Friday, 13 January 2017

May Morris Exhibition in October



Here, hopefully

is the official announcement of the MAY MORRIS exhibition scheduled for October 2017 at the William Morris Gallery.

Two accompanying publications are also in the pipeline:  the papers from the 2016 May Morris Conference, which are being edited by Lynn Hulse, and a fully illustrated book being produced by Thames & Hudson for the V&A and WMG.


There is truly a great deal of new information about May's career and artworks, and great scope for future researches and assessments.    


Saturday, 7 January 2017

Spitalfields Nippers at WMG

on 19 January the Gentle Author is giving at talk on Horace Warner's photos of East End children which he discovered.   As he says, it's very appropriate location, owing to the direct links between William Morris   and the Warner wallpaper business where Morris & Co papers were printed.




Details:   http://spitalfieldslife.com/2017/01/07/nippers-at-the-william-morris-gallery/

Friday, 11 November 2016

BILL RICHMOND prizefighter



as evident from the date below, I intended to publish this post in September, but failed, because I intended to write more fully.
Bill Richmond will probably feature in the next instalment of BLACK & BRITISH FORGOTTEN HISTORY on BBC2 on 16 November, so here is a partial preview...
The memorial plaque (alas temporary) is under the black cloth






an unusual gathering at a central London pub on 13 September - although a very apt location, as the Tom Cribb pub marks the district between Haymarket and Leicester Square where pugilists were to be found in the Regency years, when prizefighting and sparring were cross-class [male] attractions.




Sunday, 6 November 2016

BHM

Black History Month, in my recollection, started slowly, then took off and grew vigorously around 2003, with the Great Black Britons list, and 2007 with the bicentenary of the Slave Trade legislation. More recently, it seemed to have diminished, as if the community had found other subjects of interest and concern, while the rest of us had just lost interest.  But this year has witnessed an immense resurgence of Black History events and initiatives, especially at local level, which have evidently been a good while in gestation  - so many that I hope someone is keeping a record of all Black History events in 2016, or some may get overlooked and thus again forgotten.

When I was researching images of Black Victorians many years ago, the message from the Black community was that one can't find what isn't there - and Black History wasn't there for the good reason that Britain had ignored or buried it - that is, absence was the story of Black History.
It still is in many respects.  But the recovery work that has been and is being done demonstrates yet again that [temporarily] invisible does not means non-existent and that almost everywhere one looks historically speaking one finds evidence of hitherto  unrecognised Black presence.

The upcoming four-part series Black and British a Forgotten History, written and presented by David Olusoga on BBC2, is the latest manifestation.  I don't have the full list of the 20 memorial plaques marking Black historical presences and personalities that structure the series, One might think that  some like Sarah Bonetta Davies, Francis Barber and Bill Richmond are in fact pretty well known,  but it's probably true that most audiences will either not have heard of them, or don't recall any details.  Indeed, history of all kinds is so swiftly overtaken  and re-forgotten that everything needs repeating regularly.  Or Black History can vanish again.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Spirit Drawings - by Anna Howitt



I haven’t yet managed to get to the Courtauld Gallery’s exhibition of ‘Spirit Drawings’ by Georgina Houghton, link  here but the press and publicity images are to me strikingly similar to those Spirit Drawings produced by Anna Mary Howitt when she fell for the Spiritualism craze.  It’s a long time since I looked at them in the Psychical Research Collection in Cambridge University LIbrary, but the clear bright colours and swirling lines are very reminiscent.

Anna Howitt was one of the original artists who responded to the work and writing of the PRB in 1849-50.   Unlike most of her contemporaries, she obtained some serious artistic training in Munich, along with Jane Benham Hay and back in Britain painted some remarkable scenes, one of a ‘fallen woman’ to set beside Rossetti’s Found, and one of her friend and fellow-feminist Barbara Leigh Smith posing as a defiant, flame-haired Boudicca.

Both are now lost because when Ruskin – pre-eminent avant-garde  critic in the 1850s – responded (allegedly): “What do you know about Boadicea?  Leave such subjects alone and paint me a pheasant’s wing”, Howitt was so devastated that her fragile mental state cracked and she had a major breakdown during which she destroyed all her paintings.  Some while later she retreated into Spiritualism,  producing  scores of vivid watercolour visions, supposedly under supernatural direction.   I recall, when looking through the long-forgotten portfolio of drawings, feeling very sad that Howitt’s talent and originality should have been so diverted. (One can’t blame Ruskin – there were other indications that Howitt was heading for a breakdown, and he did not know her personally.)  But maybe I should not have been.

I see that Georgina Houghton, who was ten years older than Howitt, had a self-funded exhibition in London in 1871, and it looks as if her work was produced in the 1860s, presumably in the same years as Howitt’s.  I wonder if they knew each other through the Spiritualist network, or whether the coincidence of their angelic productions is just that (or evidence of the spirits’ powers, of course)


All suddenly very intriguing. 





Saturday, 27 August 2016

Threat to Royal Exchange murals

Frederic Leighton

These are not well known, if only because so few people visit the Royal Exchange today, but they are a notable sequence, which belong to the Victorian history of public art that includes the major Westminster sequence and Madox Brown's efforts in Manchester Town Hall.

The London series relates episodes from the City's history (naturally)  with some excursions beyond the walls, including the opening panel (top) of Phoenicians trading in Cornwall by Frederic Leighton, and another featuring Magna Carta at Runnymede.

Two by Stanhope Forbes - citizenry taking to the Thames during the Great Fire, and the gutting of the previous Exchange in 1838 - are worth being seen, both for their shared fiery scenes and for their visually effective compositions for tall works to be viewed from the floor.  

Stanhope Forbes 
Stanhope Forbes 



Frank Brangwyn

So it is  shame that there are proposals to render them largely invisible in order to fill the space with commercial outlets - cafes and shops.    Even if Frank Brangwyn's panel, Modern Commerce, foregrounds that theme, which is indeed a large element in the City's history and identity.

I'm not sure of the murals' own history except that they must have been projected in the 1890s and continued through to the 1920s, as the later panels feature the Great War.  The list of artists is a roll-call of eminent  and now mostly forgotten late Victorians.


Henrietta Rae
Including just two women: Henrietta Rae and Lucy Kemp Welch, the former depicting Dick Whittington as benevolent Lord Mayor, and the latter an industrious group of Women Workers 1914-1918, with a battleship fleet on the horizon.


More on Kemp Welch's work http://spitalfieldslife.com/


The proposals are for a mezzanine floor halfway up the paintings, obscuring their central sections and frankly making nonsense of the images.  A mock-up of the predicted effect below.

Here is where to register an objection.  Here is the VicSoc's fully itemised objection, which covers more than just the paintings.   And here is the full sequence of images, courtesy SpitalfieldsLife









Threat to Royal Exchange murals

Frederic Leighton

These are not well known, if only because so few people visit the Royal Exchange today, but they are a notable sequence, which belong to the Victorian history of public art that includes the major Westminster sequence and Madox Brown's efforts in Manchester Town Hall.

The London series relates episodes from the City's history (naturally)  with some excursions beyond the walls, including the opening panel (top) of Phoenicians trading in Cornwall by Frederic Leighton, and another featuring Magna Carta at Runnymede.

Two by Stanhope Forbes - citizenry taking to the Thames during the Great Fire, and the gutting of the previous Exchange in 1838 - are worth being seen, both for their shared fiery scenes and for their visually effective compositions for tall works to be viewed from the floor.  

Stanhope Forbes 
Stanhope Forbes 



Frank Brangwyn

So it is  shame that there are proposals to render them largely invisible in order to fill the space with commercial outlets - cafes and shops.    Even if Frank Brangwyn's panel, Modern Commerce, foregrounds that theme, which is indeed a large element in the City's history and identity.

I'm not sure of the murals' own history except that they must have been projected in the 1890s and continued through to the 1920s, as the later panels feature the Great War.  The list of artists is a roll-call of eminent  and now mostly forgotten late Victorians.


Henrietta Rae
Including just two women: Henrietta Rae and Lucy Kemp Welch, the former depicting Dick Whittington as benevolent Lord Mayor, and the latter an industrious group of Women Workers 1914-1918, with a battleship fleet on the horizon.


More on Kemp Welch's work http://spitalfieldslife.com/






The proposals are for a mezzanine floor halfway up the paintings, obscuring their central sections and frankly making nonsense of the images.  A mock-up of the predicted effect below.

Here is where to register an objection.  Here is the VicSoc's fully itemised objection, which covers more than just the paintings.   And here is the full sequence of images, courtesy SpitalfieldsLife