Wednesday, March 28, 2012

35. To V.F. from C.R.

Earlier this month, Paul Rassam sent us a pre-publication copy of his new catalogue 25: Late 19th & 20th century literature. Number 127 in this catalogue describes a copy of Lord de Tabley's Poems, dramatic & lyrical (1893) with a late dedication 'To V.F. from C.R., 1919'. The recipient's bookplate helps to identify 'V.F.' as Vivian Forbes (1891-1937).
Cover for Lord de Tabley, Poems, dramatic & lyrical (1893), designed by Charles Ricketts
Forbes was a young painter who, in 1915, had met his future lover, the painter Glyn Philpot (1884-1937), with whom he had a troublesome relation that ended when Philpot died in 1937 and Forbes, who depended on him for moral and financial support, killed himself. 
Plaque at Lansdowne House, erected by Greater London Council, 1979
Philpot's work was influenced by that of Ricketts and Shannon, and when the two older artists left Lansdowne House for Townshend House, Forbes and Philpot moved into their former flats and studios. Although Ricketts & Shannon and Forbes & Philpot knew each other, they never became close friends. They probably met in about 1918, and Ricketts took a liking for the lesser talented Forbes, about whom he wrote to Gordon Bottomley, 29 May 1919: 'The war caught him when hardly a man, and he is seeing Russian ballets, National Gallery pictures, and hearing Wagner or Chopin as novelties'. To Thomas Lowinsky, he had written, December 1918: 'We have taken a great liking to Forbes, the sensual beast who ate my strawberries at Chilham'. Ricketts and Shannon had a country retreat, the Keep of Chilham Castle in Kent, which had been purchased by their friend Edmund Davis. (*) The dedication by Ricketts in a copy of Lord de Tabley's book dates from these years of admiration for the young painter. It was offered by Paul Rassam in the Summer of 2011 at the Olympia Fair in London, the price has now been reduced to £650.

Dedication from Charles Ricketts to Marcus Behmer in Lord de Tabley's Poems, dramatic & lyrical (private collection)
Another dedication copy of the same book has no date in it, but mentions the full name of the recipient, another young artist: 'To Marcus Behmer, from his friend, Charles Ricketts'. Marcus Behmer was an admirer from Germany, who had lived in Paris and may have met Ricketts before the First World War. He wrote about Ricketts's designs for the Vale Press on several occasions.

Ricketts's dedications are usually as short as these two, omitting dates, or reducing names to initials. Longer and intimate dedications are rare.

(*) Paul Delaney, Charles Ricketts. A biography. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1990, p. 314. Self-portrait taken from the letters & journals of Charles Ricketts, RA. London, Peter Davies, 1939, p. 308. See also: J.G.P. Delaney, Glyn Philpot. His life and art. Aldershot, Ashgate, 1999, plate 8, for a portrait of Vivian Forbes painted by Glyn Philpot.