Words and Pictures Book Club, October 2022: “Letters to Camondo” by Edmund de Waal

Join us for this month’s Words & Pictures book club to discuss

Edmund de Waal’s “Letters to Camondo”

Paperback published by Vintage Books, June 2022

63 rue de Monceau, Paris.

Dear friend,  As you may have guessed by now, I am not in your house by accident. I know your street rather well. Count Moise de Camondo lived a few doors away from Edmund de Waal’s forebears, the Ephrussi, first encountered in his bestselling memoir The Hare with Amber Eyes. Like the Ephrussi, the Camondos were part of belle epoque high society. They were also targets of anti-semitism. Camondo created a spectacular house and filled it with the greatest private collection of French eighteenth-century art for his son to inherit. But when Nissim was killed in the First World War, it became a memorial and, on the Count’s death, was bequeathed to France. The Musee Nissim de Camondo has remained unchanged since 1936. Edmund de Waal explores the lavish rooms and detailed archives and uncovers new layers to the family story. In a haunting series of letters addressed to the Count, he tells us what happened next.

Do join us if you can!

Friday 28th October, 2pm (for an hour or so)

Pebbles cafe, (the old Havens), Hamlet Court Road, Westcliff

Admission free.

Art and Coffee morning at The Beaumont, Southgate: Friday 21st October, 11.30am

With many thanks to Barchester Healthcare, our monthly “Art & Coffee” discussion group at The Beaumont Southgate returns for both residents and the local community – hurrah!

In this first meeting we’ll be looking at Pierre-August Renoir’s gorgeous painting “Dance at the Moulin de Galette” [1876, Musee D’Orsay, Paris] and entering into the world of Impressionist Montmartre.

Do join us if you can!

Friday 21st October, 11.30am (for about an hour)

Southgate Beaumont, 15 Cannon Hill, Arnos Grove, London N14 7DJ

Admission is free.

The Common Viewer in Paris (20th Sept.)

My goodness, this city is full of art. My last day here, so a quick scoot firstly to the Musee d’Orsay where from so many highlights – indeed all the joys of Impressionism! Oh, okay, here’s one of Monet’s fabulous “Haystacks”, the series of paintings that inspired Kandinsky to abandon his career in law and become an artist.

Claude Monet (1840-1926): “Haystacks, End of Summer” [1891]

But I have chosen for my d’Orsay postcard an amazing sketch by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec: “A Woman in Profile (Madame Lucy)” [1896]…

I say ‘sketch’, but it is extraordinary how with apparently simple brush-strokes, gestural patterns of line and colour, the artist makes Madam Lucy so vividly present.

Then to the Musee d’Art Moderne and, oh my, Natalia Goncharova!

Firstly a “Still Life” (1911), then this mind-blowing “Two Spanish Women” (1930 or thereabouts):

In the gallery’s label, they quote a critic declaring: “these are not women, they are cathedrals!”

And to finish with a blast of full colour again, here’s Pierre Bonnard’s “The Garden” (1936):

so it’s Au Revoir to Paris (for now)!

The Common Viewer in Paris (19th Sept.)

what a day at the Pompidou! so many fabulous paintings such as Sonia Delaunay’s “Le Bal Bullier” (1913) which stretches the length of a wall – a vibrant, joyous dance of colour:

also Natalia Goncharova’s incredible “Femme au Chapeau” (1913) which, I learned, is actually a self-portrait – those eyes!

earlier in the day I discovered the doorway to Goncharova’s Paris apartment at 16, rue Jacques-Callot, right next door to the La Palette cafe!

my painting of the day though just has to be Wassily Kandinsky’s “Painting with Red Oval” [1914] – shimmering with colour

just as Paris itself is shimmering in glorious autumn sunshine!

Art, Books and Culture Group meeting at The Beecroft (24th Sept.): Surrealist Magic (3) – the Art of Leonora Carrington

Join us at the Beecroft Gallery, Southend on Saturday 24th September (11.15am-12.30pm, or thereabouts) for the last in our little series “Surrealist Magic”.

We’ll begin with works such as Edith Rimmington’s The Oneiroscopist [1947, Jewish Museum] and, as we open our minds into the possibility of other ways of seeing ourselves and the world, our focus will turn to the life and art of Leonora Carrington whose ‘artist manifesto’ might be seen from her early

“Self Portrait (Inn of the Dawn Horse)” [1937, Metropolitan Museum, NY].

It will be a morning of stunning and inspirational pictures, I promise!

All are welcome to join us, £10 on the door with coffee & biscuits to follow.

The Common Viewer in Paris (16th Sept.)

Well, whilst some people might visit the Louvre to see Leonardo’s “Mona Lisa”, for me the absolute highlight of the entire collection is:

Elizabeth Vigee Le Brun (1755-1842)’s portrait of Madame Mole-Reymond, painted in 1786; the blue and lilac are quite extraordinary.

And for those of you who share my fascination for Marie Laurencin (1883-1946), some of her work is on show at L’Orangerie, including “Femmes au Chien” (1926):

Again, the colours!

Laurencin’s usual pinks and blues plus, here, a dramatic stripe of yellow-gold – quite thrilling!


The Common Viewer in Paris (15th Sept)…

and today it is very much back to the 1920s, les annees folles and modernes:

I mean where else would one find a ‘street art’ portrait of artist Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886-1968), one of the characters of inter-war Montparnasse life?

My main mission though was to be ‘on the trail’ of Nancy Cunard,

Nancy Cunard in her Paris flat; photo by Man Ray c.1928, Pompidou Centre

finding not only her flat at 2, rue de la Regrattier, overlooking the Seine and Notre Dame (amazing to see the ongoing restoration work)

but also the site of her Hours Press shop at 15, rue Guenegard:

Then on to the most extraordinary exhibition: “Les Cercles de la Baronne” at Galerie La Minotaure.

The eponymous la Baronne was Hélène d’Œttingen (1887-1950), whose story is little known and yet, as the painter François Angiboult, she was a heartbeat of the modern art movement in Paris that included Nina Hamnett’s friend, the brilliant artist Marie Vassilieff (1884-1857) who designed numerous puppets, shown at the exhibition.

All very exciting indeed… more to come!

“Words and Pictures” Book Club (Sept. 2022): Bohemian Lives, by Amy Licence

Join us for the “Words & Pictures” book club on

Friday 23rd September, 2pm at Pebbles cafe (in the old Havens on Hamlet Court Road)

to discuss Amy Licence’s “Bohemian Lives”

All welcome for a relaxed, informal conversation over coffee & cake!


Ida Nettleship was a flamboyant Bohemian who gave up a promising artistic career to marry Augustus John. She had five pregnancies in just six years, lived with Augustus and his mistress in a menage a trois, and died exhausted in childbirth aged thirty. Ida’s story of unconventional love is equalled by two other Bohemian women of the same era: Picasso’s first love Fernande Olivier, who was prominent in the Paris art scene, and the writer Sophie Brzeska, who lived with the artist Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, nineteen years her junior – he would die in the First World War and Sophie’s slow descent into mental instability would begin. Bohemian Lives follows the achievements and sacrifices of the three women and how their lives overlapped and contrasted, in education, childbirth, illness, marriage – and psychological disintegration. All three women had a huge influence on their more famous partner and challenged the accepted model of male-female relations of the time. At once touching and harrowing, their struggles for recognition in their own right hold a mirror up to the prejudices of an age – and what being ‘bohemian’ really meant.

Aberley publishing, 2019

A portrait of Ida Nettleship painted by Augustus John in 1902:

John, Augustus Edwin; Merikli; Manchester Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/merikli-205290

A portrait of Sophie Brzeska painted by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska in 1913:

Sophie Brzeska 1913 Henri Gaudier-Brzeska 1891-1915 Purchased 1957 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T00147

and Picasso’s 1909 portrait of Fernande Olivier (Stadel Museum):


Some Notes & Images on British Surrealists [The Beecroft, August 2022]

Greetings! There was so much intrigue & interest in our ‘gallery’ of British Surrealist art, that I have copied & pasted some of the presentation slides below, really so that you have a list of the artists’ names to research further. Whilst I would recommend just typing names into the browser and seeing what comes up, particular websites for research include: ArtUK; Christie’s; Sotheby’s and Bonhams.

There is a website dedicated to British Surrealism; also the Tate has a lot of archival material, especially about Eileen Agar, John Banting and Ithell Colquhoun – much of which is digitally available.

There is an exhibition of the Sherwin Collection at the Hepworth until January 2023. The Dulwich Picture Gallery has some interesting online resources, and Austin/Desmond has a fabulous little online gallery.

Books are available on some individual artists, but I’d suggest the best overview is “Surrealism in Britain” by Michel Remy.

NB Len Lye is renowned for his experimental films. “The Colour Box” and “Tusaleva” can be found on YouTube. I’d also recommend “The Birth of the Robot” which Lye made with John Banting. See also The Len Lye Foundation.

Books on Eileen Agar: Hatchards

NB: The BBC’s “Desmond Morris – Secret Surrealist” is on YouTube.

We’ll continue our discussions next month (Saturday 24th September, 11.15am, The Beecroft), starting with Edith Rimmington…

Edith Rimmington, The Oneiroscopist, 1947
Photo credit: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem by Elie Posner © Estate of Edith Rimmington c/o Country Life

…and our focus with be the surreal world of Leonora Carrington:

The Giantess (The Guardian of the Egg) [1947; private c/o Wikipedia]

And if you would like to read your way into Leonora Carrington’s world, then there is no better path than her wonderfully brilliant novel: The Hearing Trumpet.

Happy researches (and do please let me know what you discover)!


Art, Books and Culture Group meeting, Saturday 27th August: Surrealist Magic (2) – Surrealism in Britain

Join us for the second in our Summer of Surrealism series to discuss

the manifestation of Surrealism in 1930s & 40s Britain:

Saturday 27th August, 11.15am-12.30pm

at The Beecroft Gallery, Southend-on-Sea.

NB The gallery’s new exhibition of paintings from the Reiff Collection, includes works by Surrealists Eileen Agar and Conroy Maddox, and is well worth viewing!

Maddox, Conroy; Prefiguration; The Reiff Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/prefiguration-307225
Attributes of the Moon 1947 Ithell Colquhoun 1906-1988 Presented by the National Trust 2016 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T15315

As ever, all are welcome to join the Art, Books & Culture Group – a relaxed and open discussion of 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, Southend.