The Father, Son and an Abbey; the story of Fonthill Abbey

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 Fonthill Abbey by Ed Kluz.

This is the story of the rise and fall of Fonthill Abbey, the houses before it and the men who changed a house to live in their own ideas of grandeur.

The Father:

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 William ‘Alderman’ Beckford (19 December 1709–21 June 1770)

William ‘Alderman’ Beckford, born in Jamaica to a plantation family, was sent to England in 1723 to be educated where he studied at Westminster School.
He worked in the trade of Sugar (the family plantation) in the city of London and in 1744 Alderman bought an estate at Fonthill Gifford, near Salisbury called Fonthill Antiquus, pictured above. Pictured below: the estate after some improvements to the house and gardens.

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 Fonthill Redivivus

Sadly these improvements were of no use as the main house was mostly destroyed by fire in 1755. Announcing that “I have an odd fifty thousand pounds in a drawer: I will build it up again” . Below are the plans for the now Georgian design of the house. He finished the newly named Fonthill Splendens off in the early 1760’s.

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 Fonthill Splendens

Resented by local gentry for his Caribbean accent, Alderman spent most of his time at 22 Soho Sq – London, his city home, forging his political and sugar interests and collecting art. Laughed at by some for faulty Latin, his wealth and social power obliged people to respect him. He hosted sumptuous feasts, one that cost £10,000 or £1 million pounds in today’s money. He died in 1770.

The Son:

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Born in 1760 in the family home at 22 Soho Sq, William Thomas Beckford at the age of ten, inherited a fortune from his father William ‘Alderman’ Beckford, consisting of £1 million in cash or £117 million as of 2014. 

He was briefly trained in music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but his drawing master, Alexander Cozens, was a greater influence. At 20 years old he wrote Memoirs of Extraordinary Painters (1780). He then went and journeyed in Italy in 1782 and promptly wrote a book on his travels: Dreams, Waking Thoughts and Incidents (1783).

William Courtenay
On 5 May 1783 he married Lady Margaret Gordon, daughter of the fourth Earl of Aboyne. Beckford was bisexual, “indiscreetly attracted to boys” and had a disastrous affair with William Courtenay, later 9th Earl of Devon. Although the pair met when Courtenay was 10, it is believed the affair started when Courtenay was 13 and Beckford 18. In 1784 with a visit to Powderham Castle, the Courtenay’s family home; letters were intercepted by the boy’s uncle, who advertised the affair in the newspapers. London newspapers were talking of the “detestable scene lately acted in Wiltshire, by a pair of fashionable male lovers.” The scandal blossomed and Beckford retreated to Switzerland with his wife and their baby daughter. In May 1786, in Switzerland, his wife died of puerperal fever after giving birth to a second daughter.

It was at this time Vathek (1786), written originally in French was published; he boasted that it took a single sitting of three days and two nights, though there are letters between Beckford and Samuel Henley that show this to be untrue. At the time of his wife’s death, Beckford also learned that Vathek, which he had given to the Reverend Samuel Henley for translation, would be published anonymously, with a preface in which Henley claimed that it had been taken directly from the Arabic. Beckford remained abroad for many years.

The Abbey:

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 Fonthill Abbey

After a return to England and becoming more reclusive, it was the opportunity to purchase the complete library of Edward Gibbon, author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire that gave Beckford the basis for his own library, and with the architect James Wyatt built Fonthill Abbey in which to house this and Beckford’s art collection.

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 Fonthill Abbey

Fonthill Abbey was built a mile south-west of Fonthill Splendens, in deep woodland and away from public roads. He demolished large parts of Fonthill Splendens for building materials on the Abbey. Building a 12 foot high wall to enclose his new structure and the 524 acres around it.

Wyatt was often accused of spending a good deal of his time on women and drink, causing him to miss many meetings and the overseeing of construction on the Abbey. Beckford thus took it upon himself to direct the construction of the Abbey.

Beckford’s 500 labourers worked in day and night shifts. He bribed 450 more from the building of the new royal apartments at Windsor Castle by increasing an ale ration to speed things up. He also commandeered all the local wagons for transportation of building materials. To compensate, Beckford delivered free coal and blankets to the poor in cold weather.

The first part was the tower that reached about 90 metres (300 ft) before it collapsed, apparently from having a large flag upon it, with strong winds. When informed of the mishap, Beckford, merely regretting that he had not seen it fall, gave an immediate order for the construction of another. The new tower was finished six years later, again 90 metres tall. It collapsed as well. Beckford immediately started to build another one, this time with stone, and this work was finished in seven years.

The abbey part was decorated with silver, gold, red and purple. Four long wings radiated from the octagonal central room. Francis Eginton painted many windows in the property with his realistic style of reproducing oil paintings and the front doors were 35 feet (10 m) tall. It was declared finished in 1813. Beckford employed a dwarf as a doorkeeper to those massive doors.

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 The massive west doorway.

Beckford lived alone in his abbey and used only one of its bedrooms. His kitchens prepared food for 12 every day although he always dined alone and sent other meals away afterwards. Only once, in 1800, did he entertain guests when Rear Admiral Lord Nelson and Emma, Lady Hamilton, visited the Abbey for Christmas.

Once he demanded that he would eat a Christmas dinner only if it would be served from new abbey kitchens and told his workmen to hurry. The kitchens collapsed as soon as the meal was over. In 1822 when he lost two of his Jamaican sugar plantations in a legal action. He was forced to sell the Abbey and it’s contents for £330,000 (£25,460,000 in 2014) a year later to John Farquhar, a gunpowder contractor from Bengal, India.

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Within 2 years of this sale the tower at Fonthill Abbey fell down for the last time and Farquhar tried to sell all his land but died in 1826 intestate. The rest of the abbey was later demolished. Only a gatehouse and a small remnant of the north wing remained.

The remaining part of Fonthill Splendens was bought by Haberdasher, James Morrison who’s family went on to rebuilt, restyle and in 1971 practically erase the recognisable parts. 

Beckford moved to Lansdown Crescent, Bath and began constructing another tower on a hill. Designed by Henry Goodridge and completed in 1827, Beckford used the tower as both a library and a retreat. At 120 feet tall, Beckford’s Tower still stands.

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 Beckford’s Tower

The Hogarth Press Early Works.

The early books from the Hogarth Press between 1917 and 1925 where beautiful items, regardless of the content within. They were home made, pamphlet style booklets with bright covers of marbled or hand-painted paper.

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The Hogarth Press was founded by the married Leonard and Virginia Woolf. It was set up as a hobby for Virginia whom suffered depression when writing and needed a distraction. They named it the Hogarth Press after Hogarth house, the Woolf’s London residence.

The plan for the Woolf’s was to enrol at St Bride’s School of Printing, but they where not members of a trade union. So instead had to buy the printing machines, paper, type and a booklet on how to set it all up.
The first publication was ‘Two Stories’ with a story by both Leonard and Virginia. ‘Two Jews’ by Leonard and ‘The Mark on the Wall’ by Virginia followed. These were limited to 150 copies. The designs for these books where rather formal.

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In 1919, with the Omega workshops shutting down, it is likely that Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant saw the Hogarth Press as a new medium to work with. It was in the same year that Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf was published with woodcuts by Vanessa Bell. This being one of the more beautiful pamphlets they made.

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The Woolf’s managed to hand-print 34 books before Virginia relinquished her interest in the press, leaving it in the hands of Leonard Woolf and John Lehmann. In 1946 Chatto and Windus took control.

Vanessa Bell and Roger Fry went on to design dust jackets for the Press. With the styles founded in the Omega Workshops, they helped set a tone, stylistically for the Press for many years to come.

The Ariel Poems

To my bias opinion, Faber & Faber have always seamed a more artistic publisher based on the work in the 1930’s and 40’s. The typesetting of the poetry to the beautifully illustrated dust jackets always seam to be ahead of other publishers when it came to literature and how to employ artists.

The Ariel poems were a series of 38 pamphlets that contained illustrated poems published by Faber and Gwyer and later by Faber and Faber.
Faber and Faber began as a firm in 1929. However, its roots go back further — to The Scientific Press, owned by Sir Maurice and Lady Gwyer and derived much of its income from the weekly magazine the ‘Nursing Mirror’.

The Gwyers aimed for trade publishing and this led them to Geoffrey Faber. The partnership was then founded in 1925 and known as Faber and Gwyer. It was at this time In 1925 that T.S.Eliot left Lloyds bank to join the publishing firm Faber and Gwyer, as an editor.

The partnership of Gwyers and Faber didn’t last for long, four years later in 1929, the Nursing Mirror was sold and Geoffrey Faber and the Gwyers parted company. Searching for a name with a ring of respectability, Geoffrey hit on the name Faber and Faber, although there was only ever one Faber.

In 1927, Eliot was asked by Geoffrey Faber, to write one poem each year for a series of illustrated pamphlets with holiday themes to be sent to the firms clients and business acquaintances as Christmas greetings.
This series became the “Ariel Series” and would amass 38 pamphlets from a selection of English writers and poets from 1927 through 1931. It was a mark of considerable taste by Faber & Faber as they paired their authors with modern artists.

 A detail of the wood engraving by Gertrude Hermes for Ariel Poem #23

The first editions of the Ariel Poems where released in numbers of 3000–5000 printings per copy. A set of limited editions where also issued in various printings of 250–500 copies each. These were signed and numbered by the authors and bound with thicker hand cut paper. Both versions of the editions had an illustration on the front cover, then a frontispiece by the illustrator that was sometimes coloured. Then the poems text. The pamphlets were bought back in 1954, when eight new publications were released in the New Series. These came with a colourful envelope from when they were posted.

The pamphlets, in order, are as follows:

  • Yuletide in a Younger World by Thomas Hardy, drawings by Albert Rutherston
  • The Linnet’s Nest by Henry Newbolt, drawings by Ralph Keene
  • The Wonder Night by Laurence Binyon, drawings by Barnett Freedman
  • Alone by Walter de la Mare, wood engravings by Blair Hughes-Stanton
  • Gloria in Profundis by G. K. Chesterton, wood engravings by Eric Gill
  • The Early Whistler by Wilfred Gibson, drawings by John Nash
  • Nativity by Siegfried Sassoon, designs by Paul Nash
  • Journey of the Magi by T. S. Eliot, drawings by E. McKnight Kauffer
  • The Chanty of the Nona, poem and drawings by Hilaire Belloc
  • Moss and Feather by W. H. Davies, illustrated by Sir William Nicholson
  • Self to Self by Walter de la Mare, wood engravings by Blaire Hughes-Stanton
  • Troy by Humbert Wolfe, drawings by Charles Ricketts
  • The Winter Solstice by Harold Monro, drawings by David Jones
  • To My Mother by Siegfried Sassoon, drawings by Stephen Tennant
  • Popular Song by Edith Sitwell, designs by Edward Bawden
  • A Song for Simeon by T. S. Eliot, drawings by E. McKnight Kauffer
  • Winter Nights, a reminiscence by Edmund Blunden, drawings by Albert Rutherston
  • Three Things by W. B. Yeats, drawings by Gilbert Spencer
  • Dark Weeping by “AE”, designs by Paul Nash
  • A Snowdrop by Walter de la Mare, drawings by Claudia Guercio
  • Ubi Ecclesia by G. K. Chesterton, drawings by Diana Murphy
  • The Outcast by James Stephens, drawings by Althea Willoughby
  • Animula by T. S. Eliot, wood engravings by Gertrude Hermes
  • Inscription on a Fountain-Head by Peter Quennell, drawings by Albert Rutherston
  • The Grave of Arthur by G. K. Chesterton, drawings by Celia Fiennes
  • Elm Angel by Harold Monro, wood engravings by Eric Ravilious
  • In Sicily by Siegfried Sassoon, drawings by Stephen Tennant
  • The Triumph of the Machine by D. H. Lawrence, drawings by Althea Willoughby
  • Marina by T. S. Eliot, drawings by E. McKnight Kauffer
  • The Gum Trees by Roy Campbell, drawings by David Jones
  • News by Walter de la Mare, drawings by Barnett Freedman
  • A Child is Born by Henry Newbolt, drawings by Althea Willoughby
  • To Lucy by Walter de la Mare, drawings by Albert Rutherston
  • To the Red Rose by Siegfried Sassoon, drawings by Stephen Tennant
  • Triumphal March by T. S. Eliot, drawings by E. McKnight Kauffer
  • Jane Barston 1719–1746 by Edith Sitwell, drawings by R. A. Davies
  • Invitation To Cast Out Care by Vita Sackville-West, drawings by Graham Sutherland
  • Choosing A Mast by Roy Campbell, drawings by Barnett Freedman

The 1954 series was as follows:

  • Sirmione Peninsula by Stephen Spender, drawings by Lynton Lamb
  • The Winnowing Dream by Walter de la Mare, drawings by Robin Jacques.
  • The Other Wing by Louis Macneice, drawings by Michael Ayrton.
  • Mountains by W. H. Auden, drawings by Edward Bawden.
  • Nativity by Roy Campbell, drawings by James Sellars.
  • Christmas Eve by C Day Lewis, drawings by Edward Ardizzone
  • The Cultivation of Christmas Trees by T. S. Eliot, drawings by David Jones.
  • Prometheus by Edwin Muir, drawings by John Piper.

John Piper Ceramics

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John Piper, most famous for his stormy skies and paintings of bombed Coventry. Here are some quotes on his designs for pottery:

John Piper — Tate Gallery
Pottery decorated by Piper was first seen publicly in Marlborough Fine Art in 1972, when a considerable number and variety of pieces was included in an exhibition of large paintings and gouaches.

They are a collaboration between decorator and potter, and began when the opportunity arose for Piper to work with Geoffrey Eastop, who made earthenware to his design and taught him the techniques of moulding and glazing.

These decorations were mostly heads or decorative abstract designs, but another large group made in 1982 in association with the Fulham Pottery included landscape variations after old masters, some of them on obelisks and candlesticks, The playful mood of the decorations recalls at times English slipware, Renaissance maiolica Picasso’s painted ceramics.
John Piper — Tate Gallery p137

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From: John Piper: The Robert and Rena Lewin Gift to the Ashmolean
The opportunity for Piper to decorate ceramics came from his meeting with the potter Geoffrey Eastop, who agreed to set up a pottery next to his house in 1969. Eastop worked independently and with Piper. He had also been a painter, and was interested like Piper in modern French art, though from the point of view of a generation younger, and not for his own ceramics.

Piper designed and decorated plates, jugs, vases and obelisks. The body of the pots was made by assistants, and Eastop always advised and worked with him.

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Piper’s attitude was that of a painter — impulsive, intolerant of technical limitations and extreme in colour. As with the making of stained glass and screenprints, his designs set a challenge to his collaborator, which he was left free to interpret. John Piper: The Robert and Rena Lewin Gift to the Ashmolean — 1992 — David Fraser Jenkins p20

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The GPO and Postman’s Park

Running alongside Little Britain and King Edward Street is Postman’s Park, it’s a hub of history. Opened in 1880 it was the site of the former graveyard for St Botolph’s Aldersgate church. The name Postman’s Park came from the neighbouring GPO (General Post Office) building on St Martin’s Le Grand.

The General Post Office:
Demolished in 1912 the GPO building was an impressive Grecian styled building with ionic topped columns forming a portico frontage, construction started in 1825 and it was completed in 1829. It was designed by Robert Smirke, a leader of Greek revival architecture. He designed the facade and main block of the British Museum.

General Post Office

The GPO Building (East) was the UK’s first purpose-build post office and sorting unit, it was said to have had 1000 gas powered lights. It had it’s own Pneumatic railway from 1869 installed by the London Pneumatic Despatch Company. Unlike the vacuum tubes of today, these where underground pipes with a small railway open topped wagon inside. A line was set between Euston Station and the General Post Office, however it was not as efficient than cart, so it was terminated in 1874.

It was due to the General Post Office Building that when the Underground station opened on 30th July 1900 it was called ‘Post Office’ station. When the station, then called ‘St. Paul’s’ was renamed ‘Blackfriars’ in 1937, the underground station for ‘Post Office’ was renamed ‘St. Paul’s’, as the GPO building was long gone at that time.

Postman’s Park:
The graveyard belonged to three parishes, all with a section to bury their congregations. During the construction of the park in 1880, the designers found that many of the graves where buried in shallow plots, stacked on top of other deeper graves. It was due to this that the ground level of the graveyard was higher than street level. The graves were cleared for gravel paths and flower boarders and the headstones stacked on the sides of the park.

George Frederic Watts suggested a memorial commemorating ordinary people who died saving the lives of others and who might otherwise have been forgotten. A painter and sculptor, George Frederic Watts and his second wife Mary had long been advocates of the idea of art as a force for social change. As the son of a piano maker, who reportedly despised the wealthy and powerful and twice refused a baronetcy, Watts had long considered a national monument to the bravery of ordinary people.

The monument was a covered shelter against a wall, with seating and, above head level, plaques to the heros to be fitted to the wall. The plaques where designed by William De Morgan. Work began in 1899, and on 30 July 1900 the ‘Watts’s Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice’ was unveiled by Alfred Newton, Lord Mayor of London in an unfinished state, with only four of the plaques completed.

Watts was an acquaintance of William De Morgan, at that time one of the world’s leading tile designers. The idea of designing on tiles was a great saving to the project as engraved stone and the time to obtain, carve and install it, was a great expense.

A William De Morgan tile set.

The subjects of the 13 initial tiles had been personally selected by Watts, who had for many years maintained a list of newspaper reports of heroic actions potentially worthy of recognition.

On 1 July 1904 George Frederic Watts died at New Little Holland House, aged 87. He was hailed “The last great Victorian”, and a memorial service was held in St Paul’s Cathedral, 300 yards south of Postman’s Park, on 7 July 1904.

The project was continued by his wife Mary Watts. De Morgan designed eleven more tiles to complete the first row at £62 (about £6,000 as of 2015). De Morgan was unwilling to compromise on quality or embrace the trend towards mass production, and by this time his work was significantly more expensive than similar works by other designers. Consequently, his ceramics business was becoming increasingly unviable financially for the monument and it’s Trust. In 1906 De Morgan’s first novel, Joseph Vance, was published and became a great success, prompting De Morgan to close the ceramics business in 1907 to concentrate on writing. Mary Watts attempted to replicate De Morgan’s tile designs at Watts’s pottery in Compton but was unable to do so, and investigated other tile manufacturers.

A Royal Doulton tile set.

All 24 tablets of the fourth row, designed and manufactured by Royal Doulton, were added as a single batch in August 1908. A single Royal Doulton tablet to PC Alfred Smith was added in June 1919, followed in October 1930 by similar Royal Doulton tablets to three further police officers, and a replacement tablet with the correct details of the East Ham Sewage Works incident of 1895. A single tablet made by Fred Passenger in the original De Morgan style, honouring schoolboy Herbert Maconoghu, was added in April 1931 to fill the gap in the centre row left by the removal of the original, incorrect tablet to the victims of the East Ham Sewage Works incident.

In 2009 a 54th tablet was added, in the style of the Royal Doulton tiles, to commemorate print technician Leigh Pitt, the first addition to the wall for 78 years.

Strange Penguins

Penguins Progress; Twenty Five Years, 1935 -1960.
A beautifully illustrated book full of different variations of the Penguin Logo. If you are a fan of the books then this is a really lovely treat. Full of the history of Penguin Books and biographies of some of the key people in Penguin.

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Illustrations by David Gentleman, John Griffiths, Feliks Topolski and Theodore Ramos. Photographs by Sam Lambert, Lotte Meitner-Graf and Athol Shmith. Cover designed by Elizabeth Friedlander.

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Angelica Garnett obituary

from The Guardian, May 7th 2007.

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A woman of great beauty and personal magnetism, Angelica Garnett, who has died aged 93, had many gifts. She turned her hand to mosaics, painting and sculpture and transformed domestic interiors with hand-painted decorations. As a writer, she used words with great sensitivity and precision. Her speaking voice was startlingly beautiful owing to her exquisite pronunciation. Her creativity must have been partly genetic, for she was the daughter of the artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, a parentage that gave her a double share of Bloomsbury inheritance.

This proved to be both a blessing and a burden. During much of her life, and particularly in the essays and books that she wrote, she struggled to come to terms with the psychological complexities that she associated with her upbringing. Her difficulties and anger with her elders emerged in her memoir Deceived With Kindness (1984), which contributed a poignant coda to the history of Bloomsbury and triggered a fresh spate of antagonism towards it.

To some extent, Angelica shared this negative view, while, at the same time, remaining a principal exponent of Bloomsbury, its values and way of life. Listening to her speak in public about herself and Bloomsbury, it was distressing to witness the tension between her pride in her forebears and the pain that these memories caused.

Her mother often reminded Angelica that she had French blood in her veins, for her great-great-grandmother had been married to the Chevalier de l’Etang, a member of Marie Antoinette’s household. But it hardly needed this distant connection to stimulate the young girl’s interest in all things French, including art. In her childhood, there were long periods spent in the south, mostly in a small villa outside Cassis.

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When she was 18, she was sent to live for a while with a family in Paris so that she could learn the language. In old age she observed that her life had been “loosely and pervasively mixed up with France for as long as I can remember” and that “nothing in it would be the same or have the same flavour without this connection”. The country eventually became her permanent home and her last 30 years were spent living in Forcalquier.

She had been born at Charleston, a Sussex farmhouse situated at the foot of the South Downs and at some remove from the nearby village of Firle. Nowadays visitors stream through the house, during the six months of the year that it is open to the public, but at the time of Angelica’s birth it was remote from civilisation and devoid of modern comforts. Vanessa Bell had rented it so that Grant and his friend David Garnett, both conscientious objectors, could obtain necessary employment as farm labourers. Her husband Clive Bell visited at weekends, but marital relations between them had ceased and Vanessa had fallen in love with Grant. He returned her love, despite the fact that he was predominantly homosexual.

Knowing this, Vanessa agreed that the good-looking Garnett, with whom Grant became obsessed around 1914, could become part of their wartime menage. Soon after Angelica was born, she was weighed in a shoebox on the kitchen scales. Garnett, watching the procedure, was astonished that the baby already showed signs of intelligence and independent will. He wrote presciently to Lytton Strachey: “Its beauty is the remarkable thing … I think of marrying it; when she is 20 I shall be 46 — will it be scandalous?” Angelica did indeed marry into her parents’ generation and Garnett was to be her husband.

The immediate issue at the time of her birth was her paternity. This was attributed to Clive, partly to protect the servants at Charleston from embarrassing gossip, and possibly also for financial reasons, as it was the habit of Clive’s colliery-owning father to settle allowances on his grandchildren. From what Vanessa later told Angelica, she also felt that Grant was too young to become a father (though he was by then 33). As a result, Angelica grew up believing she had the same father as her two brothers, Julian and Quentin, and that Grant was no more than an enchanting family friend. By the standards of the day, Bloomsbury was highly unconventional.

Angelica’s early life was spent in an unorthodox and slightly precious environment. As Vanessa’s youngest child and only daughter, she lived under a spotlight of concentrated attention. (She later fictionalised this experience in her short story When All the Leaves Were Green: “It was like being in a hall of mirrors, where she saw only reflections of herself.”) Her mother readily gave in to her whims.

At the age of 10 she was sent as a boarder to Langford Grove, in Essex. Its headteacher cared more for culture than the curriculum and thought nothing of interrupting the timetable in order to carry off select pupils to a London play reviewed in the newspaper that morning, or to attend a concert in Cambridge. More educative for Angelica would have been the Bloomsbury conversations at home, or over tea with her uncle and aunt Leonard and Virginia Woolf. Often Angelica went to see Virginia alone with Vanessa, and amused herself while they gossiped, ever afterwards envying the intimate relations between sisters. 

In the summer of 1937, when Angelica was 18, Vanessa informed her of her true parentage. This information did not alter things greatly. Angelica was advised by Vanessa not to tell Clive, as he liked to think of her as his daughter, and for some reason she did not approach Grant with her new knowledge.
He maintained a barrier of simplicity and kindness that prevented her seeing what lay behind it. Later she asked herself if in fact there was anything further to see. “Assuredly there was, but it was too nebulous, private and self-centred to respond to the demands of a daughter. As a result our relationship, though in many ways delightful, was a mere simulacrum. We were not like father and daughter. There were no fights or struggles, no displays of authority and no moments of increased love and affection. All was gentle, equable and superficial … My dream of the perfect father — unrealised — possessed me … My marriage was but a continuation of it.

By the time she married Garnett — “Bunny”, as he was known to friends and family — he had become a renowned editor, reviewer and novelist. The marriage took place in 1942, two years after his first wife had died of cancer. Their preceding affair had caused bad relations between Bunny and Grant and Vanessa Bell, but with the marriage came an uneasy truce.

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Angelica moved into Hilton Hall, Cambridgeshire, which Bunny had acquired in 1924. A Jacobean house that had been altered in the mid-18th century in a slightly old-fashioned countrified manner, it made an often cold but romantic, commodious setting in which to bring up their four daughters, Amaryllis, Henrietta and the twins Fanny and Nerissa, and to accommodate Bunny’s two sons by his first marriage. The house was a hotbed of creativity: not only were all four daughters highly talented, but Angelica, who had earlier studied acting under Michel Saint-Denis and painting at the Euston Road School, now had her own studio. She painted and Bunny wrote.

The marriage, however, as Angelica later remarked, had been an act of rebellion and was ill-judged. After some 25 years, they parted. For Angelica, there followed a nomadic period: she set up home in Islington, north London, then moved back to Charleston after Grant’s death in 1978, there experiencing severe depression. Next she bought a house nearby, at Ringmer, before finally settling down in Forcalquier. There were further relations with men who had been associated with Grant, but she never remarried. One of her most constant admirers was her brother Quentin and her likeness appears often in his paintings and ceramic figurines.

In her own work, she picked up sudden enthusiasms, some of which she equally quickly dropped. In the 1960s she worked for a period with mosaics, also publishing a manual on this medium in 1967. She was primarily a painter, but in the 1980s revealed a flair for constructed sculpture, making witty and concise use of found objects and materials. Exhibitions of her work were held in Milan, with Deborah Gage in London, at Forcalquier and elsewhere.

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Wisden, Ravilious and a Supplementary Spy.

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 Woodcut design by Eric Ravilious by Wisden.

In 1938 typographer and spy, Robert Harling commissioned Eric Ravilious to produce an engraving for the Wisden Cricket Almanac. Harling knew Ravilious had a “special enthusiasm for the game” and wrote: “His engraving of mid-19th century batsman and wicket-keeper remains an ideal graphic introduction to one of England’s most durable publications.

Over 75 covers have been published since 1938 with the Ravilious batsmen on the cover. The engraving briefly lost its cover-star status in 2003, when a photograph of Michael Vaughan relegated it to the spine of the book’s jacket, incurring the displeasure of traditionalists.

It was immediately restored to the cover in 2004, while staying on the spine as well. And so, for ten editions now, including this one, Ravilious’s creation has been more visible than ever.

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Whatever the origin, we do know for certain that Ravilious played cricket, if at a lowly level. In 1935, he wrote of turning out for the Double Crown Club, a dining club for printers and book designers, against the village team at Castle Hedingham in Essex, where he lived for a while. He said the game went on “a bit too long for my liking and I began to get a little absent-minded in the deep field after tea”. He made one not out in defeat, and bowled a few overs. “It all felt like being back at school, especially the trestle tea with slabs of bread and butter, and that wicked-looking cheap cake.” He went on to record the comment of the Double Crown captain Francis Meynell that his bowling was “of erratic length, but promising, and that I should have been put on before. Think of the honour and glory there.

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 Sketch design by Ravilious for Wisden.

In another game at Castle Hedingham, with his wife Tirzah (a talented artist herself) “in charge of the strawberries and cream”, Ravilious talked of hitting three sixes. “It is, you might say, one of the pleasures of life, hitting a six.

Ravilious saw only five of the Almanacks to carry his engraving. Yet his work — in many ways a distillation of Englishness — lives on.

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 John Wisden’s 187th birthday by Google doodle – 5th September 2013.

PS: Before the second world war, Robert Harling taught at the Reimann School of Design in London, where one of his pupils was the young émigré Alex Kroll, later to join him as art director on House & Garden. A keen weekend sailor, Robert took part in the wartime evacuation of British forces at Dunkirk in May 1940, which he described in his book Amateur Sailor, published in 1944 under the pen name Nicholas Drew. The poet John Masefield praised the book as the best eyewitness account of Dunkirk ever written. Robert then joined the Royal Navy, first serving on mid-Atlantic convoy duty. Again, he gave a marvellous account of this experience in his atmospheric memoir The Steep Atlantick Stream (1946).

His friend Ian Fleming was responsible for Robert’s sudden transfer from anti-submarine warfare to the newly constituted Unit 17Z, given its name by Fleming himself and headed by Donald McLachlan. This small and, to Robert, highly congenial outfit, soon to be known as Fleming’s Secret Navy, was responsible for day-to-day liaison between the naval intelligence division and the British war propaganda teams.

Secret navy assignations, involving solitary missions to the US and the far and Middle East, appealed to the cloak-and-dagger instinct in Robert. The fastidious James Lees-Milne described him as “a rough diamond”. So, to some extent, he was. Wartime experiences cemented Robert and Fleming’s mutual admiration. Robert is depicted fondly in The Spy Who Loved Me as the make-up man on the Chelsea Clarion — “a man called Harling was quite a dab hand at getting the most out of the old-fashioned type faces that were all our steam-age jobbing printers in Pimlico had in stock.”

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Bernard Cheese

“It is by his coloured lithographs that Bernard Cheese is best known to connoisseurs”

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 Picnic on the Beach  – Bernard Cheese

Bernard Cheese was born in Sydenham, south-east London. His father Gordon William Cheese was a cab driver. He trained at Beckenham School of Art with Walter Hoyle, both studying Graphic Art until they were called up for military service during the Second World War. Joining the Arillery, Cheese served four years in the army until the War ended.

Having being demobbed, in 1947 Cheese resumed his studies and enrolled at the Royal College of Art. Studying under Edward Bawden and Edwin La Dell. It was La Dell who inspired him with printmaking and lithography and encouraged Cheese to improve his draughtsman skills, sending him out with sketchbooks to markets, pubs, parks to record the social life of people around him. Together with artist-printer George Devenish, La Dell and Cheese worked at perfecting traditional lithographic techniques.

While at the Royal College of Art, Bernard met what was to become his first wife, Shelia Robinson. They were married in 1951 and lived together in Beaufort Street, Chelsea. Husband and wife both worked independently on ‘Festival of Britain’ murals, along with other artists like Barbara Jones, John Piper, John Hutton and Edward Bawden.

Bernard’s mural was in the Shot Tower (demolished to make way for the Queen Elizabeth Hall), it was called Kaleidoscope and circled the tower. The boards they were painted on have been lost and are presummed to be destoryed. It was at this time Cheese was getting work as a commersial artist with a set of posters and decorations for London Transport and printed by the Baynard Press.

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 Section #5 of Kaleidoscope by Bernard Cheese, Festival of Britain. 1951. Fry Gallery.

The marriage was blessed with a child, Chloe Cheese in 1952. Both Bernard and Shelia were weary of London accommodation and with a child they looked at moving out the city. It was under Edward Bawden’s suggestion that they resettled in the artist community of Great Bardfield, Essex, where Bawden also resided. In 1953 they moved to Bardfield End Green, neighbouring Great Bardfield but closer to Thaxted. Bernard set up a studio in an old chip shop in Great Bardfield.

Life in Great Bardfield:

Being in Great Bardfield in the 1950’s forged a legagacy of ‘artists’ that focused the attention on to each other by their location, much like the artists in St Ives in the 1920’s. The artists that lived there were able to share exhibitions that might have been too expensive for solo shows. The set was made up of Edward Bawden (who had Eric Ravilious lodging with him at one point in Brick House), John Aldridge, George Chapman, Stanley Clifford-Smith, Audrey Cruddas, Walter Hoyle, Michael Rothenstein, Marianne Straub and Sheila Robinson with Bernard Cheese. Most of whom are now eulogised by the Fry Gallery, Saffron Walden.

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 Drum Major — Bernard Cheese

In 1953 Edwin La Dell asked Cheese to contribute to the Coronation Lithograph series: a portfolio of 40 prints by staff and former students of the Royal College of Art, (most notiably featuring Kenneth Rowntree’s ER decorations print) for a celebratory exhibition at the Redfern Gallery in 1953. Bernard’s submission was ‘Drum Major’. In 1954 Cheese and Robinson’s second child Benjamin was born.

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 A Fisherman’s Story — Bernard Cheese. Tate

Maybe the most famous image of all for Bernard Cheese was for the Guinness lithograph series. Intended to be hung on the walls of the pubs to brighten them up, the artworks where inspired by the Guinness book of world Records. Cheese’s response to this project was ‘A Fisherman’s Story’, an image of an old man in a pub telling of the largest fish… Other works in the series were Edward Ardizzone’s ‘The Fattest Woman in the World’ and Barnett Freedman’s ‘The Darts Champion’.

Life after Great Bardfield.
Shelia Robinson and Cheese separated in 1957 and followed in divorced in 1958. Cheese married his former student Brenda Latham Brown. They moved to Stisted, Essex (closer to Braintree) where their daughters, Joanna and Sarah, were born. For a studio, Bernard rented a Sunday school room.

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 Bernard Cheese – London Transport Museum Poster

Now working as a teacher and with a good income, Bernard was able to print off lithographs with more ease. Since the rise of the Lyons, Guinness and School Print lithographs… this generation of artists where seeing signed lithographs as a viable commercial option. With people like La Dell and Freedman leading the way in modern lithography for artists, not publishers. With more works came more exhibitions and Cheese’s work would be shown all over the world, both in solo shows and contemporary printmaking exhibitions. Other commercial work would be for the BBC and A&C Black to P&O Cruises.

In the 70’s Cheese taught at Goldsmiths College (70–78) and part time in the 80’s at the Central School of Art and Design, London. He and Brenda (nee Latham Brown) separated in 1988 and divorced in 1992. In the 90’s Cheese moved to Nayland, north of Colchester. While he continued to travel in search of new subjects for watercolours that he subsequently reworked as lithographs, he turned increasingly to delightfully idiosyncratic still-life arrangements such as ‘Trout on a Plate’ and ‘On the Rocks’ and ‘Green Apples’many printed by the Curwen Press.

Cheese seams to have picked up Edward Bawden’s sense of humour for his later lithographs, partially Bawden’s talent for comic sketch-work. Many of the later prints contain a humorous twist.

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 On The Rocks  –  Bernard Cheese.

Chesse’s works reside in the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Collection to the Museum of Modern Art in New York and New York Public Library. The Tate London and the Fry Gallery in Saffron Walden.With more than 100 lithographs and watercolours, Aberystwyth University holds the largest public collection of his works. In 1988 Cheese was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers.

Cheese was predeceased by Ben. He is survived by Chloe, Joanna and Sarah.

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Bernard Cheese, painter and printmaker, born 20 January 1925; died 15 March 2013.