I didn't get around to posting a painting on here this weekend, but I just spotted this photo and wanted to show it to you. It's said to have been taken in London in 1940, after a bookshop had been bombed in an air-raid. If anyone knows any more about it I'd love to hear.
A few days ago I reposted a painting by William Sergeant Kendall, after I was contacted by the painter's great-granddaughter. I very much enjoyed exploring the website she has set up for her great-grandfather and his work, which has many more examples of his lovely paintings. So when I spotted this one, I knew it had to be next up for a Saturday painting. Kendall frequently painted his wife and his three daughters, of whom this is certainly one. It's called 'The End of the Day'.
Sadly much of Kendall's work is either in unknown private hands or languishing in the vaults of various museums. There's a page on the website showing some reproductions and appealing for help in locating their whereabouts. Do pop over and have a look!
I posted this lovely painting five years ago and just got a comment on it from the great-granddaughter of the artist, who is setting up a website for his paintings. Here's the link if you want to visit -- very interesting. You'll be seeing more of his paintings on here in the future.
And here's what I said about it last time round:
Yet another nineteenth-century American painter of whom I was woefully ignorant until I recently ran across this very sweet painting of a mother and daughter -- the painting is called An Interlude, and the subjects are the wife and daughter of the artist, William Sergeant Kendall (1869-1938). You can read an essay about him here, which reveals that he frequently used his wife and daughters as models in his paintings but also that he became involved with a girl of thirteen when he was in his thirties -- they eventually married after his divorce, by which time he was fifty-three and she was thirty-two. He is said to have painted a beautiful portrait of her, called variously A Yellow Hat and The Turquoise Necklace, but neither of these titles show up in a google search. However you can see a lot more of his paintings here.
I do love a picture that tells a story, and this one, spotted this morning, had me puzzling. This is by the Russian artist Pavel Fedotov (1815-1852) and it's called 'Breakfast of an Aristocrat'. The title makes a bit more sense when you read his wikipedia entry which says he was an amateur painter (not sure really what this means) and specialised in satire. He had a sad life and died at the age of 37 in a mental hospital.
Anyway, what exactly is going on here? Obviously there's a visitor at the door and the boy is concealing the cake he's having for breakfast underneath a book. But who is the visitor and why would they be concerned to see he's eating cake? Maybe it's his mother (he looks like a young teenager to me) and he's nicked the cake from the larder? Any suggestions gratefully received. Love his trousers, by the way.
Just look at the snippets on the cover, and there are plenty more inside: 'I am head over heels in love with this book. Every page is a joy' (Barbara Trapido); 'a romp, a joy, and an inspired feast of clever delights' (Elizabeth Gilbert); 'as louche, chic, and freakish as early Evelyn Waugh' (John Richardson). All this, and the lively-sounding blurb, encouraged me to accept a review copy, and when the novel was shortlisted for this year's Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction I could hardly wait to start reading it. But, though I finished it and had some moments of enjoyment, my immediate reaction was one of amazement - could this be a case of the Emperor's new clothes, or am I so dreadfully out of step that I can't appreciate a masterpiece?
OK, so the novel has been described as a romp, or a caper, which is generally not my cup of tea. Certainly there's a great deal of entertainment value here if it's yours! This is a big fat novel, with a complex storyline and a cast of larger than life, though frequently unpleasant or unattractive characters. Of course the heroine, Annie, and her admirer Jesse, are the exceptions, a pair of innocents in a decidedly naughty world. Annie, alone after the unhappy break-up of a longterm relationship, is living in London and working as a chef. Following a hopeful first date, she impulsively buys a painting in a junk shop to give to the said fellow, who then stands her up. Her mother Evie, who despite being a hopeless alcoholic has a good smattering of common sense, decides that the painting looks as if it must have some merit, and persuades her to take it to the Wallace Collection, where the pair of them compare it to some works by the celebrated 18th-century artist Watteau. They are spotted doing this by Jesse, a struggling artist working as a guide, who immediately falls for Annie and for the painting in about equal measure. He persuades her to try to get the painting authenticated but the process plunges her into some very dodgy goings on, in a world of unscrupulous and dishonest art dealers and terrifyingly peculiar multimillionaires.
Of course, as well as being a love story with a bit of a whodunnit thrown in, the novel is essentially a satire on the higher echelons of the international art world. It raises important questions about the enormously high values placed on works of art in todays market, and on the motives of the purchasers of them, which rarely if ever have anything to do with aesthetic appreciation. One of the more interesting elements of the plot concerns the theft of precious art works by the Nazis in WW2 and the repercussions for the families of the original owners. Added to all this, scattered throughout the novel we get chapters narrated by the painting itself, a device that seems to be there largely to give some background history about the painter himself, who is indeed Watteau (he was of course real, though this painting is an invention). I have to admit that I found these sections, with their archly faux-18th century tone, increasingly irritating, and started to skip or skim them as time went on. I was equally irritated by Barty (Barthomley Chesterfield Fitzroy St. George, né Reg Dunn), the ageing, camp, cross-dressing fixer, who enjoys going to auctions dressed as Marie-Antoinette. Overall, there was just too much froth and silliness for me, though I did enjoy the few incursions into the technicalities of picture authentification and restoration.
All this makes me sound like a joyless curmudgeon with no sense of humour, but I hope that's not true. I think part of the problem for me was the massive build-up, which led me to believe it was going to be something extraordinary -- though maybe it is, and I'm just missing it. I'm honestly glad that this novel is giving pleasure to so many people, and I hope that some of you may be curious enough, after reading my churlish comments, to pick it up and try it for yourself. But I'm afraid I'll be rather disappointed if it wins the Baileys Prize.
Lovely painting, sent to me by a friend - thanks, Rob! This is Girl with a Book (1902), by the American Impressionist artist William Merritt Chase (1849-1916).
For those of you interested in fashion, she's wearing a typical Arts and Crafts 'aesthetic dress'. Here's something informative I found this morning:
Aesthetic dress was a protest against the contemporary fashion for bustles in various forms and restrictive corsets. In fashion history terms only a very small section of the community ever wore it initially, but it did spread to middle class intellectuals, to artistic and literary people. Aesthetic dress was made of wool or Liberty silk or velvet fabrics.
Aesthetic fashions were cut looser and was unstructured in the style of medieval or Renaissance garments with larger sleeves. The dress appeared loose compared with figure hugging fashion garments of the era. Loose waited corset free women were considered to have loose morals and it did not help that many of the Aesthetic women were thought slightly Bohemian and beyond the normal social conventions and morals of the time.
The typical fashionable aesthetic lady would have red flowing hair often henna enhanced, a pale face, green eyes and wore heelless shoes. This model of aestheticism was frequently ridiculed in Punch cartoons where the wearer might be shown with her hair brushed into her eyes. The idea of red hair itself was ridiculed as red hair was thought of as social assassination.
I've got quite a backlog of nice paintings of women reading, but I happened on this today and here it is instead. It's another by Charles Chaplin -- no, not that one, the one I showed you a mis-named painting by last week. This painting isn't dated, but I'm guessing it dates from the 1850s or 60s. I do so love the way he's painted the fabrics. And he's really caught the look of concentration on her face. Lovely.
I've been away from home, busy, overtired, not very well. I've been doing some reading but nothing has grabbed me enough for me to tell you about it. Weather here in the UK is ridiculously cold for the time of year, and not much better in France, where I'll be back at home from late afternoon.
So when I spotted this I thought I'd show it to you, as a reminder that things will improve soon, or we hope so. It's by the Italian (a ridiculously short-lived) Giuseppe di Nittis (1846-1884), called Breakfast in the Garden, painted in around 1883.
The French artist Charles Josiah Chaplin (1825-1891) painted this sometime in the mid-nineteenth century. I spotted it because the site where it appeared had it billed as 'Girl in a Pink Dress Reading, with a Dog'. It's certainly a lovely painting, the dress is undoubtedly pink and there's no doubt about the dog, but reading? No, I think not. She seems to be about to give him a bowl of water, as far as I can see. Bizarrely, the only other version of it I found has the painting flipped over the other way, so she's facing to the left, the dress is paler pink, and she's still said to be reading. Just goes to show you can't trust the internet.
This lovely, evocative picture is by the popular Scottish artist and illustrator Sir William Russell Flint (1880-1969) and is apparently called 'Green Slippers'. He liked painting beautiful women, often in the nude, which supposedly disturbed some of his contemporaries. So this is maybe not typical, but I love it, and it makes me long for the warm sunny days which seem this year to be a long time coming. Roll on summer.