Wednesday, December 30, 2020

492. The International Fine Arts Exhibition in Rome, 1911

Following the series of blog posts about the 1911 exhibition 'A Century of Art, 1810-1910' (blog posts 487, 488, 489, and 490), Jan Piggott authored the article below about the largest competing exhibition that year. 

The International Fine Arts Exhibition in Rome, 1911

In March 1911 Ricketts, home from Egypt, made frustrating preparations for his 'Century of Art, 1810-1910' exhibition, so full of character, at the Grafton Galleries on behalf of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers. The Globe reviewer (quoted in Post 490) mentioned one special difficulty the organisers had coped with: severe demands on lenders from 'huge' exhibitions of British art elsewhere. 

1,232 oil paintings, sculptures, watercolours, prints and drawings were consigned to Rome that year as the British Section of 'The International Fine Arts Exhibition', under the government aegis of the Board of Trade. This indigestible largesse included an oil-painting, a sculpture and a pen-and-ink drawing by Ricketts, and two oil-paintings by Shannon; three of these five works were lent by the artists themselves.

British pavilion's portico designed by Edwin Lutyens:
'The Main Entrance of the British Fine Art Palace'
(from: International Fine Arts Exhibition Rome 1911. Souvenir of the British Section)

This Fine Arts 'Expo' at Rome marked the fiftieth Jubilee of the Kingdom of a reunified Italy. It ran from April 29th to November 19th, with 7,409,145 visitors; this attendance, diminished by a cholera epidemic and poor weather, disappointed the organisers. Meanwhile at Turin, the 'Esposizione Internazionale delle Industrie e del Lavoro', its ambitious twin enterprise, which also featured competitive national displays, attracted just over four million visitors; at Florence a horticultural exhibition made it a triple commemoration.

The obvious sources have not yielded any reference as to how Ricketts and Shannon proceeded in this Roman venture, and what they thought of it. My source, the British Section Souvenir – perhaps rather too grandiose, and definitely weighty – is in effect a 656-page catalogue, liberally illustrated with photographs of the British galleries and many select exhibits, including one painting each by Ricketts and by Shannon. The Souvenir, printed at the Ballantyne Press, was published by the British Board of Trade, appointed agents by a Royal Commission of many distinguished participants. 

An Executive Committee selected the exhibits, chaired by Sir Edward Poynter, President of the Royal Academy. One member was the Vice-President of the International Society, William Strang, an old associate of the two artists from The Pageant and the Society of Twelve. The short biographical entries in the Souvenir for both Ricketts and Shannon mention their membership of the International Society. Ricketts had played an important part in its organisation; the Rome project was obviously relevant to its ideals. The Society perhaps administered the submission and the loans of their works from the two artists. 

Photograph of the portico of Sir Edwin Luytens, 1916
Home for the British School at Rome

The British Pavilion

Adjoining the grounds of the Villa Borghese, twelve national pavilions were erected, temporary white structures. These were in the familiar early twentieth-century Expo manner, but nothing like the wild national architectural flourishes at the vast Paris 'Exposition Universelle' in 1900: they neither anticipated Disneyland, nor were truly magnificent. At Rome the sober 'Palaces' were of concrete, rolled steel, and cement, with plaster façades; they resembled the wonderfully boring facsimiles of Parliament Houses, reduced in scale, built for the 'Festival of Empire' at the Sydenham Crystal Palace that same British Coronation year of 1911. 

The great exception, however, among the Roman pavilions was acknowledged on all sides to be the British, designed by Edwin Lutyens in the 'English Baroque' manner. The portico reproduced the upper order of Wren's St. Paul's cathedral; the pediment asserted the royal coat of arms in relief, supported by a splendid lion and unicorn. Lutyens's design was so much admired by the mayor and people of Rome, history relates, that they gave the site to the British nation and even rebuilt it in permanent materials during World War One. It now houses the British School at Rome, the famous research institute. The other foreign pavilions were those of Germany, France, Austria, Hungary, Spain, Russia, the United States and Japan; Italy itself filled the remaining three. 

The British works, borrowed, catalogued and consigned to Rome, were elegantly displayed in twelve spacious galleries, divided as 'Old Masters' and 'Living Artists'; the rooms were papered in red, the dado and doors painted black. This was (and surely still is) the most comprehensive display of British art ever seen on the Continent; the Foreword to the Souvenir claimed it was also 'admittedly unsurpassed either in artistic importance or historical completeness by any other nation'.

Charles Shannon, 'The Man in a Black Shirt' (1898)
[Self Portrait: London, National Portrait Gallery]

The Paris Expo 1900

The display was significantly larger than the British art exhibition at the Paris Expo in 1900. Among the 397 paintings by 292 old masters and living artists on view then was Shannon's self-portrait, 'The Man in a Black Shirt'; he and William Rothenstein had been awarded silver medals, while Walter Crane and Sir John Lavery got bronze. Ricketts did not submit, though invited. Ricketts thought the Modern British Art section at Paris 'singularly lifeless'. The selectors had been 'too democratic' and tried to include everyone. In The Art Journal book commemorating the Paris Exposition Joseph Pennell in the course of a review, 'Black-and-White at the Paris Exhibition', complained about the omissions in the prints and drawings section: 'To judge by the exhibition C.H. Shannon might never have made any lithographs, William Morris and his followers might not have done anything for the decoration of the book' (The Paris Exhibition 1900, ed. D.C. Thomson (London, The Art Journal, 1901, p. 335).

'The Clou of the Whole Art Exhibition'

At Rome in 1911 the British press (quoted at length in the Souvenir) was comically chauvinist: the Palace dominated all the others, on the finest site; it crowned the whole Expo; a foreigner had called its contents 'the clou of the whole art exhibition'. Again, the British Palace was 59 cm taller than the German, and 97 cm taller than the principal Italian one. Joseph Comyns Carr, the influential art critic and a founding Director of both the Grosvenor and the New Galleries, wrote for the Souvenir itself a discursive historical and critical introduction, explaining how this enterprise was 'the first time in any exhibition overseas a serious endeavour had been made to illustrate the progressive movement of the English School of painting'. In a particularly expansive section explaining the Pre-Raphaelite School (which was very well-represented on the walls) he pointed out that their works had only been known in Rome till now from reproductions. The exhibition was well enough established by the time the Souvenir appeared to record in it the 'sensation' actually made by their work at Rome, and likewise by Aubrey Beardsley, whom the Souvenir called 'a marvel' and generously illustrated. 

Charles Shannon, 'The Bath' (1908)
[said to be part of the Sydney Gallery collection c. 1920;
sold at auction in 2014; whereabouts unknown]

The catalogue entry for Shannon tells us he is an Associate of the Royal Academy, a 'painter in oil and lithographer'. He lent 'The Bath' and 'Portrait of the Artist' (now untraced), the latter reproduced in the Souvenir. This was also known as 'The Marble Torso' (see blog post 458): Shannon is looking at a portfolio of lithographs, the maimed classical statue behind. 

Ricketts is described as a 'painter in oil, sculptor, draughtsman and engraver on wood, book-printer of eminence'. His oil-painting was 'The Betrayal', lent by 'His Hon. Judge William Evans' (now at Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle, bequeathed by Gordon Bottomley) and it was reproduced in the Souvenir. The sculpture was a bronze, 'The Tragic Man', lent by himself. 

Charles Ricketts, 'The Betrayal' (1904)
[Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle]

Lewis Hind, in 'Charles Ricketts. A Commentary on his Activities', in The Studio for January 1910 (see blog post 375) tells us this represented 'a Christ before the people, known as The Tragic Man, a modern version of the Laocöon'. Hind wrote, 'I have spoken of Mr. Ricketts as modeller, not as sculptor, for sculpture seems to denote something larger than the little bronzes which it is his delight to fashion. The penalty of producing works of this nature, so charming and sensitive to those who take the trouble to seek them out, is that in a large gallery they are apt to be overlooked by the cursory visitor. Mr. Ricketts exhibited four at a recent exhibition of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers'.

Black and White Drawings

The British 'Black-and-white Drawings, Etchings, Engravings' gallery, with work by living and deceased artists, showed no wood-engravings or books, although there were drawings for illustrations by Beardsley (out of six, four for Salomé) and by two other artists. Here the intriguing (presumably lost) item by Ricketts was a pen and ink drawing, 'Invitation Card for a "Black and White" Smoking Evening.' This was lent by Marion Harry Spielmann, brother of Sir Isidor Spielmann, Commissioner General of the British Section. Spielmann, author of the 1898 life of Millais, was a prolific writer. He was also the editor of The Magazine of Art from 1887 to 1904, very hospitable to black-and-white work by Ricketts (from 1890), among it an especially fine Shakespearean songs series. The same goes for Black and White, a Weekly Illustrated Record and Review (1891-1912) that had contributions by Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry James, H.G. Wells, Jerome K. Jerome, and Samuel Levy Bensusan, brother-in-law of Lucien Pissarro. (For Ricketts's early illustrations in Black and White, see blog post 45).

Ricketts and Shannon are unlikely to have been happy with the company their works kept among very many of the 255 British paintings by 235 'Living Artists' on view. Ricketts would most likely have thought pusillanimous decency and fairness once again spoiled  an official selection of British art for the Continent, just as it had been in Paris in 1900: The Times (6 May 1911) put it that 'The lions of the New English and the International have lain down with the lambs of the Royal Academy and the R.W.S. [Royal Watercolour Society]; all have worked together, and the result is that justice has been done to everybody'. However, associates and friends brightened the British Section: Edmund Davis lent Rossetti's wonderful drawing 'Paolo and Francesca'; Glyn Philpot (who was 26) showed 'Manuelito, the Circus Boy' (reproduced in the Souvenir), William Rothenstein (of The Pageant and the Society of Twelve) showed two oil-paintings, and Alphonse Legros a portrait etching of Charles Holroyd.
                                                                                                                   Jan Piggott

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

491. Longing for the Sun

One hundred years ago, Charles Ricketts wrote in his diary:

My temper or mind always goes eastwards and southwards. I long for the sun and the sense of antiquity. Yes, Peking, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Angkor, Burmah, Ceylon, Egypt. I would like all these, but shall we ever have money enough or energy enough? 
(Letter to Cecil Lewis in Peking, 24 December 1920, published in Self-Portrait, 1939, pp. 326-327).

Suzuki Harunobu, colour woodcut bequeathed to the
British Museum: 423024001 by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon
(CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license]

Of these places and countries, Ricketts only visited Egypt (twice, in 1911 and 1912). Later, in 1927, he would make a trip to Tunisia. He did not travel to Asia. However, there were many Asian works of art in his collection.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

490. A Century of Art (4)

The exhibition A Century of Art, 1810-1910 at the Grafton Galleries was by no means the only one in the summer of 1911, competition was tough and the show ended with a loss. However, there was no lack of interest from the newspapers and magazines. 

Grafton Galleries: The Long Gallery (1893)

One day before the opening a private view was held, and the same day at least two newspapers published a review. On 2 June The Times argued that the title was 'ambitious':

It is almost needless to say that, though there are many interesting pictures and other works in the collection, it in no way represents the finest Art of the last 100 years. Many artists here exhibited are those we are accustomed to meet in the ordinary annual shows, and the men whom time has pronounced great are for the most part represented by works which they themselves would not have considered masterpieces.

However, there certainly were paintings of the first rank by Watts, Turner, Burne-Jones, Manet, Holman Hunt and Whistler ('Cremorne Nocturne').

J.M. Whistler, 'Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Cremorne Lights' (1872)
[Tate, London, Bequeathed by Arthur Studd 1919, N03420]

Most reviews repeat the same pattern and criticise the title (does not cover the scope) and the selection of paintings (too few masterpieces), but one section is surprising: the one with prints and drawings. The Times decided this to be: 'By far the best room':

These [prints] cover a great deal of ground, and are on the whole well chosen. The British school, from Blake to Mr. Crawhill, and the chief foreign schools of 50 or 80 years ago, may here be more or less systematically studied, in works which have evidently been selected by a good judge.

The Times singled out the art of David Wilkie to make its point: 'His nine drawings ought to bring back into notice an artist who has latterly been rather driven out of public notice [...].' The work of Joseph Crawhill was likened to that of Hokusai - now they were on display in the same room.

Thomas Lawrence, 'Lady Elizabeth Foster' (1805)
[The National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin]
The newspaper also referred to an unexhibited painting by Thomas Lawrence: 'Lady Elizabeth Foster':

[...] it is unlike the portraits of this lady which Reynolds and others have left. It is a dark picture, a little over-sentimental in expression, and the right arm seems to have suffered; but it is characteristic Lawrence, with a fine landscape background.

At the end of the review, some modern painters are mentioned, including Charles Shannon and Ricketts, who in his notes for A Century of Art, 1810-1910 refrained from mentioning their own names.

Edward Steichen, portrait of Auguste Rodin (photogravure, c 1911)
[Collection Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York]

The Scotsman (2 June 1911) deemed the show representative, and a 'worthy display', although 'important' (unspecified) omissions were noted. Among the foreign and British art was 'a gorgeous unfamiliar Raeburn' ('Two Boys and Landscape'). The reviewer remarked that the 'collection by living artists is small', the names of Ricketts, Sargent, Orpen, Nicholson, and Strang were mentioned, and 'Rodin, the International's president has two pieces of sculpture'. Ricketts and Shannon had organised the show for the International Society. In a way, it was Ricketts's answer to Roger Fry's Post-Impressionist Exhibition. There were three hundred works in the show, and only eight that Ricketts himself would gladly have dismissed - including mediocre works by Daubigny, Corot, Watts and - even - Rossetti.

Another early review was published in the Leicester Daily Post of Saturday 3 June 1911. The selection of works - a subject addressed by every critic - was called representative:

The range and heterogeneity of subject, style and genre leave the mind somewhat bewildered and overcrowded.

The collection of Pre-Raphaelite works was, perhaps, 'the most striking', Daubigny's work showed 'some exquisite examples of his vague poetic colourings', there were 'several of Watts's tumultuous and chaotic creations', and a 'large and visionary company of Blake's engravings' impressed the reviewer.

The art critic of The Sheffield Daily Telegraph wrote on the Monday following the opening that the exhibition illustrated 'the major tendencies of the last hundred years of effort and development in England and France', and supposed that the Post-Impressionists had been left out because of the recent Fry show: 'Even Mr. John, a member of the council, does not exhibit'. Augustus John was a member of the International Society. The reviewer noted some 'rather unusual Constables', an 'exquisite flower and fruit painting' by Fantin-Latour, but the hall with works by contemporary artists was deemed less successful - works by Livens and Peppercorn were lacking.

On 7 June 1911 Truth published a review:

To give a picture-show a name is usually to hang pictures which most people will declare to be quite unrepresentative. [...] It is, therefore a remarkable feat on the part of the "International" authorities to have arranged at the Grafton Galleries, a Century of Art exhibition which is at once so representative, so coherent, and so well calculated to ward off prejudice.

Coteries, monopolies, and favouritism were not promoted by the show - and the critic was struck by this policy. His review described works by Manet and Holman Hunt, and argued that the 'whole Prae-Raphaelite Brotherhood holds it ground well among the other schools.' The visitor 'should note particularly the exquisite "Portrait of Mrs. Lushington" [by Rossetti]'. From the French painters, especially Corot, Millet, and Courbet were mentioned, but the great heroine in this section was Berthe Morisot:

One of the most delightful portraits is the "Deux Femmes assises" by Berthe Morisot, whose experience of working under both Corot and Manet produce a remarkable subtle effect. The delicacy, the restraint, and sheer beauty of this picture are combined in the rarest degree.

Berthe Morisot, 'Two Sisters on a Couch' (1869)

The reviewer also noted 'some beautiful little drawings by Ruskin which make one forget that he was ever a pedant'.

That many other exhibitions had been organised was recorded in a review in the Globe (7 June 1911):

To fill so large a wall space as that at the Grafton Galleries with first-rate material at a time when semi-centenary, Coronation, and other huge exhibitions have worried the owners of pictures and left bare spaces on almost every collector's walls, is a difficult matter, although not so much so perhaps with the International Society of Sculptors, Painters, and Engravers, who only appeal to a limited, and not so popular a form of art, as is in demand for the shows we have mentioned. Nevertheless, space and the difficulty mentioned have played a part in preventing the fulfil[l]ment of the ambition that clearly were in the mind of the promoters, and while they have gathered together an exceedingly interesting collection it can hardly be called representative of the activities in art of France and England in the hundred years between 1810 and 1911.

The reviewer did not explain his statement, summed up the important artists, and concluded that 'the most interesting section of the exhibition is that of the graphic arts of the past century, for it includes specimens of Rowlandson, Blake, Goya, Ingres, Wilkie, Delacroix, Daumier, Corot, Millais, Gavarni, Stevens, Keene, Conder, and even Hokusai'.

The exhibition invited to compare French and English works of art. The Graphic (17 June 1911) opted for a nationalist approach:

If the best work of all the masters is not included - as how should it be - yet some of their more interesting work is here, and it is of a character which enables the spectator to essay that most delightful of occupations in art criticism, which is to trace the relationships of the various schools. In the first room, for example, there hang a fine Constable and a beautiful Cotman, which emphasise the debt that the best of French landscape art owes to English sources.

E.S. Grew, in The Graphic, mentioned the same Morisot painting as did the critic of Truth:

It is a simple picture of two sisters sitting on a chintz-covered couch. But the charm and grace of this beautiful painting, the ease and fluency of the technique, are quite irreproducible. One must see the picture.

The collection of drawings was simply 'magnificent', 'from the virile William Blake to the degenerate Aubrey Beardsley'.

Charles Ricketts, 'Orpheus and Euridyce' (1905-1907)
[Collection: Tate Gallery, London]

The Queen (17 June 1911) missed the works of John Thomson of Duddington, and some others, and, 'our native school of water colour art', but there was gathered a 'superb selection of Prae-Raphaelite work'. This is the only review to mention Charles Ricketts's own sculpture 'Orpheus and Euridyce'. A painting by Ricketts was mentioned in the Illustrated London News (24 June 1911): his 'beautiful "Don Juan".'

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

489. A Century of Art (3)

The 1911 Grafton Galleries exhibition on art between 1810 and 1910 - admission 1 shilling - was accompanied by Charles Ricketts's booklet A Century of Art 1810-1910. Here follow notes on Turner and Beardsley. The complete text of Ricketts's notes may be consulted via Internet Archive.

A Century of Art, 1810-1910 [by Charles Ricketts]

If we can say no painter has surpassed Turner in technical skill, we can say also no sculptor has surpassed Rodin in emotional range. Turner's faculties of invention were immense, but as a designer of landscape he is surpassed by Hokusai, his contemporary, who was also a great figure-draughtsman.
(p. 5)

Turner in some early masterpieces detected and compassed a great deal which Crome seems to have done instinctively, almost unknowingly, but the development of the greater genius lay in other directions. 
Constable more than Turner broke away from the traditional use of pigment.
(p. 10)

J.M.W. Turner, 'Morpeth', etching and mezzotint (1809)
[Tate Gallery, London]
More than once the great name of Turner has found its way into these pages, each time with the sense that he is almost absent from a place where he should have been at his strongest, for one fine picture only (No. 70), illustrating as it does but a phase of his life-work, is here to represent him. Fortunately, the set of water-colours in Room IV. will in part atone for this flaw in the Exhibition. It is probably but little known how many of the masterpieces by Turner shown at the Guildhall eleven years ago have now left the country, proving again that if we can no longer hope to retain the more famous works of the old masters, and if modern English painting often goes abroad, the accumulated inheritance of our great English masters must follow also. The mere pride of possession, failing other finer reasons, such as our debt to the future, has gone out of the Englishman's character of to-day.
(p. 14-15)

Three phases of Turner's maturity are illustrated in this gallery. The "Morpeth," executed for the Liber Studiorum (No. 147), the "Montjen" (No. 148), for the "Rivers of France," and the exquisite "River Scene" (No. 149) are separate specimens of his development. The "Colchester" (No. 150) is famous. In all these we can note the gradual change in his workmanship from the explicit statement of facts to an imaginative revaluation of them, from the "Morpeth" to the "River Scene." 

(p. 28)

Aubrey Beardsley, 'The Climax' (1893)
[Tate Gallery, London]
It seems but yesterday that both these men [Beardsley and Conder] were our contemporaries. They have been dead but a few years, and yet their work has become a delightful thing of the past to which we look back with regret. Beardsley's Salome drawings have counted enormously in the Continental conception of Wilde's masterpiece; without them it is more than probable that Strauss' musical translation of the play would somehow have been different.
(p. 37)

Quoted from Charles Ricketts, A Century of Art 1810-1910. London, Carfax & Co., 1911, pp. 5, 10, 14-5, 28, and 37. 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 International 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].

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

488. A Century of Art (2)

The 1911 Grafton Galleries exhibition on art between 1810 and 1910 was accompanied by Charles Ricketts's booklet A Century of Art 1810-1910 (published by Carfax & Co). Ricketts's notes about the Pre-Raphaelite paintings and sketches in Room II of the exhibition halls were quoted in last week's blog No. 487 A Century of Art (1). The third and last chapter in the booklet was about the 'End Gallery. Drawings and Prints', this section contained some more paragraphs about the same artists.

A Century of Art [by Charles Ricketts]

The Pre-Raphaelites

William Holman Hunt, 'Claudio and Isabella' (painting, 1850) [detail]
[Tate Gallery London]
I find it difficult to add to what I have already said before their pictures concerning the art of the Pre-Raphaelites. This collection of drawings by which they are represented here is equally important; perhaps it is even more representative. Madox Brown is on the whole well-represented, but he has left no such series of drawings as his younger contemporaries. The same is true of Holman Hunt; his drawing for his famous picture "Claudio and Isabella" (No. 223) is a fortunate exception; it stands alone in his life-work, and makes one wonder how it came to be almost unique among his drawings in the delicacy and force of its workmanship. The young Pre-Raphaelite Deverel stood for the Claudio.

William Holman Hunt, 'Claudio and Isabella' (drawing, c. 1850)
[National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Felton Bequest 1907]

Despite the countless designs done for illustrations, Millais' Pre-Raphaelite drawings are rare. One of the best is fortunately here. It has the further interest of bearing upon one of his most remarkable works, namely "The Carpenter's Shop." No. 225 has the merit of belonging to this charmed epoch; it is, however, of a more occasional character. I do not think this design was ever carried out in more definitive form.

John Everett Millais, study for 'Christ in the House of His Parents' (c.1849)
[Tate Gallery, London]

It would be difficult to find grouped together a more notable set of Rossetti's early pen-drawings outside Birmingham, and perhaps the Print Room of the British Museum. The portrait of Miss Siddal (Mrs. Rossetti) (No. 227) has few equals among the many exquisite drawings Rossetti did of her. For dramatic intensity Nos. 230 and 231 are hard to match. No. 229 was done in preparation for the "Beatrice and Dante" panels painted for W. Morris. Remains the famous pen-drawing of "Magdalene at the Door of Simon the Pharisee" (No. 228), for which the artist wrote the sonnet beginning

   Why wilt thou cast the roses from thine hair?
   Nay, be thou all a rose—wreath, lips, and cheek.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti,
'Mary Magdalene at the Door of Simon the Pharisee' (1858)
[Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge]

Burne-Jones sat for the Head of Christ; the head of Swinburne is recalled in the principal reveller, and a fine study made for this figure, probably in view of a larger work, hangs next to it (No. 226). For years this famous pen-drawing had vanished, and was supposed lost. It has therefore never before been publicly exhibited. It was found some twelve years ago by the present owners in a furniture shop in the Brompton Road, and secured by them a few minutes after it had been taken there.*

Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Elizabeth Siddal,
"The Quest of the Grail" (c. 1855)
The friends of Rossetti have been unanimous in praising the artistic gifts of Miss Siddal, whose exquisite presence and personality have found a record in many of her husband's choicest works and in the "Ophelia" by Millais. The tender little design "The Quest of the Grail" (No. 232) is here to speak of her as an artist. There is something at once remote and ethereal in its conception which has delighted us in "The River of Life" of William Blake. Shall I say it shows a swift and bird-like grace? I don't know if this can be said, and to admit it has "the lyric touch" leaves me unsatisfied; this is usually conceded to thin poetry of which nothing else can be said.

Edward Burne-Jones, sketch of two seated figures
for [?] "The Backgammon Players" (c. 1861)
[Tate Gallery, London]
Concerning Burne-Jones I am again at a loss to say what is not infinitely better expressed by the beautiful drawings before us. "The Backgammon Players" (No. 236) is, of its kind, difficult to match. Three exquisite contemporary drawings hang near, Nos. 234, 235, 239. The two designs by William Morris are at once typical of his draughtsmanship and facilities as a designer; his original works of this type at least are seldom seen; they must be left to speak for themselves.

Quoted from Charles Ricketts, A Century of Art 1810-1910. London, Carfax & Co., 1911, pp. 32-34. 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].

* This drawing was discovered by Ricketts and Shannon around 1898, and bequeathed to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

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.