A Pictograph of Widmerpool

During their time together in France, Jenkins, still a school boy, learned more of Widmerpool’s drive and ambition and of his awkward relationship to art.  When Widmerpool was about to depart, his “last week at La Grenadière [was] blighted by another matter, in its way sufficiently provoking for him. This was the appearance on the wall of the cabinet be toilette of a crude, though not unaccomplished, representation of himself — somewhat in the style of the caves in the Dordogne — in this case scratched on plaster with a blunt instrument.” [QU 155/158]

Lascaux pictograph from The Shaft of the Deadman photo from visual-arts-cork.com

Lascaux pictograph from The Shaft of the Deadman
photo from visual-arts-cork.com

There are hundreds of paleolithic paintings in the limestone caves in the Dordogne region of southwest France created over many generations, about 17,000 years ago. The scenes are usually of animals rather than of people; some were made by cutting lines in the rock with stone tools, others drawn with charcoal, others colored with pigments. The phallus on the fallen hunter shown above recalls Widmerpool’s complaint: “And although it is not exactly indecent, it is suggestive, which is worse.” [QU 155/158]

[The post above is out of chronological order; it can also be found in context on the Question of Upbringing page of picturesinpowell.]

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Aubrey Beardsley

“’I never pay my insurance policy, ‘ Moreland said, ‘without envisaging the documents going through the hands of Aubrey Beardsley and Kafka, before being laid on the desk of Wallace Stevens.’” [HSH 53 /54]

Lysisstrata Aubrey Beardsley, 1896 plate I, 12 x 9 in from ebooks.adelaide.edu.au

Lysisstrata
Aubrey Beardsley, 1896
plate I, 12 x 9 in
from ebooks.adelaide.edu.au

On June 24, 2015, Bonhams auctioneers sold a first edition of Lysistrata, illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley, from Anthony Powell’s library. They also auctioned an assorted set of other Beardsley pieces from Powell’s collection. Powell had inherited the Beardsley works from his father, who had “certain fin-de-siècle leanings. In one form, these were expressed by delight in the drawings of Aubrey Beardsley, though this attraction for the Décadence was balanced by disapproval of much that it stood for. [TKBR 15]”  (For other items auctioned from Powell’s collection, see the Bonhams’ catalog, items 299-342.)

In his youth, Powell would study the drawings in his father’s books.  When he was 17, his own black and white drawing, Caesar Cannonbrains of the Black Hussars, appeared in the Eton Candle; In TKBR (p. 55, drawing on p.56), Powell says the drawing shows unconcealed influences of Beardsley and Lovat Fraser. Later, Powell wrote four essays about Beardsley, anthologized in Under Review: Further Writing on Writers, 1946-1990 [pp 44-52].

Aubrey Vincent Beardsley (1872-1898) began work as a clerk for the Guardian Life  and Fire Insurance Office at age 17. In 1891 he and his sister went to the studio of Edward Burne-Jones under the mistaken impression that it was open to visitors; Burne-Jones invited them in, some say because of Mabel Beardsley’s striking red hair, examined Beardsley sketches, and arranged for him to attend art classes at night, resulting in a few months at the Westminster School of Art, which were his only formal artistic training.  The Beardsleys left Burne-Jones’ studio with Oscar Wilde, beginning an association that linked Beardsey with Wilde in the forefront of Aestheticism.

The Dancer's Reward Aubrey Beardsley, 1894 plate from Oscar Wilde's Salome photo from The Victorian Web

The Dancer’s Reward
Aubrey Beardsley, 1894
plate from Oscar Wilde’s Salome
photo from The Victorian Web

Wilde and Beardsley had a fraught relationship. For example, Wilde invited Beardsley to illustrate the English edition of his Salome. (Powell owned a first edition (1894).)  Wilde, however, was unhappy with the illustrations, believing that they misrepresented and distracted from his writing.

Beardsley worked in black and white, using block prints. His sensual style, often highlighting the  erotic, influenced Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts movement.  Critics sometimes classed Beardsley as a Decadent; he dressed foppishly, enforcing this reputation, and delighted in the grotesque aspects of his image. Like a character from La Boheme (Puccini, 1896), he died young of tuberculosis.

We regret that our brief does not allow us to digress further to review the geniuses of Kafka and Stevens.

 

 

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Wyndham Lewis’ drawing of Sir Magnus Donners

Matilda kept a drawing of Sir Magnus Donners by Wyndham Lewis “resurrected in her sitting-room.” [HSH 49/50]

We already know that Sir Magnus collected works by British artists who were his contemporaries, like Sickert, Condor, John, and Steer. Percy Wyndham Lewis (1881-1957) was born in Canada but spent much of his artistic life in Britain. Like Sickert and John, he was an early member of the Camden Town Group (1911). Powell and Lewis had friends in common, like Constant Lambert, and Powell particularly admired some of Lewis’ novels, such as Tara (1918); however, they did not meet until the early 1950s. Powell described Lewis from that meeting:

“Big, toothy, awkward in manner, Lewis behaved with an uneasy mixture of nervousness and hauteur. In his white shirt and dark suit he looked like a caricature of an American senator or businessman,…” [TKBR 198]

Workshop Wyndham Lewis, ~1914-15 oil on canvas, 31 x 24 in The Tate Britain, London from Tate Online via Wikimedia Commons ©The estate of Wyndham Lewis and the Estate of Mrs G Wyndham Lewis and the Estate of Mrs G A Wyndham Lewis

Workshop
Wyndham Lewis, ~1914-15
oil on canvas, 31 x 24 in
The Tate Britain, London
from Tate Online via Wikimedia Commons
©The estate of Wyndham Lewis and the Estate of Mrs G Wyndham Lewis and the Estate of Mrs G A Wyndham Lewis

T. S. Eliot
Wyndham Lewis, 1938
Durban Municipal Art Gallery, South Africa
photo from National Portrait Gallery © The Estate of Mrs G.A. Wyndham Lewis: The Wyndham Lewis Memorial Trust,

Lewis founded a style of geometrical abstraction, dubbed Vorticism, a descendant of Cubism and of Futurism, exemplified by Workshop (shown left.) After the First War, his work became more representational, and his portraiture, especially after 1930, gained renown.  In 1932, Sickert called him “the greatest portraitist of this or any other time.” This view, however, was hardly universal. In 1938, the Royal Academy, still in the thrall of the likes of Isbister, rejected Lewis’ portrait of T.S. Eliot for an exhibition; Augustus John resigned from the R.A. in protest.

 

 

Recalling the similarities between Sir Magnus and Lord Beaverbrook, we have looked for a Lewis portrait of Beaverbrook and not found one; Beaverbook was, however, influential in Lewis’ appointment as a Canadian war artist, Lewis’ work hangs in the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.

James Joyce Wyndham Lewis, 1921 National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin photo from National Portrait Gallery © The Estate of Mrs G.A. Wyndham Lewis: The Wyndham Lewis Memorial Trust

James Joyce
Wyndham Lewis, 1921
National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin
photo from National Portrait Gallery
© The Estate of Mrs G.A. Wyndham Lewis: The Wyndham Lewis Memorial Trust

Constant Lambert after (Percy) Wyndham Lewis, 1932 Lithograph, 15 x 11 inches National Portrait Gallery, London © Wyndham Lewis and the estate of the late Mrs G A Wyndham Lewis by kind permission of the Wyndham Lewis Memorial Trust

Constant Lambert
after (Percy) Wyndham Lewis, 1932
Lithograph, 15 x 11 inches
National Portrait Gallery, London
© Wyndham Lewis and the estate of the late Mrs G A Wyndham Lewis; The Wyndham Lewis Memorial Trust

Matilda owned a drawing rather than a painting, so perhaps a better approximation of her the portrait of Sir Magnus would  be Lewis’ drawing of James Joyce. We also show a lithograph by Lewis of Constant Lambert to emphasize the relationships linking Powell and Lewis.

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Isbister paints St John Clarke

A television program celebrating the life of St. John Clarke starts and ends with “St. John Clarke’s portrait (butterfly collar, floppy bow tie) painted by his old friend, Horace Isbister, R.A.” [HSH 39/40 ].

Isbister, whom Powell introduced in QU, has a number of appearances in Dance [The Walpole-Wilson Portraits (BM), Isbister, The British Frans Hals (AW), At the Isbister Memorial Exhibition (AW), Isbister According to St. John Clarke (CCR), and  Outside the Army Council Room (MP)] prior to HSH. Later in HSH, Jenkins mentions a final Isbister portrait, that of Sir Horrocks Rusby in wig and gown, presumably similar to the portrait of Lord Aberavon [HSH 62-3/65]

 

John Galsworthy Sauter, Rudolf Helmut; University of Birmingham; © the copyright holder. Photo credit: University of Birmingham from ArtUK.org

John Galsworthy
Rudolf Helmut Sauter, 1923
oil on canvas
University of Birmingham;
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: University of Birmingham
from ArtUK.org

John Galsworthy is often mentioned as a model for Clarke, so we offer a portrait of Galsworthy, collar, bowtie , and all. Rudolf Sauter’s (1895-1977) biography does not match Isbister’s:  Sauter showed at the Royal Academy but was never elected to membership; he was Galsworthy’s nephew and illustrated the definitive edition of his works.  The portrait is worthy of Isbister, competently flattering the sitter, but leaving the viewer minimally informed and unexcited. Other portraits of Galsworthy  with collar and bowtie, including those by William Strang  R.A. (1859-1921) (lithograph), the caricaturist Sir David Low (1891-1963) (pencil), and various photographers shown at the National Portrait Gallery, do not provide other clues to models for Isbister.

After Jenkins and his friends watched the program, “Members then let off a mild bombshell. He suggested that the friendship with Isbister had been a homosexual one. The contention of Members was that the central figure in an early genre pictures of Isbister’s — Clergyman eating an Apple — was not at all unlike Clarke as a young man, Members advancing the theory that Isbister could have possessed a fetishist taste for male lovers dressed in ecclesiastical costume.” [HSH 40/]

Even with this new clue, we have not been able to find a facsimile of the Clergyman.   Like Jenkins and his friends, we will leave Horace Isbister, R.A.  still a subject for amused speculation.

 

 

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The Statue of Boadicea

Walking near Westminster bridge, Jenkins pauses by the statue of Boadicea to watch the passing vintage cars:

The chariot horses recalled what a squalid part the philosopher Seneca, with his shady horse-dealing, had played in that affair. Below was inscribed the pay-off for the Romans.

Regions Caesar never knew

Thy posterity shall sway. [TK 281/277]

Statue of Boadicea Thomas Thornycroft, executed 1853-1886 , erected 1902 bronze NW end of Westminster Bridge, London photo by Carole Radatto, available in Wikimedia Commons by Creative Commons license

Statue of Boadicea
Thomas Thornycroft, executed 1853-1885 , erected 1902
bronze
NW end of Westminster Bridge, London
photo by Carole Radatto, available in Wikimedia Commons by Creative Commons license

The statue of Boadicea was commisioned by Prince Albert as a tribute to Queen Victoria. The sculptor, Thomas Thornycroft (1815-1885), was known for monuments, including an equestrian statute of Queen Victoria shown at the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851, and memorials to Prince Albert, including the Commerce group on the Albert Memorial.

Boadicea was queen of the Iceni tribe of Britons. Her name means victory, but she failed in her rebellion against the Romans. (For more history, including the role of Seneca in the story, see www.historynet.com.) The inscription at the base, extolling the British empire, is from Boadicea. An Ode. by Thomas Cowper (1731-1800).

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Van Gogh’s Eternity

Jenkins visits Moreland, now terminally ill, in his hospital bed. Moreland recalls a time when Sir Magnus had been erroneously told that he had a year to live. Moreland said, “I now find myself in a stronger position than in those days for vividly imagining what it felt like to be the man in the van Gogh picture, so to speak Donners-on-the-brink-of-Eternity.” [TK 275/271]

Sorrowing Old Man (At Eternity's Gate) Vincent Van Gogh, 1890 oil on canvas, 32 x 26 in Kroller-Muller Museum photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commns

Sorrowing Old Man (At Eternity’s Gate)
Vincent Van Gogh, 1890
oil on canvas, 32 x 26 in
Kroller-Muller Museum
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commns

Van Gogh painted At Eternity’s Gate in May, 1890, just as he was recovering from a two month illness, caused by or at least accompanied by severe depression, and two months before his apparent suicide.

Worn Out Vincent Van Gogh, 1880 pencil on watercolor paper, 20 x 12 in Van Gogh Museum, Amdsterdam photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Worn Out
Vincent Van Gogh, 1882
pencil on watercolor paper, 20 x 12 in
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Old Man with His Head in His Hands Vincent Van Gogh, 1882 ransfer lithography, printed in black ink, crayon, brush and autographic ink, 22 x 15 in The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (and elsewhere) photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Old Man with His Head in His Hands
Vincent Van Gogh, 1882
transfer lithography, printed in black ink, crayon, brush and autographic ink, 22 x 15 in
The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (and elsewhere)
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Moreland, nearing death, was looking back to others’ response to our universal mortality and thinking how the approach of death changed the view. Van Gogh was also looking back, referencing his own earlier works, which started as a pencil drawing of a resident of an almshouse and evolved to a lithograph. At the lower left of the lithograph, reportedly in Van Gogh’s own hand, is the inscription “At Eternity’s Gate.”

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Mrs. Erdleigh compared to a Whistlerian Nocturne

Jenkins describes Mrs. Erdleigh in her old age: “Lighter than air, disembodied from a material  world, the swirl of capes, hoods, stoles, scarves, veils, as usual encompassed her from head to foot, all seeming of so light a texture that, far from bringing an impression of accretion, their blurring of hard outlines produced a positively spectral effect, a Whistlerian nocturne in portraiture, sage greens, somber blues, almost frivolous greys, sprinkled with gold.” (TK 246/241)

"Harmony

Nocturne in Pink and Gray. (Portrait of Lady Meux.)
James McNeill Whistler, 1881
oil on canvas, 76 x 37 in
The Frick Collection, New York
photo in public domain from the Yorck Project via Wikimedia Commons

The harmonious colors of Whistler’s portraits could be wonderful. We have seen the Portrait of Lady Meux, (shown left) alternatively titled as a Harmony or as a Nocturne. It is only one of many of Whistler’s sumptuous portraits of Victorian women that evoke Mrs. Erdleigh’s other- worldly elegance and, as far as we know, the only one sometimes called a Nocturne.

Mrs. Erdleigh always has dimensions beyond the mere corporeal; in this description of a disembodied Mrs. Erdleigh nearing the end of her life, Jenkins is also recalling the almost abstract quality of Whistler’s nightscapes. About 1871,  he began to paint scenes of the Thames, which he called Nocturnes, works with veiled light and carefully blended muted colors, set at dusk or in the night; see Nocturne: Blue and Silver – Chelsea 1871, now in the Tate.  (American Paintings in the Detroit Institute of Arts Vol. 3).  Whistler took the name  from the music of Chopin, according to a note he wrote in 1872 to Frederick Leyland, a Chopin devotee:

“I say I can’t thank you too much for the name ‘Nocturne’ as a title for my moonlights! You have no idea what an irritation it proves to the critics and consequent pleasure to me—besides it is really so charming and does so poetically say all that I want to say and no more than I wish.”

The chief among those critics was Ruskin, who wrote that with Nocturne in Black and  Gold (shown below) Whistler was “flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face.”   Whistler sued Ruskin for libel and won the suit but was awarded a trivial damage payment, much less than his share of the court costs. Later Whistler got more substantial satisfaction, selling the picture for 800 guineas.

Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket James McNeill Whistler, 1875 oil on panel The Detroit Institute of Art photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket
James McNeill Whistler, 1875
oil on panel
The Detroit Institute of Art
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

In additon to Nocturne, Whistler often used other musical terms, like Symphony or Harmony, to title his paintings. We recall Jenkin’s description of Pamela Fitton’s crimson and peacock blue blouse  contrasting with Tiepolo’s colors with “dissonance as much as harmony” [TK 88] and wonder if Powell was thinking of Whistler when he wrote this description. Of course, harmony has shades of meaning, which Powell explores in the last volumes of Dance.

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