Edwardian Encounters: Jacob Kramer – A Study in Resolvable Contradictions

Self-Portrait by Jacob Kramer, 1930

Self-Portrait by Jacob Kramer, 1930

Since July 2, 2015, the Ben Uri Gallery has been celebrating its hundredth year in London. Founded in July, 1915, by a Russian Jew, the gallery has, in the course of a century, exhibited the work of Eastern European (largely Pale-of-Settlement born) Jewish painters living in England.

In “Ben Uri at 100”, David Herman splits these painters into two groups (roughly pre- and post-World War II) and notes the “variety and vitality of modern Jewish art and its complicated relationship with modern Jewish history”. Herman argues that the so-called “Whitechapel Boys,” who came of age at the turn of the century, among them the Vorticist fellow-traveler Mark Gertler, Isaac Rosenberg, and Jacob Kramer, expressed clear interest in Jewish-identified themes. Conversely, the post-war, post-Holocaust generation, which featured such luminaries as Lucien Freud and Frank Auerbach, fought shy of Jewish content and only, somehow, expressed Jewishness through formal “darkness.”

Jacob Kramer clearly does not fit into the generational or identitarian binaries outlined by Herman. Continue reading

CFP: Overlooked Women Artists and Designers

'Gretchen' by Joanna Mary Wells

‘Gretchen’ by Joanna Mary Wells

Edwardian scholars may be interested in the following CFP:

Overlooked Women Artists and Designers

Monday 7 December 2015, The Hunterian, University of Glasgow

A British Art Research Network Seminar organised in collaboration with Dr. Patricia de Montfort and Prof.Clare A.P. Willsdon, School of Culture and Creative Arts, University of Glasgow.

Nan West… Jessie Keppie… Beatrix Whistler… Mary Hill Burton… Florence Chaplin… Sylvia Lawrence… Marie Egner… Mrs. Bernard Darwin…Who is she?

From the lone watercolourist to the Arts and Crafts partner, or the exhibitor under her husband’s name,this question echoes through the history of art and design, and despite modern interest in women artists, many remain little known. Focusing on a period when women benefited from a wealth of new opportunities for training, patronage, and exhibition, this seminar forms a sequel to Dr. Patricia de Montfort’s Louise Jopling in-focus display currently at The Hunterian, and will complement the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art exhibition on Modern Scottish Women: Painters and Sculptors 1885-1965, which opens in November 2015. Continue reading

Review: Alan Hollinghurst and the Vitality of Influence

image-service.asp

Review: Alan Hollinghurst and the Vitality of Influence by Allan Johnson. (Palgrave 2014)

In Alan Hollinghurst and the Vitality of Influence, Allan Johnson considers the visual influences of Alan Hollinghurst’s novels. Specifically, he asserts that the predominant textual and visual aspects of Hollinghurst’s oeuvre are “the sequences of writing which most successfully portray and vitalize the visual images of the aesthetic past”.

Alan Hollinghurst is a Booker Prize winning contemporary British writer who has been publishing since the eighties. Together, his five novels portray male homosexual identity from the late Victorian and Edwardian periods through to the present day. Johnson’s book posits that this homosexual literary and cultural history acts as a vital influence for Hollinghurst’s books, placing them within the distinct visual aesthetic tradition of “modern gay writing”, and imbuing them with a culturally-specific potency unique to this heritage. Fundamentally, his book aims to identify several specific images within this aesthetic tradition, while also exposing and explaining their innate, “positive” vitality as they influence generations of modern homosexual British literature, and ultimately Hollinghurst himself.

Johnson’s central argument is that certain images resonate throughout generations of literature. He claims this is because particular textures, shades and tones are especially potent or suggestive to readers, and subsequently that distinct visual sequences reappear within a specific discourse, such as “modern gay writing”. Such a thesis appears nowhere more apparent than in a consideration of the Edwardian period. Continue reading

CFP: Sargentology

bb91a1_a194f6944eb84677a9e117c46c6385ba.jpg_srz_p_980_791_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srz

Edwardian scholars may be interested in the following CFP for a conference to be held at the University of York next April. Please see their website for more details.

In 1910 Walter Sickert penned an article titled ‘Sargentolatry’ that addressed the fervour surrounding John Singer Sargent as an artist and tastemaker.  Using the language of religious devotion, Sickert writes of the ‘prostration before [Sargent] and all his works’ by the British art press, the effect this adulation had on other artists working in this period, and how this sense of complacency was bad for both critics and artists alike. Often, this article has been misidentified with the title ‘Sargentology’ removing the dogmatic tinge of the original, and focusing instead on a study of the work and life of Sargent as a distinct entity within the field of art criticism and the history of art. In the last decades of the twentieth century, however, complicity within this complacency has crept back into Sargent studies. Sargentology has veered back into Sargentolatry, leaving in its infallible wake a dearth of innovation with regard to Sargent scholarship akin to the state of art criticism challenged by Sickert in 1910. Continue reading

Review: The Player Piano and the Edwardian Novel

9781472439987

Review of Cecilia Björkén-Nyberg, The Player Piano and the Edwardian Novel (Farnham: Ashgate 2015)

Writing in the June 1920 issue of The Sackbut, Alvin Langdon Coburn claimed:

There are some who are born with an appreciation of music but whose tender years have not been made unbearable by musical drudgery. Hours of ‘five-finger exercises’ with the thoughts on the playground, and lessons from an uncongenial teacher, never did a child any good and never will. All art-expression should come as a pleasure, a welling-up of an inner joy. Without this, art is dead, a stale and tasteless thing, and […] some have this innate musical instinct slumbering and dormant in their natures, unable to find a way of expressing itself, and to such the pianola comes as a positive exultation![1]

Coburn’s observations foreground several issues that are at the heart of Cecilia Björkén-Nyberg’s The Player Piano and the Edwardian Novel (2015): the quandary faced by those unable, or who have never had the opportunity to learn, to play the piano, but who deeply appreciate and wish to perform the music written for it (and, via piano reductions, for the orchestra); the tension between admiring music ‘naturally’ and respecting it professionally; and the anxieties generated by a mechanically made art, be it through technology or through the prestidigitation of a well-trained human being. Continue reading

CFP: Haunted Europe

Illustration by Kay Nielson (1914)

Illustration by Kay Nielson (1914)

Edwardian scholars may be interested in the following CFP:

Call for Papers: Haunted Europe: Continental Connections in English-Language Gothic Writing, Film and New Media, 9 – 10 June 2016, Leiden University, The Netherlands

Keynote speakers:

Professor Robert Miles (University of Victoria), Professor Roger Luckhurst (Birkbeck – University of London), Professor Tanya Krzywinska (Falmouth University), Lesley Megahey (director of the BBC film Schalken, the Painter)

The Leiden Research Institute for the Art in Society (LUCAS) invites proposals for papers that address continental connections in English-Language Gothic Writing, Film and New Media. The aim of the conference is to explore the representation and function of continental European cultures, peoples and nations in English-Language Gothic culture from the 1790s to the present. While the first wave of British and Irish Gothic fictions developed and solidified the idea of continental Europe as a fitting setting for Gothic Romance, little sustained research has been done so far on the ways in which the function and representation of the continent in English-language Gothic culture has developed and changed since the seminal first-wave fictions, and to what extent these developments and changes have had an impact on the formation of British and Irish but also Australian and American national, cultural and individual identities, for instance. Continue reading

Ten Edwardian Paintings from UCL Art Museum

Augustus John, 'Moses and the Brazen Serpent', 1899

Augustus John, ‘Moses and the Brazen Serpent’, 1899

The most significant part of the University College London Art Museum consists of work by students and staff of the Slade School of Fine Art. The Slade was founded in 1871 with the aim of providing progressive art training based on the system of education in the French Academy with its emphasis on intensive study from the life model. From its earliest years the Slade awarded annual prizes for painting in categories such as figure painting, head painting and painting from antique casts. With the appointment of Frederick Brown as Slade Professor in 1892 a new painting prize, the Summer Composition Prize, was introduced. Students were given a set title (such as ‘Bathers’ or ‘The Play Scene from Hamlet’) and expected to produce a large-scale multi-figure work over the summer vacation which would be judged publicly at the beginning of the autumn term Continue reading