Wednesday, November 25, 2020

487. A Century of Art (1)

In June-July 1911, the Grafton Galleries were the venue for an exhibition sponsored by the International Society of Sculptors, Painters, and Gravers, curated by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon. The run-up to and the festivities surrounding the coronation of George V and his wife Mary coincided with the opening days of the exhibition, which was therefore poorly attended and closed at a loss. Carfax & Co. published a booklet in which Ricketts published his 'personal observations'. Only the preface of A Century of Art 1810-1910 was reprinted in Ricketts's Pages on Art; the text of the other thirty pages was not.

Room I contained works by French artists. Room II contained paintings by Raeburn, Lawrence, Turner, followed by the Pre-Raphaelites. Paragraphs about the latter group of artists are presented below.

A Century of Art [by Charles Ricketts]

The end of the forties was to witness the advent of a new group of artists, since become famous as the Pre-Raphaelites. The consideration of this extraordinary school can be made here on some of the most typical specimens of their work. [...] 

Nadar, Eugène Delacroix (c. 1857)

Within its self-imposed conditions Pre-Raphaelitism might be described as the emphasis of the aspect of things which has become possible in an age whose eyesight had been modified by science. This ideal was in itself not far removed from  that of certain great Florentines, and a scrupulous study of the minutest facts had been continuous in the art of the primitive Flemings. Delacroix, who lived to see specimen works of the English Pre-Raphaelites and to praise them highly, was quick to receive the relation between the old art of Flanders and the new, dry English School, as it was then called. With that nimbleness and clearness of perception which seems characteristic of great Frenchmen, he recognised that if the earlier British School had in a sense developed upon the traditions of Rubens and Vandyck, who were Flemings, the new school had not swerved from the same Northern source of technical inspiration. Other elements escaped his analysis; these he rightly considered new; remained one other of which he could have no knowledge—i.e., the source of the imaginative impulse behind these works. If the church had inspired the Flemish primitives, a new religious fervour touched Pre-Raphaelitism also, but with the exception of Holman Hunt this was transitory, not essential to the success or character of the movement; it was perhaps merely a part of the improvised mediaeval scheme which Chatterton had played with, and in so doing brought English thought to a new knowledge of itself. Pre-Raphaelitism owes a debt to Keats; is has benefited by the poignant vision of nature which he has revealed during those few years in which he lived.

The love of analyses , the power to transmute facts into something more, the brilliant self-confidence of youth, its noble scrupulousness and feeling of wonder, can be found in Pre-Raphaelitism. Delacroix said of it, "This art is young and we in France are very old." 

William Holman Hunt,  'The Hireling Shepard' (1851)
[Manchester Art Gallery]
[Gnu Free Documentation License]

It was the influence of Keats that sweetened for a while the stubborn Protestant outlook of Holman Hunt, in whom the mystical fervour and sense of fact of a new John Bunyan seems once more among us. Beyond doubt, Hunt's example was a bracing one upon the school. His "Hireling Shepard" (No. 42) is perhaps his most typical or admirable work—it is a priceless specimen of British thought and art.

Ford Madox Brown, 'Waiting' (1851-1855)
[Walker Art Gallery]

He has been described as the conscience of the movement; he was certainly its founder. Late in life Madox Brown hugged the idea that to his early efforts should be ascribed the origin of Pre-Raphaelitism. Without Hunt and Rossetti, Madox Brown would never have painted pictures which one might consider Pre-Raphaelite; at the most he would have remained preoccupied with analogous efforts and experiments in Flanders and Germany to renounce ripe colour, free brush-work, and rich shadows. His "Christ washing the Feet of Peter" (No. 40), the exquisite little picture "Waiting" (No. 61), show him at his best and as a technical follower of Hunt. The more delicate  skill, the greater nimbleness and sensitiveness of eye and mind make of J.E. Millais the more constantly successful exponent of Pre-Raphaelitism in its first phase. The "Ferdinand and Ariel" (No. 48) is extreme in its tendencies; it is less important than the incomparable "Ophelia" or "The Carpenter's Shop;" less emotional in vision than "The Eve of St. Agnes" or the "Autumn Leaves." It is, however, typical of early Pre-Raphaelite tendencies; its is nearer Keats than Shakespeare, which is illustrates, nearer to Chatterton than to Keats, more wholly English in temper, since Italy counts in Shakespeare and Greece with Keats.

John Everett Millais, 'Ferdinand Lured by Ariel' (1850)
[Private Collection]

Under the influence of Rossetti, the greatest of them all, the new brotherhood was to achieve more than is compassed by Hunt in the "Hireling Shepherd," or by Millais in the "Ferdinand and Ariel." If their works are intense and passionate in their hold upon outward things, they are in a sense incidental. The central impulse is narrative, and with Hunt it is didactic.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, "Arthur's Tomb" (1860)
[Photo © Tate Gallery]
[Creative Commons Licence CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported)]

Rossetti brought to the movement a keener sense of design, which martials facts into a more memorable whole, and that tragic sense which is ever present in the finest poetic invention. With him the scientific conscience, which delighted Ruskin, was to loose[*] its hold upon the movement. Some of Rossetti's priceless water-colours exhibited here summaries that new combination of reality and imagination which always underlies the finest art. With Rossetti the balance may often have swerved too much towards the imaginative, the rarer half of art, and too little towards the study of nature; on this point I am unable  and unwilling to judge. The "Arthur's Tomb" (No. 44) is one of those priceless things which defy analysis. Part of its force may reside in what might seem at first sight the more whimsical part of it, endow the figure of Guinevere with greater realityi.e., the traces of maturity and sensuality—and perhaps the lurching, questioning, and impassioned man with his tragic face might lose the pathos of contrast. The quaint details of the tomb, the grass like "new-cleft emeralds," the splashes of light and the green shadows from the leaves, add to the sense of vividness and to the sense of strangeness of the picture, to the sense of something poignant yet remote, like one's childhood. This visionary work has all the intensity of music, it tells of far-off tragic things, and of passion that passes, of beauty that endures, perhaps! Like music, it is at once ironic and compassionate. Out of this water-colour William Morris evolved his quaint and moving poem "King Arthur's Tomb."

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, "Lucrezia Borgia" (c.1867)
[Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery]

The first design for the Llandaff triptych (No. 47) counts in the first line of Rossetti's early designs. The little "Borgia" (No. 46) shows also the painter's inventive faculties in their full flower. The larger version of this design at Kensington is later, and not entirely by his hand. The "Beatrice and Dante" (No. 43), the "Belle Dame Sans Merci" (No. 50), are each jewels of colour, design and invention. The admirable series of Rossetti's drawings in the End Gallery will further illustrate the period in his career when invention and a racy power of execution went together. For the most part all these works fall within the space of seven years; they typify what the French call "the School of Oxford" thereby indicating the second phase of Pre-Raphaelitism, when the influence of Rossetti became paramount on a younger generation made memorable by Burne-Jones and William Morris. A record of this charmed epoch can still be seen in the famous St. Frideswide window at Oxford. The two lovely panels (Nos. 39 and 52) are slightly later in date. If the colour is jewelled and almost toylike in the Oxford windows, here it is different in scheme, and we have instead dim, broken colours, the tomes of goblin woods and of tapestries seen in twilight. They are perfect specimens of narrative art tinged with that plaintive sweetness which Burne-Jones has brought to English art. The "Temperentia" (No. 41) and the "Caritas" (No. 49)  also revert in design to later Oxford windows. The broken golds and faded ivories of the "Temperentia" gleam on the golden wall with the effect of old cloth-of-gold or gold-dust; this singular gift, of which Burne-Jones had the secret, belongs to "The Depths of the Sea" (No. 45). In novelty of design, personality in workmanship, originality of aspect, it stands on a level which current criticism is perhaps powerless to analyse, since originality and personality have often to be allowed to countless works without one tithe of these qualities revealed by Burne-Jones—revealed, in fact, in varying degrees, by all these priceless Pre-Raphaelite pictures.

Edward Burne-Jones, "Temperentia" (1872)

Quoted from Charles Ricketts, A Century of Art 1810-1910. London, Carfax & Co., 1911, pp. 16-20. 
The catalogue does not contain a list of exhibited paintings, drawings and prints, nor does it contain illustrations. A separate list of the pictures was published by the Society: A Catalogue of the Pictures, Drawings, Prints and Sculpture at the Century of Art Exhibition of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers held at the Grafton Galleries, June and July, 1911. [A copy is in the National Art Library, V&A Museum, London: Historic Catalogues 200.B.208].

* Ricketts writes 'loose' for 'lose'.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

486. Speaking Ephemera (3): Prospectus for The Dial No. 2 (1892)

The format of a prospectus often comes close to that of the book or periodical that it announces. But its size and scope can also provide an understanding of the intentions of the publisher. The prospectus for the second issue of The Dial may serve as an example, as it came in two different formats and the question is of course: why would a publisher, who has difficulty raising the money to print the magazine itself, bother to print two different prospectuses?

Prospectus for The Dial (1892): two copies: page [1]

The larger of the two sizes measures 29.3 cm by 18.7 cm - the periodical itself is slightly larger: 36,1 x 29,0 mm. The smaller size prospectus (approximately half the size) is 20,6 x 18,7 cm. Both are printed on the same machine-made paper, the larger one having vertical, the smaller one horizontal chain lines. (The paper of The Dial is heavier.) The texts and illustrations in both prospectuses are completely identical.

There are four pages: (1) announcement; (2) quotations from reviews of number 1 (1889), and the contents of No. 1 and No. 2; (3) a note on the woodcuts and lithographs ('not photographic reproductions'); and (4) advertisement of portfolios and books. 

Prospectus for The Dial (1892): two copies: page [2]-[3]

The inner pages of the prospectuses do show a difference: the inner margins (gutter) of page 2 and 3 measures 64 mm in the larger size prospectus, while the smaller size has an inner margin of 39 mm.

Prospectus for The Dial (1892): inner margins of two copies: page [2]-[3]

After printing the large sized prospectuses, the standing type was reimposed for a second print run in a smaller format. The forms have been made up with a lesser amount of furniture between the type-pages. 


It is obvious that cost was the most important factor. The smaller prospectuses cost only half as much paper; the shipping costs (envelopes and postage) would also be lower. Aesthetically, Ricketts will have preferred the more luxurious format; but since production of the second instalment of The Dial had already been delayed due to lack of money - Henry James Riley and Thomas Sturge Moore had to help financially - he will have quickly resigned himself to saving paper costs.

Probably, the smaller prospectus has the largest print run, but as both pieces of ephemera are extremely rare, it is difficult to determine.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

485. The Smoker

Both Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon were heavy smokers and their friends also enjoyed smoking a cigarette. Oscar Wilde, for example, was a chain smoker.  

In 1896, Shannon made a lithograph called 'Le Fumeur' (The Smoker), a portrait of their friend the artist Reginald Savage. We see dark areas that may represent smoke, but their origins are unclear.

Charles Shannon, 'Le Fumeur' (1896)
[British Museum. Creative Commons License]

We do not know exactly what Shannon smoked, but around 1920, his tobacco stock may have included cigarettes of the De Reszke brand. This is what we learn from a 1920 advertisement in The Tatler in which he promotes the brand.

From The Tatler, 17 November 1920

In he 1880s Jacob Millhoff (1860?-1925) arrived in London to establish a cigarette company that allegedly produced a brand of tobacco that would not damage a singer's voice, not even that of the famous Polish opera singer Jean de Reszke (1850-1925), after whom Millhoff was allowed to name his brand. The "Reszke" was advertised as "The Aristocrat of Cigarettes".

Drawing by Reginald Edward Higgins
(The Tatler, 17 November 1920)

In 1920, the cigarette manufacturer developed a campaign published in luxury magazines such as The Tatler and Vogue. Published as a series called "A Man's Year", every month a new advertisement appeared with a specially made drawing of the artist Reginald Edward Higgins (1877-1933). The first episode appeared in February 1920. Below the image were recommendations from celebrities such as the painter Augustus John. Each time a place was shown where the cigarette was indispensable: "Henley", "The Highland", "The R.A." (The Royal Academy) "The Ritz", and finally "At Home". That tenth episode (November 1920) contained a recommendation by Charles Shannon A.R.A.

Shannon wrote:

I find 'De Reszke' Cigarettes excellent in every way. One could not wish for a better cigarette.

Anyone could have made the same point - Augustus John practically used the same words - so the question is whether Shannon really wrote this, or whether he wrote it as a thank-you note after receiving a free carton of cigarettes? And why did not his answer embellish the advertisement with the Royal Academy image?

[Thanks are due to John Aplin, who alerted me to the advertisement in The Tatler.]

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

484. Speaking Ephemera (2): Prospectus for Fair Rosamund: addendum

Last week's blog - Speaking Ephemera (1) - discussed the prospectus and order form for the Vale Press edition of Fair Rosamund by Michael Field, and while I was writing it I made a note of two matters that also needed to be discussed. (1) Who wrote those comments on this copy of the prospectus and (2) what is the everyday name of the publisher?

Who wrote the notes on prospectuses in 1896?

Handwritten note on a copy of the prospectus for Michael Field's Fair Rosamund (1896)

The first manager of the publishing house and of the shop they opened was Edward Le Breton Martin (Le Breton was his mother's maiden name). Born in Evesham in October 1873, he moved to London around 1894, and lived in Kensington, at 57, Longridge Road, trying to establish a career as a writer or journalist. His stories were published in Sylvia's Home Journal (August 1894) and Pearson's Magazine (from June 1896 onwards). His tenure at The Vale Press lasted until the summer when he went to work for a newspaper. Later, he lived in Richmond, published a few books, did talks on dialects, tobacco and literature for the radio in the 1920s, and died from an accident in 1944.

The manuscript note in red ink on the prospectus for Fair Rosamund is probably not Martin's. When Charles Holmes took over the position of manager, he met 'Macgregor, the pleasant efficient office-boy'. Apart from his surname, nothing is known about him. However, because the handwriting does not resemble Holmes's, it is most likely Macgregor who wrote it.

The name of the press

The prospectus from the summer of 1896 does not mention the name 'Vale Press'. The publishing house was officially called Hacon & Ricketts. The heading says:


Prospectus for Michael Field's Fair Rosamund (1896)

That is quite a mouthful and three elements can be distinguished: the name of the publications, the name of the shop and the name of the publisher. 'The Vale Publications' - this is how the individual books were usually announced. At the Sign of the Dial: this is the address where the books could be viewed, purchased and from where they were sent to buyers. The publisher's official name was Hacon & Ricketts, after the founders of the company Llewellyn Hacon and Charles Ricketts.

The name 'Vale Press' is not mentioned at all, not even as a printer, because the books were printed under the direction of Ricketts at the Ballantyne Press.

This is why that particular note on a copy of the Fair Rosamund prospectus is so intriguing: it talks about the 'books issued from The Vale Press', indicating that 'The Vale Press' was its everyday name. But this name is not used in the prospectuses, catalogues, advertisements or colophons. 

It was a name for internal and intimate use, a name that linked it to the original address of Ricketts and Shannon in The Vale. As an address, 'The Vale' had been printed in books and prospectuses from the beginning, most conspicuously on the spine of Daphnis and Chloe (1893). The prospectus for this book mentions the address 'The Vale Chelsea SW', and the publisher 'C.H. Shannon'; on page one the announcement of the book is preceded by two - unexplained - initials 'V. P.' - their significance is not disclosed. Vale Press? Vale Publication?

This book, and the following one, were distributed by Elkin Mathews and John Lane.

Hero and Leander (1894) bears the initials VP on the spine, and, at the back of the book, a publisher's device of a rose, the initials VP and SR for Shannon and Ricketts. Again, VP goes without explanation. An early prospectus only mentions 'The Vale', the later four-page prospectus mentions: 'The Vale Publications'.

When Hacon & Ricketts went into business, so it seems, the name Vale Publications was the preferred name. The very first 'Notice' only reported the name of the shop 'at the sign of the Dial' and the lists that followed mentioned 'Messrs. Hacon and Ricketts' or variants thereof.

Prospectus for The Dial No. 2 (1892)

However, there is one very early exception that may indicate the dual meaning of VP - Vale Publication and Vale Press. This is the prospectus for the second number of The Dial in 1892. Again, the first page mentions the address 'The Vale Chelsea', but the advertisement on the last page announces four portfolios, and here we see the name 'Vale Press' for the first time. This prospectus was issued (probably) in January 1892.

Prospectus for The Dial No. 2 (1892)

In 1896, William Morris died, and the Kelmscott Press neared its closure. Perhaps, in conjunction with this event, the name Vale Press came the preferred name, not in official announcements, but in the press. In December 1896, Temple Scott published his essay 'Mr. Charles Ricketts and the Vale Press' in Bookselling. This interview with Charles Ricketts was followed by a bibliography of the 'Vale Press'. However, Ricketts did not mention the name 'Vale Press' in the published account of his interview (See a reprint of the interview in Everything for Art: Selected Writings, edited by Nicholas Frankel, 2014, pp. 333-341.)

Speaking of the publications, however, that name must always have been quoted, because early reviews in the newspapers also mention the Vale Press while the prospectuses did not. Even before the interview was published, an announcement of the first books in Bradley, His Book (November 1896) wrote about 'The Vale Press', and later reviews also mentioned the name Vale Press (for example The Athenaeum, 23 July 1898) that contained a review of: 'The Sacred Poems of Henry Vaughan, Silurist. (Vale Press.)'. Again, the book does not contain these words. 

Manuscript notes like the one on the Fair Rosamund prospectus may have helped to popularize the name Vale Press as a publisher comparable to the popular Kelmscott Press.

The name discrepancy persisted until the end. Ricketts's bibliography is officially called (title page and colophon): A Bibliography of the Books Issued by Hacon & Ricketts, but the labels on the spine and front cover read: Bibliography of the Vale Press, and in the text he alternately mentions Hacon & Ricketts, the Vale Press, Vale books. However, the early variant 'Vale Publications' had completely disappeared from his vocabulary.