at The Beaumont, Barchester Southgate Community Care
15, Cannon Hill, N14 7DJ
for “Amadeo Modigliani & Anna Akhmatova, Paris 1910”
Amadeo Modigliani (1884-1920), the Italian sculptor and painter, had moved to Paris in 1906.
Anna Akhmatova, Russian poet of the Silver Age, first met Modigliani in Paris in 1910 (with her new husband who thought the artist a “monster”).
Modigliani (1884–1920) in his studio rue de la Grande-Chaumière, at Montparnasse; unknown photographer, c.1918.
Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966) photographed by Moisei Nappelbaum, 1926.
A year later Akhmatova returned to Paris (alone) and together with Modigliani wandered the Luxembourg Gardens, talking and reciting poetry. Their “affair” lasted no more than three months, yet as Richard Nathanson (a curator for the Estorick’s Modigliani exhibition in 2015) put it in an interview with Lucy Davies [Telegraph]:
“Meeting her changed his art profoundly… Beyond the beauty of the individual works themselves, the particular fascination of this exhibition lies in the way it gradually reveals the emergence of Modigliani’s characteristically concise and elegant vocabulary, and how much that vocabulary had to do with Anna Akhmatova.”
Today we’ll explore the art and poetry of Modigliani and Akhmatova’s Paris.
After our wonderful Orpington WEA meeting on Saturday 4th March, 2023 all about British art, the AIA and the Spanish Civil War, I’ve put together some resources for further research – a combination of books and online sites. It’s far from complete but I hope will be useful as a starting point!
The most immediate reference is “Conscience and Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish Civil War” by Simon Martin and Paul Preston. It’s the catalogue to an exhibition at Pallant House Gallery back in 2014 but remains in print and available. There is also information on the Pallant House website.
The Artists’ International Association book seems sadly to be out of print, but the artists we looked at briefly included:
and for Albert Turpin (as well as the rest of the East London Group): “Bow to Biennale” by David Buckman
and the footage I mentioned of various artists (including Nan Youngman and Priscilla Thornycroft) painting hoardings for the Send Aid to Spain campaigns can be seen via Pathe News.
Nancy Cunard‘s “Authors Take Sides” pamphlet has been digitised and is on the British Library website.
Other books of interest might include Charlotte Philby’s novel “Edith and Kim” which brings the photographer Edith Tudor Hart’s biography to life; also Sarah Watling’s new book “Tomorrow, Perhaps the Future” which is a group biography of a number of writers and activists who went to Spain. [Both are absolutely brilliant!]
For Felicia Browne‘s tragic story, there’s a great article by Fisun Guner in the Guardian;
We also mentioned paintings and sculptures of John Armstrong (Pro Patria, Revelations, Encounter in the Plain), Barbara Hepworth (Monument to the Spanish Civil War), Henry Moore (Spanish Prisoner), F.E. McWilliam (Spanish Head) and the teenage artist Ursula McCannell (Spanish Mother and Child).
And, finally, two documents, the first is the brochure of the Basque Children’s Aid meeting at the Royal Albert Hall:
and secondly the remarkable photograph (from the Working Class Movement Collection) of Republican soldiers looking at paintings that had been rescued from the Madrid galleries and put on show in Valencia:
at the Pebbles Community Cafe (the old Havens, Hamlet Court Road, Westcliff)
when we’ll be discussing Mary Wellesley’s non-fiction book
“Hidden Hands – The Lives of Manuscripts and Their Makers” [2022 paperback, published by riverrun]
The publisher describes:
Manuscripts teem with life. They are not only the stuff of history and literature, but they offer some of the only tangible evidence we have of entire lives, long receded.
Hidden Hands tells the stories of the artisans, artists, scribes and readers, patrons and collectors who made and kept the beautiful, fragile objects that have survived the ravages of fire, water and deliberate destruction to form a picture of both English culture and the wider European culture of which it is part. Without manuscripts, she shows, many historical figures would be lost to us, as well as those of lower social status, women and people of colour, their stories erased, and the remnants of their labours destroyed. From the Cuthbert Bible, to works including those by the Beowulf poet, Margery Kempe, Julian of Norwich, Sir Thomas Malory, Chaucer, the Paston Letters and Shakespeare, Mary Wellesley describes the production and preservation of these priceless objects.
With an insistent emphasis on the early role of women as authors and artists and illustrated with over fifty colour plates, Hidden Hands is an important contribution to our understanding of literature and history.
Join us if you can – it’s a very informal discussion over coffee & cake – all welcome!
on Saturday 18th March, 11.15am (for about an hour or so)
at The Beecroft Art Gallery
Victoria Avenue, Southend SS2 6EX
when we’ll be discussing the revival of mural painting during the inter-war years.
Picking up where we left our discussion of Vanessa Bell’s art last month, we’ll begin by looking at the decorative wall-paintings at Charleston Farmhouse (above, left) and Berwick Church that Bell undertook alongside Duncan Grant (and others).
This will lead us back to earlier Bloomsbury murals and into the ‘revival’ of decorative wall painting during the inter-war years including work
by Evelyn Dunbar, such as The Brockley School Murals [detail here of The Country Girl and the Pail of Milk, 1933-6]:
and by Phyllis Bray, such as her re-discovered People’s Palace mural at Queen Mary’s University, mid-1930s:
and we will also mention, especially given our location, the works made by local artist Alan Sorrell for Southend Library in the 1930s, such as The Founding of Prittlewell Priory:
As ever, there will be plenty to look at & discuss – all welcome!
Admission is £10 on the door, and there will be coffee & biscuits to follow.
as our starting point for exploring Bell’s portraits of friends and family and how her style changed over the years. Along the way we’ll get a taste of Bloomsbury life and ideas, and pop in to Charleston Farmhouse.
We will explore portraits of Queen Elizabeth I such as this, by an unknown English artist, created to commemorate victory over the Spanish Armada [c.1588; National Portrait Gallery @NPGLondon; @artuk.org] along with work by known artists including Nicholas Hilliard, Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder and Levina Teerlinc.
From Sir Walter Ralegh (by an unknown English artist; 1588; NPG) to William Shakespeare (attributed to John Taylor; c.1600; NPG), and from ‘propaganda’ portraits to ‘intimate’ miniatures for lovers and the visual records of state events, we will enter into the extraordinary realm of Elizabethan England!
As ever, all are welcome to join the discussion – an open forum for ideas. Tickets cost £10 on the door. We will start at 11.15am and finish around 12.30pm with coffee & biscuits. The meeting will be held in the Lecture Theatre at The Beecroft Art Gallery.
Join us for the first Words & Pictures book club of 2023
on Friday 13th January, 2pm (for an hour or so)
at Pebbles Cafe (the old Haven’s Building, Hamlet Court Road)
“National Treasures: Saving the Nation’s Art in World War II” by Caroline Shenton
Published in paperback by John Murray Press in October 2022, the publishers describe:
National Treasures highlights a moment from our history when an unlikely coalition of mild-mannered civil servants, social oddballs and metropolitan aesthetes became the front line in the heritage war against Hitler. Caroline Shenton shares the interwoven lives of ordinary people who kept calm and carried on in the most extraordinary of circumstances in their efforts to save the Nation’s historic identity.
With the National Gallery walls all but empty of paintings, Myra Hess filled Room 36 with glorious piano playing
(photo: National Portrait Gallery)
The Words & Pictures book club meetings are informal gatherings over coffee and cake where the conversation is gently booky, arty and definitely friendly; free to join, and there’s no need to register in advance – hopefully see you there!