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
Matthew Beaumont and Matthew Ingleby, eds. G.K. Chesterton, London and Modernity, London: Bloomsbury 2013 [ISBN:9781780937069]
This lively and varied collection of essays on G. K. Chesterton’s complicated relationship with modernity, and his intricate rendering of London in his writing, does more than offer a corrective to the previous dearth of critical work on Chesterton’s attitudes to the modern city. Through careful examination of Chesterton’s contradictory opinions and light-hearted prose, a broader view emerges of what “modernism”, and indeed London, meant to the Edwardians. Chesterton is an enigmatic writer whose elastic prose is characterised by an unlikely combination of paradox, punning and moments of profound insight; as Lynne Hapgood comments early on in the collection, “Even Chesterton’s stylistic flamboyance in this novel, veering between the absurdist, the heroic and a kind of anticipatory surrealism, was par for the course in an Edwardian period when the novel was charactertized by its sheer generic diversity.” His writings helped to curb the pessimistic strain of “high” cultural responses to urban life in the re-creation of a comic London, offering an alternative to the gritty city slums and intensely private spaces portrayed in many naturalist modern urban writing. Yet, as several of the essays attest, jest is often a conduit for unexpected wisdom or sharp political comment. Continue reading
‘Today essentially belongs to the Minister who once presided at the Board of Trade. Several attempts indeed have been made to describe the literature, art and drama of the present as “Edwardian,” from a very proper and loyal spirit, to which I should be the last to object […] But somehow the whole thing has fallen through; in this dramatic aeon the adjective “Edwardian” trips on the tongue; our real dramatists are all Socialists or Radicals; our poets and writers Anarchists (Mr. Arthur Machen being an honourable exception); and our artists are the only conservatives of intellect. Our foreign policy alone can be called “Edwardian,” so personal is it to the King. Everything else is a compromise; so our time must therefore be known – at least ten years of it – as the Lloyd-Georgian period.’ (Robert Ross, Masques and Phases, London 1909)
The Riddle of the Sands Adventure Club seeks to unpack all the references and information contained within Erskine Childer’s popular 1903 novel The Riddle of the Sands. The project also includes a crowdfunding campaign with a view to taking the book out into the field, replaying it day by day and remixing and replaying it for a modern audience. Please see their website for more on this intriguing venture!
Spencer Gore, The Artist’s Wife, c.1911
Birmingham Museums Trust runs nine museum sites across the city of Birmingham, the most prominent of which is the Birmingham Art Gallery, which opened in 1885. Though famous for its collection of Pre-Raphaelite art, the gallery also owns many major works by Edwardian artists, including the Birmingham-born Henry Tonks (1862-1937) and Arthur Joseph Gaskin (1862-1928) and the Birmingham-based Joseph Edward Southall (1861-1944).
1. Arthur Gaskin, The Twelve Brothers (1898)
2. John Byam Liston Shaw, The Boer War, (1901)
3. Joseph Edward Southall, Fisherman Carrying a Sail, 1906-7
4. Henry Tonks, The Crystal Gazers, 1905-6 Continue reading
Arnold Bennett, The Glimpse, (London: Chapman and Hall, 1909)
‘Self-Portrait’ by Charles Conder (Tullie House) [Charles Conder is one of several artists mentioned in ‘The Glimpse’]
Arnold Bennett has been described as a materialist, a realist, a writer whose novels have ‘a narrative emphasis on the drab, the squalid and the mundane’.  He was, however, also capable of dreaming. In one such dream, he writes that he ‘stood by my own dead body and saw the pennies upon my eyes. I cannot remember at this distance of time what the rest of the dream was, but it had to do with the adventures of a soul after death’.
Never one to waste good material, Bennett immediately saw the potential for a story, and in May 1908 he wrote the short story ‘The Glimpse’ about the proprietor of a Staffordshire earthenware factory who has an out-of-body experience whilst lying in bed close to death. Bennett quickly came to the view that the material of the story was capable of being much more fully developed into a full-length novel with sound commercial prospects. Belief in Spiritualism was widespread, so the story of a soul’s adventures at the point of death would not lack a potential audience. Bennett wrote and published his approximately 70,000 word novel The Glimpse in 1909, between his two longer and better-known acknowledged masterpieces The Old Wives’ Tale (1908) and Clayhanger (1910). Continue reading
‘Line of Life’ by William Shackleton, 1915 (Tate)
Proposals are sought for an essay collection entitled ‘The Occult Imagination in Britain, 1875-1947′, to be proposed to Ashgate’s new Among the Victorians and the Modernists series. Focusing on the development, popular diffusion, and international networks of British occulture between 1875-1947, the interdisciplinary volume will capitalize on the recent surge of scholarly interest in the late Victorian occult revival by tracing the development of its central and residual manifestations through the fin de siècle and two world wars. We aim to challenge the polarization of Victorian and modernist occult art and practice into discrete expressions of either a nostalgic reaction to the crisis of faith or a radical desire for the new. The collection will also map the affinities between popular and elite varieties of occultism in this period, recognizing the degree to which esoteric activities and texts relied on and borrowed from the exoteric sphere. Continue reading