Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Janey Morris moves to Kelmscott

From 5 July to the end of October, the JANEY MORRIS exhibits from the National Portrait Gallery will be on show at Kelmscott Manor, with minor variations.  This is a most appropriate place, given Jane’s love for the Manor and the newly-printed photos of her, shivering in her shawl on a cold May morning in 1898, that are included in the display.  With luck the next few months will be sunnier.  
Details from the Kelmscott Manor website  and

Also ‘on view’ at Kelmscott, or rather ‘at work’ is the new artist-in-residence, glass designer SASHA WARD, who welcomes visitors to her studio in the Brewhouse.

A couple of shots of the display in the Manor, where the small square white-walled room shows off the drawings and photos very well and very appropriately given Jane's love of the house and garden.  On view until the end of September: 

and to finish with a glimpse of her burial spot in the churchyard, and one of the antique brocade fabric she presented to the church, currently adorning the altar:  

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Help is better than Sympathy

HELP IS BETTER THAN SYMPATHY  is a rather curious slogan, as if the two were opposed.  In most circumstances, Sympathy without Help is not much use, of course, but the slogan presumably means Help as well as Sympathy, please.  And indeed, the phrase comes from a poster designed by Frank Brangwyn for the Belgian & Allies Aid League, at the outbreak of World War One, when refugees from the German invasion of Belgium arrived in Britain. “Will you help these sufferers from the war to start a new home”, it asks. “Help is better than sympathy.”   Brangwyn was born in Belgium, so his sympathies were fully engaged.

The chief trigger for Britain’s war declaration in August 1914 was the violation of Belgian neutrality; otherwise, there seemed no urgent reason for British participation in the imminent conflict.  But once the die was cast, four terrible years of almost innumerable deaths and futile hatred ensued, whose aftermath is still palpable a century on.

Brangwyn’s second career as a poster propagandist is examined in the latest exhibition at the William Morris Gallery  - which he actually founded by bequeathing his collection to the local council in honour of Morris, who grew up there.  As with other WWI commemorations this year, it’s a sobering display, with its monochrome visuals, Brangwyn’s heavy, angry, black graphic style and above all its subject.  The ‘worst’ work, in the last sense, is his 1918 poster for War Bonds [surely extorted from a population who had already overpaid in more than money] urging a Final Push in the form of Tommy bayonetting Fritz face-to-face, with evil ferocity.   It is said that even the War Bonds department thought this mistaken ardour.    But so had Sympathy for Belgium transmuted into Violence towards Germany.

More details of the exhibition here:

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The Lost Peacock

Not news but worth sharing: the four drawings by Philip Webb made for a tapestry woven by Morris & Co in 1887.  As he often declared, Morris's own talent was for pattern-making, borders and overall arrangement - of windows, pages, tapestries.  Burne-Jones typically drew the figures and Philip Webb's specialty was animals and birds, particularly birds.   He drew splendidly vigorous  cocks, ducks, geese, hens, herons for Morris & Co tiles and glass quarries -  some  for example at Red House.    

Four drawings - of a hare, a lion, a fox and a raven - by Webb made as animal studies for  a tapestry called  The Forest, produced by Morris & Co in 1887 are now in the National Trust's collection at Wightwick Manor outside Wolverhampton.   Four and a half metres wide, and woven at Merton Abbey by William Knight, John Martin and William Sleath, the tapestry is now in the V&A collection but is currently on display at Wightwick also.
The Forest, tapestry, woven wool and silk on a cotton warp, designed by William Morris, Philip Webb and John Henry Dearle, woven at Merton Abbey by William Knight, John Martin and William Sleath, 1887, 121.9 by 452 cm. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London, purchased with the assistance of the Art Fund

The watercolours were originally owned by Laurence W. Hodson, a neighbouring Wolverhampton industrialist t who lived at Compton Hall, which like Wightwick was furnished with Morris & Co. textiles and wallpapers.  The most striking of then is the Raven [top] 

But the Forest shows five creatures - including a peacock which sits at the far left edge opposite the raven, and it is assumed that Webb drew a study for this too.  Now drawings of peacocks were fairly common in the 1880s and 1890s  [I've just seen an Italianate scene by Marie Spartali Stillman that includes three of them]   so Webb's lost peacock may be hiding unrecognised somewhere....  Let's hope so.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Fanny Eaton Update

As promised, information on a newly-discovered drawing of Fanny Eaton that has emerged from the descendants of landscape artist Walter Fryer Stocks (1842-1915).  Currently so obscure as to have virtually no reputation –  reflecting the reception of his work, not necessarily its quality – Stocks was the same generation as Albert Moore and Simeon Solomon, so could have joined their life drawing class around 1860 when Mrs Eaton sat to the group of young artists.  This well-finished drawing in black and red chalk cannot have been done as a life-class sketch but its presentation of the model is similar to that in Solomon’s study in the Fitzwilliam and the accessory necklace drawn by Stocks is comparable to that one bestowed by Moore on the Mother of Sisera in Carlisle.   Indeed, it looks as if Stocks also had in mind a Biblical or Oriental scene like Solomon’s Mother of Moses or Joanne Boyce’s projected Sibyl.

A large number of items relating to Stocks and his artist family  were sold at Chiswick Auctions last year; his slightly more famous brother was genre painter Arthur Stocks, whereas Walter seems to have found landscape more congenial.  The BM has a striking view of a Dartmoor rock formation named Bowerman's Nose.

A batch of what appear to be his ‘entrance exam’ pieces for the RA Schools – pencil studies of antique sculpture --were with Holloways in Banbury last month, together with a couple of portraits of Walter which show that by 1880 he had a bald pate and bushy untrimmed beard, like so many contemporaries.   None of which alas offers any insight into when where and why Fanny Eaton posed for him. 


A link to National Museum of Wales report on information supplied by Brian & Mary Eaton

It's my view that both Fanny and one of her daughters posed for the two figures on the extreme right of Millais's Jephtha's Daughter. 

Then some more from Brian, who has found that the Royal Academy account books show cash payments to models variously named as Mrs Eaton (13 July 1860; 6 and 13 October 1865) , Miss Eaton (18 November 1874; 10 July 1875; 31 January 1879) and Fanny Eaton (9 February 1877). This employment was in the Painting School, not Life Drawing.