A Book for a Rainy Day, which contained his largely unpublished writings appeared posthumously.

[R.M.H]

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A rare drawing by Lavinia Spencer—Princess Diana’s great great great grandmother

Bought a few years ago in a provincial auction house for very little, this signed drawing of Frances Molesworth by the talented amateur Lavinia Bingham, dated 8th June 1780, is interesting for a number of reasons, not least because the artist was Princess Diana’s great great great grandmother. However, the relationship between Lavinia and Frances is also significant. After the death of her natural mother, Frances entered the household of her mother’s only surviving sibling, Lady Margaret Bingham, and her cultured husband Sir Charles (later Lord Lucan),who were the parents of Lavinia. At the time Frances would have been twenty and Lavinia two years younger, and it is highly likely that the drawing, which Lavinia presented to Frances,  was executed at the family home at Laleham, Surrey. Interestingly, the sitter seems to be wearing the same, or a very similar, wide brimmed hat trimmed with feathers that she was to wear in a later portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds. No doubt the two girls were rivals in the marriage stakes. Both had striking good looks, but whereas  less than a year after the sitting Lavinia married George, the second Earl Spencer, brother of Georgiana, Countess of Devonshire, Frances rejected two very eligible suitors, including Lord North, before she agreed to marry John Jeffreys, Marquess of Camden, in 1785.

Although, like her descendant, Princess Diana, Lavinia Spencer was a beauty, none of the features of the  ‘People’s Princess’ can be detected in the famous portrait, also by Reynolds, which now hangs in Althorp, along with some of the sitter’s own artistic productions. Nor did Lavinia seem to share many of her descendant’s personality traits. Although before her marriage she was described as a ‘sweet creature’, she was later disliked by some for her perceived bitchiness and arrogance. Certainly, she ruled her household at Althorp with a self confidence born of her elevated station, which Diana, for all her occasional feistiness, could not rival.

We know how Diana’s short life ended, but in contrast Lavinia’s appears to have been full of contentment. She died in 1831, aged 69, just long enough to see her son, Viscount Althorp, became Chancellor of the Exchequer. [RR]

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Mendel, A Story of Youth (Mark Gertler)

Found - a rare 1916 first edition of Mendel, A Story of Youth by Gilbert Cannan. The novel is a roman a clef about the artist Mark Gertler and has much on his disastrous affair with Bloomsbury Goddess Dora Carrington. The verse dedication is to her:

To D.C.

Shall tears be shed because the blossoms fall,
Because the cloudy cherry slips away,
And leaves its branches in a leafy thrall
Till ruddy fruits do hang upon the spray 
Shall tears be shed because the youthful bloom

And all th'excess of early life must fade
For larger wealth of joy in smaller room
To dwell contained in love of man and maid?
Nay, rather leap, O heart, to see fulfilled
In certain joy th'uncertain promised glee,
To have so many mountain torrents spilled
For one fair river moving to the sea.

Gilbert Cannan entertained Mark Gertler, Katherine Mansfield and D H Lawrence among others to a famous 1914 Christmas party at Cholesbury Mill in Buckinghamshire and between 1914 and 1916 Gertler was a frequent visitor. Gertler used Cannan’s shed as a studio and his painting of Gilbert Cannan at his Mill now hangs in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (for which much thanks).

Between 1914-15 Gertler pursued a frustrating love affair at Cannan's  Mill and elsewhere with Dora Carrington, who eventually left him to live with Lytton Strachey. Their relationship is the subject of the 1995 film Carrington*. After Strachey’s death in 1932 Carrington committed suicide.

*Rufus Sewell played a fiery Mark Gertler in the movie. Below is a sample from Christopher Hampton's script - Gertler is very annoyed that Carrington is in love with Strachey:

Mark Gertler: Haven't you any self-respect? 
Dora Carrington: Not much. 
Mark Gertler: But he's a disgusting pervert! 
Dora Carrington: You always have to put up with something.

Cicely Mary Barker

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A Fairy Orchestra*

Found in the Peter Haining archives this long piece from 1995 about the great Flower Fairy illustrator Cicely Mary Barker. It is likely to be the fruit of research by PH's good friend the amazing W.O.G. 'Bill' Lofts. Cicely Mary Barker's beautiful illustrations are still much loved and have become something of an industry. She also produced some deeply religious illustrations which are also of very high quality.

CICELY MARY BARKER

Wander into almost any stationers', gift or book shop, and you will see them - on cards and calendars, notelets and writing pads, diaries and address books, pencil tins and wrapping paper - even on tins of tea and Wedgwood china collectors' plates! The Flower Fairies suddenly seem to be everywhere.

They never really went away, of course - since they first appeared over 70 years ago, they have continued to work their magic on generations of children and adults alike. If all at once they seem more popular than ever before, it is because 1995 marks the 100th anniversary of the birthday of their creator, Cicely Mary Barker. To celebrate the centenary in June, and hand-in-hand with a big marketing campaign, Warnes are due to publish the first ever study of the artist: “Cicely Mary Barker and her Art” by Jane Laing. This superbly produced book, lavishly illustrated with colour plates of the artist's work and family photographs, is an absolute "must" for any collector of Barker's work, and guaranteed to add to her ever-increasing circle of admirers world-wide.

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CoventryPatmorepic

Coventry Patmore rejects his uninspiring ‘vegetables’

The poet who composed the long love poem, The Angel of the House, which appeared in four volumes from 1854, became, like many of his generation, a convert to Catholicism, and so his remarks, voiced in a letter to the editor of the Spectator  regarding a bust of Cardinal Newman by the pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner, come as no real surprise.

The original letter, written from Hastings, was discovered in a pile of similar autographed material.

‘It may interest some of the readers of a Paper which has shewn so special an interest in and affection of Cardinal Newman, that by very much the finest likeness of him in existence is the bust which was made of him some ten or fifteen years ago by Thomas Woolner…I was once in a room containing first-rate busts of all the most famous men of the past generation. That of Newman made all the others look like vegetables, so wonderfully was it loaded with the great Cardinal’s weight of thought and character.’

We don’t know who the sitters for other busts were, or the identity of the sculptors, but we do know that as a friend of Woolner, as indeed he was of Dante Rossetti, W. Holman Hunt, and other Pre-Raphaelites, Patmore was bound to defend the merits of the Newman bust over perhaps some more conventional works of art. As a child, Patmore himself wanted to be an artist and at the age of fifteen won the Silver Palette of the Society of Arts. The poverty of his father made such an ambition impossible and Patmore ended up in the British Museum library. In later life, spurred on by his association with the Pre-Raphaelites, he wrote on Art, but he is best known today as the author of The Angel of the House, although it is generally recognised that his best poems, which have strong spiritual qualities, were written towards the end of his life. [R R]