Wednesday, January 31, 2018

340. Collections Online: The MET

In the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, The Met, in New York, one can find a portrait of the Dutch art dealer Elbert Jan van Wisselingh (1848-1912) by Charles Shannon. I don't think it has ever been on show in The MET. (See my earlier blog on Shannon's portraits of Van Wisselingh: 207 Charles Shannon's Portraits of E.J. van Wisselingh).

Charles Shannon, portrait of E.J. van Wisselingh (1899)
Van Wisselingh took over his father's business in 1881. Under his leadership modern French paintings were sold in the Netherlands, and the company expanded into an internationally regarded firm. A London shop was established in 1892 (The Dutch Gallery), and Ricketts and Shannon became friends of Van Wisselingh, who ensured some early sales of their work outside Britain.

The portrait is a drawing in black, white and red chalk on pink paper, signed 'C.H.S. 99'. It was bequeathed to The Met in 2005 by William Slattery Lieberman (1923-2005). Lieberman's collection of documents relating to the modernist ballet 'Parade' by Jean Cocteau and Eric Satie comprised the more important part of his donation. Lieberman was a long-time curator at MOMA before he moved to The Met where he became chairman of the Twentieth Century Art Department.

One wonders how he got hold of this particular Shannon drawing that has been digitized by the museum and published on its website alongside some other works by Ricketts and Shannon (mostly book illustrations).

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

339. Collections Online: Harvard Art Museums

More and more collections are being digitised and images of books, illustrations, and art works become freely available to a large audience. They are picked up and posted on Pinterest, Instagram, and what have you.

The Harvard Art Museums currently shows 14 works online: stage designs, costume drawings, and book illustrations, among them is the series of drawings for a projected but unpublished edition of Oscar Wilde's The Sphinx.

Charles Ricketts, illustration for Oscar Wilde, The Sphinx (Harvard Art Museums)
One of the drawings in brown ink over graphite on cream wove paper (30,1 x 21 cm) depicts the sphinx with images of a naked man and woman

The series of illustrations was sold by Scott & Fowles in New York (through Martin Birnbaum) in 1923 to Grenville L. Winthrop, who donated the works to Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University in 1942 as part of his art collection.

Grenville Lindall Winthrop (1864-1943), a lawyer, assembled his collection in an Upper East Side townhouse in New York. The Ricketts drawings found themselves in the company of some 4000 other works of art, including paintings and drawings by William Blake, Edward Burne-Jones, Ingres, Daumier, Van Gogh, Whistler, Moreau, Delacroix, and Beardsley. Not bad company at all.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

338. The 2018 Alphabet: R

R is for Resolv'd.
Resolv'd to love, unworthy to obtaine,
I do no favour crave; but humble wise
To thee my sighes in verse I sacrifise,
Onely some pitty and no helpe to gaine.

Charles Ricketts, initial 'R' (1897)
An initial 'R' was designed by Charles Ricketts for his edition of The Poems & Sonnets of Henry Constable (1897). It was used for one of the sonnets in this book.

The same 'R' appeared in Robert Browning's Dramatic Romances and Lyrics (1899), in the poem 'Parting at Morning', and, again, in Poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson (1900), in the introductory poem 'To the Queen'. In each book the initial turns up only once.

In similar cases, Ricketts designed a new initial for each book, but the 'R' was rarely needed as an initial, and Ricketts did not design any other initial 'R' at all (see blog 313. The 2017 Alphabet: K).

Charles Ricketts, initial 'R' (1897)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

337. A Caricature Portrait of Ricketts

Several artists, such as Walter Crane, sketched caricatures of Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon. One of the lesser known caricatures was drawn by Francis Derwent Wood (1871-1926), an artist whose portraits were given to the Royal Academy of Arts by his widow. A number of these, including his drawing of Ricketts, are published on the society's website.

Francis Derwent Wood, Caricature of Charles Ricketts, A.R.A., c. 1920s
(Collection of The Royal Academy, London)
The Ricketts caricature is a drawing in pencil, wash and pen and ink on wove paper. Most of these sketches seem to have been made at Royal Academy banquets and Chelsea Arts Club dinners. Ricketts and Shannon knew Wood around the time that he did these caricatures.

Some critics have asserted that these drawings were 'made upon odd scraps of paper, upon envelopes and so forth', but the commentary written on behalf of the Academy states that they were not always 'as spontaneous' as it seems, and for the Ricketts portrait Wood used materials that he wouldn't have carried with him at all times.

Wood also made such portraits of other public figures, including 'politicians, clergymen, connoisseurs, and aristocrats'.

Several portraits have written comments on them, such as 'Gerald Kelly, the Festive ARA', others simply identify the artist. Ricketts is identified as 'C. Ricketts, A.R.A.' and above his name it says: 'AMICO DI SHANNONI'. The portrait is signed and dated 7 January 1922.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

336. Cherubs and a Centaur Drawn by Ricketts

Unrecorded early drawings and paintings by Ricketts and Shannon do turn up occasionally. The drawings may have been studies for paintings or illustrations. Such drawings by Ricketts are usually unused for illustrations that he may or may not have been assigned. There is still a lot to discover.

A few years ago, a drawing of a centaur chased by cherubs was auctioned at Dominic Winter's sale of 15 July 2015, Paintings & Watercolours, Old Master & Modern Prints, Antique Furniture, Silver & Collectables.

Charles Ricketts, 'Cherubs chasing a Centaur' (undated)
The undated drawing is an early one, as the (vaguely visible) signature testifies. Ricketts used this signature in the 1880s, when he was in his early twenties.

At an estimate of £400 — £600, the drawing was sold for £700 (hammer price).

The subject of centaurs haunted Ricketts (as it did Thomas Sturge Moore). See an article by Ricketts collector and scholar Carl Woodring: 'Centaurs Unnaturally Fabulous'. Centaurs were depicted by Ricketts in book illustrations (for example The Sphinx) and were a subject for sculpting after 1900.

Perhaps, Ricketts referred to an eighteenth-century image by the Venetian artist Tiepolo that is in the collection of the Prado Museum in Madrid. The drawing shows a similar scene from a different angle.

Tiepolo, 'Centaur with Cherubs' (Museo del Prado, Madrid)