Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Your Favourite Actress

I couldn’t help laughing at the latest ‘offer’ from the NPG shop  [I know I shouldn’t, but…]   which is a limited edition of 30 hand-finished platinum prints after the original portraits of RUPERT BROOKE taken by Sherill Schell in London in 1913.
Brooke’s friends famously dubbed this bare-shoulder one ‘Your Favourite Actress’, after the celebrity show-biz images of the time.

Brooke was currently dating the actress Cathleen Nesbit, before his departure for the United States and beyond, in the months prior to taking up a fellowship at Cambridge. ‘How many photographs do you have taken in a month, I wonder,’ he asked her. ‘What a life!  Even we literary men, though, have our little moments.  My celebrated amateur photographer who took me for his collection of Eminent Poets has just sent me two gigantic works of Art, on eternal paper – a new process – depicting a tortured elderly man reflecting in prison on the earlier plays of M. Strindberg – me, he says.  I shall present them to the nation.  Now I’m bombarded by an American photographer called Sherill Schell (!). You know all about America – does he exist?  He says he’s in London for a month – I suspect him of being a fraud.’

A couple of weeks later, writing from the Wyndhams’ house Clouds, he told Cathleen that ‘nothing has happened: except that my American photographer has sent me a photograph of me – very shadowy and ethereal and poetic, of me in profile, and naked-shouldered. Eddie [Marsh] says it’s very good. I think it’s rather silly.
‘But anyhow, I don’t look like an amateur popular preacher – as in those others.  And no one will ever be able to put it into an interview, with the words “We want great serious drama” underneath.’

After the image gained global popularity following Brooke's death in WWI and its use in his Collected Poems, Schell gave an account of the sitting - on a foggy day in a borrowed apartment in Pimlico - saying that Brooke arrived wearing a blue shirt and long blue silk tie, and talked of the Ballets Russes and Hello Ragtime!  Using natural light and minute-long exposures, Schell took twelve frames; he claimed that for the last Brooke himself suggested the pose, 'showing his bare neck and shoulders. For this he stripped to the waist, revealing a torso that recalled the young Hermes.'

'It's positively obscene', wrote Jacques Raverat to Maynard Keynes.  'Let us write him a very insulting letter, suggesting that a photo of him completely in the nude would doubtless find a large sale.' 
Printed from the original glass negatives, the new prints are the original size – 10 x 12 inches - and cost £600.00 each, the price rising as the edition sells..  

Sadly, I haven't been able to trace the photos for Eminent Poets, apparently taken by a non-professional named Murchison.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Morris & Co glass Bradford, Keighley and Bingley

Some very early Morris & Co windows in and around Bradford, West Yorkshire, are less well-known than they deserve, being among the very first commissions for the Firm and displaying the striking originality of the early designs.  They moreover offer both ecclesiastical and secular sequences, with Biblical figures in the Cathedral complementing Arthurian episodes now in Cliffe Castle.  Here are details of two forthcoming events

Tour: Morris & Co. stained glass, Bradford Cathedral
1.15–2pm Tuesday 29 April, and 1.15–2pm Tuesday 6 May, Bradford Cathedral
Come for a free guided tour of the stained glass windows produced by Morris & Co. for Bradford Cathedral including designs by Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Madox Brown and William Morris.
No booking required.

Tour: Morris & Co. stained glass, Cliffe Castle
2 – 3 pm Thursday 22 May, Cliffe Castle Museum
Join  Nilesh Mistry, Curator (International and Decorative Arts) for this free tour of the King Arthur themed stained glass panels by Morris & Co. commissioned for Harden Grange, Bingley, with designs by William Morris, Rossetti, Madox Brown, Burne-Jones, Arthur Hughes and Val Prinsep.
Places are limited so please book. cartwright.hall@bradford.gov.uk or Tel: 01274 431212.

The 13 stained glass panels depict scenes from the story of Sir Tristram and La Belle Isoude from Malory's Morte d'Arthur.  They were commissioned by textile merchant Walter Dunlop for a music room at Harden Grange, his house near Bingley and were produced and installed in 1862-3 by Morris Marshall Faulkner & Co, established in 1861.

A full description of ALL the glass in Bradford Cathedral here 

and in Bingley a new discovery for me: a sequence of Four Seasons, with figures, roundels and floral quarries, mainly designed by EBJ and executed by the Firm for mill-owner Thomas Garnett at Oakwood Hall and still in situ on the grand staircase.  Much MMF & Co domestic glass has been moved or lost so this is a great survival.
The central figure is a St George; the roundels depict Chaucer and four Chaucerian heroines: Dorigen, Griselda, Criseyde and Constance.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Rossetti's Obsession at the Lady Lever Art Gallery


Some seldom-seen drawings by Dante Gabriel Rossetti featuring Janey Morris as muse in a variety of roles, will be shown in the Rossetti’s Obsession exhibition organised by curator Jill Iredale and opening at Bradford’s Cartwright Hall Art Gallery on 15 March. 
The works are impressive and are seldom-seen because [a] being in coloured chalks or pastel, they are light-sensitive and can’t be displayed permanently and  [b] being little-known they have rarely been requested for exhibition elsewhere.  Together with  other similar pieces, including some from private collections, they provide a compelling immersion in Rossetti’s almost literal visual obsession with Jane’s pale, sombre features, grey eyes and dark hair during the last phase of his career. 
It is a compact show – images from Cartwright Hall at the foot of this post 
then at the Lady Lever Gallery in Port Sunlight from 20 June to 21 September

where it looks like this

and the huge Honeysuckle curtain stitched by Jane and her daughter Jenny looks especially stunning

Free tours of the exhibition:
4 August:  Julian Treuherz
4 September: Julian Treuherz
9 September: Jill Iredale
11 September: Julian Treuherz
17 September: Sandra Penketh

There's an accompanying publication with the ISBN 978-0-946657-64-3, sponsored by the Friends of Bradford Art Galleries.

Also  a useful YouTube link   
to a short video on the Cartwright installation