By The River

When I was younger and used film cameras I would take a photograph of a ditch, to my eye it was a channel of water and plants, but in reality when it came back it would look like a mess. The eye can be fooled by only seeing what it wants.

John Nash – The Moat, Grange Farm, Kimble, c1922

This is why there is a joy of artists like John Nash, to paint what I thought I was seeing. Here are a series of paintings by Humphrey Spender. Spender was a talented painter and photographer, famous really for his work on Mass Observation. The paintings are abstract and in them I can see different lakes and rivers I know, but the genius and joy is that they can be anywhere.

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 Humphrey Spender – River Plant, 1958

 Humphrey Spender – Reedy Pool, Essex, 1969

 Humphrey Spender – River landscape, 1963

 Humphrey Spender – River landscape, 1960

 Humphrey Spender – Winter Field, 1959

10 Churches

To some people church visiting might be the last thing they want to do with their free time, but here I have made a list of some of the most interesting churches in East Anglia that you might want to see. I also listed them in a driverable order, heading northwards.


Church of the Holy Trinity, Hildersham, Cambridgeshire CB21 6BZ

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Holy Trinity, Hildersham’s earliest parts date from 1050. The church has many fascinating features; a 13th century font, 15th century memorial brasses, including a rather beautiful skeleton brass; the chancel is filled with Clayton and Bell victorian murals and stained glass windows and an alabaster reredos by Rattee & Kette.


Church of St Cyriac and St Julitta & St Mary’s, Swaffham Prior CB25 0LD

I chose Swaffham Prior because there are two churches and because of the beautiful stained glass windows. One is a war memorial depicting planes and signal stations. Both churches have round towers. 

Both churches were established by the early 13th century. Initially separate parishes, their benefices were united in 1667. In 1743 the nave and chancel of St Cyriac’s were restored, but by 1783 the church was in a dilapidated state, and services were being held in St Mary’s. By the 1790s the roof of St Cyriac’s was collapsing, and it was overgrown with ivy. However, in 1779 the tower of St Mary’s had been struck by lightning, and in 1802, when builders were working on the tower, part of it collapsed. It was then decided to demolish St Cyriac’s church, other than the tower, and rebuild it. Work began in 1806 to designs by Charles Humfrey of Cambridge and the church was re-consecrated in 1809. Towards the end of the century, work was carried out to restore St Mary’s. 

Both churches are run by the Churches Conservation Trust.


St Mary, Huntingfield, Suffolk IP19 0PR

Though rather hard to find and to get to down narrow lanes this church has one of the most joyful painted ceilings in the country.

Huntingfield Church is beautiful outside because of the porch but inside it benefits from a painted ceiling. It was painted by Mildred Holland, the wife of William Holland who was rector for 44 years from 1848 until his death in 1892. The church was closed for eight months from September 1859 to April 1860 while she painted the chancel roof. Tradesmen provided scaffolding and prepared the ceiling for painting but there is no record to show that she had any help with the work, and legend has it that she did much of it lying on her back. We may imagine Victorian ladies wearing tight laced corsets and many petticoats, and wonder how she managed the ladders, scaffolding and hard labour of painting. She had an adviser on her schemes, a Mr. E. L. Blackburne F.S.A., an authority on medieval decoration.


St Mary the Virgin, Burgh St Peter, Norfolk NR34 0DD

The church dates from around 1200 and the tower is late 18th century, apparently inspired by the Ziggurat temples of Mesopotamia which had been seen by William Boycott, the second of the five Boycott rectors at the church. William’s son Charles was the famous Charles Cunningham Boycott, a land agent in Ireland during the troubles and who gave his name to the English language. The tower is strange and almost alien, it looks more like a construction from a film than anything else. Made of red brick the base of the tower is lined with knapped flints. The rest of the church is like thatched making them a curious pair.


Holy Trinity Church, Blythburgh IP19 9LP

Blythburgh church is famous for it’s angeles on the ceiling, similar to ones found in Willingham and March. 

A beautiful building with a tower people can climb to see a view of the church interior from above. There is a marshland walk with a view of the church many local artists paint.


Saint Andrew’s, Covehithe, NR34 7JJ

The first of two ruins I have picked out, Covehithe is on the Suffolk coast and thanks to the Cliff errorsian, closer each year.  A ruin with a church inside it is a beautiful location and to me feels more like those oil tanker boats one can see on the horizon in the sea from the cliff. 


St. Michael the Archangel, Booton, Norfolk NR10 4NZ

The first time I saw this church my instinct was to laugh, it was such a presence on the landscape it looked more like it was made for Lord of the Rings. A beautiful church with a unique design.

This amazingly decorative and extraordinary church was the creation of one man – eccentric clergyman Reverend Whitwell Elwin – a descendant of Pocahontas. A friend of Charles Darwin, Elwin not only raised the funds for the building, he also designed it – without the help of an architect – borrowing details from other churches throughout the country. Some of his models can be identified; the west doorway was inspired by Glastonbury Abbey, for example, but the slender twin towers which soar over the wide East Anglian landscape and the central pinnacle which looks almost like a minaret, seem to have sprung solely from his imagination. The result is a masterpiece.

Inside, he filled his fairytale creation with angels all modelled on the rector’s female friends! The wooden carved angels holding up the roof are the work of James Minns, a well-known master-carver whose carving of a bull’s head is still the emblem on Colman’s Mustard. The delicately coloured stained glass windows also show angels as a series of musicians with flowing hair and pretty faces. Edwin Lutyens, the distinguished architect who married the daughter of one of Elwin’s oldest friends, said the church was “very naughty but built in the right spirit”. You may love the church; you may be outraged by it, but you cannot remain unmoved by such an exuberant oddity.


St Lawrence’s, Castle Rising, Norfolk  PE31 6AG

One of the most Norman looking churches it feels out of time. Beautiful in decoration and style it has a beautiful font and the Castle still stands nearby.


St Peter’s, Wiggenhall  PE34 3HF

A ruin on the edge of the canal drain that stops the fens from flooding, St Peters is a wonderful location to cycle to from Kings Lynn.

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Life after death

The death of Marilyn Monroe in 1962 aged 36 was a shock to the world. It affected artists who would end up giving her life after she was dead through her image. Fun fact, my sister married into the Mortenson family. 

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 The front page of the New York Daily Mirror published on August 6, 1962

Warhol was the first to make a print in tribute of her, below is the original publicity photograph for Niagara by Frank Powolny. It has the black pen lines where Warhol cropped the photograph and his in studio photographers ‘blew it up’.

 Frank Powolny – Publicity still for the 1953 film Niagara, cropped by Warhol. 

The rubber-stamp method I’d been using to repeat images suddenly seemed too homemade; I wanted something stronger that gave more of an assembly-line effect. With silkscreening you pick a photograph, blow it up, transfer it in glue onto silk, and then roll ink across it so the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue. That way you get the same image, slightly different each time. It all sounds so simple—quick and chancy. I was thrilled with it. My first experiments with screens were heads of Troy Donahue and Warren Beatty, and then when Marilyn Monroe happened to die that month, I got the idea to make screens of her beautiful face.

 Andy Warhol – Marilyn Diptych, 1962

Richard Hamilton made a print a few years later using a mocked up contact sheet with images crossed out from a series of photographs taken by George Barris in the Summer of 1962. 

 Richard Hamilton – My Marilyn, 1965

 Robert Rauschenberg – Test Stone #1 (Marilyn Monroe), 1967 

 Michael Rothenstein – She’s American – Cartier Bresson on Marilyn Monroe, 1977

Rothenstein would use Monroe’s image for his prints as well, it was a time when he was using famous starlets like Julie Christie. He juxtaposes them with planks of burnished wood and raw textures. The photographs are screen printed over the woodcut. 

 Michael Rothenstein – Marilyn I, 1978

 James Rosenquist – Marilyn Monroe, 1962

Andy Warhol – Popism, 1980

The Day Marilyn Died

This post came about when I was writing about how artists reacted to the death of Marilyn Monroe and I wondered what the newspapers looked like on that day, well these are the front pages I found for 6th August, 1962, the day Monroe died.

I would guess these last four papers belong to the same company due to the same image of Monroe used, I find it interesting the amount of front page she got, the cropping of the picture. The news commanding the most coverage in Los Angeles, home of Hollywood. 

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I would guess these last four papers belong to the same company due to the same image of Monroe used, I find it interesting the amount of front page she got, the cropping of the picture. The news commanding the most coverage in Los Angeles, home of Hollywood. 

Buttons

Although Rie had been a successful potter in Austria in the 1930s, when she arrived in London in 1938 she had to start afresh and make a living in the face of wartime austerity. Ceramic buttons provided the answer. Working with assistants such as German émigré Hans Coper she first fulfilled orders for ceramic buttons from fellow Austrian Fritz Lampl and his company Bimini. At the height of her so called `Button Factory’ Rie was producing 6000 buttons a month. But by 1955 her pottery production had mainly switched to table wares and later to the now renowned bowls, bottles and vases. The exhibition contains a comprehensive selection of these, as well as hundreds of buttons.

Lucie Gomperz was born into a Viennese family, the daughter of a doctor who worked with Sigmund Freud, she enjoyed an affluent childhood. She had studied pottery at the Kunstgewerbeschule in 1922. By 1925 she had set up a small pottery of her own and was exhibiting works and becoming respected. She had married Hans Rie in 1926, but they parted in 1940.

In 1938, being Jewish, she fled from Nazi Austria to Britain. In London for a short time, she provided accommodation for Erwin Schrödinger (Schrödinger’s Cat).

To makes ends meet in Wartime Britain, Rie had set up a pottery in London but she was yet to produce her iconic thin vases in London, at this point she was surviving by designing and making buttons. In 1946, Lucie Rie gave Hans Coper a job during these years of austerity.

Interest in Rie’s buttons was rekindled in 1984 when Issey Miyake met Rie. She gave him a large collection of her unused buttons which he used as the basis of 1989 Autumn/Winter Collection. Another avid collector of Rie’s buttons was couturier and collector Anthony Shaw. Two outfits designed by Shaw for gallerist Anita Besson in 1992 and adorned with Rie’s buttons have recently been added to the exhibition.

Coper had almost no experience in pottery at all. Born in Chemnitz, his father was Jewish, and had killed himself in 1936 to try to shelter the family from the Nazi’s attention as his mother wasn’t Jewish.

Still Coper left Germany in 1939 for Britain. Here, along with most Germans in Britain, he was arrested. Then deported to Canada. In 1941 he was able to return to Britain as a conscientious objector, serving in the non-combatant corps, doing work that was not aggressive, or not directly aiding destruction.

In the post-war years he went to Lucie Rie’s studio at 18 Albion Mews, he made buttons with her and helped her with the firing. He learnt how to pot from Heber Mathews and then returned to Rie’s studio to work for her making domestic wear like cups and plates.

The Decorative Arts Society

Keith Vaughan at sea

In the late 1930s on Pagham Beach, West Sussex, Keith Vaughan and some athletic men looked to be having a rather fun day during a heatwave. Likely taken in 1938, the end of July and the start of August were the hottest days of the year with temperatures reaching 28 degrees.

Working still as an art worker for the Lintas Advertising Agency as a painter who had not yet made his name, a year later in 1939 he left his job to become a full time artist. After the War he shared a house with Graham Sutherland and John Minton. 

The tone of the photographs changes a lot, and with the lewd subject matter I wonder if he developed them himself or had a friend do so. Working for an advertising agency in the 30s, photography must have been rather commonplace.

Like many artists used photographs as an aide-memoire and I have seen his pictures posted online a lot, but I haven’t seen any evidence of people looking at the photographs and then seeing if they translated into works. Well I have picked out a few examples of his paintings and placed them next to the photographs.

 Keith Vaughan – Man with army; Idol II, 1940

The picture above is a interesting one, dated 1940 those figured around the man must be an army? Well with the photograph it is likely they are waves. 

 Keith Vaughan – Cain and Abel, 1946

 Keith Vaughan – Figure Throwing at a Wave, 1950

 Keith Vaughan – Drawing of two stylized skeletal figures, 1939-45

 Keith Vaughan – Drawing of a naked male youth lying down, 1939–45

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 Keith Vaughan – Figure lying on beach at night, 1939

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 Keith Vaughan – Male Figure seated against sky, 1939