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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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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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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]