One of Goya’s Sad Duchesses

After many years in South America, Jean Duport reappears in London at the centenary exhibition of Mr. Deacon’s paintings.  As she enters the gallery, Henderson remarks of Jean, “She looks like one of those sad Goya duchesses.”  Later, Jenkins reflects, “Henderson was right about Jean.  The metamorphosis, begun when the late Colonel Flores had been his country’s military attaché in London at the end of the war, was complete.  She was now altogether transformed into a foreign lady of distinction.” [HSH 233/252]

This is to be Nick’s last glimpse of Jean Duport, whose austere beauty and sexual fascination have long haunted him.  We first spied Jean in Question of Upbringing, when her mystery combined the appeal of a virginal saint and mysterious temptress [QU /75].  In Buyers’ Market Jean’s looks were compared to those of Rubens’ first and second wives,  at once shy and alluring and confident and voluptuous [BM 226/216].  Then, in Acceptance World, the Romanticism of Delacroix’s hookah-smoking harem woman was invoked to add a note of exoticism to Jean’s allure [AW /58].  Later in Acceptance World Nick returns to the theme of medieval austerity to describe Jean’s beauty: “Her forehead, high and white, gave a withdrawn look, like a lady in a mediaeval triptych or carving … ”  [AW 141/].  Here we could not help but be reminded of the Rogier van der Weyden (Netherlandish 1399-1464) portrait of a lady in the National Gallery in Washington D.C.

Portrait of a Lady Rogier van der Weyden, ~1460 oil on panel, 13 x 10 in National Gallery of Art, Washington photo in public domain for Google Art Project via Wikimedia Commons

Portrait of a Lady
Rogier van der Weyden, ~1460
oil on panel, 13 x 10 in
National Gallery of Art, Washington
photo in public domain from the Google Art Project via Wikimedia Commons

For the carved version of the medieval lady, we propose the Mary Magdalene shown below, which may have originally stood in the Church of the Dominicans in Augsburg, Germany. Jenkins returns to Jean as a medieval image when he learns that she slept with Jimmy Brent during his own affair with her. “I thought of that grave gothic beauty that I had once loved so much, …. I thought her men are gothic too, being carved on the niches and corbels of a mediaeval cathedral….” [KO  183] We envision Mary Magdalene, dancing on a corbel above gargoyles who caricature the three unhappy lovers — Stripling, Jenkins, and Brent.

Sainte Mary Magdalene Gregor Erhart, 1515-1520 lime tree wood, polychrome, 71 x 18 x 17 in Louvre Museum c Musee de Louvre, 2011, Thierry Ollivier

Saint Mary Magdalene
Gregor Erhart, 1515-1520
lime tree wood, polychrome, 71 x 18 x 17 in
Louvre Museum
© Musée de Louvre, 2011, Thierry Ollivier

Devils drag a sinner off to hell. Corbel at Notre Dame cathedral,Noyon, France photo from London Stone Carving on Twitter @londoncarving

Devils drag a sinner off to hell. Corbel at Notre Dame cathedral,Noyon, France
photo from London Stone Carving
on Twitter
@londoncarving

 

 

This is also our final recourse to Francisco Goya (Spanish 1746-1828), whose multi-faceted career we have considered twice earlier in Dance: in Buyers’s Market as a painter of a scandalous nude, and in Cassanova’s Chinese Restaurant as a Romantic chonicler of the life of the peasantry.  There is also the Goya of the Spanish royal court, official painter of its noble family, the Goya who became a scathing political and social satirist, and finally a misanthrope of overwhelming visual rage.  But long before the tragic final act of Goya’s career, he maintained a thriving practice as a portraitist to an aristocratic clientele that valued his special gifts in that genre.  Those gifts included a delightful delicacy of touch and facility with likeness, but the flattery of his portraits consisted not so much in the prettifying of his subjects as in his ability to suggest a sympathy for their simple humanity, regardless of their wealth and station.

goya_alba2

The Duchess of Alba
Francisco Goya, 1797
oil on canvas, 83 x 59 in
Hispanic Society of America
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

We show Goya’s 1797 portrait of the Duchess of Alba dressed in black, often called The Black Duchess, as an example of one of his “sad duchesses.”  Powell’s allusion to Goya here is especially appropriate to Nick’s regard for Jean, as, historically, rumors have circulated that Goya’s regard for the duchess was romantic, even if research suggests an unrequited love, at most.  Though still in the prime of her maturity, the duchess mourns the loss of her husband, just as Jean Duport has lost her Colonel Flores.  Still, Goya’s duchess betrays less sadness than a kind of bewildered isolation, and an indignant refusal to accept her condition.  As from the start, Nick’s fascination with Jean Duport lies not in any conventional beauty but in something else that she is for him, now described as “a foreign lady of distinction.”

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

Quote | Posted on by | Leave a comment

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.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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 addition 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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Landscapes at the Soviet Embassy

Jenkins describes the dining room of the Soviet embassy: “Here again was a faint sense of austerity, an impression of off-white walls sparsely decorated with pictures, landscapes light in tone — the steppe —  birch tress — sunset on the snow — nothing in the least reminiscent of Tokenhouse  and his school ” [TK 221/~215]

Russian landscape painting evolved in the nineteenth century, influenced by European landscape traditions exemplified by Corot and other painters of the Barbizon school.

Sunset on the Steppe Arkhip Ivanovich Kuindzhi, 1900 photo © Romuald Le Peru, available by Creative Commons License

Steppe
Arkhip Ivanovich Kuindzhi, 1890-1895
oil on canvas, 33 x 61
The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
photo © Romuald Le Peru, available by Creative Commons License

Arkhip Ivanovich Kuindzi (1842-1910) showed the vastness of the steppe in a number of canvases that catch the play of light across the land.

mart_levitan

March
Isaac Levitan, 1895
oil on canvas
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons (see website for details of copyright dispute)

There is no shortage of snow or birch trees in the portfolio of Isaac Levitan (1860-1900), another master of Russian landscape painting.

Birch Grove Alexey Gritsay oil on canvas, 36 x 24 in photo from artlib.ru

Birch Grove
Aleksei Mikhailovich Gritsai
oil on canvas, 36 x 24 in
photo from artlib.ru

Soviet era landscape painting at times included Socialist Realist themes, glorifying agricultural workers or war heroes; however, scenes showing love of the Motherland were allowed by authorities, so painters like Aleksei Mikhailovich Gritsai (1914-1998) could paint birches without political overtones, scenes not “reminiscent of Tokenhouse and his school.”  Gritsai was one of the artists shown at the Soviet pavilion at the 1958 Biennale (Italian transliteration Alessio Grizai); among his honors were two Stalin prizes and election to the USSR Academy of Arts.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment