Wednesday, September 19, 2012

60. Shannon's cretonne

The principal bedroom in the Keep (Chilham Castle, Kent) - Ricketts's and Shannon's country retreat in the nineteen-twenties - featured a four-poster bed hung with a patterned cotton after a design by Shannon. It was illustrated in an article by Christopher Hissey in Country life (21 June 1924) and described as a 'large mediaeval pattern', which was an 'example of how to treat rooms of this kind'.
Bed curtains, principal bedroom, The Keep, Chilham Castle, Kent, 1924 (from Country life, 21 June 1924)
The cretonne was done after a design by Charles Shannon. A black and white illustration of it appeared in Charles Shannon A.R.A., a volume of the Masters of modern art series that was published by Colour Ltd. in London in 1920. This volume contained an introduction by 'Tis' (Herbert Furst) followed by eleven plates, the last one being the 'dove and fig', a design for a cretonne.
'Dove and fig', design for cretonne by Charles Shannon (from: Tis, Charles Shannon, A.R.A. London, Colour Ltd, [1920], plate XI)
The white dove, picking a fig, is seen against a background of overlapping ovals. Both,the photograph of the bed curtain and the design for the cretonne were not printed in colour. However, there is an earlier painting by Shannon that pictures the same design on a folding screen. This painting, 'Morning toilet' (1912) was also illustrated in the 1920 volume by Tis.
Charles Shannon, 'Morning toilet', 1912 (from: Tis, Charles Shannon, A.R.A. London, Colour Ltd., [1920], plate X)
The designs are almost identical, although in the painting the ovals do not overlap or even touch each other. The leaves and the figs have been painted green, the stem and the leaves behind the dove are yellow, while the ovals are pale blue.

Has the bed curtain survived? Was there also an original folding screen in Shannon's studio?

The painting, 'Morning toilet', was originally in the possession of Edmund Davis, who owned Chilham Castle in the twenties and who died in the castle in 1939. The art collector and 'leader of the South African mining industry' (as he was called in an obituary) was born in Australia, but had moved to South Africa and later to England. Edmund and Mary Davis donated several paintings to the National Gallery in Cape Town, South Africa, the 'Morning toilet' being one of them. Last year this painting was mentioned in the papers, after an X-ray research had revealed that underneath the upper layers of paint another face had been hidden.
Charles Shannon, 'Morning toilet, 1912 (detail): an x-ray image (Rachel Alexander, SA Museum)