Wednesday, April 24, 2013

91. Letters to Cecil French

The Houghton Library acquired a group of letters and postcards by Ricketts and Shannon to Cecil French. The library's blog posted this message on 5 April (my colleague Marja Smolenaars drew my attention to the Harvard blog):

Last month Houghton Library acquired a small group of letters and postcards from Charles Ricketts (1866-1931) & Charles Shannon (1863-1937) to the Irish artist and collector Cecil French (1879-1953). These letters were acquired with the Louis Appell Jr. Fund for British Civilization because they are full of current affairs, news and gossip in the world of British art. These letters are now Houghton Library MS Eng 1738.

Ricketts and Shannon were artists and designers and founders of the Vale Press, one of the English private presses inspired by William Morris’s Kelmscott Press; Shannon’s portrait of William Butler Yeats hangs in the Houghton Library Reading Room.

Charles Ricketts, letter to Cecil French, 1923 (MS Eng 1738, © Houghton Library, Harvard University)
Cecil French from Dublin was trained as an artist at the Royal Academy Schools in London, but after a few years he decided that as an artist he could not compete with his Renaissance examples, and he became an art collector. His collection of more than 150 paintings went to the British Museum, The William Morris Gallery, and other institutions.
Portrait of Cecil French by William Shackleton, 1923 (from  Beyond Burne-Jones, The Cecil French Bequest Gallery)
He wrote a few essays about Ricketts, Shannon and their circle. His article 'The wood-engravings of Charles Ricketts' was published in The Print Collector’s Quarterly in July 1927.