Friday 27 January 2023

Kate and Sydney (again)

The victim of my interest this week wasn't actually married to an artist - I know, that makes a change as I appear to be obsessed with artistic couples at the moment, but I met her while researching last week's post on the Cockerell family.  I already knew of Sydney Cockerell, erstwhile cousin of Christabel, but I had not come across his wife before, and I certainly hadn't seen her wonderful Pre-Raphaelite inspired work.  If I ever end up doing Girl Gang 2 (Pre-Raphaelite Girl Gang Rides Again!) I will have to include Florence Kate Kingsford...

Atlanta's Race (1890s) Florence Kate Kingsford

Florence Kate Kingsford, known as Kate (as the family did the thing where you are actually known by your middle name - my mother's family did the same thing and I didn't realise it was so common) was born in May 1872. She was right in the middle of seven children, preceded by Maude Clara (1867-1955), Charles Hugh (1869-1890), and Annie Grace (1871-1953), then followed by Norah Bertha (1874-1961), Olive Gertrude (1877-1940) and finally Marjorie Joan (1883-1974). As you will see, all the sisters made decent ages, but Charles  was barely 21 when he died.  Considering the Cockerell family connection to mining, it is quite a coincidence that Charles was studying engineering and visited the Polyear Mining Company in Cornwall, in order to see mining in person and to study the engineering of it.  He was crushed in the mine when a large rock fell on him and he died a week later of his injuries.

(Marjorie) Joan Kingsford Reading (1890s)

Kate's father was a 'merchant' who seemed to sell corn and flour, an extension of what seemed to be an ancestry of millers.  By the turn of the century, he had moved into financial transactions and obviously had social aspirations for his family.  Unfortunately, that meant that none of the girls had decent educations, schooled only in music and singing and generally being middle-class hostesses (which reminds me of the sort of upbringing that Julia Margaret Cameron and her sisters had).  Mr Kingsford was known as being a great fisherman, enormous fun and he played the violin.  Unfortunately, he was not a great business man and when he suddenly died in 1902, he left his wife and daughters penniless. Her lack of education would haunt her for the rest of her life, but she could draw and that would be enough to get her out of the poverty into which they had been tumbled.

In the 1891 census, Kate was listed as an 'art student' and she attended the Blackhearth, Lee and Lewisham School of Art where she won many prizes including ones for freehand work, shading from the cast, perspective, shading from models and chalk studies.  Her son later wrote that she was handsome rather than pretty, but she had initiative and that took her to the Royal Academy, despite the fact she could not spell or add or make plans.  

Daphne and Apollo (undated)

By necessity, she had to work and sell pieces and it was as one of the earlist pupils of Edward Johnston, regarded as the father of modern calligraphy, that Kate found her calling.  Her work as a painter and her talent at calligraphy made her a subject of interest for Charles H St John Hornby, owner of the Ashdene Press. He sought out Kate to hand illuminate 44 copies of the Song of Songs, each with a different design.  The results are breath-taking...

Ashdene Press Song of Songs, illustrated by Kate Kingsford (1902)

Flipping heck, that's gorgeous.  In the 1901 census, Kate had moved to Kensington, sharing 5, Stratford Studios with fellow artist Winifred Hansard.  The studio had been home to Emanuel Edward Geflowski, a sculptor from Poland, until his death in 1898 when I'm guessing the pair took the rooms.  The rest of the Kingsfords had moved to 33 Dorset Square after Mr Kingsford's death, leading a more contained life, possibly with Kate offering financial support as her work was much admired. She had become a member of the Women's Guild of Art and was generally acknowledged as a leader in her art form.  The Scotsman in 1906 talked about the 'exquisite and original illuminating of Florence Kingsford', and The Graphic of the same year spoke of how her work was 'so admirable in taste, feeling and execution.' In 1904, Kate and Winifred joined Flinders and Hilda Petrie in Egypt in 1904, copying the tomb paintings and producing this beautiful work...

Hymn to Atten the Sun Disc (1906)

Sydney Cockerell declared this piece to be her greatest achievement, although all of her work seems glorious.  Sydney had come into contact with Kate while she worked on Song of Songs and as an avid book collector, he bought her work and made sure she always had patrons who would support her. In Wilfrid Blunt's 1965 biography of Sydney, Christopher (their son) said that Sydney's patronage of Kate kept her alive.  He also understood poverty, but always found money for books and so it is unsurprising that when Sydney finally decided to marry, it would be to his favourite calligrapher.  

Sydney Cockerell (and cat) (c.1930) Dorothy Hawksley

'I am engaged to be married to Miss Kingsford, the painter of Hornby's Song of Songs,' he wrote to a friend, and I find it funny that he cites her achievement as part of her name. In a 1907 letter to another friend he wrote 'I am for the moment rather absorbed in another matter, having suddenly arranged to marry Miss Kingsford. I put all the proper arguments before her, and quoted what you had said about the awful time my wife was likely to have but she persisted in accepting me.' This is really funny the first time you read it, but then reading on (in the 1965 biography), you learn that some of his friends, such as the novelist Ouida and the general git-weasel Wilfrid Scawen Blunt basically told him not to marry and that it would be a disaster. Charming.

Drawing of Ellen Smith for A Christmas Carol (1867) Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Sydney Cockerell had been secretary to William Morris, to Awful Blunt and Thomas Hardy, as well as a great collector of Pre-Raphaelite books and drawings. including the above one of Ellen Smith. He claimed he had no artistic talent, only talent for cataloguing but he cultivated many impressive friendships over his life, including his marriage. It is difficult to know other people's relationships through biography, but I do get a sneaking impression that part of the reason Sydney proposed to Kate was that he admired her art.  In his diary he wrote 'in all essentials I think we are in complete accordance and I count myself very fortunate to have won so gifted a wife,' which you might say is entirely natural for someone to love you partly because you are massively good at what you do (especially if they admire the thing you do) but because of what followed, I wonder if that was the larger part of why he married her.  Sydney's adoration for great men rivalled Julia Margaret Cameron but he couldn't marry one of them, so he married a great and talented woman instead.  You'll see what I mean by the end of this...

Anyway, shortly after their engagement, Sydney had to travel to Scotland and he relished the chance to write copious letters to his beloved, being an avid letter writer.  Kate, on the other hand, didn't do writing that wasn't illuminated and written by someone else.  In the 1960s biography, it says how he chastised her for her poor spelling, her lack of details and general poor correspondence.  Poor Kate did not know how to write love letters, let alone how to consistently spell her husband's name right.  She wrote 'drawing...is the only mode of communication I have with the outer world.' Still, Sydney complained that she wrote to him as one might to a piano tuner. He wrote 'There is no such word as 'alright' which comes in your three last letters...do try to remember and not persist with 'alright' as you persisted with 'Teusday'' - Kate resorted to calling it 'the day after Monday'.  Although Kate's lack of education seemed to horrify Sydney, some of his friends were delighted, as one wrote 'I can't tell you what a relief it is to hear she cannot spell. I thought she would write her letters in gold ink, and be too exquisite to have anything to do with the likes of me.'

A pet peeve of mine is when women do not have their profession written down in records and in their banns, Sydney is a 'bibliographer' (which feels like a pretentious way of say 'book lover') and Kate has no profession, nor will one be recorded officially for her again. Kate apparently wanted them to marry near her family in London, but none of the churches suited Sydney's taste and so he arranged for them to marry at a twelfth century church at Iffley near Oxford.  The Sketch wrote 'Ruskin's ghostly blessing must certainly have fallen on a ceremony that took place a week ago...Mr Sydney Carlyle Cockerell was there married to Miss Florence Kingsford, and if ever there was a marriage of true interests here was one; for, while Mr Cockerell is in the habit of buying manuscripts, Miss Kingsford makes regular practice of illuminating them.' She was 35 and he was 40, so hardly love's young dream but a meeting of interests seems fair.



Designs for theatrical costumes (1920)
from Duet for Two Voices (1979) Hugh Carey

The Cockerells honeymooned in Burford, at a house lent to them by Jane Morris, then to Rottingdean to stay with Georgie Burne-Jones.  Sydney was surprisingly ambitious, but I wonder if he was moving from a period of hero-worship to making a mark for himself (mainly because an awful lot of those heroes were dying of old age).  They moved to Richmond in the January of 1908 but by then Sydney had his eye on the directorship of the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge, which he claimed in June.  By this time, Kate was pregnant with their first child and she was moved into Wayside, 15 Cavendish Avenue a cold little house with no hot-water system and not particularly pleasant to live in. It's still there if you want to Google Streetview it and I think it's the little house which looks charming now but I'm guessing without basic heat or water, it would feel a bit primitive.  In quick succession, Kate had Margaret (1908-1986), Christopher (1910-1999) and Katherine (1911-1996) and no longer found that she had the time or energy for her detailed illuminations.  Instead, she designed costumes for Cambridge operatic productions, such as The Magic Flute in 1911 and Purcell's The Fairy Queen in 1920. Kate's shyness meant that she did not revel in the role of hostess, despite her husband's love of entertaining the great and the good.  Added to this, there was not enough money for dresses to hold dinner parties or even sherry (although always enough for Sydney's books, but I'm in a bit of a glass house there myself), but they arranged to hold Sunday afternoon tea for their guests, a far more relaxed affair.  Over the years, the Cockerells's teas included guests such as Thomas Hardy, Roger Fry, Rudyard Kipling and Georgie Burne-Jones.  Socially, they were successful and Sydney became one of the most iconic museum professionals of the twentieth century.

Kate and the children, 1920s

In 1912, Kate had a fall in the street, but they thought nothing of it.  Then it happened again, and again until it became dangerous for her to walk very far.  Still though, in the last days of 1913, Kate wrote to Sydney (away on one of his numerous trips) 'A most happy new year to you and may your shadow never grow less. For my part I believe that this last has been about the most happy year of my life, so that it has often crossed my mind that something horrible must happen soon.' Despite not having the time or energy to concentrate long on her work, Kate's books still drew admiration whenever they were displayed.  In 1916 the Gentlewoman journal wrote 'The case of written and illuminated books by Mrs Cockerell, better known as Florence Kingsford, strikes the very highest note of exquisite perfection.'  However, still in poor health, this was also the year that she was diagnosed with what we now know as multiple sclerosis.

It is interesting that reading her scant obituaries and mentions in Sydney's biographies, it is assumed that she stopped working at her diagnosis but this is not really the case.  At the birth of her children, Kate found her time stretched too thin, leading one writer to comment that all her work was done in the span of a decade, I'm guessing around 1900-1910.  In that time she produced 60 books, but her work was cut short by children then ill health.  She kept working as long as she could; for the production of The Fairy Queen, Kate had the help of her sister Joan in designing the costumes and drawing out the designs. Sydney borrowed Thomas Hardy's bath chair, but the man they employed to push Kate around in it was run over by a milk float and Sydney just couldn't find the time (or inclination) to push his wife. 

The fact that we know anything about Kate after her illness is due to the fact that Sydney kept a diary, but after a certain point, he stops mentioning her at all, as if she has ceased to exist. In the 1960s biography (which had input from the Cockerell children), there are instances where Katherine, their daughter, tried to get Sydney to take Kate on holiday but he refused.  He seemed to continue to live a very separate, professional life from his wife and home. In 1937 the couple moved to Kew, to Charles Shannon's old house, which had an excellent ground floor room for Kate.  Kate built a life for herself apart from her husband, printing books in braille, sewing, knitting and playing cards with her neighbours.  Even the war did not really touch on her life, and her children grew up, all three married and grandchildren followed in the 1930s and 40s.  In July 1949, Christopher arranged for his mother to go on a three-week holiday to his home in Danbury, but on her return, Kate suffered a stroke.  She was taken to the Nightingale Nursing Home in Twickenham where she died on 18th September 1949, aged 77.

Sweet Thames Run Softly (1900) 

Some of you might recognise the name Christopher Cockerell, especially if you hail from my neck of the woods on the south coast.  He was the inventor of the hovercraft, and in 1974, he approached the Fitzwilliam Museum to donate a collection of his mother's books and sell them some of her pieces as well. From a collection valued at £6K, they were asking £4K and the books were in an exhibition that ran through that summer.  Christopher made sure there was a complete account of his mother's work, her talent and exceptional qualities all reported, linking her name to that of William Morris and Edmond Dulac. Her work is held by the museum today.

It's hard not to feel disappointed in how inadequate Sydney was in caring for Kate, even before her illness.  There was seemingly no room for her talent, which he admired so much, in their marriage, or at least he did not seem able to conceive how to accommodate it, but then it was a different time when the idea that a man would share parenting duties so that his wife could work would have seemed wildly bohemian.  I will grudgingly give Sydney credit for exhibiting Kate's work and taking it on his travels so that her work was seen in such illustrious places as the Louvre and would continue to be commented on in the newspapers because he gave it exposure. I won't therefore be unkind to Sydney Cockerell as he himself said in 1907 that he would be marrying 'Miss Kingsford the painter' and that is who he never stopped admiring.  It is a shame for Mrs Cockerell, his wife, that he could not show her as much attention as her books.


Friday 20 January 2023

Mrs Frampton is an Artist of Talent and Distinction

The subject of today's post is probably vaguely familiar to you, even if it's only through her husband and son.  Yes, it is yet another entry into Kirsty's big book of 'And his wife was also an artist'.  I'm actually crazy about her husband because he did this...

Lamia (1899-1900) George Frampton

 I will fight anyone over whether or not that is the most beautiful piece of sculpture ever created (maybe tied with that woman with the veil on her face) as Lamia is absolutely breath-taking.  However, I'm not here to talk about Mr Framp, I'm here to talk about his massively talented wife, Christabel Cockerell...

Christabel Cockerell, Lady Frampton (1900) Arthur Hacker

Oh yes, spoiler alert, she becomes Lady Framp, but we'll come to that in a bit. Christabel Cockerell is a very interesting woman, not least because despite her marriage and then elevation to Lady-ness, she stubbornly remained Christabel Cockerell in her professional life.  It is also fascinating how the newspapers battled that, trying to place her back in her box as 'wife and mother'. But let's start at the beginning...

George Russell Cockerell (1900) George Frampton

I will be the first to admit I'm an idiot, so when I read that Christabel's father George Russell Cockerell was a 'coal merchant', I envisaged Eliza Dolittle's father, rather than a man so wealthy that he probably only knew coal as the thing the servants put on his fire before he woke up in the mornings. The Cockerell family were coal merchants to the Queen and there was a 'Cockerell Colliery' just outside Brussels, which I suspect was to do with them too (and it had an appalling mining disaster in 1882, which killed 66 miners - read more about Victorian mining here).  Anyway, I was soon dissuaded from imaging Christabel's poverty when I saw she started her life in the Pavilion Buildings in Brighton.  She was also baptised in the Brighton Chapel Royal.  She was born in the summer of 1864, eldest of three Cockerell children. She was followed in 1865 by Ethel and in 1868 by George, but neither of her siblings made old bones, with her brother only making it to 16. Ethel made it to her mid-20s, after marrying the fantastically named Timotheus Burd and giving birth to her daughter, Christabel. She in turn also had a daughter called Christabel, so there were Christabels right up until 2004 as far as I can see, which is lovely, but I digress.

Christabel (1898) George Frampton

 In the census, Christabel can be a bit difficult to chase as the census takers had difficulty with her name.  In 1871, 'Crustabel' (a delightful name for a girl) was staying with her maternal grandfather, George Perry, in Campion House in Sydenham, which I think is in this photograph (from the Lewisham Borough Photos website, hence watermark)...



Anyway, Grandpa was listed as having 'No Occupation' so I think we can guess how rich that side of the family was as well. Little Christabel was not short of a bob or two and so when she showed an aptitude for art, she was sent to be trained at the Royal Academy School in 1882. By 1891, she is listed as an artist, with her emphasis on sculpture, which is interesting, and she is staying in Addison Terrace in Kensington, where she lodged with John Tyrell and his wife. There is even a servant, so I don't think we're looking at shabby student accommodation. It was while at the Royal Academy that she met George James Frampton...
George Frampton (c.1902)

George's father was a wood carver, and George was somewhere in the midst of quite a large family, born in 1860. I wondered if Christabel's interest in sculpture was where she met George, or because she met George?  She doesn't seem to have produced much sculpture after leaving school, so I can only suppose, she found her groove with different mediums.  They also didn't rush into marriage - like the Byam Shaws, Christabel and George were not short of money yet didn't marry until 1893, when Christabel was 28 and George was 33. I think it was probably for their marriage that George designed this piece for his wife...

The Christabel Necklace (1893) George Frampton

On the marriage certificate, Christabel's father is a 'gentleman' whilst George's is a 'sculptor', as is George.  Infuriatingly, Christabel has no profession. This is especially galling as Miss Christabel Cockerell is listed in the London City Directory of 1890 as an 'artist' and her address is 9A Addison Road.  Despite this, Christabel had started to make a name for herself with works such as this...

And Angels Were Her Playmates (1897) Christabel Cockerell

This gloriously off piece is of St Elizabeth of Hungary as a child, playing with ghostly angel children. I wonder if it was pieces like this or the arrival of their son Meredith in 1894 that concentrated Christabel's vision on child portraits?  Possibly, they were just popular and commercial so that is what is mentioned and what survives, and painting children was seen as a very proper thing for a lady-artist to do.  The small Frampton family lived in Queens Road in the 1901 census, a nice but reasonably modest house but 1902 marked a change for the family as George was elected an Academician and was described in the newspapers as a man of considerable talent and charming manners.  Tatler even ran a piece on him...

George in very very tidy studio (1902)

Tatler's piece mentioned that George had the affection of all that knew him, but ended their caption for this photograph with 'Mrs Frampton is an artist of talent and distinction.'

Notable too were the mentions of Christabel, for example in the Bournemouth Daily Echo - 'his wife, better known under her maiden name of Miss Christabel Cockerell, is herself an artist and a frequent exhibitor at the Academy and at the New Gallery.'

A Momentous Question (1903) Christabel Cockerell

Christabel continued to exhibit as 'Cockerell' much to the interest of the newspapers, as George's reputation and status grew and grew. The couple became part of the St John's Wood art colony (which makes it sound far too hippie and 60s - everyone was posh and had nice artist houses with studios).  Christabel appeared in Walter Sparrow's indispensable book on Women Artists, published in 1905, with her picture Bluebells...

Bluebells (1903) Christabel Cockerell

Of course, Sparrow can't resist adding 'Mrs Geo. Frampton' after her name, just in case you were worried she was a spinster. Even more fame came in 1908 when George became Sir George and Christabel became Lady Framp.  The newspapers were on hand to explain who she was, thank goodness! The Birmingham Mail had a charming paragraph entitled 'Lady Frampton' - ''It is as Miss Christabel Cockerell that she must be sought for in the catalogues of the Royal Academy and the New Gallery.  Lady Frampton models occasionally, and is intensely interested in the branch of art practised by her husband; but her own successes have been gained as a painter of portraits, of children and child-life, and of landscapes.' Now, it is very interesting that they says she modelled, as this is what they are referring to...

Mother and Child (c.1894) George Frampton

As far as I can see, the only pictures Christabel sat for were portraits.  She is celebrated in portrait a few times by George, and a couple of others, including Arthur Hacker and this one by James Shannon...

Christabel Cockerell and her son, Meredith Frampton (1901) James Shannon

I think describing her as 'modelling' is a very loaded term as she painted her husband a couple of times, as did other portraitists but no-one would dream of calling George Frampton Sculptor/Model. Anyway, the listing of her specialism, of children and landscapes, seems to balance out the fact that Lady Frampton is still going about calling herself Christabel Cockerell.  Well, at least she is painting proper girl subjects.

In the Hayfield (1890) Christabel Cockerell

Because he was knighted, George thought the family should have a new and splendid home in St John's Wood and designed 90 Carlton Hill as the perfect double artist abode, with studios for both him and Christabel.  Obviously, the press were massively interested in his studios with Christabel's bit given an after-thought with some of the other rooms, but we get an insight into their domestic life...


Lady Frampton's Studio (1910)

Their new home was reported in The Studio and looking at the picture, I wonder if the ship hanging from her studio ceiling is the same one that was suspended in George's studio before?  Or does everyone get a boat in the Frampton household?  Anyway, you can see Christabel's paintings on the wall and a little plinth for the children who came to model.  On the whole, it does look more like a comfy sitting room rather than a professional artist's studio, but she might have liked the informality, especially if your models need distracting and want to look at a hanging ship.  What I find very interesting is that in various publications, it is written that Christabel didn't exhibit after 1910, the implication that she ceased working. In the 1911 census, it is true that she has no profession listed, although it does say that she works 'at home'. However, if she did stop painting in 1910, it seems an odd time for George to design them a house with a double studio...

Entertaining the Baby (1910) Christabel Cockerell

The Framptons slowly became icons of a certain status of artist.  Reading about them in the newspaper, it is always 'Sir George and Lady Frampton', moving as a pair from event to event, with occasional mentions on how he sculpted Victorian England and had moved on to sculpt the King and Queen, visitors to Carlton Hill.  They are mentioned at the Art Revels for the St John's Wood Art School (where Meredith went before the RA).  In 1910, Christabel not only exhibited Entertaining the Baby but also had In the Presence of Royalty at the Royal Academy. Christabel very much becomes 'Lady Frampton' and papers like Truth describe her outfits - 'gold with diaphanous black draperies and insertions of metal lace' in 1913, for example. In the meantime, Meredith was following in his parents's footsteps and began to carve out a career for himself, including this charming pair of portraits...

Lady Frampton (1918) Meredith Frampton


Sir George Frampton (1919) Meredith Frampton

Meredith had served on the Western Front in the Great War but came back unharmed, building a dynamic career for himself through commissions of his super-smooth portraits.  One which wasn't a commission was Portrait of a Young Woman, purchased by the Tate in 1935 and one of his most famous pieces...

Portrait of a Young Woman (1935) Meredith Frampton

The dress worn by the model Margaret Austin-Jones, was made by Christabel from a Vogue paper pattern.  Anyway, I've jumped ahead - Christabel, despite being part of 'Sir George and Lady Frampton' actually seems to have attended things alone, for example the opening of Kettering Art Gallery in 1913 and the funeral of William De Morgan in 1917 (interestingly George is not listed as a mourner, despite supervising the carving of the De Morgan headstone).  By this time, the tone taken in the newspapers is rather more jokey - in 1913 there was a joke in the Glossop-Dale Chronicle about two clergymen, one of whom says that he might have been at Lady Frampton's ball but he was never in the same room as the dancers, which sounds like a convoluted euphemism for something.

Christabel's bookplate (1900) Robert Anning Bell

I think that the problem is that George Frampton, and by extension Christabel, were seen as the establishment from Victorian England, despite their work being innovative. Meredith brought forward a different sort of art and he was seen as the future, his parents very much the past, especially after the war. The couple slipped into a peaceful retirement, now 'Meredith's parents', Meredith making use of his father's studio in St John's Wood. When George died in 1928 there was a moment of grief for not only the nation, but internationally.  The Scotsman reported that the Belgian Ambassador sent his own condolences to Lady Frampton in memory of the beautiful statue of Peter Pan which George had presented to the City of Brussels.  His funeral at Golders Green was not exactly a Who's Who but more of a Who's Left of Victorian/Edwardian painting, including Frank Dicksee and John Lavery.  

The Lamb Inn, near Salisbury

Christabel lived on in St John's Wood, then moving out towards Salisbury in Wiltshire, seemingly following Meredith. In the 1939 census, she is staying at the Lamb Inn, a glorious pub near Salisbury, and she is listed as an artist, retired (hurrah!)  In her old age, she moved into a Nursing Home in Mere, not far from Salisbury and that is where she died in 1951.  Interestingly, much like Byam Shaw's family, Meredith didn't marry until the year of his mother's death, retiring two years later because of his failing eyesight. He married Hilda Dunn, daughter of James B Dunn RSA and himself slipped somewhat into obscurity, causing a newspaper to ask 'Meredith Who?' in 1982 when the Tate held a retrospective.  He died in 1984 and was remembered partly because of that very retrospective and the popularity of A Game of Patience but also because, ironically, he was George Frampton's son.

A Game of Patience (1937) Meredith Frampton

So, Christabel gets forgotten again, even though she was part of the British Impressionist movement and produced exquisite works on subjects favoured by the Pre-Raphaelites.  Why has she not had her renaissance? Well, there are a couple of reasons.  Firstly, this is the only picture of hers on ArtUK...

John Passmore Edwards (1899) Christabel Cockerell

It's really good and you get a very clear idea of the character of this man, but it's not exactly sexy is it?  And he's not a very well-known chap, so this is a painting unlikely to be rediscovered in a big way.  If her work doesn't appear on ArtUK, the database of primarily oils in UK collections (now moving into other things too like sculpture), then it is hard to find good images of her watercolours and hard to know who owns them.  The fact her work concentrated on children I think might hamper interest too as it is often seen as twee and chocolate-box-y.  However, as part of a power couple of art, Christabel definitely needs her revival. Can you image the glory of a Cockerell-Frampton exhibition with all three members of the family shown?  That would be amazing.  I'll keep my fingers crossed in the meantime...

Friday 13 January 2023

Review: Emily

 If you had to pick a Brontë sister, definitely my favourite is Emily and I wasn't sure why until now. I'm not a huge fan of Wuthering Heights (I mean, I like it, but it's not a book that is meant to be a cosy read), and it's not my favourite Kate Bush song (Hounds of Love, since you asked) but there is something in her that resonates with me, more than Charlotte or Anne.  It was therefore with interest that I rented the new biopic of her life, starring Sex Education's Emma Mackay...

 

For starters then, when anyone in a period drama says 'It's just a bad cold...' you know they are about to snuff it.  The film begins with Emily, looking decidedly peaky after the publication of Wuthering Heights. Charlotte asks what on earth inspired the book - 'It's full of selfish people who only care for themselves!' (to which Emily replies 'Good.') Back in time we go to see what happened in Emily's life that (might of) inspired such a tale...

Emily and Branwell having a good shout in the countryside

We are introduced to Emily as a solitary girl living in a world of imagination.  I found the portrayal of the sisters very interesting as I am more used to seeing them working as a group in pieces such as Les Sœurs Brontë (a review of which is here) even though Emily is often seen as an outlier.  The tiny society that the girls had access to up in Haworth has always resulted in them seeming isolated.  Interestingly, that does not seem the case here, with Charlotte striding determinedly into the world, dragging Anne with her.  All attempts to involve Emily are doomed as there is something about Emily that just won't fit.  This Emily Brontë has autism...


Look, I know I recently claimed William Morris had autism (I stand by that) but this performance of Emily is definitely coded neurodivergent. I’m not saying Emily was actually autistic in real life, I don’t think anyone could say that for definite, just that this film codes her thus. Emily's inability to make small talk, to fit in with society, to make sustained eye contact (which is commented on) and her meltdown at school all ring the autism bell but my favourite bit is the masking - in order to fit in with the social group, she literally masks...

The mask...

Emily, mask on, masking...

For goodness sake, that's a bit on the nose.  I think another telling scene is where you see how Ellen Nussey, Charlotte’s friend, understands the social construct of being a woman in early Victorian Yorkshire.  The sisters scrabble over the wall, but Ellen makes a fuss about being lifted and helped by the men who flock to her while the girls watch, puzzled. You get the impression that Charlotte wants to learn the skills to get out, while Emily finds it all baffling and awful. 

Ellen knows boys like girls who can't get over walls...

She and Branwell are literal outsiders as they stare in at the window of their neighbours (much like Cathy and Heathcliff do in Wuthering Heights).  The Brontë siblings end up as Branwell and Emily verses Charlotte and poor Anne (who doesn't get much of a look in).  Into the mix comes the Hot Curate...

Hello Ladies...

Previously, it was thought that Hot Curate (William Weightman) was Anne's object of affection but Anne doesn't get a look in this time and it is imagined that he and Emily spark up a passionate affair (nudity alert) for an unspecified reason other than he finds her irritating and boys like that in a woman. All the women in Haworth fancy him (come on, there isn't a lot of choice and Branwell appears to be drunk half the time) but because he is attached to the Bronte household (because of the Reverend Bronte, played by Adrian Dunbar), the girls get to spend time with him.  He is seen as a bit Ted Hughes-esque and clashes with the spirited Emily, but ultimately they are drawn together.  However, when it comes to announcing their love to the world, he chickens out.  T'uh, boys.

'Then everyone caught a cold and died. The End.'

The upshot is that he is the blueprint for Heathcliff, although that could equally be said of Branwell.  Emily loves both of these problematic men and they both let her down (and die, spoiler alert). I think, arguably, to a point, neither men requires her to change - her father and sisters pressure her to fit in, act different, give up things that make her happy and special, whereas Branwell and to a point Weightman find her glorious and talented, her spirit making her unique.  Weightman's undoing is that he can only maintain their relationship in isolation to the world, and once the world gets close, he gives it up, as if he knows it's wrong. Why exactly he feels that way is not said, but there is a moment where he literally cannot handle her poetry (again, literally, dropping it on the floor) and so he either cannot cope with her emotions or finds them disturbing, as her sister does.  I have to admit my favourite bit is where Charlotte reads Wuthering Heights and is seen sobbing - Anne looks at her and says 'She finished it.'

Emily is seen as more comfortable with nature than people...

There are some liberties and some inaccuracies - Wuthering Heights was not published under Emily's name, and the filming location isn't the Bronte home in Haworth, for obvious reasons (although the village is used).  This is a very petty thing but if you have been to the parsonage (wonderful museum) you will know how close that graveyard is and how the water ran off it, contaminating everything and leading to the deaths of so many.  It does rain almost constantly in the film, which made me wince because of the contamination, and gives the film a grey/green appearance, akin to the 1995 film of Sense and Sensibility. Emma Mackay is splendid as always, looking very striking as Emily, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen (who you might know from The Haunting of Hill House) is very brooding as the Hot Curate.  The locations are wonderfully sparse and pale, which makes a change from often busy period drama scenery, and again I felt this reflected the masking of Emily's emotion - it's all going on inside.  I also like that the rooms and hallways seemed narrow and confined, as opposed to the moors where she could run and be free.  

It's now available to rent and buy on DVD, and I do recommend it, especially if you have a liking for a miserable period drama or a bit of Brontë.  It isn't often I get to shout 'Don't get in bed with your dead brother! That's not hygienic!' 

Enjoy!


Friday 6 January 2023

Mrs Byam Shaw is also an artist

Here we are again, and I have the feeling that this year is going to be filled with artistic wives who don't normally get a look in, but I'm fine with that, I'm always up for a challenge.  A definite case in point is today's subject.  Honestly, I absolutely adore the art of John Byam Liston Shaw (whose names I always get in the wrong order, like John Stanhope Spencer Stanhope) (possibly another Spencer on the end), more commonly known as Byam Shaw, who is responsible for stuff like this...

The Boer War (1901) Byam Shaw

...not to mention any number of gorgeous book illustrations and all sorts of cracking works of art. What I didn't know, much to my embarrassment was that Mrs Byam Shaw was also an artist, sadly now lost to the mists of time.  Say hello to Evelyn Pyke-Nott...

Bydown House, Swimbridge, Devon

She was actually born Caroline Evelyn Eunice Pyke-Nott and just to make things super confusing, before 1863, her family name was Nott-Pyke, which is my worst nightmare as I kept getting it wrong while searching. Evelyn came from a comfortable amount of money, as her father inherited his uncle's name and what-have-you in 1863, switching the bits of his surname round to fit his inheritance.  That all seems a bit much to me but then I'm not posh, so what do I know? Her parents were John and Caroline (hence the fact that little Caroline was henceforth known as Evelyn), who married in 1867 and went on to have six children, four boys and two daughters (I'll come back to the second daughter in a minute because she is really famous and I never knew she was Byam Shaw's sister in law! I'll get to that in a minute...) Not that these things are really important to the story, but I was pleased to see that all but one of the Pyke-Nott children lived to a ripe old age, with only the baby Adrian not even making a year old, which is tragic.  The rest of them made very decent innings, which makes a change for something I've researched. To give some context to the family situation, their country house was the extremely modest Bydown House (above) with a small residence in London in Belsize Square (which is now flats and will set you back around a million if you fancy one).  So, she obviously had a very humble upbringing indeed...

Her brothers, James and Edward, became horse dealers and eldest brother John became a land agent, but her sister Isabel Codrington Pyke Nott shared her sister's love of art, enrolling in the Royal Academy in 1889, aged 15.  I have very great hopes that Isabel Codrington (she dropped her surname, hence being surprised when I saw her in the family tree) will have a renaissance very soon as she is a brilliant artist, but I tend to associate her with Mid-Twentieth Century stuff, so I was surprised she was a Victorian...

Morning (1934) Isabel Codrington

Evelyn went to art school at St John's Wood, before graduating to the Royal Academy with her sister. Interestingly, in the 1891 census, brother James also claims to be working as an artist and sculptor, while his sisters are off at the RA.  James did keep some artistic interest as he is responsible for at least one story in The Yellow Book in 1896, but I'm guessing horse dealing pays better. I digress.   It was whilst at the St John's Art School, that Evelyn Pyke Nott met John Byam Liston Shaw...

Byam Shaw (1894) Frederick Hollyer

Evelyn was in the class with a number of well-known artists who were the couple's friends, including Gerald Fenwick Metcalfe (who would go on and paint Evelyn in 1900 and exhibit it at the RA) and Rex Vicat Cole.  In 1891, Evelyn won a silver medal for her drawing, winning two more in 1894 for painting a head and a draped figure.  She exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1895 with At the Door, in 1896 with Portrait of a Lady and 1897 with a portrait of her sister Isabel. 

Byam Shaw and Evelyn got engaged in 1894 but didn't marry for five years.  For their marriage, Alexander Fisher designed this clasp...


It shows Love singing in the tree above the happy couple.  Interestingly, I've read that Evelyn and Byam Shaw did not marry earlier because 'they were not rich enough' - Well, seeing that he was selling paintings earlier than that and had a piece written about how hot he was in The Studio in 1897, I have questions about the 'poverty' of Mr Byam Shaw.  Also, Evelyn's family owned Devon. In 1881, The Shaws were lived in Kensington in London (only £3million to live there now, on Holland Road), having returned from India the previous decade.  Byam Shaw's father had been a solicitor, and he died in 1887 but didn't leave the family badly off, leaving £5000 (around half a million in today's money) to his widow.  Unless Daddy had a massive gambling habit (I doubt it) I wonder if Byam Shaw took responsibility for the household, being the only son, so his marriage was delayed.  His sister Margaret remained at home before marrying at 43 in 1913, a month before her mother died. 

The Queen of Hearts (1896) Byam Shaw

In the meantime, Byam Shaw painted this picture of his future wife - that's Evelyn in the middle as the queen.  It is an unbelievably exquisite piece, which apparently also contains a portrait of another art school friend of the couple, Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale...


I think EFB is the one in purple, and for context, here is EFB hanging out in the Byam Shaw garden...


It is one of my favourite photos of artists as they just look like such jolly chums.  Byam Shaw also painted Evelyn in this portrait which I am desperate to see a colour version of...


I bet that is absolutely glorious in real life. Above her head is a frieze  including Bydown House and her past times of riding and croquet, together with her painting.  She is also sporting a whopper of a ring, just in case you missed they were engaged. It is also stated that she appears in this painting...

The Blessed Damozel (1895) Byam Shaw

This is an illustration of the Rossetti poem about a dead beloved up in heaven watching her lovely chap down below, although this Blessed Damozel just seems to be hanging out with her gal-pals and enjoying a manless afterlife.  I think the actual Blessed Damozel looks a bit old to be Evelyn, but the lass behind in red looks promising. I think it might be interesting to look at his paintings from this period especially to see if you can spot Evelyn and Eleanor in more of his pictures, and I wonder if he also used his male friends too.  Why haven't we had a Byam Shaw retrospective?  I digress. Just as an aside, one of my favourite things I've learned this week is that, as Byam Shaw was also a theatrical costume designer, he designed a page-boy outfit for Isabel Codrington's wedding. The description was of a tabard of white velvet with silver embroidery.  Now, little James Pyke Nott, the page boy was under 10 years old. I wonder how long that all stayed white...?

The Byam Shaws moved to Kensington after their marriage (not that I doubt their poverty) and in the 1901 census, they live at Addison Road, with their baby son, George.  George was quickly followed by Barbara (1901), John James (1903), Glencairn (better known as Glen, 1904) and David (1906).  While Byam Shaw brought in increasingly handsome amounts of money, their army of servants ensured that Evelyn maintained her own artistic career and she also provided help to Byam Shaw in his work. According to his biographers, he was both proud of her work and respected her as an artist, however in the family portrait he chose a more traditional representation...

My Wife, My Bairns and My Wee Dog John (1903) Byam Shaw

Much is made of the fact that he doesn't paint Evelyn as an artist, but then, not wishing to overly defend what more than likely was a patriarchal decision, when my husband takes pictures of me, I'm not always carrying a large stack of research books or holding a pen.  It's also mentioned that he doesn't list the servant's name either (their nurse in 1901 is called Caroline Something-Illegible, sadly she isn't there in 1911 when a younger woman who would have been too young in 1901 to be their nurse has taken over) but I don't think it's necessary to get outraged by this because at least the servant is shown.  They obviously had more servants, but the point of the picture is his family and his children.  In the 1911 census they list their five children but (as you have to on the 1911 census) one deceased child is recorded.  I wonder, therefore, if this is a celebration of the life of his children, the preciousness of  George, Barbara and baby John. There isn't much in the way of gaps between the births of the children so I wonder if one of the children was a twin, one of whom died?  Also, is it just me who thinks that it's weird that the baby and the dog have the same name? Rich people are odd.

At some point, Evelyn began to specialise in miniatures.  Her talent was recognised in 1910 when Byam Shaw and friend Rex Vicat Cole set up an art school (it was absorbed into St Martin's College in 2003) and Evelyn was employed to teach miniature painting.  Her class was 3 afternoons a week to a small class so that she could give individual attention.  By 1911, Evelyn was 40 and Byam Shaw 38, both listed in the census as artists and living with their children, a cook, a parlour maid and a nurse in Kensington. Byam Shaw was a member of the Artist's Rifles, but became a Special Constable, one of the first. Heading into the First World War, it is a relief to report that no-one was old enough, or seemingly eligible to head off to war so that makes a change (although, no spoilers, but pace yourself).  Two of the few images we have of Evelyn's work actually come from miniatures she painted of young officers...

Temporary Lt Augustus James Jessopp (1916) Evelyn Byam Shaw

Augustus Jessopp was born in 1893 in Bedford.  His father was a solicitor and his brother, Walter, born in 1896, also followed him when they signed up for military action in 1914. Walter had qualified to be a civil engineer, but signed up in 1916 to the Machine Gun Corp.  Augustus had passed his exams to become a solicitor like his father and joined the Royal Flying Corp.  I think we all know what's coming...

Temporary Lt Walter Leverton Jessopp (1916) Evelyn Byam Shaw

The household the Jessop family kept in 1911 reflects the Byam Shaws, with their large house on Park Avenue in Bedford.  How proud parents Walter and Emily Jessopp must have been of their boys, so proud as to commission two perfect miniatures of them in uniform - I wonder if they were done as they brothers signed up, like some families had the photograph taken? Augustus died in the May of 1917, Walter in the July. That's exceptionally bleak, so let's see one that's not horrifically tragic...

Melisande (c.1915) Evelyn Byam Shaw

That's better. It seems that, although not much of it (if anything) appears to be in public ownership, Evelyn continued to produce her exquisite miniatures.  In 1916, she showed her miniature of actress Gladys Cooper at the Royal Academy.  As her husband was so involved in costume design and the couple were friends with people such as the Beerbohm Trees, I wonder if that is partly why their son Glen became an actor and director? Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself.  All Byam Shaws got through the Great War intact, however in his duties as a special constable, he caught a chill.  After a fortnight of fighting it off, he took to his bed and died.  He was 46.  He was diagnosed with encephalitis lethargica, or sleeping sickness, an epidemic of which swept through the country from 1917 to 1928, coincidentally at the same time as the 'Spanish flu' and in some biography, it is assumed that he died as part of the 1919 pandemic.  There are some very interesting papers on the possible causal links between the two if you fancy terrifying yourself stupid like I did. Honestly, I'm going out in a haz-mat suit from now on.

So, Evelyn found herself a widow in her late 40s with young adult children, however she continued to paint. I have to laugh as in 1902, the Echo newspaper wrote, very patronisingly of her 'Mrs Byam Shaw is also an artist, but she has not exhibited at the Academy since she ceased to be Miss Pyke Nott.' It seems to be that she never stopped exhibiting, with entries in the exhibition catalogue, such as 1921's Barbara and Elizabeth Ann (Barbara was the name of her daughter, so possibly her portrait?).  In 1930 she exhibited portraits of her grandchildren, Nicholas and Ann and in 1937, she showed a miniature of Alan, actor Emlyn William's son.

John James Byam Shaw (1929) Photo by Lafayette

John James Byam Shaw became an art historian and a museum curator, working for Colnaghi's for many years.  Known as Jim, he was instrumental in building the drawing collections of the British Museum and the Ashmolean.  What a smashing chap.

Barbara married Tony Follett Pugsley, who has his own Wikipedia page and they lived to a ripe old age, which is a relief.

Glen Byam Shaw as Laertes (1934-5) Glyn Philpot

Glen became one of the most respected and innovative theatre directors in the country, friends with John Guilgud (to give you some sort of context of company). Initially a lover of Siegfried Sassoon, he married an actress, Angela Baddeley (best remembered now as Mrs Bridges in Upstairs, Downstairs) in 1929 and they lived happily ever after.  He died in the 1980s, which is impressive indeed.

George, the eldest, joined the Royal Scots regiment in 1922, after a life in the army. He became a major but died in Belgium in May 1940 during a week of the heaviest casualties of officers in the war to that date.  He is buried at Bruyelle War Cemetery.

David, the youngest, was awarded an OBE for his service to the Royal Navy in 1940. Just before Christmas in 1941, while on HMS Stanley, an ex-American destroyer, protecting a convoy, his ship was struck by missiles, sinking rapidly.  Only 25 of the ship's company survived and David was not one of them.

So, what of Evelyn?  In the 1939 census, she is living at Hollybush Corner in Richmond (which might be Hollybush House now? It looks very lovely indeed) and she is listed as an artist.  Hurrah! I am cheered because so many independently wealthy women artists are often listed as things like 'domestic work' or 'Living on Own Means' which disguises whether or not they are still working.  Eventually, she retired to the Thames Bank Nursing Home in Goring on Thames and died in 1960 at the very respectable age of 89, over twice the amount of years her husband managed. 

What I would very much like is to know firstly where that gorgeous portrait of Evelyn resides and who has the pleasure of owning her miniatures.  Surely a Byam Shaw/Pyke Nott/Codrington exhibition could be organised, celebrating the talent and diversity of such a fascinating family? Yet again we are left calling for a bit of parity in our reporting of wives who are 'also an artist'. It's about time.