Fig 1 Charles John Holmes, The Red Ruin, Lucerne, 1906, 46 x 81, Private Collection
Samuel Shaw is right to remind us of the neglected Edwardian and inter-war landscape painter, Charles John Holmes. As a clever artist occupying panjandrum positions in the art world his work was arguably hidden in plain sight. Rediscovering his pictures is a bit like finding, years from now, that Sir Nicholas Serota had been quietly exhibiting all along in the New English Art Club.
Holmes began to show at the NEAC in 1900 and continued every year thereafter until his death in 1936. In the mid-eighteen-nineties he was ‘discovered’ by Charles Ricketts and Charles Haslewood Shannon, a ‘power couple’ in the art world who published his early essays in the little magazines with which they were associated. Short books followed on Hokusai (1899) and Constable (1902), with a perceptive account of contemporary collecting (1903). Continue reading
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
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
The Edwardian era coincided with “a steady expansion of British reading habits”, with the number of books published and made available to readers – through the establishment of new public libraries, Workers’ Educational Associations and book clubs – showing remarkable advances from the turn of the century to the mid 1910s.  Beyond this trend lay an improvement in family incomes and a rising level of literacy, in addition to vast population growth and increase in life expectancy. The fastidiousness and inequality of Victorian Britain resonated strongly with this new Edwardian society, generating a soar in fiction on social realism and the fantasies of romantic adventure, the spirit of childhood and outdoor life. Continue reading
Programme cover for the December 1903 recital
In 1903 one of the world’s leading composers came to London to perform an evening of his own ground-breaking songs. In today’s parlance this was what could well be called ‘a dream recital’, and yet amazingly it met with a marked detachment from both contemporary critics and the concert-going public as a whole. Such aloof disinterest, I would say, reveals much about the insular attitudes towards foreign music in Britain at the time.
Richard Strauss (1864-1949) was born in Munich and by the turn of the last century he had become a composer of Lieder and tone poems of international significance. In 1894 he had married the German soprano, Pauline de Ahna (1863-1950), and together they formed a formidable performing couple, touring extensively across the whole of Europe. It was the London-based concert manager, Hugo Görlitz, who organised the visit of the Strausses to Britain at the end of 1903, primarily so that Strauss could conduct a Berlioz Centenary Concert at the Queen’s Hall on 11 December that year. How enterprising it would be, Görlitz no doubt thought, to arrange for Pauline to sing some of her husband’s sensational songs while they were here. Continue reading
On October 17th-18th, the Edwardian Culture Network will host a symposium entitled ‘Arnold Bennett and his Circle’ (see our ‘events’ pages for more details). In the following short essay, Dr. Andrew Glazzard, one of the co-organizers, anticipates some of the issues we intend to cover in our discussions.
I’d like to try a thought experiment – a game of matching the novel with the writer. Take two novels, both written in 1922 – ‘the year of Modernism’. One is set in a city, but very little happens. This novel is narrated with ironic detachment, and dwells on the drab lives of ordinary people who fail to understand each other. The other is an adventure story, set on the French coast during the Napoleonic Wars. It is about a pirate, features buried treasure, includes a love story between a dashing soldier and a beautiful woman, and ends with an exciting chase featuring Horatio Nelson.
One of these novels was written by an early modernist – an innovator who remains a fixture on university syllabuses, and has been widely acknowledged for his technical achievements and for bringing a sceptical, disillusioned world-view to British fiction. The other writer became immensely popular in his lifetime, was regarded by his younger contemporaries as an exemplar of everything that was wrong about the Edwardian novel, and today in the world of academic Eng.Lit is almost completely disregarded. Which author do you think wrote which novel? Continue reading
Sprays of laurel and oak leaves surround the head of Edward VII, king and emperor, looking so wise and benign in this finely sculptured likeness created, not as one might expect by an artist from the British Empire, but by an Austrian, Emil Fuchs. Here at the highest level, and yet at the most mundane, is an emblem of nationhood, proclaiming a country that – superficially at least – sees itself as cultured, unshakably monarchist, and ultimately pacific. Continue reading
‘A Fancy Dress Dinner Party’ by Charles Ricketts, c.1904
A small canvas in the Tullie House Gallery, Carlisle, offers a fascinating insight into the social life of a small group of Edwardian artists. The painting, by the multi-talented Charles Ricketts, depicts seven guests assembled at 11-13 Lansdowne Road, Holland Park, the house of Sir Edmund and Lady Mary Davis, on the 10th December 1904.
The Australian-born Edmund Davis was a highly successful businessman, who made most of his money in various South African ventures; not least gold and diamond mining. In 1889 he moved to London and married the talented Mary Halford, who encouraged his interest in art, which the couple started collecting in the late 1890s. Their tastes ranged widely, incorporating Old Master paintings, eighteenth century sculpture and contemporary works by the likes of Rodin (it is said that Edmund ‘liked to exercise surrounded by Rodin statues’). Continue reading
[Jennifer Walker, the author of this post, has just published “Elizabeth of the German Garden – A Literary Journey”]
THE CARAVANERS, by the author of “Elizabeth and her German Garden” (now known as Elizabeth von Arnim), first published in 1909 by Smith & Elder.
When Mary Beauchamp married the Count von Arnim in 1891, she had no idea that her newly-acquired German nationality would divide her life and her family for generations to come. She had been swept off her feet by the widowed Prussian Count, some fifteen years her senior, finding at last that she was valued by him as a musically gifted and intelligent young woman. For, on their engagement, the Count von Arnim-Schlagenthin took her straight to Bayreuth where Mary could perform Bach on the organ in the presence of Cosima Wagner. But maybe the Count got more than her bargained for. Mary was gifted, not only in music, but also in words, and it was by means of her writing that she managed to escape from the life proscribed for her; that of the wife of a member of the Prussian aristocracy in the latter years of the nineteenth century.
Writing as ‘Elizabeth’, she immediately established a literary reputation with her first best-selling novel, Elizabeth and her German Garden (published anonymously in 1898). Continue reading
Calling a Heart a Spade: Wells and Voysey’s Kentish Utopia
The Wells House Nursing Home stands on a hilltop in Sandgate – a prosperous and attractive seaside village on the borders of Folkestone in Kent – with fine views over the village and the coastline. Wells House – previously Spade House – was built in 1899-1900 to the designs of two men: C.F.A. Voysey, the house’s architect, and Voysey’s client, H.G. Wells.
Wells came to be in Sandgate, and to commission Voysey, as a result of a combination of illness and literary friendship. In 1896 Wells had befriended the ailing novelist George Gissing, and, when Wells’s own chronic kidney condition led to his collapse during a cycling holiday along the south coast in 1898, it was Gissing’s childhood friend, Dr Henry Hick, who became Wells’s personal physician. Continue reading