Friday, 13 October 2017

May Morris Art & Life







 
 
 

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

May Morris : New Perspectives





May Morris: Art & Life. New Perspectives, edited by Lynn Hulse

A new publication to complement the V&A/WMG volume,  this presents the original research papers from the 2016 Conference which explored May Morris's life and work from many different angles - as designer, craftswoman, teacher, historian, author, editor and heritage campaigner.  Contributors include: Jan Marsh, Anna Mason, Rowan Bain, Catherine White, Hanne Faurby & Jenny Lister, Lynn Hulse, Annette Carruthers, Helen Bratt-Wyton, Helen Elletson, Margaretta Frederick, Mary Greensted, Kathy Haslam and Julia Dudkiewicz.
 
This collection offers new insights into the business practices of Morris & Co.'s embroidery department under May's management; her intellectual and artistic response to medieval embroidery; her career as a teacher and educator; her support for other female artists through the Women's Guild of Arts and the reception of her lecture tour of the United States. New perspectives are also offered on her family relationships, political outlook and the active and influential role she played in preserving and shaping William Morris's legacy.
 
Published by the Friends of the William Morris Gallery and handsomely designed by Roger Huddle, the 256pp book has 96 images.  Price £20.00. plus £2.90 postage, it is  available from  Friends of the William Morris Gallery c/o Roger Huddle 31 Cottenham Rd London E17 6RP (07973443030)  and through the various properties associated with the Morris family.

Friday, 22 September 2017

MAY MORRIS AT COCK-A-LOFTY

view uphill towards Cock-a-Lofty today



IN SUMMER 1933 May Morris (MM) and Mary Frances Lobb (MF) spent a month above Hay-on-Wye, camping on a grassy spot beside a stream beneath woodland, on open ground known as Lower Tack Common.  I don’t know how they chose the location, which was presumably familiar to walkers climbing Hay Bluff and Lord Hereford’s Knob.  Starting from Kelmscott in Oxfordshire, they travelled to the Crown Hotel, Hay, and then ’went forth in a car driven by a young man with a brilliant red head, to hunt our camping ground’, on a stony road uphill beyond Cusop.  At New Forest Farm ‘Mr Gwllym, the son’ directed them further up to a wooded glen with a gurgling stream, where ‘very shortly we found a still likelier place (though thistly)  sheltered and graced with a lawn-like slope.’ 




The next day they shopped for supplies and drove back to the spot where – in May’s detailed holiday diary – ‘MF and I are soon busy destroying thistles with a sharp hoe we bought, so that when the boy comes up again with the camp outfit, we are ready to pitch the tent, perspiration dropping from every angle of us!’
‘The nearest farm is a small high-perched cottage standing out against the dimmer colours of “the Mountain”, as they call our nearest height (1500).  The delicious name is Cockaloftie (spelling?), kept by Miss Pryce.  We went to call on the lady in the evening, to ask if our mail might be delivered to her house.  The stream below was gay with forgetmenots and musk, and two pretty Hereford cows were grazing on the steep slope’.

The mail duly arrived at Cock-a-Lofty, brought right to the tent every morning, the postman even offering to wait for replies, and perhaps also indulging in curiosity regarding the campers, for May was over 70, elderly and slight, while MF was 55, robust, tall and customarily wearing countrywoman’s breeches.   Miss Pryce’s dog (‘collie by nature’) also visited daily, as did the cattle, annoyingly. ‘MF has to head them off. As it is they have dirtied our lawn’.


View from close to camping ground today
MF undertook much of the practical work, digging trenches, damming a pool in the stream, cooking on a primus stove. ‘We have a flat space, backed by a hollow against steep incline covered with bracken.  A bank alongside and in front a ‘lawn’ of fine grass where our beech-shaded parlour is,  sloping down to the stream. This little corner has a peculiar charm which never fails to touch me as I get the morning water; it curls at the foot of  a rounded hill’.

In Hay they bought butter, bread, ginger-biscuits and two large jars, which MF filled with 14lbs of jam made from whinberries –‘an immense success’ - stored in their alfresco larder.

New Forest Farm
At New Forest Farm below Cock-a-Lofty,  they met Mr Gwllym senior, ‘a tall handsome elderly man with an engaging smile’, who talked well and amusingly about a previous camping party that was drenched by rain.  MM and MF bought milk here, together with cream cheese made by Miss Gwllym.  Some days later Miss Gwilliam (MM was spelling phonetically) showed them the big oven, ‘which goes a great way back’, in which ‘she does all the baking once a week in the old-time way, bread and cakes and pies etc. It is a handsome old house which she keeps beautifully, unaided.  A fine staircase and there used to be a gate at the bottom of it.’

Below New Forest was Mrs Lloyd at Llangwathan, who offered them cider, ‘in the cool of a handsome old parlour, shining with cleanliness, with deep windows, great beams with bacon-hooks and panelled walls.’    The Lloyds called at the camp a day or so later, bearing cream and more cider, receiving coffee and cakes in response.  Later, MM and MF created a ‘Llangwathan cocktail’ combining the farm’s cider with their own whisky.  A fortnight later they were shown over the  gabled farmhouse, a ‘veritable little old Gothic building’ with fine internal doorways, oak-panelling and deep window-seats. The staircase was part-stone, part polished oak, leading to roomy attics and great beams with long cusped arches beneath the roof line.  Outside they admired the pink pigs and ‘put in a plea for one of the hams’, having previously tasted delicious home-cured slices from the Gwlliams.  Towards the end of their stay Mrs Lloyd sold ten pigs at Hereford market.

For a few days when MF was sick (blamed on a good lunch of goose, followed by beer and walking in hot sun) MM spent her time on embroidery and painting watercolour views ‘when the evening light was right for the fairy-like vision of the valley between cliff and hill.  Then an enormous yellow moon rose over the ferns in a cloudless sun-set sky.’  On their final evening Miss Pryce came down from Cock-a-Lofty to pick blackberries, saying ‘she wishes we lived somewhere up here’ so she might see them more often.
Entrance to camping ground today 

 



Friday, 1 September 2017

Saffron Walden



just some exceptionally ENGLISH images from Saffron Walden
  

  




 
 
 
In the handsome parish church, this home-made epitaph on the tomb of James Montieth, husband of Anne Holgate, who died in 1681 aged 47 is especially appealing thanks to its spelling of freind, which so often still appears unbidden today .
Forgive me worthy freind that I presume
To offer low incomiums on thy tomb
Had I the mighty Cowley's soul one hour
His flight of witt and his seraphick power
I'd doe thee right in such a hight of words
should outdoe time and all his dull Records
But hold there needs no strains of Art
to speak thy worth I'le speake thee as thou wert
of manly mean above the common rate
Exact proportion and of aspect great
A loyal subject and a generous freind
to the  most needy allways the most kind
A chast kind husband to a vertuous wife
true justice was the measure of thy life
But God who gave the blessing tookt away
hee has thy soule and wee (alas) thy clay
here let it rest in this cold mansion lye
till heaven shall take itt to Eternity
In sighs we'll celebrate thy memory.
 
 
 

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

British Street Portraits in Australia

 
Charles McGee, the London crossing sweeper from the 1820s, is fairly well known from  'London Life' prints,  but this is an unfamiliar  portrait by John Dempsey. Showing the shock of white hair, top hat and cudgel that must have been McGee's trademarks, it's in a sequence of 50 images that were presented to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in 1956, presumably by the descendant of a migrant.
Dempsey is described as an 'itinerant artist', which makes him sound blood-brother to his subjects, which is probably misleading.  The sequence is rather like a 'Cries of London' series, illustrating street vendors, but has a wider remit, and is in watercolour, therefore unique, although possibly conceived for a hand-coloured print edition; if so, are any copies known?
 
  Of the 50 sitters, three are of African ancestry, and the other two are in Norwich.
 
This figure is called 'Cotton'.  I'm assuming it's because he is selling reels of thread, though the image isn't quite clear, and the nickname may be an indirect allusion to his supposed earlier life in the  cottonfields of the American South.  His hat is a bit battered, like that of so many street vendors as portrayed in prints like these and those in Vagabondia.
 
The third figure is more  surprising, however.
 
 
'Black Charley' is a bootmaker, standing in the doorway of his shop, wearing a smart sprigged waistcoat in best Regency style, a snow-white stock, frock coat, breeches, gaiters and indoor shoes.  He looks plump and prosperous, hardly a street-seller. His shop has boots and shoes for gents and ladies and children.

This fascinating collection is currently on display at the Australian National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.  The full sequence is online here LINK

There's also a full catalogue, available here LINK

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Jenny Morris portrait


 
 
Jenny Morris c.1898 [NPG]
  
 The William Morris Gallery has a pastel drawing that has seldom if ever been seen.  It was purchased at the Kelmscott Manor sale by Mary Annie Sloane and identified as a portrait of Jenny Morris by Evelyn de Morgan.
[Apologies for the quality of the photo below - better ones in due course]
 

 It was later presented by Sloane to the WMG but seems to have been rather buried in the collection - possibly because Jenny's life story has been deemed so sad following the onset of then untreatable epilepsy  when she was about fifteen.  I assume it was drawn around 1904-5 when de Morgan was working on her painting The Hour Glass, which features Jane Morris as an allegory of age.

The De Morgans were good friends with the Morris family and paid visits to Kelmscott Manor, on one of which Evelyn drew the Manor in pencil.  But I'd guess that the portraits were done in London,  unless any further info emerges.  The Williams [Morris and de M] were of course business partners after a fashion but the friendship seems to have deepened when WdeM gave up lustreware in favour of fiction and had unexpected late success as a novelist.  The DeMs were quite heavily into esoteric mysticism, and I wonder if their conversations prompted Jane to her odd declaration of belief in reincarnation.