Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Women's Guild of Arts

Women's History Seminar
Institute of Historical Research
University of London
Senate House
Malet Street

IHR at 17.15 (Room to be determined)
Friday, 31 October
Zoe Thomas (RHUL) ‘At Home’ with the Women’s Guild of Arts: Studio Spaces and Professional Artistic Identity in London 1880-1920
This paper considers the tactics middle-class women decorative artists used to construct professional artistic identity between 1880-1920. Using the Women’s Guild of Arts as its focus, the paper reflects on the importance members placed on having a studio. The paper reveals women artists increasingly attempted to acquire studios, be this separate to their home, or through the reforming of existing rooms. The studio permitted women a new site in which to partake in a range of artistic, social and egalitarian activity, perceived to at least ideologically be separate from the constraints of the domestic and the amateur. This research builds on the flourishing body of academic work locating the blurred nature of middle-class women’s professional and domestic lives in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Rossetti's Obsession @ WMG

[this is Jill Iredale  ] 
 Opening of ROSSETTI’S OBSESSION at the William Morris Gallery on 3 October:  its third incarnation this year, centenary of Janey Morris’s death, and an exhibition which has evolved over the year so that each venue has seen a subtly different show, with absences and additions.
First thanks to Jill Iredale of Bradford Museums [above] who proposed and curated and came up with the title.
Constant elements throughout include the great pastel drawings from Bradford and the great Honeysuckle embroidery stitched by Jane and Jenny.   These two elements represent aspects of Janey Morris, showcased in exhibition:  the ‘real’ Jane – seen in photographs and sketches, letters and embroideries – and what can be called the ‘mythical’ Jane, in the roles of Pandora, Persephone, Astarte, Beatrice, seen in Rossetti’s drawings.  We don’t confuse an actress with the parts she plays but still we interpret Jane through his obsessional representations of an alluring but moody femme fatale.

Thanks also to Rupert Maas who offered to the WMG the fine red chalk vision of Jane both as herself and as Tennyson’s Mariana, which makes a great addition to the show.
Jane remarkably transformed herself from a poverty-stricken childhood into a woman of culture and creativity, an active member of the William Morris family firm.   It also says something for the unavailability of divorce in the Victorian age that the Morris marriage survived the troubles she caused it, becoming a loving and mutually supportive partnership.  Jane devoted her widowhood to preserving and promoting Morris’s legacy, so we should thank her too.  
Rossetti’s Obsession is not a blockbuster but a jewel of an exhibition.  Thanks and congratulations to all involved. 

A prompt and appreciative review in Apollo

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

William III's Blacks from the plantations of the Netherlands

What is known of the '200 Blacks' who came to Britain 'to attend the Horse' with the 200 gentlemen who formed the retinue of William of Orange when he landed at Brixham and proceeded via Exeter to London in 1688?

In a broadside published a week after William's triumphal entry into Exeter  there was an account a bit like a press report, which was republished mostly verbatim a year later by John Whittle in An Exact Diary of the Late Expedition of His Illustrious Highness, the Prince of Orange His Publick Entrance Into Exeter:

Since the foundation of Monarchy, Imperial Orations or the triumphs of the C├Žsars, in the Manner, Grandeur and magnificence of their most sumptuous cavalcades, there was never any that exceeded this of the most Illustrious Hero the Prince of Orange his Entrance into Exeter, which was in manner and form following:

1. The Right Honourable the Earl of Macclesfield with 200 horse, the most part of which were English Gentlemen, Richly mounted on Flanders Steeds, manag’d and us’d to war in Headpieces, Back and Brest, Bright Armour.
2. 200 Blacks brought from the plantations of the Netherlands in America, Imbroyder’d Caps lined with white Fur and plumes of white Feathers to attend the Horse.
3. 200 Finlanders or Laplanders in Bear Skins taken from the Wild Beasts they had slain, the common Habbit of that cold Climat, with black Armour and Broad Flaming Swords.

In the Royal Collection is  a contemporary painting of William's landing,

from which not a lot can be seen, certainly not any white feathered caps,  though here enlargement

and an engraving after Kneller of William himself shows him with an African-descent attendant, holding a helmet to match the king's back and breast armour, though this should not be taken literally

engraving British Museum 

I'm hoping someone has done lots of research on Orange William  and the Netherlands' plantations in the Caribbean....