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. 

Monday, 21 August 2017

Black is the New Black


News Release


Friday 18 August 2017  





Naomi Campbell Trevor McDonald


Naomi Campbell by Simon Frederick, 2016 © Simon Frederick; Sir Trevor McDonald by Simon Frederick, 2016 © Simon Frederick   



The National Portrait Gallery has acquired thirty-seven portraits of black Britons chosen for their achievements in politics, business, culture, religion and science, it was announced today, Friday 18 August.  It is the Gallery’s largest acquisition of portraits of Afro-Caribbean sitters into its primary collection and will be the subject of a major display at the Gallery in November 2018.


The sitters, representing a group of people at the height of their achievements, were photographed by Simon Frederick for a BBC TWO documentary Black is the New Black. Shown in 2016 the sitters disclosed heartfelt stories and opinions to paint a unique portrait of modern Britain’s past, present and future. With the support of OATH, Simon Frederick has offered the entire portfolio of thirty-nine prints as a gift to the National Portrait Gallery.


These include model Naomi Campbell, newsreader and journalist Sir Trevor McDonald, actress Thandie Newton, musicians Jazzie B of Soul II Soul, Dizzee Rascal and Tinie Tempah, footballer Les Ferdinand and recently appointed Editor in Chief of British Vogue Edward Enninful.


Other popular figures include Maggie Aderin-Pocock, presenter of The Sky at Night; David Harewood, celebrated for his role in the Showtime series Homeland; former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman, who has explored racism through her writing for children and young adults; Lord Morris, who became the first black leader of a major trade union in 1992; and John Sentamu who was appointed Archbishop of York in 2005, becoming Britain’s first black Archbishop. 


Artist and director Simon Frederick constructed still portrait photographs as well as filming the participants for Black is the New Black, a four-part documentary in which Frederick employed the power of talking heads with no archive footage or voiceovers.




Laura Mvula by Simon Frederick, 2016 © Simon Frederick; Edward Enninful by Simon Frederick, 2016 © Simon Frederick; Thandie Newton by Simon Frederick, 2016 © Simon Frederick; Tinie Tempah by Simon Frederick, 2016 © Simon Frederick


The acquisition is announced prior to a public talk by Simon Frederick at the National Portrait Gallery on Thursday 24 August 2017. Selected for the Gallery’s annual Slavery Remembrance Day talk, Simon Frederick will discuss the impact that the Gallery’s painting The Anti-Slavery Society Convention by Benjamin Robert Haydon of 1840 had on him as a child visiting the Gallery with his mother and how it led him to create Black is the New Black, allowing black people’s voices to be heard
and their experiences to be understood. The event at 7pm is free but ticketed   


This event follows Simon Frederick’s last appearance at the Gallery in 2016 when he took part in a panel discussion about identity and achievement with three of the sitters in Black is the New Black Oswald Boateng, Ekow Eshun and Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock.


Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘These striking portraits of black British sitters powerfully reflect the diversity and variety of contemporary British achievement in public life. The National Portrait Gallery is delighted to receive Simon Frederick’s very generous gift of photographs.’


Dr Phillip Prodger, Head of Photographs, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘Photographing with sensitivity and insight, Simon Frederick has made extraordinary portraits of some of the most influential Britons of our time. We are proud to welcome these works into our collection, where they will be seen, enjoyed, and celebrated for generations to come.’   


The acquisition represents an addition and update to Donald McLellan’s Black Power series, displayed and acquired by the Gallery in 1998. This portfolio includes some sitters not already represented in the Collection including journalist Gary Younge and singer Alesha Dixon.


Artist, photographer and director Simon Frederick’s work spans from celebrity portraiture to art exhibitions to global advertising campaigns and TV. He is known for his recent role as a lead judge and co-host alongside Isabella Rossellini on the Sky Arts programme Master of Photography and for his series Black is the New Black on BBC TWO.   


THE ACQUISITION Black is the New Black portfolio P2034-2072

by Simon Frederick, 2016

39 archival inkjet prints, each approx. 380 x 260 mm image size on paper 420 x 295 mm


DISPLAY Black is the New Black

National Portrait Gallery, November 2018 – January 2019   

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

MF at KM

FOOTNOTE [or rather added HEADNOTE]
 from a website on uniforms
Women joining the Women’s Land Army (WLA) during WW1 were issued a simple uniform consisting of 2 green sweaters, 2 pairs of brown breeches (either twill or corduroy), 1 pair of brown overalls, 6 pairs of brown long woolen socks, 3 shirts, a green tie, a pair of shoes, a pair of ankle boots, a pair of tall boots, 2 overcoats, 1 raincoat, and a brown floppy hat or beret. It was a civilian English/Wales organization that hired women to do farm functions since many men were at war.

this blogpost is rather belated, but there are a good few weeks still for this exhibition at Kelmscott Manor presenting the usually shadowy [though physically large] figure of Mary Frances Vivian Lobb,  friend and companion of May Morris's later years.

From Cornwall to Kelmscott, Kelmscott Manor SAL, 2017
Images and documents come from the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth, whither they were bequeathed by MF, as May called her, and recently researched by Simon Evans. 

MFVL's will,  National Library of Wales 
A much fuller account of MF is now emerging, which one hopes will erase the misogynistic and homophobic notions of a foul-mouthed land-girl handed down by contemporaries after both MM and MFVL were dead.  
More information on the exhibition HERE