I walked past the Palm Tree, our nearly local pub, although I’ve never actually been into it, and admired the view through the window, some of the architectural detailing and the eponymous palm trees in the park next door. It’s the last house left standing in Mile End Park. Pubs seem to have had a preservation order when Rachel Whiteread’s House on Grove Road, just north of the railway track, did not:-
I could scarcely bring myself to record the appearance of Victoria Park today because it was so ostentatiously, flamboyantly and nearly nauseatingly autumnal, like some scene of the Fall in western Massachusetts which I’ve always thought was to be avoided. But in the end, amateur photographer that I am, I succumbed to a couple of shots:-
I walked down Stepney Green this morning, thinking (correctly) that it would look good in the morning autumn sun, including number 37, the local Manor House, originally built in 1690 for Dormer Shepherd, an East India Company sea captain, then owned by Mary Gayer, and by the Council after the war:-
I wish I had read Ian Nairn’s paean to Chichester Cathedral in his aborted contributions to Pevsner’s Sussex, 33 pages of vigorous eulogy, including what he describes as an Aesthetic Summary, not something one normally gets in Pevsner. He describes Bishop Luffa’s original design as ‘paying for its balance and reasonableness with a lack of intensity: good committee-man’s Romanesque’. We only had time to drift in just before evensong, admiring the exterior, much of which is a replica following the collapse of the crossing tower and its reconstruction in the 1860s:-
The Romanesque decoration of the porch at the west end of the south aisle:-
I had remembered Chichester as a nice, small, provincial city, with a good medieval street plan. What I hadn’t realised is that the town centre has been turned into a pedestrian shopping mall. There are vestiges of its eighteenth-century grandeur in some of the streets and door surrounds:-
We missed the private view of the David Jones exhibition at Pallant House last night so travelled down for lunch today. The exhibition helps make sense of his career, less as an outsider, more as someone connected to, and aware of, the mainstream of twentieth-century art, schooled at Camberwell before the First World War and at Westminster School of Art after service in the trenches, working for Eric Gill at Ditchling, the most obvious source of influence on him, exhibiting widely during the 1920s and recruited by Ben Nicholson to the Seven & Five Society in 1928. He has been adopted as a Welsh artist because his father was Welsh and he was passionate about Celtic legend, but he was born in Brockley, lived after the war in Harrow, his mother was a Cockney, and he bought his shoes in Lobb’s.
I interviewed Judith Aronson this afternoon in Cambridge University Library where her photographs are on display in the entrance lobby. I was brought up to regard it as an extremely ugly building, ‘this magnificent erection’ as it was reputedly called by Neville Chamberlain when he opened it in 1934 (or was it George V ?). I’m not sure how far my views have changed. But at least I was able to revisit the tearoom and enjoy some of the classical deco, even neo-Egyptian detailing:-
Seeing the set of photographs of the Fellows of Christ’s reminded me very forcefully of the personality of J.H.Plumb, the Master, who is commemorated in two photographs which he vetoed, but which effectively show his personality – short, funny, quizzical, sometimes benign, at least to me, occasionally sarcastic, a very good writer and historian, friend of Princess Margaret and Harold Wilson. Not everyone cared for him, but I did, not least for his passionate interest in, and writing about, eighteenth-century cultural history.
I spent the evening in Cambridge at a dinner in honour of Judith Aronson, the American portrait photographer, who in 1979 was asked by J.H. Plumb, the Master, to document the Fellows of Christ’s. She had set up her studio in the rooms of her husband, Christopher Ricks (her darkroom was in the kitchen), and we were each allocated 15 minutes in quick succession, photographed against a plain white background in the tradition of Richard Avedon. But, unlike Avedon, she liked an atmosphere of informality and employed someone to make conversation. It’s intriguing to see the set, thirty six years on, Jack Plumb seen from a side view, David Cannadine in a wide lapelled suit, some people easily recognisable. I only half recognise myself.
Our Liotard exhibition has arrived from Edinburgh. It looks wonderful in the Sackler galleries with their good height and generous proportions, enhanced by clever but low-key design by Eric Pearson with minimal red banding in the first gallery to give a sense that they are works for private rather than public space. The exhibition gives a particularly good view of the aristocracy in the late 1730s, grand tourists in Rome and Constantinople, cultivated and louche, members of the Society of Dilettanti (Viscount Duncannon was a founder member) and of the Hellfire Club (Simon Luttrell founded the Dublin Hellfire Club). Viscount Mountstuart stayed in Geneva with the Pictet family, whose bank are sponsoring the exhibition.