Saturday 29 June 2013

The Brothers Prynne

Just when you think you know enough about Pre-Raphaelite art and all that palava, along comes another artist that makes you scratch your head and go 'Well, what can I find out about you?'  This happened to me this week with Edward Arthur Fellowes Prynne.

O Ye Whales And All That Move On The Waters Bless Ye The Lord (1899)
This really is the tale of two Prynnes as Edward had a more famous brother called George, who I shall come to in a moment.  Starting with Edward, there seems very little known about him beyond some bare facts.  He was raised a High Anglican by his father who was the perpetual curate of St Peters, Frankfort, Plymouth.  Despite money being somewhat tight at home, Edward Prynne trained in London, Antwerp and Italy before returning and working in a style that sometimes is likened to Burne-Jones (as above).  He also worked with his brother George, who trained to be an architect and had a rather illustrious career.  If you search for George, you will find a fair amount on his ecclesiastic architectural career.  George suffered quite badly over the lack of cash.  He went off to the wild frontier of America and Canada (mmmm, Maple syrup) and worked in an architects office (okay, so possibly it wasn't that wild) before coming back and setting up his own practice.  He specialised in churches, and called upon his brother to provide some stunning religious images.

Stations of the Cross from St John Evangelist, Iffley Road, Oxford
Possibly the reason why Prynne isn't so well known is because a large part of his work is religious and that just is not fashionable anymore, especially when it's the less 'card-friendly' end of the belief-system.  No matter how prettily you dress it up, that is a chap being nailed to a cross.  Beautifully executed though, if you excuse the phrase.

Ladock Church, Cornwall
The Annunciation
Lovely stuff.  Although he gets compared to Burne-Jones a lot, I think of Evelyn de Morgan more due to the diverse colour palette.  Or maybe Marianne Stokes.  

He actually did over 60 portraits, some of which can be seen on the BBC 'Your Paintings' website.  There are a couple of corkers on there, I especially like the following...

Piers Alexander, Viscount Velletort (1886)
John F Winnicott
The first one I like because he's a handsome-looking Viscount and who doesn't love that?  Mr Winnicott has the most splendid robes I have ever seen.  Look at the texture on the fur!  I think he fashioned himself a fine mustache from the off-cuts.  Mr Winnicott has a special kind of clarity (which I'm sure he'd be delighted to hear) that makes him luminescent.  I appreciate that pale Tissot light in portraiture.

O All Ye Beasts and Cattle Bless Ye The Lord (1899)
One of the exhibitions I'm looking forward to later this year will be the exhibition about Angels and Fairies and the suchlike at the Russell-Cotes because I will get to see an impressive framed work which contains a series of Angels blessing different aspects of life and nature.  I particularly like the one with fish and whales (up at the top) but the others are very special too and the frame is insane.  I'll have to beg an image of the frame next week from Mr Walker and I'll post it up on the Stunner's Boudoir on Facebook as it has to be seen to be believed.

Oh Ye Mountains and Hills Bless Ye The Lord (1899)
So what do we know of Edward Prynne?  He was born in Plymouth in 1854 in Plymouth in Devon.  He had around seven siblings, including older brother George and a younger sister named Etheldreda.  What a splendid name. In 1888 he married Emma Joll and together they had six children.  In the 1911 Census he is listed as living in 1 Woodville Road, Ealing, had three servants and was working as an artist/painter.  When he died in 1921, he left Emma with £2582 3s which is around £90,000 in today's money.  His obituary in The Builder read as follows:

"[Prynne's death] removes from the religious art world an artist of very exceptional ability, 
and one whose absolute sincerity and devotion to the highest ideals of his art are 
stamped upon every kind of work of a religious character that he undertook"

Margaret Thom (1908)
His brother, George, who designed a string of beautiful church interiors, died a few years later, leaving his widow £5,000 and gaining, it seems, a higher profile in retrospect.  Despite losing two sons (Norman and Charles) in the Great War, he never lost his faith, as his obituary from his family's church stated:

"Through it all he was a Christian gentleman; modest, kindly, diligent and patient. His brother, Edward, eminent in another form of devotional art, supplied the beautiful windows of our Church, and before his death, completed the designs for the windows still unfilled. And St. Peter’s stands as a worthy monument to the two brothers."

It will be a pleasure to see the work on show in the Russell-Cotes and in the meantime I will be visiting some churches to enjoy the work of the brothers Prynne, filled with sincerity and devotion.  It is also very, very beautiful, which is worth your devotion alone.

Monday 24 June 2013

Enough Love to Last Out a Long Life

I've had an interesting weekend of pursuing various matters to do with Edward Burne-Jones, which is always a pleasure.  I am very much looking forward to going up to Liverpool this summer to see the exhibition at the Lady Lever Gallery and part of me is hoping that I will learn a little more about the artist and his wife.  I am beginning to find Georgiana rather fascinating, not least because it is through her that we have the Memorials, his biography which he feared so much, hence the reason he entrusted it to Georgiana.  After all, Edward Burne-Jones had no greater supporter.

Georgiana Burne-Jones (1882) Frederick Hollyer
Georgiana, or Georgie as she was more usually called, was one of the MacDonald sisters who all managed to marry spectacularly talented men and/or produce talented children.  To state the obvious, these were astonishingly smart women in their own right and from the sisters, Agnes, Georgiana, Louisa and Alice we have Kiplings, Baldwins and marriages to Edward Burne-Jones and Edward Poynter.  That is being connected.

Agnes Poynter (nee MacDonald) (1867) Edward Poynter
Alice Kipling (1860s)
Louisa Baldwin (1868) Edward Poynter
Georgie and her family moved frequently during her childhood with her father's work as a Methodist minister, until they settled back in Birmingham in 1850. Harry MacDonald, Georgie's brother, attended King Edward's School which made him part of an artistic set to which he introduced his sisters.  Among his fellow students was Edward or 'Ned' Jones, who was destined for the church.  Georgie and Ned fell in love when she was barely a teenager and there was already an attachment between them when the MacDonalds moved to London in 1853, when Georgie was 13.  Moving down to university, Ned had a fateful meeting with a fellow Oxford undergraduate, William Morris, and the young men decided to alter their course from church to easel.

Georgie in 1856, at the time of her engagement
Georgie's friendship with Ned led to an engagement when she was 15, although Ned (who had adopted 'Burne' to his surname) had little prospect of marrying her, which caused both of them distress.  Georgie's support of her fiancee brought her into the Pre-Raphaelite circle, including the great John Ruskin, an experience that affected her deeply, as she said "I wish it were possible to explain the impression made upon me as a young girl whose experience so far had been quite remote from art, by sudden and close intercourse with those to whom it was the breath of life... I felt in the presence of a new religion."  Georgie herself attended art school (although she dismissed her time there later in life) and studied a little under Ford Madox Brown.  Very little of her work seems to exist, which is a shame as she showed talent and delicacy in her work.

Dead Bird (1857) Georgiana MacDonald
Woodcut Georgiana MacDonald

Georgiana Burne-Jones (1860) D G Rossetti
Ned and Georgie finally married in 1860 and had only £30 to their joint name, but by all accounts they were blissfully happy.  Summers were spent with William and his new bride Jane, in somewhat more affluent surroundings, and with Georgie's married sisters and their families.  In Green Summer, Burne-Jones shows a circle of women, including his sisters-in-law and Jane Morris, listening as Georgie reads aloud.  I think that it is interesting how singular she looks, that even amongst this circle of talented women his wife is exceptional.  Part of what made her so special in his eyes had been the trials they had been through in the first few years of their marriage.  Georgie had given birth to Philip in the Autumn of 1861 but in the summer of 1864, Philip caught scarlet fever, passing it to his pregnant mother.  Georgie gave premature birth to their second son Christopher, who died soon afterwards.  Georgie was ill for some time afterwards, then refused to return to the rooms where Christopher had died.  By showing her in black, Ned may have been alluding to their tragedy, but I feel that the other women are listening to her because Ned feels she has gained wisdom from her experiences, however painfully won.

Green Summer (1864) Edward Burne-Jones
After the birth of their second child, Margaret, the couple finally settled in Fulham, where they would live for a while.  1866 brought both the joy of Margaret's birth, but also the arrival of Maria Zambaco into Ned's life after her mother commissioned a portrait from him.  Ned's affair with Maria caused his wife a great amount of pain, yet somehow she clung to the faith he would not leave her entirely, "I know one thing, and that is that there is enough love between Edward and me to last out a long life if it is given us".  That faith must have been greatly shaken by the very public event of Maria's attempted suicide, but somehow the Burne-Jones family remained intact.

The Morris and Burne-Jones families at Kelmscott, 1874
Under such circumstances, it is unsurprising that Georgie became close to William Morris.  Already like family due to the 'brotherhood' shared by Ned and William, when their spouses strayed Georgie and William had an added bond which was to last for the rest of their lives.  It is suggested that Morris' poetry of the late 1860s and 1870s suggests that he wanted her to leave Ned for him, but steadfastly she remained by her erring husbands side.  The families spend time together again, like they had in the early years of their marriages, and photographs exist of summers at Kelmscott in the 1870s.

Georgiana Burne-Jones (1881) Blanche F MacArthur
The Burne-Jones family move from London to Rottingdean in Sussex in 1880 seems to mark a break from the trouble and interference of London.  Rossetti's death in 1882 affected Ned greatly but Georgiana found their more 'isolated' life in the village suited her and enabled her to get involved in matters back in London, such as the South London Fine Art Gallery which brought fine art education to the working-classes, but from a safe distance.  

Georgiana Burne-Jones and family (1883) Edward Burne-Jones
The Family (1880s) Edward Burne-Jones
Although Burne-Jones strayed again in the early 1890s with one of his daughter's friends, May Gaskell, Ned's relationships with the many young women who went in and out of the Burne-Jones home never went beyond flirtation.  Georgiana must have remained ever watchful of the young girls who came, giggling, to view the artist, growing increasing white and wistful, but everso full of romance.  Ned maintained a spirit of other-worldliness, his attachment to his daughter and some of her circle boardering on a mania at times.  Although he could not bare to be parted from Margaret, his obvious pleasure at being a grandfather is so touching in the photographs of him with the tiny children, climbing him like an old but sprightly tree...

Ned and his grandchildren
Against her wishes and in the face of ridicule from some of their closest friends, Georgiana found herself Lady Burne-Jones when Ned accepted a baronetcy in 1894, mainly to enable his son to inherit the title.  I find the lack of support shown by their friends to be astonishing, but possibly all bad feeling was lost in the wake of Morris' death in 1896.  Ned was devastated  but you can only assume what Georgiana must have felt as Morris had been her truest friend and supporter.  Ned declined in health until his own death only two years later.  Before he died, he asked his wife to be his official biographer, possibly fearing revelations that could damage not only his reputation but also the future prospects of his wife and children.

Georgie Burne-Jones in later life
Alone in Rottingdean, Georgie became more intellectually active than ever.  While working on her husband's Memorials and The Flower Book, she also became more political,  protesting against the Boer War.  After the Relief of Mafeking, she hung a banner from the windows of her house saying "We have killed and also take possession".  Her nephew Rudyard Kipling had to persuade her to take it down in order to pacify the outraged villagers. She finally died in 1920 at the age of 80.  Philip, who became a painter like his father, died in 1926 and Margaret, who was the mother of the novelists Angela Thirkell and Denis Mackail (the children in the photo with their grandfather, above) died in 1953.

Despite, or maybe because of the feyness and flirtation of her husband, Georgiana Burne-Jones remains one of those figures who had to be the still place amongst the madness. I get the impression that because of Georgie's stability, Ned could drift away, but you have to wonder at the cost to his wife.  Certainly she kept an iron grip on his memory into the twentieth century, honoring his wishes with a tenacious spirit.  I would like to know more about Georgie because I suspect there is more to know.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Feathers Everywhere...

I'm not sure if you are expecting a post about birds, but the title of this piece actually refers to a sermon delivered in the film Doubt (2008).  Father Brendan Flynn, the subject of some rumours, tells a brilliant story from the pulpit:  A woman has been gossiping with her friends but that night dreams that a great hand points to her and makes her feel guilty.  She goes to her priest who tells her to go up to her roof and cut open a pillow, which she does.  When she returns to him he asks what the result was, and she says 'Feathers, everywhere!'  He then tells her to gather them all back up again and she says she can't, they went everywhere.  'That," says the priest, "is gossip!"

A Bit of Gossip (1903) Charles Wilson
I've done posts previously on sharing secrets and eavesdropping but this is different.  The secrets shared were your own to confide and eavesdropping tended to include people spreading stories or just talking about stuff the over-hearer doesn't want to hear.  I'm talking about 'gossip' today and how it seems quite gender specific and judgmental.  The picture above by Charles Wilson has the two women indulging in 'a bit of gossip', something that is distracting them from their work.  Now, why would I say 'indulging'?  It makes it sound like cake:  Is good gossip as delicious as cake?

The Three Gossips Louis Grosclaude
It's true that gossiping does sometimes coincide with tea and biscuits.  Isn't it funny to think that such a trivial meal accompanies such slander!  I'm not saying that these ladies are saying that so-and-so is having it away with the milkman, or so-and-so wears his wife's bonnet while she's out playing bridge, but think of the things we gossip about, it's rarely something you would say to someone's face.  Yes, I said 'we' because I gossip as much as the next person.  Other people's lives are fascinating...

At the Spring or Gossip John Faed
I rarely gossip in anything this low-cut, really you are just asking for trouble.  All you'd need to do is bend over to whisper one of the juicy details and it'd be all out in the open.

An Evening Gossip Joshua Fisher
I find it interesting that the majority of the images are of women and rural women at that.  I suppose it's a fairly standard stereotype that women gossip: Do women gossip while men speculate?  Is it all down to language?  I know some men who are terrible gossips, and it's an unusual gossip picture that shows a man...

The Gossip Henry Tozer
This had the most unexpected title as there is no sign that the men are gossiping, they just appear to be sitting, companionably, drinking some sort of homemade hooch.  Maybe the hooch has loosened their tongues and they are talking about their friend who wears the bonnet.

So what are the pictures saying about gossip?  It is predominantly a female hobby, sometimes shown over a cup of tea, or during the working day.  I always wondered how much gossip Fishwives knew as they seem famous for it.  I guess it was the glamorous lives they led...

Dolly Peel, Glamorous Fishwife
Gosh, it's just like Made in Chelsea, only with more fish.

The Gossip (1907) Thomas Dewing
This is a very curious picture.  Who is gossiping?  Has the gossiping already taken place?  I think that the woman on the right has been talking about the others and they have found out, hence her isolation from them.  Or possibly the other two have been talking about her, but the title seems to identify one person gossiping.  Possibly it might refer to 'the gossip' that has been spread and is the reason why two of the figures sit slightly apart from the third.  I like this image as potentially it shows the effect of gossip, divisive among friends.

The Gossip Walter Langley
 We are quite far removed from the action here - possibly we are meant to feel like the one who is being talked about? I was once put in a rather embarrassing position of having to admit that I hadn't been talking behind a certain person's back.  .Oh the horror of finding out that you weren't interesting enough to be gossiped about!  Some people have some very odd ideas about what makes them important.

Ladies Gossiping at the Opera Frederick Barnard
On the whole, gossip is not to be indulged in unless you are willing to do it in style. I promise that I only gossip at the opera, and then only behind a fan.  The opera must have been the ideal place for a good old gossip: all people who were worth gossiping about were present, and you and your friend were in a box, nice and secluded, so you could have a right old slander-session.  Probably best that it's just ladies present, because if I get to be alone in an opera box with a gentleman, I can think of better things to do than gossip.  Shame on me.

Indoor Gossip, Cairo (1873) John Frederick Lewis
It does at least seem to be somewhat of a universal.  Women everywhere love to talk about the bonnet-wearing man and the goings on of the milkman.  In someways, this commonality seems heartwarming - no matter how different we seem, how odd Johnny Foreigner seems to be, we all love ripping the characters of our friends to shreds.  Ah, it's a small world after all...

And the Devil Ran Away with Gossip Noel Laura Nisbet
This has to be my favourite, not least because I love Nisbet's work.  Her stuff is not greatly known, but the BBC 'Your Paintings' site has four painting here and the Russell-Cotes has some corking images of hers which you can see on their 'Art on Demand site here (she worked a lot in tempera which isn't included in the 'Your Painting' site).  In case you were feeling at all cosy about gossip, what with all the tea and opera boxes, here is the Devil carrying away both the gossiper and the concept.  If we're honest, we don't gossip about positive things - by its nature gossip is as dark and juicy as a ripe plum.  I suppose the stereotype of women gossiping comes from a time when information was controlled, and men at least could get out into the world to find out the truth.  Plus living in small communities (most 'gossip' scenes seem to revolve around a village) meant that everyone knew each other and any disruption would affect everyone to one degree or another.

Neighbourly Gossip (1889) Carlton Smith
There is an element of living vicariously through other people's problems, hence the popularity of celebrity gossip magazines.  Ever fancied knowing what it feels like to have an affair/be bankrupt/something salacious that doesn't involve money or sex, sorry I can't think of anything else?  I'm sure any number of magazines or newspapers can't wait to tell you in the most judgmental detail who has split up from their husband or who was photographed being choked by her husband at a Mayfair restaurant.  It's all still gossip, it's just we don't personally know the celebrities, but possibly, like all gossip we should think about whether or not it's true and what are our reasons for talking about it.

The Gossips Pierre M Beyle
So, to conclude, gossiping is something the devil will back you up in, so it's best to keep your mouth shut and only take a gentleman into an opera box with you.  Unless he's a terrible gossip.

Oh, what the hell, you'll never guess who's been seen with the milkman!  And he was wearing his wife's bonnet at the time..

Sunday 16 June 2013

Happy Father's Day!

Gosh chaps, it's Father's Day!  Here in Britain it only became an actual thing in the early 1970s (to coincide with my birth, no doubt) but of late there has been firm evidence that retailers obviously feel people need to express their love through meaningless purchases for both parents equally.  I bet you Dads feel special now.  My Dad got some home-made jam donuts (I know my audience), I even deep fried and shoved jam up them while he watched.  While I was searing off my fingerprints with boiling fat and melting sugar, I got to thinking about Victorian fathers...

Good Morning Dear Father Frederich Meyerheim
You would think that the figure of 'Father' would appear in many Victorian paintings, but actually Mum gets a bigger look in.  Father figures are slightly more mysterious, as if society had a collective head-scratch over exactly what they made of them.  We all know they should be upstanding, authoritarian and bearded,  but as a subject of their own?  That's when things get a bit tricky...

Father is at the Helm (1889) William McTaggart
Well, that's quite obvious.  Doesn't the boy look thrilled by the fact his father is steering their little boat.  Father looks quite old to have such a tiny son and where is everyone else? Is it just me or is Dad staring at me? Okay, I'm moving on...

Watching Father Work Albert Neuhuys
You have to remember that telly and Haribo hadn't been invented yet, so these children are able to sit and watch their Dad do something with a stick and a basket.  It's just like Mario Kart, but you get some fresh air.

Home From Work (1861) Arthur Hughes
I suppose what keeps most fathers out of the domestic scenes in art is that they have to be at work.  Arthur Hughes did a couple of pictures of joyful children hurling their arms around their daddies as they return from a day of honest labour - Did only working-class children do this?  Was it relief that neither he nor they had died of something poverty-related during the day?  Either way, that child has bare feet and no coat on.  She'll be a goner by the end of the evening.  One less present for you next Father's Day.  Really, when will the working-classes ever learn?

The Struggle for the Apple William Knight

I'm not sure children today would struggle for an apple.  I may be condemning a generation unfairly, I'm sure my daughter would put up a fight, but then she knows where we keep them and where the chocolate fingers live so she doesn't often feel the need to wrestle one of her parents for a piece of fruit.  Honestly, if the two children in the picture haven't worked out how to successfully tag team that apple out of his hand, then they don't deserve it.  They aren't trying.  I blame their parents.

The Hit Frederic Leighton
Without doubt, it is Dad's role to teach his little children the important lessons in life: honesty, hard work, how to shoot something with a bow and arrow.  I'm not sure Social Services are comfortable with the last one anymore.  Especially if you do it dressed like that.  You'll be going on a list, I promise you.

I think it's interesting that one of the most famous paintings about Dads doesn't even feature a father at all...

And When Did You Last See Your Father? (1878) William Frederick Yeames
Of all wars, the Civil War is a proper Dad War (bear with me) as the Cavaliers ultimately naffed up the chances and inheritance of their floppy-collared children only to end up with the head being knocked off the Dad of the Charles II (who was far more normal that you'd expect after all that.  I mean, when you see Charles II you do think 'what was your damn excuse Henry VIII?! Get a grip!')  Anyway, here we have a little poppet in shiny blue being questioned about his floppy haired, handsome, lace-bedecked father, who I bet has lovely big boots, and a marvellous tunic with slashes of colour ... what was I saying?  Oh yes, I guess the father's presence in the picture is via his son, the little distillation of him about to show how good a job he did at raising him.  Did he teach his son honesty, which will make the son reveal his father's whereabouts?  Did he teach his son to lie, therefore revealing himself as not a very good father, although a living one?  I think he taught his son the intelligence to be honest to people who deserve it and not to give any time to weirdos who ban Christmas.

Cordelia Comforting her Father, King Lear, in Prison (1886) George William Joy
There were some famous Dads in Victorian art.  Possibly not the best example of these is King Lear who  managed to stuff it up to Jeremy Kyle levels of idiocy.  Mind you, you have to remember that he managed to father a perfectly nice and sensible child as well as the bad ones, so he got some things right, and he did work it out in the end.  Then everyone died.  Come on, this is Shakespeare.

Grace Darling and her Father William (1860) William Bell Scott
I have learnt something new, I always thought it was just Good Old Grace and her dog who rescued everyone from the shipwreck of the Forfarshire in 1838, but her Dad was there too.  Come to think of it, that makes far more sense than some random lass and her boarder collie, but every image I saw of her growing up had her bravely paddling a tiny rowing boat into a Biblically stormy sea.  It's a nice example of father and daughter teamwork which makes you stop and think - I thought the Victorian era was all about men doing manly things.  Apparently it was not only Father and Son but also Father and Daughter.

Stock Investments: Stocks for Father (1864) Joseph Banner
Really, this is not good.  What does this teach children about adults, let alone their own father? Far better that the children are put in stocks, for their own good.  That's the way they raise them in Wiltshire.  Honest.  I can tell you don't believe me...

Yep, that's me on the right.  Moving on...

Grandfather's Tale (1860) Edward Thompson Davis
Not forgetting that grandfathers have of course been fathers at some point and now get the chance to get their own back (as my father says).  Here we have a charming scene of a grandfather telling a story as his daughter and her children listen.  My Dad tells a great story about how the Thuggee would sneak into the bathroom as you shampooed your hair and would get you if you closed your eyes.  For those who don't know, the Thuggee were ancient Indian stranglers.  I still can't close my eyes in the shower.  

Grandfather's Advice George Bernard O'Neill

I think as you grow older, Dad or Granddad is there for advice.  Mine can tell me all I need to know about beekeeping and fuchsias and many other things, including being a thoroughly decent human beings and maybe that is why father's and daughters are so often pictured together.  Dad is the one with all the experience in the world and he is responsible for making sure she doesn't end up in trouble.  This especially comes to light when your daughter wishes to marry...

Hope William Powell Frith
Trust Me John Everett Millais
The first of this pair is a young man asking for the hand of a young lady from her less than impressed father.  Although this seems a hopelessly out-dated way of doing things (although Mr Walker had to ask for my hand in marriage, bless him), part of me thinks there maybe a few parents think this should be brought back, to save trouble later.  I think Mr Walker would like to be able to refuse any useless wastrels who wish to marry Lily-Rose, he may have even drafted a rejection letter in preparation.  The second picture shows a young woman attempting to hide a love letter from her father.  It's uncertain who is saying 'Trust Me' - is it the father asking to be trusted to put the letter in the post bag (yes, that's going straight in the nearest hedge) or is it the daughter?  'No, really Dad, I've written to that nice young man who is training to be an architect, not that bohemian artist who lives in Chelsea and dresses up as a Cavalier in his spare time...'

Arthur 'Daddy' Hughes and his daughter
Well, I best draw this to a close and phone my Daddy.  Happy Father's Day to all Dads, I'm sure you do a splendid job and are cherished by your loving children who will deep fry something and roll it in sugar for you later (just me then?).  If you are feeling left out, you only have to wait to November 19th for International Men's Day (8th March is International Women's Day and Universal Children's Day is 20th November), so that's something to look forward to.  Mind you, I would think the lack of greasy finger prints on your iPad is gift enough...

Happy Father's Day!