Wednesday, January 5, 2022

544. Paul Lambotte

Searching for Belgian Vale Press collections - not found by the way, there seem to be surprisingly few copies of this private press in Flemish, Brussels or Walloon libraries and museums - I came across some letters by Ricketts in the collection of the Royal Library in Brussels.

The cards and notes are addressed to the Belgian art historian Paul Lambotte (1862-1939), who put together exhibitions of contemporary Belgian art in London, Brighton, Cardiff, Oxford (and elsewhere) during the Great War. At the openings Lambotte gave a talk in 'mellifluous French, aiding our comprehension of the range of the exhibition' (West Sussex Gazette, 29 April 1915). 

There was a pathetic side to some of this work, and that was many of the beautiful pictures represented architectural details of one sort and another of buildings which had been ravaged, and many of which had disappeared, and the world would know them no more.
(Oxford Chronicle, 14 May 1915)

A portrait photograph of Lambotte, with a handwritten dedication to Isidore Spielmann in the National Portrait Gallery, bears witness to his English adventures and the network he maintained. He came to London in November 1914 to set up the Fund for Poor Belgian Artists. 

The Westminster Gazette reported (16 November 1914) that a large number of the artists were unable to leave their homes in Antwerp or Ghent, and funds to assist them were already exhausted. Lambotte, director at the Ministry of Fine Arts in Belgium, had been sent over to London with a number of Belgian works of art at his disposal, organising a first exhibition at the Goupil Gallery in London, a show that was opened on 18 November and closed eights days later. 

On 28 January 1915, a Belgian section - arranged by Lambotte - was added to the War Relief Exhibition at the Royal Academy. Many of the works sent from Belgium had not yet arrived, so he had to tap into his English network in order to complete the exhibitions.

Portrait of Paul Lambotte, 1915
[Unknown photographer]
[National Portrait Gallery, London: NPG x139993,
Creative Commons License]

In one of his letters Ricketts refers to this fund: 'I sincerely trust that your fund may obtain all the success it deserves. Alas! Would that real art lovers were rich!' (Undated card, probably November 1914, Royal Library Brussels, Ms II 7.133/760).

Ricketts and Shannon received Lambotte and his wife in early December and afterwards they wrote about a print of Shannon, and about a possible meeting with the collector Edmund Davis.

Jan Vanden Eeckhoudt, portret van Paul Lambotte (1933)
[Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels]