Happy Birthday William Morris (1834-1896)

I thought that I would test the new ‘story’ facility on WordPress with this tryout on William Morris’s birthday. It works well. What I’d like to know is: if the story should be published first and – then writing added on (like I’m doing here) OR do the story and save, add to the written piece- then publish ūü§Ē? No doubt I shall find out. Liking it so far. A good way of updating and promoting your blog.

Too much has already been written about British Textile designer William Morris. He was a huge influencer and contributor for the revival of the British textile arts, and also its traditional production methods. A social innovator, activist, poet and supporter of the Arts and Crafts movement, Morris is considered as a significant social cultural figure in Britain.

The William Morris Society founded in 1955 is dedicated to his legacy.

More about William Morris, his work and his life can be found Here

Happy Birthday Juan Gris!

Today is the birthday of Spanish artist  Jose Victoriano (Carmelo Carlos) Gonzalez-Perez  (known as Juan Gris). He was born in Madrid 1887-1927) but his career was based in France where he mostly lived. His work is mostly associated with the Cubist movement, but he started out as a sartorial cartoonist before developing his own distinctive Cubist style.

Gris’s contemporaries were Matisse, Picasso and Braque, amongst other famous artists. He approached cubism  in a style he called Analytical Cubism, but become converted to Synthetic Cubism in which he incorporated collage.


He painted in bright colours, unlike Braque and Picasso whose work at that time was mostly monochromatic.  In her book  The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas Gertrude Stein wrote ‘Although Gris regarded Picasso as a teacher , Juan Gris was the only artist who Picasso wished away’.  Gris is an interesting artist.  More can be found about his life and work here-

In depth

Room Full of Mirrors (Part One)

“I used to live in a room full of mirrors
All I could see was me
Then I take my spirit and I smash my mirrors
And now the whole world is here for me to see”

It seems that we have always lived in a room full of mirrors.  Our fascination with our own reflection has never diminished and seems to burn brighter by the day.

We gaze Narcissus like into our Iphones pouting, posing and taking selfies of ourselves, and if we don’t  like the reality, then we can always change it by airbrushing our image, de wrinkling, whitening our teeth etc or even magically transforming ourselves into little fluffy pink rabbits with floppy ears and pink twitching noses if we so wish.

Are we in danger of the  ‘myth’ of Narcissus becoming  our reality? Or we all just destined to fade to grey, never to become one of those shining golden  daffoldils?

Narcissus, the Greek hunter, reknown for his beauty, unfortunately he only had eyes for himself.  One day Echo, a young nymph, pursued him through the woods.  Realising he was being followed, Narcissus called out “who is there?” But the nymph just echoed his question back. When she eventually made herself known, Narcissus snubbed her.  Poor Echo spent the rest of her life heartbroken, fading to only an echo.

Nemesis, the Goddess of revenge wasn’t very happy with Narcissus’s treatment  of Echo, so she  lured him to a pool where he fell deeply in love with his own reflection (I dont think that he took much persuasion). Alas, such was his passion for himself, he eventually burnt himself out, dying of unrequited love until at last, he too faded away – this time  into a flower. A pretty flower of course.

There are variations of this myth.  Pre Raphaelite  John William Waterhouse  (1847-1917) painted a lot of paintings with classical themes –  ‘Echo and Narcissus’ being an especially wonderful example.


Out flew the web and floated wide –                      

The mirror crack’d from side to side;

“The curse is come upon me,”

cried the Lady of Shalott

Fellow Pre-raphaelite John William Waterhouse  (b.1849-1917) was so inspired by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s 1932 poem that he painted ‘The Lady of Shalott’ three times  1888, 1894, 1915.

The lady in question, confined to her room by a curse, was  not allowed outside and could only view the world through a mirror. Yearning for love, through her mirror she caught sight of of the knight Lancelot. She took three steps towards the window – the mirror cracked.  Realising the curse had befallen her, she sailed away to  Camelot and lonely death singing a lamentable lament.

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And down the river’s dim expanse

Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance
With glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shallot.

The Lady of Shallot poem here

The Lady of Shallot painting here


Dorian Grey? Not in this attic

Note: This is a W.A.R. Post. What is it good for? ….Worth Another Blog)

They say women are vain – but when it comes to artists it seems that men never get tired of looking at their own reflection – and painting them.  Van Gogh was one of the most prolific self-portrait artists, (and one of the most least artists) as was  Rembrandt and Picasso.  It is interesting to look at the way age creeps into these self portraits, and is also a tribute to some of the artists lack of vanity and pursuit for truth that makes the ageing process unflattering in some cases. 

This gentle film takes a look at some famous self-portrait painters.  Some like Rembrandt chronicled his age throughout life, some stop short at youth.   Here is part of a list of the artists featured, the rest are here.  See how many you can recognise.

Artists in order of appearance:
0:08 – Leonardo da Vinci 1452-1519
0:15 – Francisco Goya 1746-1828
0:22 – Albrecht D√ľrer 1471-1528
0:29 – Sir Joshua Reynolds 1723-1792
0:35 – Rembrandt 1606-1669
0:42 – Andy Warhol 1928-1987
0:48 – William-Adolphe Bouguereau 1825-1905
0:55 – Henri Matisse 1869-1954
1:02 РEugène Delacroix 1798-1863
1:09 РJean-François Millet 1814-1875
1:15 – Jan van Eyck 1395-1441
1:22 – Peter Paul Rubens 1577-1640
1:28 – James McNeill Whistler 1834-1903
1:35 – John Singer Sargent 1856-1925
1:42 – Kazimir Malevich 1878-1935
1:49 – Nicolas Poussin 1594-1665

Video and list from   and info from by Philip Scott Johnson

500 Years of Male Self Portraits in Western Art

with thanks!

Art I LOVE Maggi Hambling (A W.A.R. Post)

W.A.R.? What is it good for? – absolutely nothing.

W.A.R. what does it stand for? – Worth A Reblog!

I’ve always loved the art of Maggie Hambling.¬† I’m a big fan of painterly, expressionistic art – words which aptly describe this artists¬†work.¬†

Maggie Hambling

Hambling studied East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing from 1960, under the tutelage of Cedric Morris and then at the Ipswich school of Art (1962 Р64).  She then went to Camberwell  (1964 -1967) graduating at the Slade School of Art in 1969.

Max Wall by Maggi Hambling

Though known mainly for her portraiture Рa lot  were in the National Gallery where she became the first artist in residence in 1980 and did a series of portraits of the comedienne Max Wall.   

She  has also created sculpture including : Memorial to Oscar Wilde London and Scallop,  an interlocking steel sculpture on Alderburgh beach, dedicated to the composer Benjamin Britten  The sculpture itself was made by a local foundry and copied from a 4 inch model supplied by the artist.   The sculpture has created a lot of controversy Рsome say it enhances the view of the sea, others say it blocks the sea out.  The sculpture has been vandalised a few times too.  Hambling herself calls it a conversation piece Рa conversation with the sea;-

“An important part of my concept is that at the centre of the sculpture, where the sound of the waves and the winds are focused, a visitor may sit and contemplate the mysterious power of the sea,”

The Scallop by Maggi Hambling

Hambling’s¬†subjects include a lot of Gay people including George Melly, Stephen Fry and Quentin Crisp.¬†

George Melly drawing

From the 1980s Hambling turned mainly to landscapes and recently seascapes.  Her work has become  a lot more abstract and in 1995 she received an OBE for her services to painting and appointed a CBE in the new years Honours list in 2010.

George Hambling

 Quote from here

Information about the artist – start here

Wonderful interview which really reveals the personality of the artist here¬† What a character ūüôā

Ghost of George Singing

Max Wall image from here  Scallop image here  Melly drawing from here George Always here, Ghost of George singing here, Archie MacDonald here  Francis Bacon image from here  Hambling photo here

Francis Bacon by Hambling

Hambling’s website¬† http://www.maggihambling.com/

The short video shows extracts of her work in her studio. Video by shabboleth Thanks!

Archie MacDonald 1981 Hambling

Happy Birthday Clarice Cliff!

Today is the birthday of ceramicist artist Clarice Cliff (b. 1899 Tunstall, Stoke on Trent -1972). Her family came from a long line of potters. Cliff followed in their footprints but went on to became famous for her unique stylised patterns which became very popular during the Late 20s -40s , encapsulating the spirit of the age.


Starting work as a 13 years old gilder in the Potteries,Cliff then moved on to work in A.J. Wilkinsons pottery factory in 1916. In 1924 she was given another apprenticeship, and acquired a large range of skills. When she was given her own studio in 1927, her career really took off. In 1928 she designed a range of brightly coloured geometric patterned tableware called ‘Bizarre’.


The ‘Bizarre’ range was closely followed by the massively popular ‘Crocus’ design, which was entirely hand painted with upward brushstrokes depicting each flower. This pattern is said to be her signature. The design became so popular, that owing to demand, Cliff had to employ a large team (mostly of women) to hand paint the design Art Deco style was to prove so popular that Cliff and her team were producing colourful tableware that was both cheerful and affordable in the recession of the late 1920s. In 1940 Cliff married Colley Shorter (her then boss). Following his death in 1963, Cliff sold the factory to Midwinters and retired to Chetwynd House, Staffordshire. She died in 1972 but is still much celebrated to this day, her designs much admired and now very collectable.

Much has been written about Clarice Cliff’s life and there are some very informative links below for a more in depth look at this very individual, innovative ceramicist artist.

Thanks to

Art Deco video

The Original Clarice Cliff Website

Clarice Cliff – Wikipedia

The V & A Art Deco

The Art of Alice through the Looking Glass

Sir John Tenniel
I love the illustrations of Alice in Wonderland and Alice’s adventures through the looking Glass.  The original Tenniel ones have a charm all of their own and are the ones I remember the most from childhood.  There is  such a lot of information contained in these small drawings and Sir John Tenniel’s style once seen, is unmistakable.
Alice entering the looking glass world by Sir John Tenniel
Tenniel also illustrated for Punch magazine for a  while and did some political sketches like the example below. Amazingly this fine illustrator was blind in one eye. 
Punch magazine William Gladstone and the irish land question
Another illustrator that I quite like is Ralph Steadman (b. Wallasey 196O). Of course these two  artists are from different era’s, but I quite like the clear lines of Steadman’s work, it’s so very stylish.   He has tried to add something new to these well-loved characters – yet he has still made them recognisable.
Ralph Steadman 1972
There is yet another Alice illustrator that I like – one of my favourite authors and who I am re reading at the moment, and that’s Mervyn Peake (b. China 1911-1968). It’s interesting to see the styles of these artists, and how they differ in their original approach to the same subject matter though each working in different eras.
Mervyn Peake 1954
Ralph Steadman’s website HERE

Other Alice illustrator’s HERE

More Alice Posts;

Watched: Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland

A Collection of Time Travel experiences and ‘atmospheres’

The Vikings make their presence known

I have always had a yearning to travel back in time.¬† I’ve had four of these experiences – well not actually going back in time, but pretty near.¬† The first one was years ago at the Jorvic Viking centre in York, where you travel in a car backwards in time and come out into a recreated Viking village, complete with all the sounds, sights and even the smells (including urine).¬† This has now changed and there is a different way to travel now, which I find disappointing – they should have left the experience alone in my opinion.

The house in the Rock


The second one was also in Yorkshire.¬† It was in a place called ‘House in the Rock’ in Knaresborough.¬† The owner Miss Nancy Buckle’s ancestor carved this house into rock in 1770 and generation after generation have lived in it.¬† Now that was like stepping back in time!¬† At the time we were shown around, the National Trust were doing their utmost to get their hands on the house¬† clean it up a bit and probably take the character away from what was/is¬† a family home. The place had a charm all of its own and I still can’t seem to find out if the Trust managed to get it. (I have since found out via the link since this post was originally written, that the owner was forced to vacate to enable renovations.¬† I have no information about what happened to it since).

House on the Strand

The third time I went back in time was when I read Daphne Du Maurier’s¬†‘House on the Strand’.¬† This is a strange book even¬†for Du Maurier.¬† In brief: a man rents a remote house in Cornwall (of course) and agrees to be the guinea pig for a drug his biochemist friend has invented.¬† With its aid he goes back in time to the 14th Century where he has lots of adventures.¬† But each time he comes back reality blurs between the two worlds….¬† the book has intrigue and a very strange ending.

18 Folgate Street

The fourth time that I climbed into that time machine was last week when we visited Dennis Severs house, Folgate Street, Spitalfields, London.  I have always wanted to go to this house for years and have never quite got around to it Рuntil last week.  We made an appointment and just went.  Dennis Severs, an American artist (b. 1948 -1999).  Severs moved to London and bought the run down house in 1979.   Folgate Street is very close to the Spitalfields market and at the time of purchase the area was more run down than it is now but attracting Bohemians and artists.

Dennis Severs House, one of the period bedrooms

Severs renovated and decorated each of the 10 rooms¬† in a different historical style, mostly from the 18th and 19th century creating ‘atmospheres’ and vignettes.¬†¬†He did this on a budget of ¬£500!¬† I first encountered¬†this man, years ago in a Period Living magazine and¬†was flabbergasted¬†at how clever, innovative and resourceful he was and longed to see his house.¬†¬†Though he lived there himself, Severs invented an imaginary family to people his house,¬† and he based this family upon the Huguenot¬†silk weavers who would¬† have lived in the area at that time.¬†¬†He called them¬†the Jarvis family – and they are still alive in the house.¬† Whenever you enter a room you feel they have been there before you and just left, leaving clues like a half¬†eaten piece of buttered toast and an upset teacup behind them.¬† the rooms are like living paintings.¬† in fact one room is actually based on a Hogarth painting!

more period drama

The house is crammed¬†full of Sever’s collections of memorabilia, plus china, vintage clothing, ephemera.¬† But these are not dry museum type collections, these ‘props’ are scattered everywhere, as if it’s been casually left that way, nothing is ‘posed’.¬† Clay pipes lay broken in¬†a fireplace, valentines are wedged¬†into the frames of mirrors, cobwebs hang from the torn and damp velvet four-poster¬†hangings in the poorest room in the house – the attic, where no fire burns.¬† To get a better idea of the experience (though¬†I urge you to go if you possibly can)¬†¬†Here is a short video starring the house – and the late Dennis Severs himself:-


History of House in the Rock

house in the Rock image

Jorvic Viking Centre

Denis Severs House

Read all about Thomas Hill, a linen weaver who built the House in the Rock  by his great great grand-daughter Nancy Buckle here.  We have quite a few pics of this house somewhere which I shall have to find.  This pic came from  here though

Dennis Severs House website recommended and read what people who have visited say here  Severs video from here

Unfortunately we were not allowed photographs in the house, so these images come from here,  here and here

Jorvik Viking centre image  here