Wednesday, June 26, 2013

100. Francis Ernest Jackson and the Ricketts Legacy

To celebrate the hundredth contribution for 'Charles Ricketts & Charles Shannon', J.G. Paul Delaney wrote a guest blog about their friend Francis Ernest Jackson:

Francis Ernest Jackson
Among Ricketts’s closest friends in his later years was the artist F. Ernest Jackson (1872-1945). It was in some ways the attraction of opposites. As opposed to the aesthetic Ricketts, with his passionate collecting and his extravagant purchases of flowers to decorate his house, Jackson was a down-to-earth Yorkshireman, who was very sensible and could be a bit gruff. However, they shared important values. Ricketts had been partly brought up in France and had an attitude to art that was more European than British, while Jackson had trained in Paris, could speak excellent French and remained a strong Francophile all his life. In France, he had come to see lithography as more than a reproductive medium, and, as both artist and teacher, he had become a founder of the revival of artistic lithography in England. Indeed, it was through lithography that he met Shannon, who was also involved in reviving this medium, and thus came into the Ricketts and Shannon circle.

Charles Shannon teaching at the Byam Shaw. Students left to right: Richard Finny, winner of the Prix de Rome, Stephanie Cooper, Nancy Brockman, CHS, Unidentified, Francis Cooper
More importantly, Jackson, who was professor of drawing at the Royal Academy Schools, was considered by many to be the finest draughtsman, and the best teacher of drawing of the human form, of his generation. He was a strong supporter of the Classical Tradition in art. Despite his years in France, he had not been ‘tainted’ by modern movements in Art, like Post-Impressionism, that Ricketts so detested. What’s more, Jackson was a competent administrator, and in 1926 became Director of the Byam Shaw School of Art, which under his leadership became one of the leading art schools of its time in Britain, producing between 1926 and 1945 two winners of the Prix de Rome and two runners-up for this prestigious scholarship as well as a winner of the Abbey Scholarship. 

Jackson teaching at the Byam Shaw
No doubt it was this competence as an administrator that led Ricketts to name Jackson one of his executors. This role had always unofficially belonged to Thomas Sturge Moore, one of Ricketts’s oldest friends and disciples. However, with the years Sturge Moore had become rather vague and muddled, and with Shannon having suffered brain damage in his fall from a ladder in 1929, the estate needed someone who was efficient and strong-minded. His choice proved to be right, as in administering Ricketts’s estate, Jackson did his best to do what Ricketts would have wanted, in both preserving his and Shannon’s collection as much as possible, while at the same time selling some things to make sure that Shannon received the best care possible. In doing this, he had to put up a great deal of interference both from Sturge Moore and from the Master in Lunacy, who had legally become involved in Shannon’s care, but who knew nothing of Ricketts and Shannon and their values.

F. Ernest Jackson
In the years after Ricketts’s death, the Byam Shaw School under Jackson’s direction, remained one of the few places in London where the names of Ricketts and Shannon were still revered. Shannon had taught there for a time, and Ricketts had made a practice of having a weekly lunch with Jackson. Jackson often spoke of them to the students, some of whom like Brian Thomas, winner of the Prix de Rome, and George Warner Allen, became devoted to Ricketts and Shannon and to the artistic values that they represented. Jackson gave each of them a postcard that he had received from Ricketts. Warner Allen, who knew whole sections of Ricketts’s books on the Prado and on Titian by heart, continued to paint in the manner of Titian, while Thomas, who realized that there was no money in such painting, became a leading decorative artist for churches and older buildings, one area where the classical tradition still survived. Thus it was partly through Jackson that Ricketts and Shannon were able to pass on their artistic values, however unpopular and old-fashioned they seemed to the artists of the modern movement, to the new generation.
      J.G. Paul Delaney

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

99. Charles Shannon on Wikipedia

Charles Shannon's entry on Wikipedia was created in 2005, a year later than that for Ricketts. It contains one image, his self-portrait from the National Portrait Gallery.

Shannon's biography is captured in a single paragraph that mentions his education, the meeting with Ricketts, his paintings, and lithographs, as well as museum collections that hold works by Shannon. His book designs for Oscar Wilde (A House of Pomegranates), his binding designs for Wilde's plays, nor his collaboration on pre-Vale Press books with Ricketts are mentioned. The entry lists references, bibliographies, and external links.

Charles Shannon's self-portrait from the collection of the National Portrait Gallery (souce: Wikicommons)
There are no links to entries in other languages.

The world according to Wikipedia... This lemma indicates that the Wikipedians who worked on it, have an interest in his lithographs, and paintings, but not in other aspects of his art and life, and that all are from the English-speaking countries.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

98. Charles Ricketts on Wikipedia

Charles Ricketts has had a lemma on the English version of Wikipedia since 14 October 2004. It was started by wikipedian Charles Matthews, and the lemma underwent modifications by others in the following years. The opening line of the entry in the online encyclopedia now reads:

Charles de Sousy Ricketts (2 October 1866 - 7 October 1931) was a versatile English artist, illustrator, author and printer, and is best known for his work as book designer and typographer from 1896 to 1904 with the Vale Press, and his work in the theatre as a set and costume designer.

The section 'Life and career' has three sentences on his birth and education, then quotes William Rothenstein's memoirs on his looks and mind, and mentions his initial meeting with Charles Shannon.

Charles Ricketts, design for Mikado: one of the illustrations on Wikipedia Commons
The next paragraph is about the Vale Press and Ricketts's artistic career, starting with The Dial and his illustrations for a book by Wilde (The Sphinx, although the title is not given). About the Vale Press Wikipedia writes: 

It was in the work of the Vale Press that Ricketts would find his talents were best employed. The enterprise also involved Thomas Sturge Moore, and later William Llewellyn Hacon (1860-1910), a barrister.

I do not see how the word 'later' in this paragraph can be correct.

The entry mentions facts about the printer of the books and the number of editions that were issued by the Vale Press, and it states that Ricketts was 'involved' in Pissarro's Eragny Press, which is rather vague. 

The paragraph briefly summarizes his career as a painter, and as an art critic. The last paragraph lists a number of his designs for the theatre, and mentions a play about Ricketts and Shannon by Michael MacLennan (2003).

Then follows an incomplete list of 'works', followed by footnotes, references and external links (this blog is not included).

The entry has four images, and links to entries in other languages: French, Italian, Polish and Spanish. Three of these seem to be copies of the English original, and all are shorter. The Spanish entry originates from 2011. It contains one image, and has paragraphs on his life, artistic career, and theatre designs. The Polish entry is extremely short and dates from 2008. The Italian version (with two of the images) is slightly longer, dates from the same year, and ignores his career as a book designer. The French version is not a copy of the others, and digests his career as an artist and art collector. It also mentions Shannon's accident in 1928, and Ricketts's death.

There is no lemma about the Vale Press on Wikipedia in English. However, an entry in French exists, as well as one in German, both without pictures. There is no German entry for Ricketts. A link from the English Ricketts entry to the German Vale Press lemma was removed.

The amazing world of Wikipedia...

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

97. "Pen and ink drawings in my earliest manner"

I received an inquiry about Charles Ricketts's illustrations for Oscar Wilde's poems in prose. The question came down to: were these illustrations ever published, and where are they located?

Wilde's Poems in Prose include 'The House of Judgment', 'The Disciple', 'The Artist', 'The Doer of Good', 'The Master', and 'The Teacher of Wisdom'. As a group, they were published by the author in The Fortnightly Review, July 1894.

Oscar Wilde, 'The Disciple', in Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and Other Prose Pieces (London, Methuen and Co., 1908, p. 206-207)
It seems that Ricketts planned a series of drawings for an illustrated edition shortly afterwards. They were stored away and found, in 1918, in 'a batch of old Vale scraps, tracings and drawings, published and unpublished', as Ricketts wrote to his friend Gordon Bottomley (27 July 1918). The drawings were among those for the first issue of The Dial (1889), for Daphnis and Chloe and The Sphinx.

In 1924 Ricketts produced a new series of drawings (letter to Bottomley, 13 June 1924): 'Recently I executed eight drawings in my old manner illustrating Wilde's Poems in Prose'. This was suggested to him by his American dealer Martin Birnbaum. He also produced a new set of drawings for The Sphinx. As Paul Delaney wrote: 'Both sets were sold by Birnbaum in America, but when one of the Poems in Prose was eventually returned Bottomley snapped it up, as well as some of the first sketches for The Sphinx designs.'

The 1924 illustrations were sold by Birnbaum to American collectors and, to my knowledge, they have not been recorded since. (See note.)

Thomas Sturge Moore argued that 'only the preparations remain with us. In them, lyrical felicity is replaced by grander conceptions and a line richer in suggestion: the artist had matured.' This series of sketches is now in the Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery in Carlisle. They are collected in an album that was purchased by Bottomley at Sotheby's in 1938. He bequeathed it to Professor Claude Colleer Abbott, his literary executor, who in turn left it to Tullie House in 1971. A catalogue of the Ricketts items in the Bottomley collection was published by Michael Barclay in 1985.

Oscar Wilde, 'The Teacher of Wisdom', in: Selected Prose of Oscar Wilde (London, Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1914, p. 128-129)
Jeremiah Romano Mercurio, in his recent essay about two of the remaining sketches, wrote that Ricketts did 'nine pen-and-ink illustrations - one for each of the six prose poems Wilde published, with two designs and three drawings for 'The Doer of Good' and an additional sketch of three dancing figures, which might have been intended to serve as a frontispiece'. He noted that the illustrations have not yet been published as a set.

The sketches for Poems in Prose (c. 1924):
1. 'The House of Judgment'.
Reproductions: Moore, 1933, plate XXXVII; Calloway, 1979, p. 90; Barclay, 1985, p. [46]; Mercurio, 2011, p. 14 (in colour). 
Bibliography: Barclay, 1985, p. 65: No. 15 in Album.
2. 'The Disciple'.
Reproductions: Barclay, 1985, p. [44]; Mercurio, 2011, p. 10 (in colour)
Bibliography: Barclay, 1985, p. 65: No. 14 in Album.
3a. 'The Artist'.
Reproductions: -.
Bibliography: Barclay, 1985, p. 65: No. 9 in Album.
3b. 'The Artist'. (Another version, framed). 
Reproductions: -.
Bibliography: cf. Barclay, 1985, p. 43, No. 2: 'one framed': Acc. No. 125-1949-341 (not in Album).  
4a. 'The Doer of Good' (a standing figure, two figures on a couch).
Reproductions: -.
Bibliography: Barclay, 1985, p. 65: No. 18 in Album.
4b. 'The Doer of Good'. Preparatory sketch.
Bibliography: Barclay, 1985, p. 65: No. 17 in Album. 
4c. 'The Doer of Good'. Second design (a standing figure of Christ, a kneeling figure in front, two angels in the top corner)
Reproductions: -.
Bibliography: Barclay, 1985, p. 65: No. 12 in Album.
5. 'The Master'.
Reproductions: -.
Bibliography: Barclay, 1985, p. 65: No. 13 in Album.
6. 'The Teacher of Wisdom'. 
Reproductions: Peppin, 1975, p. 51; Darracott, 1980, p. 30; Barclay, 1985, p. [42].

Bibliography: Barclay, 1985, p. 65: No. 16 in Album.7. Sketch of three dancing figures.
Reproductions: -.
Bibliography: Barclay, 1985, p. 65: No. 10 in Album.

Michael Richard Barclay: Catalogue of the Works of Charles Ricketts, R.A. from the Collection of Gordon Bottomley. Stroud, Glos, Catalpa Press Ltd., 1985; Stephen Calloway: Charles Ricketts. Subtle and fantastic decorator. London, Thames and Hudson, 1979; Joseph Darracott: The World of Charles Ricketts. London, Eyre Methuen, 1980; Jeremiah Mercurio, 'Charles Ricketts' illustrations for Oscar Wilde's Poems in prose: an unrealized project', in: Victorian Network, vol. 3 (2011) No. 1 (Summer), p. 3-21; Charles Ricketts, R.A. Sixty-Five Illustrations. Introduced by T. Sturge Moore. London, Toronto, Melbourne & Sidney, Cassell & Company Limited, 1933.

Note, 2023
Three drawings from the 1924 set have been traced since this blog was written.