Tokenhouse I: Before the Second War

Chapter three of TK finds Jenkins visiting Daniel Tokenhouse, his former employer in publishing, now an expatriate in Venice, devoting himself to art.  “The Camden Town Group had been wholly superceded, utterly swept away, so far as the art of Daniel Tokenhouse was concerned.” [TK 128/121]

Thomas Balston Gertler, 1921 oil on canvas, 20 x 16 in Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology, Oxford

Thomas Balston
Mark Gertler, 1921
oil on canvas, 20 x 16 in
Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology, Oxford

Daniel Tokenhouse’s life prior to the Second War is based strongly to the life of Thomas Balston (1883-1967), a friend of Powell’s father since their days together at Sandhurst and Powell’s employer at Gerald Duckworth & Co. [”Maisky” Compare the Markists. 1. Daniel Tokenhouse, Anthony Powell Society Newsletter #57, Winter, 2014] . Powell mentions Balston frequently in TKBR but does not introduce his alter ego Tokenhouse into Dance until TK, published after Balston’s death. When Jenkins visits Tokenhouse in Venice, he still has some of the military bearing that we see in the portrait of Balston at left, painted when he was more than 30 years younger: “His body seemed made of gristle rather than flesh … He peered alertly, rather peevishly through gold rimmed spectacles set well forward on a long redish nose. An all enveloping chilliness of manner hung about him …” [TK 127/120].  Like Tokenhouse, Balston was an amateur painter, who retired from publishing in the 1930s to paint full time, including landscapes. [TK 62-63/56] Their histories diverged at the start of the war years, when Balston rejoined the army, whereas, Tokenhouse spent the early years of the war as a patient in a psychiatric clinic.

The Reservoir Thomas Balston, 1938 The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-reservoir-141655

The Reservoir
Thomas Balston, 1938
The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-reservoir-141655

The Camden Town Group was a group of 16 artists, including Lucien Pisarro, Augustus John, Spencer Gore, Robert Bevan, Harold Gilman, and Malcolm Drummond, who coalesced about 1911 around Walter Sickert. They were bound more by friendship and physical proximity than by a unifying style; some Camden Town landscapes showed a Post Impressionist pastel version of realistic scenes that might have influenced Balston and Tokenhouse.

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