Clausen isn’t really a painter for galleries. His pictures look better in houses. Even when you think from an illustration that they are going to be large, they often turn out to be small. Whatever its size, this oil at Napier, New Zealand, I presume at the Hawke’s Bay Museum, would look wonderful in a child’s playroom. TD was hardly a gallery artist at all.
I’m not sure of the date of The Roadside Tree. The tree reminds one of his style around 1906 and Building the Rick. The road and the early morning setting suggest the 20s. The schoolgirls look Edwardian – but the one in the white socks looks later. The background promises a hot day, and has some of the spread and serenity of the Wycliffe mural in St Stephen’s Hall. So I’d go for a date in the 20s. The blue circle on the lower left of the photograph indicates damage either to the original picture or the photograph.
Afterthought: this may be the 1932 Royal Academy painting The Road to School. Royal Academy Pictures could confirm that. Done, in that case, around the age of 80. Kenneth McConkey has commented that The Roadside Tree is 50.3 x 60.7 cms.
The Roadside Tree
Here is GC’s self-portrait of 1918, now at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. If you look at the last oil painting I’ve shown, In the Orchard, it’s hard to believe that this is by the same artist. To a non-GC-trained eye, it may look dull. His portraits could be conventional (one or two of the late portraits look like boardroom paintings), but this looks fresh and modern to me. It is almost the portrait of a scientist.
Comparing it with the earlier picture, we can see what a long journey he was on. Comparing it with contemporaneous landscapes, we can see what he is taking from them.
I categorise it on the right as GC late, and I take that boundary as, roughly, 1918. This is an early example of that dry paint he used for his pictures of the 20s, with the canvas showing through.
Muirhead Bone (and see last post) was a Scottish printmaker and watercolour artist. In May 1916 he was appointed Britain’s first official war artist. He was a man of catholic taste and a close friend of Epstein.
In the long series of lithographs by various artists published in 1917 by the Ministry of Information entitled The Great War: Britain’s Efforts and Ideals, Clausen was commissioned to do a monochrome set called Making Guns, while Muirhead Bone did Building Ships.
Kenneth Clark knew Bone and in his autobiography calls him
the greatest virtuoso of architectural drawing since Piranesi except, perhaps, for Meryon.
Adding in a footnote:
I refer only to technical skill. As a critic of life Meryon was in a different class. Bone was eupeptic, Meryon tragic.
is a site maintained by Bone’s grandson Sylvester Bone and, like this
one, also introduces the work of other family members: Muirhead’s son
Stephen, and Stephen’s wife Mary Adshead (the latter more interesting
than Stephen, from a quick glance). Sylvester Bone very
reasonably asks for £5 per item if you want to receive from him
Muirhead Bone CV
Listing of Society of XII catalogues
Lecture on Engraving by Muirhead Bone
Draft chapters 1-3 of biography
Listing of all Muirhead’s engravings
I am giving this kind of material away every day.
On 16 June 1943 Bone wrote to Clausen at Cold Ash (this letter was “coll. the artist’s descendants” at the time of the 1980 exhibition; I am not sure where it is now):
Yours has been a noble life dedicated to art and teaching us new truths about nature every year you have lived.
Bone, The British Museum Reading Room, May 1907
Clausen knew Yoshijiro Urushibara (1888-1953),
who over many years, up to the start of the second world war, taught
Europeans the Japanese art of colour woodblock printmaking, living
mainly in England and France.
As well as making his own, he converted the drawings and watercolours of other artists into colour prints.
He travelled to London at the age of nineteen,
having grown up in Tokyo, and demonstrated Japanese printmaking at the
vast Japan-British Exhibition of 1910 at White City (we were allies),
which Clausen will certainly have visited.
He collaborated with Frank Brangwyn in various books and series of prints. The first was a portfolio of woodblock prints in 1919 called Bruges, designed by Brangwyn to illustrate some poems by Laurence Binyon (see post before last).
A colour print from woodblocks entitled Camblain l’Abbé “by Y. Urushibara after G. Clausen, RA” is in the V&A. According to the records (I haven’t seen it), it is signed with a seal (presumably Japanese) and, in pencil, Y. Urushibara and George Clausen, presumably in separate hands. The V&A gives the date as 1923.
This V&A print is illustrated in black and white in British Printmakers, A Century of Printmaking, 1855-1955, edited by Robin Garton, Scolar Press, 1992, where it is called Chamblain l’Abbé. Clausen’s signature is visible in the reproduction. Urushibara’s isn’t, nor is the seal.
The illustration suggests a snow scene. Garton doesn’t say what Clausen’s original was, but he suggests 1910, I would think wrongly, as its date. It is surely based on Camblain l’Abbé – Snow (RSPW 1920). I don’t have a scan of either the watercolour or the print to show here.
Tess, and see below. Here is a misty morning:
It was a hazy sunrise in August. The denser nocturnal vapours, attacked by the warm beams, were dividing and shrinking into isolated fleeces within hollows and coverts, where they waited till they should be dried away to nothing.
[…] Two groups, one of men and lads, the other of women, had come down the lane just at the hour when the shadows of the eastern hedge–top struck the west hedge midway, so that the heads of the groups were enjoying sunrise while their feet were still in the dawn. They disappeared from the lane between the two stone posts which flanked the nearest field-gate.
Clausen would have been unlikely, perhaps, to
paint two groups, especially when he painted his late misty
mornings, when figures were mere figurations in the landscape. But the start of that reminds one of Sunrise in September
and other paintings of the time.
Lance Knobel writes:
In my architectural criticism days, I remember visiting Silver End. A rather sad place in the ’80s. Most of the houses hadn’t weathered very well, partly for the reasons you describe. The German equivalents, like the Weissenhofsiedlung in Stuttgart, stand up much better. The English architectural modernism of the ’30s never quite reached the heights, even in the best practitioners like Lubetkin.
Incidentally, from your image, The Blacksmith looks like quite a wonderful painting.
On 13 December Sotheby’s auctioned Our Blacksmith, a late oil (RA 1931), a work that, for some reason, has been in the salerooms and auction houses numerous times in the last 20 years, or so it seems to me. As so often, the painting is known by a different name from the one GC first thought of.
76 by 91 cm, 30 by 36 in
Signed lower right: G. CLAUSEN
Inscribed with the title and signed and dated on the reverse:
A VILLAGE BLACKSMITH, G CLAUSEN 1931 [catalogue’s upper case]
Oil on canvas
On 20 October 1927, according to the McConkey 1980 catalogue – the Sotheby’s catalogue says 27 October and uses McConkey material without crediting him – the industrial engineer Francis Henry Crittall (1860-1934) introduced Clausen to his son, Walter Francis Crittall (1887-1956), who commissioned this work.
Our Blacksmith shows the interior of the forge at Great Easton in Essex.
WFC was known as “Pink” Crittall. He lived at New Farm, just on the other side of Great Easton from GC’s Hillside, Duton Hill. JS thinks that he also had a place in Walberswick called Old Farm.
The Crittalls loom large in the Clausen family memory. GC was 75 when they met, WFC around 40. They went on painting holidays together in Walberswick in Suffolk. See, presumably, GC’s The Old Pier of Walberswick and Laughing Morning Sky – Walberswick (both RSPW 1931) and The Old Jetty, Walberswick and Cloudy Sky, Walberswick (both RSPW 1934). Clausen painted WFC’s portrait for the Royal Academy exhibition of 1936.
Although industrialists, and socialists (and nobody could have been less overtly political than Clausen), the Crittalls seem to me to represent a tendency congenial to GC. Their ideas were derived in part from the Arts and Crafts movement. If you’d wanted to design a friend for Clausen you could not have done much better than WFC. He had trained at the St John’s Wood Art School, where Clausen sometimes distributed prizes. He was an artist in his own right. He had a progressive, international outlook. He fits the profile of GC’s friends and acquaintances.
Clausen, on the whole, chose the company of anyone of whatever standing who happened to respect craft.
WFC was a member of The Design and Industries Association, a kind of updated Art Workers Guild which had been founded in 1915 by designers and industrialists in order to improve design in industry, to link art and craft. It was very conscious in its early years of developments in Germany and Austria. “Mass-produced goods should bring beauty and pleasure to the humblest dwellings.” Industry should create beautiful objects which at the same time show “fitness for purpose”. The founders drew on William Morris’s beliefs about the dignity of labour. They produced a pamphlet called The Worker’s Right to Pleasure and they appealed to the trade unions to support the DIA in a non-political way. Education in design – one of their objectives – should not start with the manufacturer or consumer, but with the worker at the bench. See Hugh Clausen here.
And see Raymond Plummer, Nothing Need Be Ugly: The First 70 Years of the Design and Industries Association, DIA, 1985. The Association still exists. If it ever gets a website that lives up to its own principles, I’ll link to it.
The Crittalls made steel windows of the sort that defined modern architecture between the wars. They were innovators. They had a world market: they made the windows for the Ford Model T factory in Detroit. The firm survives, but passed out of family ownership in 1968. They built a model village for their Essex workers at a rural place called Silver End.
In 1849 Francis Berrington Crittall had moved to Essex from Kent to take over an ironmonger’s shop in Braintree. One of his sons, Richard, took over the business, and he was joined by his brother FHC in 1883. FHC developed the window manufacturing and turned the firm into a major local employer. He and his wife visited China, where they bought sculptures and textiles; their interest in the east had a marked influence on their second son, WFC.
(Another Essex neighbour and friend of GC was the Sinologist Launcelot Cranmer-Byng. They were all visited in the 20s by a Chinese painter, Teng Hiok-Chiu, who paid overt homage to GC in at least one landscape.) FHC bought a Clausen still life in 1919.
FHC’s first son was Valentine George, who was also a keen traveller. While visiting the States VGC had been impressed by the ability of small engineering firms to adapt to armaments production. By 1915, the British army was suffering from a serious shortage of shells, the manufacture of which was restricted to a small number of specialist factories. FHC, encouraged by VGC, contacted Ransomes of Ipswich to discuss the practicalities of using general engineering businesses to produce weapons, and this led to the formation of the East Anglian Munitions Committee of which he was elected joint chairman. FHC was able to acquire an 18 pound shell which was carefully cut in half for examination by the two firms. The government was persuaded that armament manufacture by non-specialist firms was practicable as well as necessary, and window making was displaced by weapon making for the rest of the war. At the end of the war the Munitions Committee commissioned a portrait of FHC from Augustus John, which is now in the National Portrait Gallery. (Hugh Clausen was a key figure in first world war munitions at the Admiralty.)
VGC was an ardent believer in the welfare state. He took his convictions into politics and stood successfully as Labour candidate for Maldon, though the parliament was short-lived and he failed to achieve re-election. In recognition of his commitment to the welfare of his workers, he was knighted in 1931 and ennobled (as Lord Braintree) in 1947.
WFC was the second son. He had artistic talent, particularly as a watercolourist, and collected Japanese prints. He helped to design the Crittall catalogues and the Crittall Metal Window Dictionary and designed furniture for his own use. Like his father and brother, he travelled (I’ve seen an illustration of a drawing by him of Shanghai), and was so impressed by the products of a pottery factory in China that he opened a shop for them in Walberswick. It was he who discovered the rural charms of Silver End and persuaded FHC, in 1925, to begin building the model village there.
Silver End, a new village on a virgin site between Braintree and Witham, was one of the great English experiments in town planning and social engineering between the wars. It was for an overflow of Crittall workers from Braintree. It was a modern feudalism: FHC offered land in exchange for services. He moved into Silver End himself, with his wife, and their house was even (for some reason) called “Manor’s”. They lived there until their deaths in 1934. To the workforce, he was the “Guv’nor”. The houses had electricity, hot and cold running water, inside lavatories, large gardens. The village had its own water and power supplies. There were allotments and non-profit making farms, piggeries, a dairy and slaughterhouse, a bakery and sausage factory, print works and a newspaper, a school, churches, a cinema, a “department store”, playing fields, a social club, a hotel, medical and dental provisions. A new factory was built for employees with war disabilities, who were paid the same as able workers. Buses took other workers to Braintree.
Production continued without interruption through the 1926 General Strike. Where did enlightened provision of facilities end and regimentation begin? Some photographs of Silver End remind one a little of early holiday camps. In the press, it was the “Metal Window Kingdom of Happiness”, the “City of 2000 AD”. Susan King writes on a site partly about Silver End:
[Silver End] was the final attempt by an enlightened employer to provide an ideal environment for his workers, the end [sic] of a long tradition started by the mill owner Robert Owen at New Lanark at the start of the nineteenth century, and continued by Titus Salt at Saltaire, Lever at Port Sunlight, Rowntree at New Earswick and Cadbury at Bournville. It was also part of the garden village movement – Silver End was the first garden village in Essex. The village was a practical response to the deep social problems of its time – the problems of housing shortage and slum dwellings, unemployment and industrial unrest, the problem of finding work for the disabled war veterans. It was also a solution to the immediate problem of Francis Crittall – that of finding sufficient housing for his expanding workforce.
Robert Owen was a notable influence on the thinking of Paul Derrick. FHC followed many of the ideas of Ebenezer Howard, the founder of the Garden City Movement and an early member of the present Royal Town Planning Institute. He had been impressed by the German Bauhaus, and this influence is evident in some of the houses, with their Crittall windows made in Braintree.
[The houses] were award-winning and as deliberate policy were designed by different architects to avoid regimentation. The resulting mixture of styles included Arts and Crafts type cottages, modernistic houses of German inspiration as well as the classic elegance that can be seen at “Manor’s”. It was the Modernist houses that attracted most comment and continue to attract attention today. Breaking away from traditional styles Francis Crittall, probably encouraged by his son, the artistic “Pink” Crittall, employed architects known for their innovation – men like Thomas Tait – and by doing so brought the Modern Movement to Britain. [...]
(It was planned that villagers should buy their homes from the company, but the Depression and then the war prevented this in most cases.)
The resulting avenues of white painted flat-roofed houses became the trademark of Silver End.
GC showed a portrait of Sir Raymond Unwin, the planner of Letchworth and Hampstead Garden Suburb, at the Royal Academy in 1933. In the 20s he tried to get work for a young Bengali artist in the decoration of buildings for the greatest garden city project of all – New Delhi.
GC was known for his sympathy with some modern movements even if he kept a distance from them. He’d have had some interest in the Bauhaus style adopted by the Crittalls at Silver End, but his Essex was not industrial, and when it came to a commission he painted a blacksmith.
The workforce was drawn from the immediate area but also from the depressed regions of Wales, Scotland, the Midlands and the North. Many villagers had been unemployed or striking miners – Crittall’s offered them the security of a home and a job. People still living in the village today speak of the distinctive cultural groups that made Silver End unique. Part of Silver End’s identity is still bound up in this “pioneer past”, living, as one woman put it, as part of “an ethnic jigsaw”. [...]
During its first decade Silver End – largely a village of young people – was cited as the healthiest village in England, with the lowest death rate and the highest birth rate. [...]
World-wide depression at the start of the thirties was to cut short Silver End’s “high summer”. From 1931 redundancies and short time working became a reality in the Utopian village. The Crittall Building Society was wound up and plans for a further 200 houses, a hospital and swimming pool were scrapped. Many concerns – the farms, hotel, transport and stores were sold off. Crittall involvement in the village continued, however, perhaps reaching a high point during the Second World War. [...] When the war was over there was time again to start remembering and to commemorate the special history of the village. When [Japanese] gardens [with a cherry avenue] were designed in memory of the “Guv’nor” and his wife after the war by his son WF “Pink” Crittall, workers gave their labour free to provide decorative gates “in gratitude”.
Bad later planning and poor maintenance have spoiled the original concept. Like dozens of revivals and reform movements across Europe in the first half of the twentieth century, the garden city and garden village movements lost their way after the second world war. The houses were taken over by the local council. The bureaucratic planners of 1945 had a different agenda – though Essex’s Silver End did in some ways look forward to Essex’s post-war new towns, Harlow and Basildon.
The “Sixty-Five Club”, where retired workers could still put in a day or so a week – keeping them involved and preventing the wastage of their skills – has until recently been a local geology museum and now stands empty. Members of the Crittall family have long since left their village homes. However, the sense of community and history in Silver End remains remarkable. The community’s sense of itself has outlived and outgrown its original purpose as a company village.
WFC commissioned Our Blacksmith from GC. McConkey thinks that he may have got the idea from the earlier The Blacksmith, a similar but smaller work from 1926 which was still in GC’s studio. The Blacksmith is now at Leighton House in Kensington. (How did Leighton House acquire that and why didn’t they get hold of a Clausen from the 1890s, the period when Leighton admired him?)
GC’s finished sketch for Our Blacksmith, squared up for transfer of the design to canvas, is in the V&A.
On the left of the picture is Great Easton’s blacksmith, George Turner. On the right is his assistant, John Rolph, who had served in the Great War. He is wearing protective leather puttees and was paid half-a-crown for standing with his hammer held up. When the painting, along with 29 sketches, was sold at Christie’s in 1981, Rolph, aged 83, was still working in his own blacksmith’s shop in Mill End Green, near Great Easton. In the background is George Hayden, the horseman at Tilty Grange, a house historically associated with the Abbey of Tilty.
There are glances at modernity: a quasi-brutalism in the figures; the pieces of metal on the floor and of wood on the right are almost abstractions, just as the tubes in the lower right of In the Gun Factory at Woolwich Arsenal had been; the surface of the log must have been flat, but it’s seen almost from a different viewpoint. But they are distant glances. The log reminds us of a prop in an Italian primitive. There may even be a slight influence of Thomas Derrick. The picture was the last Clausen painted with an industrial subject. McConkey places it in a tradition that Stanhope Forbes began with paintings such as Forging the Anchor of 1892 (Ipswich Museum and Art Gallery), The Smithy of 1895 and The Steel Workers of 1915 – but isn’t GC more interesting than Stanhope Forbes?
McConkey says that Crittall asked Clausen to find other artists to paint further local workers for a series of pictures. I don’t know what happened to that project.
WFC collected a great deal of art. An Epstein head which he had owned, called Dolores, was recently sold by Peter Nahum.
Another local industrial family who were also art patrons were the Courtaulds, whose textile business originated in Pebmarsh and Braintree. I am not sure whether any links – local or otherwise – can be established between the Samuel Courtauld of collecting fame (1876-1947) and GC and to what extent the Essex connection persisted for SC in the 20s and 30s. There are no Clausens in the Courtauld collection.
I’ve used several sources here, including:
1. Ariel Crittall, talk summarised by Michael Leach, AGM, Essex Society for Archaeology and History, Village Hall, Silver End, 27 June 2004.
Ariel Crittall is the widow of WF Crittall’s son John and I think made a brief appearance at Leonard Overy-Owen’s Clausen in Essex exhibition, Great Dunmow, 2002. I’ve rewritten and added to this summary, so no quotation marks. It ended with a “Crittall bibliography”. I’ve edited this and added a further title. You can download it here.
2. Susan King, Silver End – A Place to Work and Play, 1996, web article for the 70th anniversary of Silver End, op cit.
3. Duncan Willoughby and Leonard Overy-Owen, Clausen in Essex, Duncan Willoughby, 2002.
4. McConkey, op cit.
The commentary on the picture and other opinions are mine.
Seems to me that TD’s book illustrations (I described one in the last post because I had notes) are not, on the whole, his most interesting work. It’s high time to show him at his more sophisticated/characteristic and I’ll do that shortly. I’ll also catalogue the book illustrations gradually.
Kenneth McConkey offers this feedback:
The Judgment of Paris [...] seems very interesting to me. I wonder where it is now? It reminds me of the work of classical painters of the twenties like Harold Speed and Fred Appleyard, neither of whom have been studied.
“Prix de Rome”, although confusing, was a term commonly adopted by competitors for the British School prizes.
He adds an important insight:
I’m sure I have a note somewhere about an early mural-style painting illustrated in Colour magazine, but I cannot now locate it. I suspect that the important contact for the early Derrick was William Rothenstein and the Mural Decoration school at the Royal College, inspired by the current, pre- and post-Great War interest in the revival of tempera painting and mural painting in general. There has been some work done on this, mostly by dealers, and it will take a little time to get together, but I will see what I can do.
It should be pointed out that TD did not actually do any murals that survive (The Judgment of Paris seems to have been a design for one) – but the mural manner was part of his style. See All dressed up and nowhere to go. He did do many stained glass windows.
I also found the comments on Clausen’s Sheffield lecture very interesting in that they establish a connection between Rothenstein and [GC]. Their work was moving in parallel in the years leading up to the Great War - ie being executed in that rather dry mural style.
Clausen’s style did become more monumental in some works from roughly 1908 until after the end of the first war, and he did some murals – and one could also say that he was returning to a monumentality which he had explored in a different way in the 1890s.
The post on GC in Sheffield mentioned William Rothenstein’s A Plea for a Wider Use of Artists & Craftsmen, A Lecture Delivered at the Invitation of the Chairman & Managers of the Technical School of Art at Sheffield, on the 8th November, 1916, Constable, presumably 1916 or ’17. TD’s letter of 1923 was exactly such a plea.