Wednesday, October 29, 2014

George Frederic Watts by Edward Steichen

 George Frederic Watts by Edward Steichen, Photogravure on japan paper, 1900, NPG


Background description from National Portrait Gallery, "In 1900, Watts was aged 83 and the doyen of the art world, having outlived most of his contemporaries. He is shown here, in a photogravure from the American publication Camera Work, as a venerable figure whose profile features are illuminated by a single light source, perhaps a window. The pictorial style draws attention to the painterly composition and chiaroscuro derived from old master portraiture. In this respect, Steichen’s image – one of two poses from the same sitting – evokes an elderly version of Watts’s ‘Venetian Senator’ self-portrait of c.1853, although its immediate inspiration seems to be Watts’s profile self-portraits of 1879–80 (see ‘All known portraits’). It has also been argued that Steichen’s admiration for European Symbolist painting is reflected in the composition,  and doubtless such admiration drew Steichen towards Watts, whose late allegorical paintings proved major contributions to the Symbolist impulse. The exact circumstances of this portrait-making remain somewhat unclear, however.

American photographer Edward Steichen travelled to Europe in summer 1900 to study painting in Paris. In September he visited London to submit work to the season’s exhibitions, as he recalled later:

In the early autumn I went to London with the idea of submitting some of my photographs to the exhibitions of the Royal Photographic Society and the Linked Ring. There I met F. Holland Day [who] was in London to arrange for an exhibition of what he called The New School of American Photography and the Royal Photographic Society had turned over their exhibition rooms to him. Now for the first time, I saw photographs by outstanding photographers. It was an exciting experience … After the fuss and excitement of London I was ready to get back to Paris and go to work. But before leaving, I made a photograph of the venerable painter George Frederick [sic] Watts. This was the beginning of the portrait series I had planned to make of distinguished artists in Europe. I hoped to include painters, sculptors, literary men and musicians.

In this account Steichen does not explain why or how he was able to photograph Watts, or who furnished the introduction. No contemporary record of the encounter, which probably took place in Watts’s London home in Melbury Road, has yet been found. It is thought that Steichen was commissioned to make his portraits, but this may be a mistaken inference. However, further details of Steichen’s visit to London offer some context for the event. 

 Steichen did not print or exhibit his portraits of Watts while in Europe, but he did continue the ‘portrait series’ project inspired by Watts. On returning to America in 1902 he described it to a Milwaukee newspaper, saying, ‘My “Great Men” series includes portraits of Rodin, Maeterlinck, George Frederic Watts, the eminent English artist, Zangwill, Lenbach the great German portrait artist … Mucha the painter and many others.’ 
From the date ‘MDCCCCIII’ inscribed on both his Watts images, it would appear that Steichen prepared them for exhibition and/or publication in 1903, using the elaborate printing techniques then being developed. At the end of 1902 he was among the founding members of the Photo-Secession group in New York, under which aegis examples of his work appeared in Alfred Stieglitz’s quarterly publication Camera Work (which Steichen designed) as well as being exhibited throughout the United States. In the first issue of Camera Work, Stieglitz announced its aesthetic policy:

 Photography being in the main a process in monochrome, it is on subtle gradations of tone and value that its artistic beauty so frequently depends. It is therefore highly necessary that reproductions of photographic work must be made with exceptional care, and discretion of the spirit of the original is to be retained, though no reproductions can do justice to the subtleties of some photographs. Such supervision will be given to the illustrations that will appear in each number of Camera Work. Only examples of such works as gives evidence of individuality and artistic worth, regardless of school, or contains some exceptional feature of technical merit, or such as exemplifies some treatment worthy of consideration, will find recognition in these page"

  Portrait of George Frederick Watts, 1903, by Edward Steichen.

 Gum bichromate print, Alfred Stieglitz Collection. 

Both of these prints of G.F. Watts can be found in the following:  
Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973) Six Portraits of Important Male Figures, 1903-1913.
Five photogravures and one halftone reproduction, two mounted, two double mounted, and two triple mounted; George Frederick Watts with the sitter's name, photographer's name and date in Roman numerals in negative; in good to very good condition (with the exception of Bartholome, which has a nearly severed upper left corner), not framed.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

My review of The Lost Pre-Raphaelite by Nigel Daly

When the author bought a falling down fortified house on the Staffordshire moorlands, he had no reason to anticipate the astonishing tale that would unfold as it was restored. A mysterious set of relationships emerged amongst its former owners, revolving round the almost forgotten artist, Robert Bateman, a prominent Pre-Raphaelite and friend of Burne Jones. He was to marry the granddaughter of the Earl of Carlisle, and to be associated with Benjamin Disraeli, William Gladstone, and other prominent political and artistic figures. 

But he had abandoned his life as an artist in mid-career to live as a recluse, and his rich and glamorous wife-to-be had married the local vicar, already in his sixties and shortly to die. The discovery of two clearly autobiographical paintings led to an utterly absorbing forensic investigation into Bateman's life.

The story moves from Staffordshire to Lahore, to Canada, Wyoming, and then, via Buffalo Bill, to Peru and back to England. It leads to the improbable respectability of Imperial Tobacco in Bristol, and then, less respectably, to a car park in Stoke-on-Trent. En route the author pieces together an astonishing and deeply moving story of love and loss, of art and politics, of morality and hypocrisy, of family secrets concealed but never quite completely obscured. The result is a page-turning combination of detective story and tale of human frailty, endeavor, and love. It is also a portrait of a significant artist, a reassessment of whose work is long overdue.

Hardcover, 336 pages
Published September 2nd 2014 by Wilmington Square Books

 Nigel Daly is an antique dealer and house restorer.

  Biddulph Old Hall, Nr. Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire photographed by William Blake, 1921

Biddulph Old Hall as it stands today

 I am not even sure how to begin. A full five star rating does not give this beautiful work enough merit. What Nigel Daly and his partner Brian Vowles have done is a stroke of pure genius!  This is not a biography folks; The Lost Pre-Raphelite begins with the setting of a home called Biddulph Old Hall, the remnants of a great Elizabethan mansion on the Staffordshire moorlands. You see, due to author Nigel Daly's day job dealing in antiques and restoring houses, his presence at Biddulph Old Hall leads to the discovery of one former owner, Robert Bateman. Robert Bateman was a rather unsuccessful, not very well-known, nineteenth century artist with some very now infamous friends. For instance, a young man named Edward Burne-Jones, Rossetti, and Simeon-Solomon are brought into the fray as well. 

Once Nigel Daly's interest in the house and its history is piqued, well, hold on readers because you are in for an incredible artistic journey getting to know a fascinating recluse, Robert Bateman and his wife, Caroline Octavia Howard. Her marriage to Bateman was her longest but her second marriage and without giving much away let's just say that fact is very important to know beforehand. Take a good long look at that woman on the book cover in the painting by Robert Bateman called, 'The Artist's Wife' that's her!  She was related to one of the most prominent nineteenth century families The Howards and cousin specifically to painter, George Howard, ninth Earl of Carlisle and his wife Countess Rosalind Howard.  

From the Introduction, I was engrossed and found myself begrudgingly only putting the book down when I had no choice. Nigel and Brian write not only detailed and descriptively on geographic settings and locations but manor house period room furnishings and restorations. Dear Reader the entire book is broken up into six parts, chronologically according to the life span of Robert Bateman and his wife Caroline Howard. I loved reading about the interiors of Biddulph Old Hall including gorgeous photographs leaving nothing to the imagination in a very good way! I felt as if I was on a manor house tour with both of these passionate men and when they discover Robert Bateman's presence hidden within the interior of Biddulph well, then more fun begins.

The Lost Pre-Raphaelite changes in tone and texture with the 'artistic' discovery of artist RB-Robert Bateman and with each passing chapter his life unfolds from a young single recluse of a man living very Wagnerianesque to a happily married man still artistic, still creative, still passionate until his last days.  Not only will the readers read about these beautiful manor homes throughout England, they will read Nigel and Brian's exquisite background on all of Robert Bateman's paintings including catalogue notes and family anecdotes!  

Robert Bateman (1842-1922)  Heloise and Abelard 

 The Lost Pre-Raphaelite is a journey of discovery about one man's artistic life as he viewed the world through his paintings. For those are his legacies containing clues that he left behind. This is a detective story in the sense that you discover the human being behind the artist. Nigel and Brian take you through Robert Bateman's life into old age and trust me you do not want to miss this book. If you are an art lover of the Victorian era, or even The Pre-Raphaelites then please check out The Lost Pre-Raphaelite by Nigel Daly.  I absolutely loved this entire book and it belongs on every art lovers shelf!  I hope you will enjoy it and all the discoveries along the way!  

I have to wholeheartedly thank Karen at Wilmington Square Books an imprint of Bitter Lemon Press, publishing company for sending me a review copy.  

If you want to purchase The Lost Pre-Raphaelite it is out now worldwide,  Amazon

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Early Review of The Poet Edgar Allan Poe: Alien Angel by Jerome J. McGann

The poetry of Edgar Allan Poe has had a rough ride in America, as Emerson’s sneering quip about “The Jingle Man” testifies. That these poems have never lacked a popular audience has been a persistent annoyance in academic and literary circles; that they attracted the admiration of innovative poetic masters in Europe and especially France—notably Baudelaire, Mallarmé, and Valéry—has been further cause for embarrassment. Jerome McGann offers a bold reassessment of Poe’s achievement, arguing that he belongs with Whitman and Dickinson as a foundational American poet and cultural presence.

Not all American commentators have agreed with Emerson’s dim view of Poe’s verse. For McGann, a notable exception is William Carlos Williams, who said that the American poetic imagination made its first appearance in Poe’s work. The Poet Edgar Allan Poe explains what Williams and European admirers saw in Poe, how they understood his poetics, and why his poetry had such a decisive influence on Modern and Post-Modern art and writing. McGann contends that Poe was the first poet to demonstrate how the creative imagination could escape its inheritance of Romantic attitudes and conventions, and why an escape was desirable. The ethical and political significance of Poe’s work follows from what the poet takes as his great subject: the reader.

The Poet Edgar Allan Poe takes its own readers on a spirited tour through a wide range of Poe’s verse as well as the critical and theoretical writings in which he laid out his arresting ideas about poetry and poetics.

Book Details
$24.95 • £18.95 • €22.50
ISBN 9780674735972
Publication: October 2014
256 pages

 A different take on the man himself, Edgar Allan Poe. In, 'The Poet Edgar Allan Poe: Alien Angel' Jerome J. McGann does not critique or analyze any of Poe's known tales and very few of his poems. There may be brief mentions of Ulalume and Annabel Lee but the main focus lies in Poe's own writings and words taken from his Marginalia 1844 as well as The Philosophy of Composition. These two writings are quoted, analyzed and compared to other works by 19th century greats Tennyson, Keats, Shelley, Longfellow and the like.

If you are looking for a breakdown analysis of Poe's Tales, this is not for you. They are not mentioned here. Instead, it is a talk on themes of Beauty, Romance, Muses, and the use of plot in poetry in Poe's own words. If you want to know what Edgar Allan Poe thought on these topics then it is gripping and fascinating. I enjoyed this aspect of McGann's admiration for the man himself.

I hope readers will enjoy it as much as I have. It was as if you attended a lecture during the nineteenth century by Mr. Poe himself! Now, who wouldn't go to that?

Thank you to Harvard University Press for an early review copy in exchange for my honest review. 

The expected U.S. publication date is October 13, 2004 in Hardcover as well as Ebook.  

For publishing information,  Harvard University Press

To purchase a copy,  Amazon

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

To Color or not To Color that is the question...or something along those lines!

Recently, I have seen online numerous 19th century albumen and vintage style photographs newly tinted or colorized in relation to various online projects usually media themed.  Sometimes, I enjoy looking at the colorized versions and sometimes not. I believe, to each his own but I am torn on this topic. Part of me believes you should not tamper with images of the past but with software programs and the medium of photography it has become ever so easy to let our imaginations run wild and our curiosity gets the best of us. So, I will leave it to the eye of the beholder...

Here are two of my favorite artists whose images have recently been tinted into colorized versions!!   Alfred Lord Tennyson and Julia Margaret Cameron (nee Pattle).

Alfred Tennyson - The Dirty Monk by Julia Margaret Cameron, 1865

Julia's son, Henry Herschel Hay Cameron's portrait of his mother, photographer Julia Margaret Cameron (1870). 

To read an intelligent viewpoint on Mrs. Cameron's colorized photo visit his blog site, The Julia Secession

For the website of the woman who colorized numerous photographs,

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A review of The Sharp Hook of Love by Sherry Jones

Among the young women of 12th century Paris, Heloise d’Argenteuil stands apart. Extraordinarily educated and quick-witted, she is being groomed by her uncle to become an abbess in the service of God. But with one encounter, her destiny changes forever.

Pierre Abelard, headmaster at the Nôtre Dame Cloister School, is acclaimed as one of the greatest philosophers in France. His controversial reputation only adds to his allure, yet despite the legions of women swooning over his poetry and dashing looks, he is captivated by the brilliant Heloise alone. As their relationship blossoms from a meeting of the minds to a forbidden love affair, both Heloise and Abelard must choose between love, duty, and ambition.

Paperback, 352 pages
Expected publication: October 7th 2014 by Gallery Books
ISBN 1451684797 (ISBN13: 9781451684797)
 "When I lifted my gaze so shyly to his face, did he behold the girl dancing inside me? Could he hear the music playing so sweetly? At night, alone in the study of my uncle's house, reading the Porphyry assigned to me and writing my arguments, I would hear that tune begin quietly, as if played by a distant piper, then increase until it had filled me to overflowing and drowned out all thoughts but those of Abelard. How intently he gazed into my eyes as I spoke, pouring out my very soul to him in our long talks. Who had ever listened to anything that I said? Who had ever responded with smiles and compliments? With him, I became utterly myself as never before-and, to my astonishment, when I looked into his eyes like mirrors reflecting myself back to me, I admired the person I beheld there. Thinking of him, bathed in that sweet music, I would take up a new tablet and write verses to accompany that tune-words not of feigned love, as in our letters, but, of the elation that had seized me on the day we met, and which aroused my spirit more with every moment I spent in his presence." 

Sherry Jones had me gripped throughout this entire novel. My attention was captured, interest complete, breath bated. Basically, The Sharp Hook of Love should come with a warning sticker, "Are you a romantic at heart? Do you long for that fantasy storybook love? Well, be warned, it is all here in beautifully written prose which may cause heart palpitations and swooning unlike anything you have known before!"  You see, I have always been fascinated with their love story. According to the history books and mythical days gone by, Heloise and Abelard were real twelfth century people who fell in love and then it went horribly wrong!  Their surviving letters are the main written surviving proof we have.  

 Heloise and Abelard, Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale, 1919. My favorite depiction of them

The Sharp Hook of Love is a three part breakdown into the story of both their lives; Heloise and Abelard. The reader meets them living in twelfth century Paris, France and a student teacher love affair begins told from Heloise's perspective. She is emotionally mature for her young teenaged years, innocent romantically, leading a cloistered, sheltered life where she longs to stand equal to men. She gains this sense of equality upon meeting one of the most well known theologians of the day. One problem stands in their way; Heloise's uncle the vilain of the story. The romance must be kept secret but what follows as their relationship and studies progress, is that you are not always sure if Abelard is as true as his word?

The dialogues between Heloise and Abelard are supported by the real love letters of the real lovers placed as chapter headings playing a type of supporting character role.  I was engaged by Heloise as a young girl coming into her own as a woman as well as an intellectual and scholar. Her uncle, also based on her real life uncle/father figure, was a real person and provides such wonderful tension that you long to see these two love birds come together and live that proverbial, 'happily ever after'. As for Abelard, well, Sherry Jones writes him as likable after setting him up to be the handsome, 'catch of the cloister'!  He was hot stuff and he knew it apparently! So attractive, well-liked, and admired, he could have had any woman he wanted and did until he met Heloise!  A character like that should be hated by female readers but somehow through Sherry's writing and humour I liked him!  There are twists and turns to the story with some red herrings but overall The Sharp Hook of Love is a beautiful love story I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone interested in how these two lovebirds got together. After all, if you've researched Heloise and Abelard's life, you most likely already know their ending. Sherry Jones respectfully writes her version of their love story, keeping true to their lives. I loved The Sharp Hook of Love and look forward to her future novels! 

Thank you to Gallery Books and Simon & Schuster for providing me with a review copy in exchange for my honest review,  Gallery Books

NOTE:  The beautiful book cover for The Sharp Hook of Love is a painting called, The Kiss by Francesco Hayez, 1859, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milano 

The Sharp Hook of Love by Sherry Jones will be published in the U.S. on October 7, 2014. For my U.K. readership, the novel will not be published until December 3, 2014,  Amazon 

A book review of The Ghost Ship by Kate Mosse

New York Times  bestselling author Kate Mosse returns with  The Ghost Ship , a sweeping historical epic of adventure on the high seas. The B...