Wednesday, July 1, 2020

466. The "Outer Wrapper" of "The Pageant" for 1897

The dust wrapper for the second volume of The Pageant (for 1897, published in 1896) has been mentioned here earlier. It is an outstanding and early example of a multi-colour dust wrapper. I recently found a description of it written shortly after The Pageant was published - no other review discusses this feature.

Dust wrapper for The Pageant (for 1897),
designed by J.W. Gleeson White

The Morning Post of 15 December 1896 had the honour:

"The Pageant" […] that is now paraded for the second time before the public is evidently intended […] to be an annual display […] [it] is at least not devoid of humorous incidents rivalling those usually to be found in the civic procession. Three separate pages of varied appearance are devoted to the names and functions of the editors; but while on the first it is stated that Mr. C. Hazelwood Shannon is the art editor, and that Mr. Gleeson White is the literary editor, the reader learns from the third that their positions are to a certain extend reversible, inasmuch as the art editor has planned the printing of the book, while the outer wrapper is the conception of the literary editor. Mr. Gleeson White has amusingly demonstrated that his idea of illustrating a pageant is to hide all but a few pantomime flags and lances by a hideous red-brick wall; but he has imparted an original aspect to his design by dividing it into eight equal spaces with vertical green poles, from which sprout leaves treated "decoratively."

It's a witty observation of a truly unusual design. The dust wrapper of this book gives no idea of its contents; the pageant is hidden. However, there are pigeons to be seen that give hope of life on the other side of the wall; the flowers also symbolizing spring. 

There is no gate that gives access to the grounds behind the wall, and so the dust wrapper represents its own task in the book as an object. The reader will have to get past this wrapper, past the linen binding and the title page to enter the area that contains the literary and artistic contents. This symbolism is quite uncommon for this period, but then, the maker, J.W. Gleeson White, was an extraordinary editor and designer.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

465. A Number of Books: 50 Years of Quaerendo

Last week, the jubilee issue of the magazine Quaerendo, founded fifty years ago, was published, and it is a double issue (volume 50, no 1-2) that was supposed to appear during the congress of SHARP, the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing, in Amsterdam, but because of Covid-19 the conference has been postponed to next year. Luckily, the issue is available, and not only on paper - all texts in this volume are in open access at Brill publishers.

Quaerendo (volume 50, no. 1-2)

The issue contains my article A Number of Copies. The Flexible Function of Limitation Statements, which deals with the numbering of copies within an edition, exploring the peculiar development from not numbering to numbering over the course of two centuries, and, of course, Charles Ricketts and Oscar Wilde are mentioned. 

The abstract gives a gist: 

During the twentieth century, a limited edition is usually numbered, in contrast to limited editions of around 1800. This article examines a number of turning points in the history of limitation statements and copy numbering: the disappearance of copyright related numbering versus unnumbered editions of private presses (around 1800), the advent of numbered prints (1850-1900), and numbering of luxury editions and private press editions (1880-1910). The stabilization of a new tradition of numbering occurs around 1930. The development of private press publications is examined in a broad context of copyright and the production of prints, while practices in the English-speaking world are shown to differ from those in other cultures, such as the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany.

Nowadays it goes without saying that a limited edition consists of numbered copies, but at the beginning of this bibliophile trend, such editions were not numbered, see for example, the books of the Kelmscott and Vale Presses. Morris nor Ricketts issued numbered copies. 

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891): deluxe copy
[The Morgan Library & Museum, New York]

Parallel to this development and starting in the same year as Morris, a modernisation of the literary book took place, among others at The Bodley Head (from 1889). Artists such as Charles Ricketts and Aubrey Beardsley changed the look of the contemporary book. An example is Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891). In addition to an ordinary edition, a deluxe edition of 250 copies appeared in a larger format, numbered and signed. The regular edition did not mention that there was also a deluxe edition; that was only stated in the latter, which reveals something of the publisher's intentions. Only the owner of a deluxe copy would read the colophon stating that there were 250 signed copies. This brings exclusivity and scarcity to another level. Scarcity here is closely linked to a practice of intimacy, secrecy, elitism, where a certain degree of familiarity and knowledge is shared by an in-crowd of lovers of decadent poetry and prose. Owners of a deluxe copy could almost consider themselves intimate friends of the author. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

464. Othello: Fainting or Dying

New Shakespeare editions are always controversial. Because of the complicated text history of the plays, an editor has to make decisions about countless details. 

William Shakespeare, Othello (1900)

Academic editions are, of course, scrupulously examined, but for private press editions aesthetic views play a significant role. The graphic design of plays is a profession in its own right, and by no means simple, due to the presence of several layers of text: the spoken texts themselves, which can be of a poetic or prosaic nature; but it must also be clear who is speaking and what the stage directions are.

In some university libraries, private press editions may be accessed in open stacks, surrounded by popular, cheaper editions. That's the place to look for private press books with handwritten notes by readers, which I found, for example, in copies of Michael Field's plays in the University Library of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia (a nice topic for a future blog.) 

Although the 39 volumes of the Vale Press edition of Shakespeare's poems and plays (1900-1903) will have been purchased mainly for decorative purposes, other Vale Press editions were bought for their texts as well, and Ricketts intended these editions to fill gaps in collections. Some buyers actually did read the whole series, or at least parts of it.

And there were readers who also considered the edition with an eye for textual accuracy.

The academic magazine Notes and Queries of August 1900 contains a note by Maurice Jonas, called 'An Error in the Vale Press Shakespeare'.

In the beautiful edition of Shakespeare’s works in the Vale Press, now in course of publication, occurs a peculiar mistake. In iii of “Othello,” after Montano has been wounded by Cassio the proper stage direction is, “He faints,” but in the Vale Press edition “He dies” is substituted.

Maurice Jonas was right, but still he was too kind. Not only, has the act of fainting been substituted by the death, the stage direction has become part of the spoken text, so it is not Montano who faints (or dies), but Montano who tells us that his opponent dies or must die. This is followed by another stage direction that I did not find in the editions which I consulted. Something went wrong here in terms of design. 'He dies' is wrong, but, moreover, this text should have been placed in the line below Montano's speech.

It's quite rare to find a textual commentary on a private press book, but here's one.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

463. Charles Ricketts & John Gray?

John Gray was one of the close associates of Charles Ricketts who, after Gray became a Catholic, even a priest, and began to write religious poems, held a soft spot for him. They continued to correspond throughout their lives.

Charles Ricketts, opening pages for John Gray, Spiritual Poems (1896)
Gray edited several publications of Ricketts's Vale Press. One of the early editions was a collection of translations - 'chiefly done out of several languages' - by Gray: Spiritual Poems (1896). The book contains eleven poems by Gray, the others are translations and include religious poems by Jacopone da Todi, Saint Ambrose, and Saint John of the Cross.

Initially, Gray compiled the book for The Bodley Head and a letter to John Lane shows that Ricketts was going to 'build the book', just like he did for the famous Silverpoints. In fact, 'there has been some talk of his doing an "emblem" for a frontispiece but I think this may possibly not come to much'. (Letter in the Berg Collection, New York Public Library).

Charles Ricketts, opening page for John Gray, Spiritual Poems (1896)
However, Ricketts designed two wood-engravings for the opening pages. The left-hand page depicts a figure surrounded by amorphous swirls that have been compared to the graining of wood. The central figure is a nun (to quote from Brocard Sewell's 1983 description:) 'standing by an altar, holding a taper with which she is taking a light from a sanctuary lamp hanging from a bracket on the wall'. The facing page contains the first stanza of Gray's poem 'The Tree of Knowledge', surrounded by symbols of the Passion: the cross at the top, the crown of thorns and other objects at the foot of the page.

Not all, but many of Ricketts's wood-engravings for Vale Press books are signed. The two facing pages of Spiritual Poems show the monogram on the left-hand page, outside the border, in the lower right-hand corner. After the rediscovery of the 1890s in the 1970s, the monogram was read as a double signature.

Charles Ricketts, detail of opening page for John Gray, Spiritual Poems (1896)
In 1972, the Houghton Library catalogue The Turn of a Century 1885-1910. Art Nouveau, Jugendstil Books stated: 'Frontispiece and border designed and cut by Ricketts; frontispiece signed with initials CR and JG', and explained: 'Since John Gray's initials were added to Ricketts', he must have played a role in the formation of this design.'

Seven years later, the exhibition catalogue Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon. An Aesthetic Partnership (Orleans House Gallery, Twickenham) asserted: 'The full page frontispiece, signed CR and JG[ray]'.

This attribution of the wood-engraving to artist and author has continued to circulate ever since. See for example, Susan Ashbrook's dissertation The Private Press Movement in Britain 1890-1914 (1991): 'John Gray’s initials join those of Ricketts on the lower right, which, it has been suggested, indicates that Gray was a participant in formulating the design.' I repeated this dual authorship 'CR & JG' in my 1996 checklist, as did Maureen Watry in The Vale Press (2004).

For my review of the latter book, I took another good look at the (minuscule) monogram and saw that the intertwined letters did not represent the ampersand (&), but the letters T and O: 'CR TO JG'. In other words, the artist dedicated the wood-engraving to his friend the author.

Ricketts's monogram in John Gray, Spiritual Poems (1896)
Actually, it couldn't be otherwise, because, as Gray himself later wrote to Gordon Bottomley, he only saw Ricketts's designs after the book had been printed. During the production Ricketts was rather secretive about his decorative plans and kept his designs out of the authors' sight.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

462. The 1898 Exhibition of Wood-Engraving

A few weeks ago I was approached by an Italian scholar, Francesco Parisi, who enquired about the 'First Exhibition of Original Wood Engraving', held at the Dutch Gallery in London in 1898. 

The First Exhibition of Original Wood Engraving (1898)
Parisi (born 1972) teaches at the Academy of Macerata, the Accademia di Belle Art di Macerata in the Marche region, and prepares a course on Ricketts and wood-engraving at the end of the nineteenth century. His publications include an essay on Austin Osman Spare and a monograph about Japonism, Giapponismo.

For this new course, he needs images of the catalogue of the 1898 exhibition. A digital version is not yet available, which is why I am happy to comply with his request. In return, he promises to keep us informed about his research on Ricketts - there are not that many Italian Ricketts scholars!

'Original' word-engraving refers to works that were executed by the artist himself (and not by a studio or professional wood-cutter). The show was opened on 3 December 1898. For a review, see my blog no. 426. Exhibition Catalogue Design 1898.

The First Exhibition of Original Wood Engraving (1898) [page ii]

The First Exhibition of Original Wood Engraving (1898) [page iii]
The short introduction in the catalogue (page ii-iii) refers to predecessors such as William Blake, but the exhibition concentrates on wood-engravings from the last ten years, with works by T.S. Moore, Ricketts, Shannon, Alphonse Legros, Lucien Pissarro, J.F. Millet, William Nicholson and Reginald Savage.

In opening the first exhibition of original engraving it may not be out of place to point out that early in the nineteenth century the used of the graver superseded that of the engraving knife, and that this change happened in the hands of an Englishman. Ever since it has been in England that we find the greatest number of original wood engravers, and, on the whole, the keenest sense of the resources of the medium. The names of Blake, his pupil Calvert, and Bewick have become household words. The woodcuts collected here have been done during the last ten years - a period given up almost wholly to processes - and have for the most part been already shown in the art centres of Holland and Germany. The popular impression that the noble wood-cuts of Germany were engraved by their designers is now a belief of the past, and during almost two centuries of activity two admirable artists only can be certainly associated with a series of original wood-cuts, namely Altdorfer the German and Livens the Dutchman. This is the more strange since Dürer recommended all artists to engrave their own work. In recent times, Jean François Millet made some experiments with his brother. The set of Vale Publications here exhibited illustrate the use of wood engraving in the decoration of books. In England only has this subject been given serious attention; and in this case the engravings are without exception original.

We may assume that Ricketts himself is the author of these introductory words - his arbitrary spelling of names such as the one of Lievens can betray him, and the leaps in time and geography also characterise his style.

The First Exhibition of Original Wood Engraving (1898) [page iv]

The First Exhibition of Original Wood Engraving (1898) [page v]

The First Exhibition of Original Wood Engraving (1898) [page vi]

The First Exhibition of Original Wood Engraving (1898) [page vii]
The last page was blank and served as a back cover. The catalogue was published at a time that wood-engraving was considered too laborious for a commercial practice. Ricketts's claims are critically reviewed by Joanna Selbourne in her book British Wood-Engraved Book Illustration 1904-1940 (1998). She prefers the work of Pissarro and Moore and asserts that Ricketts understood nothing of the medium: 'neither he nor Morris understood the true nature of wood or its creative potential'.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

461. Hazelwood or Haslewood?

What was Charles Shannon's name? It seems an odd and nonsensical question, but there's grounds for asking it, since reference works contain different spellings of his middle name.

The Library of Congress name authority file prefers Charles Haslewood Shannon, listing the alternative names C.H. Shannon and Charles Hazelwood Shannon. 

Shannon's father called him Charles Haslewood, and he must have been right...

The name is thus written in the Quarrington Parish Records - Baptisms (1862-1863). We can assume the Church official made no mistake at the time. After all, it's much more unusual than Hazelwood. 

Quarrinton Parish Records (on Lincs to the Past)
There shouldn't be any confusion. 

Shannon himself signed his work with the names C.H. Shannon or Charles Shannon. However, when his middle name was added, it is 'Hazelwood'. Did he prefer that spelling?

This middle name appears, for example, on an invitation to an exhibition of drawings and lithographs at The Dutch Gallery in London in May 1894. The card states that 'Mr. Will Rothenstein' and 'Mr. Charles Hazelwood Shannon' have the pleasure of inviting the reader to the private view.

Invitation, The Dutch Gallery (1894)
Another instance is the title page of the first volume of The Pageant which appeared at the end of 1895.

The Pageant for 1896 (published 1895): title page
In the newspapers Shannon's name was spelled as Hazelwood, except at the time of his death, when the will was publicised. Then, uniquely, the name Haslewood re-appeared.

In short, Charles Shannon was officially called Charles Haslewood Shannon, but as an artist he used the name Charles Hazelwood Shannon. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

460. Not Designed by Charles H. Shannon: J.O. Hobbes's Novel

Every now and then antiquarian books are offered whose design is wrongly attributed to Ricketts or Shannon, more often to the former than to the latter, by the way. Recently I saw an antiquarian bookseller ascribe the design of a novel by John Oliver Hobbes to Shannon: The Gods, Some Mortals, & Lord Wickenham (1895).

John Oliver Hobbes,
The Gods, Some Mortals, & Lord Wickenham (1895)
What pointed towards Shannon? First, the publisher and the year - Henry & Co and 1895: exactly the publisher and the year of publication of The Pageant, for which Shannon was appointed art editor.

Secondly, there is a monogram on the title page that might mean 'C.H.S'.

John Oliver Hobbes,
The Gods, Some Mortals, & Lord Wickenham (1895): second title page
A Canadian dealer decided that this must be Shannon's monogram; his description of the book on his website (see stated: 'Binding design, orange half-title, and title page by Charles Shannon, I believe.'

John Oliver Hobbes,
The Gods, Some Mortals, & Lord Wickenham (1895): second title page (detail)
However, a close-up shows that this is not the case. Probably the monogram reads 'C.H. Sc.', in other words, it is the engraver. (The book was printed by Hazell, Watson & Viney Ltd.) [See postscript below.]

Another bookseller found a handwritten note in a copy of this book stating that it was designed by Walter Spindler: 'A pencil note on the leading endpaper identifies the designer of the book and of the titlepage as the pre-Raphaelite artist Walter Spindler.'

That is correct, and, incidentally, the artist himself left his mark on the drawn title page that precedes the illustrated title page. It bears his monogram 'W.S.'

John Oliver Hobbes,
The Gods, Some Mortals, & Lord Wickenham (1895): first title page

John Oliver Hobbes,
The Gods, Some Mortals, & Lord Wickenham (1895): first title page (detail)
And then there are the publishers of the book themselves who, at the end of Hobbes novel, included a section with advertisements for their publications. This list, A Selection from Messrs. Henry & Co's Announcements, is dated "April 1895" and also mentions this novel. Alas, it does not give any details about the design. We have to look elsewhere. If we turn to the advertisements that are bound in at the back of the first issue of The Pageant (for 1896), we will find a statement about the designer:

With a title-page and binding designed by Walter Spindler.

The Pageant for 1896 (published 1895)
Not that everything is solved with this, because no mention is made of the second illustrated title page - a rather clumsy drawing actually - and we don't know who designed that page.

Walter E. Spindler (1878-1940) was not a pre-Raphaelite artist (as the second antiquarian bookseller claimed); he was born far too late for that. The French-born artist is known for his portraits of Sarah Bernhardt and Alfred Lord Douglas, among others.

John Oliver Hobbes was the pen-name of Pearl Mary Teresa Richards (1867-1906). She was born in Boston (1867), moved to London when young, was raised in London and Paris, wrote novels and drama. She died quite suddenly in London in 1906.

The artist and the author knew each other well, from childhood on, and although it was rumoured that Spindler and Richards were to be engaged, this actually never happened. She dedicated one of her novels to him, and he provided a portrait of her for her book Tales of John Oliver Hobbes (1894).

Simon Wilson reminds me that refers to Carl Hentschel.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

459. Rediscovered Interviews (3)

On the eve of the appearance of the first issue of the magazine The Pageant, the art editor gave an interview. Charles Shannon was interviewed by an editor of The Sketch, and his commentary was published in The Sketch of 30 October 1895.

The Sketch, 30 October 1895
The magazine was well acquainted with the members of the Vale coterie and had published articles on Charles Shannon (who was seen as the leader), Charles Ricketts, Reginald Savage and Lucien Pissarro. Those articles, with pictures of their art, appeared between January and April 1895 as an early recognition of their talents, and were signed by "Theocritus". Now the artist had an interview with "a Sketch representative".

Apparently artists and magazine had kept in touch and so that same year the first interview we know of with Charles Shannon appeared.

Heralding "The Pageant."

"Take up and read" is the motto of Messrs. H. Henry and Co., which legend, in the case of their forthcoming annual, "The Pageant," might well run, "Take up and admire," for even if the book contained no literature, it would still be very precious. The other day (writes a Sketch representative) I was privileged to take a private view of the illustrations, which will make “The Pageant” one of the most noteworthy books of the year. Under the kind direction of Mr. C. Hazlewood Shannon, the art editor, I examined the art contributions and learned something of the design of the volume, which will be enriched by reproductions of the works of Masters, old and young, and middle-aged.

"First," said the art editor, "I may show you a peculiarly exquisite reproduction of Mr. Charles Ricketts'[s] 'Œdipus,' which will appear only in the édition de luxe. To secure this perfection the Swan Electric Engraving Company have spent themselves making, on their own initiative, copy after copy until they attained this wonderful result."

Charles Ricketts, 'Œdipus and the Sphinx',
drawing, 1891
(Tullie House Museum & Gallery, Carlisle)
From that we went through the illustrations seriatim, and Mr. Shannon, at the same time, gave some account of the literature that is to accompany the pictures. There will be two examples from Rossetti, one a most elaborate pen-and-ink drawing, entitled "Mary Magdalene at the House of Simon the Pharisee," which gains interest from the fact that George Meredith sat for the head of Christ. The other Rossetti is the "Monna Rosa," for which M. Paul Verlaine has written a poem. Mr. Swinburne will also contribute a poem, "A Roundel of Rabelais," which will be accompanied by the poet’s portrait, printed in red, after the original of Mr. Will Rothenstein. Mr. Swinburne sat specially for this drawing, the first time he has given anyone a sitting for twenty years. "Perseus and Medusa" is from an unpublished picture in tempera by Sir E. Burne-Jones, whose "Sea Nymph" will also be reproduced. Sir John Millais' "Love" and his "Sir Isumbras of the Ford," Mr. G.F. Watts's "Ariadne," his "Paolo and Francesca," Mr. Whistler's "Symphony in White," No. III, and "The Doctor," an original lithograph of the artist's brother, make up the tale of works by older living artists. These are followed by a reproduction of the recently discovered Botticelli, "Pallas and the Centaur," for which Mr. T. Sturge Moore has written a poem. Mr. Reginald Savage contributes "The Albatross" and an illustration to "Sidonia the Sorceress," which will have, for literary partner, an essay by Professor York Powell on Wilhelm Meinhold. Mr. Charles Conder gives "L'Oiseau Bleu" (a composition with some flavour of Rowlandson), from a water-colour drawing executed on silk. "Death and the Bather" is from a powerful and weird pen-and-ink drawing by Lawrence [=Laurence] Housman. Mr. Shannon's own characteristic work is shown in the "White Watch," a composition quite as mystically poetical as his "Romantic Landscape," which was figured in The Sketch some time ago, when the pre-Raphaelites and their works were discussed. The latter picture has also a place in "The Pageant."

Charles Ricketts, decorative design for the binding of The Pageant (1896)
Besides the literary contributions incidentally mentioned, are a story by W.B. Yeats, a poem and story by John Gray, a play and poem by Maeterlinck, a poem by Theodore Watts, and a play by Michael Field. Dr. Garnett contributes an essay, and there is an interesting translation from the Low Dutch, "The Story of a Nun," which is claimed to be a more beautiful version of the Byzantine theme treated by Mr. John Davidson. Mr. Gleeson White is literary editor, and writes on the "Work of Charles Ricketts." Nor are these all, but enough have been mentioned to prove that "The Pageant" is no "vain show."

To descend to drier details. The book will contain twenty full-page illustrations, and seventeen in the text. The arrangement of the type will be unique. The cover is after a design by Mr. Ricketts. The ordinary edition will cost six shillings. The large-paper edition (limited to one hundred and fifty impressions) will be sold at one guinea.

"I have been allowed a free hand," said Mr. Shannon, "and I have used it. You notice the predominant pre-Raphaelite spirit – I was resolved not to bate one jot of my ideal, and I have not done so."
"I am sure, Mr. Shannon, there must be a public ready to acknowledge your labours?"
"At any rate," he answered cheerily, "I am very hopeful."

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

458. Rediscovered Interviews (2)

After his first career as a lithographer, Shannon had emerged as a painter, mainly of idyllic scenes and portraits. In 1908 he enjoyed a certain fame, at least enough for the magazine The Tatler to interview him. The society magazine was founded in 1901 by Clement Shorter, and the interview appeared in the issue of 6 May 1908 under the title: 'Beautiful Women I Have Painted. An Interview with Mr. Charles Shannon'. 

Charles Shannon, 'The Marble Torso' (Self-Portrait) (1907)
[whereabouts unknown]
The article was illustrated with six portraits, the first a self-portrait called 'The Marble Torso' (1907), the other paintings were portraits of women: Mrs. Mildmay (and child), Mrs. Patrick Campbell, Mrs. Chaloner Dowdall, Miss Lillah McCarthy, and Miss Kathleen Bruce.

It is not a question and answer account; Shannon's comments have been incorporated into the (unsigned) article.

From his earliest years Mr. Shannon wished to devote himself to art. He followed out his earliest ambitions directly he left school, but after some few years' work reluctantly gave up painting for the simple reason that he did not think he could make a livelihood as an artist. For seven years the young artist tried his hand at engraving and sundry kindred occupations and then once more resolved to follow the profession for which he knew Nature had intended him. He painted "The Wounded Amazon," which gained the gold medal at Munich, and almost at the same time a portrait of a young girl in boy's clothes which at once attracted favourable attention. This latter portrait was purchased some years later by Mr. Clausen for the Melbourne Gallery. It is ten years since Mr. Shannon painted these pictures, and since then his career has been one of continued success.

Mr. Shannon's methods as a portrait-painter are rather different from the generality of modern painters. "I have never been able to understand," said Mr. Shannon, "why a prolonged number of sittings should be regarded as a necessity to the production of a successful portrait. Of course there may be exceptional cases where difficulties arise which will delay the development of the portrait, but as a general rule a dozen sittings at the outside should be sufficient. I never start on the canvas to begin with. I make a study of my sitter first, perhaps several, until I have a general notion of how I am going to treat the picture. Then I think out the design and general colour scheme. When I have quite settled these points in my mind I begin on the canvas."

Mr. Shannon is quite at variance with the modern idea that everything must be sacrificed to obtaining realism. "To my mind," said Mr. Shannon, "realism has been carried too far; a portrait must of course be a good likeness, but it should also be a picture. If you lose sight of the pictorial side of a portrait altogether and think only of producing a commonplace resemblance the artist's work comes perilously close to that of a photographer and the picture has no future. We are all familiar with the phrase, 'a characteristic portrait.' Of course a portrait should be characteristic, but it seems to me bad art to sacrifice all that makes a picture beautiful to obtain unnecessary emphasis."

Mr. Shannon is a very rapid worker. His portrait of Mrs. Granville Barker (Miss Lillah McCarthy), a characteristic example of his work, was done in half-a-dozen sittings, and that of Mrs. Patrick Campbell in three. "Prolonged sittings." said Mr. Shannon, "are, I think, the result of an artist losing freshness of impression and grip. When a man gets into this mood there is no knowing how long he may take to finish a portrait. At every step in its development he will see something to alter or to rearrange, and so the work may drag through fifty, or for that matter 500, sittings or until old age overtakes both artists and sitter."

Mr. Shannon thinks that modern dress in both men and women lends itself quite readily to pictorial treatment in a portrait. "Even in men's clothes," said Mr. Shannon, "there is quite enough beauty to satisfy the artist. Personally I think the present type of evening dress is almost perfect, and has been greatly improved by the tendency of wearing a soft shirt, which has lessened the 'shiny' effect that is always objectionable, like that of a silk hat." The cut of the clothes has the beauty of economy which characterises the building of a yacht.

Charles Shannon, 'Lady with a Cyclamen
(The Honourable Mrs. H. Chaloner Dowdall, 1876-1939)
[Walker Art Gallery]
"It is the fate of every artists to see some of his portraits obtain much greater popularity than others, and it does not always follow that what the artists considers to be his best work obtains this popularity. I really cannot arrive at a satisfactory explanation of  the question 'What makes a portrait popular?'" said Mr. Shannon. "A portrait may be greatly admired when exhibited in a studio and fail to attract much attention in an exhibition, and vice versâ. Personally when a portrait pleases a sitter I am satisfied, but that is, of course, a different thing from pleasing the popular taste in an exhibition."

Mr. Shannon's chief recreation is the theatre, and he spends his holidays always in Italy. His hobby, which he shares with his friend, Mr. Charles Ricketts, is collecting pictures and Tanagra statuettes. The two have pursued this hobby for the past ten years with results which it would take many pages of The Tatler to describe at all fully. There are original drawings, ancient and modern, by artists such as Durer, Rembrandt, Vandyck, Watteau, Rossetti, Corot, Millet, and Puvis de Chavannes. Some of their almost priceless treasures belonged to Sir John Millais and Lord Leighton. It is no exaggeration to say that the collector who gathered such a set of drawings together in a lifetime might well feel proud though he might not feel satisfied - your true collector never is. Mr. Shannon has no story to tell of any unexpected bargain or rare find, for all of their treasures were purchased from people who were familiar enough with their value. Curiously enough one of the greatest treasures, a drawing by Rossetti which Mr. Shannon purchased from a dealer, was sold by an individual who years later sat to Mr. Shannon an was much surprised to see the picture among the artist's collection.

[Note: the name of Puvis de Chavannes was incorrectly given as Puvis de Chavonnes.]

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

457. Rediscovered Interviews (1)

Two interviews with Charles Ricketts were reasonably well known so far. The first, from 1896, dealt with the Vale Press books, and was held by Temple Scott, and published in Bookselling (December 1896), reprinted in Everything for Art: Selected Writings (2014).

The second interview about modern dress was undertaken by 'M.R.' for the Evening News, and published in the Daily Mail, 2 June 1928. This was reprinted in my blog no. 138. Charles Ricketts on Modern Women's Dress (19 March 2014).

But there are a few more interviews, including some with Charles Shannon. These will come later, first a very short interview with Ricketts about "The Mikado" for which he designed completely new costumes in 1926. He also wrote a short article about 'Why I Redressed "The Mikado"' (Daily Mail, 18 September 1926).

The interview appeared in The Sunday Times, 5 September 1926.

Cover for Souvenir of Rupert D'Oyle Carte's Season of Gilbert and Sullivan Opera (1926)

‘“Mikado” Re-dressed. Mr. Ricketts on Oxford “Bags” effect’

Mr. Charles Ricketts, A.R.A., who is designing the dresses and scenery for the production of “The Mikado” in the D’Oyly Carte season which commences at the Prince’s Theatre on September 20, told a Sunday Times representative yesterday that he has made no attempt to touch the heraldry side of the designs. “The Japanese might be offended if I did,” Mr. Ricketts explained, “because they are very particular on such points. I have, however, strictly kept to the seventeenth century as regards the costumes, and I can assure you there is no attempt at leg-pulling when I introduce the Oxford ‘bags’ effect. “Look!” and Mr. Ricketts produced a sketch in which Japan and Oxford meet on the subject of voluminous garments. “The scenery,” he added, “will be Japanese; at least, sufficiently so for Western ideas. The Japanese, I suppose, would regard it as European – and that is what is known as compromise!” Talking of the forthcoming production of “Macbeth,” for which he is also designing the dresses and scenery Mr. Ricketts exhibited a bizarre necklace of huge beads which Miss Sybil Thorndike will wear. “I am revelling in the ‘Macbeth’ designs,” he said, “and I am not sticking to any particular period for them. I am just letting myself go, in fact!”

[Thanks are due to John Aplin.]

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

456. A Ricketts Caricature

The exhibitions of the Royal Acadamy members were always viewed critically and there was often reason for mockery. On 9 June 1926 The Sketch published a caricature of a painting by Ricketts. The magazine had sent a young artist, Anna Zinkeisen, to the show, and she returned with several sketches that made fun of some fine reputations, such as those of Glyn Philpot and Charles Ricketts.

Anna Zinkeisen, drawing in The Sketch, 9 June 1926
The one hundred and fifty-eighth exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts contained two paintings by Ricketts, "Judith" and "The Fallen Angel", and it was this second painting that became the target of mockery.

In the catalogue, the description of "The Fallen Angel" included a quote - this wasn't unique; for example, the painter Frederick H. Ball quoted Matthew 25 and Fred Roe brought a strophe by Tennyson to mind.

For Ricketts's "The Fallen Angel" - not one of his masterpieces - the quote was biblical:

"The Sons of God saw the Daughters of Men that they were fair." - Genesis vi.

Charles Ricketts, "The Fallen Angel" (study, 1926)
Zinkenstein's drawing shows a new textual approach:

Wife (Faintly): "Hadn't you better 'phone for the doctor, dear?"

Anna Zinkeisen (1901-1976) was a Scottish painter, who (with her elder sister Doris) attended Harrow School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools, where she studied sculpture. Later she designed Wedgwood plaques, London transport posters and book illustrations, but her specialities became portraits and murals, some of them for ships.

The whereabouts of Ricketts's "Fallen Angel" are unknown, but a sketch for it was auctioned  by Sotheby's in 1989 in London, and, again, in New York in 1994. This sketch shows only the right-hand part of the painting and measures 91,5 by 52 cm.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

455. Glyn Philpot, Cecil French and The Parables from the Gospels (Vale Press, 1903)

This week's blog is a guest blog written by Jan Piggott, former Keeper of Archives at Dulwich College, and author of several books, including Palace of the People. The Crystal Palace at Sydenham, 1854-1936 (2004), Dulwich College. A History, 1616-2008 (2008), and Turner's Vignettes (1993). Last year he curated the exhibition 'Phoenix and Unicorn & In Conversation: Coming into the Light' (see blog 425. A Thomas Sturge Moore Exhibition: Phoenix and Unicorn).

Glyn Philpot, Cecil French and The Parables from the Gospels (Vale Press, 1903)

I recently bought an undated letter from Glyn Philpot (1884-1937) to the minor writer, artist and collector, Cecil French (1879-1953): it asks him politely to return ‘a book I value very much’, Ricketts’s Vale Press Parables, borrowed ‘some time back’. As Philpot had to ask the Grosvenor Gallery for French’s address, it seems they were not meeting socially at that time. This was not the first Grosvenor Gallery (1877-90), famous for Burne-Jones and Whistler – haunt of W.S. Gilbert’s fictitious Aesthete poseur-poet in Patience, the ‘greenery-yallery Grosvenor Gallery’ Bunthorne – where in the mid-1880s Ricketts and Shannon had shown early pastels and water-colours (note 1). Philpot refers to the second Grosvenor Gallery (of three), founded in 1912 by the London American artist, arts administrator and collector Francis Howard (1874-1954) an associate of Whistler. Howard, incidentally, made two important gifts to the Tate (1914 and 1939-40): these included Ricketts’s bronze Orpheus and Eurydice, Shannon’s The Bath of Venus, Mrs Patrick CampbellHermes and the Infant Bacchus, and Philpot’s The Man in Black (Robert Allerton).

Glyn Philpot, letter to Cecil French, undated, c.1920(?)
[Collection Jan Piggott]

Philpot’s address is die-stamped on the writing-paper: ‘The Tower House, 28, Tite Street, Chelsea’ (renumbered since then as no. 46). Here he took a studio flat in 1910 which he gave up in 1923 to take Ricketts and Shannon’s large studio, one of six, at Lansdowne House, Holland Park. The date of the letter must have been between these years; the writing-paper seems post-War. The architect of The Tower House (1885), red brick and terra cotta with four large studio windows (a few doors away from Wilde’s former house), was E.W. Godwin (1833-1886). Whistler lived there after Godwin’s death; he married his widow. Ricketts visited Philpot there with Shannon in 1918, reporting to Lowinsky, ‘We grubbed yesterday with Philpot, who has a nice place, a magnificent coromandel screen and a lovely Egyptian figure. He gave us a first-rate dinner and gramophone records of Spanish songs, amazing, obviously lewd, and going back to the roots of the world’ (note 2).

Glyn Philpot, [design]
The Fourth Chapter of the Song of Songs which is Solomon's(1907)
Paul Delaney in Charles Ricketts (1990) and Glyn Philpot (1999) so very well describes Philpot’s friendship with Ricketts and Shannon, and their great influence on his work and life. In 1881-2 Ricketts and Shannon had enrolled at Lambeth Art School (City and Guilds Technical Art School in Kennington), conspicuous, even famous, among contemporaries there who became illustrators such as Reginald Savage, Arthur Rackham, Laurence Housman, F.H. Townsend, and Thomas Sturge Moore. In 1900 Philpot, not quite sixteen, began to study there, taught (like Austin Osman Spare) by the landscape painter Philip Connard; wood-engraving was one course he took. Philpot was obsessed with Ricketts’s work. In 1903 he won first prize for book-illustration in the National Competition for Schools of Art (note 3). It clearly shows close study of those rather plentiful underrated designs by Ricketts in The Magazine of Art in the 1890s; Ricketts used to buy up and destroy the drawings that he described as ‘hack work’; his good work was for The Dial (note 4). On a home press the young Philpot engraved, printed and bound books in editions of twenty for friends and family; they could hardly go further in homage to Ricketts: The Pitiful Song of Dante (c.1901) made at sixteen, has a pseudo-Vale initial letter and an interlaced floral border; in Troubled Flames (1902) one might be forgiven for mistaking the ornament Gibson reproduces for an original in The DialThe Fourth Chapter of the Song of Songs which is Solomon’s of 1903-4, when Philpot was still at Lambeth, is pastiche, almost a crib, of the Renaissance decorations and the borders in the Vale Julia Domna (1903) (note 5). Shannon was later a really important influence on Philpot’s highly successful portraits. 

Philpot was not properly acquainted with Ricketts and Shannon until about 1911, although all three showed works in the same exhibitions. Later the pair clearly thought of ‘Glynpot’ and his friend Vivian Forbes as the new Ricketts and Shannon. Their friendship blossomed after the Great War, and they were guests at the Keep at Chilham Castle. In 1919 Philpot wrote to Ricketts, ‘My debt to you is so great and is always growing, so I must take this opportunity of telling you how grateful I am for the encouragement, stimulus and support which I constantly find in your work’ (note 6). After Shannon’s accident, Philpot renewed his friendship with Ricketts. In the 1920s he designed a binding with dagger for the Vale Life of Benvenuto Cellini (note 7).

Cecil French, ‘The Wood Nymph’,
in The Green Sheaf (1903: volume 8)
Cecil French – for a portrait by William Shackleton see blog 91. Letters to Cecil French, April 24, 2013 - inspired affection in the art world; his collection of paintings, drawings, and prints showed sophisticated connoisseurship of the art of Ricketts, Shannon and the Pre-Raphaelites, especially Burne-Jones. His own poetry and art, however, now seem woefully derivative. He is said to have given up painting about 1903; dissatisfied with his work, he turned to collecting. He exhibited in the early years of the century, and now and then until 1922. Irish (born in Dublin), and a former student at the RA Schools, he designed for the stage and contributed poems and engravings to those rather precious publications consisting of wood-engravings (sometimes hand-coloured), poems and stories such as The Green Sheaf (1903) and The Golden Hind (1922). His works were in all but three of the thirteen issues of The Green Sheaf, the venture of Pamela Colman Smith (1878-1951) and the circle of W. B. Yeats: ‘The Wood Nymph’ is a particularly annoying imitation of Ricketts (note 8). French’s formative experience, he twice told Yeats in letters of the late 1920s, had been the Monday evening salons at Woburn Buildings in the late Nineties where Yeats entertained writers and artists that he attended, along with Masefield. ‘Any integrity of workmanship’ in his works, he wrote in 1922, sending his new book of poems and wood-engravings, Between Sun and Moon, to Yeats (its dedicatee), ‘will be, in great measure, owing to “Woburn Nights”, and their influence on my youthful beginnings’ (note 9).

Cecil French, ‘Bathers’, in Between Sun and Moon (1922)
Yeats must have thought enough of French’s art to display one of his pictures in his drawing room: ‘The Rose of Dream’, a woman holding a rose between her lips. He was not keen on French’s writings: he told ‘the young Irishman’ who had submitted a play for the Abbey Theatre, ‘it does not catch fire’, and to ‘put it aside for a while’. French was a mutual friend of Yeats’s ‘artistic’ and occult women, Florence Farr and Althea Gyles, whom he helped save from destitution (note 10). Between Sun and Moon was published by the Favil Press in a limited edition of 350 copies, with his own woodcuts. Sending it to Yeats, he wrote in effect that he often felt his poetry was ineffectual, betraying a touch of jealousy of Masefield (note 11). The engraving Bathers’ is a peculiar throw-back compound rendering of motifs by Ricketts, Shannon and Sturge Moore. In the second of limited editions of his poems with cuts, With the Years (1927) the first section was dedicated to Sturge Moore. The engravings are more striking than the earlier version, such as ‘Exiles’, though both subject and treatment suggest a rather endearing arrested development, still absorbed in The Dial.

Cecil French, With the Years (1927)
French would not always show such deference to Yeats: in 1922 he wrote to the great poet for a second time saying he had ruined familiar poems by publishing revised texts of them – ‘You are the spoiled child of letters’ – but Yeats later amended some poor proof-reading and obscurities of sense and syntax that French pointed out in Later Poems (note 12).

In 1921 French edited T. Sturge Moore (Modern Woodcutters, 3), praising Moore’s ‘intimate qualities of an absorbed, delighted, and recondite invention’. French wrote an important article in 1927, ‘The Wood-Engravings of Charles Ricketts’ in The Print Collector’s Quarterly (July 1927), calling him one of ‘the great creative designers’. 

Charles Ricketts, ‘The Parable of the Rich Man’, proof impression (1903)
[Private Collection]
He gives special emphasis to the engraved Vale Parables, reproducing two among the ten notably well selected illustrations, saying ‘the designer of The Parables and of the two accompaniments to Apuleius has always possessed the uncanny gift of developing a hint taken from others, while preserving his strong individuality’. Noting the influence of Rembrandt and Dürer in ‘The Prodigal Son’ and ‘The Rich Man in Hell’ he remarks their ‘fluidity of line, the dwelling upon broken, or unbroken, mass’. In ‘The Parable of the Rich Man’ – ‘this miracle of a few square inches’ – he points to ‘the poignant significance of its accessories – the swinging lamp, the over-turned cup, the leaves blown in at the door’. French calls Ricketts ‘a supremely cultured decorator’, which led to a key remark in a letter from Ricketts, who was absolutely delighted with his article, about his ‘dual personality’: as ‘the born ornamentalist’ and ‘the rather hectic improvisatore’ (note 13). 

Cecil French, With the Years (1927)
In a house at sub-urban Barnes French kept his magnificent collection of turn-of-the-century British art by symbolists and other painters out of fashion by that time, particularly rich in works by Burne-Jones, Watts, Leighton, Alma-Tadema, Albert Moore, Waterhouse, and Cayley Robinson, as well as by Ricketts and Shannon. He thought carefully about the right institutions for bequests of his pictures. The Tate (for promoting ‘modern’ art) and the Victoria and Albert Museum (from some now long forgotten grievance) were to have nothing. The Fulham Library (with superb Burne-Joneses) and the Watts Gallery were the main beneficiaries. The latter received five important pictures by Shannon: The Bathers, 1900; The Toilet of Venus, 1903; The Pursuit, c.1922; An Idyll, 1904; and The Garland, 1895-1902. Other pictures went to the William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow (Ricketts, Descent from the Cross, 1905); Leamington Art Gallery (Ricketts, Choosing a Mask’, c. 1905) the Guildhall Art Gallery, London, York City Art Gallery, and prints and drawings to the British Museum.

French wrote a good number of letters to Sturge Moore, now at the Senate House Library. Some very interesting material about the elusive French comes from the on-line Gordon Bottomley and Thomas Sturge Moore: The Complete Correspondence, 1906-1948, edited by John Aplin (forthcoming within the next few months). In August 1922 Moore wrote to Bottomley telling him how he had hesitated before sending him a copy of Between Sun and Moon,

by a man whom I like and respect a great deal, though very little of his work comes up to what I consider the living standard still some of these poems are successful from every point of view such as “Hidden sorrow” and “The Bathers” and most of those near the end of the book are that or nearly that […] He has I think suffered a good deal under the ascendancy of Yeats’ influence especially as Yeats treated him personally with most undeserved cruelty and contempt.

In October 1922, Bottomley recalled French acting a part in Yeats’s Land of Heart’s Desire at the Passmore Edwards Settlement, and was grateful to Moore for 

this charming and really graceful book by the admirable Puffles – as we used to call him at Pixie Smith’s nearly twenty years ago’… ‘I used to like Puffles then more than I did his theosophic pictures and verses, and I used to wish he could be injected with the influence of Ricketts – but in those days I used to think he stood rather haughtily aloof and disdained all other art except his own hieratic kind. And here the very thing has happened to him: his engravings have been learning from Ricketts and you and are delightful; and something – perhaps Yeats’s cruelty – has made his poetry sensitive and human.
                                                                                                             Jan Piggott
1. J.G.P. Delaney, Charles Ricketts. A Biography (1990), p. 36.
2. J.G.P. Delaney, Glyn Philpot. His Life and Art (1999), p. 13.
3. See ‘Design for a Book Illustration’ in Robin Gibson, Glyn Philpot. 1884-1937. Edwardian Aesthete to Thirties Modernist (1984), no. 72-73, p. 94-95. No. 75, p 95, a ‘related design’, shows even better the influence of the Ricketts illustrations. 
4. Delaney, Charles Ricketts, p 46.
5. See Gibson, Glyn Philpot, no.127, p. 124; no. 130, p. 125; Delaney, Glyn Philpot, p. 12-13, 164; Gibson, no 132, p. 126 (giving date as 1907). 
6. Delaney, Glyn Philpot, p. 71 and 13.
8. The Green Sheaf, No 8 (December 1903), p. 2; see online edition: Internet Archive.
9. Letters to W. B. Yeats, ed. by Richard J. Finneran, and others, 1977, pp. 425, 477.
10. The Collected Letters of W. B. Yeats. Volume Three: 1901-1904, ed. by John Kelly and Ronald Schuchard (1994), pp. 173, 221, 199, 318-9.
11. Letters to W.B. Yeats, p. 425.
12. Joseph Hone, W.B. Yeats, 1865-1939 (second edition, 1962), p. 346.
13. Self-Portrait (1939), p. 379. See Blog 91, Letters to Cecil French, 24 April 2013 for further letters from Ricketts and Shannon to French. Philpot’s copy of The Parables was for sale in 1981, cf. Catalogue 14. Rare Books. York, George Ramsden/Stone Trough Books, Summer MM1 [June 2001], No. 106 (‘this one from Glyn Philpot’s library’, ‘Vellum binding somewhat marked; some foxing’), £185.