To me, the discovery of the Hobson Gallery, in Cambridge is rather surprising. Short lived, it opened in the late 1970s and was located at 44a Hobson Street, Cambridge, above where Reeds hairdressers are now. It was opened by Karen Wright, who ran it showing a surprising abundance of contemporary art, below is a list of all of the exhibitions I could find.
1978: February. Ted Hughes reads from Moon Bells and other Poems, recorded by Norwich Tapes.
1978: 4 April-6 May Chris Castle. Drawings, graphics, photos and paintings.
1978: 21 May-8 July. Ivor Abrahams. Prints 1967-78, & selected sculpture, a retrospective exhibition.
1978: 18 July-19 Aug. Malcomb Ryan
1978: 1 Oct-4 Nov. William Tillyer. Paintings, watercolours and graphics.
1982: 5-23 October. Paintings by Julia Ball and Ceramics by Elspeth Owen.
1982: 2 Nov-18 Dec. Prints from the Eastern region : an exhibition selected from open submission.
1983: David Kindersley Workshop. 12 Alphabets.
1983: 12 April-7 May Michael Ayrton : sculpture, paintings, drawings, prints 1954-1975.
The owner of the gallery was Karen Jocelyn Wile Wright. An American editor and journalist. Born in 1950, in New York. She was educated at Brandeis University (BA), before coming to Great Britain to study History of Art at Cambridge University (MA), then moving to the London School of Business Studies (MSc).
As mentioned before, she was the founder of the Hobson Gallery, 44a Hobson Street, Cambridge, UK. This ran from 1975 to 84. In 1985 she worked for Bernard Jacobson’s art gallery in Cork Street, freelanced helping with art shows at the Whitechapel Gallery and then in 1987 Wright became a co-founder of Modern Painters Magazine with the art critic Peter Fuller.
The magazine was backed by Bernard Jacobson and David Landau, founder and then editor Print Quarterly. However, three years into the magazine, aged 43, Fuller died while driving to Cambridge to see Wright in 1990. Wright bought Fullers share of the magazine and took over the editorship in the same year. In 1994, David Bowie was invited to be on the magazines board and accepted. Bowie’s work writing for the magazine was interviewing artists (other than one response to the life of Jean-Michel Basquiat and reviewing the Johannesburg Biennale). Wright was the editor until the magazine was bought in 2004 by the American company LTB Media. In 1998 Wright published The Penguin Book of Art Writing with Martin Gayford, the colouring book Colour for Kosovo in 1999. The Grove Book of Art Writing in 2002 and Colour in 2004.
In 1998 Wright edited William Boyd’s famously fake biography of artist Nat Tate (Named after the National Gallery and Tate). A joke on the art world that included Gore Vidal and David Bowie all providing endorsements and attending the launch party of the book.
She has been writing freelance for various newspapers, most lately, The Independent.
This is the obituary of Edward Bawden by Quentin Blake from the RSA Journal, February 1990.
Edward Bawden was born in Braintree in Essex in 1903. His father was an ironmonger, and Bawden has claimed to be, from his father’s point of view, something of a failure in that he did not follow him into that calling. He went instead to Cambridge Art School and then to the Royal College of Art. There (where he also met Eric Ravilious) he was influenced by Paul Nash, who was a visiting tutor at the time.
The Nash influence is evident in his earliest work, but Bawden very quickly found his own way of doing things, and a variety of commissions, many of them from the Curwen Press, which in those days (the late twenties and early thirties) was able to commission work much as a good design group might today. Among these projects were many small drawings for advertisements and brochures, as well as illustrations for books. Some of these were tasks that many another illustrator would have thought humble enough not to demand much attention but Bawden carried out the smallest drawing with complete professionalism and engagement. Each is beautifully and economically designed, with an unerring sense of the effect of the drawing on the page, and spiked with idiosyncratic wit and vivacity. In 1932 Bawden married Charlotte Epton; they had two children, Joanna and Richard (himself an artist). They lived at Great Bardfield in Essex, in the house that Bawden’s father had bought for him. Bawden’s practice continued to expand. It embraced book illustration, posters, prints, watercolours, murals and wallpaper; and this despite the fact that he lacked what any young illustrator today would regard as an essential piece of equipment, a telephone. Urgent messages came, apparently, via the butcher next door.
All this was interrupted, or at least given a new direction, by the outbreak of war. Bawden was appointed an Official War Artist. He travelled in France, in the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Africa. He seems to have relished even the vicissitudes. In 1943 the ship on which he was returning from the Middle East was torpedoed and he spent five days in an open boat. “There was quite a lot to watch’, he observed characteristically, in a recent interview for the Artist’s and Illustrator’s Magazine, ‘sharks nosing round all the time, plenty of dead bodies floating about in different positions.”
The rich store of work that he brought and sent back in these war years was perhaps less about the experience of war than about Bawden discovering new possibilities of his art in the traditional British role of the solitary traveller. ‘Ravilious and I were detached observers, watching and waiting…, he once wrote. It was this balance of detachment and enthusiasm that helped to give his work its distinctive quality; and explains his success at giving an intimate sense of England that was nonetheless free of nostalgia. Love is expressed by the quality of observation. Bawden was an observant traveller in Essex as well as among the Marsh Arabs, and saw with the same eye.
After the war he was immediately back to another forty years of work: impossible to mention it all. His unsentimental eye for the Victorian was just right for the Festival of Britain, and his huge, coloured, spirited Lion & Unicorn presided over that pavilion as it has done, subsequently, over so many degree-giving ceremonies at the RCA. Particularly significant, it seems to me, were the books that he illustrated for the Folio Society such as Gulliver’s Travels and Rasselas. Not ‘commercial’ editions nor éditions de luxe but books as they should be: balanced, intelligent, witty, well-designed. In the early eighties (and in his early eighties) the Folio Society invited Bawden to illustrate a book of his own choice. The Hound of the Baskervilles took them completely by surprise but it became, once again, an emphatic and characteristic work.
In the spring of 1989 I visited Bawden in his studio in Saffron Walden. We looked at both the wallpapers he had designed in 1928 (printing them from linocuts on the floor of his bed sitting room in Redcliffe Road) and a new linocut of a frog that he had just completed, sixty years later, to go on sale at his new exhibition at the V & A. It showed no diminution of authority in its handling. On that occasion we walked down from the Fry Art Gallery, where Bawden’s work appears among that of other Essex artists, to his home. Bawden was using a stick, and, though he didn’t much seem to need it, at one point he staggered slightly. His friend, the artist John Norris Wood, who was with us, said ‘Be careful language for use at sea. Edward. You’re falling into the gutter’. Bawden picked up the message through his deafness. ‘It’s where I belong,’ he said cheerfully. ‘It’s where I belong.”
However, he was not in the gutter, and nor, indeed, is his reputation. It is gratifying to think that he lived to see it enhanced anew, with a range of exhibitions, interviews and commentary. Yet I wonder if I am alone in thinking that we have not quite yet arrived at a full estimate of his worth. To have found a way of being modern without being ephemeral; to establish a high quality of design without foregoing idiosyncrasy; to master so many disciplines, and continue to do so over so long a period: this seems to me no small achievement.
And his working life is in itself a strengthening example to anyone involved in art and design. One is heartened, and not surprised, to learn that on the last day of that inspiring life he was at work cutting a new piece of lino, starting a new print.
The American crystal glass company Steuben was set up in 1933 as a branch off of another company founded in 1903 by British glassmaker Frederick Carder. The Corning Glass company took over the company in 1918 and then Steuben was founded to be the high end department. The ethos of Steuben was hand blown and crafted design. Their companies design department was set up under the American sculpture Sidney Waugh who designed many of the shapes of vases but also engraved them too. Their headquarters and centre was the rather airport and modern looking Corning Glass Center, Corning, New York, pictured below.
Steuben wanted to push their wears on the British Market, so they went on a charm offensive, commissioning British artists to make designs for various pieces in their collection. These were then engraved and made up part of an exhibition at Park Lane House, 45 Park Lane, London, an exhibition centre throughout the 1950s. (Not the location of the Dorchester, as that is build on top of 25 Park Lane and the numbers were all changed in the 1960s)
The event ran from October 14-November 9, 1955, and had its own booklet printed by the Curwen Press of the history of the company and images of some of the designs. The whole event was designed to inspire the public, but most of all, shop chains to stock the companies domestic ranges of glasses and decanters (many of these would be custom orders as wedding list gifts, rather than items on the shop shelving, prêt à partir). Most of these companies will be ones only your mothers will recall, like, Debenhams, Binns, Peter Robinson, Dickins & Jones and other stores consigned to history.
Below are some of the designs by the British artists they engraved.
The engraved designs were likely one off and individual. This might be reflected in the prices that were rather steep for the time in 1954. Listed in American dollars the prices are: Muirhead Bone’s Spanish Fountain $1200. Jacob Epstein’s Orchids $2000. Duncan Grant’s Summer $750. Graham Sutherland’s Mantis $900.
Many other artists listed in the exhibition booklet, but not depicted included: John Nash, John Piper, Matthew Smith, Reynolds Stone, Eric Gill, Leslie Durbin, Robin Darwin and Cecil Beaton.
As a bonus image, below is a vase by Matisse that was also included in the exhibition. This was part of a French collection of designs Steuben made in 1939. It was bought by the Louvre. Many of the unsold British designs were donated to the New York Museum of Modern Art.
Dr. Percy Withers (1867-1945) is said to have had a wonderful skill with keeping friendships, but this is likely due to his welcoming hospitality of visitors at his Lake District and Oxford homes, and for keeping up with correspondence. His popularity is visible in the pages of his visitors book, aptly called ‘A Paradise of Dainty Devices‘, titled after the Richard Edwardes poem. It was kept for the visitors of his home near Oxford, Souldern Court and later, Epwell Mill in Warwickshire.
The leather bound book contains handwritten contributions from poets such as A.E. Housman, W.B. Yeats, and Robert Bridges, alongside cartoon sketches by Max Beerbohm and William Rothenstein; watercolours by artists including Edward Vulliamy and most surprisingly Paul Nash and John Nash. Although most of the poems have been published elsewhere, the sketches and paintings are unique. The visitors book was donated to Somerville College, Oxon, by Audrey Withers, an alumni in 1976.
Withers was a physician and writer. He also gave lectures to many societies of his trips and travels, he also wrote books on a vast range of topics, from: Egyptology, Cumberland, and childrens verse, to his most known work, the biography of his friend A. E. Housman.
Withers was transferred to the National Service Board (Conscription) in Cambridge in the early summer of 1917 and Housman was the Kennedy Professor of Latin at Trinity College, it was at this time the men met and became friends. In the years after the war, Housman was a guest at Souldern Court. After Housman’s death in 1935, Withers wrote a biography of his friend, A Buried Life: Personal Recollections of A. E. Housman (1940) reviewed by Archie Burnett as “a sympathetic but somewhat baffled memoir”.
The pages below are all from the visitors book of Souldern Court, and it is the guests of Withers there, that make up this blog.
The view Nash painted is likely of the garden at Souldern Court. It is likely that the tennis court at the property now, existed in Nash’s time.
Percy Withers asked Paul Nash for four watercolours of the house and village, they were Nash’s first commision. Nash looks to have painted the works in oil but he only returned three works out of the four.
The painting below, is the view over the road from Souldern Court. The elevated angle of the work show Nash must have painted it from his bedroom window as it is before he started to use photography as an aide memoire.
SOULDERN or “SULTHORN” as it was originally called was founded before Roman times — it lies between the flood plain of the River Cherwell and the upland of the Great Oolite, from which limestone water percolates down to emerge as excellent springs. One of these may be seen as Souldern pond, old name — Town Well. A photograph taken in 1905 is shown (below).
The oil painting of the pond at Souldern, and below is the photograph. I am delighted to say the village scene looks the same today.
In 1923 Paul Nash also made a wood engraving of the view and called it Hanging Garden, it was editioned in 1924.
Below is one of the other paintings from the village, though even with those iconic windows, I can’t trace the buildings location.
Below is a watercolour painting by Paul Nash of Cottages in the area. However the photograph comes from the 1995 auction guide and is as clear as I can make it. Another painting called The Walnut Tree (1923), a watercolour was sold in 1989 but last exhibited in 1975 at the Tate Gallery Retrospective of Paul Nash.
Here is a heck of a biography of an extraordinary woman. From artist to trapezist. The etching below is one I own and inspired the research, mostly thanks to the Ben Uri Gallery.
Printmaker and sculptor Margret Kroch-Frishman was born into a well-off Jewish family in Leipzig, 3 Jan 1897. She studied printmaking at Leipzig under typographer Walter Tiemann before moving to Berlin, where she continued her studies under printmaker Hans Meid and painter Karl Hofer at the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts.
It was in Berlin that she met Oskar Kokoschka, who helped her secure studio space. Since she received no financial support from her family, she also worked as a trapeze artist at the Busch Circus to cover her living expenses. In 1923 she married Marcel Frishman, a cartoonist to the satirical weekly Simplicissimus, and began herself contributing illustrations to periodicals. Following Hitler’s accession to the Chancellorship in 1933, Kroch-Frishman and her husband moved to Copenhagen, Denmark and then fled to Belgium, where they lived between 1934 and 1939, including a period at an arts centre for refugees at Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, outside Brussels, also helping a number of their relatives escape from Nazi Germany.
In 1939, when their visas expired, Margret and her husband were forced to return to Berlin; Amazingly, within two days, they got out of German to France, where they managed to board one of the last boats departing from Toulon, France for Melbourne, Australia. There they joined Kroch-Frishman’s elder sister and her husband Berthold Monash, cousin of former commander-in-chief Sir John Monash.
Despite such connections, in Melbourne she took on a variety of menial jobs, including working as a cleaner, after her husband enlisted in the army in 1942. Even with some of the members of their family in Australia, in 1951 the Frishman’s left Australia, immigrating to England and settling at the Abbey Arts Centre for artist refugees in New Barnet.
After her husband’s death in 1952, Kroch-Frishman moved to a flat at 17 Gerald Road, Belgravia, with her son Martin. The top two floors were the flat of Sir Noel, but in 1956 he left England as a tax exile, living in Bermuda, Switzerland and Jamaica. Margret Kroch-Frishman lived on Gerald Road until 1966 when she moved to a studio house in Steeles Road, Belsize Park. She exhibited in London until her death in 1972.
Her lithographs and etchings were exhibited in London at the Ben Uri Gallery (1951 and 1952), at Wildenstein & Co (1961), and at Manchester’s Tib Lane Gallery (1967). She also made regular trips to Israel, France and Italy, befriending and exhibiting alongside a number of late Italian Futurists (Galleria d’Arte Giraldo, Treviso, 1966). After seeing an exhibition of her work in Venice, de Francia said: ‘The nuances of the colours, which often give the impression of the finesse of a watercolour, the skilful dosage of tones and the clarity of the impression have the chromatic equivalents, in the musical sense, of an extremely personal balanced and totally honest visual language.
The etching at the top of this post was from the Cambridge Pictures for Schools Collection of Works to be loaned to Schools. #104. Being so early in the council collect, the information label has Nan Youngman’s handwriting on the back.
Though this is a work I have for sale, it is a good excuse to write up on an artist I have long admired and owned.
George Hammond Steel was born into an artistic family in Sheffield. Both his father, G.T. Steel, and bother Kenneth Steel, were artists. George’s mother would die in December 1940 in the Sheffield Blitz attacks by German bombers. They were living at 123 Hunter House Road, Sheffield.
George and his brother studied art at Sheffield School of Art under Anthony Betts. George then attended classes in Birmingham and London. Exhibited RA, RBA, RI, Leicester Galleries and Paris Salon.
He lived at Ashdon, Essex. His work was exhibited widely; at the RA (where he had 15 submissions from 1926), RBA, RI, RWA, Leicester Galleries, Glasgow Institute (7 works) and Paris Salon. Steel had his first one-man exhibition at the Graves Gallery in 1941. His work has been bought by a number of provincial galleries, including Sheffield and is represented in several Public Collections.
The subject matter, though a boating one, is unusual for him. It isn’t a harbour but an inland lake. Painted in 1955 it was five years before his early death. The confidence in it is remarkable. This painting was exhibited and bought in Leicester Galleries ‘New Year Show’ January 1956.
This is from an artical in the Countryman in 1941. I thought it was a refreshing perspective on the Women’s land army. It also features an illustration by Mary Fedden.
FACING THE FACTS It is no use expecting impossibilities of these land girls of whom Mr. Hudson is hoping to see 30,000 on the farms, Their pluck, patriotism and good humour are not in question, but spirited, diligent and sturdy though many of them are, and doath though their employers would be to lose them, the unremitting and efficient work of the regular working women on the farms in Scotland and in some parts of England is nothing fo go by. These women are brought up to the job. They have strength, they know how to take care of their health, they have acquired skill, and they are part of the community in which they live. We believe in women workers and in the Land Army – without it, it will be impossible to get the work done that has to be done – but it will do no harm to print the following letters.
A LAND GIRL IN SUSSEX Few people realize the extreme arduousness of the agricultural labourer’s life. The billeting question is very difficult too, especially where a land girl is only earning the minimum of 28s a week. I do not know how girls can manage away from their homes on even the highest wage (34s in Sussex) when they have to find board and lodgings, underwear, soap, shoe repairs, etc. In the other women’s services they are ‘all found’ and the rest is pocket money. Also in other services there is a hope of promotion for the hard-working and intelligent girl. You have to be a country fanatic, like me, to stodge on month after month with no prospect of advancement. I think it highly unlikely that many ordinary town girls will become like this. The farm labourer, male and female, is brought up to it.
Another thing – in other services you join and are sure of your living. In the Land Army you may get a job or you may get stood off in bad weather and have to wait for the dole, which means a lot of fiddling about. Again in sickness you have to struggle for yourself, and if you have an accident the compensation money (which is much less than your lost wages) comes about two months after you are up and doing again! That has been my experience. Unless a girl has some savings to tide her over these accidents, etc., I don’t see how she can manage in the Land Army. I expect the various committee members have plenty to do and I don’t know whether they are paid or not, but so far as I can see round here there is no attempt made to visit places of work and see whether the girls are getting a fair deal or not. The girls I have met and questioned are invariably keen on their work and most of them seem hopelessly and foolishly enthusiastic in that they work far longer hours than they should and will. They become fed up and overtired. I’m afraid I sound very much against the farmer, but it is only human nature to work a willing horse too much.
All the girls I have met round here seem to have settled down well and are stones heavier! A few gave up last winter because jobs weren’t forthcoming after training and they couldn’t afford to wait around. Others chucked it after coming to a real dirty farm after training at a posh agricultural college.
Personally I should think the only solution would be a State-subsidized Land Army which would provide security for the girls without worrying the farmers to death. That, to my mind, is the worst drawback of all, for, although no one joins with the idea of earning good money, yet it is a nightmare to be faced with lost wages in bad weather or no care in sickness. Another point is that unless care is taken to stop enthusiastic girls overdoing it we shall have a lot of female invalids later on due to lifting heavy sacks of potatoes, etc.
I have been working for sixteen months now and enjoy the life but have lived at home and make extra money b writing. However, I think that for the average girl the life is extremely hard and boring, as few of them are interested in nature-study or country pursuits, and the occasional rallies and polite pattings on the back from gracious ladies do not make up for their usual amusements, etc. Many girls are quite misled by the recruiting talk and think they will be with lots of other girls and spend their time dashing about on a tractor, and are fed up when they end up hoeing a beet field for about a month and never see a soul.
Of course a lot of farmers are appreciative and the girls get on well; also an intelligent interested girl can do a lot to stir up some of the stick-in-the-muds. At the same time farmers and workers have to learn to pull together a bit more; I know farmers who are still out to do the worker in the eye, and the workers, in return, just slack off. For instance, when daylight-saving makes a loss of working hours in the dark mornings the farmers suggest that the labourers shall forfeit their weekly half-day. It is true that the workers have an actual hour less work every day, but you can’t do anything with that bit of dark morning, while you can do your shopping or gardening on a Saturday afternoon, The worker would rather give up part of the dinner hour every day and put a spurt on if there was some definite amount of work to get through. There is too much domination of hours and rights on all sides. I think the farmers are a bit grinding and many workers are lazy toads. I know I can get through a lot more than many men in a day but not so much as the really old honourable men. You should see how some men gossip and smoke! One last word, the need for going to bed early is absolutely vital.
A LAND GIRL IN WALES There is a general misconception that the Land Army girls are recruited largely from the urban population. Of sixteen who were training with me at the Henry Ford Institute five or six were farmers’ daughters and half the others were country bred. The very heavy mortality of the early days of the Land Army was, it is true, largely among the town-bred ex-shop assistant, typist, factory-worker type, who had not in the least realized what the job meant and were not physically up to it and in some cases too squeamish to face cleaning stables or burying dead lambs. It was the fault of the recruiters who were so anxious to show spectacular numbers that they did not warn recruits that they were committing themselves to long hours, dirt, outdoor work in wet weather and, very frequently, to a seven-day week. I think present recruitment is much better and the percentage of failure will be less.
Hours are a problem. The original stipulation was a 48-hour week, but it has proved quite impossible for farmers to work the girls different hours from the men, and men’s hours vary from 48 to 54 without overtime or Sunday work. In hay harvest a 14-hour day is quite normal (7 a.m. till 9 p.m.), and 12 or 13 hours in corn harvest. It isn’t possible to let the girls off earlier because a full team is always necessary to keep the balance even between field and stack.
Loneliness is a real trouble where girls are working singly on small farms, What they want is not mass entertainment but individual invitations to Sunday lunch, tennis, or even family evenings. Most of the L.A. seem to come from homes more educated than those of the cottagers (or even the farmers) with whom they are working and they miss the more intelligent (or intellectual) conversation of their homes and previous friends, The loan of books would also be much valued by many.
A MIDLAND FARMER’S WIFE Several farmers round here have had very good girls for some time. One farmer has three from Birmingham who are first class, he says. It really depends on the farmer as much as on the girls. The most urgent thing is milking and care of stock. In these there is no doubt that a great many women excel.
TWO SOUTH COUNTRY FARMERS Many of the girls know as little, of course, of the realities of rural life and farm life as most townees. And much of the work they gallantly essay is physically beyond them. They do it slowly and imperfectly. And when the first excitement has worn off, they are sometimes dispirited by their inefficiency, When they are thrown back on themselves, their opportunities of marriage having been diminished by the War, they are heart-sore. Land work, even though to sustain the Home Front, can seldom seem as exhilarating and satisfying as the life in the Services that their men friends are leading. Also, unlike the soldiers, sailors and airmen, the girls are not ordinarily working with a large company of comrades. It must often happen that they are almost alone, with very little social life, recreation or entertainment. If they are not in some measure self-sufficing as readers or students, and have no special devotion to the countryside, the life must seem to many of them dull and toilsome.
It is not backache only that is the matter. Many girls at work in towns are underfed. Even if in the country they have not to put up with chancy fare but have satisfying meals, there are those among them with a stupid fear of putting more flesh on their bones than the women of the films or cheap fashion papers seem to manage with. Again, these newcomers to the country seldom realize that early rising and hard work day by day on the land means early to bed. What with one thing and another, many a well-meaning land girl has sometimes in her early days been not far from hysterics. She feels lonely, incompetent and fatigued. In the result, the employer is as dissatisfied with her as she is dissatisfied with herself. Often a sensible farmer or farmer’s wife or some understanding soul in the village gets matters on a better footing before dismissal comes about; but it is not seldom for employer and employed to part company without regret. Nothing can be done with a silly girl, and it cannot be expected that there will not be some very ordinary young persons among the recruits to the Land Army as to the Army itself, but by taking thought, much more can be done than is perhaps being done with some of the apparent failures. Because of the national extremity, it is vital that the best wits
of the countryside shall be brought to bear on a human problem. Cannot some of the girls be given sounder notions of hygiene?
In August 1918 a survey was taken of 12,637 Land Army members (writes Dame Meriel Talbot in the Times’). The returns included 5,734 milkers, 293 tractor-drivers, 3,971 field workers, 635 carters, 260 ploughmen, 84 thatchers, 21 shepherds. Can we doubt that with the extension of physical fitness, the development of motor-driving and every kind of outdoor sport, members of the present Women’s Land Army are capable of surpassing the pioneers?
A FARMER IN HAMPSHIRE On my farm I have five land girls, and on the whole we are pleased with them, one with cows, one with poultry and three on the arable. We have had to get rid of one,a good girl, from the dairy, because she wouldn’t go to bed at a reasonable time, and couldn’t get up early. There is a camp too near the farm! There are bound to be misfits and faults and shortcomings on both sides, and I doubt if you can do anything about it, except leave it for time to solve. You can’t put ‘gumption’ where there isn’t any. You can’t make an unhandy man or woman handy, and literacy and good manners don’t mix with their opposites.
I think we on the land have to do the best we can, and, in this machine-age, if we are left a certain minimum of skilled key men we can rub along with second-rate labour, male or female. And I’d sooner have girls than second-rate men, if they will try.
A SCOTTISH LAND GIRL Women farm-workers often have to pit their strength against men. Everything is made men’s size – the heavy tools, the thickness of sole necessary to keep out the ‘glaur’, the size of the enormous straw bunches and hay-bales. Now if a woman is given work within her strength she can go on all day, but five minutes of lifting heavy bales, with the best will in the world, will tire her out for an afternoon (between four and five hours) – bales that a boy could lift (there must be some anatomical difference). If she is strong-minded she can often save herself; for instance, in fanning corn, she may be told to fill the fanner by lifting the grain up in a heavy basket the height of her brow – if she uses a pail instead she can equally well keep the fanner going, but ‘it is not done’ the others will say (this happened to me only this week). But what does the land girl get out of her new life besides ‘rude health’ and a good deal of fatigue? It must be remembered that people on farms are still merry – such merriment, whistling and jokes as in time of War you find only among soldiers, sailors and others engaged in active service. The older labourers are still interested in their craft for its own sake, apart from production of food. This gives a steadying background.
The definiteness and richness of the country character with his telegrammatic (or poetical) way of putting everything appeals to every girl. He makes ‘story’ for her. She is delighted with a clear outlook that you now so rarely find in towns (compare the weather talk of the stable before yoking time in the morning with the glib repetitions of shop girls). The newcomers are allowed to melt into the communal life in a most kindly and welcoming way (I find it hard to get an evening to myself) – there are dances in local granaries and all the excitements of human happenings: births, deaths, removals, marriages and miscarriages.
I am working in the poultry now. A Japanese ‘sexer’ comes every week the day after we have hatched to divide the boys from the girls. The girls we sell as day-old pullets. Imagine my horror when I was asked to take and drown all the boys. I felt like Herod. Did it just once, but have said never again.
ABOUT THE SCOTTISH BONDAGERS How many English people know the word? The dictionary definition is, ‘A cottar bound to render certain services to a farmer’. To-day a cottar is a farm servant who occupies a cottage on the farm as part of his wages. The word recalls the time when both men and women were serfs. It has now come to mean women workers only. The picturesque costume, with differences in the colour of the skirt, and in some places the wearing of a sunbonnet instead of a wide-brimmed straw hat, as described by ‘Scottish Home and Country’, from which the illustration is borrowed, is one of the few female national costumes surviving in Great Britain. The skirt is of stout orange and black drugget, requiring three yards of material, and has thirty-eight pleats. The binding is done with a bright-coloured braid. The gay apron is worn of course after work is done. The garibaldi is of bright print, buttoned down the front. Over the hair a kerchief – a square of print folded in a triangle – is worn, with the two ends tied under the chin, giving a nun-like effect. What is not shown in the photograph is a small brightly-coloured or tartan-fringed shawl which is pinned closely to the neck, the two ends thrown over the shoulders to fall down the back. In wet weather the bondagers are ‘breekit’. They pin their voluminous skirts together at the knees and wear a coarse apron or brat. Straw ropes are wound round the legs to protect them from the wet and mud.
James Radley Young, trained as a painter and modeller at Sheffield School of Art and went to work in Poole in 1893 for Carters Pottery, (later Carter Stabler and Adams, and then Poole Pottery), following his half brother Edwin Page Turner, who was head of design at that time. At this time one of of Young’s main jobs was having to scale large mural designs that Carters were known for making. With Young’s skills as an artist and learning about glazes in the pottery, many of the designs Carters made became more elaborate and could adorne buildings without the damage painted works receive.
Having left Carters in 1901 Young set up his own pottery called Hammer Pottery in Haslemere, Surrey. There he designed a series of garden pots for Liberty’s, known as the Celtic range. Other designs in the series were by Alfred Knox. However the pottery failed in 1911 and he returned to work for Carters.
The recession during the War enabled him to develop his interests in Spanish and Portuguese pottery, leading a team of the otherwise unemployed women modellers. The designs were very much in the spirit of the Arts and Crafts Movement, whereby individual pieces were handmade, following centuries of tradition, and were intended to be useful as well as decorative.
These works made during the First World War by Young, looked very much like the style of the Bloomsbury Group at the same time, due to the simple nature of the brushwork. The Bloomsbury Omega studios opened in 1913 and they must have been influenced by Young as much as he would have been by them. They also both shared an interest in Egyptology.
The style developed from simple unglazed ware into glazed pieces decorated with sprigs or bold stripes. The sprig design was to become a theme echoed in Poole pottery for the next half century.
The designs of the decoration where not the only impact that Young had on Carters, as having run his own pottery, Young took to having a more, handmade look to the pieces and they were thrown on a pottery wheel.
Here are a few of the pictures I acquired at auction from the Derbyshire Pictures for Schools collection. It’s about half of the bounty. I don’t know what is thrusting my collection sometimes, and with schemes like this, I tend to try to buy works that are significant and historically interesting. You can also find my bounty from other collections such as Hertfordshire, Cambridge (and I need to do one for Nottingham).
The Pictures For Schools Collections were started by Nan Youngman in 1947, when she was working under the Cambridgeshire Head of Education, Henry Morris, they were looking for a way to brighten up classrooms when paint was still a luxury after the war. Youngman was a student of painting at the Slade from 1924-1927 and had a wide social circle. The idea of art in the classroom was in part as a reaction to the brutalities of the war and the hope that modern works of art might improve the minds of young children. Cambridge was leading the way with the scheme but later on was joined by Wales, Hertfordshire, Nottingham and Derbyshire. Each area having a different set of administrators selecting images. Derbyshire’s was run by the Director of Education J Longland, but the real brains and passion was his assistant, Barbara Winstanley.
Run by Museum Organiser Barbara Winstanley under the Derbyshire Director of Education, J. Longland. In the post-war period, artworks were chosen with the assistance of Philip James, who was involved with the Arts Council and its predecessor CEMA (The Committee for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts), artist Mary Hoad, and artist and educator Evelyn Gibbs.
I am apt to using the word utopian a lot, but personally I believe projects like these were important in rebuilding Britain after the war. Not just bringing art into the home, but taking it to the public spaces; from the windows in Coventry Cathedral to the Festival of Britain, there was a manufacturing ‘brave new world’ of Britain and they used the artists as part of the team, maybe from champions of design like Robin Darwin at the Royal College of Art and exhibitions like Britain Can Make It in 1946.
Anyway this is part of the collection. Some prints, some paintings and most interestingly, textiles – the real forgotten area of British Art.
For my birthday I was gifted Muriel Rose’s, Artist Potters in England. It was ex-libris from Helen Blair (1907–1997) the painter, but the real delight was you can see two pieces owned by Charlotte Bawden.
Charlotte Bawden (1902-1970) Painter, potter and teacher. She was born Charlotte Epton and met her future husband, the artist Edward Bawden, at Royal College of Art, marrying him in 1932. After the RCA she went into education, teaching art at the Cheltenham Ladies College. Being so close to Winchcombe, she met the potter Michael Cardew in 1928. As a customer of the pottery Charlotte became inspired enough the following year to work at the St Ives Pottery under Bernard Leach, becoming his secretary and his pupil. She had success at the pottery and exhibited in craft shows until 1931 when a fire at the pottery destroyed some of her work. It was around this time she became engaged to Bawden. She moved to London and worked for Muriel Rose at her shop The Little Gallery. After this she married Edward and they lived in Great Bardfield together. Bawden’s father was able to acquire Brick House in 1932 for five hundred pounds, as a wedding present for Edward and Charlotte.
In 1932 Charlotte Epton married Edward Bawden and moved to their newly acquired home, Brick House in Great Bardfield, where they had been lodging together with Eric Ravilious and his wife Tirzah Garwood. Edward and Charlotte have two children, Richard and Joanna Bawden.
After her marriage, Charlotte helped found Denman College, the Women’s Institute establishment, where there is now a room named after her. In the 1950s Charlotte started to throw pots again, working with Joanna Constantinidis (who had just started teaching pottery at Cheltenham Girls College). The Victoria & Albert Museum hold Charlotte’s work.
Muriel Rose’s biography includes opening The Little Gallery, working for the craft council with Bernard Leach and being an author.
The other loan below, was by Gwyn Lloyd Thomas, Charlotte’s friend from Cheltenham College and the WI.
Mary Gwyneth Lloyd Thomas (1899-1978) A curious orbiter of the world of Great Bardfield was Gwyneth Lloyd Thomas. Born at Liscard, Cheshire, she was the daughter of a vicar and a headmistress (Alice Evans). Gwyneth attended Nottingham High School and then the King Edward VI High School in Birmingham. After this she read English at Somerville College, Oxford. She then taught at Birkenhead and then at the Cheltenham Ladies College from 1924-28, this is where she met Charlotte Epton, a Royal College of Art student from Lincolnshire. Charlotte was to become a great friend of Gwyneth and they stayed in touch. Charlotte was also training at Winchcombe Pottery under Michael Cardew and this this is how the Cheltenham college acquired some Winchcombe pieces. When Charlotte went to work for Bernard Leach at St Ives pottery, Gwyneth went to visit and bought a pot by Shoji Hamada made in 1930. It was featured in Muriel Rose’s Artist Potters in England. Charlotte would marry the artist Edward Bawden and this would bring Gwyneth into contact with many artists. At the end of 1928 Gwyneth became a lecturer in English at Girton College, Cambridge, a role she kept until 1952 when she was made a Life-Fellow of Girton. Being closer to Great Bardfield while at Cambridge would mean Gwyneth would be a guest of both the Bawden’s and of John and Lucie Aldridge. In the Garwood memoir, Tirzah recalls Gwyneth having an affair with a married doctor called Joe, who was married and believed in free love. In 1933 Gwyneth helped name Edward Bawden’s paintings for an exhibition at the Zwemmer Gallery, the works were named with lines of poems such as: “I often blotted what I had begunne; this was not quick enough, and that was dead. Nothing could seem to rich to clothe the sunne”, or “If I a fancy take, to black and blue, that fancy doth it beauty make.” In 1938 when J M Richards and Eric Ravilious were stuck for a name for their book, it was Gwyneth who suggested High Street. During the Second World War she worked in the Nursing Auxiliary Reserve unit. In 1946 Gwyneth would also work with Bawden when he illustrated a selection of poems she chose and edited in Travellers’ Verse.
After her work at Girton she became headmistress of Channing School, Highgate, 1952-64. She published works on John Dryden, Andrew Marvell and Gerard Manley Hopkins under M. G. Lloyd Thomas. She died in 1978.