Art & Coffee at The Beaumont (14th April) – Amadeo Modigliani & Anna Akhmatova, Paris 1911

Join our Art & Coffee discussion group

on Friday 14th April, 11.30am (for about an hour)

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.

All welcome!


In celebration of Nancy Cunard’s birthday (10th March 1896)

Photograph of “Portrait of Nancy Cunard” by John Banting [1930s; location currently unknown].


A few notes here inspired by hearing Anne de Courcy discussing her book “Five Love Affairs and a Friendship: The Paris Life of Nancy Cunard” (2022; Weidenfeld & Nicolson) at The London Library last evening.

The photograph on the jacket of Anne de Courcy’s book (the hardback version) was taken by Curtis Moffat and is now, amongst others, in the V&A Collection

Curtis Moffat was the husband of Nancy Cunard’s close friend Iris Tree, and it was with Iris that Nancy first experienced London’s modernist art scene in the 1910s, whether at The Cafe Royal – Nancy and Iris are portrayed in Adrian Allinson’s painting [1916; private collection, more info. Tate]

amidst the artists and bohemians, we see Nancy right in the foreground and Iris further back to the left in the red hat; or they could be seen at The Cave of the Golden Calf night club (image from the Daily Mail archive) and more especially at The Eiffel Tower restaurant which Nancy would call “our spiritual carnal home” (the drawing here is by Nina Hamnett, another close life-long friend of Nancy’s):

“Those old nights of drinking, solitary thinking
At the corner table…

I think the Tower shall go up to heaven
One night in a flame of fire, about eleven.
I always saw our carnal-spiritual home
Blazing upon the sky symbolically…
Wherein we found no lack
Of wits and glamour, strong wines, new foods, fine looks…”

from Nancy Cunard’s poem: “To the Eiffel Tower Restaurant”


Already I have gone on a diversion (I’m stopping myself going even further), but perhaps part of this blog post is to “announce” (how formal that sounds) to the world my project “Nancy Cunard: An Uncommon Viewer” which is very much about Nancy’s interests in visual art – as viewer, muse, patron and collector – and which I will develop here on in a series of ‘research posts’.

Here and now, though, I just wanted to share a couple of photographs of Nancy’s Paris – the subject of Anne de Courcy’s book – for in the mid-1920s Nancy made her home in a ground floor flat on the corner of rue le Regrattier, Ile Saint-Louis:

To quote from Anne Chisholm’s brilliant biography “Nancy Cunard” [1979; Sigdwick & Jackson, p.97], the flat overlooked

“the river towards the left bank and with a splendid view of Notre Dame… [Nancy] brought over books and furniture from England and engaged a Breton maid, Anna [Calloch], who also cooked for her. The sitting room, small but beautifully proportioned, with two windows opening onto the view of the river, had smoky red walls above black wainscotting, a plum coloured velvet sofa, and walls hung by some of the artists she had recently discovered”.

There is a magnificent photograph by Man Ray of Nancy in her sitting room in the Pompidou archive:

and tantalisingly, we can just see a painting or two on the wall – both Anne Chisolm and Anne de Courcy note that Nancy’s collection included work by Chirico, Tanguy and a Picabia.

And Anne de Courcy describes:

“the narrow dining room had an oak table, a scarlet lacquer cabinet… and green-panelled walls on each side of the bookshelves.” It was here that Nancy entertained her many friends old and new, writers, poets and painters, including Marie Laurencin whose painting “Les Bergeres” [1922, private, c/o Christies] Nancy owned:

The other photograph from my trip to Paris ‘in search of Nancy Cunard’ I wanted to share is the doorway of her publishing house The Hours Press (15 rue Guenegaud), here alongside a photograph from 1929:

Again, it is the links with artists that fascinates me, for Nancy’s publications were uniquely and beautifully illustrated by artists such as the Surrealists John Banting and Len Lye. Indeed The Hours Press was just around the corner from the Galerie Surrealiste.

So, on the anniversary of her birthday, there is plenty to do as we explore “Nancy Cunard: An Uncommon Viewer”.

Oh, okay, one more photograph from those heady, exciting, glittering Parisian days, again by Man Ray [1924; Pompidou]



“British Art, the Artists’ International Association and The Spanish Civil War” – references and resources (for Orpington WEA)


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:

Pearl Binder

There’s a fabulous article on her at Spitalfields Life

James Boswell

The Tate has a number of his images

Clive Branson


Gilbert Daykin

For his extraordinary depiction of miners, see the Science Museum

Cliff Rowe

Over 100 works by him are on the Art UK

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;

Browne’s sketchbooks are at the Tate Archive.

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).

Dora Maar‘s photographs documenting Picasso working on Guernica can be see c/o the Reina Sofia Museum and there’s an article by Fiona MacDonald on the BBC website: “The Story of a Painting that Fought Fascism”.

For a history of the Spanish Civil War, I would suggest anything by Paul Preston.

The International Brigades Memorial Trust website is definitely worth visiting too.

We also mentioned

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:


The Words and Pictures Book Club (24th March, 2023): “Hidden Hands” by Mary Wellesley

Join us for the Words & Pictures book club

on Friday 24th March, 2pm (for an hour or so)

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!


Art, Books and Culture Group at The Beecroft (18th March, 2023): Painting the Walls – the Modern Mural

Join us for our Art, Books and Culture Group

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.


Art and Coffee at The Beaumont (17th March, 2023): “The Memoir Club” by Vanessa Bell

Join us for our Art & Coffee discussion group on

Friday 17th March, 11.30am (for about an hour)

at The Beaumont,

Barchester Southgate Community Care Home

15 Cannon Hill, London N14 7DJ

when we’ll be looking at Vanessa Bell (1879-1961)’s painting “The Memoir Club” (1943; National Portrait Gallery)

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.

Do join us if you can!


Words and Pictures Book Group, 24th Feb 2023: To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Our next Words and Pictures book group discussion will be

on Friday 24th February, 2pm (for about an hour or so)

at “Pebbles Community Cafe” (ground floor, the old Havens building on Hamlet Court Road).

This month’s book is

A captivating fusion of elegy, autobiography, socio-political critique and visionary thrust, it is the most accomplished of all Woolf’s novels. [Oxford University Press]

The front cover image here is of Laura Knight’s “At the Edge of the Cliff” [1917;].

These meetings are free and all are welcome!


Art, Books and Culture at The Beecroft, 18th Feb 2023: The Art of Vanessa Bell

Our next Art, Books and Culture discussion will be on

Saturday 18th February, 11.15am (for about an hour and a half)

at The Beecroft Art Gallery, Southend

when we will be discussing the art, life and times of

Vanessa Bell (1879-1961).

Bell, Vanessa; Conversation; The Courtauld Gallery;

These sessions are gentle research discussion groups and open to everyone.

£10 to be paid on the door.

Coffee and biscuits available afterwards.

For further reading:

The Charleston House website:

Tate website:

and Frances Spalding’s glorious biography:


Art and Coffee at The Beaumont, 17th Feb 2023: The Village Wedding by Luke Fildes


Our next Art & Coffee morning will be

on Friday 17th February, 11.30am (for about an hour)

at The Southgate Beaumont, 15 Cannon Hill, N14 7DJ

when our Take One Picture starting point,

“The Village Wedding” by Sir Samuel Luke Fildes (1843-1927) [1883; private collection],

will lead us into a discussion of British Victorian ‘social realism’ paintings.

Looking forward to seeing you there!


Art, Books and Culture at The Beecroft, Saturday 21st January 2023: Painters and Portraits in the (first) Elizabethan Age

Join us at The Beecroft Gallery

on Saturday 21st January, 11.15am to explore

Painting in England at the time of Elizabeth I

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;] 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.

Books of interest include: