Edmund de Waal

I spent a lot of the day reading the new monograph about the work of Edmund de Waal with its long and informative text by Emma Crichton-Miller, half biography and half about the evolution of his ideas.   Edmund’s father told me to pay close attention to the picture of Edmund as a youth, presumably as a reminder that he is a child of the manse.   The book taught me a new word haecceity, as in ‘I’ve always been pulled between wanting to show in a Mies van der Rohe space and actually really wanting, or getting very interested in and exercised by, the sheer haecceity, or quiddity of places’ (haecceitas=thisness).   Anyway, it made me look again at, and appreciate, our single objects by him:

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Commercial Road

I’ve noticed that they’ve let the shops in the Commercial Road run down.   It used to be where the local gun shop was, and Callegari’s Restaurant, once a roadside café is now derelict.   One could buy fish from a fishmongers which was open to all the exhaust fumes of the main road, and bread round the corner at Walls.   But now the whole block is vacant, awaiting redevelopment.   This was Callegari’s:

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York Square

It’s a while since I’ve been on my Sunday morning run (well, it’s no longer really a run, but we like to call it that), which always begins in York Square, a neat East End Square, built by the Mercers Company in the mid-1820s and taken over by the GLC in 1973, all of a piece apart from a certain amount of rebuilding after the war.   There’s a campaign to save the Queen’s Head as a community resource and not be sold off as so many of the other local pubs have been.   And they’re doing up Flamborough Walk, one of those secret, gated snickets which are such a feature of the East End.

This is York Square:

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Bermondsey

We used to live near Bermondsey when it was still half Dickensian, a run-down area of trade warehouses.   Romilly worked in Zaehnsdorf, the trade binder, in a back yard off Bermondsey Street, we tried to buy 92, Bermondsey Street, and I once played tennis in courts nearby, but the smell of the local vinegar factory was overpowering.   Now it’s become a consumer paradise, full of chichi boutiques and posh Spanish restaurants (we ate in Pizarro) alongside White Cube, the greatest art warehouse of them all:

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Spa Road

I’ve realised that going to markets must be a wintertime activity because it’s a long time since I’ve been south of the river to visit my favourite suppliers in Maltby Street.   Today we met up with friends in Spa Terminus, through a gate under the railway bridge on Spa Road where one finds a food mecca, including Kernel Brewery for table beer, The Butchery next door, where they wrap everything in brown paper parcels and string, the Ham and Cheese Company for a whole jesus, coffee at the Coleman Coffee Roasters, Natoora for vegetables, and cheese at a branch of Neal’s Yard:

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Fame and Friendship

I finally made it to the small exhibition Fame and Friendship:  Pope, Roubiliac and the Portrait Bust which was first shown at the Yale Center for British Art and then upstairs at Waddesdon for most of the summer.   It is based round the fact that Jacob Rothschild bought a bust of Pope which is the pair to a bust of Newton, both of them thought to have been commissioned by Lord Poulett when he bought Pope’s villa at Twickenham.   Together they commemorate the ways in which Pope spread Newton’s fame.   Malcolm Baker, the curator, has assembled related busts, including the terracotta by Roubiliac, to show the ways in which images of the hunchback poet (he had Pott’s disease) were created and disseminated round the country houses of England.

This is Rysbrack’s bust of Pope, done as a pair to a bust of Gibbs:

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This is Lord Poulett’s (now Lord Rothschild’s) version:

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Waddesdon

It was very autumnal at Waddesdon down the branch line from Marylebone by way of Harrow-on-the-Hill to Wendover and Aylesbury.   The house looked, as always, magnificent and faintly surreal, a version of Chambord in the Vale of Aylesbury, its yellow sandstone melting into the surrounding yellow trees.   I had forgotten how many wonderful Reynolds’s and Gainsboroughs there are which were bought at top dollar by Ferdinand de Rothschild to hang amongst the fine French furniture.

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The Blue Cupboard (2)

I’ve now read The Blue Cupboard, initially in short gulps and then in one long chunk.   I recommend it.   It’s very beautifully written, poignant in places, particularly good on the experience of nature whether in the Worcestershire copses or the paintings of Patrick George.   It’s not surprising that she made friends with W.G. Sebald by correspondence and provided the illustrations for his book of poems For Years Now.   I particularly like the chapter in which she describes staying in The Grand Hôtel Villa de France in Tangiers in order to experience looking out of the same window as Matisse and it is only when she is leaving that she realises it is a brothel.

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‘Pataphysics

I was introduced today to the idea of ‘pataphysics, the idea of a science beyond metaphysics (maybe a pseudo-science) developed by Alfred Jarry in Paris in the 1890s in his play Ubu Roi as ‘the science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments’.   The ideas apparently influenced Dada, surrealism and situationism and are maintained nowadays by the Collège de Pataphysique in Paris, founded in 1948 and whose members have included Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and, more recently, Umberto Eco.

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The Blue Cupboard (1)

The other book launch I went to last night was for Tess Jaray’s The Blue Cupboard, a wonderfully observant volume about her childhood, her mother and more recent memories together with deliberately miscellaneous chapters, some about the work of fellow artists.   An emigré with her parents from Vienna just before the second world war, they settled in a cottage in Worcestershire.   She writes precisely and pithily about her experiences.

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