Bommer and Bawden

 A detail of East Coasting by Edward Bawden

Below is a beautiful limited edition print by Paul Bommer that I own called ‘South Coasting’. It’s inspired by, and expanding upon, Edward Bawden’s illustrations for Dell Leigh’s book ‘East Coasting’.

 South Coasting by Paul Bommer.

The Bommer ‘South Coasting’ print is an affectionate homage to Bawden’s work as well as an irreverent and joyous celebration of the seaside along Britain’s south coast. Printed in 2013 it’s large at 50cm x 70cm, where as the 1931 Bawden work was just a book illustration.

Written by E.P. Leigh-Bennett under the moniker ‘Dell Leigh’, ‘East Coasting’ was published by London and North Eastern Railways and printed by The Curwen Press.

 East Coasting by Edward Bawden.

It was a book not to promote the railways, but to promote where they take you. It was an age when the public were using trains for tourism and workers could day trip. Travel companies and unions would offer workers in the city a chance to escape to the countryside.

 A chapter heading by Edward Bawden.

The railways … helped to boost growth from the 1840s onwards, giving easier, cheaper, faster access to the coast for middling-class families and working-class trippers, and making it possible for Blackpool to become the world’s first working-class seaside resort in the late nineteenth century. By the early twentieth century every English and Welsh coastline was studded with resorts of different sizes, and every possible market could find a congenial holiday home in one or other of well over 100 substantial coastal resorts. †

Paul Bommer’s prints are available here.

† The Seaside Resort: A British cultural export by John K. Walton

Piper in Terrington St Clement

Here are two photographs by John Piper and two paintings, both in different styles. They focus on the such of St Clement’s, in Terrington St Clement. A large village in Norfolk, England. It is situated in the drained marshlands to the south of the Wash, 7 miles west of King’s Lynn, Norfolk, and 5 miles east of Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire, on the old route of the A17 trunk road.

As well as showing the different artistic techniques for one subject, it also shows how Piper used his photographs as a visual reference when back in his studio (as I noted in the post ‘Lens and Pens’).

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 John Piper – Terrington St Clement Church, 1975.

Five years apart between them both, the 1975 painting is a classic Piper picture and I am amazed it wasn’t editioned into a screen-print as the levels of detail in it are remarkable, the blocked out lighter panels of the windows and reversed light outline of the bell tower against the typical Piper sky.

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 John Piper – Terrington St Clement Church, Norfolk.

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 John Piper – Knowlton Church, Dorset, 1938

The picture below from 1980 is far more abstract and wild with colour. It is looking more like a study of a painting. The outlines and abstracted features of the building draughtsmanship are typically Piper. Although the colouring may not look like his works at that time, I would suggest they are a throwback to when Piper used collage in the 1930s. As with the Knowlton Church collage, blocks of colour are used with outlines. It makes an interesting marriage of new and old techniques.

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 John Piper – Terrington St Clement Church, 1980

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 John Piper – Terrington St Clement Church, Norfolk.

Below is a video I found on Youtube of a drone flight around the church, I wonder what Piper would have made of such a technology?

Kenneth Rowntree in Corris

I found a picture online by Kenneth Rowntree called ‘A Welsh Chapel’, painted in 1948. It was the same year Rowntree illustrated the King Penguin book ‘A Prospect of Wales’ so it maybe a study for that book, or it could have been work from the Recording Britain project. Either way, I thought it was sad to leave the picture without a location in the details, so I set about finding it.

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 Kenneth Rowntree – A Welsh Chapel, 1948.

I searched on google images. After looking over pages and pages of ‘Welsh Chapel’ pictures on google I found a picture from a news report on the Daily Mail. (this has happened before with my picture of Downton) (I will add I hate the Daily Mail). The story was: Homeowners offer £1,000 reward for anyone who helps them to sell their £199,000 chapel through Twitter and Facebook.

As you can see, the brickwork and windows match the paintings.

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So next I wanted to make sure of the surroundings and I found a Street View picture on Google Maps of the Chapel, with the hills and houses behind it. I had it confirmed by proxy, by Peter Wakelin. The location is Corris, Merionethshire, off the A487.

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After looking in my copy of ‘A Prospect of Wales’ I found the picture below is featured as the 9th plate. It’s a picture of the School in Corris.

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 Kenneth Rowntree – School at Upper Corris, with Cader Idris, 1948.

Rowntree’s Wales is a hard-edged world of slate and stone, of country chapels, miners’ cottages, abandoned lead works, hill farms, remote schools and dry-stone walls. His eye for the ordinary and overlooked is as sharp as it is for the less familiar. Lettering, incised on tombstones or colourfully inscribed on shop fronts, is lovingly recreated; traffic signs, telegraph poles and other man-made structures become equally arresting elements in the composition. 

† http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/obituary-kenneth-rowntree-1271123.html
‡ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2551620/Pray-quick-sale-Homeowners-offer-1-000-reward-helps-sell-199-000-chapel-Twitter-Facebook.html

The Damned

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The Damned was Joseph Losey’s 1963 film for Hammer Film Productions. (It is Losey who also directed one of my favourite films ‘The Servant’ the same year).

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The Damned features teddy boy thugs and nuclear science fiction, it’s really rather odd. The plot revolves around a sculpture called Freya Neilson. The sculptures featured are all by British artist Elisabeth Frink.

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Frink not only lent these but also was on location for their shooting and coached Lindfors on performing the sculptor’s method of building up plaster, which was then ferociously worked and carved. According to Evan Jones (interview with the author), Frink was around for all the location shooting, seemed to thoroughly enjoy the process, and became quite good friends with Losey and members of the crew. There is no evidence that she was paid. She did receive a prominent screen credit, however, and there is anecdotal evidence that Frink welcomed the exposure, and that it enhanced her career. 

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 Elisabeth Frink – Bird, 1959

The experience of growing up during the war years strongly affected Frink’s sculpture. This work is one of a number of bronzes, executed in the 1950s, in which animal forms are given a menacing, military appearance. Although only thirty-eight centimetres high, this bird appears simultaneously aggressive, powerful and like a damaged but defiant survivor of a nuclear attack. Typical of the sculptor’s early work, the distressed, textured surface and spindly, striding legs of the bird recall the work of Giacometti, who Frink cited as a great influence. 

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† Real Objects in Unreal Situations: Modern Art in Fiction Films by Susan Felleman, 2014. p258. 9781783202508
‡ https://www.nationalgalleries.org/collection/artists-a-z/f/artist/elisabeth-frink/object/bird-gma-1108

Evening on the Volkhov

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I was in a shop looking at the picture frames they had for sale last week when, on top of the bookcase I noticed one picture loose and getting crushed by other things put on top of it. I dusted it down and bought it.

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It was an oil painting on board. The back had writing in Russian and I tried to translate it with google and failed, as it came back gibberish. So I posted it to Facebook and my friend Paul Bommer helped me translate the text. The first line is: Биткин or in English, Bitkin E. P.

The rest of the text was the name of the picture ‘Evening on the Volkhov’ and the date 1961. That enabled me to search online. I found it went up for auction in 2009 in Russia, so between then and now I wonder how it ended up in Cambridgeshire?

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Eugene P Bitkin was born in 1932 in Moscow. In 1958 he graduated from the Moscow State School Art of Industrial, is member of the MOSSH – the Moscow Union of Artists. His sketches and paintings in the 1960s of places like the Volga and the Northern landscapes or the Moscow streets and yards are notes of the epic in the style of expression inspired from Impressionism.

Bitkin regularly participates in the Russian All-Union shows and international exhibitions. His work are found in museums and collections, not only Russia, but also France, Italy, USA, Germany, Japan, Norway.

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I found from reading online that two pictures were painted that week in 1961 and underneath is the sister picture with more of a view of Saint Petersburg in the distance.

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Below are a few of Bitkin’s other works.

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The Betrayal of Henry Moore

This post is about the 1967 gift of Henry Moore’s works to the Tate and how it never came to be. But more so, it’s about a public statement against that donation by 41 of his peers; people like Elisabeth Frink, Patrick Caulfield, Derek Boshier, Eduardo Paolozzi and Joe Tilson to name a few.

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 Henry Moore – Three Fates, 1941

Having been a student at the Royal College of Art from 1921 to 1924, his first major breakthrough was as part of the Seven and Five Society. The society was set up in the 1920s, mostly for painters, but in the 30s they expanded and the new members bought a more abstract stance with them. The newer members where John Piper, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and John Skeaping.

In the 40s Moore’s London Underground ‘shelter scenes’ presented his work with a human and sensitive side. From then on, a massive bulk of sculpture, drawings, paintings and books forged Moore as a great British artist.

Moore was looking how to cement his legacy as an artist. He was on, what anyone would have assumed was the peak of his forty year career.

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 Henry Moore – Three Piece Reclining Figure No.2: Bridge Prop

On 27th February 1967, The Times’s front page hailed news that Henry Moore intended to donate many of his works to the Tate Gallery, London.

He had enjoyed a long association with the Tate, not least as trustee, and the idea of a gift was first mooted in 1964. In 1967 he made it conditional on an extension of the Tate’s galleries. †

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 Flint stones in Henry Moore’s studio

The gift would have required the Tate to build a new wing to house the works. The cost to house the collection was rumoured to have been half a million British Pounds in 1967. In the weeks and months after the announcement, negotiations where held about how to raise the money, meanwhile, 41 artists wrote a letter to The Times to protest the new works, two of them, Moore’s own students.

The letter featured the phrase they all feared would happen if the works were housed: ‘publicly financed form of permanent enshrinement’ ‡.

‘Contemporary artists close to the Tape expressed their concern over so much space and funding going toward the celebration of one artist alone’ ♠.

Times 26 May 1967
HENRY MOORE’S GIFT
From Mr. Craigie Aitchison and others

Sir. – References have been made in the press and in public during the last few weeks concerning the offer made by Henry Moore to the Tate of between 20 and 30 major works. We understand that the Government will be giving £200,000, and that the Tate will be raising an equivalent sum specifically towards housing these works.

We must not lose sight of the fact that this £400,000, probably only a starting figure, is public money: and considering how public this whole matter should be there has been little precise information available. What can be deduced should be viewed with concern.

We may assume that at least half the gift will be large works. These alone properly displayed would require a space twice the size of the present sculpture hall. Even if the permanent display of these pieces is not envisaged the question of storage is equally crucial.

There are great priorities confronting public patronage of the arts. The Tate has only limited space into which to expand and in which to fulfil its role as the only permanent manifestation of a living culture. London has failed so far to provide itself with museum facilities commensurate with its importance as an art centre and it will not achieve its proper place as an organic part of our world by devoting itself so massively to the work of a single artist.

Whoever is picked out for this exceptional place will necessarily seem to represent the triumph of modern art in our society. The radical nature of art in the twentieth century is inconsistent with the notion of an heroic and monumental role for the artist and any attempt to predetermine greatness for an individual in a publicly financed form of permanent enshrinement is a move we as artists repudiate.

Yours faithfully,
CRAIGIE AITCHISON, DAVID ANNESLEY, GILLIAN AYRES, ANTHONY BENJAMIN, DEREK BOSHIER, ANTHONY CARO, PATRICK CAULFIELD, BERNARD COHEN, HAROLD COHEN, GARTH EVANS, SHEILA FELL, ELISABETH FRINK, PATRICK GEORGE, ANTHONY HILL, HOWARD HODGKIN, MALCOLM HUGHES, GWYTHER IRWIN, TESS JARAY, ALLAN JONES, MICHAEL KIDNER, PHILLIP KING, JOHN LATHAM, FRANCIS MORLAND, HENRY MUNDY, MYLES MURPHY, EDUARDO PAOLOZZI, JOHN PLUMB, TIM SCOTT, PETER SEDGLEY, PETER SNOW, PETER STARTUP, JOE TILSON, WILLIAM TUCKER, EUAN UGLOW, MARC VAUX, BRIAN WALL, GILLIAN WISE, ANTHONY WISHAW, BRIAN YOUNG. 

The works would end up going to Toronto with the art gallery there proposing to build a wing for the works and reassuring Moore with architect letters and funding plans on how they would present the collection. The galleries campaign to get the works was lead by Allan Ross, the former president of WM.Wrigley chewing gum. He stated he would donate $500,000 towards a gallery for Henry Moore in Toronto.

Ross wrote: ‘It occurred to me that we of Toronto, and Ontario, and Canada, should build a splendid classical structure to adequately house the collection you have in mind for Tate Gallery and which they for some years apparently cannot accommodate’

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 The Henry Moore Gallery in Toronto. 

† Henry Moore by Chris Stephens, 2010. p14 9781854378767
‡ ‘Henry Moore’s Gift’, in Times 26 May 1967, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015.
♠ Sculpture and the Museum by Christopher R. Marshall, 2011. p79-80 9781409409106

Minton against Homophobia

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 A photograph of John Minton.

In the Volumes of ‘The Listener’ that I own are curious features and letters. Below is a set-to between Dr. Marie Stopes and John Minton in the letters pages about Oscar Wilde’s homosexuality and the views of homosexuality as a whole in British society.

Homosexuality was still illegal in Great Britain in 1950 and yet John Minton was openly gay and lived at this time with his partner Ricky Stride, a bodybuilding ex-sailor. Marie Stopes set up the first birth control clinic as a way to implement eugenic beliefs she had within the Galton Institute (Even in the 50s long after it was ‘fashionable-thought’). She cut her son out of her will as he married a short-sighted woman (the daughter of ‘dam buster’ Barnes Wallis) and that she believed his children would inherit this condition.

The homophobic views of Stopes are ones that have echoed throughout time unjustly and Minton’s defence is bold. Ten years later it would be the London of David Hockney and free love, but in post-war Britain, the prejudices and intolerance where rife as the country struggled with Christianity and meaning for what they had just ‘fought for’.

Re: Oscar Wilde and Alfred Douglas – January, 5th, 1950.
  Sir, It is indeed extraordinary that Herbert Read should state in your pages that ‘Lord Alfred Douglas emerges as the most complete cad in history’ simply on the basis of the hysterical and deranged outpourings of Oscar Wilde in prison. Wilde was then in a condition which any psychiatrist can recognise as bordering on insanity owing to the excessive shock to his self-esteem of prison, and the exposure of the abnormal and filthy practices which he had been indulging in with stable boys.

One has only to look at the portrait of the gross middle-aged abnormal man in his forties beside the exquisite body and face of the young man in the early twenties who is supposed to have ruined the experienced elder to realise that Herbert Read has a curious sense of values.
Lord Alfred Douglas’ magnificent sonnets (broadcast not long ago as being second only to those of Shakespeare) and the facts of his sensitiveness and his generosity to Wilde will outlive such malignancy as is current at the moment.
– Yours, etc. Dr Marie Stopes. Dorking
 †

Re: Dr Marie Stopes – January, 12th, 1950.
  Sir, In her letter concerning Wilde and Douglas it is indeed distressing that someone of Dr. Marie Stopes’ eminence should refer to Wilde’s homosexuality with such bigoted moral fervour. The enormous contribution made throughout history, particularly in the arts-to society by homosexuals should surely make for a more tolerant and sympathetic understanding than to refer with such scorn to Wilde’s ‘abnormal and filthy practices’. In this country where the same vicious law which imprisoned Wilde still operates one looks to those with pretensions to a scientific approach not to be victims of prejudice and intolerance but to give a lead for at least a saner and more comprehensive attitude towards the homosexual in society.
– Yours, etc. John Minton. London, N.W.8
 ‡

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 John Minton – Ricky Stride.

† The Listener – 1950. Vol XLIII #1093
‡ The Listener – 1950. Vol XLIV #1094

Ardizzone in the Housewife

I find I can spot the illustration work of Edward Ardizzone across a room if I am in a bookshop, it is so iconic in style. He is most famous these days for the illustrations to Puffin children’s books like ‘Stig of the Dump’ by Clive King and BB’s ‘The Little Grey Men’ as they have been reprinted now for over forty years with his illustrations; but it’s nice to see his ‘Tim’ series of books have also been reprinted and revived again.

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This post is really about his illustrations found inside ‘The Housewife Magazine’. I can find very little information on the history of the magazine itself, but the issues I own run from 1950 to 1970. As you can see from below, some of the illustrations are full colour and one of them is half colour and black and white. Without having looked in every magazine, so far I have found five stories illustrated by Ardizzone, but each edition had a prominent illustrator inside, sometimes Ronald Searle, sometimes Barnett Freedman.

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 Strawberries and Cream illustrated in full storyboard style by Edward Ardizzone.

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Born Edward Jeffrey Irving Ardizzone, he was born in Tonkin on 16 October 1900 and died in Rodmersham Green in Kent, England on 8 November 1979. His father was a naturalised Frenchman of Italian descent, who was born in Algeria. His mother, Margaret, was English.

In 1905, Margaret Ardizzone returned to England with her three eldest children. They were brought up in Ipswich, Suffolk, largely by their maternal grandmother, whilst Margaret returned to join her husband in the Far East. 

Ardizzone left school in 1918 and twice tried to enlist in the British Army but was refused. After spending six months at a commerce college in Bath, Ardizzone spent several years working as an office clerk in both Warminster and London, where he began taking evening classes at the Westminster School of Art, which were taught by Bernard Meninsky. In 1922 Ardizzone became a naturalised British citizen.

Ardizzone’s first major commission was to illustrate an edition of ‘In a Glass Darkly’ by Sheridan Le Fanuin 1929. He also produced advertising material for Johnnie Walker whisky and illustrations for both Punch and The Radio Times.

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He became a war artist. With an Italian name he was often found drawing British installations and getting arrested as troops struggled to understand his role as a ‘war artist’ and suspected him of being an Italian spy. 

Post war his credits of illustrations are so numerous they have become listed as part of a 300 page book of Illustrative works by Brian Alderson ‘A Bibliographic Commentary Hardcover’, a book listing hundreds of books and magazine covers.

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Here is a colour and black and white printing. Magazines where still on a budget after the war and colour printing was reserved as a decorative feature to be dispersed over the magazine. Here is an unusual view of this. In Ardizzone’s ‘Tim’ books it is common for one page to be colour and the other in black and white.

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Below are the black and white printed line drawings by Ardizzone. One of the loveliest features is the illustrations incorporate the text and flow around it. 

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The last image below I love best of all. It shows he could illustrate anything.

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Strawberries and cream – Greta Lamb – Housewife September 1951
Treasure – F. L. Green – Housewife September 1952

John Piper – Lens and Pens

Rather like many artists, John Piper used his camera to record places and subjects for later work. Piper began taking the photographs when he worked with John Betjeman on the Shell County Guides in the 1930s.

The subjects before the war were often objects – ironwork, lettering, marine apparatus – bus since then have been more usually of buildings in landscape. The primary purpose has always been to record topographical information. ‡

The landscape photographs are very often to hand when Piper draws the same subject in the studio, along with sketches made at the place and any other available information, but they are not copied. Only in very rare cases – some of the mountain sides in North Wales in the later 1940s and of the Château of Chambord – were photographs squared and transferred to drawings.

Most of the pictures before are editioned as lithographs or screen prints, some of them are paintings while Piper was working on the Recording Britain project.

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 John Piper – ‘Ruined Church’, Bawsey, 1982. (Editioned Print)

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 John Piper – ‘Ruined Church’, Bawsey, Near Kings Lynn, Norfolk.

The importance of Piper’s photographs lay less in their technique, which was often little more than competent, but in their subject matter. As in his painting, for which his topographical photographs often acted as preliminary studies, Piper had an unerring eye for exciting what the architectural historian John Summerson called “a new curiosity about unnoticed, unlisted things”.

During the war and after, his photographs illustrated articles he wrote for the Architectural Review trumpeting the virtues of subjects as diverse as flint; shops; the Donegal custom of embellishing its stucco houses with painted quoins and stonework details; the ‘gratuitous semi-circle’ in English late classical architecture; and church towers in Eastern England, which was geographically balanced by an article entitled ‘Warmth in the West’ studying the West of England penchant for painting house exteriors.
Some of the most influential of these were a series he wrote seeking to preserve the unique nature of the British pub. More controversial was the 1947 essay ‘Pleasing Decay’, a plea for structurally sound ruins to be retained for the picturesque delights they would afford.
 †

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 John Piper – Llangloffan Baptist Chapel, 1964. (Editioned Print)

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 John Piper – The Baptist Chapel, Llangloffan, Pembrokeshire.

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John Piper – Tithe Barn, Great Coxwell, 1940. (Painted for Recording Britain)

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 John Piper – Tithe Barn, Great Coxwell, Berkshire.

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 John Piper – Willington Dovecote, Bedfordshire, 1978. (Editioned Print)

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 John Piper – Willington Dovecote, Bedfordshire.

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 John Piper – Church of St. Denis, Faxton, 1940. (Painted for Recording Britain)

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 John Piper – Church of St. Denis, Faxton, Northamptonshire.  

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 John Piper – Covehithe Church, Suffolk, 1983. (Editioned Print)

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 John Piper – Covehithe Church, Suffolk

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 John Piper – Crug Glas, Swansea, 1966. (Editioned Print)

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 John Piper – Crug Glas, Swansea

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 John Piper – Bethesda Chapel, 1966. (Editioned Print)

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 John Piper – Bethesda Chapel, Swansea.

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 John Piper – The Duck House in the Park of Buckland House, 1940. (Painted for Recording Britain)

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 John Piper – Folly at Buckland, near Faringdon, formerly in Berkshire.

† John Piper and the RIBA Library Photographs Collection by Robert Elwall, 2009.
‡ John Piper by John Russell, Tate Gallery, 1983. p77

Gwen Raverat and all that

Gwen Raverat, the granddaughter of Charles Darwin, was an English wood engraver and author. Born and raised in Cambridge, England, she studied art at the Slade School of Fine Art in 1908 and studied under Frederick Brown and Henry Tonks.

She was inspired by Thomas Bewick’s wood engravings but the Slade at that time gave no opportunities to study wood engraving. When she left the Slade she went to Paris to the Sorbonne where she met and married Jacques Pierre Raverat, a fellow student and draughtsman.

She had some luck to obtain some instruction from her cousin Eleanor Monsell – Mrs Bernard Darwin – who had begun to cut and engrave wood blocks as early as 1898 but soon desisted owing to the pressure of other work. By 1914 Gwendolen Raverat had nearly sixty blocks to her credit. 

She was one of the founding members of the Society of Wood Engravers in 1920, alongside: Philip Hagreen, Robert Gibbings, Lucien Pissaro, and Eric Gill. The book below is a nice collection of styles of Raverat’s work, but it’s not her best work. It is a quaint throwback to when children would read a book of poetry.


The Cambridge Book of Poetry for Children, edited by Kenneth Grahame with 54 wood-engravings by Raverat, was published in 1932, printed from the original blocks.

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 Book cover and Boy Reading wood engraving.

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 The King of Spain’s Daughter.

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 The Wagon of Hay.

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 The Moon.

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 The Eve of Waterloo.

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 Winter Has Come.

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 The Boat.

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 Daffodils.

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 The Forsaken Marman.

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 Columbus.

† English Wood-Engraving 1900-1950 by Thomas Balston, 1951
A History of British Wood Engraving by Albert Garrett, 1978.
The Cambridge Book of Poetry for Children, edited by Kenneth Grahame, 1932