A Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II

When Jenkins first visited Stourwater in the late 1920s, a portrait by Hans Holbein, famous for his portrait of King Henry VIII, hung in the long gallery. Now, when Jenkins returns to Stourwater for his nephew’s wedding in early 1971, he leaves the reception for a nostalgic wander around the castle. The tapestries of the seven deadly sins are gone and over the “fine chimneypiece, decorated with nymphs and satyrs – no doubt installed by Sir Magnus to harmonize with the tapestries” (HSH 191 [206]) is a copy of a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by Annigoni.

Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Regent Pietro Annigoni, 1955 Tempera, oil and ink on paper Fishmongers' H' copyright The Fishmonger's Co. photo from Wikimedia Commons

Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Regent
Pietro Annigoni, 1955
Tempera, oil and ink on paper
The Fishmongers’ Hall. London
Copyright The Fishmonger’s Co.
photo from Wikipedia.org

Her Majesty in Robes of the British Empire Pietro Annigoni, 1969 Tempera grassa on paper on panel. 79 x 71 in. National Portrait Gallery, London. Copyright, The National Portrait Gallery photo from Wikimedia Commons

Her Majesty in Robes of the British Empire
Pietro Annigoni, 1969
Tempera grassa on paper on panel. 79 x 71 in.
National Portrait Gallery, London.
Copyright The National Portrait Gallery
photo from Wikipedia.org

Pietro Annigoni (Italian,1910-1988) already had a successful career when he was commissioned by the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers to paint the Queen’s portrait in 1955.  The idealized portrait of the young monarch was immensely popular. When it was displayed at the National Portrait Gallery in London the crowds were ten deep.   The National Portrait Gallery commissioned Annigoni to do another portrait of the Queen Elizabeth in 1969.

After his 1955 portrait of Elizabeth, Annigoni was much in demand as a painter of the powerful — the Shah of Iran, Pope John XXIII,  Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson; however, Annigoni was not always in agreement with the establishment. In 1970 he turned to graffiti, writings MURDERERS on the front of the National Gallery, to protest practices of painting restoration that he viewed as desecration.

We have not been able to find a facsimile of the chimneypiece, even though an apparently similar one was sold at auction by Christies in 1905. There are many portraits of Elizabeth that the new owners of Stourwater might have chosen to display over that mantel.  We do not know if they chose the 1955 Annigoni, a thoughtful young monarch in a sylvan setting, or the 1969 version, gloomier and less popular. We would have preferred the lively Elizabeth of Gerhard Richter (1969). (The intense Elizabeth of Lucien Freud (2001) had not yet been painted.)  In 1971, the satyrs and nymphs were still by the fireplace, but the sexual energy that Sir Magnus had brought to Stourwater was gone; the extravagant art was replaced with a reproduction, bland and official.

 

 

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The Omnipresent recalled: on the precipice

Jenkins encounters Widmerpool “more or less entangled” with Murtlock’s cult. “The spectacle of him wearing a blue robe was nevertheless a startling one. … The image immediately brought to mind was one not thought of for years; the picture, reproduced in colour, that used to hang in the flat Widmerpool shared with his mother in his early London days. It had been called The Omnipresent. Three blue robed figures respectively knelt, stood with bowed head, gazed heavenward with extended hands, all poised on the brink of a precipice. “ [HSH 197/213]

“It was a long time ago. I may have remembered it incorrectly. Nevertheless, it was these figures Widmerpool conjured up, as he advanced towards me.”

The Omnipresent Baron Arild Rosencrantz print, 25 x 18 in offer on Denver Craig's list, January, 2017

The Omnipresent
Baron Arild Rosencrantz
print, 25 x 18 in
offered on Denver Craig’s list, January, 2017

Of course, Jenkins describes the picture correctly, even though he had but glanced at the reproduction in the late 1920s. (Baron Arild Rosenkrantz had exhibited the original at the Royal Academy in 1907.  The coloring of the reproduction that we show above suggests that it may have been from a run of half-tone prints made in 1932.)

The key words here are  ‘conjured’ and ‘precipice.’ ‘Conjured’ because Murtlock’s cult is the culmination of magical, religious, and spiritual themes that haunt Dance from early in AW, first when Mrs. Erdleigh tells fortunes for Nick and his Uncle Giles, and subsequently in Dr. Trewalney’s and Mrs Erdleigh’s recurrent appearances. Powell recounts this spiritualism with barely suppressed amusement and shows that during the decades of the Dance, many cultured Britons dabbled in esotoric philosophies like Theosophy. For example, General Conyers, well connected to the Establishment, had interests ranging from psychoanalysis to the occult ideas of Dr. Trewalney. Rosenkrantz was a devotee of Rudolf Steiner, who developed Anthrosophy as an alternative to Theosophy.

The only previous mention of this picture is at the end of BM, when Nick glances it briefly in Widmerpool’s flat. Now, in retrospect, that glance could be read as foreshadowing the importance of the occult in the novel, just as the ‘precipice’ now foreshadows Widmerpool’s dramatic final scenes.

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Tree trunks from an Arthur Rackham illustration

Near the Devil’s Fingers, Jenkins sees;

“The elder thicket was flowering, blossom like hoar frost, a faint sprinkling of browonish red, powdered over the green and white ivy-strangled tree-trunks, gnarled and twisted, as in an Arthur Rackham goblin-haunted illustration.” [HSH 150/ 161]

Illustration from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Arthur Rachham, 1928 photo from Laura Massey The Golden Age of Illustration: Arthur Rackham

Colored plate from
Washington Irving The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Arthur Rackham, illustrator, 1928
Geroge G. Harrap, publisher, London
photo from Laura Massey The Golden Age of Illustration: Arthur Rackham

 

Arthur Rackham (1867- 1939) was the preeminent children’s book illustrator of the early twentieth century.  Like Beardsley, he began his career as an insurance clerk. One of the first books he illustrated was The Ingoldsby Legends (1898).  He was a master of gnarled tree trunks, often inhabited  by little people; we show just a couple of many possible examples.

Illustration from Midsummer Night's Dream Arthur Rackham, 1908 photo from peterharrington.co.uk

Illustration from Midsummer Night’s Dream
Arthur Rackham, 1908
photo from Laura Massey The Golden Age of Illustration: Arthur Rackham

The list of classic works that Rackham illustrated is long, including Fairy Tales of the Brothers GrimmPeter Pan in Kensington GardensWind in the Willows, and Alice in Wonderland, among many others.

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Adams or Addams

Dr. Brightman analyzes Russell Gwinett for Jenkins:

Brightman: “He is a small fragment detached from the extensive and cavernous grottoes of gothic America. He is part of an Old America — the oldest — yet has become in some respects the New America. I hardly know how to put it.”

Jenkins: “Halfway between Henry Adams and Charles Addams.”

Brightman: “Not bad. In fact alpha plus, insomuch as Henry Adams says that true eccentricity is in a tone …  [TK 53/48-49]

Edgar Allan Poe had writer's block once Charles Addams

Edgar Allan Poe had writer’s block once
Charles Addams

Charles Addams cartoon from Pinterest

“Occasionally”
Charles Addams
cartoon from Pinterest

Charles Addams was one of Powell’s favorite cartoonists, according to Powell’s wife Lady Violet. Addams was born in New Jersey in 1912; he began publishing cartoons in the New Yorker in 1935 and published over 1300 cartoons in his life time.

When he died, the New York Times obituary headline was “ Charles Addams Dead at 76; Found Humor in the Macabre.” Whether his personality was as strange as his sense of humor was a frequent subject of debate.

We show a couple Addams’ tributes to Edgar Allan Poe because Dr. Brightman says about Gwinett: “If there is a superfluity of Edgar Allan Poe brought up to date, there is also a touch of Edwin Arlington Robinson.” (We have so far not established the original publication sights or copyright status of these cartoons, so please click the thumbnails if you want to see more detail)

[This post is out of chronological order and will be placed in order on the Temporary Kings page.]

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Valedictory

“The smell from my bonfire, its smoke perhaps fusing with one of the quarry’s metallic odours drifting down through the silvery fog, now brought back that of the workmen’s bucket of glowing coke, burning outside their shelter.” [HSH 251/271]  Powell’s magisterial and melancholy conclusion to Hearing Secret Harmonies, and the entire Dance, returns us to Powell’s beloved Nicolas Poussin, whose painting was evoked by the workmen’s bucket of glowing coke on the first page of A Question of Upbringing.

A Dance to the Music of Time Nicolas Poussin, 1634-1636 oil on canvas, 33 x 42 in The Wallace Collection, London photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

A Dance to the Music of Time
Nicolas Poussin, 1634-1636
oil on canvas, 33 x 42 in
The Wallace Collection, London
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

The very structure of Dance has echoed Poussin’s vision of the endless round of men’s fortunes, and brings to Nick’s mind “one of Robert Burton’s torrential passages from The Anatomy of Melancholy.”  It is that litany of calamities that beset the lives of men, plus Powell’s reversion to the cadence of classicism, that encourage us to think of another of Poussin’s paintings as a valedictory image, even though it is not mentioned by Jenkins.  Much later in his life than  A Dance to the Music of Time, Poussin undertook a series of four canvases, now in the Louvre, to depict the seasons individually. Spring, Summer and even Autumn are filled with promises of plenty, but Winter (c.1660-4) is a vision of devastation and despair.

Winter (also called The Flood) Nicolas Poussin, ~1660-1664 oil on canvas, 47 x 63 in The Louvre color adjusted photo public domain from the Yorck Project via Wikimedia Commons

Winter (also called The Flood)
Nicolas Poussin, ~1660-1664
oil on canvas, 47 x 63 in
The Louvre
color adjusted photo public domain from the Yorck Project via Wikimedia Commons

Though the decades of Nick’s witness are filled with comic moments, it is the spirit of Burton’s melancholy that remains: “The thudding sound from the quarry had declined now to no more than a gentle reverberation, infinitely remote. It ceased altogether at the long drawn wail of a hooter—the distant pounding of centaurs’ hoofs dying away, as the last note of their conch trumpeted out over hyperborean seas. Even the formal measure of the Seasons seemed suspended in the wintry silence.”

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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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