Some artists’ letters from the D’ Offay catalogue

Felicien Rops

Letters written by artists are generally boring. Just read William Blake’s letters. Most of them concern business arrangements with printers and publishers. However, there are a few exceptions. The letters of Samuel Palmer, that great admirer of Blake, tell us so much about his mental state, his religiosity and politics. Those of James Smetham, the Victorian artist, are occasionally mystical and deranged. The unpublished  letters of Britain’s favourite twentieth century artist, John Piper, many of which I have read, are also lively and sometimes controversial. 

We could say something similar about the twenty-five letters of Jean Cocteau, that Anthony D’Offay had for sale in his Art and Literature catalogue back in the late 1960’s. The addressee was Madeleine Le Chevrel and most of the letters and postcards to her were written between 1912 and 1925. Cocteau had the rather eccentric habit of composing ‘in a curiously abbreviated style where one word suggests a sentence and a question mark a paragraph’. Thus: (1917) ; Diag. prolonge mon sejour…Rome est lourd, molle, morte, grosse et petite. Le souvenir decourage de vivre. Les soupe, les champagnes, les aphrodisiaques, le cacodilates du Vesuve menent la danse de cette Kermesse enorme ou les eglises, les cuisines et les bordels  sont decore de la meme pacotille splendide. Les femmes sur les balcons se laissant tomber comme de bateaux entre les bras des marins…’ 

That strange word ‘ cacodilates ‘ is certainly new to us at Jot HQ. Some online research reveals that a French chemist named Cadet brewed up something he called Cadet’s fuming liquid in 1757. This turned out to contain cacodylic acid, a poisonous arsenic-containing compound, which today is used in chemical analysis. However, back in Cocteau’s day, it seems that a derivative of this substance was used in France as a stimulant, rather like cocaine.

For such a graphic picture of the young avant-garde artist and writer D’Offay wanted a quite reasonable £185, which is around £7 a letter.

Continue reading

 Some celebs of thirty years ago

Things you didn’t know, or perhaps had forgotten, about people once in the news, Jot 101 Tatler cover 001and perhaps still newsworthy, according to Tatler’s Thousand  Most Socially Significant People in 1992.

Michael Portillo ( b 1953)

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Portillo is occasionally tipped to become Prime Minister. Shrewd, direct, with, as Private Eye puts it, the eyes of an assassin, lips of a tyrant, he gets his hair cut and we all have to read about it. His recreational interests include opera, Trollope and the Michelin Guide, said to be his Bible. He was part of the Omega project ( a blueprint of right wing policy) and backed a bill for hanging.

 

Private Eye doesn’t seem interested in him, now that he has abandoned active politics. Today he earns a living by going on train journeys around the UK and Europe clutching his trusty Bradshaw and a Baedeker. An avuncular figure who looks as if he might be the kind of chap you’d have a pint (or glass of red) with down the pub. One wonders as if he is still pro-hanging. The subject hasn’t yet come up, though while touring Spain he did dilate on the life of his father, a revolutionary during the Spanish Civil War.

Timothy Clifford, former Director of the Scottish National Gallery (b 1946)

‘Dynamic fogey who looks like an arty merchant banker. Rosy-cheeked and Regency clad, he has a ridiculously posh voice and is very well-connected.’ Continue reading

The Man who tapped the Secrets of the Universe

Jot 101 Faulkner front cover 002We’re not talking here about such major scientists as Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Heisenberg, Paul Dirac or even Steven Hawking. The man in question is the self-taught American Walter Russell (1871 – 1963 ), who in addition to being a successful  painter and sculptor was also, according to a pamphlet by the religious writer Glenn Clark,  a ‘ super genius ‘ who knew the ‘hidden secrets of the Universe’.

A copy of this pamphlet, which once belonged to the ballerina Sheila Faulkner, was found at Jot HQ. In it  Mr Clark, a former teacher of English at an obscure liberal arts college, was one of many published by ‘ The Malecaster Park Publishing Company ‘ of St Paul, Minnesota. Others Clark titles published by Malecaster Park  include What Would Jesus Do?, I Would Lift Up mine Eyes, The Thought Farthest Out and The Secret to Power in Business.

This particular pamphlet, which sold for 50 cents in the U.S. and bears the UK price tag of 3/9d, seems to have been a particularly big seller. First published in 1946 in an edition of 25,000, it had sold solidly for nine years and by 1955 had reached its sixth printing. This is not entirely surprising. After all, who wouldn’t want to discover the Secrets of the Universe on the way to achieving those very American goals of ‘ Health, Wealth and Happiness’.

However, the main reason why so many people bought the book was that they wanted to know more about the multifarious career of Russell, who began as a $8 a month hotel bell boy, found fame as a popular painter and sculptor who owned  a hotel-sized mansion, became inter aliaa sort of business guru who lectured on the secrets of success to IBM employees and gained a reputation as an all-round visionary thinker. In addition, he promoted some scientific theories that on examination have elements in common with those of the quantum physicists, such as Dirac and Bohr, who had challenged the Relativity of Einstein in the 1920s.     Continue reading

Amber and Cameos in post-war London

The Good Time Guide to London is a book of surprises and delights. Earlier Jots have focussedmainly on its evocative descriptions of the now disappeared Docklands and the disreputable world of seedy nightclubs and ‘ dives ‘. But the book is also a handy guide to the world of old books and antiques in post war London. In one antiquarian bookshop ‘ near Davis Street ‘ a friend of the Guide writer picked up a book that interested him and asked the price, ‘thinking that a few guineas would be plenty to pay.” That will be £1,500 “, murmured the assistant, without turning a hair.

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Our friend put that volume down as if he had been shot.’ One wonders what that book could have been that cost the equivalent of a quarter of a million quid today. And which shop might charge such a sum? That incident occurred in Mayfair. Chelsea and Kensington were the places to go for antiques before the trade expanded. In 1951, before the serious antiques arrived in Portobello Road, you were more likely to find the serial killer John Christie ( of nearby Rillington Place ) strolling along in search of victims than a French ormolu clock or a Georgian wine glass.

 

Unsurprisingly, two at least of the dealers mentioned in the Guide have now disappeared. One is a shop in Bond Street selling ‘ rare old amber ‘. This was the premises of S.J. Phillips, who  boasted ( I seem to recall ) that it was the only shop devoted to amber in Britain. Your Jotter must have passed it twenty or more times, but did not go in, which he now regrets. The family that owned it produced the famous and very eccentric pure mathematician Dr Simon P. Norton, subject of that fascinating book, The Genius in My Basement. He lived in Cambridge, and until his death of a heart attack in 2019, was a campaigner against cars and a veteran champion of local transport systems. Wedded to a diet consisting of little else but pasta and oily fish, he worked on huge numbers, having earlier in his life achieved perfect scores in two Maths Olympiads. S.J. Phillips moved a few years ago to smaller premises in Bruton Street, just around the corner from their former Bond Street site, which is now occupied ( I think)  by  yet another posh frock shop. Continue reading

The baked mirror hoax

Found in Edmund Gosse’s 1894 edition of Hazlitt’s Conversations with James Northcote R.A. (Bentley, London  1894) this amusing prank. The name MynHeer might have been a warning… This would  have been well before the birth of photography – Hazlitt wrote the book in 1830. For more on the great Northcote (self portrait below) see  his Wikipedia page.

 

220px-James_Northcote_by_James_Northcote

 

Northcote told an anecdote of Sir George Beaumont**, 

to show the credulity of mankind. When a young man 

lie put an advertisement in the papers, to say that a

Mynheer , just come over from Germany, had found out

 a method of taking a likeness much superior to any 

other by the person’s looking into a mirror and having 

the glass heated so as to bake the impression. He stated 

this wonderful artist to live at a perfumer’s shop in Bond 

Street, opposite to an hotel where he lodged, and amused 

himself the next day to see the numbers of people who 

flocked to have their likenesses taken in this surprising 

manner. At last he went over himself to ask for

Monsieur , and was driven out of the shop by the

perfumer in a rage, who said there was no Monsieur

nor Monsieur Devil lived there.

 **’Possibly Sir George Baker, the Devonshire physician, famous for his successful raid against the leaden vessels used for cider-mking’ (Edmund Gosse’s note)

One Hundred Years Ago

Jot 101 Ideal home mop 001In the current issue of the TLS Nicholson Baker reviews what was being published a hundred years ago. In this Jot we look at what was happening in the world of home appliances and gracious living, according to the May 1920 issue of The Ideal Home.

 

As always, it’s the adverts that entertain the most. The first that greets the reader is a full page colour ad for the O-Cedar Polish Mop which shows twenty or more tiny maidservants admiring the wonderful effects produced by a giant charlady manoeuvring this mop around a giant room. It makes one wonder how many middle-class supporters of the Women’s Suffrage movement employed female cleaners in their large, comfortable  houses. Quite a few, one would have thought.

 

In contrast, on the following page we have an advert meant, we presume, for male readers, who are urged to save  on average £30 by buying a machine designed to make concrete roofing tiles ‘ on the site’.

 

Mains electricity for lighting and power was patchy in this immediate post-war  period and relied on local council-run generating stations.  An Act of 1919 gave the go-ahead for a more nationwide supply system, but this wasn’t established until the National Grid came into being in 1935( remember that poem ‘ Pylons’ by Spender ?). For those who afford it in 1920, a petrol driven domestic generator was one source of electricity. Home owners would hide away their generator, in this case a ‘ Delco-Light ‘ available from F. S. Bennett of Oxford Street, in a shed or outhouse to minimize the noise and fumes produced by it. Continue reading

J.R. Ogden of Harrogate—-the antiquarian who worked on Tutankhamen’s  treasures

Ogden by Murray 001Found in Kaleidoscope (1947), that miscellany of anecdotes and opinions by veteran journalist Harold Murray from which one Jot has already been created, is a pen portrait of J. R. Ogden, the keen amateur archaeologist and collector.

 

James Roberts Ogden owned a high class jewellery shop in Harrogate , which he had founded in 1893 . According to his friend Murray, Ogden had a passion for collecting ‘ anything that would tend to prove the authenticity of Bible stories’, though Murray doesn’t elaborate on that. Murray, himself an evangelist and bible scholar, would have taken to this industrious human jackdaw, and as a journalist he would have been  impressed by Ogden’s voluminous archive of press cuttings.

 

‘I don’t think he wrote a line for the Press himself. For years he took in scores of newspapers and magazines. At breakfast he would quickly scan them, marking with a blue pencil whatever interested him. One of his servants received a fee for cutting out the items; sometimes unemployed men were called in to place them neatly onto sheets which were transferred to neatly bound little files, of which Ogden must have bought many hundreds. Ask him for any information about explorations at Ur, about Roman customs, ancient burials, mummies, all the familiar Bible characters—it would be supplied in an instant. Ask for such detailed records of film stars, sportsmen and the like—nothing doing…’  Continue reading

On the quality on certain nineteenth century paper

 

paper quality page 1 001Researchers in newspaper and magazine archives often complain about the horrendous quality of newsprint they encounter. Sometimes whole pages are brown and need to be handled with extraordinary care as they are turned, lest they crumble to dust— to the embarrassment of the researcher. The decline of paper quality seems to have begun towards the end of the nineteenth century and is attributed to the high acid content of the wood pulp used for printing cheap publications—mainly newspapers and periodicals, particularly adventure and school stories for boys, but also mass produced books issued in serial form.  The decay of newsprint appears to accelerate  with exposure to sunlight, which explains why single issues of newspapers and magazines are much more likely to turn brown and crumble than bound volumes.

 

The quality of cheap paper in the early nineteenth century could also be poor, depending usually on the type of publication. The paper used for popular magazines and cheap editions of books was likely to be of less quality than that used for fashionable three- decker novels, new poetry and books of travels, for instance. It may also be true that before the universal penny post was introduced in 1840 the paper used for letters was of lesser quality and also made deliberately lightweight to save on postage costs. This may explain why the letter referred to in this extraordinary communication to the Gentleman’s Magazinein 1823 tore so easily. The other references to paper quality and printing ink in this article, however, are surprisingly to anyone with a knowledge of book history. Particularly fascinating are the scientific explanations as to why the quality of some paper in this period was so compromised. Continue reading

Diary of a Nobody (part 4)

chrysanthemum displaySeptember and October turn out to be very busy months for our gardener. He spends huge amounts of time preparing blooms for various local shows — spraying them with Malathion, deshooting ( etc etc), wins some prizes, including a first place, is disappointed by failures ( is second out of three), resents the success of other exhibitors and moans about the rain destroying blooms. He is writing articles for the Chrysanthemum Society and visiting various national exhibitions in London.

Perhaps ashamed at his poor performances in the language while on holiday he enrols for  Italian classes at the famous Morley College, but as they fall on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, regrets that he might be a poor attender ( Chrysanthemums come first, no doubt!). He later attends some on Monday evenings. He pores over his holiday snaps, worries when some don’t arrive on time, and pastes the flowers he picked in Austria and Italy into an album. And for the first time we discover that he has children. It’s the first mention of them in his Diary—unless they are someone elses’ children. And his cycle journeys to his mum become more frequent. On one visit in September she cooks him a ‘smashing dinner ( chicken and Xmas pudd)’ . On another occasion he brings her some of his prize blooms, leading on 28thSeptember to the perhaps unique and certainly hilarious diary entry in the history of diaries—‘ visit Mum, take her some ‘ mums ‘.

He still doesn’t own a car or a TV set, but he does buy a spanking new hi-fi gramophone and wireless combined, which he feels is ‘pricey ‘ at £29 ( it is really, considering that his monthly salary is probably around £50). As ever, in the evening entertainment is confined to listening at home to light opera, a talk on the Third Programme, a radio play on the Home Service, or the occasional game of canasta at a friend’s home. He never seems to visit the pub with ‘the lads‘ from work. Perhaps the redoubtable Madge wouldn’t like him to. Continue reading

Bear Hudson publishing – The Bear Facts (6)

This the final part of this amazing series. Many thanks David Redd.

APPENDICES

Assorted background and peripheral information on Bear Hudson and others.

Appendix 1 

Norah C. James 

Her 1939 autobiography I Lived in a Democracy is good on reminiscences of Victorian childhood and early grass-roots politics, but then becomes sketchier, mainly due to James’ determination “to avoid my emotional life”. Love affairs with “C” and “Y”, and indeed the obscenity trials of The Well of Loneliness and James’ own Sleeveless Errand, receive only brief treatment, as (with more reason) does a phase of subsequent writing covered by “I decided to write some more books, and used a pseudonym for some of them.” However James’ many cameos of social attitudes are revealing, and the reader can discern the mood which made “Jimmy” write Sleeveless Errand the way she did. The appearance of her Straphangers as a Cub Book is just one of the minor mysteries which must lie behind so many Bear Hudson activities.

Appendix 2

Bernards’ Fiction Series

Bernards contained mysteries too. This sub-series seems to have consisted of just two thin paperbacks, Nos. 27 and 29 within the general wartime numbered series otherwise labelled “Bernards’ Technical Books”. Continue reading

Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (5)

Some of the other things?

On 8 June 1956, Abraham Assael (“known as Albert Assael”) was granted a Certificate of Naturalisation according to the London Gazette, 17 August 1956. His origin was given as Turkey. His occupation was given as Company Director (Printers, Publishers and Stationers), probably a standard category rather than a full and accurate description.

This led into my other question. What was Bear Hudson doing after its Forties publishing wound down?

If your interest is only in the pulp fiction, the following may not appeal. Please flick down past the reading-bear logo, and resume when it reappears.

Bear Hudson after publishing

One clue as to the firm’s further activities appears in, of all places, the Chemist and Druggist, 11 July 1953:

“REPRESENTATIVE required by established house to carry an attractive and original line. Non-competitive with present lines carried. Liberal commission. Apply: Bear Hudson, Ltd., 63 Goldhawk Road, Shepherds Bush, W.12.”

I wonder what that “attractive and original line” could have been. Perhaps something like the “Key-lite” device advertised in Motor Sport for December 1964?

(web image)

Technical Suppliers Ltd.? At the same address? Oh, yes. See a brief mention in the Jewish Chronicle for 24 June, 1966:

“… our Managing Director, Mr. B. Babani, Technical Suppliers Ltd., Hudson House, 63 Goldhawk Road, London, W.12.”

Babani. Hudson House. Again. Technical Suppliers Ltd. had evidently moved from W.6 to W.12. along with Bear Hudson. Parts of the jigsaw puzzle are starting to fit together. I find another piece, a 1964 half-page advertisement in Practical Wireless for Bernards Books’ radio manuals. They are available by mail from Bear Hudson Ltd. of 63 Goldhawk Road.

So the close link to Bernard Babani continued for decades. In 1944 Technical Suppliers Limited was printing booklets for Bernards and for Bear Hudson. In 1953 it was printing the Hudson House Classics. In 1964 it was operating from the same building as Bear Hudson, as presumably it always had. Continue reading

Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (4)

John Lane, the London publisher of Eudora Welty’s classic story-collection The Golden Apples, decided in 1952 that sales had slackened too much to justify keeping the work in print. According to Noel Polk’s Eudora Welty – a bibliography of her work (1994), “1175 unbound sheets were sold to “Bear Hudson[?].” How very odd. Perhaps across the world there are copies of John Lane’s edition of The Golden Apples in unusually basic binding.

Did Bear Hudson do that kind of thing often? Apparently, yes. Or at least, it did in 1952. The Reading University literary archives include records from publishers George Allen & Unwin Ltd; in 1952 there was correspondence with “Bear Hudson Ltd who buy remainders from A&U”. Interesting.

A year later, though, Bear Hudson made one last attempt at an orthodox publishing venture.

The Hudson House Classics

After the gap, in 1953-54 there materialised the “Hudson House Classics”. These were five hardcover books reprinting safely out-of-copyright children’s stories such as Treasure Island.

Despite the statement “Published by Hudson House, London” these were clearly Bear Hudson productions. The 1953 dust-jacket spine of Kidnapped carries the familiar logo of the reading bear, and the books were printed by Technical Suppliers Ltd., known to be located at 63, Goldhawk Road, as was Bear Hudson Ltd. itself. Untitled19

Not all Hudson House Classics were dated (or indeed showed the bear anywhere). I found a 1954 date for Treasure Island hiding behind the frontispiece, inexplicably avoiding the title and back-of-title pages. Some books may have been reprinted or only bound-up intermittently; their boards can be either red or green.

Then, after these five, nothing. (More Hudson House Classics were said to be forthcoming, but naturally I can’t find any, not even Little Women despite the HHC Good Wives being its sequel.) So there are still questions.

What was Bear Hudson doing after the Forties? Who were the people behind it?

I looked for the people first. Continue reading

Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (3)

Bear Hudson authors

Much could be written about “Elmer Elliot Saks”, better known as F Dubrez Fawcett or as the main “Griff” of many near-the-knuckle paperbacks. With short page counts and fast typing he could breeze through a book a fortnight and still take afternoons off.

The House of Fear by “Frank Richards” reminds us that Charles Hamilton had years of wartime struggles, scraping along in low-paying marginal markets before his post-war resurgence with Billy Bunter in books, theatre and TV.

(Image courtesy of Friardale)

(Image courtesy of Friardale)

Frank Griffin in Nos. 525 and 538 may have been the F. Griffin who wrote Bear Hudson’s factual No. 518, Women’s Legal Problems. However, he was more obviously the Frank Griffin who wrote pulp action paperbacks for Mellifont, Hamiltons and others.

Pure non-fiction contributors also intrigue. No. 515 The 20th Century Guide to London was by Vernon Sommerfield, a pre-WWII transport writer who had broadcast as early as 1925 on “The Human Side of Railways” from 2LO, the forerunner of the BBC; his son was the noted political activist/novelist John Sommerfield.

And who was W.T. Baker, author of the atypical polemic I Speak to the Workers, No. 503? A review of his book mentioned that “Under the pen-name of “Benchfitter” he has contributed frequently to house-organs published by the staffs of factories.” Clearly Mr Baker had spoken to the workers before. Did his proposed next book, ‘Two-tenths of a thou’ from Nazi domination, ever appear? Apparently not. Continue reading

Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (2)

Bear Hudson numbered booklets

The first Bear Hudson booklet was Be Clever with Leather, numbered 501. (No doubt the numbers 1 to 500 were left clear for Bernards.) The highest Bear Hudson number I know of was No. 555, How to Make Rugs, by F.J. Christopher. Some titles carried both the general number and a subset number within a “Model Engineering Series”.

Incidentally, the first few titles were published from 14 The Broadway, Hammersmith, W.6, before the firm settled down at Goldhawk Road, W.12. (A reprint of Be Clever with Leather had the old address on its front cover and the new address on its back, before a further reprint saw 63 Goldhawk Road reach the front cover at last.)

(web image)

(web image)

The Bear Hudson publishing story had several twists and turns. Omitting various oddities of 1946-48 for now, I would place the numbered booklets into three main phases:

1943-5             mostly craft/DIY subjects

1946                mainly pulp fiction

1947-50           returning to crafts

Booklet prices and formats

The prices ranged from 1/- to 2s.6d (5p to 12½p in modern money), with a very few at 6d or 3s.6d. This may have seemed expensive at the time for small stapled pamphlets, but in wartime the printers often controlled the scarce paper stocks and could negotiate a high cover price to increase their own profits. The flimsy pink interior paper just visible in the early printing of Be Clever with Leather above may have been an attempt to imitate home pattern paper, or may have been simply what was available; later impressions saw variations in paper, printers and even the number of staples. (Wartime shortages may explain why, for example, Bernards’ booklet No. 42 used eye-straining dark red paper, while No.51 was slightly more legible on blue.) Most Bear Hudson titles were printed on ordinary white paper. Continue reading

Bear Hudson publishing – The Bear Facts (1)

Sent in by  David Redd this original history of London publisher Bear, Hudson Limited. For which much thanks. Here is the opening part– the rest will follow over the next few weeks..

Introduction

This is the book which caught my eye:

The Terror of Timorkal by Festus Pragnell

(Image courtesy of Brian Ameringen and the SF Encyclopedia Gallery)

It was small, old (1946), oddly-shaped, and from a publisher new to me, Bear Hudson Limited of London. Over a few years I acquired this and other slightly strange little books from the same firm. Bear Hudson, I discovered, had a bafflingly varied mixture of titles and writers:

  • Dames Spell Trouble!
  • Say It with Violence!
  • Model Railway Construction!
  • Make Your Own Motors!
  • Women’s Legal Problems!
  • N Wesley Firth!
  • Eudora Welty!
  • Frank Richards without Billy Bunter!
  • Bob Hope!
  • The Curate Finds the Corpse!
  • The Case of the Indiana Torturer!
  • and a possible relationship with “Bernards’ Radio Manuals”.

Forgive my lack of title-differentiation and excess of exclamation marks. I have tried investigating to make sense of the wide variation in publications, but Bear Hudson seems to have been the original moving target.

I hope my limited findings may intrigue or amuse – and I hope that someone more knowledgeable may fill in at least a few of the many gaps.

–David Redd, 5th February, 2017.

Continue reading

Press release for an early Coco Chanel Exhibition

coco-chanel-picFound in a box of ephemera — this press release from the Paris HQ of legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel announcing a forthcoming exhibition on a May 5th (possibly 1933) of over a hundred dresses made entirely from British materials.

The aim of this non-selling exhibition, which was to be held at 39, Grosvenor Square and would last a fortnight, was to promote co-operation between textile manufacturers and exclusive model houses in Britain and designers in Paris. The show was the result of a previous visit to London when Mlle Chanel had met with forty textile manufacturers. From the samples they had brought with them she had produced a collection that aimed to prove that’ it is possible to be appropriately dressed in British materials for a cloudburst at Ascot or a hurricane at Lords, as for a dead calm at Cowes, or a tropical spell on the Scotch moors.’

‘These dresses and their many accessories ’, the press release continues, ‘will be displayed by English girls, (including Mrs Ronald Balfour and Lady Pamela Smith), and as each dress appears, a card will be shown stating the name of the manufacturer of the materials employed. Continue reading

Odd photos bought online 2

anne1Bought at eBay for the price of a latte (and muffin) -these 3 photos purporting to be of a British royal – Anne, Princess Royal. The left and right photos are indubitably her, the middle photo (printed on Fujifilm Crystal
Archive paper -as is the other colour shot) may not be. It shows a well dressed and striking young woman emerging from a Ford Thunderbird sometime in the (late?) 1960s in what looks like a field or orchard with other mostly pretty fancy American cars parked there. It has the feel of a Cindy Sherman performance  art photograph and if authentic must have been taken on a tour of America by Anne or while she was on holiday there.

 

The mouth (and nose) and assured demeanour certainly look like Anne. The provenance is good but such web purchases always have an element of doubt- certainly if it is Anne she is looking uncharacteristically  ‘cool’ and it is one of the ‘groovier’ moments of her young life. An online search revealed nothing conclusive especially when coupled with the words ‘Thunderbird.’
ann2

A relic of the talented Messel Family

Messel Medea cover 001Found in a box of old text books (Zinn collection)  is this copy of part two of C. B. Heberden’s edition of Euripedes’ Medea ( notes and appendices) published by the Clarendon Press in 1886.Stamped in gold lettering on the light brown cover of this distinctly dull-looking school text book are the words MESSEL/TARVERS. Inscribed in pencil on the fly-leaf we find ‘ L.Messel/Tarvers ‘, which suggests that it belonged at one time to Leonard Charles Rudolph Messel ( 1872 – 1953), father of the famous stage designer Oliver Messel. Beneath the inscription are two pencil and ink drawings—one of a veiled lady in Victorian dress, the other a small profile of a man’s head.

Leonard was the eldest son of Ludwig Messel, a German stockbroker who had emigrated to Britain, possibly in the late 1860s.He married and in 1890 bought Nymans, a 600 acre estate near Hayward’s Heath in West Sussex. His son Leonard was sent to Eton, where he joined Tarver’s house, and that is all we really know about his life as a schoolboy. However, if he did execute the two drawings, then he obviously passed on his artistic skills to his son Oliver, who may also have inherited skills from his mother, who was the daughter of Edward Linley Sambourne, the eminent Punch cartoonist. This being so, it is equally likely that Oliver, who also attended Eton, inherited his father’s copy of Heberden’s Euripides, and it was he who drew the veiled woman and male profile. Continue reading

Wonder Wall—Second World War murals in restaurants and canteens

Murals Bawden 001It is a sad fact that most of the best mural paintings executed in canteens, cafes and restaurants in the UK no longer exist. Unlike those executed for some public buildings, those in private premises are subject to the taste of those who take over the property. By far the most notorious example was, of course, the murals executed around 1913 on the walls of Rudolf Stulik’s Restaurant de la Tour Eiffel in Percy Street, just off Tottenham Court Road, by Wyndham Lewis, which were later painted over.

The prevalence of the post-war obsession of interior decorators with the ‘ white wall ‘ was a possible explanation for the disappearance of most the Second World War murals that feature in an article by the architect Oliver Hill in the November 1943 issue of The Studio magazine. Working within the tradition of thirteen centuries of mural painting in English churches, and using the contemporary iconography of posters, notably those of McKnight Kauffer, many of the muralists commissioned during the Second World War were asked to address what was essentially a captive audience –diners at many British restaurants, staff dining rooms and government canteens. Muralists saw these projects as an opportunity to introduce otherwise unappreciative diners to good public art. To the architect Hill, the mural was not the equivalent of a large framed representational painting that focussed the attention of the viewer on itself, but was part of the building on which it was painted. As such, rather than realistic representation, a ‘good mural ‘ should, according to Hill, ‘ fire the imagination and, by its effect and phantasy, allow the mind of the observer to escape beyond the confines of the room, without, of course, forcibly obtruding itself upon him ‘. Continue reading