DallowayDay 2022: Nancy Cunard and 1920s Paris with Anne de Courcy

I am absolutely delighted to be in conversation with biographer extraordinaire Anne de Courcy as part of the Virginia Woolf Society’s Dalloway Day this year, the theme of which is Modern/ist Women – and who could be more modern & more modernist than Nancy Cunard, the subject of Anne’s latest book:

As we will discover, Nancy Cunard’s move to Paris in the early 1920s allowed her the freedom to be fully herself as a person, poet, publisher & increasingly political activist.

And we may even pop down to the Riviera and into the life of another fabulously modern woman, Coco Chanel, if there’s time!

Do join us if you can. Full details are at: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/dallowayday-2022-modernist-women-hatchards-piccadilly-tickets-337301587127 – all welcome!


Art, Books & Culture Group meeting, Saturday 25th June, 11.15am at The Beecroft Gallery: “Art in 1930s Germany”

Our next Art, Books & Culture meeting will be on Saturday 25th June, (11.15am-12.45pm) – please note I’ve changed the time slightly to start 11.15am so that we don’t have to wait around outside! – at the Beecroft Gallery, Southend.

In our discussions on Surrealism last month, we noted recent reports from The Guardian and Hyperallergic telling how a painting by Yves Tanguy, thought lost, had been found and restored.

Yves Tanguy: Fraud in the Garden [1930; private]

The painting’s disappearance was due to being attacked when on exhibition in 1930. The Hyperallergic article says:

On the night of December 30, 1930, members of the far-right groups the League of Patriots and the Anti-Semitic League of France raided Studio 28, an arthouse [theatre] in Paris’s artists’ district of Montmartre. They savagely attacked Tanguy’s 1930 masterpiece “Fraud in the Garden” in the cinema’s lobby, along with other works by Salvador Dalí, Man Ray, and Joan Miró.

The extremist groups were outraged at the screening of Luis Buñuel’s L’Age D’Or (1930), an avant-garde comedy satirizing the hypocrisy of the sexual mores of the bourgeois society and the Catholic Church. Co-written with Dalí, Buñuel’s surrealist film was rife with blasphemous and erotic imagery, including a sequence based on the Marquis de Sade’s novel 120 Days of Sodom featuring Jesus as a bloodthirsty sadist.

The assailants shouted “We’ll show you that there are still Christians in France!” and “Death to Jews!”


And there is a photograph of the attacked paintings:

That was in 1930 and, as we know, the right wing in Europe increased its power and domain throughout the decade particularly with Hitler’s Nazi regime in Germany. Quite by chance, I discovered in the Archive at Tate Britain, the leaflet on the left here:

The “Exhibition of German 20th-century Art” was in London, 1938; a direct artistic riposte to Hitler’s staging of an exhibition of German modern art in Munich the year under the title “Degenerate Art” (the poster on the right). Our discussion this month, then, will focus both London and Munich exhibitions to explore the art of inter-war Germany and the fate of some of those artists deemed ‘degenerate’.

Our discussions cost £10 to attend (please pay on the door) and include coffee & biscuits – all welcome!


The ‘Words and Pictures’ Book Club, Friday 17th June, 2pm: “The Sale of the Late King’s Goods” by Jerry Brotton

Join us at 2pm on Friday 17th June

over at Pebbles cafe (in the Havens building on Hamlet Court Road)

to discuss Jerry Brotton’s book on the art collection of Charles I

Set against the backdrop of war, revolution, and regicide, and moving from London to Venice, Mantua, Madrid, Paris and the Low Countries, Jerry Brotton’s colourful and critically acclaimed book, The Sale of the Late King’s Goods, explores the formation and dispersal of King Charles I’s art collection. Following a remarkable and unprecedented Parliamentary Act for ‘The sale of the late king’s goods’, Cromwell’s republican regime sold off nearly 2,000 paintings, tapestries, statues and drawings in an attempt to settle the dead king’s enormous debts and raise money for the Commonwealth’s military forces. Brotton recreates the extraordinary circumstances of this sale, in which for the first time ordinary working people were able to handle and own works by the great masters. He also examines the abiding relationship between art and power, revealing how the current Royal Collection emerged from this turbulent period, and paints its own vivid and dramatic picture of one of the greatest lost collections in English history.


The ‘Words & Pictures’ book club is a safe and generous group of people fascinated and intrigued by art and artists to discuss books and pictures over coffee and a slice of cake – all welcome!


Art, Books and Culture group meeting: Saturday 28th May – “Into the Surreal”

Join us on Saturday 28th May, 11am-1pm at The Beecroft Gallery, Southend

as we take a plunge into the early years of Surrealism in Paris and London.

La Galerie Surrealiste, rue Jacques Gallot, photographed by Man Ray 1927.


“one of the most genuinely subversive movement in the history of ideas” – Michel Remy


Leonora Carrington (1917-2011)

The Giantess (The Guardian of the Egg) [1947; private collection]

“When one is overcome by demoralization and defeat, depressed or on the verge of suicide, that is the time to open one’s Surrealist Survival Kit and enjoy a breath of magical fresh air. To lay out its marvellous contents carefully before you and let them play …”
wrote artist, novelist and poet, Leonora Carrington in 1936.


We’ll discuss Andre Breton’s Surrealist Manifestos, the influential paintings of Giorgio de Chirico and Max Ernst and meet some of the first British artists inspired by Surrealism.

Attendance is £10 on the door and will include tea, coffee & biscuits – all welcome!

Julian Trevelyan (1910-1988): Standing Figure with Ace of Clubs [1933; c/o Pallant House Gallery]

“Let us gladly shout: to dream is to create” – Julian Trevelyan


The ‘Words and Pictures’ Book Club: Friday 27th May – “The King’s Painter”

Join us for our monthly book discussion group on

Friday 27th May, 2pm at “Pebbles” café (the old Havens) on Hamlet Court Road.

This month’s book is:

The King’s Painter: The Life and Times of Hans Holbein

by Franny Moyle

Hans Holbein the Younger is chiefly celebrated for his beautiful and precisely realised portraiture, which includes representations of Henry VIII, Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell, Anne of Cleves, Jane Seymour and an array of the Tudor lords and ladies he encountered during the course of two sojourns in England. But beyond these familiar images, which have come to define our perception of the world of the Henrician court, Holbein was a protean and multi-faceted genius: a humanist, satirist, political propagandist, and contributor to the history of book design as well as a religious artist and court painter. The rich layers of symbolism and allusion that characterise his work have proved especially fascinating to scholars. Franny Moyle traces and analyses the life and work of an extraordinary artist against the backdrop of an era of political turbulence and cultural transformation, to which his art offers a subtle and endlessly refracting mirror.

Happy reading – I look forward to hearing what you think!


The ‘Words and Pictures’ Book Club, Friday 22nd April, 2pm at Pebbles, will be discussing: “Circles and Squares – The Lives and Art of the Hampstead Modernists” by Caroline Maclean

Join us for our monthly Book Club to discuss: “Circles & Squares”…

A spellbinding portrait of the Hampstead Modernists, threading together the lives, loves, rivalries and ambitions of a group of artists at the heart of an international avant-garde. Hampstead in the 1930s. In this peaceful, verdant London suburb, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson have embarked on a love affair – a passion that will launch an era-defining art movement. In her chronicle of the exhilarating rise and fall of British Modernism, Caroline Maclean captures the dazzling circle drawn into Hepworth and Nicholson’s wake: among them Henry Moore, Paul Nash, Herbert Read, and famed emigres Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus, and Piet Mondrian, blown in on the winds of change sweeping across Europe. Living and working within a few streets of their Parkhill Road studios, the artists form Unit One, a cornerstone of the Modernist movement which would bring them international renown. Drawing on previously unpublished archive material, Caroline Maclean’s electrifying Circles and Squares brings the work, loves and rivalries of the Hampstead Modernists to life as never before, capturing a brief moment in time when a new way of living seemed possible. United in their belief in art’s power to change the world, her cast of trailblazers radiate hope and ambition during one of the darkest chapters of the twentieth century.

[published by Bloomsbury, 2020]


These discussion meeting are free of charge, relaxed & informal and take place at “Pebbles” cafe (in the old Havens building on Hamlet Court Road), starting 2pm – all welcome!


Art, Books and Culture Group meeting: NEW DATE: SATURDAY 7th MAY, (11am-1pm) at The Beecroft Gallery, Southend: The Artists International Association and the Spanish Civil War

As the political situation of 1930s Europe worsened, the Artists International Association adopted a ‘popular front’ methodology encouraging a wide range of artists to exhibit under their pro-communist anti-fascist umbrella. This became especially important with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War when the AIA sought to raise funds for sending food, supplies and ambulances to the frontlines and assisting refugees trying to escape.

Artists Nan Youngman & Priscilla Thornycroft painting: Spain Fights On

Today we will look at the work of the Artists International Association and British artists’ responses to the Spanish Civil War.

Please note we have a new venue and a new meeting time:

The Beecroft Art Gallery, Southend

11am-1pm om Saturday 7th May

£10 on the door as usual

All welcome!


A couple of initial resources:

The Exhibition “Conscience and Conflict” at Pallant House Gallery and a BBC article about it; there is also a book (out of print, but maybe at the library):

Art, Books and Culture Group (26th March 2022): the Artists International Association and 1930s working class art groups in Britain

Our next art discussion meeting will consider the Artists International Association, an exhibiting society founded in 1933. It’s aim was the ‘Unity of Artists for Peace, Democracy and Cultural Development’.

Portrait of a Worker circa 1930 Clive Branson 1907-1944 Bequeathed by Noreen Branson 2004 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T11787

In turn we will look at the formation of working class art groups such as the East London Group and the Pitman Painters (the Ashington Group) as well the arrival of Mass Observation in “Worktown”.

All welcome!

Saturday 26th March, 10am-midday

Civic Centre Committee Room, Southend

£10 tickets on door

Oliver Kilbourn (1904-1993): End of Shift [c.1934; Laing Art Gallery; artuk.org]

Peal Binder (1904-1990): A Jewish Restaurant in Brick Lane [c/o SpitalfieldsLife]


The East London Group: in conversation with Alan Waltham, 11th March 2022

Brynhild Parker (1907-1987): Windy Day on Marine Parade [c.1925; Beecroft Art Gallery; artuk.org]


It gives me huge pleasure to announce that I will be in conversation with Alan Waltham, curator and custodian of The East London Group on

Friday 11th March, 2022 at 2.30pm

Venue: The Beecroft Art Gallery, Southend

£10 tickets are available via Eventbrite (click on link)

Join Alan Waltham, curator of “Brothers in Art: Walter and Harold Steggles” currently on show at the Beecroft Gallery to discuss the East London Group.

The rediscovery of the East London Group, triggered by a surprise inheritance and the 2012 publication of David Buckman’s “From Bow to Biennale”, has garnered a revitalised appreciation of these working class artists’ paintings, many of which hadn’t been seen since the 1930s.

This afternoon, curator Alan Waltham discusses this renewed recognition of the East London Group, his personal link to the Steggles Brothers and, by way of some of the most iconic of their paintings, the origins and history of the Group. Alan will be in conversation with Dr ML Banting, independent researcher in the field of early 20th-century British art.

All welcome!

“Brothers in Art: Walter and Harold Steggles” runs at the Beecroft Gallery until 3rd April, 2022. There are further details about both the exhibition and the East London Group artists here and on artuk.org here.

Photograph: East London Group artists Elwin Hawthorne, Phyllis Bray, John Cooper and Brynhild Parker at the Lefevre Galleries [c. 1932] from the article “Phyllis Bray, Artist” at SpitalfieldsLife website.

“From Bow to Biennale” by David Buckman [2012; Francis Boutle Publishers]


The Words and Pictures Book Club: 18th March 2022

Delighted to announce our next Words & Pictures book club will be discussing:

Cut Out, by Michele Roberts [2021, Sandstone Press]

As Amanda Craig notes in the Literary Review: “Every page flickers and glows with colour”.

As usual we will be gathering at Pebbles Cafe (in the old Havens building), Hamlet Court Road on

Friday 18th March, 2pm.

All welcome!