Brick House From Behind

This is a post about the back of Brick House, the home of Edward Bawden in Great Bardfield. It is an odd thing but many artists ended up painting the back of Bawden’s house more than the front. One would guess they were painted during parties or over weekends.

Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious were young artists, they met as students at the Royal College of Art, London, in 1922. Bawden and Ravilious moved into Essex in 1925, Cycling around the area they came across Brick House, Great Bardfield where they rented rooms from Mrs Kinnear, a retired ship-stewardess, for weekends away from London.

Ronald Maddox – Brick House, 1960

Brick House is an early 18th Century red brick house with two floors and windowed attics. The property had two staircases, so when the house was rented it was divided into two parts with a shared kitchen and scullery. It had been the home of a carriage maker, a girls school, and a coffin maker in it’s past. Mrs Kinnear rented rooms but lived her with two daughters and her dog.

When Edward Bawden married Charlotte Epton in 1932, Edward’s father bought them Brick House as a wedding gift and Charlotte’s father, who was a solicitor took care of the paperwork.

The first picture here, by Eric Ravilious is painted from the top of the house. At this time the roof was being repaired and retiled as it was in poor condition after purchase. Edward and Eric both climbed up the ladders to the roof to paint the view, you can see more of the guttering to the right of the picture below than you could from the view of Edward’s studio.

Eric Ravilious – Prospect from an Attic, 1932

The picture below by Bawden shows the roof being repaired by Elisha Parker and Eric Townsend and their ladder to the roof. Even though the house was sold, Mrs Kinnear (the old landlady) had left all her possessions in the building while she took up a Housekeeper post in the New Forest. Charlotte managed to arrange that the possessions would be stored in the Village Hall and with the help of Mrs Townsend (Eric’s mother, who was also the washer woman) she moved them out of the house. While the roof was repaired Charlotte Bawden cleaned and fumigated the rooms prior to them being decorated.

You can see Elisha and Eric on the roof below.

Edward Bawden – They dreamt not of a perishable home, who thus could build, 1932

The bizarre name for the painting was inspired by Mary Gwen Lloyd Thomas, one of Charlotte’s friends who edited poetry books, the quote is from Wordsworth:

They dreamt not of a perishable home who thus could build
Be mine, in hours of fear
Or grovelling thought, to seek a refuge here;
Or through the aisles of Westminster to roam;
Where bubbles burst, and folly’s dancing foam
Melts, if it cross the threshold

In the Garden is a little wooden trellised hut that the Raviliouses had given to the Bawden’s as a wedding present. You can see the foundations being installed in the picture above with wheelbarrows around and upturned earth (They dreamt not of a perishable home…).

It is my feeling that the picture below by Charles Mahoney was painted in 1932, likely just after the roof was completed. It is part of the collection of the Royal Academy and they date it as 1950s, likely because the missing trellis. Why do I think ’32? Well the same concrete foundations and wheelbarrows are where the trellis would later stand (the site of the buckets), and the waterbutt is to the left in Mahoney’s painting where as in the painting below it by Ravilious the waterbutt has been moved. Also the shed beside the trellis was lost in the war and replaced by one with a different roof axis. But mostly because it looks so much like the painting above.

Charles Mahoney – Barnyard (RA Say 1950’s I say 1932)

You can see the completed trellis in the picture by Ravilious below. Also the blue gates helped divide the part of the Bawden’s garden from Mrs Kinnear part of the house originally, it was also where she kept her dog. Later on as motorcars became popular the gates would divide the house from the driveway.

Eric Ravilious – The Garden Path, 1933

The brougham cart in the picture below was a purchase by Charlotte Bawden who bought it mostly because she thought the wheels were so valuable. Tom Ives (the farmer from Ives Farm at the end of their Garden) was selling it, and for some years it was kept under the trellis.

On the top of the trellis building is a wooden carved soldier made by Eric Townsend, the arms moved in the wind to scare birds on the farms.

Edward Bawden, My heart, untravel’d, fondly turns to thee (aka Derelict Cab), 1933

The picture below is of a Snowstorm by Bawden, he has scratched the paper to give the effect of snow blowing on the wind in all directions as it falls. The view is from the window in his Studio that looked almost right down the drain pipe. The carriage likely sold or scrapped by that point.

Edward Bawden, February 2pm, 1936

In 1937 the Country Life Cookbook had wood engravings inside, designed by Eric Ravilious and it featured a small wood engraving of the Brick House garden and the trellis again. By this time the Raviliouses had moved to Castle Hedingham, about six miles east of Great Bardfield.

Eric Ravilious – August, Wood-engraving for the Country Life Cookery Book, 1937

Below is a painting by another visitor to Brick House, Geoffrey Hamilton Rhoades. He is mentioned in Anne Ullman’s edited Tirzah Garwood biography Long Live Great Bardfield. This painting has a guessed age of c1940s, I would again say it is likely mid-to-late 1930s as the toy soldier is still on top of the trellis. The other amazing and totally unrelated detail about this painting is it was bought by Pixie O’Shaughnessy-Lorant in 1987. What an amazing name!

Geoffrey Hamilton Rhoades – Brick House, Great Bardfield, likely about 1935

During the Second World War Edward was touring the world painting as an official War Artist, Charlotte was in Cheltenham teaching and potting at Winchcombe, and their two children Richard and Joanna were at private schools in the Cotswolds. As the Brick House was empty it was used, and abused by the Home Guard and local officials as a headquarters. The house was the only building in Great Bardfield to suffer bomb damage. Many villages in the East of England were bombed, not as planned targets, but mostly from German bombers trying to dispel leftover bombs after failed bombing raids on airfields, factories or docks. The bombs being so heavy would use up more their the aircraft’s fuel and make it harder to fly back to their Nazi bases over the German Ocean.

After the War, John Aldridge painted the builders repairing Brick House. It was likely that the trellised building Eric and Tirzah gave to the Bawden’s was blown up at the same time. Eric, also an official war artist was also lost in the Second World War, in an aircraft off the coast of Iceland.

John Aldridge – Builders at Work, Brick House, Great Bardfield, 1946

John Aldridge had moved to Great Bardfield with Lucie Brown (nee Saunders) and the couple lived in sin until in 1940 John married her when he signed up to join the war effort.

The last painting of Brick House is this snow scene by Edward in 1955. Richard and Joanna are on a sledge and the roofs are covered with snow as is the ground making the red bricks bolder in colour.

Edward Bawden – Brick House, Great Bardfield, 1955

Forthcoming – A New Great Bardfield Autobiography

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.

Following the success of Long Live Great Bardfield, The autobiography of Tirzah Garwood, Lucie’s book is a autobiography comes with a postscript by Inexpensive Progress detailing frankly the life and trials Lucie would go on to have in that Essex village.

If anyone has ever met Lucie, has any information on her, or her work (paintings and rugs) do please let me know at frozenocean18@hotmail.com but time is short!

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 Lucie by John Aldridge, 1930 (Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum)

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Gt Bardfield Now & Then

The print and the studies used in this post are by John Aldridge for the Festival of Britain, 1951 lithographs distributed by the Artists’ International Association and Lyons Tea-houses. The series featured prints from Edwin La Dell, Keith Vaughan and Shelia Robinson. The artists all chose different views and ideas but Aldridge used views of Great Bardfield.

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 John Aldridge – Studies for the Great Bardfield Print, 1950

The process of the print is rather interesting, I like the study doodles for the print made out by Aldridge using different colourways and grids. Below is the final gouache he would have sent off to the prints to transcribe into a lithograph (note it is backwards). It looks like he was using a bit of the wax resist effect that Bawden was so keen on.

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 John Aldridge – Study for the Great Bardfield Print, 1950

The final print I think is a bit of a disappointment, the texture to the edges of the print have been lost and it’s a very scrappy looking thing with cut and pencil makings that have made it into the lithography. The yellow slashed edging would have been black ink that has been made into a negative with the photo-lithographic technique, it only works for the text areas. The painting above has more vigour – the lack of colour used means the absence of red, the buildings look faded and without blue the sky is apocalyptic like a John Martin painting.

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 John Aldridge – Great Bardfield, 1951

Using the painting as a guide I am showing how the village looks now compared to John Aldridge’s paintings in 1950 using Google street view.

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 John Aldridge – Pant Place, 1950

Named after the river Pant in Bardfield, the house today has had its door moved and replaced with a rosebush. The railings have also been lost as has the stylised garden for something simpler to deal with. There is a driveway now as the motorcar rules the roads today.

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 Pant Plant, Great Bardfield today.

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 John Aldridge – Crown Street, 1950

Crown Street has only changed with the prevalence of the dreadful curse of the UK, the UPVC Window. The shop has gone and now is a house front.

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 Crown Street today.

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 John Aldridge – Brook Street, 1950

Brook Street today too is so similar it might not look to have changed to a time traveller. The railings around the island in the centre of the village and War memorial have gone, maybe they should come back.

The house to the left of the picture is Buck House, home to Stanley Clifford-Smith, one of the most unusual Great Bardfield artists. Thanks to a Fry Art Gallery booklet by Olive Cook he was written out of Great Bardfield history and was considered less important than he was. It was a myth started in 1988 and perpetuated until quite recently with the writing of Under Moon Light by his son Silas Clifford Smith highlighting his role in the Great Bardfield exhibitions in Bardfield’s 1950s.

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 Brook Street today.

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 John Aldridge – Northampton House, 1950

The Gardens of Northampton House have been sold off to make an estate called ‘Northampton Meadow’ though it looked to be a rather lovely garden it makes me wonder – in an age without the television and with less transport were gardens the main entertainment and way to show off to your neighbours?

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 Northampton Meadow today, a 1990s estate.

In Ironbridge

Edward Bawden went on a working holiday to Iron Bridge with the War Artists John Aldridge and Carel Weight. John Nash went with them, but I couldn’t find any records until the artist Celia Hart found some for me! Here I have collected some of the pictures all of them made from that trip and likely finished off in their studios at home. Although the John Nash works don’t have dates I am confident they are from the same trip.

I was at Ironbridge for about six weeks in September and October 1956 and was joined by John Aldridge, John Nash and Carel Weight. Each of us in turn painted the famous bridge’. ‘Houses at Ironbridge was almost the last painting I was able to do during my stay’.

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John Nash – Ironbridge through the Bridge, Gridded study.

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John Nash – Ironbridge, (Exhibited in 1960)

The Iron Bridge is very handsome but a teaser to draw with three upright supports and five curved spans to every three so that a sideways view is very complicated…. We dodge between the showers and somehow I’ve done three drawings and a bit – but Carel has done an oil painting every day it seems while Edward keeps his work secretly in his rooms and does not divulge progress. Carel and I play bar billards every night, but Bawden will not join these simple diversions. 

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John Nash – Ironbridge, Shropshire.

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 Edward Bawden – Ironbridge Church, 1956

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 Edward Bawden – The House at Ironbridge, 1956

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 Edward Bawden – Iron Bridge, 1956

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 Edward Bawden. Houses at Ironbridge, 1956

The Bawden paintings above all share the same palette leading me to think he painted them on location and touched them up later. The wall of Houses at Ironbridge is a layering of paint and grease to make a watercolour batik over the drawing of the wall.

The paintings of John Aldridge show a quickly sketched oil painting that I would say was done on location and then an Italian looking Ironbridge in a brighter series of colours and much more control that I suspect would have been finished off in Great Bardfield.

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 John Aldridge – Ironbridge, 1956

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 John Aldridge – Ironbridge III, 1956

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 John Aldridge – Garden in Ironbridge, 1956

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 Carel Weight – Ironbridge, 1957

Tate – T00206
Letter from John Nash to John Lewis

Why not a Tate East?

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 John Armstrong – Coggeshall Church, Essex, 1940 – Tate – Not on Display

When most people think of artists and where they paint – they think of St
Ives, Cornwall. The new Tate gallery there and its controversial Stirling Prize nominated extension have been both a help and hindrance to locals,  but maybe not the 24% of those in St Ives who are Second Home owners †. The same could be said for Margate and the Bilbao effect from the Turner Contemporary Tate Gallery there. The Tate has pushed tourist through Margate’s streets like air into lungs. In the East of England is where many of the country’s best loved artists lived, but sadly the East of England is rather poor when it comes to showing off their artists – so why not a branch of the Tate in Aldeburgh or Southwold or Colchester?

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 John Constable – Stoke-by-Nayland, 1811 – Tate – Not on Display

The famous East Anglian artists of old are John Crome, Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable. Crome was the most famous of the Norwich School of painters who were inspired by painters like Jacob van Ruisdael and the Dutch style. They painted the vast waterways, windmills and dykes of the fenland and Norfolk Broads. Crome also had many talented pupils. John Sell Cotman, one of the country’s best watercolour artists, was also part of this brew.

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 Alfred Munnings – From My Bedroom Window, 1930 – Tate, Not on Display

John Constable painted the Dedham Vale in Suffolk and, most famously, Flatford Mill. A brisk walk away is the Museum and former home of Alfred Munnings. Also in Dedham was the original home of Cedric Morris’s East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing, but when it burnt down (John Nash told Ronald Blythe ‡) Munnings drove around the village like Mr Toad shouting ‘Down with modern art’. Cedric Morris then bought Benton End from Alfred Sainsbury in 1939 and continued his art school with his life partner, Arthur Lett-Haines. Lucien Freud, Maggi Hambling, Lucy Harwood, Valerie Thornton and Olive Cook all studied there.

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 Cedric Morris – Iris Seedlings, 1943 – Tate – Not on Display

In 1940 after his London home suffered bomb damage, the sculptor Henry Moore made his home in Perry Green, just south of Much Hadham. It is now a museum with a collection of his works in the grounds. Moore walked around the local fields picking up pieces of flint thrown aside from ploughing and in his studio he would draw them as pre-made organic sculpture. Moore called them his ‘library of natural forms’ and they would inspire his larger works.

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 Henry Moore – Seated Woman, 1957 – Tate – Not On Display

John Piper in the 80s made a beautiful series of ruined churches of East Anglia. In 1934, at Ivon Hitchens cottage in Sizewell, Suffolk, Piper met his wife Myfanwy Evens. They married in 1937. Myfanwy worked with Benjamin Britten writing lyrics to his operas including Death in Venice. Britten lived in Aldeburgh with his partner Peter Pears. Piper would design many of the stage sets.

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 John Piper – Covehithe Church, 1983 – Tate – Not On Display

On the other side of Colchester in 1944, war artist John Nash was restoring the Elizabethan Bottengoms Farm, moving in with his wife Christine Kühlenthal. Christine had studied at the Slade school of art alongside Dora Carrington, Mark Gertler and she worked at the Omega Workshops while John had become famous for his monumental paintings of the First World War alongside his brother Paul. At Bottengoms, John became famous for his landscape paintings and botanical studies. He taught at Colchester School of Art with Richard ‘Dickie’ Chopping, an artist known for his dust jackets for Ian Fleming’s James Bond series. Dickie lived with his lover, another landscape painter, Denis Wirth-Miller. Their life with Francis Bacon has been expertly documented in Jon Lys Turner’s ‘The Visitors’ Book’. Bacon owned a home in Wivenhoe as did Dickie and Denis.

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 John Nash – Mill Building, Boxted, 1962 – Tate – Not On Display

Also on the staff at Colchester was John o’Connor, a wood-engraver and landscape painter. He was once the pupil of both Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious at the Royal College of Art. Bawden and Ravilious where renting part of Brick House in Great Bardfield, Essex, when Ravilious moved a few miles away to Castle Hedingham with his painter wife Tirzah. Bawden and his Leach Pottery student wife Charlotte bought Brick House. Both men became war artists and only Bawden returned from the conflict after painting the early war, including Dunkirk. He was also shipwrecked off the coast of Africa, rescued and imprisoned by Vichy French forces, liberated by the Americans and then off again to paint the campaigns in Africa and Iraq. Eric died in 1942 when the aircraft he was in was lost off Iceland. Ravilious used the Essex area profusely in his short life there in
wood-engravings and watercolours.

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 Eric Ravilious – Tiger Moth, 1942 – Tate – Not on Display

Around the village of Great Bardfield, Bawden was joined by John Aldridge (a landscape painter), Walter Hoyle (one of Bawden’s students who helped Bawden on work at the Festival of Britain) and Michael Rothenstein (the pioneer printmaker and brother to the Director of the Tate Gallery). Other artists in the village were George Chapman, Bernard Cheese, Stanley Clifford-Smith, Audrey Cruddas, Sheila Robinson and Kenneth Rowntree.

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 John Aldridge – Head and Fruit, 1930 – Tate – Not on Display

In the small hamlet of Landermere – on the coastland of Essex – lived Adrian and Karin Stephen with their daughter Judith. Adrian was the younger brother of Virginia Wolfe and Vanessa Bell. After her parents death Judith lived on in their house with her husband and Independent Group member, Nigel Henderson. Also in Landermere they were joined by Eduardo Paolozzi who owned one of the cottages and set up Hammer Prints Limited, a company for printing limited edition works and designing abstract home wares such as wallpapers and tiles. Neighbours in the hamlet were architect Basil Spence and Festival of Britain artist and Coventry Cathedral glass engraver, John Hutton, as well as his son, children’s book illustrator Warwick.

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 Eduardo Paolozzi – Cyclops, 1957 – Tate – Not on Display

The Stephens were not the only Bloomsbury members to be in the East. David Garnett, his lover Duncan Grant, and Grants wife Vanessa Bell were all staying at Wissett Lodge, Suffolk in the summer of 1916 as conscientious objectors, working on a farm, though Vanessa is the one who got the most painting done.

With the boom in British publishing many of these artists enjoyed illustration commissions, from the cookery books of Ravilious and Bawden to poetry books decorated by John Piper and gardening books illustrated by John Nash.

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 Spencer Gore – The Beanfield, Letchworth, 1912 – Tate – Not On Display

Naturally there are names left out but there are too many artists to list. But why are they so poorly represented in the region? In the East there is the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts and Kettles Yard but neither of these galleries aim to promote the work of East Anglian artists, but rather the international collections of the Sainsbury family and Jim Ede. They both do a lot of good for the local economy but it’s not the same as championing the area’s artists.

The nearest to it is the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden, but their manifesto only lets them collect work from artists who have lived in North West part of Essex. But for all of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk there should be a body to represent them.

There are so many other artists that could be liberated from the Tate and their archives and put on show to support and promote the region where they were created. At the time of publishing, all the artworks in this blog  owned by the Tate were not on display.

† https://www.cornwalllive.com/news/cornwall-news/cornwall-second-homes-plague-revealed-1398388
A Broad Canvas – Ian Collins 1999 – From the Foward by Ronald
Blythe, p6.

The Cat Rug

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 Bedroom in Place House, Great Bardfield, 1962.

I don’t think anyone would be shocked that I buy a lot of books, maybe ten a week. But in my latest purchases I had a copy of the House & Garden’s Book of Interiors, edited by Robert Harling in 1962. One of the small pictures was credited as a bedroom of Place House, Great Bardfield – the home of John Aldridge.

While John was a painter his wife Lucy made rugs. The design for the rug is in the Fry Gallery collection of works as it was painted by John. Lucy also exhibited her rugs at the Great Bardfield Artists Exhibitions but like many of the women who were wives, they got no credit.

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 John Aldridge – Rug Design, 1939

As sitting hand-knotting a rug takes some time, she made an ideal subject for an oil painting.

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 John Aldridge – Lucie Weaving A Rug, The Fry Gallery, c1960.

Great Bardfield Christmas Cards

Here are some of the Christmas cards from various Great Bardfield artists. I have always thought it important to send out something decorative and interesting at Christmas and the Bardfield artists were the same. 

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 Eric Ravilious – Christmas Card

With some of the artists like Walter Hoyle the envelopes were just as important as the cards for decoration. Many of them were numbered as editioned prints. Signed from Walter and his wife Denise.

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 Walter Hoyle – Christmas Card Envelope, 1986

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 Walter Hoyle – Christmas Card, 1986

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 Walter Hoyle – Christmas Card and Envelope, 1983

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 Walter Hoyle – Christmas Card

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 Walter Hoyle – Christmas Card

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 Walter Hoyle – Christmas Envelope

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 Walter Hoyle – Christmas Card

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 Michael Rothenstein – Christmas Card & Design for Faber and Faber, 1962

The note below is from Michael Rothenstein to David Bland of Faber and Faber. Faber were planning the Christmas card in June as the letter is dated 28th of that month. The picture above shows the finished design to the left and the prototype to the right. 

Here is a further rough of the Christmas tree idea. I want to make the star at the top of the main image: star of Bethlehem, star of hope, of joy, as well as the star of morning, the tree, for me this is the most potent Christmas image….

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Below are two Christmas cards from Kenneth Rowntree his wife Diana and family.

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 Kenneth Rowntree – Christmas Card

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 Kenneth Rowntree – Christmas Card

Below are some more images from other Great Bardfield artists.

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 John Aldridge – Christmas Card

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 Shelia Robinson – Christmas Card Design

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 Michael Rothenstein – Christmas Card

Inspiration from the Home

Great Bardfield being a small community of artists, it is only natural that they would borrow ideas, items and homes from each other to work in. Here are a few examples of connections in illustrated books by the people in the community that all were published within a few years of each other.

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 Edward Bawden – Sunday Evening, 1949 (Life in an English Village)

The picture above shows the sitting room at Ives Farm, Great Bardfield. Tom Ives is pictured in the corner with his pipe. It’s depicted in a lithograph by Edward Bawden from the King Penguin book ‘Life in an English Village’ (1949), around the same time Aldridge himself used this house in a book illustration for ‘Adam Was A Ploughman’ (1947) by Clarence Henry Warren.

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 John Aldridge – Living Room, 1947 (Adam Was A Ploughman)

On the fireplace you can see a Staffordshire figure of a lion by a tree, it was illustrated again on another page in ‘Adam Was A Ploughman’, pictured below.

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John Aldridge – Lion, 1947 (Adam Was A Ploughman)

The photograph below is from Volume Five of The Saturday Book (1945), in a chapter by Edwin Smith on ‘Household Gods’ and is the same Staffordshire Lion. 

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 Edwin Smith – Lion, 1945 (The Saturday Book)

Back to the drawing of Ives farm living room is a corn-dolly hanging up, below in the King Penguin book ‘Life in an English Village’ I have picked it out in yellow.

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 John Aldridge – Living Room, 1947 (Adam Was A Ploughman)

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 Edward Bawden – Corn-dollies, 1949  (Life in an English Village)

To the bottom right of the image above is also the bell used in the Pub lithograph below. Below the bell, the one-eyed man is Fred Mizen, a gardener and thatcher who also had a talent for making corn-dollie, it is likely all of them are by him.

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 Edward Bawden – The Bell (detail), 1949  (Life in an English Village)

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 Michael Rothenstein – Clock and Candlestick, 1942

The painting by Rothenstein above is a curious still life of a table and village scene. Curiously enough these items appear again in fifth Volume of The Saturday Book, along with the Aldridge Lion photograph. The article mentioned the clock ‘flanked by exotic shapes contrived from coloured balls on candlesticks’ it is wisely assumed that the picture is from Rothenstein’s house.

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 Edwin Smith – Clock and Candlestick, 1945 (The Saturday Book)

Clarence Henry Warren – Adam Was A Ploughman, 1947
Leonard Russell (Editor) – The Saturday Book, 1945
Noel Carrington – Life in an English Village, 1949

Great Bardfield in Brighton

This post is not really connected in the typical way my articles are, but just points to a curious link between the Bardfield Artists being on Brighton Pier. I have also included a photograph by Edwin Smith – All of these artists are represented by the Fry Gallery in Saffron Walden.

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 Edward Bawden – Brighton Pier (Proof), 1958

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 Edward Bawden – Brighton Pier, 1958

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 John Aldridge – 

Palace Pier, Brighton, East Sussex, 1950

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 Walter Hoyle – Brighton Pier

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 Edward Bawden – Snowstorm in Brighton, 1956

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 Edwin Smith – Palace Pier, Brighton, 1952

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Edward Bawden – London Playground, Brighton

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 Edward Bawden – A Blow on the Pier.

Edward Bawden and the Arabs

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 Edward Bawden – Lithograph for Travellers’ Verse, 1946.

This post is the story of Edward Bawden’s war work in the War Artists Advisory Committee (WAAC) as an artist and how he used the wartime drawings and paintings in illustration work, like the The Puffin Picture Book ‘The Arabs’ but other post-war commissions. 

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 Edward Bawden – Shaikh Sharif al-Hafi, 1944.

When the Second World War broke out in 1939, Edward Bawden had already established a reputation as an illustrator, a comic draughtsman, a designer of  typographical ornaments and patterns, a print-maker and a painter of landscapes in water-colour.

Bawden was appointed one of the first Official War Artists and was sent to join the British Army in France with Barnett Freedman and Edward Ardizzone. After being evacuated via Dunkirk, he was sent to the Middle East where he spent two years painting and drawing in Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. During his return journey to England, his ship was torpedoed; he then spent two months in a French internment camp before being released, and arrived in England safely, only to return to the Middle East, journeying around Cairo, Baghdad, Jeddah, Teheran, Ur of the Chaldees; he was drawing all the time, finally ending his travels in Rome.

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 Edward Bawden – Shaikh Raisan al-Gassid, 1944.

The WAAC recommended in December 1939 that Bawden should be appointed as an official Air Ministry artist. In May 1940, after his return from France with the withdrawal from Dunkirk. Bawden expressed his regret at having had to leave, and Dickey reported him to be “extremely anxious to be sent out again to another scene of activity”. He departed for the Middle East in July. ♦

After the war Bawden stayed in Cheltenham while repairs and work were made to his home, Brick House; It was the only building in Great Bardfield to suffer from bomb damage, but Bawden also used the opportunity to make alterations and build a studio to the back of the house. The house was used and abused by the Home Guard during the war.

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 John Aldridge – Builders at Work, Brick House, Great Bardfield, 1946.

Bawden’s time as a war artist had given him the advantage of travel but also an abundance of sketch books and work that were still fresh in his mind in 1945. So it was in November of that year that Noel Carrington, the head of Puffin Books at Penguin was writing to his Allen Lane, his boss about Bawden and the planned book ‘The Arabs’:

12th November 1945
I have arranged for Bawden to meet you here on Wednesday afternoon at three o’clock, so you can discuss the alternative approaches to The Arabs book with him. As an illustrator, one method will suit him as well as another.

From this meeting payments were settled and Bawden took on the job of illustrating the book. The text for the book was by Robert Bertram Serjeant, Nicknamed ‘Bob’. Serjeant was a Scottish scholar, traveller, and one of the leading Arabists of his generation.

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 Edward Bawden – Front cover design for The Arabs, 1947.

Bawden to Carrington, 24 July 1946:
“The book is getting on slowly – I work upon the lithographs for a few hours every day, but because of the fine detail I find the work rather a strain on the eyes. In all I have finished one-fifth of the drawings but these include some of the most elaborate ones such as the two double spreads.’

As you can see in the image below, Bawden recycled some of his paintings from the war and used them in the making of the book. The man to the right – on the boat is ‘Shaikh Sharif al-Hafi’, pictured at the top of this post.

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 Edward Bawden – Detail from ‘The Arabs’, p18, 1947. 

Below I have edited both images side-by-side and you can see how the line drawing has been simplified for the lithographic process. 

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Although ‘The Arabs’ became a factual book rather than the ‘story’ title Carrington intended, it is one of the highlights of the series. Bawden’s lithographs are as good as any he completed and the two full double page spreads are superb examples of his mastery of line; Curwen made a good job of the printing. 

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 Edward Bawden – Detail from The Arabs, p30, 1947

The text of ‘The Arabs’ doesn’t shy away from the Crusades and they are also illustrated as in the image above and below. The historical detail also takes in the history of the Arabic nations, how important they were during the silk road trade routes and how they declined after the European travellers sailed by boat beyond the Cape of Good Hope to China and India. 

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 Edward Bawden – Double page spread from The Arabs, p30-31, 1947

Again, below and side by side are both the lithographed policeman from ‘The Arabs’ and the portrait Bawden painted during his war service. It really demonstrates the cheerful nature of his line drawings. It also shows how he used paintings and sketches to make the book as accurate as it could be.

 Edward Bawden – Baghdad: An Illustration of Iraqi Policemen’s Uniforms, 1943

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 Edward Bawden – Detail from ‘The Arabs’, p6, 1947

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 A Digital Edit of the book ‘The Arabs’ & Bawden’s War Portrait of the Policeman

The most beautiful of the two double-page illustrations is the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah, 636AD, when the Rashidun Caliphate overthrew the Sasanian Empire.

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 Edward Bawden – Double Page Spread from ‘The Arabs’ p26-27, 1947

The Sassanid Persian army, about 60,000 strong, fell into three main categories, infantry, heavy cavalry, and the Elephant corps. The Elephant corps was also known as the Indian corps, for the elephants were trained and brought from Persian provinces in India. The Arabic side is said to have been 36,000 strong, just over half, and yet they won. 

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 Edward Bawden – Double Page Spread from ‘The Arabs’ p27, 1947

Interestingly the book was never reprinted, and indeed could have been withdrawn and pulped! On the last pages of The Arabs, Bawden had illustrated ‘Muhammad mounted on Buraq’ ascending to the Seventh Heaven’. Obviously no one Bawden, Carrington or Lane had realised the grave offence that the depiction of the Prophet would cause. 

The Cairo branch of W.H. Smith, which had ordered 5,000 copies, wrote requesting: ‘would there be any way of painting out the rider’. 

Complaints flooded in and the Commonwealth Relations Office wrote to Penguin: The Puffin Picture Book No 61, entitled The Arabs, has on the last page a pictorial representation of the Prophet Mohammed and there have been in the Pakistan Press various letters protesting against this illustration.

As you no doubt know, any representation of the Prophet gives grave offence to Muslim sentiment. Although from a non-Muslim point of view such representations may appear harmless, it is none the less true that Muslim objections to representation of the Prophet in any form are based on sincere conviction.

You will, I am sure, appreciate that in inviting your attention to this matter we do not wish in any way to appear to be interfering with editorial responsibility. But we felt it right to draw your attention to the ill effects which an otherwise excellent little book may have in the Muslim world. Perhaps you would be good enough to bear this in mind should a reprint be under consideration?

One can only imagine the colour of the air when Allen Lane realised that his flagship Puffin was fatally flawed. Understandably The Arabs was never reprinted.

I must add that after mentioning I was writing this post to a friend, they convinced me not to include the image of Mohammed in the blog too. If you wish to see the image you will just have to order a copy of the book to find out at your own offence. 

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 Edward Bawden – Detail from ‘The Arabs’, p15, 1947

The painting below is of Mohammed Bin Abdullah El Atshan, King Ibn Saud’s representative at Rumaliya. This painting is a copy made in 1966 of a painting from 1943 made at the request of a British Petroleum executive when Bawden was painting a mural at the British Petroleum restaurant. The wall of petrol cans were given the BP logo at the executive’s suggestion.   

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Edward Bawden – Mohammed Bin Abdullah El Atshan, 1966

What is more curious to me about the above retrospective painting is that parts of it turn up twice in the Puffin ‘Arabs’ book. The image below in colour has the hawk, coffee pots, the boy with water-pot and two men standing behind the wall. The black and white illustration below has the drawing of the sitter.

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 Edward Bawden – Detail from ‘The Arabs’, p7, 1947

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 Edward Bawden – Detail from ‘The Arabs’, p25, 1947

Throughout 1946 Bawden was working on the illustrations for ‘The Arabs’ book, but it wasn’t published until 1947. Also in 1946 Bawden would illustrate a collection of poetry chosen by Mary Gwyneth Lloyd Thomas in a book called ‘Travellers’ Verse’ and he would be able to re-encounter his work of the middle east with his illustrations. These projects started to merge as parts of illustrations from his War Time Sketchbooks would end up in both.

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 Edward Bawden – Detail from ‘The Arabs’, p12-13, 1947

Above is an illustration of a Market in Cairo from ‘The Arabs’ and below is an illustration of a market from ‘Travellers’ Verse’, albeit a more fantastical version. Because ‘The Arabs’ was to be accurate the illustrations are more or less from his war paintings, but the ‘Travellers’ Verse’ book he was able to have more fun with the illustrations and be more fanciful. 

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 Edward Bawden – Detail from ‘Travellers’ Verse’, 1946

In the top right corner of the image above is the Mohammed Ali Mosque in Cairo in a simple line drawing from 1946. Below you can see it from one of Bawden’s paintings in 1941.

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Edward Bawden – Cairo, the Citadel: Mohammed Ali Mosque, 1941

Bawden also illustrated the mosque, as below from the other side of the city

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 Edward Bawden – Detail from ‘The Arabs’, p23, 1947.

During his travels Bawden was able to stay in the centre of Cairo in the Citadel on his stay as he mentions:

Public relations could deal with journalists but they didn’t know how to deal with artists. They were puzzled and Major Asterly said ‘Why not go and stay in the citadel’, which I did and I found delightful. I made one or two drawings of the Mosque of Mohammed Ali.

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Edward Bawden – Cairo, the Citadel: On the Roof of the Officers’ Mess, 1941

In the ‘Travellers’ Verse’ illustrations we see the city life and a fantasy of life in the countryside, with Mosque towers and street cafes to the desert landscape and camp fires.

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 Edward Bawden – Detail from ‘Travellers’ Verse’, 1946

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 Edward Bawden – Detail from ‘Travellers’ Verse’, 1946

In fact Bawden would be able to use the war drawings of Greece and Rome for the other plates in the book. It seems that after Rome, Athens was a disappointment as Bawden mentions: 

When I returned from Florence to Rome it was suggested that I go to Greece, so I went by air, it was the first time I had seen Greece I had been to Rome several times but I was very disappointing on the sight of Athens, it didn’t have the grandeur I was expecting. 

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 Edward Bawden – Detail from ‘Travellers’ Verse’, 1946

In ‘Travellers’ Verse’ the illustration of a huddled mass of bodies in a boat on a Paul Nash sea has none of the cheer the other images have. The poem being illustrated is ‘Don Juan and his tutor Pedrillo are shipwrecked.’ Bawden himself was shipwrecked during the war off the coast of West Africa on a ship from Cape Town to London. It is another translation of his wartime experiences. 

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 Edward Bawden – Detail from ‘Travellers’ Verse’, 1946

The Laconia was nearing the Equator in temperatures of 110 degrees Fahrenheit when, at 8pm on the evening of 12th September, 1942, it was hit twice below water level by torpedoes from the German U-boat U156 under the command of Werner Hartenstein. 

Bawden with typical sangfroid resigned himself to death by drowning: ‘so I thought I’d wander round a bit and have a look. I went down to my cabin – I’d bought my wife a watch and thought I might as well go down with the watch as not.’ Then, ‘on returning from my cabin I saw ropes hanging down on the side where life-boats had been lowered and standing by one of these I was joined by a major. ‘After you, Sir’ I said. As he descended there was a splash. Sliding down the next ropes I found myself being gripped and guided into a boat. A few minutes later all the boats pulled away to a safe distance and there we sat waiting, still and silent and tense for the sound of the ship’s final end. 

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 Edward Bawden – Rescued at sea by the French warship Gloire, 1943.

The survivors were rescued by a French ship who were unkind to them and then taken to an internment camp in Casablanca where they stayed for two and a half months until rescued, this time by the Americans, who were kind. As a British citizen he was shipped to Norfolk, Virginia, USA before being shipped back to London.

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 Edward Bawden – Illustration from Vathek, 1958.

Many years after the war Bawden illustrated Beckford’s ‘Vathek, an Arabian Tale’ for the Folio Society in 1958, I find these illustrations rather weak personally, I can’t work out if he wanted to change to a looser style of lithographic illustration or if they were dashed out for the money, while technically good with colour layering, the end result in my view is poor. I rather suspect the commission came in conjunction with a larger one – ‘The Histories of Herodotus of Halicarnassus’ for the Limited Editions Club, a company like the Folio Society, but American; For them Bawden provided over 100 illustrations in a two volume book set. 

He would illustrate Johnson’s ‘Rasselas’ in 1975 for the Folio Society with happier outcomes compared to ‘Vathek’, though not totally Arabian, it is a fantasy of travel.

To conclude the various Arabic styles of Bawden we should end with the giant mural for BP’s restaurant at Britannic House. The best of Bawden’s murals, using Islamic designs and architectural drawings to bold outcomes, it uses blocks of colour and pattern design much like one of his linocuts. 

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 Edward Bawden – Fantasy on Islamic Architecture (Left Panel), 1966

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 Edward Bawden – Fantasy on Islamic Architecture (Right Panel), 1966

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 A view of the Dining Room in Britannic House.

† Ruari McLean , Edward Bawden War Artist & His Letters, 1989
‡  Malcolm Yorke – Edward Bawden and His Circle, 2015.
 4622 Edward Bawden Audio Tape, IWM, 1980.
♣  R.B. Serjeant and Bawden Edward – The Arabs, 1947. 
 Joe Pearson – Drawn Direct to the Plate, 2010
Edward Bawden 1939-1944, ART/WA2/03/044/1