Wednesday, April 2, 2014

140. A Dutch Portrait of Ricketts and Shannon in 1893

Leo Simons, in his three articles about the Fourth Arts and Crafts Exhibition in London (see last week's blognot only wrote about William Morris, whom he heard speak on 2 November 1893. Simons devoted an entire column to the work of Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon in the Dutch newspaper Opregte Haarlemsche Courant of 4 December 1893. This essay is among the earliest newspaper pieces about them.

Simons describes them as the 'recluses of the Vale' in Chelsea, and as 'prominent modernists', whose magazine The Dial was a noteworthy and irregularly issued publication. He reported that the third issue had just appeared. 

The Studio (October 1893) had recently written about the Arts and Crafts Exhibition that the new issue of The Dial 'was issued just too late to be shown here'. 

In The Netherlands art critic and artist Jan Veth would mention this issue in a review of 17 December 1893. These were the earliest reviews of the magazine, including England.

Charles Shannon, 'The Vale in Snow', lithograph (1889)
Simons concluded that Ricketts and Shannon's efforts were different from Morris's in that they did not print their own periodical, and their chief merit was to be found in the illustrations: Ricketts's wood engravings and pen drawings; Shannon's lithographs and wood engravings. He observed a half century of different influences between Morris and the other two artists, Ricketts and Shannon.

He went on to describe Ricketts's appearance, suggesting that he knew them personally:

Ricketts, especially, is a nervous and refined personality; a pale pointed face framed with a reddish beard, light eyes, energetic features, and lively gestures while he discusses art; with a resolute, often passionate declaration of approval or condemnation of an artist and his work. He appears to be more the agitated Frenchman than the modest English gentleman; and when Lucien Pissarro, the dark black bearded, earnest French artist (his eyes expressing a childlike melancholy) is sitting opposite him, he as easily trades English for French. Even a first impression of this artist is one of extraordinariness, a fine and tender personality, more an ecstatic intellectual life than a physical one, and the more attractive because of a total absence of affectation.

Simons goes on to describe their surroundings: a quiet oasis near a busy road, a house painted in light green, a long and narrow pale yellow room; the walls covered with paintings and lithographs by Shannon and an occasional example of Indian or Medieval art; on a table near the fireplace were cups with flowers that Shannon had sown and gathered from their garden; the whole without a trace of wealth, or fashion, or picturesqueness, and all the more comfortably individual.