V. Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant

Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant (CCR) is set mostly in 1936 but starts by jumping ahead to a time after World War II with Jenkins looking at the rubble of the bombed out pub the Mortimer and remembering the late 1920s when he first frequented the pub with Hugh Moreland.

Hugh Moreland in the Mortimer Mark Boxer Cover for Powell  Casanova's Chinese Restaurant, Flamingo edition, 1984

Hugh Moreland in the Mortimer
Mark Boxer
Cover for Powell Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant, Flamingo edition, 1984

Moreland is based on Powell’s close friend, the composer Constant Lambert. Like Moreland, “Lambert loved discussing painters, Böcklin to Braque, Breughel to Brangwyn,…” [TKBR 147]. Powell wrote: “If I have been skillful enough to pass on any echo of Lambert’s incomparable wit, then Moreland is like him;” [TKBR 148] However, Powell also says that although Moreland and Lambert share Bronzino-like features, they are far from identical. We recommend the essay “A Dance to the Music of Time: Anthony Powell, Hugh Moreland and Constant Lambert” (Steven Lloyd  Constant Lambert: Beyond the  Rio Grande, Appendix 9) for its discussion of the parallels between the relationship of Moreland and Jenkins and that of Lambert and Powell and for its examples of how Powell uses music in CCR to honor Lambert’s memory.

Legat Caricatures

Jenkins describes Moreland’s apartment: “The walls were hung with framed caricatures of dancers in Diaghilev’s early ballets, coloured pictures drawn by the Legat brothers, found by Moreland in a portfolio outside a second-hand book shop; Pavlova, Karsavina; Folkine; others, too whom I have forgotten.” [CCR 11/5]

The Legat brothers, ballet master Νikolaĭ Gustavovich Legat ( 1869-1937) and dancer Sergieĭ Gustavovich Legat (1875-1905) , were with the Marinsky ballet in St. Petersburg when they published Russian Ballet in Caricatures, a set of 93 drawings, about 1903.

Anna Pavlova caricature by Nicolai and Sergei Legat, 1902-1905

Tamara Karsavina Caricature by Nikolai and Sergei Legat, 1902-1905

Tamara Karsavina
Caricature by Nikolai and Sergei Legat, 1902-1905

 

Fokine Legat

Michael Fokine Caricature by Nikolai and Sergei Legat, 1902-1905

We recall two earlier references to Russian ballet in Dance:  Lady Molly’s uninterest in Russian Ballet [ALM 158] referred to the  Ballets Russes founded by Serge Diaghilev in 1909. Nicolai Legat joined Diaghilev in Paris. The music, costumes, choreography, and stars of the Ballets Russes were another facet of the contribution of the Paris School to Modernism. Fokine not only danced but was the first of many famous choreographers encouraged by Diaghilev. Pavlova and Karsavina were among the best known ballerinas. Today, Pavlova’s name is enshrined in a dessert of meringue topped with fruit that was developed in New Zealand or Australia after she starred there with the Ballets Russes in 1926.  The white meringue was meant to evoke the skirt of Pavlova’s tutu and the topping, a melange of brightly colored fruit, was worthy of a Ballets Russes costume by Bakst, whom Jenkins imagined as clothier of Victor Emanuel II, when he saw the king’s portrait hanging in Foppa’s club [AW 152/145].

Truth Unveiled by Time

At the Mortimer, Mr. Deacon tells Nick, “I have come to this gin palace primarily to inspect an object of virtu — a classical group in some unspecified material, to be precise.  I shall buy it, if its beauty satisfies me.  Truth Unveiled by Time —in the Villa Borghese, you remember.  I must say in the original marble Bernini has made the wench look as unpalatable as the heartless equality she represents.” [CCR 18/13]

Mr. Deacon has come to buy a small reproduction of an apparently unfinished masterpiece by the architect, sculptor, and painter Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680).  Born in Naples but known for his work in Rome, Bernini achieved the patronage of Popes Urban VII, Urban X, and Alexander  VII, for whom he served as principle designer of St. Peter’s Basilica and Piazza San Pietro.  Almost equally admired are his sculptures of The Four Rivers in Piazza Navona and the The Ecstacy of Saint Teresa, as well as countless other sculptural groups, church facades, and altarpieces that have come to define the Baroque character of the Eternal City.

Bernini’s Truth Unveiled by Time is embodied by a nude female figure holding the sun in her hand, confident and beautiful, Mr. Deacon’s misogynistic wisecrack notwithstanding.  The radiantly naked Truth has just shed drapery that appears to be leaving her body by virtue of an unseen hand, presumably that of Time.  The group is traditionally judged to be unfinished because of Time’s absence; Bernini is said to have wanted to add it to the grouping, but Time seems to have got to Bernini as well, as he never managed to complete his plan.

Truth Unveiled by Time Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1645-1652 Galleria Borghese, Rome photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Truth Unveiled by Time
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1645-1652
Galleria Borghese, Rome
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

The motif of Bernini’s sculpture is said to be his response to allegations of malfeasance that dogged his reputation after a dangerously faulty bell tower at Saint Peter’s Basilica had to be taken down.  In fact, Bernini had inherited a flawed design for the bell tower and was forced to persist with it as a result of papal ignorance, politics, vanity and indifference.  Though acclaim for Bernini’s work trumped these assaults upon his reputation they never were forgotten, and he went to his grave convinced that eventually his Truth would be unveiled by Time.

Self-Portrain Gian Lorenzo Bernini, ~1635 black and red chalk, heightened with white chalk, 11 x 9 in The Ashmoean Museum, Oxford photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Self-Portrain
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, ~1635
black and red chalk, heightened with white chalk, 11 x 9 in
The Ashmoean Museum, Oxford
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Bernini’s prodigy as an architect and sculptor sometimes eclipse his reputation as a painter and draughtsman, but this self-portrait drawing from 1625 reveals something of his brilliance in these fields as well.

Mr. Deacon is considering buying a small replica of Bernini’s work, fashioned perhaps from plaster or carved alabaster to feed the art-loving tourist trade.  Judging from what we find for sale online, today’s art-lovers must settle for a digital printout of a photograph of Bernini’s sublime marble sculpture.  In either case, the pitiful degradation of the experience of Bernini’s original masterpiece in its many commercial avatars would surely be considered by the artist to be a case of Truth Obscured by Time.

 

 

Bronzino’s Folly

On first meeting Hugh Moreland, Nick describes his physical appearance:  “Moreland, like myself, was then in his early twenties.  He was formed physically in a ‘musical’ mold, classical in type, with a massive, Beethoven-shaped head, high forehead, temples swelling outwards, eyes and nose somehow bunched together in a way to make him glare at times like a High Court judge about to pass sentence.  On the other hand, his short, dark, curly hair recalled a dissipated cherub, a less aggressive, more intellectual version of Folly in Bronzino’s picture, rubicund and mischievous, as he threatens with a fusillade of rose petals the embrace of Venus and Cupid, while Time in the background, whiskered like the Emperor Franz-Josef, looms behind a blue curtain as if evasively vacating the bathroom.” [CCR 21/16]

Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time Agnolo Bronzino ~1545 oil on wood 57 x 46 in National Gallery,  London photo public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time
Agnolo Bronzino ~1545
oil on wood 57 x 46 in
National Gallery, London
photo public domain from Wikimedia Commons

The painting in question is commonly known as Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time and its painter, Agnolo di Cosimo, is commonly known as Il Bronzino.  Powell’s explication of its narrative content is certainly the funniest, but only one of hundreds lavished upon this engaging and enigmatic painting in the National Gallery of London.  Bronzino (1503-1572) was a Florentine painter, the protege of and later collaborator with Pontormo, and a disciple of Michelangelo.  Bronzino is virtually the paragon of Italian Mannerism, a term used to characterize the evolution of High Renaissance naturalism into a visual language of distortion in the service of expression.  Michelangelo is sometimes described as a Mannerist, but his distortions generate deep wells of genuine feeling in his works.  Bronzino, by contrast, exhibits a technical mastery of illusionism that perhaps has never been equalled, but his glorious surfaces always remain just surfaces.  His Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time has some narration or other about it, but the impression it leaves is that of Bronzino having fun with flesh.  Powell’s droll remark about Time vacating the bathroom calls our attention to Bronzino’s exquisite, vacant genius.

Constant Lambert as a Christ's Hospital Schoolboy George Washington Lambert, 1916 oil on canvas 50 x 37 in Christ's Hospital Foundation photo copyright Christ's Hospital Foundation from BBC Your Paintings

Constant Lambert as a Christ’s Hospital Schoolboy
George Washington Lambert, 1916
oil on canvas 50 x 37 in
Christ’s Hospital Foundation
photo copyright Christ’s Hospital Foundation from BBC Your Paintings

In TKBR Powell gives more evidence of the similarities between his friend Constant Lambert and Hugh Moreland. Powell writes that the painter George Washington Lambert, Constant’s father, was a great admirer of Bronzino and painting his son at age 11, “managed to impose a distinctly Bronzino type of looks…” [TKBR 144-145]

 

 

 

 

Caricatures of Thackery or President Thiers

Mingling with the artsy drinkers at the Mortimer, Jenkins describes Maclintick, whose “calculatedly humdrum appearance, although shabby, seemed aimed at concealing bohemian affiliations. The minute circular lens of his gold-rimmed spectacles, set across the nose of a pug dog, made one think of caricatures of Thackery or President Thiers, imposing upon him the air of a bad-tempered doctor. ”  [CCR 22/14]

 

Caricature of William Makepeace Thackeray and Charles Dickens Alfred Bryan (1852-1899) Charcoal and colored chalks, on blue paper, now faded, mounted on cardboard. 21 3/4 x 14 13/16 in The Morgan Library, New York

Caricature of William Makepeace Thackeray and Charles Dickens
Alfred Bryan (1852-1899)
Charcoal and colored chalks, on blue paper, now faded, mounted on cardboard.
21 3/4 x 14 13/16 in
The Morgan Library, New York

President Thiers Newpaper cover Le Fils  du Pere Duchene Illustre May 3, 1871 from Wikimedia Commons

President Thiers
Newpaper cover
Fils du Père Duchêne Illustré, May 3, 1871
from Wikimedia Commons

Here Maclintick’s bohemianism is contrasted with two establishment figures. Adolphe Thiers ruled France as Prime Minister in 1836, 1840, and 1848 and then as Head of State during the Commune in 1871-3. In this caricature he is shown in an unflattering light, mounted on a snail on his way to Paris, a city in the midst of revolt. The caricature of the great novelists, Thackery and Dickens, contrasts Thackery wearing a top hat, befitting his public school and Cambridge education, to Dickens in a bowler, the hat of the common man.

Moreland and Barnby talk Art

About 1928,  Huge Moreland and Ralph Barnby talk about art when they meet at the Mortimer [CCR 30-31].  Moreland said of Barnby: “I can see Ralph has talent…but why use combinations of colour that make you think he is a Frenchman or Catalan?”

Susan Adrian Daintrey oil on canvas, 22 x 19 in given to the Leeds Art Gallery by Sir J Duveen, 1927 © the artist's estate photo credit: Leeds Museums and Galleries from BBC Your Paintings

Susan
Adrian Daintrey
oil on canvas, 22 x 19 in
given to the Leeds Art Gallery by Sir J Duveen, 1927
© the artist’s estate
photo credit: Leeds Museums and Galleries
from BBC Your Paintings

We have already mentioned that many of Barnby’s characteristics are similar to those of another good friend of Powell, Adrian Daintrey (1902-1988). Daintrey’s first major exhibition was in 1928. His modern heroes were Utrillo, Manet, Derain, and Matisse. As this portrait Susan shows, he did not hesitate to use bright colors.

We are guessing that Moreland was thinking of the Frenchman Matisse and the Catalan Miro. When Moreland chides Barnby about his colors, he may be echoing Lambert’s anger about Miro, who was asked to paint the sets for a ballet that Lambert was writing, while Lambert favored his friend Chistopher Wood for the job. [TKBR 146-147]

Miro

Illustration for Cavall Fort, a children’s magazine in Catalan, Joan Miro, photo by Mireia Tremoleda [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Woman with a Hat Henri Matisse, 1905 oil on canvas, 31 x 24 in San Francisco Museum of Art,  ©Succession H. Matisse, Paris / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.[1] photo from Wikipedia.org, public domain in US

Woman with a Hat
Henri Matisse, 1905
oil on canvas, 31 x 24 in
San Francisco Museum of Art, ©Succession H. Matisse, Paris / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.
photo from Wikipedia.org, public domain in US

Joan Miro (1893-1983) was born in Barcelona, the capital of the Catalan region of Spain, and maintained close ties with his native city. His work is noted for its bright colors, whether in his Fauvist or Surrealist phases or in his more realistic work. In Masaccio to Matisse, we did not show a colorful piece, so to the right is a portrait that illustrates Matisse’s  use of color. Miro and Matisse, as colorists, can be seen as descendants of Van Gogh and Cézanne and ancestors of the Color Field style of abstraction that developed, mostly in the US, in the 1950’s.

Barnby sits down and says he has just been to see ‘the London group;’ he and Moreland proceed to discuss English and, later, Parisian painting.

Rupert Doone (1903–1923), Dancer Nina Hamnett, 1922-1923 oil on canvas, 18 x 12 in Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery © the artist's estate / Bridgeman Images photo credit: Doncaster Museum Service from BBC Your Paintings

Rupert Doone , Dancer
Nina Hamnett, 1922-1923
oil on canvas, 18 x 12 in
Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery
© the artist’s estate / Bridgeman Images
photo credit: Doncaster Museum Service from BBC Your Paintings

The London Group was organized in 1913 by artists, such as the Camden Town Group and the English Cubists, who rebelled against the Royal Academy. The organization is now over a century old, with a constitution and officers, and continues to encourage and exhibit young artists. In their early years, they were champions of Post-Impressionism in Britain. In April and May, 1928 they presented The London Group Retrospective Exhibition at the New Burlington Galleries. A few copies of the exhibit catalog, written by Roger Fry and others, still exist. A number of the London Group artists who showed in that exhibition, such as  Epstein, Sickert, Lewis, and John, are mentioned in Dance and have appeared or will appear elsewhere in our blog.

Nina Hamnett showed a Head of Rupert Doone in the London Group Retrospective of 1928. We have chosen to show her work as an example of what Barnby saw because she also did a portrait of Powell and introduced him to her next door neighbor, Adrain Daintrey (TKBR 137).  The details of her bohemian adventures in the artistic milieus of Paris and London are beyond our scope but are accessible in her memoir Laughing Torso (1932).

 

Frescoes at Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant after Watteau

Moreland is explaining the name of Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant:  “There used to be the New Casanova . . . where the cooking was Italian and the decoration French eighteenth century —some way, some considerable way, after Watteau.  Further up the street was . . .Sam’s Chinese Restaurant.  The New Casanova went into liquidation.  Sam’s bought it up . . . so now you can eat eight treasure rice . . . under panels depicting scenes from the career of the Great Lover.” [CCR 32/28]

Of course, the Great Lover whom Moreland mentions is Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798), the Venetian-born adventurer and womanizer whose name is now an eponym for an irresistible, if unreliable, lover.  Casanova’s amorous schemes and intrigues brought him entree to the courts of aristocrats across Europe.  His twelve-volume memoir in French is a prime first-person account of the mores of his time, at least among certain of the higher social strata.

The decorations at the New Casanova in the style of Watteau seem fitting, for though Casanova was born a Venetian, many of his exploits took place in the salons of patrician Paris.  Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721), though he died before Casanova was born, studied painting in Venice and returned to his native France to create an oeuvre that set the tone for virtually all of French painting for the rest of the 18th century.  His work is generally thought of as Rococo, a lighter and more cheerfully decorative evolution of the more ponderous and writhing forms of the Baroque epoch that preceded it.

Watteau is credited with introducing a new subject in serious painting, dubbed  the “fete gallante,” in which elegantly dressed young people disport themselves in beautiful sylvan settings.   Actors, musicians, courtesans and young socialites populate his paintings, engaged in flirtations, assignations, reveries and mutual admiration.  But Watteau’s attitude toward his subjects is rarely satirical, and often sympathetic and affectionate.  He would have been the perfect documenter of the escapades of the irresistible Casanova, had they been contemporaries.

The Scale of Love Jean-Antoine Watteau 1715-1718 The National Gallery, London oil on canvas, 20 x 23 in photo public domain from Wikimedia Commons

The Scale of Love
Jean-Antoine Watteau 1715-1718
The National Gallery, London
oil on canvas, 20 x 23 in
photo public domain from Wikimedia Commons

The painting by Watteau we present here is in the National Gallery in London and is entitled The Scale of Love.  It may look like a scene from ”the career of the Great Lover” that Moreland had in mind, though it is doubtful the proprietors of the New Casanova employed a muralist as talented as Watteau, one of the greatest French painters and draughtsmen of the eighteenth century.

Moreland on Women: Lhote, Gleize, Rembrandt, Cézanne

Admiring a waitress at Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant, Barnby proposes to ask her to model for him. Moreland says: “I don’t quite see her in your medium, but that is obviously the painter’s own affair. If I have a passion for anyone, I prefer an academic, even pedestrian, naturalism of portraiture. It is a limitation I share with Edgar Deacon. Nothing I’d care for less than to have my girl painted by Lhote or Gleizes, however much I may admire those painters — literally–in the abstract.”[CCR 39/ ]

L'Escale André Lhote, 1913, oil on canvas, 84 x 74 in, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris public domain in the US from Wikipedia

L’Escale
André Lhote, 1913, oil on canvas, 84 x 74 in, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
public domain in the US from Wikipedia

André Lhote (1885-1962) was a French artist who began his career as a woodworker and sculptor, experimented with Fauvism. and later adopted Cubism. We think that angularity of the intersecting planes in this work is what Moreland disliked for his women, and he was not necessarily thinking of other works in which Lhote could be more realitstic (see his Nude in the Glasgow Museum.)

Les Baigneuses Albert Gleizes, 1912 oil on canvas, 42 x 68 in Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. photo public domain in US from Wikipedia

Les Baigneuses
Albert Gleizes, 1912
oil on canvas, 42 x 68 in
Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.
photo public domain in US from Wikipedia

Albert Gleizes (1881-1953), like Lhote, was a French painter; his style evolved to Cubism after passing through Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Fauvist phases. His book  Du “Cubisme”(1912), written with Jean Metzinger, is now considered the first theoretical description of Cubism, but we do not need the literature on the geometrical explorations of the Cubists to understand Moreland’s love of the natural female form.

Many references to visual art in Dance show how different personalities react to the tension between older and avant-garde art.  Initially, we viewed Moreland’s reaction to Cubism only as another example of this motif; however, after learning Moreland’s views on Rembrandt, we venture an additional interpretation.

Moreland comes back to painterly views of women, which Jenkins reports when they go to meet the beautiful and intelligent Matilda Wilson backstage. “I don’t want what Rembrandt or Cézanne or Barnby or any other painter may happen to want….I simply cling to my own preferences. I don’t know what’s good, but I know what I like– not a lot of intellectual snobbery about fat peasant women, or technical talk about masses or planes. After all, painters have to contend professionally with pictorial aspects of the eternal feminine which are quite beside the point when a musician like myself is concerned. ” [CCR 48-49/ ]

Girl at Window Rembrandt van Rijn, 1645 oil on canvas, 32 x 26 in Dulwich Picture Gallery, London photo public domain from Wikimedia Commons

We need not provide a brief bio of Rembrandt ( 1606-1669), but we do need to reexamine what Moreland is saying when he complains about painters’ depictions of woman. If he is dissatisfied with Rembrandt, his quarrel is not about distortions of woman’s bodies, but rather with the ability of the most talented, psychologically intense, and realistic visual artists to truly convey an understanding of women. The Girl in the Window is so realistic that passersby mistook her for a live woman when Rembrandt displayed her in his own window.  Furthermore, Cézanne, for all his emphasis on building his paintings from basic geometrical forms, painted a woman realistically enough that the viewer could spend hours speculating about her thoughts.

Paul Cézanne  French, about 1895 - 1900  Oil on canvas  36 1/8 x 28 7/8 in. The Getty Center, Los Angeles

Young Italian Woman at a Table
Paul Cézanne
about 1895 – 1900
Oil on canvas
36 1/8 x 28 7/8 in.
The Getty Center, Los Angeles

Moreland says, “With women I can afford to cut out the chiascuro…” Chiascuro refers to using strong contrasts of light and dark to achieve visual emphasis.  Rembrandt followed Carvaggio and DaVinci and did this superbly. The chiascuro in Girl at the Window is not as striking as in many other Rembrandt paintings, but the lighting emphasizes her face, making her both more visible and more enigmatic.

With Moreland’s views, Powell is returning to a theme in Dance, the ability of the writer to delineate personality by following the evolution of a lover (or any other character) over a lifetime. We wonder whether the ‘chiascuro’ should be read as a metaphor for seeing things from just one viewpoint, for highlighting an instant, like a camera would with a flash-lit snapshot; Moreland prefers the time-based dynamism of music.

In AW, Nick argued against Barnby’s contention that that great painters exceed writers as protrayers of women. We have already read that neither an Old Master, nor Rubens, nor Delacroix could capture the changing Jean Templar Duport. Furthermore, neither the Romans nor the best contemporary sculptors could really get Mona.

We are well aware of the danger of assuming that characters speak for their author. We cannot put Nick’s arguments into Powell’s mouth; however, do we believe that Moreland’s preference for music resonates with The Music of Time, in which the way people change over time is more important than how they seem at a single encounter.

Powell loved visual art. He was a painter before he was a writer (see sidebar Anthony Powell — The Artist as a Young Man ).  His reviews in Some Poets, Artists & ‘A Reference for Mellors’ admire many artists, ranging from Classical to Modern.  In our blog we are emphasizing how references to works of art enrich the work; however, Moreland reminds us that single portraits are only one facet of Dance.

French Eighteenth Century Engravings 

Backstage after The Duchess of Malfi, Moreland takes Nick to meet Matilda in her dressing room.  “The scene was a little like those depicted in French eighteenth-century engravings where propriety is archly threatened in the presence of an amorous abbé or two —powdered hair would have suited Matilda, I thought; Moreland, perhaps, too.” [CCR 52/48]

In eighteenth-century France engraved images occupied a place somewhere between so-called high and low art.  Many engravings were skillful copies of famous paintings, the originals of which were only to be seen in the palaces of the aristocracy.  Engraved copies could be printed in the hundreds and sold at prices that allowed the haute-bourgeoisie to benefit from familiarity with the cultural icons thus depicted, and also display their cultural literacy to visitors.  At the same time, other, less exalted images were created just for the engraving distribution network. These images, drawn, engraved and printed with equal technical finesse, tended toward the didactic and sentimental, and with equal frequency, toward the risqué.  In this way, popular engravings were the forerunner of television programming in their ability to entertain, educate, and titillate a middle-brow audience.

 

L'innocence en danger Jean Gabriel Caquet after Nicolas Lavreince, 1785 etching and engraving Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, The Widener Collection

L’innocence en danger
Jean Gabriel Caquet after Nicolas Lavreince, 1785
etching and engraving
Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, The Widener Collection

La Roman Dangereux Isidore-Stanislas Helman after Nicolas Lavreince, 1781 etching and engraving courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, The Widener Collection

La Roman Dangereux
Isidore-Stanislas Helman after Nicolas Lavreince, 1781
etching and engraving
Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, The Widener Collection

Archly suggestive scenes of the sort Nick alludes to abound in eighteenth-century French engravings, but we were unable to locate any with the requisite “amorous abbe´ or two.”

L'amour a l'epreuve, Jacques-Firmin Beauvarlet after Pierre-Antoine Baudouin engraving Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, The Widener Collection

L’amour a l’epreuve,
Jacques-Firmin Beauvarlet (1731-1797) after Pierre-Antoine Baudouin
engraving
Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, The Widener Collection

Nicolas Delaunay after  L'Epouse indiscrete Pierre-Antoine Baudouin (French, 1739 - 1792 ),  1771, etching Courtesty of theWidener Collection

L’Epouse indiscrete
Nicolas Delaunay after
Pierre-Antoine Baudouin (French, 1739 – 1792 ), 1771, etching
Courtesty of The National Gallery of Art The Widener Collection

Nevertheless, the Widener Collection at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. has plenty on hand to flesh out our imagination of Matilda’s dressing room, and we reproduce four of them here.

 

Norman Chandler, if Painted by Picasso

Moreland says of Norman Chandler, “The great artists have always decided beforehand what form looks are to take in the world, and Norman is pure Picasso — one of those attenuated, androgynous mountebanks of the Blue Period, who haven’t had a meal for weeks.” [CCR 55/52-53]  Earlier, Mr. Deacon had introduced him to Moreland and said, “This lad would have made a charming Harlequin.” [CCR 21/13-14]

Powell may have synthesized Norman Chandler from various dancers and actors like Billy Chappell, Frederick Ashton, and Robert Helpmann, all of whom could claim the undernourished appearance.  Similarly, the image that Moreland conjures recalls more than one Picasso painting.

Seated Harlequin Pablo Picasso, 1901 Oil on canvas, lined and mounted to a sheet of pressed cork; 32 3/4 x 24 1/8 in The Metropolitan Museum, New York © 2011 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Seated Harlequin
Pablo Picasso, 1901
Oil on canvas, lined and mounted to a sheet of pressed cork; 32 3/4 x 24 1/8 in
The Metropolitan Museum, New York
© 2011 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The Old Guitarist Pablo Picasso, 1903-1904 oil on panel, 48 x 32 in  The Art Institute of Chicago © 2014 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York photo public domain is US from Wikipedia

The Old Guitarist
Pablo Picasso, 1903-1904
oil on panel, 48 x 32 in
The Art Institute of Chicago
© 2014 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
photo public domain is US from Wikipedia

During his Blue Period (1901-1905)  Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) often painted those on the edges of society. He had a great love of circuses and portrayed clowns, acrobats (saltimbanques), and other performers, including a number of versions of harlequin. The harlequin above from the Blue Period, his sad, thoughtful expression contrasting with his clown’s costume, catches the androgynous charm that Moreland and Deacon saw.  The Old Guitarist is a more striking example of the attenuated, malnourished look.

At the Lapin Agile Pablo Picasso, 1905 oil on canvas, 39 x 40 in The Metropolitan Museum, New York © 2011 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

At the Lapin Agile
Pablo Picasso, 1905
oil on canvas, 39 x 40 in
The Metropolitan Museum, New York
© 2011 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

By 1905, Picasso was transforming from his sad blues to the brighter Rose Period. The harlequin, standing at the bar of the Lapin Agile, is a self portrait. The Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History provides an explication of the other characters.

Later in life Picasso reputedly said, “But when I am alone, I do not have the effrontery to consider myself an artist at all, not in the grand old meaning of the word: Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt, Goya were great painters. I am only a public clown–a mountebank.”   The Italian author Giovanni Papini claimed that Picasso told him this in an interview in 1951; however, Picasso did not actually call himself a mountebank. The flamboyant deceiver was Papini; the interview never occurred.

Images — Goya’s Winter

Jenkins is speaking with his brother-in-law, Robert Tolland, who says while playing a record, “I love Les Parfums de la Nuit. I think that really is the bit I like best.”

The passage continues with Jenkins asking, “‘ Do you adapt your music to the foreign news, Robert?’

‘Rather suitable isn’t it? Now the Alcazar has been relieved things seem to have become a bit static. I wonder who will win?’

He closed the lid of the gramophone, which began once more to diffuse the sombre menacing notes adumbrating their Spanish background: … ”  Jenkins proceeds with a concatentation of phrases evoking Spanish scenes [CCR 64/63].

Debussy’s Les Parfums de la Nuit is one of the sections of Iberia, which Debussy wrote between 1905 and 1908. He called this type of orchestral composition Images and intended to evoke a montage of visions of Spain.  Debussy made only a single brief visit to Spain, but he was able to use rhythm from Spanish dances and instruments like guitar and castanets to set the Iberian scene. We will present thumbnails to help envision just a few of the images that the music brought to Jenkins imagination. (If you want to listen to the piece while reading, it is available on YouTube, like this version conducted by Toscanini.)

“marble sacrophagi of dead kings under arabesqued ceilings”

Sarcophagi of  King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella and King Philip I and Queen Joanna, Capilla Real, Alhambra, Granada, Spain,  photo from blog Seville Engineer

Sarcophagi of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella and King Philip I and Queen Joanna, Capilla Real, Alhambra, Granada, Spain,
photo from blog Seville Engineer

“art nouveau blocks of flats past which the squat trams rattled and clanged”

Casa Batllo, Barcelona Antoni Gaudi,  photo by Massimo Catarinella, 2010, from Wikimedia Commons by Creative Commons attribution

Casa Batllo, Barcelona
Antoni Gaudi, 1904
photo by Massimo Catarinella, 2010, from Wikimedia Commons by Creative Commons attribution

“patent-leather cocked hats of the Guardia Civil”

Charge or Barcelona, 1902 Ramon Casas, 1899 Museu Comarcal de la Garrotxa Olot, Catalunya photo public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Charge or Barcelona
Ramon Casas, 1899
Museu Comarcal de la Garrotxa
Olot, Catalunya
photo public domain from Wikimedia Commons

“a hundred other cubist abstractions , merging their visual elements with the hurdy-gurdy music of the bull-ring”

The Bull Fighter Juan Gris, 1913 oil on canvas, 36 X 24 in private collection photo in public domain from The Athenaeum.org

The Bull Fighter
Juan Gris, 1913
oil on canvas, 36 X 24 in
private collection
photo in public domain from The Athenaeum.org

“like the hooded trio in Goya’s Winter, …”

Winter or The Snowstorm Francisco Goya, 1787 oil on canvas, 110 x 117 in Museo del Prado, Madrid photo public domain  from WikiArt.org

Winter or The Snowstorm
Francisco Goya, 1787
oil on canvas, 110 x 117 in
Museo del Prado, Madrid
photo public domain from WikiArt.org

We have already looked at Goya’s Maya Desnuda. In Winter, a study for a tapestry in the royal palace, Goya shows poor peasants struggling through the snow; this is considered one of Goya’s more compassionate and less somber works; one reviewer even saw it as lighthearted.

In this passage, Powell writes rhythmically and lyrically to respond to Debussy, using words to recall the music, rather than music to recall the images. This scene is set during the bloody Spanish Civil war, between the  siege of the Alcazar of Toledo, which ended in September, 1936, and Erridge’s departure for Spain.  Powell hears ‘sombre menacing notes’ in the music, yet he chooses to avoid darker references like Goya’s Disasters of War or Picasso’s Guernica (1937).  Instead his words mingle hints of that menace with every day beauties of Spanish life.

Chabrier and the Impressionists

Moreland peruses a book while visiting the Maclintick’s apartment: “The life of Chabrier is enjoyable…. Why wasn’t one a nineteenth century composer living in Paris and hobnobbing with the Impressionist painters?” [CCR 108/]

The Orchestra at the Opera Edgar Degas Circa 1870 Oil on canvas 26 x 18 in  Paris, Musée d'Orsay photo in public domain from Wikimedia. org

The Orchestra at the Opera
Edgar Degas
Circa 1870
Oil on canvas
26 x 18 in
Paris, Musée d’Orsay
photo in public domain from Wikimedia. org

The French composer Alexis-Emannuel Chabrier (1841-1894) merits mention in our blog because of his close relationship to many of the Parisian Impressionists. Degas knew him well; in this picture of the orchestra at the Paris Opera, Chabrier is shown from the back, seated in his box.

Emmanuel Chabrier Edouard Manet, 1880 oil on canvas, 22 X 14 " Ordrupgaard Museum, Denmark photo public domain from Wikimedia.com

Emmanuel Chabrier
Edouard Manet, 1880
oil on canvas, 22 X 14 “
Ordrupgaard Museum, Denmark
photo in public domain from Wikimedia.org

Edouard Manet did at least two portraits of his friend Chabrier, who was with Manet when he died in 1883. When Chabrier’s art collection was sold in 1896, it included works by Cézanne, Manet, Monet, Renoir, and Sisley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madonna and Child by Benozzo Gozzoli

In support of the artistic ambitions of her protege Norman Chandler, Mrs. Foxe has invited the Huntercombes to her party.  Lord Huntercombe is regarded as a connoisseur of paintings: “He had caught napping one of the best known Bond Street dealers in the matter of a Virgin and Child by Benozzo Gozzoli (acquired from the gallery as the work of a lesser master, later resoundingly identified) . . . . ” [CCR 140/143]

Benozzo Gozzoli (1421-1497) was a Florentine painter of immense output, whose work in fresco and panel painting was commissioned for churches throughout Tuscany,Umbria, Rome, and the Vatican.  Gozzoli was a student of Fra Angelico, whose manner Gozzoli’s early work resembles, but Gozzoli’s long and industrious career saw him though a variety of approaches to image-making, as the examples below suggest.

Procession of the Magus Benozzo Gozzoli, ~1459-1461 fresco, East wall Palazzo Medici – Riccardi, Florence photo public domain from Wikipedia.org

Scenes from the Life of St. Francis Benozzo Gozzolli, 1452 fresco Church of St. Francis Montefalco, Umbria photo public domain from Wikimedia.org

Scenes from the Life of St. Francis
Benozzo Gozzolli, 1452
fresco
Church of St. Francis
Montefalco, Umbria
photo public domain from Wikimedia.org

Madonna and Child with St. Francis and the donor Fra Jacopo da Montefalco and St. Bernardino of Siena  Benozzo Gozzoli, 1452 oil on panel, 13 x 22 in Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria photo public domain from WikiArt.org

Madonna and Child with St. Francis and the donor Fra Jacopo da Montefalco and St. Bernardino of Siena Benozzo Gozzoli, 1452 oil on panel, 13 x 22 in Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria photo public domain from WikiArt.org

Maddona and Child Benozzo Gozzoli, ~1460 tempera on panel, 33 x 20  in Detroit Institute of Art photo public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Maddona and Child
Benozzo Gozzoli, ~1460
tempera on panel, 33 x 20 in
Detroit Institute of Art
photo public domain from Wikimedia Commons

 

Perhaps it is this variety of styles that accounts for how a knowing amateur like Lord Huntercombe might be able to trump a Bond Street professional in the attribution of a painting by a master so highly regarded.  Two possible models for the Virgin and Child that Lord Huntercombe acquired from the “napping” dealer are small oil on panel (above left), now in the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum, or the entirely different different tempera painting on panel (above right), currently in the Detroit Institute of Arts (but for how long?).

The Madonna and Child with Angels attributed to Benozzo Gozzoli, 1447-1450 Egg tempera on wood, 12 x 9 in National Gallery, London photo from c asa-in-italia.com

The Madonna and Child with Angels
attributed to Benozzo Gozzoli, 1447-1450
Egg tempera on wood, 12 x 9 in
National Gallery, London
photo from c
asa-in-italia.com

But the most likely candidate is the Madonna and Child with Angels in the National Gallery.  Its still slightly uncertain attribution might have been Powell’s inspiration for the Huntercombe anecdote, and its location in London since 1945 makes it the Gozzoli Madonna that Powell’s readers would find most familiar.

Vienna porcelain mixed up with the Meissen

Jenkins encounters Lord Huntercombe at Mrs. Foxe’s reception. They are in the libary where Jenkins had first seen the Romney years before.  Now the copy of Truth Unveiled by Time is on display. After Lord Huntercombe examines it, he “smiles wryly” at Jenkins and shakes his head “as if to imply that such worthless bric-à-brac should not be allowed to detain great connoissuers like ourselves.” [CCR164/168 ] Lord Huntercombe proceeds to inspect the china: “What nice china there is in this house. It looks as if there were some Vienna porcelain mixed up with the Meissen in this cabinet.” [CCR 165/ 169]  The cabinet contains both some Marcolini period and some Indianische Blumen pieces.

The Meissen factory became the first European manufacturer of hard paste porcelain in 1710. The Indianische Blumen or ‘Flowers of the Indies” were designs introduced in the early eighteenth century, adapted from the Kaikemon style of ceramics produced in Arita, Japan. From 1774 until1814 Count Camillo Marcolini, Prime Minister of Saxony, directed the Meissen works as it perfected Neo-Classical forms. The Vienna Porcelain Manufactory, founded in 1718, was the second oldest in Europe.  The company was started by Du Paquier, who ran it until 1744.

Meissen porcelain chocolate pot, cover and stand, c.1780, A Royal Wedding gift to Queen Elizabeth II, 1947 The Royal Collection © 2008, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II RCIN 19102

Meissen porcelain chocolate pot, cover and stand, c.1780 (Marcolini Period)
A Royal Wedding gift to Queen Elizabeth II, 1947
The Royal Collection © 2008,
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
RCIN 19102

 

Meisen vase circa 1730 photographed at Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris by  Johann Gregorius Höroldt from Wikimedia.org by Creative Commons license

Meissen vase, Indianische Blumen
circa 1730
photographed at Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris by Johann Gregorius Höroldt
from Wikimedia.org by Creative Commons license

Trembleuse Manufactory of du Paquier. Vienna, around 1730. Collection of the Prince of Liechtenstein, Vaduz-Vienna. photo  by Griyfindor from Wikimedia.org by Creative Commons license

Trembleuse
Vienna Porcelian Manufactory , around 1730 (Du Paquier Period). Collection of the Prince of Liechtenstein, Vaduz-Vienna.
photo by Griyfindor from Wikimedia.org by Creative Commons license

The manufacturers of the porcelain can be determined by examining the trademarks on the bottoms of the pieces, like the crossed swords of Meisen, which is still in use today.  The marks for Vienna, introduced in 1744 and in use until the company closed in 1864, were variations on a shield, details of which allow dating the era of the manufacture. Distingushing real from forged marks is a task for experts. Undoubtedly, Lord Huntercombe was confident that he was up to the task.

William Dobson

Lord Huntercomb said, “Smethyk showed  himself anxious to point out that my Prince Rupert Conversing with a Herald was painted by Dobson, rather than Van Dyck. Fortunatley I had long ago come to the same conclusion and recently caused its label to be altered.” [CCR 165/169]

When Prince Rupert was mentioned in BM, we were unable to find an actual Van Dyck to match it, so we are not surprised by Smethyk’s opinion.

Prince Rupert , Colonel William Murray and Colonel, The Hon. John Russell William Dobson, circa 1640 oil on canvas, 60 x 82 in Ashdown House, Berkshire ©National Trust Images

Prince Rupert , Colonel William Murray and Colonel, The Hon. John Russell
William Dobson, circa 1640
oil on canvas, 60 x 82 in
Ashdown House, Berkshire
©National Trust Images

William Dobson (1611-1646)  actually did paint Prince Rupert at least 3 times, but again we have not found the exact painting in the Huntercombe collection. Dobson became a royal court painter in 1641, when Van Dyck died. Powell may have had a special interest in Dobson because Dobson’s contemporary, John Aubrey (subject of Powell’s John Aubrey and his Friends),  called him “the most excellent painter that England hath yet bred.” Dobson is believed to have copied Van Dycks earlier in his career, but his mature style is not easily confused with Van Dyck’s.  Naturally, Lord Huntercombe, the connoisseur, is one step ahead of Smethyck.

Lely’s Portrait of Judge Jeffreys

After discussing the attribution of the Prince Rupert, Lord Huntercombe continues his rivalry with Smethyck: “I was even able to carry the war into Smethyck’s country by enquiring whether he felt absolutely confident of the supposed portrait of Judge Jeffreys, attributed to Lely, on loan from his own gallery.” [CCR 165/169]

George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem  John Michael Wright, 1673 oil on canvas, 1673 47 3/4 in. x 39 3/4 in. oil on canvas 48 x 40 in Purchased, 1989 NPG 6047 NPG 6047 © National Portrait Gallery, London by Creative Commons license

George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem
John Michael Wright, 1673
 oil on canvas 48 x 40 in
© National Portrait Gallery, London
by Creative Commons license

George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem, (1645 – 1689), also known as “The Hanging Judge”, was a Welsh judge who was appointed Lord Chief Justice in 1683 and later became Lord Chancellor to King James II.

Self Portrait Sir Peter Lely, circa 1660 oil on canvas, 43 x 35 in. NPG 3897 © National Portrait Gallery, London by Creative Commons license

Self Portrait
Sir Peter Lely, circa 1660
oil on canvas, 43 x 35 in.
NPG 3897
© National Portrait Gallery, London
by Creative Commons license

Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680) was born in Germany of Dutch descent. He moved to London about 1640 and, after the deaths of Van Dyck in 1641 and Dobson in 1646, became the leading portraitist of the day. He painted Charles I and Oliver Cromwell. When Charles II ascended to the throne with Restoration in 1660, Lely became the court painter. He had a prolific workshop, so that for some works that bear his name, how much of the paint he personally applied to the canvas is in question.  The BBC Your Paintings Website is aware of 609 Lely works currently in Britain. At times it seems that he painted everyone of importance in Restoration London. Jeffreys was a prominient contemporary, but we have not found a Lely portrait of Jeffreys.

Isbister according to St. John Clarke

Jenkins reflected after St. John Clarke’s death: “If so tortuous a comparison of mediocre talent could ever be resolved, St John Clarke was probably to be judged a ‘better’ writer than Isbister was a painter.” [CCR 184/190 ]

Mark Members recalled St. John Clarke’s jealousy of all the acclaim Isbister received: “‘Isbister was beloved of the gods, Mark,’ he had cried, looking up with a haggard face from The Times of New Year’s Day with its list of awards, ‘R.A. before he was forty-five — Gold Medalist of the Paris Salon — Diploma of Honour at the International Exhibition at Amsterdam — Commander of the Papal Order of Pius IX — refused a knighthood. Think of it, Mark, a man the King would have delighted to honour. What recognition have I compared to these?'”

The Cider Press Frank Brangwyn, 1902 oil on canvas The Japan Times | © DAVID BRANGWYN, LISS FINE ART PHOTO

The Cider Press
Frank Brangwyn, 1902
oil on canvas
from The Japan Times
© DAVID BRANGWYN, LISS FINE ART PHOTO

We have already speculated about models for Isbister, a portraitist, the ‘British Frans Hals,’ a genre painter.  Now we offer Frank Brangwyn as a possibility.  Maybe Isbister’s genre paintings would look something like Brangwyn’s The Cider Press.  Brangwyn was acclaimed early in his career; The Buccaneers was a sensation at the Paris Salon of 1893. In the table below,  we compare Isbister to Frank Brangwyn to show how Isbister’s biography overlaps with real events. The parallels are striking when we outline their careers side by side.

The Buccaneers Frank Brangwyn, 1893 Internet Archive version of a copy in the Ontario College of Art. Web. 28 December 2012   from Victorian Web

The Buccaneers
Frank Brangwyn, 1893
Internet Archive version of a copy in the Ontario College of Art. Web. 28 December 2012 from Victorian Web

Horace Isbister Frank Brangwyn
Born  1867
Paris Salon Gold Medalist Gold Medal, 1891, for Funeral at Sea
Amsterdam International Exhbition Diploma of Honour Gold medal, 1906, for Santa Maria della Salute
Elected RA Before age 45 1919 (age 52)
Papal Order of Pius IX Commander Not known but was Catholic
Knighthood Declined the honour Knighted, 1941, but skipped dubbing ceremony
Died  1932  1956
Santa Maria della Salute, Venice Frank Brangwyn, 1906, repainted 1933 oil on canvas, 59 x 64 in Ferens Art Gallery Kingston upon Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, England photo BBC Your Paintings

Santa Maria della Salute, Venice
Frank Brangwyn, 1906, repainted 1933
oil on canvas, 59 x 64 in
Ferens Art Gallery
Kingston upon Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, England
photo BBC Your Paintings

 

Of course, Isbister is drawn from a mixture of his contemporaries, and  the comparison to Brangwyn is imperfect. For example, Brangwyn was more a muralist than a portraitist; however, we do know that Powell derided the styles of both artists, referring to “Royal Academy pictures in the sententiously forcible manner of Brangwyn–once much imitated …” [TKBR 147].  Like Isbister,  after World War I Brangwyn’s reputation waned, but today he has new enthusiasts.

Fauvism and Surrealism

We will mention some references to art movements in CCR almost as briefly as Powell does.

Stringham refers to his former sister-in-law Anne Stepney “chattering away about Braque and Dufy.” [CCR 170/175] This is a reprise of an similar statement he made in 1933 [AW 208/199].  About 1906-1907 Braque and Dufy were fauvists like Derain and Matisse. Members, writing about St. John Clarke, referred to “an ephemeral, if almost painfully sincere, digression into what was for him the wonderland of fauviste painting.” [CCR 185-186/190-192 ]

Later Jenkins tells about his brother-in-law Hugo, who goes to work for an antique dealer, Mrs. Baldwyn Hodges, “a middle-aged, capable leathery woman of a type Mr. Deacon would have particularly loathed had he lived to see the rise of her shop…” [CCR 194/200-201].  Mr. Deacon would have also been appalled that Hugo and Mrs. Baldwyn Hodges met at the Surrealist Exhibition, since surrealism was on the list of styles that he detested.

Andre Breton photo by Man Ray, 1931. Gelatin silver print (solarized), 11 1/2 x 8 3/4″  Museum of Modern Art, New York © 2012 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris 92.1941

André Breton
photo by Man Ray, 1931.
Gelatin silver print (solarized), 11 1/2 x 8 3/4″
Museum of Modern Art, New York
© 2012 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris
92.1941

Surrealism began as a Parisian literary movement. It had antecedents in the 1910s, but the documented birth year is 1924 when André Breton published the Manifesto of Surrealism. Surrealism had intellectual connections to Freudian psychology and Marxist politics. The writers strove to release their subconscious imaginations.  Soon, visual artists associated with the movement, which Breton encouraged by reproducing their works in his journal La Révolution Surréaliste and by helping to organize exhibits of their work, whether paintings, drawings, sculpture, or photographs. Visual surrealist art is quite diverse but united by efforts to break with conventional culture and see the world in new ways. We show Man Ray’s photographic portrait of Breton, because Ray (1890-1976) was a prominent surrealist.

 

 

Surealism Exhibition Catalog Cover Contemporary Poetry and Prose, Issue 2, 1936 Editor Roger Roughton Image : Max Ernst

Surealism Exhibition Catalog Cover
Contemporary Poetry and Prose, Issue 2, 1936
Editor Roger Roughton
Image by Max Ernst

The London International Surrealism Exhibition ran for three weeks at the New Burlington Gallery beginning June 11, 1936. It was organized by a small group of British surrealist painters with the help of Breton and others. Arp, Calder, Dali, Miro, Ernst, Magritte, Picasso, Duchamp, Klee, Man Ray, Henry Moore, Giacometti, and many more exhibited works; Dali almost suffocated while performing in a deep sea diver’s helmet. Forty thousand people attended the exhibit, yet Powell later wrote that Surrealism never really took hold in Britain [SPA 295-299].

 

 

 

The Literary Content of Some Picassos

Moreland is talking to Maclintick, who is drunk and depressed. Maclintick is bemoaning how his wife Audrey treats him; Moreland sees a parallel: “It wasn’t for nothing that Petrach’s Laura was one of the de Sade family.”[CCR 204/212 ]

Petrarch and Laura de Noves Venetian School, ~1510 oil on canvas 22 x 28 in photo credit: The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology from BBC Your Paintings

Petrarch and Laura de Noves
Venetian School, ~1510
oil on canvas 22 x 28 in
photo credit: The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology
from BBC Your Paintings

Petrarch (1304-1374), the Italian poet, wrote sonnets of unrequited love to Laura. She rejected him, not because she was a distant ancestor of the Marquis de Sade, but because she was married. Not surprisingly, there is no fourteenth century picture of them together and the unknown sixteenth century Venetian artist shows them side by side by juxtaposing existing portraits of the two.

Dante and Beatrice Henry Holliday, 1893 oil on canvas, 55 x 78 Walker Gallery of Art photo public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Dante and Beatrice
Henry Holliday, 1893
oil on canvas, 55 x 78
Walker Gallery of Art, Liverpool
photo public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Maclintick recalls a picture of Petrarch and Laura, but Moreland corrects him, reminding him of a picture of Dante and Beatrice.  This painting by the Pre-Raphaelite painter Henry Holliday (1839  – 1927  ) shows Beatrice in white, walking with 2 woman friends. She is ignoring Dante because she had heard gossip about his infatuation with her. Like Petrarch’s, Dante’s love was unrequited; he is thought to have met Beatrice only twice; the first time, she was eight and he was nine years old. Holliday traveled to Florence for research to paint the locale accurately. This is Holliday’s best known painting. Maclintick says that reproductions of it were commonly displayed in boarding houses.

The Long Engagement Arthur Hughes, 1859 oil on canvas, 42 x 21 in Birmingham City Art Gallery, Birmingham, England photo in public domain from Wikimedia.org

The Long Engagement
Arthur Hughes, 1859
oil on canvas, 42 x 21 in
Birmingham City Art Gallery, Birmingham, England
photo in public domain from Wikimedia.org

A Hopeless Dawn Frank Bramley, 1888 oil on canvas 49 x 67 in The Tate, London photo from The Tate via BBC Your Paintings

A Hopeless Dawn
Frank Bramley, 1888
oil on canvas 49 x 67 in
The Tate, London
photo from The Tate via BBC Your Paintings

Moreland, who relishes speaking of art and literature, makes an enigmatic statement: “The literary content of some Picassos makes The Long Engagement or A Hopeless Dawn seem dry pedantic studies in pure abstraction.”  The Long Engagement and A Hopeless Dawn are sad Victorian scenes. The engagement is long because the curate is too poor to marry his fiancee. The dawn is hopeless because the kneeling woman knows that her husband is lost at sea. When Moreland calls these “studies in pure abstraction,” perhaps he means that although the paintings were superficially realistic, their portrayal of emotion was so excessive that they were unrealistic.

We repeatedly read this conversation of Moreland and Maclintick, which ranges from Petrarch to James Joyce, looking for clues as to which Picassos were on Moreland’s mind. By the mid 1930’s Picasso was the richest, most famous, and perhaps most prolific living painter. Moreland might have been thinking of Picassos beyond our ken.

Gertrude Stein Pablo Picasso, 1905-1908 oil on canvas, 39 x 32 in Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York © 2011 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Gertrude Stein
Pablo Picasso, 1905-1908
oil on canvas, 39 x 32 in
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
© 2011 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

We have puzzled over what Moreland meant by the ‘literary content of some Picassos.” Is he talking about art featuring writers, about art illustrating writing, or about art telling a story? Picasso wrote poetry and plays and was friendly with many writers, but in the context of the other paintings Moreland was discussing, portraits of these friends, like Gertrude Stein, do not seem to us to have the  ‘literary content’ in question.

Illustration for Lysistrata Pablo Picasso, 1934 The Print Club, New York photo from OpenCulture.com presumed under copyright

Illustration for Lysistrata
Pablo Picasso, 1934
The Print Club, New York
photo from OpenCulture.com
presumed under copyright

If Moreland is talking about art illustrating writing, many Picasso images merit consideration. Picasso illustrated over 50 books and articles. His Don Quixote has become much more widely reproduced than Dante and Beatrice, but this image is from 1955, so Moreland could not be referring to it in the 1930’s. However, in the 30’s Picasso was illustrating works like Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Aristophanes’ Lysistrata with etchings that are much less “dry and pedantic” than Hughes’ or Bramley’s work.

If Moreland is talking about art that tells a story, some works by Picasso qualify more than others. Picasso, along with Braque, is credited with inventing Cubism, one of the pioneering forms of Abstract Art.  While the real basis of some Cubist works is discernable, the style evolved to more abstract works that lack any evident narrative (see for, example, Picasso’s early collage, Still Life with Chair Caning), so that we do not think of these Picassos as ‘literary.’

The Tragedy Pablo Picasso, 1903

The Tragedy
Pablo Picasso, 1903 oil on wood, 40 X 28 in The National Gallery of Art, Washington photo public domain in US from Wikipedia

During his Blue Period (1901–1904), Picasso literally had “the blues,” becoming severely depressed after the suicide of a friend. His paintings, monochromatic shades of blue, with attenuated but still recognizable depictions of the sad, poor, or oppressed, could match Victorian melodrama tear for tear. We do not know what befell the trio shown at the left, but we instinctively see them as a family and wonder about their pain.  The Tragedy is as much of a story picture as The Long Engagement or  A Hopeless Dawn.  We doubt that Picasso of the Blue Period is what Moreland had in mind when he is rejecting the sentimentality of Bramley and Hughes.

Maclintick cares little for art or novels, yet introduces James Joyce’s Ulysses  into the conversation.   We wonder if this is a clue to a different interpretation of Moreland’s statement. Some of Picasso’s later work, including paintings from the mid 1930s when Moreland and Maclintick were talking, told stories in much more symbolic, less direct ways, requiring more work from the viewer to understand the metaphors, just as Ulysses tells a story but is not the easiest novel to read.  We are thinking specifically of Guernica.

Guernica Pablo Picasso, 1937 oil on canvas, 140 x 310 in Museo Reina Sofia, Madrin image from Wikipedia. org presumed under copyright, see Wikipedia for non-free media rationale

Guernica
Pablo Picasso, 1937
oil on canvas, 140 x 310 in
Museo Reina Sofia, Madrin
image from Wikipedia. org
presumed under copyright, see Wikipedia for non-free media rationale

Guernica is full of anguish, showing a tragedy, not of an anonymous trio, but of a whole town devastated by bombing in the Spanish Civil War. The multiple distorted bodies and the iconography, particularly of the bull and the horse, have spawned many controversies about their interpretation.  This is literary modernism to contrast with the classicism of Dante and of Pre-Raphaelites like Henry Halliday.

Powell is showing us a Moreland who is sick of the sentimentalism and narrative literalism of the age he grew up in, and who is championing the modern taste for metaphor as representation.  After all, to the extent that Moreland is modeled on Constant Lambert, he is modeled on a composer who wrote music for Romeo and Juliet and Cymbeline, and the classical tales of Pomona and of Tiresias.  He must constantly have been struggling with how music, that most abstract of arts, could represent known stories without resorting to narrative literalism and sentiment.

We have used ‘literary’ as a launch pad for a selective recap of Picasso’s career and for flights of speculation about Moreland’s intent.  We are sure that Moreland would welcome further conversation.

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