East Coasting

Here are some photographs of Ipswich and Felixstowe. The trip was just a venture out, but I like the bleakness of the coast that this time of year.

Audiobook

For some time I have been working on an Audiobook of the Lucie Aldridge book, Before & After Great Bardfield – The Artistic Memoirs of Lucie Aldridge. You can get it by clicking the image below. There is an honesty box policy with it, you can download it for free or pay what you think it might be worth. Please note, this is only Lucie’s part of the book, not the postscript.

Loan Collection of Contemporary British Art

Christopher Wood – Paris Snow Scene

The Loan Collection of Contemporary British Art was a touring exhibition that was sent out to areas of the Empire to show the progress of British Art. The exhibition toured Australia and New Zealand in 1934.

Below is the text from the exhibition booklet, along with paintings from the exhibition. I think it is important to look at what was exhibited and presented to the world via the Art Exhibitions Bureau.


Philip Connard – The Abbey Ruins

Over five years ago the idea was conceived of bringing outlying
communities of the British Empire into closer touch with “a greater
field of Art” than they, in their isolated positions, could hope for.

William Roberts – The Chess Players

Apart from the many excellent exhibitions of “Fine Art” provided from time to time by commercial enterprise, we, in these distant
parts, have been, and are debarred from the pleasure of seeing and
studying those Great Works which find their homes in Public Galleries
and Private Collections of the old world.

William Nicholson – A Bloomsbury Family (His brother in law)

Impressed with the great number of surplus works in Galleries
in Great Britain which might be made available, as also the hope that
National pictures might be available on loan, and the fact that
there were many public spirited private owners and Trustees of
Galleries who would welcome the opportunity to loan their treasures
for view throughout the Empire, the sympathetic support of men high
up in the Art world at Home was enlisted, and through the able and
untiring devotion of Mr. J. B. Manson, Director of the Tate Gallery,
Mr. Ernest Marsh and Mr. C. R. Chisman, the Empire Art Loan Collections Society was formed .

Ambrose McEvoy – The Green Hat, a portrait of Mrs Claude Johnson, 1918

The names of the original members of the General Committee are sufficient guarantee that the idea struck a note which appealed to those responsible for the promotion of Art in Great Britain, and that it is being pushed with vigour against considerable handicaps.

Gerald Leslie Brockhurst – Portrait of James McBey

Pylon

The standard design for pylons in Britain was chosen by a competition run by the Central Electricity Board in 1927. It was won by Sir Reginald Blomfield often gets the credit for the ‘lattice’ design. But the design was improved so it used less metal..

I used to have arguments with an ex, about Pylons. He saw them as majestic marvels that give us power. But I found them to be blots on the landscape. Anything man made on the landscape removes us from the beauty of nature. So this blog looks at artists who painted pylons as the marvels of the age.

Peter Freeth
Anthony Amies
Julian Trevelyan
Robert W. Hill
Cedric Morris
Tristram Hillier

Constance Spry

Many years ago I planned to do a blog post on Constance Spry but never got around to it. I found the photos the other day. I think they may stand for themselves in how revolutionary her style was. From stripping a branch of fruit of the leaves and leaving; to her vases of traditional wild flowers.

Ashton Gifford House

In 1939 Vaughan left his job to become a full time artist. During the war he took on Neo-romantic styles head on with the Graham Sutherland inky thorned bushes and the John Piper cloudy, dull skies. Later American painters such as Nicholas de Stael would influence him to use colour in tonal ways. The Second World War for Vaughan was spent waiting for it’s end, so he could paint and be free of the menial work he was doing. I don’t think there is anyone who wished to be an artist so much and had so much fear as he, having no formal training.  He was like an actor, waiting in the wings to step on the stage and deliver his lines.

In 1944 he had his first solo show of Gouache paintings and drawings at the London Reid and Lefevre Gallery. These were all works made during the war time, for example, a hand-full of drawings and paintings of men from his unit cutting up trees in the parkland of Ashton Gifford House in 1942. This post is full of those images.

White and ochre branches plunging down into the oceanic surging of tangled nettles. People walking through the waist-high grass, through the aqueous leaf-green shadow, arms full of dead wood…and the wall running as an indefatigable horizontal, losing and finding itself in the jungle of weed and ivy…I wanted to capture this in lassoes of line and nets of colour, but it’s more difficult than writing about it.

Keith Vaughan, letter to Norman Towne, 12 October 1942

Master of Perspective

This is a favourite painting of mine. A view of St Ives Harbour from the window of a shop gallery painted by Fred Dubery. He was was master of perspective at the RA school and what better painting to own than one that tests the limits of perspective painting, with the items in the window, the boats in the reflection and the sunset; as well as the umbrella awning being a shadow giving you a view of the ceiling inside the gallery in the glass. Its a remarkable work.

Dubery was a teacher too, it was at Walthamstow Art School where he met the fashion tutor Joanne Brogden whom he would marry. She had trained under Christian Dior and would become a pioneering Professor of Fashion at the Royal College of Art.

Woolf at the Door

Virginia and Leonard’s home at 52 Tavistock Square

The home of Leonard and Virginia Woolf at 52 Tavistock Square, was destroyed on October 16, 1940. They had leased the house from the Duke of Bedford for some years. In the basement was Virginia’s writing room and the Hogarth Press. The ground floor was sublet to solicitors Dollman and Pritchard, the two floors above was the Woolf’s flat.

At the time the bomb struck the Woolf’s had already moved out to 37 Mecklenburgh Street as the noise and dust from the building of the Tavistock Hotel irked them so much and Virginia found working impossible. They were waiting for the lease on the house to expire and it was empty at the time of it’s destruction. All that was left in the house was the decorations and murals painted by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.

The photograph above left shows the fireplace in the Woolf’s home with the murals on the walls. Below you can see the same mural from a photograph in the living room. The photographs were taken as the building was being demolished, bit by bit.

The mantlepiece (left) has a vase by Phyllis Keyes, decorated by Duncan Grant c1930. The fire-screen was commissioned by Virginia c1924-28 from Duncan Grant and the textile embroidered by Duncan’s mother, Ethel. The images below are the items as they survive today.

Below is the original painting for the fire-screen that Grant’s mother worked from to do the needlework.

Duncan Grant design for Fire Screen with Seascape, 1926-27 c.

Below are some more photographs of the flats interior. The murals were painted by both Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. It also features some of the chairs, designed by Duncan and Vanessa on Dryad chairs.

A surviving chair from Monk House.

The photo below, that said to be the last photo of Virginia, so that suggests that the panels in this room where on wood and movable became its the panel in the picture above right

The mirror in the living room with a freeze designed by Duncan Grant.

The table and chairs were designed by Duncan and Vanessa with V.W. monograms on the back.

William Garden Fraser

William Fraser Garden – St Ives, 1895

William Garden Fraser (1856-1921) was born at Chatham, Kent, shortly before his father retired from the Army Medical Department. The Frasers were a Scottish family, but the Surgeon Major, his wife and nine children settled in Bedford where their seven sons were educated at Bedford School.

William Fraser Garden – St Ives, 1903

Six of the seven boys became artists, and Garden changed his name to William Fraser Garden in order to distinguish himself from his brothers. Garden settled at the House in the Fields near Hemingford Abbots, Huntingdonshire until 1898.

William Fraser Garden – The River Ouse at Hemingford Grey, 1890

William Fraser Garden married Ethel in 1889 but she was not overly fond of Huntingdonshire life and Garden’s somewhat eccentric ways and left him in 1904.

William Fraser Garden – The River Ouse at Hemingford Grey, 1894

Garden’s life went downhill from then, after drinking and depressing he lived at the Ferryboat Inn in Holywell towards the end of his life, paying his bills with drawings. His eccentricities led him to a nocturnal existence and one night, in January 1921, he missed his step outside the inn and died from head injuries two weeks later.

William Fraser Garden – The Ferry Boat Inn, Holywell, 1903

Omega Toys

The Omega Workshop was opened with members of the Bloomsbury Group and headed by Roger Fry. It was an attempt to celebrate handmade items, without being too rooted in the Arts and Crafts tradition. Though the link is undeniable, the decorations of the items was not precise and Omega was more like the British version of the Mingei movement that happened later in Japan. On visiting the Omega studios in 1913 Yone Noguchi noted that Roger Fry was “attempting to create an applied art just as (William) Morris did” and that the studio was using Cubist motifs and designs, of abstract shapes in the fabrics and wood marquetry. The shop and workshop was sited inside a building on Fitzroy Square. But with no shop window promoting the wears the studios relied on magazines and word of mouth to promote themselves.

The early output of the workshops were far more open to the hope of public success. When in December 1913, there was an exhibition of their recent work at their Fitzroy Square building it included a nursery for members of the public to view. With shelving covered in fabric and wooden toys painted standing above. A toy windmill sits on a painted table and decorated chairs. Today, we might not see this as a shocking looking room, it looks like any primary school or day-care centre. However in 1913 it was as wild as radical as you could get. This was an age were schools looked more like prisons, wooden benches and white walls.

A colourised photograph of the Omega Nursery.

The nursery wall had panels by Vanessa Bell which she believed were ‘a most truthful portrait of Indian and African animal life’, with elephants and tropical trees and decorative watering holes. While the ceiling was painted by Winifred Gill with tree foliage to match Bell’s designs. Not pictured in the photograph above was Roger Fry’s doll’s house (see below).

Above and below you can see the designs and end product of the Bloomsbury scratch built animals, with hand painted finish. They were crude, but many toys of this age were, and they had movable limbs. The design below comes from the original sales catalogue that Omega gave to willing parents able to afford such toys.

The slide above also shows the shelving cover. Below to the left, is a sample of the finished fabric, and to the right the original design. Opinion on who designed what at the studio seemed to be mixed, as the interest in the Omega studios output was only kindled in the 1970s long after Etchells and Fry’s deaths. But it is believed one of them designed it.

Below is the dolls’ house designed by Roger Fry. It is thought to be a stylised version of this house near Guildford in Surrey and had hinged flaps for the children to open and play with.

It is unknow how many were sold, but it is likely the numbers are very low. However, the universe being what it is, you never know when one might turn up.

In 2030 Charleston in East Sussex is set to celebrate 50 years since the charity was set up to safeguard the historic and its collection of Bloomsbury art and decorative art.
Next week at the London Art Fair, Charleston launches an ambitious search for 50 of the most significant Bloomsbury group art still held in private collections. The hope is that through generous gifts and legacies these important and unique objects will will become part of Charleston’s extensive collection and reunited with what is already the largest collection of Bloomsbury group artworks worldwide. The launch of ‘50 for 50’ will take place at the London Art Fair in January when, as the fairs Museum Partner for 2024, Charleston will unveil a selection of secured artworks alongside some of the most significant pieces from its collection.