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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Out and about in London

Sunday, August 29th., London

I was determined to write another impression, and did so, though it took me some time to get a subject. I walked down to Albert Bridge to get it, and I got it, and came back and wrote it.

I seemed to spend a great deal of time reading Wells's "William Clissold" of which I nearly finished the first vol. I also nearly finished Stendhal's "Lamiel".

At about 5.15 Dorothy and I went out for a city excursion. We drove to St. Paul's cathedral first, of which the front was in the usual Sunday mess; a fearful litter of paper, and kids feeding the birds , and hawkers: all extremely untidy, slatternly, etc. Even offensive. The inside was as it was the last time but I saw the dreadful Watts's pictures.

A portrait painter and sculptor, George Frederick Watts was born in London, the son of a piano maker. Initially, he wanted to become a sculptor, and at the age of 10 was apprenticed to William Behnes. However, in 1835, at the age of 18, he went to the RA Schools, where he remained for only a short period, and thereafter was mainly self-taught. After he first exhibited The Wounded Heron at the Royal Academy, painting became his main preoccupation. In 1850 Watts visited the home of Valentine Prinsep's parents in Holland park, supposedly for a three-day visit, but instead he stayed for thirty years. The Prinseps seem to have borne the situation cheerfully, and it no doubt gave them a certain cachet in the Bohemian circles in which they moved, which included such writers and painters as Thackeray, Dickens, Rossetti and Burne-Jones. Fortunately, Watts was a man of frugal habits. Although he had been depressed and unhappy when he had moved in with the Prinseps, Watts blossomed in this strange household, where notable writers and painters were treated with reverence. He finally left the Prinseps' home in 1875 and moved to the Isle of Wight. In 1864 Watts married the actress Ellen Terry, who was only 16, although the marriage was short-lived.
Watts was a modest, hard-working artist who twice refused a baronetcy and other honours, including an offer to become president of the Royal Academy, although he did accept the Order of Merit. The critic G.K. Chesterton said of Watts: ".. more than any other modern man, and much more than politicians who thundered on platforms or financiers who captured continents, [Watts] has sought in the midst of his quiet and hidden life to mirror his age... In the whole range of Watts' symbolic art, there is scarcely a single example of the ordinary and arbitrary current symbol.... A primeval vagueness and archaism hangs over the all the canvases and cartoons, like frescoes from some prehistoric temple. There is nothing there but the eternal things, day and fire and the sea, and motherhood and the dead."Another contemporary admirer, Hugh MacMillan, wrote that Watts "surrounds his ideal forms with a misty or cloudy atmosphere for the purpose of showing that they are visionary or ideal.... His colours, like the colour of the veils of the ancient tabernacle, like the hues of the jewelled walls of the New Jerusalem, are invested with a parabolic significance.... To the commonest hues he gives a tone beyond their ordinary power... Watts is essentially the seer. He thinks in pictures that come before the inward eye spontaneously and assume a definite form almost without any effort of consciousness."Watts' declared aims were clear: to paint pictures that appealed 'to the intellect and refined emotions rather than the senses':
"I paint ideas, not things. I paint primarily because I have something to say, and since the gift of eloquent language has been denied to me, I use painting; my intention is not so much to paint pictures which shall please the eye, as to suggest great thoughts which shall speak to the imagination and to the heart and arouse all that is best and noblest in humanity."Since the revival of interest in Victorian painting, Watts may be regaining the recognition and respect he enjoyed in the 19th century. However, in terms of public recognition he is not as well-known as contemporaries like Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones.
George Frederick Watts, self-portrait
Also "The Light of the World".
Holman-Hunt - The Light of the World

The Light of the World (1853–54) is an allegorical painting by William Holman Hunt representing the figure of Jesus preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened door, illustrating Revelation 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me". According to Hunt: "I painted the picture with what I thought, unworthy though I was, to be by Divine command, and not simply as a good Subject." The door in the painting has no handle, and can therefore be opened only from the inside, representing "the obstinately shut mind". Hunt, 50 years after painting it, felt he had to explain the symbolism. The original, painted at night in a makeshift hut at Worcester Park Farm in Surrey, is now in a side room off the large chapel at Keble College, Oxford. Toward the end of his life, Hunt painted a life-size version, which was hung in St Paul's Cathedral, London, after a world tour where the picture drew large crowds. Due to Hunt's increasing infirmity, he was assisted in the completion of this version by English painter Edward Robert Hughes. This painting inspired much popular devotion in the late Victorian period and inspired several musical works, including Sir Arthur Sullivan's 1873 oratorioThe Light of the World.

It is all pretty dreadful, and I suppose it will remain so for years - until the repairs are at last finished. Something ought to be done about the front space on Sunday afternoons. Then we walked on to Southwark Bridge and on to London Bridge (both very empty) and had a good look at Adelaide House (by London Bridge); this is a rather remarkable office building, done under strong American influence. It is very interesting.

Adelaide House is a Grade II listed office building on King William Street, at London Bridge, in the City of London. When it was completed in 1925 it was the tallest office block in London at 43 m (141 ft). The building was named in honour of King William IV's wife Adelaide, who, in 1831, had performed the opening ceremony of the adjacent London Bridge. Adelaide House was the first building in the City to employ the steel frame technique, later widely adopted for skyscrapers around the world, and also the first office block in Great Britain to have central ventilation and telephone and electric connections on every floor. It was designed in a discreet Art Deco style by Tait & Partners, with some Egyptian influences, popular at the time after the recent discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb. There used to be a golf course on the roof. The building has been a Grade II listed building since 1972.
Adelaide House

We also saw a number of alleys and lanes. Then from London Bridge approach we took a bus to the Bank,  and at the Bank another bus to Sloane Square.
We then dressed and went to the Savoy Cafe for dinner.

Savoy Hotel, Strand entrance 1911
Hadn't been there since last December. Saw Golding Bright and wife. The latter started immediately to talk of the baby and thence jumped to her own baby (killed in the war I think). "He'd have been thirty today if he'd lived". She was absorbed in babies. She's 65 and thinks always of her son.

Mary Chavelita Dunne Bright (1859 — 1945), better known by her pen name George Egerton, (pronounced Edg'er-ton) was a "New Woman" writer and feminist. Widely considered to be one of the most important of the "New Woman" writers of the nineteenth century fin de siecle, she was a friend of George Bernard Shaw, Ellen Terry and J. M. Barrie. She divorced Egerton Clairmonte in 1901 and married the dramatic agent Reginald Golding Bright, fifteen years her junior. Her only child, her son George Clairmonte (born 1895), was killed in World War I. She died in London in 1945, aged 85. Bright was from a theatrical family; his brother Addison Bright was J.M. Barrie's agent; in 1901 Bright married George Egerton (Mary Chavelita), playwright; he died in 1941.

1 comment:

  1. Ive very much enjoyed your blog Mr. Bennett. I like what you're doing over here. I will check back soon and often to see how it progresses.