Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Black Skin, Whitehall

BLACK SKIN, WHITEHALL:  Race and the Foreign Office 1945-2018
 Written by James Southern and published by FCO Historians  as History Notes issue 21

An interesting survey/analysis of the ‘history of race at the Foreign Office’  which is not a history of empire or British policy but an account of the absence of BAME staff at the FCO in post-war period.  It's a history of race discrimination in recruitment for the diplomatic service, with many eloquent quotations from FCO archives.  
In 1965, for example, Dennis Fowler of Diplomatic Service admin branch was in favour in principle of  admitting three male civil servants who applied for transfer to FCO.  One born in Barbados, then a clerical officer in Ministry of Housing; one born in India then working with Atomic Energy Authority; and one born in Guyana working for the Colonial Service.   All were denied transfer on the ground that they might ‘still be susceptible to Indian and West Indian influence. Mr Chin [born in Guyana] has a Chinese name and the inherent nationalism of the Chinese is such that he may even be susceptible to Chinese influence’.  In 1988 there were 88 ‘ethnic minority’ staff in the Diplomatic Service,, with just one in the senior rank alongside 1118 whites and at the lowest levels 66 among 2326 total.  The careers of high-flying Noel Jones and Robin Chatterjie are examined; sadly, both died prematurely so their own accounts are not available, but both appear to have felt the need to ignore or deny their exceptionality.
The latest material cited in the text are interviews conducted by the author in summer 2018.  In a contribution to the survey, Fouzia Younis and Muna Shamsuddin from the FCO’s BAME Network  write ‘this year we celebrated the first black female career diplomat being appointed to an ambassadorial post; over 23% of graduate entry intake is from a BAME background; and we hope to see the first BAME member appointed to the FCO Board in 2018.’  At the same time, when they accompany overseas visitors in the UK, their hosts often mistake them for being in the foreign delegation, not the home team, and ‘we still do not have enough black applicants  being successful when applying for Fast Stream posts.’
Black Skin, Whitehall has many statistics, citations and observations of interest.  It doesn’t have publication details or reference number, but gives just ‘gov.uk/fco’ as its origin, so let’s hope it is easily available via that route.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Did Stanley Spencer visit Urbino?

A detail from the Crucifixion fresco by the Salimbene brothers in the Oratory of San Giovanni Battista in Urbino. 

The poses and gestures of the two gesticulating mourners, Magdalene with corkscrew hair and Baptist with fur-lined robe, are SO similar to figures by Stanley Spencer that his seemed copied.  They make me wonder if Spencer ever visited Urbino?  He is not known as an artist who travelled in Europe, and his major voyage during WWI was from Britain to Thessalonika where he was stationed with the Army Medical Corps.  The ship appears to have paused in Corsica, but if Spencer somehow got to Italy it would surely have registered in his biography.

Of course, he could have seen reproductions of the paintings in books on early Italian art.  But the other curious coincidence is that the fresco-covered Oratory in Urbino is similar in size and shape to the Sandham Memorial Chapel in Hampshire which Spencer decorated with mural paintings of the war,  with comparably flattened and crowded picture spaces and a dual register of scenes on the side walls.   Accounts of Sandham cite the Giotto friezes in the Scrovegni chapel in Padua as inspiration, and this was very well known in art books.  The Salimbene oratory seems to have more affinity with Sandham, however.   One would love to know more.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Pre-Raphaelite Sisters 1




17 Oct 2019 to 26 Jan 2020

Featuring twelve women whose lives and works reveal the as-yet unacknowledged female contribution to the art of the Pre-Raphaelite movement  1850-1900.

Effie Gray Millais  :  Elizabeth Siddal  :  Annie Miller  :  Christina Rossetti ;  Joanna Boyce Wells  ;  Fanny Eaton  ;  Georgiana Burne-Jones ;  Fanny Cornforth  ;  Marie Spartali Stillman  ; Maria Zambaco  :  Jane Morris  :  Evelyn de Morgan.