Wednesday, January 25, 2023

599. A Blog about Ricketts?

On a personal note, when I started this blog about Ricketts and Shannon, there were two comments I received and both surprised me.

The first comment was made by someone in the museum world who was convinced that I would not be able to think of a new subject after only three weeks. Ricketts & Shannon: what else was there to say about them?

To that, of course, I had no answer, except to express the idea that so much was still unknown.

Charles Ricketts

The second comment came from the university world. A professor warned me not to give away all that information just like that, for free.

My thought was precisely that there might be a need for an open platform for scholars and enthusiasts who shared an interest in Ricketts and those around him. Of course, I soon realised that a blog could not count as a scholarly publication - which is why it never crossed my mind. For me it was always about widening the circle, about a search for new connections, about sharing information. And, over the years, it has turned out that responses can come from unexpected quarters. Consider, for example, the discovery of Ricketts's mother's grave in Genoa, Italy - without this blog, we would not have known that it had been discovered by a group of serious investigators on the ground.

I have never doubted the usefulness of a blog as specialised as this one about Ricketts and Shannon, and judging by the many comments over the years, there is an audience for it. It doesn't have to be massive - nor will it ever be huge, but in the meantime, we help each other spread the knowledge about a multi-talented artist like Ricketts, and thereby gain insight into details about the world of the book, book design, painting, theatre and costume design, collecting, and all the other areas of art with which Ricketts became involved. I write these words only to announce that next week the six-hundredth blog will go online. My blessing it has, I hope yours too. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

598. Ricketts Becomes a Penguin

One day in March 1900, Charles Ricketts went to Kew and saw the penguins. The writers 'Michael Field', recalled in their diary notes for 19 March 1900, his impersonation of the bird (Michael Field journal 1900, British Library BL Add MS 46789, 38v-39r):

A penguin seen at Kew Gardens
(Evening News, 29 June 1899)

He has been to Kew & carries about with him always his passion for the penguin – he must find a place for it in his art. He becomes the penguin – he flaps, he coughs ironically, he fixes a golden eye on his mate & says 'Let us go hence' – wobbling along & superciliously shaking his flappers above the common ducks.

The Penguin! – he is supreme in the quality that attracts Ricketts to all birds – their ridiculousness, their light comedy. The Penguin! – what are the peacocks – trailing over the ivy, their necks like serpents & their bodies like mountains – what are they to the Penguin? He has fur like a seal & a golden eye & he is absurd.

Penguins at Kew Gardens? Indeed. A man who had formerly worked at the gardens, accepted the post of gardener to the governor of the Falkland Islands, returned to London in 1899, and presented a couple of penguins to the curator of Kew Gardens. 

A penguin seen at Kew Gardens
(Evening News, 29 June 1899)

There is a fat big one who is called Peter, and a smaller, less dignified bird who possesses as yet no name. (Evening News, 29 June 1899)

They were kept in an enclosure near Palm House, and let out in the pond each afternoon at two o'clock to the enjoyment of 'nursemaids and children', and people like Ricketts. At three o'clock they were fed on fish.

However, it appeared there must have been three penguins, two of which died in September 1899 (Globe, 21 September 1899).

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

597. Ricketts, Shannon and Wilde's Manuscripts

A new research source on Oscar Wilde came online in April last year: 'Oscar Wilde. An Annotated Bibliography of Manuscripts and Their Provenances' [see: wilde.manuscripts]. The website is the work of Wolfgang Maier-Sigrist, a German Oscar Wilde aficionado, who writes: 

The present platform is an attempt to provide a table of manuscripts, typescripts and provenances of major works of Oscar Wilde from as many reliable sources as possible. Because of the great number of extant manuscripts (and the many manuscripts that cannot be located), I am obliged to restrict this table for the present to specific works by Wilde.

The site contains information about Wilde's plays, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, his long poem The Sphinx, and his essay The Soul of Man under Socialism.

All of these works and their manuscripts are listed with their histories and provenances in full detail. They are augmented with dealers’ catalogue entries and other informative notes on each item.
Search result for 'Ricketts' on Wolfgang Maier-Sigrist's Oscar Wilde site

The site includes lists of auction houses and catalogues. It also lists dealers, managers, publishers, collectors and others involved in Wilde's work. The names of his designers (Beardsley, Ricketts and Shannon) are missing from this Index of Names. Nevertheless, they do feature which is easy to discover by using the excellent search function.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

596. The Dial in Italy

In some European countries, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, Ricketts and Shannon's early publications were noted, and sometimes more positively received, than in Britain. This is less so in Mediterranean countries, such as Spain and Italy, where occasional attention was nevertheless paid to these artists.

Emporium, August 1895: cover

In 1897, Andrea Mellerio devoted an article to the new book arts in the UK for Emporium magazine, ‘Il rinnovamento della stampa’ (Emporium, March 1897, pp. [323]-336), illustrating the title page of the first Vale Press edition, Milton's Early Poems.

Earlier, in August 1895, Emporium contained an essay by the Italian art historian Giulio Carotti (1852-1922), 'Della decorazione moderne in Inghilterra' (Emporium, August 1895, pp. [120]-129), illustrating works by Edward Burne-Jones (1), Walter Crane (10), William Morris (4), H.B. Scott (4), Aubrey Beardsley (1), R. Anning Bell (2), Oliver Brackett (1), and Charles Ricketts (1). 

Cover for The Dial, No. 3 (1893)
in Emporium, August 1895

The cover of The Dial No. 3 (1893), designed by Ricketts, was shown. Its style and symbolism was not (like, Walter Cane's art) associated with the Florentine Renaissance, but with that in Germany:

Tal altra volta ci danno reminiscenze dell'antica arte tedesca, come nella copertina del "Dial" splendida revista che pubblicasi ad intervalli irregolari dal Ricketts e dal Shannon, due dei migliori e piĆ¹ stimati illustratori contemporanei, oppure inspirata alla vecchia arte dei miniatori inglesi del medio evo. Di questo stile abbiamo un saggio nel titolo o frontispizio dei componimenti poetici di Dante Gabriele Rossetti dipinto dal Morris. (At other times they give us reminiscences of ancient German art, as in the cover of the splendid 'Dial' magazine published at irregular intervals by Ricketts and Shannon, two of the best and most esteemed contemporary illustrators, and sometimes inspired by the old art of the English illuminators of the Middle Ages.)

It was just one illustration and it did not bring about a breakthrough in Italy: the influence of Ricketts and Shannon would not extend to modern Italian book art.