Wednesday, October 24, 2018

378. Scholarly Attention for Charles Ricketts (4)

Since 2000, the number of articles about Oscar Wilde or Michael Field that mention Charles Ricketts and his designs for their books has increased. Apart from that, Ricketts himself has become a major subject for research, although these publications are usually not written for a large audience.

Everything for Art and Charles Ricketts's Mysterious Mother

Book and Theatre Design 

Since 2000, more scholars have emerged with publications about Ricketts's book design, especially in the United States. Nicholas Frankel (1962) published his Oscar Wilde's Decorated Books in 2000 (The University of Michigan Press), followed by his Masking the Text: Essays on Literature & Mediation in the 1890s in 2009 (The Rivendale Press). David Peters Corbett published 'Symbolism in British "Little magazines". The Dial (1889-[189]7), The Pageant (1896-7), and The Dome (1897-1900)' in: The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines (2009). I published several articles on Ricketts, for example on his influence as a book designer on the Dutch debate on modern book illustration in the 1890s (in the Dutch yearbook for book history, 2000), on the printing of A House of Pomegranates (a sequel to this was published by Paul Nash), in The Private Library (2005, and 2007 for the Nash article), and in 2006 The Book Collector contained my article about Rickett's designs for Osgood: 'The Revival of a Publisher's Device. Charles Ricketts and Osgood, McIlvaine & Co.'

In 2004 Oak Knoll Press published Maureen Watry's bibliography of the Vale Press. Vincent Barlow contributed an essay on Ricketts and Shannon as publisher of a formerly untraced edition of Sturge Moore's woodcuts to Studies in Illustration (2014), and I privately published a bibliography of the articles and books written by Ricketts (2015).

A younger generation approached the work of Ricketts with fresh insights. One of them is Jeremiah Mercurio who took as a subject 'Charles Ricketts' illustrations for Oscar Wilde's Poems in prose. An unrealized project' (published online, 2010). Petra Clark is another young scholar who researches Ricketts's illustrations. In 2013 she published an article on 'Bitextuality, Sexuality, and the Male Aesthete in The Dial: "Not Through an Orthodox Channel"' (English Literature in Transition, 1890-1930, 2013), which was followed in 2015 by ‘“Cleverly Drawn”. Oscar Wilde, Charles Ricketts, and the Art of the Woman’s World’ (Journal of Victorian Culture, 2015). Another scholar, Koenraad Claes, published long contributions about The Dial and The Pageant in his book The Late-Victorian Little Magazine (2018).

An older generation still played its part. In 2007, Carl Woodring (1919-2009) published an article in Wordsworth Circle: 'Centaurs Unnaturally Fabulous'. It discussed centaurs as a motif in Rickett's paintings and book illustrations. Woodring was 87 at the time.

The other major concern of Ricketts, the theatre, was not forgotten. Scholars such as Margaret Mitchell, Lindsay Catherine Thomas, and Judith P. Shoaf published essays on the stage designs for performances by and for soldiers in France, Ricketts's Shakespeare productions, and the dolls he made for Mabel Beardsley.

Exhibitions were mounted on several occasions. An online exhibition was published in conjunction with the publication of Watry's bibliography (At the Sign of the Dial: Charles Ricketts and the Vale Press 1896-1903, Liverpool University Library). Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery showed Decadence and design. Ricketts, Shannon and their circle in 2007, while Ricketts and Shannon. A Creative Partnership was on display in 2009 at the National Portrait Gallery. Museum Meermanno in The Hague commemorated the 150th anniversary of Ricketts's birth with a show called Charles Ricketts. Between Jesus and Oscar Wilde (2016).

The last decade, some new initiatives and themes came to the fore. A new edition of some of Ricketts's main texts was published by The Rivendale Press in 2014: Everything for Art: Selected Writings, edited by Nicholas Frankel. Paul Delaney and Corine Verney solved the riddle of his mother's identity in Charles Rickett's Mysterious Mother (2016), and this blog on Ricketts and Shannon started in July 2011.

Art Collectors

Ricketts and Shannon as art collectors was the subject of some earlier studies, but since 2007 three more articles haven taken up this issue: Jane Munro wrote about them as collectors of drawings (in L’artiste collectionneur de dessin. II (2007), Caroline Elam published 'Piero di Cosimo and Centaurophilia in Edwardian London' in The Burlington Magazine (2009), filling several pages about them as art advisers and collectors with quotes from their diaries and letters, while Christina Rozeik looked at the fate of the collection they bequeathed to the Fitzwilliam Museum: '"A Maddening Temptation". The Ricketts and Shannon collection of Greek and Roman antiquities' (Journal of the History of Collections, 2012).

A new angle was found by Frederick D. King, who looked at The Pageant and its role in changing concepts of art history: Revising Art History in The Pageant (presentation at the North American Victorian Studies Association's supernumerary conference in Florence,  2017). 

Queer Domesticities


Homosexuality has become a major theme. David Peters Corbett published his article 'Homosociality and Visual Knowledge in the Circle of Charles Ricketts' in Visual Culture in Britain (2007), and two other writers connected this topic with that of interior design: John Potvin wrote 'The Aesthetics of Community: Queer Interiors and the Desire for Intimacy' for the monograph Rethinking the Interior c. 1867-1896. Aestheticism and Arts and Crafts (2010), and Matt Cook devoted a chapter to Ricketts and Shannon in his book Queer Domesticities. Homosexuality and Home Life in Twentieth-Century London (2014). This chapter, 'Domestic Passions: Unpacking the Homes of Charles Shannon and Charles Ricketts' was previously published in the Journal of British Studies (2012).

What will the future bring?