In March 1928 Clausen, now Sir George, co-signed a letter from the British Confederation of Arts to Sir William Clark, Comptroller General of the Department of Overseas Trade, urging the British government to take over the ill-managed and inadequately-funded British Pavilion, Sala Inglese (opened in 1909), at the Biennale – which it did in 1932 (it is still under The British Council). It argued that the situation in Venice was
not creditable either to British Art or, what may well be more important, to British prestige and our relations with Italy in general. When in every gallery Ministers of the different nations to which they belong are waiting to receive the visit of the King of Italy, it seems unfortunate, to say the least, that in our Pavilion alone some make-shift arrangement is all that can be effected.
What was undoubtedly more important! The other signatories (not necessarily in this order) were painters, Lavery, Dicksee, Orpen, Ricketts, Shannon, Augustus John, Fry, Tonks, Rothenstein, Holmes; a sculptor, Dobson; architects, Sir Herbert Baker and Sir Giles Gilbert Scott; and George Bernard Shaw. See Bowness and Philpot, op cit.
The only depiction of Venice by GC that I know of is a slight drawing of the Rialto bridge at the Royal Academy, apparently dated May 1908 (most of the thousand or so drawings they hold are slight), perhaps done on an Art Workers Guild holiday.
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.
A year later, on 6 June 1944, D-Day, Kenneth Clark wrote to Clausen c/o the Derricks at Cold Ash proposing a retrospective exhibition at the National Gallery.
In his draft reply, dated 10 June, Clausen accepted the suggestion “with great pride”, adding that
I think such an exhibition as you suggest would be more appropriate when I am dead and indifferent to praise or censure! However, I will help you all I can [...]
Quoted in the 1980 catalogue (which doesn’t mention the D-Day coincidence). These two letters also are described as “coll. the artist’s descendants”, and I’d like to know where they are now and see them, if only to better understand Clark’s opinion of GC, which must have been favourable. Perhaps he made the suggestion partly at Bone’s prompting. In 1944 the National Gallery still embraced the Tate.
But peace came and, apart from the inevitable posthumous slump in reputation, the mood of 1945 could not have been less conducive to a long look back towards Victorian England. GC had died in November and Clark’s idea was not pursued. In 1949 the Arts Council put on a small show (the catalogue doesn’t state where it took place) called A Time of Harvest, Pastels and Drawings by Sir George Clausen, R.A., with 34 pictures.
After that there was no public exhibition until Kenneth McConkey’s major one in four cities in 1980. GC’s reputation was kept alive by dealers, notably The Fine Art Society. It’s hard to say that 1980 transformed it. His works are still too scattered, and are uneven in quality, and there are more styles and phases than most people can grasp easily. The current auction record for a Clausen is £710,850, set for the 1882 Gleaners (oil) at Christie’s, December 2004.
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
20 March 1926. The Prime Minister and others wrote to the editor of The Times.
Sir, – On August 12, 1927, 100 years will have passed since there died, in a small room off the Strand, an obscure engraver, the inventor of designs for Blair’s “Grave,” and also known as the writer of songs for children admired by Lamb, Coleridge, and Wordsworth.
This strange genius, William Blake, we see at one time without food on his table, at another buying with his last shilling a camel’s hair brush. To-day, with the irony of fate, his works command the highest prices in two hemispheres, while the verses for which he despaired of any readers now even appear in advertisements in our streets and are sung at national gatherings.
For Blake, be he archangel or eccentric, is irresistible. For three generations critics and scholars have attempted in vain to place him and to produce his best in final form. As his living genius ever broke out in some new phase, startling the mind by the splendour and daring of a poetic design, the terse profundity of an epigram, the sweetness of a lyric, so, even a century after his death, he still disturbs all previous judgments by yielding new or forgotten beauties and meanings to research and scholarship, and there seems no end to the stream of careful and luxurious editions of his works and of exquisite reproductions of his designs.
The Dean and Chapter having given their consent to a memorial in the Cathedral of St Paul, the city Blake so loved and castigated will be the first to treasure the record of her prophet. Shakespeare rests by his Avon, Wordsworth among his lakes and fells, and Blake, whose body has long since returned to earth in an unknown common grave in Bunhill Fields, will be honoured by the city whose darkness he laboured to redeem by his vision of “Jerusalem.”
Those who would like to associate themselves with this memorial are invited to send their subscriptions to Barclays Bank Limited, 126, Bishopsgate, London, E.C.2, for credit of “The Blake Centenary Memorial Fund,” which subscriptions will be duly acknowledged.
J. Ramsay MacDonald
Pamela Grey of Fallodon
phrase “that extraordinary genius” in GC’s lecture becomes here “this
strange genius”, but the style is too florid for Clausen
and I doubt that he drafted this.
The incumbent and ex-prime ministers (this was a few weeks before the General Strike) and Elgar and Hardy don’t need introductions.
We’ve met Binyon already in the Oriental Prints and Drawings Department of the British Museum; he was also the poet who early in the war wrote: “They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old”, and Pamela Grey was the wife of the former British foreign secretary who in 1914 had said: “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”
Inge was the Dean of St Paul’s. Seaman was the editor of Punch from 1906 to 1932; he just saw in Thomas Derrick. AA Milne is said to have based Eeyore on him. Aitken was Keeper, then Director, of the Tate from 1911 to 1930. Muirhead Bone was an artist: I’ll do the next post on him. Housman was a dramatist and novelist and the brother of the poet. Image was an Arts and Crafts designer and a clergyman.
Clausen, Elgar and Hardy were also co-signatories of the 1906 Anglo-German letter.
The memorial was unveiled in 1927. The sculptor was Henry Poole, whom Clausen will have known, since he was Professor of Sculpture at the Royal Academy at the time and a member of the Art Workers Guild. In fact, Clausen is very likely to have commissioned him. He became an Academician in the same year and died in the following year.
Cf an earlier post, Anteros.
Poole, Blake memorial, St Paul’s
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.
One of Clausen’s pupils in the 20s was from China, Teng Hiok Chiu. Zhou Tingxu in pinyin. Chiu had been born to a rich family on the island of Gulangyu off Amoy, now Xiamen, in 1903, and studied at the Anglo-Chinese College of the London Missionary Society in Tientsin.
He spent a semester at Harvard and entered the
Museum School of Fine Arts in Boston while still in his teens. In 1923
he registered at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He won a bronze medal for basketball at the Paris Olympics in 1924. In that year he
transferred to the University of London. From 1925 to ’30 he studied at
the Royal Academy. His other teachers there included Walter Russell and
Charles Sims. He won prizes and medals. Queen Mary appeared at his first solo exhibition, at the Claridge Gallery in 1929.
In 2004 Christie’s sold an oil painting by Chiu strongly influenced by Clausen called A Summer Day in Essex,
which had been shown at the Royal Academy in 1927. Probably he had been invited to Duton Hill. He must
have met GC’s country friend Cranmer-Byng, the Sinologist, as well. On a
label on the frame, his address is given as 67 Haverstock Hill, near
GC’s old address. Several more RA pictures followed, including one more Essex picture, Near Dedham, Essex, in 1928.
After his studies Chiu worked with Clausen’s friend Laurence Binyon in the Oriental Prints and Drawings department of the British Museum, and began himself to be interested in Chinese art: Chiu’s artistic journey was from west to east, not from east to west, though he did not make distinctions. During his time at the RA he worked very much in a Royal Academy style.
He then travelled in east Asia, including China, and Europe, and in 1938 he moved to the States. He settled in Park Avenue and became a close friend of Georgia O’Keefe. This Chinese-American artist, who must have remembered Clausen well, died in 1972, the time of the Cultural Revolution.
I’ve used Christie’s and other sources here, including Teng Hiok Chiu’s Artistic Journey: West to East by Debra J Byrne, Director for Curatorial Affairs and Exhibitions at the Frye Art Museum, Seattle. See also amoymagic.com, article by Kazimierz Z Poznanski, Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington, Chiu’s intended biographer.
Chiu, A Summer Day in Essex, 1927
I referred to Leonard in the Crittall entry (post before last). Leonard, a chartered surveyor, bought GC’s home, Hillside at Duton Hill, near Great Easton, Essex, in 1996. He became interested in Clausen and did research on his presence in the area, and also in Widdington.
The research led to two exhibitions: Clausen in Essex, held at Great Dunmow in September-October 2002, and Clausen’s Essex, held in May 2004 in the barn in Widdington which GC had painted. The first was accompanied by a short book, Clausen in Essex. Willoughby, the publisher and co-author, had published A History of Duton Hill with the Duton Hill Community Association in 2000.
Clausen lived in Widdington, near Newport, Essex, between 1891 and
1905, when he moved back to London. He acquired Hillside in 1917, and
used it as his country home until 1939. He made it over to his son Hugh
in 1931, the year of Our Blacksmith. Hugh sold it after the war.
Leonard started a Clausen Society in 2002, which publishes a newsletter. To subscribe, email Leonard here. It doesn’t yet have a website.
In 1940, to escape the blitz, Clausen joined the Derricks at Cold Ash, near Newbury, Berkshire, where he died in November 1944. His first country home had been at Childwick Green, near St Albans, in Hertfordshire, between 1881 and 1885. From 1885 to 1891, he was at Cookham Dene, Berkshire. Cues for three more local exhibitions.
Leonard sold Hillside in 2003, but was forced to exchange contracts just after announcements about the expansion of Stansted Airport made it clear that most of Clausen’s Essex countryside would soon be destroyed. At his instigation some of Clausen’s pictures had been used in some of the Stop Stansted campaigning. He moved to Middleton in Suffolk, a few miles from Walberswick.