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

 

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

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

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New Movements in Art 1942

Found - a folding 6 page art catalogue/ booklet for an exhibition in wartime Leicester June 1942. Artists included John Tunnard (who provides the image on the cover) John Piper, Ivor Hitchens, Graham Sutherland, Frances Hodgkins, Edward Wadsworth, Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo, Barbara Hepworth, Hans Erni, Paul Nash, Kurt Schwitters, Eileen Agar, Ithell Colquhoun, Ceri Richards, Michael Ayrton,  John Buckland Wright ,Cecil Collins, Leslie Hurry. Top price was £150 for Two Serpents by Paul Nash. The 3 Schwitters were all less than £30..The curator and writer of the introduction (below) was Trevor Thomas - the subject of another Jot entry, as 21 years later he was the last person to see Sylvia Plath alive. He wrote a slim book on this called Sylvia Plath: Last Encounters (Privately Published, Bedford 1989.)

New Movements in art exhibition: 23 May to 21 June 1942: Leicester Museum and Art Gallery

Trevor Thomas, Curator.

By way of introduction.

The contention that "every picture tells a story" is now recognised as a popular fallacy, just as, Hollywood excepted, nobody now believes that "every story makes a picture." In this way free from the necessity for literary associations, we can approach such an exhibition as this with unfettered intelligence and liberated imagination.

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The Briar Rose — exhibited August 1890

Found in a slim volume of verse from 1891 'printed for private circulation' - this poem about The Briar Rose - a series of 4 related paintings by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne Jones. These were first exhibited at Agnew's Gallery in Bond Street, London in 1890. The paintings depict a moment in the story of Sleeping Beauty, the title of the series coming from the version presented by the Brothers Grimm in their collection of 1812. The book was called Thoughts by the Way / Sicily by S.A. Thompson Yates. He was the son of Henry Yates Thompson (1838 -1928) a wealthy British newspaper proprietor and collector of illuminated manuscripts. He was known as the Reverend S. A. Yates Thompson and was the brother of Henry Yates Thompson also a major book collector.

After seeing Mr Burne-Jones picture, 'The Briar Rose.' (August 1890)

Love comes at last with sad and serious face,
A pale, armed youth with sharpened sword in hand,
To pierce the briar-rose hedge, which can withstand
The arms of hate or lust. It is disgrace
To let such through. But, that true love's embrace
Should give all life again, the burly band
Of sleeping sentinels will not demand
The watchword, as should guardians of the place.
Here all are sleeping. King and council sit,

In years and wisdom ripe; next maidens
While busy with their housework. All, asleep,
Await the kiss of love, which, as is fit,
The warrior gives, yet sadly, half afraid
To rouse the loved one from her slumbers deep.

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Simon Watson Taylor: surrealist, pataphysician & cabin steward

The death in 2005 at the age of 82 of aged hippy and anarchist Simon Watson Taylor went almost unnoticed in the Arts pages and it was left to his friend and former house-mate George Melly to supply an obituary in the Independent in which he pointed out the major contributions of the writer and translator of Alfred Jarry to the Surrealist and Pataphysics movements in Europe during the fifties and sixties. On a personal level, Melly also alluded to his friend’s ‘acid humour ‘, his delight in confronting and dispatching the pretensions of the bourgeoisie, and a determination to remain free of encumbrances. At one point in his early life we are told that he took a job as an airline cabin steward in order to travel the world.Indeed, among all his friends who had some way embraced aspects of the bourgeois life- style, Melly claimed that Watson Taylor stood out as a man ‘truly free’.

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Show me the Money, Coutts

Sent in by Hertfordshire's top jotter Robin Healey for which much thanks. The tradition of writing family histories appears to be alive and well.

I’ve always been mildly amused at why the heir to a banking fortune ends up with the name Money-Coutts. And I’m equally certain that my aunt, who wrote a history of the Coutts family, was also tickled by the name.

Anyway, here’s an attractive bookplate which an inscription in pencil on the reverse assures us was designed by the gifted painter and book illustrator, John D Batten (1860 – 1932), in 1889, at the age of 29. The design is eclectic, featuring a central circular panel that owes much to Burne-Jones, and spandrels that are crammed with writhing Art Nouveau-style  foliage.

We can be sure that the design was very much to the taste of Batten’s patron, Francis Money-Coutts, 5th Baron Latymer ( 1852 – 1923), who had studied Law at Cambridge but  was considered too unstable to join the family firm. Instead he practised as a solicitor in Surrey while pursuing under the pseudonym ‘ Mountjoy’ his preferred vocation as a poet and general man of letters, safe in the knowledge that he was not likely to end up in a garret. He also befriended the composer Isaac Albeniz, becoming his benefactor and contributing the lyrics to a series of operas.

John Batten had a similar background to Money-Coutts. He also read Law at Cambridge, though at a later period, and like his future patron, was called to the Bar. Again, like Money- Coutts, Batten abandoned Law for his true passion, which in his case was Art. In 1886 he exhibited for the first time at the Grosvenor Gallery, which was owned by a kinsman of Money-Coutts, Sir Lindsay Coutts. So, it is very likely that the artist and the banking heir met through their shared association with the Gallery.

It would be interesting to know how the relationship developed over time, and particularly whether Money-Coutts became a keen collector of Batten’s striking, Pre-Raphaelite-influenced paintings.

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Oliver Madox Brown’s ‘Gabriel Denver’ – a rarity

Found - Oliver Madox Brown's novel Gabriel Denver (London: Smith, Elder 1873) - a late Victorian rarity with Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood connections. The binding was designed by the author's father, Ford Madox Brown and is said to be the only book cover he ever worked on. A loosely inserted catalogue clipping from about 1920 prices the book at 18/6 and states;

'...  a novel of great promise, the first and only production of the author, who died in his twentieth year. In A Birth Song Swinburne refers to him in the following lines:
"High hopes and hearts requickening in thy dawn,
Even theirs whose life-springs, child,
Filled thine with life and smiled,
But then wept blood for half their own withdrawn."

70 years late in 1992 a slight used copy turned up at Christies New York (from the collection of librarian and poet Kenneth A Lohf) and made $1210. The cataloguer described it thus:

Original tan cloth, pictorially blocked in black, lettered in gilt and black ..binder's ticket of Leighton Son and Hodge at inside rear cover, fraying at ends of spine, rear cover slightly soiled, cloth slipcase. FIRST EDITION, published when the author was eighteen years old (he died tragically the following year); this is the only book cover his artist father designed. Fredeman 47.1 and Plate VII for illustration of the front cover; Robert Lee Wolff, Strange Stories (Boston, 1971), pp. 37-43 and illustration of the front cover. "The death at nineteen of this brilliantly versatile and precocious artist and novelist, son of Ford Madox Brown, and brother-in-law of William Michael Rossetti and Francis Hueffer, deeply distressed the boy's father and all the brethren of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Both [this and The Dwale Bluth in the next lot] his books are rare ... By 1883, [Gabriel Denver] was already a rarity. Only 300 copies were sold and the rest pulped. See also a remarkable passage in George Moore's Vale (Hail and Farewell, III, 1914, pp. 47-51) in which Moore describes his friendship with Brown formed at art school. During the model's rest periods Brown read aloud from a novel of his which must have been Gabriel Denver..."The model was so entranced, she let her robe slip from her and listened quite naked"--Wolff 881.

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A lost Rossetti letter

Found in the front of an 1866 first edition of Swinburne's  Poems and Ballads (Moxon) this cutting from a catalogue from about 1920. The dealer is unnamed, possibly Maggs or Quaritch, and the catalogue seems to be entirely made up of autograph letters. This is an important letter but does not appear to be recorded anywhere or published. It was possibly bought by a wealthy collector and sits in a drawer in a mansion now owned by his indifferent heirs...the catalogue gives a good taste of it however and it is good on Swinburne and Milnes...Swinburne's book was disowned by the publisher Moxon and scandalised Victorian England by its sensual and decadent themes and lack of respect fro Christianity...

Swinburne by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Rossetti (Dante Gabriel, 1828-1882). English Painter and Poet. A.L.S. to Frederick Sandys, the painter and book illustrator. 9pp, 8vo. N.D. circa 1857 £15 15s.

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The World’s Worst Author makes an enquiry

Here it is in the letters pages of The First Edition (September -October1924) a curious letter from Amanda (McKittrick) Ros, not quite latching on to the idea of collecting or what the magazine was about.

Poor Amanda---blissfully unaware that her books weren’t collected for their literary merit, but for their production of unintended hilarity. At Oxford in the 1920s undergraduates like Evelyn Waugh and John Betjeman were admirers and it is said that the Inklings, whose members included C.S.Lewis and J.R.Tolkien , held competitions to see how much of a novel or poem by Amanda Ros could be recited before the reader began to laugh uncontrollably. Because most of her books were published privately in small editions, copies weren’t easy to come by. They have remained quite scarce ever since, largely due to loyal followers, who eagerly snap them up. However, today, with her star slightly on the wane, copies, including very early editions, can be found on the Net for under £70.

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I once met…Desmond Morris

A book dealer I knew mentioned in passing that the author of The Naked Ape and Manwatching was a passionate collector. But no-one had prepared me for what I encountered when I rang his doorbell in leafy North Oxford.

This zoologist was not a collector—he was a bibliomaniac! He admitted to visiting book fairs, second-hand bookshops, junk shops and auctions. At one time he mistakenly bought copies of books he already owned, but remedied this error by always carrying around a laptop containing a disk that listed  all the books in his library. And what a library ! He had had it built as an annexe to his large Victorian house and it was absolutely crammed with books, floor to ceiling, and a few of his own paintings were also displayed. He, of course, was a sort of Abstract Surrealist, strongly influenced by Miro. There was a lot of ethnographical art too—mainly pots and animal inspired pieces.

We talked for over three hours—some of the conversation was off the record. He told me that he came from a village near Swindon and as a youth had gone out with Diana Dors, whose real name was Diana Fluck. Books were part of his DNA. Morris’s great great grandfather had been a bookseller in old-town Swindon, while his great-grandfather, one William Morris, was a well known local historian and naturalist in Wiltshire. It was a book, Grew’s Comparative Anatomy of Stomach and Guts, which the zoologist later inherited from his library, that inspired him to study animals. From such an eclectic pedigree of learning arose  Morris’s extraordinary range of knowledge—which encompasses a range of art-related disciplines, of which Surrealism and ethnography was two, and a variety of scientific subjects, the most prominent being zoology. Whole stacks were devoted to two main interests—dogs and primates, but human psychology was strongly represented too. There was also a fair-sized section on English poetry and here Morris revealed that in the late 1940s he had met Dylan Thomas, who had shown a strong interest in one of the younger man’s own paintings that he happened to be carrying. Thomas offered to strike a deal. He would swap a manuscript of a poem he had recently written for this painting. It must have been a good painting (or a poor poem), because Morris declined the deal. Thomas died just a few years later at the height of his fame and Morris told me that he has regretted that mistake ever since.[RR]

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A Vorticist row in 1967

Revolution 1915 ('The Crowd')

Found in the letters column of The New Statesman of 21 April 1967 this angry exchange about Vorticism and Wyndham Lewis. The Surrealists were famous for arguing amongst themselves and it is interesting to see the vehemence in this post-Vorticist  argument. Michael Ayrton shows Lewis as a difficult man (others were less kind) and Robert Melville's reply scores a few points - but not a direct hit. It is odd that there was any debate about Nevinson being a Vorticist: he is now seen  with Lewis as their greatest exponent...

Sir, Mr Robert Melville contrives to perpetuate an ugly falsehood when he wrote as it was 'with the connivance of Lewis' that the Tate 'took advantage of the public ignorance of Bomberg's early work and included only a single unrepresentative drawing in the exhibition Wyndham Lewis and Vorticism in 1956 to create the impression that he was one of Lewis's lesser camp followers.' A similar argument was vociferously advanced by and on behalf of William Roberts in 1956. David Sylvester took up Roberts's cudgels in the New Statesman and, in passing, pointed out that Bomberg was not a Vorticist at all, but had simply exhibited with them. Denigrators of Lewis are tenacious but they cannot have it both ways. If Bomberg was not a Vorticist but one of what Mr Roberts called 'the Tail' then he had no special place in the Tate exhibition, which was avowedly concerned with Lewis and Vorticism.

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Paul Nash bookplate for art collector Samuel Courtauld

Found - a loose bookplate by Paul Nash  for the industrialist and art collector Samuel Courtauld. Produced around 1930, it measures a sizeable 13 by 9.5 cms, probably intended mainly for art books and livres d'artistes. The writer and broadcaster Lance Sieveking writes in his autobiography The Eye of the Beholder (Hulton Press, London, 1957) -'Sam Courtauld and Paul met at a dinner party I gave at Number 15 The Street, and Courtauld persuaded Paul to design a book plate for him. The result was one of the most charming he ever made.' The engraving is said to be the only one initialled by Paul Nash on the block. The bookplate is quite scarce as, presumably, it is mostly found in books held at the Courtauld Institute; few have entered the used book trade.

The woodcut is British Surrealist in style with an echo of Cubism and Vorticism - both movements had earlier attracted Nash. Samuel Courtauld's family fortune came from the textile industry (rayon), hence the bobbin and threads. The French flag refers to the origins of the name Courtauld, a French Huguenot family whose early descendant was the celebrated goldsmith Augustine Courtauld. The Courtauld textile industry was based in Braintree and Halstead in Essex. The view through the frame shows what appears to be a Martello Tower - these are closely associated with the  East Anglian Coast.

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Give Puce a Chance

Thoughts on puce suggested by this (presumably) early 1914 pamphlet. Wyndham Lewis's Vorticist magazine BLAST (aka 'the puce monster') appeared in July of that year, the same month as war broke out and the pamphlet, judging by the title, appeared earlier that year. Was there a load of puce dye offloaded in London at that time, was it the colour of the moment? Is this really puce? Ezra Pound called Blast  “the great MAGENTA cover'd opusculus” The big Bloomsbury dictionary describes puce as 'a brilliant purplish red colour.' Did Wyndham Lewis spot someone hawking the pamphlet in the street, it seems quite possible - even the typography is similar (at least the angular printing...)

The pamphlet (of which I have the cover only) is unknowable, no such title shows at WorldCat or Copac and the title page may have born a different title and possibly the name of an author. A colour that used to be seen in the 1990s 'hot pink' was similar to puce but rather cheap looking; the 1940s Elsa Schiaparelli colour 'shocking pink' is nearer to the mark but puce has a glamour all of its own. A fine copy of the first BLAST is a rare and valuable thing. They usually turn up in distressing shape; as for the war pamphlet it is probably too rare to have real value.

Below is a recently added and obviously modern puce punk publication - of which I know nothing, except it appears to be part of the enviable collection of kunstler Richard Prince. Such material was highly collected a few years back but  the punk artefact looks somehow more dated than the irascible Lewis's 100 year old puce monstrosity…