Wednesday, June 29, 2022

569. Ricketts's Review of the Exhibition of Dutch Art 1450-1900

From 4 January to 9 March 1929, the 'Exhibition of Dutch Art 1450-1900' was on view at Burlington House, home to the Royal Academy of Arts. Only recently I found out that Ricketts published a review of the exhibition  the article is missing in my 2015 list A Bibliography of Charles Ricketts. It was an extensive exhibition. The catalogue lists 921 numbered objects (the last of which consists of 43 separate items).

Exhibition of Dutch Art 1450-1900 (1929: second edition)

The review appeared in The Observer of 13 January 1929, less than ten days after the opening. I found it through a remarkable re-print in La Gazette de Hollande, 1 February 1929. This Dutch newspaper, since its foundation by O. van Beresteyn in 1911, published news about the Netherlands. The paper was published for an international audience in French, but, after 1913, also contained an 'English Section'. Here follows the text as it was printed in The Observer. (The illustrations are added by me.)

The Dutch Pictures at Burlington House. An Artist's Impressions.

The Editor has asked me to give my impressions of an artist before the miracles of his craft to be seen at the Exhibition of Dutch art at the Academy. In so doing the editor is a sentimentalist, since, a little more than a year ago, when in America, I was assured by one of our dealer Maecenases that "you painters never know anything about old pictures." I will not discuss the sources of Dutch painting, and will accept the common view that is arrives and dies within the seventeenth century. In the space of some seventy-six years the artists of Holland created on eof the most homogeneous averages known to painting, gave an image of their time which no other school has equalled, and achieved a technical excellence which, of its kind, has never been surpassed. In achieving this they they observe great limitations in aim and in effort. They are painters of one race, almost of one family, and, with the exception of Rembrandt, they have remained unconcerned with anything more than the rendering of things seen. There are Dutch pictures where the illusion is of reality itself, focussed and harmonised as if in the surface of a mirror; this is the case with Ter Borch and Vermeer. Outside the paintings of Rembrandt Dutch art is untouched by passion, imagination, and religious thought. This tranquil and accomplished school blossomed after a tragic struggle for religious and racial freedom, and one wonders if that struggle had not exhausted those deeper passions which find expression in the art and literature of a nation. Of these there is no trace till we come to the gigantic effort of Rembrandt, who is unique in his time and country, and, for that matter, in the world of Art itself.


If I have stressed  the temperate and placid outlook of most of these artists, allowing for a little more in the finer landscapes of Ruysdael and perhaps Van Goyen, the technical science of these men remains amazing in its directness and precision. The pigment in Ter Borch's pictures has the fused texture and luminosity of a pearl; he dips his brushes, not in varnish or paint, but in some living substance, nacre, or the air itself. With Vermeer the very light has become an integral part of his pigment, and for directness and economy of means Frans Hals is foremost in the history of painting. A few earth colours, the direct handling of a scene-painter, and, behold, a vivid masterpiece of characterisation: a living face rises before us, stamped with its age, temper, cast and habit in life. My one complaint against the management of this well-hung exhibition is that his many canvases have not been grouped into a single room to show his development from a literal and explicit rendering of fact, which characterises his early manner, to such masterpieces of expression and representation as No. 356.[1]
To the average lover of pictures Frans Hals remains the painter of the "Laughing Cavalier" and of the nobler portrait groups at Haarlem, with a dim impression that in his old age the artists attempted something different. It is when Hals refrains from swaggering that he becomes a great master; it is when the cold clarity of his colour turns to grey and his perfect draughtsmanship takes on a more emotional aspect that he touches us most. No. 356 fulfils these conditions﹣we have here more than mere forceful representation; this has become tempered by gravity in mood and a more sensitive vision of life.
Rembrandt fills the big room No. 3. Let us look carefully, and a little wistfully. Most of these masterpieces are here for the last time. They will never be seen together again, save, perhaps, in America, which already holds more than one-third of the master's noblest canvases. What elements in his temper and practice link Rembrandt to the art of his country? Hardly anything, save in his earliest works, where he is influenced by Hercules Seghers and Honthorst in his slightly theatrical rendering of things half imagined, half seen. It is in the rapidly increasing torrent of his practice and, later still, under the stress of sorrow and debt, or yet later, when oppressed by the sordid difficulties of a tragic life, that his art stretched out into the realms of spiritual adventure, that he gains an inward and expressive force which has never been surpassed.
The "Oriental" (No. 169), the "Toilet" (No. 130), the "Man with a Hawk" (No. 98), and the "Lady with a Fan" (No. 99) show the brilliant climax of his early manner.[2] 

Rembrandt van Rijn and (mainly) workshop,
'Portrait of a Woman with a Fan', 1643

In these pictures he has already accomplished enough to secure him the premier place among the painters of his nation: romance, the gift of fascination are here present, but the fused golds and ambers of his pigments will melt later into some rarer substance, the craftsmanship become touched with magic and mystery, the sense of form become simpler and nobler, and we have seen such works as No. 124, No. 128, No. 111, and, better still, such masterpieces of narrative painting as the "Adoration of the Magi" (No. 91).[3] It is as a subject painter that Rembrandt remains unapproachable, and in his etchings and countless drawings his gift for narrative finds a directness and variety which more than rivals his painting.

Lent by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon

What Ricketts did not disclose was that two of Rembrandt's drawings in the exhibition came from the collection of Ricketts and Shannon. They were displayed in the Large South Room. A drawing in pen, brown ink and brown wash, 'The Agony in the Garden', was acquired by the artists during the sale of the Lord Leighton collection (listed as no. 586). The second loan was 'Christ at Emmaus', also a drawing in pen, brown ink and wash (No. 589). [In 1929 the brown ink was labeled 'bistre'.]

Exhibition of Dutch Art 1450-1900 (1929: second edition),
p. 228, No. 589: 'Christ as Emmaus'

These two drawings, and one other from their collection, were bequeathed by Ricketts and Shannon to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

No. 356: Frans Hals, 'Portrait of a Lady'. Lent by M. van Gelder. C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. London, 1910, Volume III, p. 113, No. 394.
Rembrandt van Rijn, No. 169:  'An Oriental with a White Turban'. Lent by the Duke of Devonshire. Now called: 'A Man in Oriental Custume', see online at Devonshire Collections, Chatsworth; No. 130, 'The Toilet'. Lent by Sir Edmund Davis. Stolen from Chilham Castle in 1938, and subsequently destroyed; No. 98: 'The Man with a Hawk'. Lent by the Duke of Westminster. Now in the private collection of the Duke of Westminster; No. 99: 'The Lady with a Fan'. Lent by the Duke of Westminster. Now in the private collection of the Duke of Westminster.
Rembrandt van Rijn, No. 124 'Presumed Portrait of Aert de Gelder'. Lent by Otto Gutekunst. Now in the collection of Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis (Missouri) [see website RKD]; No. 128, 'Portrait of Catharina Hooghsaet (1607-after 1657). Lent by Lord Penrhyn. Now in a private collection, see Wikipedia for an image]; No. 91: 'The Adoration of the Magi'. Lent by H.M. the King. From Buckingham Palace. Now dismissed as a work by Rembrandt [see Royal Collection Trust]

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

568. André Gide's Copy of An Ideal Husband

When Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband was published, deluxe copies were sent at the author's request to a small group of friends, including Robert Ross, Alfred Lord Douglas, Reginald Turner, and Charles Shannon. The latter had designed the binding.

Ordinary copies were sent to twenty acquaintances, including quite a few French friends such as Félix Fénéon, Ernest La Jeunesse, and André Gide.

Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband (1899):
autograph dedication to André Gide

Many of these will have been signed with a dedication by Wilde. The dedication in Gide's copy reads:

my friend 
André Gide : 
of friendship : 

A date or place name is missing.

The copy is part of the currently auctioned collection of Pierre Bergé, it is lot 1634 in
The Pierre Bergé Library, Part 6 (Paris, Pierre Bergé & Associés, 6 July 2022). The estimate is  €6,000 - €8,000.

Wilde was important to Gide: he changed his life. Gide was 22 when they met in 1891. In 1895 they met again in Algeria and Wilde introduced him to homosexuality, or as the auction catalogue discretely says: 'thanks to Wilde, who played the role of matchmaker, Gide was able to become what he was'.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

567. A Portfolio of Woodcuts by T. Sturge Moore (Continued)

Some years ago, Vincent Barlow wrote about an early Vale Press portfolio of woodcuts by T.S. Moore that was so rare that some even thought that, even though it was announced, it had never been published. I mentioned his article in blog 183. A Portfolio of Woodcuts by T. Sturge Moore.

T.S.Moore, 'Childhood' (from: A Portfolio of Woodcuts.
Metamorphoses of Pan and other woodcuts, 1895)
[Image: British Museum, London: 1909,0528.1-10]
(CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license]

Barlow had traced a single copy of an edition of twelve, containing ten woodcuts in green, red, and grey. He observed: 'On the inner side of the upper cover is attached a sheet of unbleached Arnold hand-made paper giving the title and a list of engravings and stating that 12 portfolios have been published at 4 guineas net.' 

His article was published in 2014, but since then several catalogue entries and images have surfaced online and it has emerged that the British Museum also possesses a copy [read the description on the museum's website]. Apparently, it had previously been described in an untraceable, impossible-to-find way, but it is now clear that it was added to the museum's collection as early as 1909 thanks to a gift from its creator, Thomas Sturge Moore.

The sheet of paper in this copy is apparently not glued down, so the reverse side is not invisible. It contains an additional text:

Portfolios can be obtained from C.H. Shannon, 31 Beaufort Street, Chelsea; or from E.J. van Wisselingh, The Dutch Gallery, 14 Brook St., Hanover Square; or from Durand Ruel, 16, Rue Lafitte, Paris.

It is reassuring to know that at least two copies have been preserved - but where would the other ten be hiding?

T.S.Moore, 'Pan a Cloud' (from: A Portfolio of Woodcuts.
Metamorphoses of Pan and other woodcuts, 1895)
[Image: British Museum, London: 1909,0528.1-10]
(CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license]

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

566. Charles Shannon's Portrait of Ronald Firbank

One of my favourite writers, Ronald Firbank (1886-1926), who died before he turned forty, was the subject of portraits by a number of famous modern artists in the early twentieth century. One of the first, if not the first, was Charles Shannon who made a pastel of him in 1909. 

It was first published on the dust jacket of Firbank's last novel, which appeared posthumously due to delays in publication. Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli appeared in June 1926 - the year of publication was corrected in ink on the dust jacket.

Charles Shannon, pastel portrait of Ronald Firbank (1909),
published on the dust jacket of Ronald Firbank,
Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli (1926)

This undated portrait is signed with the initials 'CS'. The current whereabouts of the original portrait are unknown.

No letters or accounts of the meeting between artist and sitter have survived, and we must make do with second or third-hand testimony.

Oscar Wilde's son, Vyvyan Holland, came of age in November 1907 and Robert Ross organised a dinner -party for him. Among the twelve guests were Ronald Firbank, Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon. It was probably the first time Shannon and Firbank had met; the former came from the artistic circles around Ross, the latter from Holland's Cambridge student life.(1)

Firbank was, as Miriam Benkovitz wrote, 'very much concerned with his appearance', and in an attempt to preserve his youth, he had his portrait captured by a series of artists while he was not yet too old.(2) The author Jocelyn Brooke observed:

It is a curious fact that the numerous extant portraits of Firbank bear almost no resemblance to each other, seeming indeed, to depict a series of entirely disparate persons. During his life he was drawn or painted by Charles Shannon, Augustus John, Wyndham Lewis, Alvara Guevara and probably (for he was fond of sitting for his portrait) by other artists as well; yet it remains extraordinarily difficult to form an exact mental picture of his features. 

Even the three portraits Augustus John did of Firbank might just as well have been portraits of three different people: they look like a businessman, or a witty theatre-goer, or an intimate, somewhat sad friend. Shannon's portrait is that of a cautious and gentle observer.

Brooke continues:

His profile was delicately formed and angular, with a finely-arched nose, a full-lipped mouth and a rather weak chin; his eyes were greyish-blue tending to blue, his hair dark and inclined to to be tousled, his complexion fresh, with a rosy tint about the lips and cheekbones which perhaps owed more to Art than to Nature.(3)

Firbank was tall, slender, 'inclined to droop', and in society he behaved extremely shy. Augustus John remembered:

[...] he sent his taxi-man in to prepare the way, himself sitting in the taxi with averted face, the very picture of exquisite confusion. [...] When the strain of confronting me became unbearable, he would seek refuge in the lavatory, there to wash his hands. This manoeuvre occurred several times at each sitting.(4)

Did Firbank present himself in the same way to Shannon's studio in 1909 - if it was indeed 1909? Did he behave in the same awkward manner, or was he less nervous in the company of the quiet and silent painter?

Ifan Kyrle Fletcher reported that Firbank 'entertained very exquisitely' in his room that was 'decorated with masses of white flowers':

Often, on these occasions, Firbank talked little, but, if he had recently been to London, he would be full of news of pictures by Shannon and Ricketts, concerts of the music of Granados and Debussy, new French books and plays.(5)

It is not known whether Firbank acquired paintings, drawings or lithographs by Shannon or Ricketts. What is known is that, after his portrait was drawn, he sent Shannon copies of his books, at least of Vainglory (1915) and Inclinations (1916).

Because another illustration was not available for his last book, he illustrated the dust jacket with Shannon's then fifteen-year-old portrait, and for the frontispiece he selected one of the old portraits by Augustus John. In her biography, Benkovitz commented: 'Death haunted neither portrait; in them Firbank had his youth again.'(6)

Around 1929, a fellow Firbank student, A.C. Landsberg, recalled Shannon's portrait:

I have lately returned from Paris where I looked for a photograph I had of a portrait-drawing in pastels of Firbank, done towards the end of his time at Cambridge by Charles Shannon. Possibly Charles Ricketts may have a copy of it - (he also knew him, by the way).(7)

Shannon's portrait of Firbank probably belonged to the author, but where it has gone is a mystery.

Vyvyan Holland, Son of Oscar Wilde. London, Rupert Hart-Davis, 1954, pp. 188-189.
Miriam Benkovitz, Ronald Firbank. A Biography. New York: Alfred A, Knopf, 1969, pp. 112-113. 
Jocelyn Brooke, Ronald Firbank. London, Arthur Barker Ltd., 1951, p. 34.
Quoted by Osbert Sitwell in Ifan Kyrle Fletcher, Ronald Firbank. A Memoir. London, Duckworth, 1930, p. 132.
Ifan Kyrle Fletcher, Ronald Firbank. A Memoir. London, Duckworth, 1930, pp. 30-31. 
Benkovitz (see note 2), p. 275.
'A.C. Landsberg', in Ronald Firbank. Memoirs and Critiques, ed. by Mervyn Horder. London, Duckworth, 1977, p. 93.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

565. Ricketts & Shannon at the Technical School of Art (2)

The previous blog with new data on the schooling of the artists of The Vale (written by Anna Gruetzner Robins) prompted John Aplin to delve into the archives once again. An uncredited memoir from the collection of the Senate House in London was probably written by Arthur Hugh Fisher (1867-1945), who remembered the days at the Lambeth School of Art:

The school occupied two buildings at half a mile distance from each other. One was in a narrow alley off Upper Kennington Lane and there were held classes for drawing from casts of the antique and classes for study of perspective. At the other, in Kennington Park Road, were the life classes and the modelling school. Among the students at that time were [Sturge] Moore's great friends Charles Ricketts and C.H. Shannon and those admitted to their intimacy, Reginald Savage and [A.J.] Finberg.
[Senate House, MS 978/1/10/2-5]

F.H. Townsend, cartoon dated [1]891, Pick-me-up, 11 July 1891

The memoir mentions twenty-six students by name, and  refers to a cartoon by another artist:

In the comic weekly "Pick-me-up" appeared a drawing by F.W. Townsend of a scene at the Life Class in which the figures were portraits of his fellow-students. In the absence of the expected model a passing tramp has been fetched in from the street. [...] In his drawing Moore is clearly recognisable - He has his coat off and wears only one instead of a pair of braces to hold up his trousers. Ricketts is waving his hands in characteristic gesture and a number of the other students are equally well-portrayed.

Published on July 11, 1891, the cartoon was apparently not made in the 1880s when the artists were attending art school, but perhaps it is based on an old sketch.

Seated on the unfolded easel - also a stool - in the foreground is Thomas Sturge Moore with the palette in his hand. In the background, apparently unaware of the goings-on in the room, Charles Ricketts is busy trying to convince a fellow student of his views. 

F.H. Townsend,
cartoon dated [1]891,
Pick-me-up, 11 July 1891:

It's a nice early portrait of Ricketts whose appearance in those years seems well captured.

[Thanks are due to John Aplin for supplying the image and a transcription of the memoir.]

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

564. Ricketts & Shannon at the Technical School of Art (1)

This week's guest blog is written by art historian Anna Gruetzner Robins, Emeritus Professor at the University of Reading, who published about Walter Sickert and James McNeill Whistler, and now prepares a book about the early years of the Vale coterie.

Charles Ricketts, Reginald Savage, Charles Shannon, and Thomas Sturge Moore at the South London Technical School of Art

by Anna Gruetzner Robins

Charles Ricketts, Charles Shannon, Reginald Savage, and Thomas Sturge Moore all attended the South London Technical Art School. Previously, it has been assumed that all four were students on the Wood Engraving course. Ricketts and Shannon and also Savage certainly did enrol on the three year course, however, none of them with the possible exception of Shannon completed the course, and there is no record of Sturge Moore ever having enrolled. The School Records in the London Metropolitan Archives show that their period of study at South London, as I will refer to it, to have taken quite a different path.[1]

City and Guilds London Institute

South London Technical Art School

The School was established in 1878 when the City and Guilds of London Institute earmarked the Lambeth School of Art for expansion with the aim of introducing a national system of technical education.[2] It took over the original site on Millar’s Lane, off Upper Kennington Lane, and, between 1879 and 1881, acquired the leases of two houses at 122 and 124 Kennington Park Road where it 'erected on the gardens behind, spacious and excellently lighted class and work rooms, in buildings measuring 70x22 feet, and one story high, at a cost of about £700' for the teaching of the Modelling and Wood Engraving courses.[3]

By 1881 plans were made to build a similar studio in the garden of 124 Kennington Park Road. The aim of the School was to teach the 'application of Art for industrial purposes'.[4] Initially, it offered four courses including Modelling, Design, Wood Engraving and a Life Class (Drawing and Painting). Charles Roberts, who was said to be 'a skilled artist' and 'a very able teacher,'[5] and the proprietor of a commercial engraving premises in Lonsdale Chambers, 27 Chancery Lane was in charge of the Wood Engraving course. It was taught on weekdays from 10 till 4, and from 6-8 on Tuesday and Friday but Roberts was only present during the evening sessions.

The rest of the time, students worked under the supervision of an assistant teacher or senior student; practicing the techniques of 'line cutting, tinting, fac-simile cutting, finished work in ornament, landscape, figure, and drawing on wood,'[6] all of which were part of the training for their future trade of making accurate wood engravings of a painting, drawing or photographs for reproduction in the commercial press. On the first Tuesday evening of each month, students made a drawing on wood preferably from an original design, but this was their only opportunity for creative expression.

Prospective students were warned that wood engraving 'requires much practice, and a long apprenticeship is essential'. Students were required to have Second Grade certificate from the Science and Art Department at South Kensington but study for it could be concurrent with their enrolment at South London. The annual tuition fee was £4 4s a year,[7] payable half-yearly in advance, and the rule was that 'no one can be admitted as a student for a shorter period than a year; and those who are admitted are expected to attend regularly, and to apply themselves steadily to the work.'

Charles Shannon

Shannon enrolled on the Wood Engraving course in February 1882 when the School receipts show that he paid 2 pounds 2 shillings in February 1882, and 1 pound 10 shillings for the Wood Engraving course in December 1882. I cannot find any evidence to show that he paid any further fees. It is probable that he won one of the four scholarships 'which are awarded after the first year's practice, and which may be renewed in the following year on proof of industry and progress and on the recommendation of Mr. Roberts.' The wood engraving students were there to learn a trade, and those who applied themselves 'steadily to the work' could expect to be offered a two year apprenticeship with Roberts where they worked 'for modest payment'. [8]

Both Ricketts and Shannon were 'apprenticed to Mr. Roberts, the wo0d-engraver on such apprenticeship'.[9] These were normally given on the successful completion of the three year course but in exceptional cases a student was invited to take one up after two years. Shannon did not work long, if at all, at Roberts's Chancery Lane premises because by 1885 he was teaching at Croydon School of Art. Indeed the 1888 South London Technical Art School Report described him as an 'Art Master at Croydon' who 'gave up wood engraving for pen and ink illustrating and painting.'

Charles Ricketts

It is believed that Ricketts enrolled at the School on the 16th of October 1882 (his birthday) but the records show that in fact he enrolled on the same date the following year, when he paid 1 pound 10 shillings , followed by 1 pound and 10 shillings in July 1884 for the Wood Engraving. [10] However, there is no record of Ricketts making any further payment for the Wood Engraving course. He may have taken up his apprenticeship when he assisted Roberts with the engraving of Cassell's History of England before completing the course, [11] or he may may have won a scholarship.

By January 1885, when he described himself on the School enrolment form, as an 'Art Student' rather than a 'Wood Engraver' and again in March, and October that year, and January 1886 and 1888, Ricketts paid between 15 shillings and two pounds for the Life Class. This must have been the Special Life Class that the School Director John Sparkes established when the demand for wood engraved illustrations dwindled; they were replaced by black and white drawings that could be easily be reproduced by photomechanical means or 'process' printing. In 1892, Sparkes could report that 'the Special Life Class fully bears out my assumption of its usefulness. The value of the classes as a training institution for black and white work and general illustration is becoming still more publicly recognized. There is no doubt that it will become the school of illustration of the future.' Initially in 1884-1885, the course was taught between 10 and 1 on Saturday but later it moved to a new time of 10 to 1 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Reginald Savage

Reginald Savage first enrolled at South London in December 1882 when he paid various amounts of between 2 shillings and 6 pence and 5 shillings, and again in February, May, June, July, October, November 1883, and October 1884 for the Life Drawing part of the Modelling Course. Between November 1883 and November 1884, he also enrolled on the Wood Engraving course.

Thomas Sturge Moore

Finally the records show that Thomas Sturge Moore was first taught by Shannon at Croydon School of Art, but was persuaded by him to transfer to the South London when he met Ricketts for the first time. Between February 1887 and October 1890, Sturge Moore was in the Special Life Drawing Class until March 1891 when he enrolled on the Modelling course until December 1891 when he was Second Place in the yearly competition for Modelling from Life.[12]

The Valistes

The School Records are not complete, and a record of attendance was not kept so students did not necessarily pay the requisite amount of tuition or indeed pay it on time if at all but they do provide a much fuller picture of the Valistes (as they called themselves)[13] period of study at the South London Technical School of Art.



For a listing of these records see the South London Technical Archive, London Metropolitan Archive,, accessed 20/01/2022; hereafter South London, LMA.


South London, LMA, Technical Education Report of the Executive Committee to the General Committee of certain of the livery companies of London Proposals of the Executive Committee January 1879. And Resolutions of the council and Board of Governors Thereon, February and March 1879, South London, LMA, 21834/1.


South London,LMA, 21834/1 1877-1880.


South London, LMA, 21834/1 1877-1880.


City and Guilds Metropolitan Archive, 21834/2, 3.


Prospectus for the South London Technical Art School, Session 1881-2. There were no changes to the course syllabus during the period of time that Ricketts, Savage and Shannon were enrolled. 


The fee subsequently was reduced to £3. See the school prospectus for the academic year of 1882-83.


South London, LMA, M21834/5.


Thomas Sturge Moore, in Cecil Lewis, ed., Charles Ricketts. Self Portrait, Taken from the Letters & Journals of Charles Ricketts, R.A., Collected and Compiled by T. Sturge Moore, London, 1939, 14. 


J.G.P. Delaney, Charles Ricketts A Biography, Oxford, 1990, 28 states that Ricketts and Shannon met on Ricketts birthday when he enrolled in the School. However, Sturge Moore remembered that they met 'around 1883'. Thomas Sturge Papers, 60/2/1.


Thomas Sturge Moore, 'Notes for a lecture on Ricketts' , Thomas Sturge Moore Papers, Senate House, University of London, 60/2/1.


Thomas Sturge Moore Papers, Senate House, University of London, MS 978/5/2/8 includes a certificate for winning Second Place in the yearly 'Modelling from Life' competition, states that he studied modelling between March 1889 and December 1891.


Letter from John Gray to Félix Fénéon, 16 April 1891, cf. Charles Ricketts & Charles Shannon, 94: A French Correspondence.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

563. Flowers in Daphnis and Chloe and in Hypnerotomachia Poliphili

One of the cat images in Daphnis & Chloe (see blog 562) stuck in my mind because I don't quite understand what we are looking at. The action is clearly a reflection of the story, with Daphnis being served in the home of Dryas and his wife by his regained lover Chloe. But the setting: what time are we actually in?

Charles Ricketts, wood-engraving in Daphnis and Chloe (1893, page 57)

The set table, the floral decorations on the floor, the cupboard with tableware on the left-hand side of the room somehow do not seem Greek or second-century Roman to me. Was it a custom in Greece to place bowls and plates like this in a cupboard? Were flowers scattered on the floors during festive meals?

It may well be that Ricketts went to see all these objects in the British Museum or in other museums for the edition of Daphnis & Chloe that he undertook with Shannon; he may also have looked around in his own kitchen. He also examined an extraordinary illustrated book from the Renaissance, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili from 1499. 

He may have ignored the Latin text, but the illustrations have taken root in his mind. Not all of them, of course; many are rather obscurely symbolic and formal, whereas Shannon and Ricketts, for their edition of the story of Daphnis & Chloe, looked more for representations of the narrative and for intimacy. The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili shows many more individual objects and scenes that take place outside, while Daphnis & Chloe displays more domestic scenes.

In the image of the festive meal, two lines seem to demarcate a rug. The decorations are not part of the rug on which the cat is sitting and which runs under the table. Some of the decorations - they are flowers, twigs and leaves - are next to the rug (if it is a rug).

I don't know if there is a Greek or Roman example for that, but we can turn to the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili for inspiration. One of the sparse intimate woodcuts in that book depicts a split-screen scene (like the one of the other cat in last week's blog) with a view into a bedroom. (See here for an online version of the 1499 edition.)

Illustration in Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499): page C7v

In the bedroom with bed and chest is a kneeling woman on a decorated carpet (I suspect) and there are the same twigs and flowers as in Ricketts's woodcut. They lie here in (what appears to be) a fixed pattern. In Ricketts's image, they are strewn haphazardly across the floor.

Ricketts reflected on the scattering of flowers during festivities. At the end of the book, he depicts the wedding of Daphnis and Chloe, in which a figure stands among the tables with baskets of flowers, which he scatters lavishly with his upraised arm.

Charles Ricketts, wood-engraving in Daphnis and Chloe (1893, page 97)

The flowers fall onto the table and the floor, explaining the earlier image.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

562. Cats Depicted in Daphnis and Chloe

In the wood-engravings for Daphnis and Chloe (1893), Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon depicted a great many animals, some of which are mentioned in the story but others not. As the shepherd, Daphnis is of course depicted with a dog, sheep, goats and other livestock - we also see a cow, horses, pigeons and a dead dolphin.

Animals are also present in the domestic scenes, including dogs, chickens, a peacock and cats.

Charles Ricketts, wood-engraving in Daphnis and Chloe (1893, page 11)

The first cat walks into the book on page 11. In a "split-screen" illustration, Daphnis sits on the floor on the left; in the right compartment Chloe sits upright in her bedroom. Both 'are tormented by an amorous melancholy'. They are in love with each other. As the cat appears in the open doorway (it is dark outside) and places its paws on the wooden floor, it looks straight at the viewer.

A cat
in Daphnis and Chloe
(1893, page 11)

A second cat appears on page 57 in the home of Dryas where the animal apparently feels right at ease. 

Charles Ricketts, wood-engraving in Daphnis and Chloe (1893, page 57)

It is grooming itself, licking its paw.

A cat
in Daphnis and Chloe
(1893, page 57)

When Ricketts illustrates dramatic moments in a story, he often selects a moment after the climax, when the tension seems to have died down, but is in fact still in full force. And he accentuates the ordinariness of the drama through domestic elements like a pet.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

561. A Puzzle Involving Wilde and Ricketts

Every week, in response to the blogs about Ricketts and Shannon, questions are fired at me. Sometimes they are simple requests, other times they are difficult questions and occasionally they are puzzling queries. I received an example of the latter category on 21 April when Avery Garnett wrote:

I hope this finds you well. I realise this email may either be a very strange request, or something you're tired of receiving enquiries about (sorry if that's the case!). When doing research, I found your articles about the work of Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon:

I'm currently trying to identify a book that is 'blind-tooled on the green in a double circle was a single star above what was perhaps a sea' as well as 'It was the tenth edition, of 1917'. I found an ancient discussion on a web forum that seemed to lead nowhere, but with a post 3 years later saying "it was the importance of being earnest" with no further explanation. However, I cannot find any proof of a 1917 edition of that Wilde book, only one dated 1910 which seems to be part of the collected works.

These points led me to your blog and I am certain it is the mark I'm looking for - but you mention that the prints were used by Methuen for dozens of reprints.

So I was wondering: do you happen to know of a list of works that had this print? Or possibly if there indeed exists a 10th edition copy of ...Being Earnest with this publisher mark because many other people have stumbled across your posts and had the same idea as me? Thank you very kindly for your time!

The email refers to a blog about the vignette of a star above the sea designed by Ricketts and used by publisher Methuen for many years. The vignette (not a publisher's mark by the way) appeared edition after edition on the reprints of Oscar Wilde's works, including reprints of The Importance of Being Earnest

Charles Ricketts, design for Oscar Wilde,
Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and Other Stories (1909)

Indeed, I was puzzled, so I answered:

It is not so much a strange request as a rather vague one, as you do not describe the book to me or send me images, and how it comes that you need identification: is there no binding, title page, is it incomplete?

Not much to go on. Anyway, I deduct from the spare facts that you have a copy of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and that it is not the first or second edition (1899 and 1908) but a later one.
After the 1908 collected edition, as you probably know, a second collected edition was issued in 1909, some new volumes added up to 1920 or so.
Initially these were issued in green cloth, gilt (1909) or green cloth, blind stamped, spine gilt, and even later (for example the 18th edition in 1924) in blue cloth, gilt, and still later in cheap green bindings. 

The IofBE was reprinted many times:
4th ed Feb 1910
5th ed Dec 1911
6th ed Nov 1912
7th, New cheap ed. (only spine in gold): Jan 1915
8th ed. July 1916
9th ed April 1917
10th ed Nov 1917
11th ed Dec 1917
12th ed July 1919
13th ed 1919
and so on. 

It suffices to buy one of those later editions to see how many reprints there were in between.

Some of those were advertised by Methuen in lists and newspapers. They were not collected by the main libraries and so no bibliographical record of them was kept. Up until 20 years ago they were easy to find in Great Britain, but they have become less easy to find due to the demise of small independent antiquarian book shops.

Did I answer your question?

Cover of Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
(Thirteenth Edition, 1919) with the vignette by
Charles Ricketts stamped in blind on the front cover

Shortly after I sent the reply, the response came:

Wow, thank you very much! I think that yes, it is indeed the IofBE; it ties up with what I was expecting and this cryptic, no source post on a mailing list from 15 years ago.

With regards to the vagueness, it's because I don't actually own a copy of the book. Rather, it's from a copy of Cain's Jawbone, which (if you've not heard of it) is a literary puzzle from the 1930s which is infamously difficult to solve and only 4 people have done so in the last 90 years:

It so happens that on one page, the narrator describes taking a green book from his pocket... but that's all; given the nature of the puzzle, every detail seems to be important and I've been scratching my head at finding out what it is. The puzzle probably would have been easier in some regard back in 1933, because knowing a book published in 1917 would've been more common knowledge back then, at least among the middle to upper classes. The author (and by extension, the narrator) really seem to enjoy using Wilde and especially IofBE quotes in the prose, so it's lovely to be able to tick that puzzle off the list!

Well, this answer surprised me. I had no idea that this blog would serve the community of puzzle lovers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

560. Charles Shannon and the Seated Lady

Irregularly, but not even that infrequently, paintings by Charles Shannon come on the market. At the JS Fine Art auction house in Banbury, Oxfordshire, a 'Portrait of a Seated Lady', signed and dated 1905, will go under the hammer tomorrow.  

A week ago, the lady in the picture was not identified by the auction house, but by now it has been described as the portrait of Agnes Mary Goldman.

Charles Shannon, Portrait of Agnes Mary Goldman, 1905
[photos: JS Fine Art]

Agnes Mary Peel (1869-1959) was married to Charles Sydney Goldman (1858-1958) in 1899. The portrait was one of only two portraits Shannon completed in 1905, and this one was listed as 'The Hon. Mrs Goldman'. The provenance of the painting is Yaveland Manor, Isle of Wight, where Charles Goldman lived after a career as war journalist and ostrich farmer in South Africa and as a farmer in British Columbia.

Agnes Mary Goldman, her son Penryn, and her husband Charles Sydney Goldman

Charles Shannon, Portrait of Agnes Mary Goldman, 1905 (detail)
[photo" JS Fine Art]

Charles Shannon, Portrait of Agnes Mary Goldman, 1905 (detail)
[photo" JS Fine Art]

Shannon portrayed the sitter in profile with an elegantly draped pink curtain in the background and a convex mirror that he often showed in his paintings. The scene in the mirror is not entirely clear, but appears to be an ode to motherhood with a mother holding a young child.

PS, 30 April 2022:
Hammer price: £7,000.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

559. Leonard Smithers and An Ideal Husband

Some publishers' actions are so weird that after a century they become downright inexplicable. In 1899, the adventurous Leonard Smithers published a 'fairy tale' by Anthony Hamilton, The Four Facardins, printed for the (non-existent) Lutetian Society in London. The society was intended to publish the works of Emile Zola, and as a front for the distribution of erotic works, although this tale is barely erotic.

Nothing strange so far. This is what Smithers was accustomed to doing.

There are copies of this edition with a paper cover and a frontispiece after a design by Hugh Graham. But there are also copies bound in green linen, without Graham's design and without the frontispiece. So far, everything stays within the framework of what can be expected from this publisher of both literary and offensive titles.

Count Anthony Hamilton, The Four Facarins (1899):
upper board of binding

As I wrote in January in blog 545 (Leonard Smithers, Charles Shannon and An Ideal Husband), Steven Halliwell and Michael Seeney published a booklet on Smithers and the edition of Oscar Wilde's play An Ideal Husband whose binding was designed by Charles Shannon. This publication of The Rivendale Press contained a remark and some photographs about The Four Facardins.

Here is where the weird part begins.

Count Anthony Hamilton, The Four Facarins (1899):

Halliwell and Seeney describe (and illustrate) a copy of this edition, which, like all copies in green cloth, has a red pasted-on spine label with the title of the book in gold. But after more than a hundred and twenty years, such title labels wear off, and when they come off (or are peeled off), beneath them emerges not an ordinary green spine, but a different title printed directly in gold on the green linen. The red title shield thus conceals a title that could no longer serve.

That title reads: An Ideal Husband.

The image below shows a title label that is damaged at the top. Part of the letter A (of An) can be seen.

Count Anthony Hamilton, The Four Facarins (1899):
spine label

A binding was therefore made with the spine title An Ideal Husband, but this was not actually used for Wilde's play.

Count Anthony Hamilton, The Four Facarins (1899):
spine label
[scan provided by Steven Halliwell]

Given the vignettes used (one five times on the front and another on the spine), this binding was not designed by Shannon, and the question is: why does it exist in this form? 

Why would Smithers first ask Shannon to design The Importance of Being Earnest, published early 1899, and An Ideal Husband, finished in June or July, and then have a completely different binding made, one that does not fit the "series" Oscar Wilde envisioned for his plays: cloth bindings in various shades of purple or brown, with the title and Shannon's designs in gold?

The only two reasons I can think of are not even likely to be the correct ones:
1. The binding was made for an intended reprint of An Ideal Husband. But this edition was cancelled. When the remaining copies of The Four Facardins were bound, this discarded binding was used. The cheapest solution was to paste a title label on the spine.
2. Shannon's designs did not arrive, despite agreements made, and in distress Smithers had this binding produced. However, just in time Shannon's sketches arrived after all causing this new binding to become obsolete. It was then used for remaining copies of The Four Facardins.

PS, 21 April 2022

One of my readers suggested the following:

Is it possible that whoever was making the bindings got the instructions for the two bindings confused? (Bruce Russell)

We cannot rule out this possibility, but it is unlikely that Smithers ordered two bindings. As for the Wilde edition, he was still waiting for Shannon's designs, and for The Four Facardins he initially commissioned a paper cover with illustrations by Hugh Graham. This edition appeared in April 1899, three months before The Importance of Being Earnest, and the bound copies of The Four Facardins are considered to be a later distributed portion of the print run.