In Judy Taylor’s book Sketches for friends, 2002 are a series of Edward Ardizzone’s illustrated letters. Some I have illustrated below. From reading the Tim series of books, Edward Ardizzone seemed like a kind person and his letters have a joy to them as well with all the comic illustrations.
It was an age when the postal service would run almost continuously and you could send a letter in the morning and know it would get there in the evening. You could keep in contact throughout the day.
Lindsell is a village neighbouring Great Bardfield, Essex. The church is dedicated to St Mary The Virgin and dates back to Norman period with many alterations since. It was a church that Bawden would paint and print from different angles being in walking distance from his home at Brick House.
Although the styles are much the same the colour pallets are different. The linocut at the bottom of the page is very large and in life, has the texture and detail as this first watercolour.
Born in Scarborough, Kenneth Rowntree’s father was the manager of the local department store who displayed his work in the shop, this may have been why Rowntree changed from training to be a cellist to becoming an artist. He studied at the Ruskin Drawing School, Oxford and went to the Slade School in London.
In 1942, in the middle of the Second World War, Kenneth Rowntree had moved to Great Bardfield, settling with his wife Diana (née Buckley) into the “a handsome draughty house” Town House. There they would be neighbours to Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious lived in Castle Hedingham a few miles away.
The paintings Kenneth Rowntree made during war time are rather curious because they are not on the front line. Unlike many of the other official war artists, Rowntree was a Conscientious Objector. He did paint the domestic scenes of life during wartime, but not pictures of the war maneuvers.
The picture below is of a Polo Ground is a good example of his work. The pitch as been converted into growing produce and the people working for the war effort but making food.
The figure of the man signifying the every man worker to me says ‘we are all in this together’. Below are five of his paintings for the War Artist Scheme.
Kenneth Rowntree – A Polo Ground in War-time, 1940
Kenneth Rowntree – Foreign Servicemen in Hyde Park: Early Summer, 1940
In the picture above, the mixture of uniforms is a good indication of how many parties are mixed up in the conflict. A subtle communication.
Kenneth Rowntree – The Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts Canteen Concert, Isle of Dogs, London, E14, 1940
Kenneth Rowntree – The Experimental Establishment, Shoeburyness: Firing through Screens, 1945
All the paintings below are part of the Recording Britain series.
In 1940, when the British landscape was under attack from the threat of German bombers, the Ministry of Labour, in association with the Pilgrim Trust commissioned many of Britain’s artists to go out and paint a record of the changing face of the country before it was too late. †
I think part of the romance of the pictures below is the lack of cars in pictures. No High Street in Britain will ever look beautiful again until cars are stored back in their garages and not parked on the street. Other than the Old Toll Bar House all the places are without figures, an empty world of architectural curiosity. I also feel that there is something beautiful about those multi-layered telegraph poles and wires in the same picture.
Kenneth Rowntree – Old Toll Bar House, Ashopton, 1940
China clay is a material known as kaolin. It was first used in China more than ten thousand years agoto make porcelain. When the Chinese started to export this to Europe it was fashionable but expensive. Noticing a gap in the market, a Plymouth apothecary called William Cookworthy began to research the porcelain-making process and spent several years searching for a material that resembled the kaolin that had been used for so long in China. In 1745 he eventually found it, at Tregonning Hill, near Germoe, in Cornwall, where a rare type of decomposed granite, finer than most talcum powders, arises naturally.
The mining of this over the years scared the landscape with a white mountain of spill and a quarry pit. I have some memory that it was on one of these trips that John Nash painted with Edward Bawden and Carel Weight.
John Nash – Disused China clay pit near Hensborough
John Nash – China clay landscape
John Nash – A mine, Bugle, Cornwall
John Nash – Mountain Landscape with Distant Lake, 1939
John Nash – China Clay Matterhorn 1952
John Nash – Clay pits , 1954
John Nash – Panorama of Pyramids, 1953
Below is a painting by Carel Weight, it’s the same view of the painting above by John Nash, is it chance or not? Nash used to make pencil drawings of a subject and then come back to it later in the year, maybe with some of his Cornish paintings he came back years later? Or just a fluke, who knows. It doesn’t help that the Weight picture isn’t dated.
In my isolation I thought it would be fun to make a map of where the Great Bardfield artists painted from. To pinpoint the locations and tag the work. Well that is what I have done, so now you can sit at home and traverse their work using a modified version of Google Maps. I have also added a few more of the Fry Galleries other artists like Paul Beck.
The artists are colour indexed. The House Pin – location of an artists home. Camera Pin – The pins of from where the work was painted (I thought it would be more fun for people to stand in the spot where an artwork was painted)
Here is a essay on Sicilian Carts. It is from a short lived art journal called Arts and Crafts ‘A monthly review’ edited by Herbert Furst, and then Wilfred Lewis Hanchant. It ran from between 1927-1929.
What is interesting is the essay is by Claudia Guercio, who later became Claudia Freedman. Claudia was born in Formby, Liverpool and studied at the local art school before going to the Royal College of Art. There she met and married Barnett Freedman.
It can be a bit rambling but I think it is worth a read and Claudia also mentions her beloved Sicilian Puppets.
Sicilian Carts by Claudia Guercio
One of the most outstanding features of Sicilian life, in the eyes of any foreigner visiting Sicily for the first time, are the carts used by the peasants of that country. As the carts used in Palermo, the capital of the island, are supposed to be without parallel it is of them we shall speak the writer happens to have lived many years in Palermo and is well acquainted with the carts to be seen there and in the surrounding countryside. They are just the ordinary working carts, used by the proprietors of orange and lemonade orchards in the country to carry their fruit to market in the towns, used by the charcoal sellers and the peddlers of fruit and vegetables, who go their rounds in the morning through alleys and by-streets. These beautifully painted carts are used for even humbler purposes, great loads of seaweed are carried away in them from the sea-shores and loads of stones from the quarries. They are mostly drawn by mules and donkeys, as those are found to be the hardiest animals for that work, though horses of the Sicilian breed are also used.
One of those most remarkable things about these carts is that their shape is of the most primitive and utilitarian kind, and yet, they are enriched in all parts with the most exquisite carvings and imaginative paintings. The pattern is always the same though the subjects of the paintings and the details vary.: two panels of painting on each side and the axel is elaborated with wind wood carvings and iron work, all painted in bright colours, and sometimes another strip of similar work hands, like a curtain, from the back of the cart. The four panels of figure painting – two on each side of the art – are illustrations of all kinds of historic and legendary subjects, and they are placed, like pictures in a framework of carved and painted wood, which form the two sides of the cart.
Among the legendary subjects thew favourite ones are: the episode of Rinaldo and Armida, from Tasso’s “Jerusalem Delivered”; Roland at Ronceveaux; Oliver’s Duel; Charlemagne and his Peers, and Angelica at Paris – (an episode from Ariosto’s “Orlando Furioso.”) There are also paintings on the carts whose inspiration comes from such far sources as Greek history and mythology; such as the burning of Troy, the Trojan Horse, and the Rape of Europa! Among the historic subjects the favourites are the Coronation of King Roger – episodes from the Norman Conquest of Sicily, the Retreat from Moscow and pictures of Napoleon III: all derived from more or less authentic sources.
Sometimes the paintings are of a religious kind; and there are also more familiar subjects such as attacks of brigands and family pictures. The subjects of these paintings are usually chosen by the owners of the cart. What must seem most wonderful to the foreigner is the surprising knowledge of such a variety of legends and historical anecdotes on the part of what are often quite illiterate people. But their two great sources of information are the Marionette theatres and the old Sicilian “contastorie”
In the Marionette theatres, for a few soldi, one can see enacted by puppets – on a diminutive stage – the whole epic of Charlemagne, to the accompaniment of a barrel organ – and with loud comments from the spectators, who become as a rule, excited to the point of jumping onto the stage to fight Orlando’s battles for him! This, and the “contastori” who still goes his rounds in the old parts of the town – and relates, in the Sicilian dialect, and after his own fashion the great deeds of Paladins of France – to an audience of men and boys, who belong to the peasant class of Sicily, are their two great sources of information.
The carvings underneath the cart, round the axle, are often a strange medley of religious and profane subjects. Two little fat men with a big barrel of wine are found, for instance, carved underneath the outspread wings of an angel blowing a trumpet; and the Madonna and Child are surrounded by carvings of grotesque figures, and fantastic leaves and flowers. But all these carvings, whatever the subject of them may be, are executed with refinement and beautifully painted, and they are nearly all so miniature as to be visible only on close inspection. One can surely say that the makers of these Sicilian carts are true artists, for they lavish their skill and imaginative genius on even those sections of the cart which are almost completely hidden from view; and one feels they work for the sake of their art rather than for the effect their skill can produce on the outside world.
Even the wheels are delicately painted, and the spokes have little carvings on them, though these sections of the artist’s work are always fated to disappear under coatings of dust and mud after the cart has been in use for a short period. The shafts are also carved and painted, and now that I speak of them, I must say something about the trappings and harness on the horse which goes between them. Even on working days the horses, mules, or donkeys of the Sicilian carters, have something gorgeous and fantastic about their harness, even if it is only a bunch of scarlet plumes on their heads and a few circular pieces of mirror, set, like jewels, in the leather of their harness – or a piece of red ribbon tied on to one ear!
These are supposed to be charms – efficient in warding off the “evil eye” from the horses, or any other blight or illness feared by their superstitious owners. On working days the horses also wear large tassels of bright coloured wool, hanging down below their ears, and on their backs, there is a vertical section of their harness, about twelve inches high on the top of which is fixed a bunch of red feathers – their harness is also worked in wool, with brass nails and red ribbon as ornaments, and many bells are attached in various places, which make a continuous sound when the horse is in motion. The same trappings are used on mules and donkeys, and very often one sees a small donkey of mouse grey colour cantering along with his cart rattling behind him – a big tuft of red feathers on his head waving as he moves and all the bells on his harness jingling!
One feels that these are proud moments for the owner of the cart, who looks well satisfied with himself as he cracks his whip merrily in the air, and nods to his acquaintances as he passes. But these wonderful carts are not used only for industrial purposes, and on holiday occasions the Sicilian peasant takes his whole family for an airing in the cart – and even long pilgrimages are attempted in them. A number of rustic chairs are placed on the cart, forming a small square and men, women and children take their places on them, sometimes as many as eight in one small cart.
One a year, in the spring, there is a special festival for the Sicilian carts, and they come into Palermo from all parts of the neighbouring country, and parade about the streets, and prizes are awarded for the finest cart and the best caparisoned horse. It is then you see the houses in their full glory, and the carts, fresh from the hands of their makers, are wonderful to behold! Last spring, when I was in Palermo, I was present at this festival, and I will describe a cart and horse which won some of the biggest prizes.
The horse was of a light bright colour, and a fine example of the Sicilian breed, and his harness was ornate to a fantastic degree; he shone in the sunlight like the steed of some fairy prince! His harness was covered with incrustations of what seemed solid silver and had the appearance of being wrought like filigree ornaments, and it was studded with tiny pieces of mirror. When he moved the music of countless bells was heard, and his whole neck and mane was covered by what seemed armour, of wrought silver, and with a great bunch of nodding plumes on his head, he looked the visionary steed of some mediaeval warrior. Everything about him was one bewildering mass of detail, and in some parts of his harness the silver fretwork stood out several inches from his body like sculptural ornaments. There was hardly a portion of his body visible under these magnificent trappings, and he had even small leggings of silver coloured fretwork. The cart behind him was fresh from the hands of the painter, and adorned with countless enrichments of wood-carving and wrought iron. Words cannot describe the dazzling colours in which every section of it was painted, or the wealth of incident portrayed in the pictures on it: the hands of the artist had lavished all their skill on it, and there was not the space of one inch on its whole surface that did not have some exquisite carving or painting on it. To complete the picture, I must add that the most beautiful Sicilian girl, among all the peasant women competing for the women’s beauty prize, was sitting in this cart, and great was the applause when the cart, horse and women according to the Sicilian custom – received substantial prizes for their excellence!
Beryl Sinclair is one of those names that I love to find. Born in 1901, Beryl Bowker was the daughter of the Dr. G. E. Bowker, a Physician at the Bath Royal United Hospital. She lived with her mother and father in Combe Park, Bath. She studied at the Royal College of Art alongside Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious.
She was both a painter in oils and watercolours, as well as a potter.
Eric Ravilious – Morley College Mural – Life in a Boarding House, 1929
At the RCA she was known as Bowk. Ravilious painted her twice that we know, once into the Colwyn Bay Pier Murals by Ravilious in the kitchen with a plant and then again in one of the ‘lost’ Ravilious oil paintings – ‘Bowk at the sink’, 1929-30.
Eric Ravilious – Newhaven Harbour, 1935
She married Robert Sinclair, a London author and journalist, who wrote the Country Book on East London in 1950. The painting above by Ravilious was bought from the Zwemmer Gallery by Beryl Sinclair.
Beryl Sinclair – Regents Park, The Horseguards
They were living at 170 Gloucester Place, London. It might explain why many of her early paintings are of Regents Park as it’s less than 200 metres away.
Beryl Sinclair – Regents Park, Sussex Place
In 1939 she was part of the Artists International Association – Everyman’s Print series contributing two prints, The Row and Riding Procession. The AIA Everyman Prints exhibition was opened on 30 January by Sir Kenneth Clark.
In the early 1940s she was the Chairman of the Artists International Association.
Essentially set up as a radically left political organisation, the AIA embraced all styles of art both modernist and traditional, but the core committee preferenced realism. Its later aim was to promote the “Unity of Artists for Peace, Democracy and Cultural Development”. It held a series of large group exhibitions on political and social themes beginning in 1935 with an exhibition entitled Artists Against Fascism and War.
The AIA supported the left-wing Republican side in the Spanish Civil War through exhibitions and other fund-raising activities. The Association was also involved in the settling of artists displaced by the Nazi regime in Germany. Many of those linked with the Association, such as Duncan Grant were also pacifists. Another of the AIA’s aims was to promote wider access to art through travelling exhibitions and public mural paintings. ‡
Beryl Sinclair – Regents Park, Sussex Place
In late 1940s she was the Chair of the Woman’s International Art Club. The Women’s International Art Club, briefly known as the Paris International Art Club, was founded in Paris in 1900. The club was intended to “promote contacts between women artists of all nations and to arrange exhibitions of their work”, it provided a way for women to exhibit their art work. The membership of the club was international, and there were sections in France, Greece, Holland, Italy and the United States.
During WW2 she was part of a touring exhibition of art:
John Aldridge, Michael Rothenstein, John Armstrong, Kenneth Rowntree, Beryl Sinclair, and Geoffrey Rhoades. The paintings are touring Essex. They have already been to Maldon, Colchester, and Braintree. †
She then joined the Council of Imperial Arts League in 1952 becoming the chairman in 1958.
During the war she was commissioned by Sir Kenneth Clark to execute paintings for the Civil Service canteen. She also contributed to the Cambridge Pictures for Schools scheme. She exhibited at the Royal Academy, New English Art Club, the London Group, Womans International Art Club, Artists International Association and shows at Leicester Galleries. Her work is in the collection of the Arts Council, The British Government, The Council for the Encouragement of Music and Art, Buckinghamshire County Museum
When married she moved to White Cottage, Grimsdell’s Lane, Amsersham in Buckinghamshire. She died in 1967.
Beryl Sinclair Studio Pottery Mark.
† Chelmsford Chronicle: Friday 13 November 1942
‡ Wikipedia AIA
Before and After Great Bardfield: The Autobiography of Lucie Aldridge
Once considered lost, the forthcoming autobiography of Lucie Aldridge is released in the Summer of 2020. It covers her childhood in rural Cambridge at the end of the nineteenth century, her sisters, the Suffragette movement, her first marriage during WWI, and her life in London. That ‘London’ life was a release from the conventions of her childhood. She notes the famous parties of Cedric Morris and the Bright Young Things; meeting John Aldridge and finding herself in Majorca with Robert Graves and Laura Riding. There are too many people to list.
Many people might be unaware that Paul Nash did portraits, few are finished works but some are in illustrated letters. To me they are rather pleasing and the dress and hair of the sitters is also of the era. I picture them being drawn in a 1930s sitting room by a fire.
Paul Nash – Margaret Nash, 1919
Margaret Theodosia Odeh was born in Jerusalem, Nash grew up in Cairo. She was the daughter of an Anglican minister. Shortly after moving to London in 1908, she became involved in the suffrage movement and the Tax Resistance League. One of the founding members of the Committee for Social Investigation and Reform, Nash offered rehabilitation and opportunities for women working as prostitutes. With funding from donors including Millicent Fawcett and Elizabeth Anderson, the Women’s Training Colony in Berkshire was established. Women could stay at the retreat and learn arts and crafts, including millinery. The initiative was inspired by the Arts and Crafts objective to improve people’s lives through craft. She also worked on textiles at the Omega Workshops run by the Bloomsbury group. She married Paul Nash in 1913.
Paul Nash – Portrait of Alice Daglish, 1921
Alice (nee) Archer is known mostly for The Land of Nursery Rhyme, 1932, a book she co-edited with Ernest Rhys. It was illustrated by Charles Folkard. She married Eric Fitch Daglish in 1918 and lived to be 103.
Paul Nash – Yvonne, 1922 (Maybe Yvonne Gregory)
Paul Nash – Douglas Goldring
Douglas Goldring was an English writer and journalist. He became known mostly as a travel writer. In the late 1930s Goldring came to prominence in two ways. He was Secretary of the Georgian Society, which he helped to found after writing in the Daily Telegraph in 1936, with Lord Derwent and Robert Byron. Inspired by the ideas of William Morris, Goldring helped transform it in 1937 into the Georgian Group, a section within the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, on the advice of Lord Esher.
Goldring soon became unhappy with the Georgian Group’s political conservatism and left it. He was also noted, at the same period, as a radical journalist and prolific contributor to left-wing publications. Goldring described his political views as socialist. In his last years, Goldring contributed reviews to the Socialist Labour League magazine Labour Review.
This is just a short little post. It looks at a familiar theme I have found in the work of Eric Ravilious, repetition. But in this case it is because both works in this post were inspired by the same location.
Eric Ravilious – Tennis (in the park), 1930
The painting above is a three part set of panels designed Sir Geoffrey Fry’s Music Room in Portman Square, London.
Ravilious based them on the Manor Gardens at Eastbourne, and treated the panels as a continuous composition. Above you can see the mounted hill with steps. Below you can see it in the wood-engraving, then how it looks today.