Category Archives: Painting

Louisa’s album, and other memories of an ancient house

Louisa Boscowen Goldsmid’s album is a threadbare scrapbook with a stained fabric cover. Inside it are a set of watercolours.

DSC_6268

Mrs Goldsmid was clearly an amateur but like other amateur artists featured on the blog what she lacked in technique she made up with a kind of quirky charm, and a sense of atmosphere. Louisa lived for a short time at Aubrey House.

South front of Notting Hill House - Goldsmid - colour

This is the house in 1893. Some young members of the Alexander family pose listlessly on the rear lawn. Louisa  was still alive by then but she belongs to an earlier period of the house’s history.

Aubrey House Campden Hill c1893 P1194

Aubrey House was built in 1698 by a group of doctors and apothecaries as a spa. There was a well nearby among the Kensington gravel pits (a more picturesque spot than the name implies) which provided mineral water, a fashionable drink at the time (“a famous Chakybial Spring ” according to John Bowack’s Antiquities of Middlesex). The spa house became a private residence under the name Notting Hill House. It was the home of the eccentric albino Lady Mary Coke who did a great deal of work on the extensive gardens. She departed in 1788 after which a series of tenants lived there

In the 1790s the  house became a school for young ladies. From about 1808 Philip de Visme occupied it moving from  a house in Putney Heath considered to be too lonely and unsafe for younger members of his family

Louisa Goldsmid was one of his grandchildren. She had  married  Mr Goldsmid in 1809 aged 28 but spent time at Notting Hill House with her three children in 1817 and 1818. She painted a number of exteriors and interiors. This was the White Room:

Goldsmid Album 0009 the White Room 1817

Mrs Goldsmid’s pictures are noteworthy in our collection because they depict the interior of the house as fully furnished and inhabited (which doesn’t always happen in pictures of late 18th/ early 19th century interiors).

Here in the pink room Jane de Visme poses with her harp.

Goldsmid album pink room 165

Nothing on the table as yet in the dining room but a couple of the younger residents wait hopefully:
Goldsmid album 166a dining room

It must be admitted that things look a bit dull in the nursery.

Goldsmid album 167 nursery

But the children seem to have found  better amusements in the gallery.

Goldsmid album  00 The Gallery 1817

 

The children are lounging around at the top of the house, away from parental interference.

Goldsmid album 00012 The Gallery 1817

 

With a parrot on the lookout. Downstairs, the ladies engaged in more elegant pursuits.

 

Goldsmid album 166b drawing room

The picture itself is quite elegant with the ceiling design reflected in the tall mirror, and a pair of open doors showing the rooms beyond.

The de Vismes had left by 1819. Other tenants and owners followed. From 1830 to 1854 the Misses Emma and Caroline Shepheard ran another school for young ladies at the house. Miss Euphemia Johnston (one of the pupils) sketched them “in mysterious conference” in 1853.

Miss Shepeard and Miss Caroline in mysterious conference Oct 23rd 1853

Florence Gladstone who wrote a history of Aubrey House reports that the picture “bears little resemblance” to the “very attractive”sisters.

This picture, also by “Effie”, shows the students hard at work.

The working days Notting Hill June 1854 by E Johnson MS5053 197b

Heads are bowed, work baskets are open, and possibly a couple of laptops on the right.

After the sisters the property was sold and the grounds “somewhat truncated” according to the Survey of London (who were refused access to the property during the preparation of their volume on Northern Kensington). This was the period when the name Aubrey House was adopted. In 1873 the house was bought by William Cleverley Alexander. The house remained associated with his family for nearly a hundred years.

Aubrey House by William Cleverley Alexander 1914 showing tower MS5053 162

Mr Alexander was also an artist. This view of the house includes the famous structure known as Tower Cressey , visible on the right (covered here). Other members of the family were also amateur artists. One of them has been featured  on the blog before (see the post here). Another member of the family painted this  view of the more crowded Victorian interior:

Aubrey House 1890 photocopy of paintings by the Misses Alexander 01 detail

Maybe even this one, Jean Alexander, photographed in 1906.

Aubrey House south front June 1906 Jean Alexander MS5051 161 - Copy

Or one of these two ladies walking in the garden.

Aubrey House Two women in the garden MS5047 160 - Copy

But perhaps the last word should go to Louisa Goldsmid with one more view of the house and the garden  in 1817

Goldsmid album Notting Hill House garden side 1817 169

Postscript

I first had a good look at the Goldsmid album while some researchers were looking at the history of Aubrey House for a forthcoming book, which I await with interest. In the meantime I thought the time was right for a look at Louisa’s pictures, although as it turned out, that was just a jumping off point. We will return to the further contents of the album at some point in the future.

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Florence Gladstone’s book about Aubrey House is a bit of a confusing read so I hope the facts and quotes I’ve extracted from it are accurate.She also wrote the first history of North Kensington, Notting Hill in Bygone Times in 1926.

Posts about two of my other favourite watercolourists , Marianne Rush and someone we only know as the Artist of the Red Portfolio might also be of interest.

The computer that was giving us grief has now been restored to a semblance of its former self so we can scan again. Thanks to K. I’ve still got drafts of a couple of odd posts which I may still use.


Markino returns: alone in this world

The recent Christmas post I did about Yoshio Markino, the Japanese artist who lived in Chelsea, reminded me that there were still some images I hadn’t used in a post, even though I wrote four about him in 2014. I was flicking through Sammy Tsunematsu’s small but exquisite book of Markino pictures when I saw several which cried out to go into a new blog post. Markino is one of those local residents who have become part of a pantheon of characters I’ve written about over the last  few years, like Marianne Rush, Margaret Morris, Mortimer Menpes, Dr Phene, Edward Lynley Sambourne and many others. It’s good to welcome back a familiar face from the bohemian art scene of early twentieth century London. And for anyone who wasn’t reading the blog in 2014 it’s an introduction to a fascinating artist.

Markino - view from beyond serpentine bridge - Copy

This is a typical Markino picture – a little bit of darkness, an indistinct view of distant trees and a spire, a lot of water, with a glimpse of a figure almost off the edge, possibly a woman being rowed along the Serpentine. Markino loved London (“I am in mad love of London”) but he saw it as exotic, a mysterious place full of unfamiliar sights and people.

Markino - Covent Garden at 4am July - Copy

The porters and traders at Covent Garden were just as enigmatic for Markino as any of the London women he admired.

Markino - Sunday morning in Petticoat Lane - Copy

Markino wasn’t just interested in the middle class women he saw coming in and out of theatres, waiting for trains or walking in parks, but also the working class women such as those in this view of Petticoat Lane. The central figure, an old woman examining some cloth, and the sharp eyed man strolling through the crowd are well observed but I think Markino was just as interested, or possibly more interested in the woman on the left, seen from behind with a mass of blonde hair, wrapped up in baggy clothes, her red haired daughter beside her. The most significant action is on the edge of the picture just as in the Covent Garden picture where the two men with mustaches on the right appear to be in close conversation.

One of his rare interiors:

Westminster Abbey - the south ambulatory looking east COL

Westminster Abbey. From a lonely vantage point he observes a group of visitors. Departing I think into a gloomy afternoon.

Markino liked the darkening days of autumn and winter.

Flower sales girl JAI91 p152 - Copy

Late on an autumn afternoon, a flower girl offering a small bouquet to a pair of elegant but indifferent ladies

Trafalgar Square afternoon COL - Copy

The street light s are on again here in one of his favourite spots with more crowds of grey men and colourful women.

Those women take the centre of the picture in this picture of a crowd outside some shops.

Walking in the street - JB - Copy

As evening drew in Markino would wander the night streets, along with many others.

Hotel entrance in Knightsbridge COL

Early evening at a hotel entrance in Knightsbridge,….

Early evening Buckingham Palace COL - Copy

…..or outside Buckingham Palace..

…..or at the Constitution Arch near Hyde Park.

Constitution Arch Hyde Park BB - Copy

Bright lights cut through the gloom in the theatre district.

Night lights in Piccadilly Circus COL - Copy

 

Markino’s friend Arthur Ransome wrote in his book Bohemia in London “The only man I knew in Chelsea was a Japanese artist who had been my friend in even earlier days when both he and I had been too poor to buy tobacco..”

Night coffee stall Hyde Park Corner COL - Copy

.. “there is something gypsyish about coffee stalls, something very delightful…I have often bought a cup of coffee in the morning hours to drink on the paupers’ bench along the railings…that was a joyous night when for the first time the keeper of the stall recognized my face and honoured me with talk as a regular customer. ..I used to spend a happy twenty minutes among the loafers by the stall.”

Posters COL - Copy

“The safety in the midnight. Wherever in this world is such a safe town like London? You can walk anywhere in London at any time in night. You need not have any fear at all. This is awfully convenient to me to study the night effect.”

Walking home he observes a set of posters on the ragged end of a building, rising above a wooden hoarding. Once again at the edge of the scene a crowd shuffles into the night.

Back in his lodgings Markino works on another autumn view.

Markiino - Kensington Gardens in Autumn

Kensington Gardens, unadorned by any figures. Markino remained “in mad love” of London until he finally left it in 1942.  But in San Francisco, London, Paris, Rome or Japan he remained, in his own words:

“I am simple Yoshio Markino, quite alone in this world.”

Postscript

My apologies for the late launch of this post, especially to those who usually read the blog on a Thursday morning. I’m sure some of you will be thinking how could a post on Markino take him more time than usual? Isn’t it just a matter of a few pictures and some text featuring mist, overcast weather, dark smoky streets with dim lights and Edwardian women showing a flash of white petticoats? Well, I guess it is in a way, but nevertheless I think it was worth coming back to Markino. I’ve done a lot on book illustrators in the last year or so and he belongs in that Golden Age group, as one of the best of them.

Quotations from Alone in this world: selected essays and A Japanese artist in London by Yoshio Markino and Bohemia in London by Arthur Ransome.


In Estella’s house

In the previous post  about Estella Canziani I showed you some  of the pictures she painted or drew of the garden and the area around the house she lived in for her whole life. This week we’re continuing the story with more pictures inside the house in Palace Green. In 1967, shortly after her death a newspaper described her as the Bird Lady, an eccentric old woman still wearing the fashions of her youth and the house as a shambles infested by birds and other small animals. It seems a shame that people are often judged by how they were (or might have been) at the end of their lives. When a life is finished we are free to look at the whole story, see the whole pattern  and pick the greatest hits. No doubt the house in Palace Green was a bit of a mess but you could also choose to view it as a collection of wonders, mundane and exotic and a kind of wonderland. A lively little girl grew up to be a talented artist. She filled the house with mementos of her life and travels. Given her interest in folklore and fairies and the proximity of faery-infested Kensington Gardens you could imagine her house as a gateway into a world of wonders.

Corridor at 3 Palace Green Cpic 581 00002_1 - Copy

The corridor at the rear of the house looking out onto the garden. Estella painted it more than once.

Corridor at 3 Palace Green with Mrs Squeaky from round about book

In this version, taken from her memoirs she has included Mrs Squeaky, a companion of hers for thirteen years. Estella was encouraged in her love of animals by her mother and the family pets included dogs, cat and rats but above all birds. Mrs Squeaky, an Indian Tumbler actually came from a shop where Estella found her in a tiny cage too small to turn around in: “I bought her for one-and-sixpence, and in three months she was a different bird, flying after me up the long corridor and then walking into the studio. She was called Mrs Squeaky because she invented a special squeaky coo for me.”

This is a photo of that same long corridor.

Corridor at 3 Palace Green fp

So too, I think is this.

Corridor at 3 Palace Green K69-112

But who’s that at the end of the corridor glimpsed like a secret inhabitant of the maze? We’ve met her before in the preview post where we saw her in a painting looking out of a room.

Here she is taking centre stage.

Staircase at 3 Palace green Cpic 564 00002 - Copy (2)

Florence, the housemaid again, probably well used to Estella’s ways by now.

As was Mrs Squeaky.

LW_KCLS_1461

Posing on the sofa.

I think this is the same window. The house seems to have been full of objects, vases, glassware and ornaments collected from a wide variety of sources across Europe.

LW_KCLS_545

And paintings, on the wall and stacked up on the floor.

Studio at 3 Palace Green K68-116

Paintings Estelal collected, and her own work, scattered about the place.

Studio at 3 Palace Green K68-117

It must sometimes have been a relief to relax in the conservatory.

Conservatory at 3 Palace Green Cpic570

Or just sit in front of the fire.

Fireplace at 3 Palace Green Cpic 583 00001

Estella’s memoirs also feature a few family photographs. Here she is in the garden with her father.

Canziani p50 photos 02

One of the items donated to the Library by the trustees of Estella’s estate was a small family album featuring a series of pictures taken when she was very young. As we started with Estella as an old woman let’s finish with her as that lively little girl whose imagination encompassed the house and the whole world outside it.

Young Estella Plate 12

 

Postscript

This is another bookplate, probably a little earlier than the one in the previous post.

 

Bookplate 70-123

As a professional hoarder I imagine that those who come after me might be appalled by the accumulation of stuff I left behind. But I like to think some of it might be just as interesting as the contents of Estella’s house.


What Estella saw

`In 1965 a woman died in an old house in Palace Green, a house she had lived in all her life. The house had once been the laundry of Kensington Palace but her parents had just been looking for a pleasant family dwelling. The houses around it had become grander (and more valuable) over the course of the 20th century but for Estella Canziani her house was the family home and garden she had always known.

Estella had done many things in her life. She was a writer on travel and folklore (and local history), a campaigner for the RSPCA and RSPB,  a book illustrator and painter. She painted landscapes, portraits, animals and costumes but what we’re looking at today are paintings of her home and the places around it. What Estella saw were gardens, trees, small animals and rooms full of objects.  She wrote a memoir of her life in the house, her travels and her charity work called  Round about 3 Palace Green (Methuen, 1938)

Here is her garden:

Garden at 3 Palace Green Cpic 580

Estella, encouraged by her parents had a fondness for birds, particularly pigeons and had several as pets. She also had many friends among the birds which visited the garden including pheasants and a parrot.

The rear view of Mr Clementi’s house in nearby Kensington Church Street.

Clementi's House 128 Kensington Church Street Cpic569

The colours of the plants and flowers are what immediately caught my attention. “Flowers on walls have always fascinated me and some of my earliest memories are associated with them.”

Estella’s mother was also a painter.

LSC in studio

Louisa Starr, who was born in Liverpool of American descent married an Italian engineer called Frederico Enrico Canziani. Estella reports that her mother dreamed of an ideal house and recognized it while driving in Kensington Gardens, seeing a board up advertising it to let. She telegraphed to her husband to come back from Paris and they secured the property just five minutes ahead of a gentleman who was also waiting for the office to open. Estella was born there two years later.

The photograph of Louisa in the studio she had built in the courtyard comes from a feature in the Ladies Field of about 1900. This photograph from the same feature shows the garden in Estella’s picture.

LSC in garden fp

Is that Louisa on the stepladder with Estella beside her? Estella is said to be aged 13 in the article which describes her as inheriting her mother’s talent. The young Estella was often around artists. She remembers being kissed while in her pram by Lord Leighton and of visiting him at “his beautiful house in Holland Park Road.” “He gave me rides on his shoulders about his studio to the Arab Hall and fountain…He showed me the stuffed peacock at the foot of the stairs and also the beautiful tiles on the staircase…”

Estella also knew Val Princep and his family who lived next door to Leighton as well as G F Watts, Holman Hunt, Luke Fildes and John Everett Millais. She also recalls visiting the studios of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and W P Frith, and attending fancy dress parties at Walter Crane’s house.

Louisa often signed her paintings with a little pictogram of a star. Estella adopted this motif with the addition of a C. You can see this in the picture of a window at the house below.

Window at 3 Palace Green Cpic562

More plants on walls. The Ladies Field describes the house as ivy-covered. Below Estella is a little older than in the previous picture, seen with her father.

Estella and her father in the garden fp

She is wearing her artist’s smock and carrying a plaette so the picture is posed but the affection between them is quite apparent. The identity of the superflous man standing by them is unknown. The precision of her work can be seen in this line drawing entitled Mulberry trees in the garden at Palace Green.

Mulberry Trees in the back garden at 3 Palace Gren Cpic577

Estella had been told that Queen Victoria had picked mulberries from the two trees in the garden.

Here’s another view from the garden showing the houses beyond the fence and a lone pigeon

Garden at 3 Palace Green Cpic 560 00005 - Copy

Animals and birds, particularly pigeons frequently feature in Estella’s pictures. This one shows the Paddock in Kensington Gardens.

The Paddock 3 Palace Green Cpic574

This view at dusk is looking  from Kensington Gardens, westwards I think.

Kensington Gardens Cpic572 00004 - Copy auto

The distant light of the setting sun, and the frantic activity of the squirrels recalling Rackham’s furtive faeries. Estella painted several fairy pictures influenced by European folklore. Her picture the Piper of Dreams of 1915 was much reprinted and became very popular during the war. In her memoir she recalls being told by Philip Lee Warner of the Medici Society that they had sold 250,00 copies in the first year. There was a signed edition of a thousand (at 2 guineas each) – “the old man who looked after me while I autographed them sat me at a table and passed one to me at a time…he watched carefully to see that I was not getting tired and writing badly and after every hundred gave me a rest…He had worked for Leighton, Burne-Jones and many other artists and explained how he had watched each on to see that their signature was perfect.”

The picture below, of the sunken garden in Kensington Gardens also has an unearthly quality, like an illustration to an Edwardian fantasy.

Sunken garden Kensington Gardens Cpic 566

 

Postscript

We’ll be back at Estella’s house again soon I think. There are many more things to see.

Bookplate K61-238

On an unrelated matter:

On Sunday, a courier handed me a package containing David Bowie’s new album Blackstar. Thanks to the practices of a certain online retailer the album’s tracks were already on my MP3 player although I hadn’t heard any of them yet. This is a contrast with the arrival of the first Bowie album I received in the post, The Man who sold the World which came to me in a large cardboard packet from the first incarnation of the Virgin empire back in the early 70s. I had heard all the tracks on the album on a late night programme on Radio Luxembourg. After listening to it I remember walking down the wide road near our house feeling…. something, not quite realising that the world had changed and that David Bowie would be with me for the rest of my life.

You get more emotional as you grow older I’ve found and quite banal things can move me to tears these days but I was surprised on Monday morning at quite how upsetting the news of Bowie’s death was. I was sad when I heard the news of John Lennon’s death but I was still young and cynical then so I got over it quite soon. I don’t know how long it will take me to regain my equanimity this time. I didn’t play Blackstar on Sunday, there was too much to do. Now I wish I had, so the first time I do play it, it won’t be with the realisation that this is the last word.

Bowie was one of the cleverest pop stars. It’s so like him to deliver one final surprise.

Gimme your hands.


Christmas days: a preview for Estella

Only the second year of short posts for Christmas week and I’m already breaking my own rules. I had intended these posts to cover subjects where there wasn’t much to say or where we only had a few pictures. But this one is purely because I don’t have time to write a long post about the pictures of Estella Canziani. I can come back to her in the new year and try to give you a fuller picture of a Kensington resident whose first memory was being held up by her nursemaid to see Queen Victoria pass by in a procession, and who lived until the mid 1960s.

Christmas for me is a time for being at home. So it’s appropriate that these pictures from our collection feature the house she lived in all her life in Palace Green.

Garden door at 3 Palace Green Cpic 582

I love this image of fiery plants glimpsed out of the back door from the corridor.

Estella had a particular liking for domestic interiors, and the garden outside.

Garden at 3 Palace Green Cpic 579

(The family also kept pigeons.)

Trees in the garden can also be seen through the skylight in this view from the studio.

Studio at 3 Palace Green Cpic 565

Below a picture I had to scan on our book scanner. Images copied this way are often a bit pale so I did some post production in Photoshop.

Corridor z at 3 Palace Green with Florence Cpic 563 00003

It restores the blue elements of the orginal, particularly Florence’s dress. Another brightly coloured dress is featured in this painting of a friend of Estella’s playing the piano.

Annette Hullah playing in the drawing room at 3 Palace Green 1925 Cpic 561

We’ll come back to this Kensington house on another occasion and I can tell you how I identified a picture by Estella’s mother.

That’s the last of these short posts for Christmas week. I hope you had a good day and that your friends and family appreciated all the presents you gave them. The final soft toy Happy Christmas is from a group of animals.

DSC_5803

The 12 monkeys of Christmas obviously.

And a happy new year to you all.

Next week, party season, there will be another visit to that perennial blog favourite the Duchess of Devonshire’s costume ball of 1897.


Christmas days: a Markino bonus

Today’s short post  is a small installment of pictures by an old friend of the blog, the Japanese artist who lived in London, Yoshio Markino. This one is simple called Autumn:

Studio Vol 33 p165 Autumn by Yoshio Markino - Copy

The woman wrestling with her umbrella has a stylized expression of sadness (or merely exasperation) on her face. Behind her the rest of the scene is indistinct ,in a traditional Markino mist.

Below, some images from a biography which was illustrated by Markino. In a Japanese setting a causeway vanishes into a lake of  lillies floating on barely glimpsed water.

Lotus lake at Tsushima p172

A monochrome temple.

Shinto temple of Tsushima p224

London. A stone lion couches in the wet square. Although this image is also in damp fog, the location is unmistakable.

Misty evening in Trafalgar Square p122

A house in south London. There are lights on the ground floor but above a single light blazes from a bedroom.

151 Brixton Road p136

This would have been one of Markino’s early London residences, in Brixton.

This picture, from the Studio magazine is another monochrome view of a familiar London sight.

Studio vol 35 p341 Markino The Clock Tower Westminster - Copy

A small group of people take a walk along the embankment. The night is dark but the woman in the foreground is carrying her coat so it must be a warm evening.

The final image is the most characteristic work. It has Markino’s favourite subject, well dressed women in London on an overcast day.

Two women window shopping in Bond Street, one looking towards the artist. Markino liked to compare London’s women with insects wrapped in carapaces of fur and thick coats.

Beautiful women in Bond Street p158

Behind them yet another mist.

Today’s soft toy is also characteristically Japanese.

PTDC0005 - CopyPTDC0003 (2) - Copy

Happy Christmas from the goth Hello Kitty. HK is also an appropriate companion for the anglophile Markino since it emerged that Kitty’s surname is White and that she and her family live just outside London. Markino would have approved.

See you tomorrow.


Charles Conder’s bohemian days

Conder created an Arcadia peopled by dreamy, capricious figures who lead lives of luxurious idleness. They wander at dusk on the margins of tranquil, lapis lazuli seas, of lakes cerulean under the midday haze, or dally in the shade of richly foliaged trees. Scented breezes may stir their garments, but they know neither wind nor rain. There is no harshness or violence among these privileged beings, for those who dwell in Arcadia do not suffer from privation or ambition. But there is a wistfulness, sometimes, in their glances; their laughter ceases, they seem to grow weary of their own perfection, of being without past of future. They are touched by a nostalgia for the world of real men and women, of struggle and tragedy. Such moments pass; their eyes are caught again by a seductive smile, the notes of a flute or mandolin are wafted from across the water, and their faces grow tender from the contemplation of unending beauty.

Sir John Rothenstein. (1938)

Spring by the Sea

In February 1905 the artist Charles Conder and his wife Stella Maris invited their friends to a fancy dress party at their home in Cheyne Walk.

From Conder's House plate 52

The invitations might have looked like this one Conder created for another costume party

Invitation Card plate 72

Note that phrase “disguise imperative”. Conder had created a room for Edmund and Mary Davis at their house in North Kensington decorated with water colours on silk which was featured in the Studio magazine in the same year. The writer Arthur Symons recalled the “most wonderful Fancy Dress Ball the Conders gave.”

John Rothenstein had this to say about the party:

One at least of the parties given at 91 Cheyne Walk was memorable enough to be talked of to this day. A the guests arrived at the house lit with many-coloured lanterns there was an air of tense exectancy. For weeks it had been rumoured that those most renowned for the ingenuity and magnificence of their fancy dress were planning to outdo themselves. The highest expectations were fulfilled. Marie Tempest came as Peg Woffington, the Broness de Meyer as Hamlet, Mr and Mrs Edmund Davis as a pair of poodles, Mrs Lawson as as Dutch boy, and Mrs Florence Humphrey as a Conder lady. The fan which Conder offered as prize to the wearer of the dress judged the most beautiful was won by Madame Errazuiz, a dazzling South American. This party … represented the Conder’s social apotheosis.

Conder had married Stella, a wealthy Canadian widow, in 1901 and had subsequently moved in an elevated social and artistic circle.

The masquerade 48

I first came across Conder’s name when I saw this picture reproduced in a book.

La Morte Amoreuse p68

La Morte Amoreuse – The Dead Woman in love. An enigmatic picture with an intriguing title. As I looked at more of his pictures they seemed to have the same slightly macabre quality.

The shadow p56

The Spectre, also referred to as The Shadow.

Conder belongs to the same fin de siecle world as Aubrey Beardsley, who was a friend of his. Conder contributed to the Yellow Book and to Savoy magazine. Some of his work resembles Beardsley.

A fairy prince plate 8

“A fairy prince” could easily have come out of a decadent narrative like Beardsley’s Under the Hill.

A masque plate 7

Another masque. Along with Under the Hill I was taken back to the Picture of Dorian Gray, Pierre Louys’s novel Aphrodite, Flaubert’s Salammbo, the stories of Lord Dunsany, J K Huymans’ A Rebours (Against nature). You could have had a lot of quoted passages laid before you from my immersement in fantastic literature in the 70s. This was before fantasy trilogies clogged the bookshops and once you’d read your Mervyn Peake, Fritz Leiber, Robert E Howard and Clark Ashton Smith, to name a few, you had to dig deeper to find that weird frisson.

Before he washed up in Chelsea as the husband of a rich woman, there had quite a quite different side to Conder. When he was 16 years old he had been sent to Australia by his father partly to prevent him becoming an artist. It didn’t work of course and Australia actually provided him with inspiration and the company of other artists. A large part of his work features bright skies and open spaces . He returned to Europe in 1890 but remained to many an Australian artist like our friend Mortimer Menpes.

Charles Conder Rickett's Point

Rickett’s Point.

A holiday at Mentone

A holiday in Mentone. (The Australian one, obviously)

Silver sands.

On the seashore.

He combined sun, sand and a mythological air in this picture.

Charles Conder Hot Wind

Hot wind.

Conder’s relaxed life in Cheyne Walk did not last very long. He died in 1909 aged only 41, of tertiary syphillis, something his earlier biographers hint at without actually saying. Stella did not survive him by long. She died of burns after falling asleep while smoking in 1912.

Conder Stella and Florence H

Conder and Stella with their friend Florence Humphrey.

If like me you’ve never come across Conder before, there’s plenty out there to see online and even in UK galleries. One or two things in Australia too if you’re down that way. I’ve found it fascinating to go from one image to an artist’s whole life and work, especially after finding out his Chelsea connection. There’s much more  you could say but as I’m not really an art historian I’ll just end the post with another picture.

The pink dress.

Postscript

Some of the images came from Charles Conder: his life and work (Bodley Head 1914) by Frank Gibson. I also used  The life and death of Conder (Dent 1938) by Sir John Rothenstein.

There are quite a few Conder pictures on the BBC Your Paintings website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/search/painted_by/charles-conder_artists

You can also see paintings in our collection there: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/galleries/locations/kensington-central-library-6950

I can also recommend  Ann Galbally’s excellent biography Charles Conder: the last Bohemian (Melbourne University Press 2003).

I went to see an exhibition by another Chelsea riverside artist a couple of nights ago, Hugh Krall. If you’re in Chelsea you should have a look. More details here.


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