The absence of a large poster for Ai Weiwei – or, indeed, for Painting the Modern Garden, our next major exhibition – means that the full breadth of the Burlington House façade is visible, including the figures who were placed in niches on the attic storey when Sidney Smirke added an extra floor to Lord Burlington’s piano nobile. They are those who were regarded as the greatest artists of the time. Reynolds, of course, and Wren, both by Edward Stephens (although where did Stephens get this idea of Reynolds as a robust young figure in an academic gown ?):-
We went yesterday to the memorial event for Lisa Jardine organised by the University of London and the staff of the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters, which she founded, as well as Queen Mary where she spent so much of her academic career and University College where she and CELL recently migrated. It felt as if there were a thousand people, all of whom had been touched or influenced in some particular and special way by her personality and teaching: faculty, university adminstrators, former students, fellow researchers, Dutch scholars, each had admired her passionate intellectual enthusiasms, but also spoke invariably of the strength of her emotional support. We all miss her.
I have been trying to find out a bit more about Annie Swynnerton who seems to me worthy of record. There is almost no information in the archive except a little note from her to George Clausen in 1922 ‘anxious for news’. She was described as ‘a talented artist and an accomplished woman, though scarcely one of whom it could be said she possessed a charm of manner. Indeed, by maintaining the courage of her convictions she was at times embarrassingly outspoken’. She lived in Rome after her marriage to Frank Swynnerton in 1880 till his death in 1910. Interestingly, she painted Henry James in 1922. It was Sargent’s portrait of Henry James which had been slashed in the Summer Exhibition of 1914. Laura Knight met her at the end of her life on Hayling Island. She died in 1933.
There is an intriguing and wide-ranging article in this week’s LRB which refers amongst other things to the author’s great-grandmother, Annie Swynnerton, as the first woman to be elected to the RA. She was born in Manchester, educated at the Manchester School of Art and the Académie Julian and then studied in Rome. In 1879, she and a fellow student, Susan Dacre, founded the Manchester Society of Women Painters and in 1889 she signed the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies’ Declaration in Favour of Women’s Suffrage. Much admired by, amongst others, Watts and Sargent, she was elected an ARA in 1922. Laura Knight is remembered as the first female full RA, elected not until in 1936, so it is a relief to discover that she was not quite the first to be elected after Moser and Kauffman.
Several people asked me to publish the full photograph of the small display of the detritus of my life mounted at the Design Museum before Christmas. It has now just arrived and I am posting it accordingly, in spite of the realisation that these things are unconsciously revealing, not just the marmite pot and the blue braces, but the vest from a company which is now defunct, all so immaculately laid out for the archaeologists of the future:-
I wandered in to the old Bryant and May match factory, scene of the strike in 1888 and subject of an essay by Patrick Wright in A Journey Through Ruins. Wiĺliam Bryant and Francis May started importing Swedish matches in 1850. In 1855 they acquired a patent to manufacture safety matches from red phosphorus and potassium chlorate and in 1861 they opened the Fairfield Works, a massive factory, rather German in character with its red and black brick. The workers were first radicalised in 1871 in protest at the planned imposition of a tax on matches and again went on strike in 1888 led by the theosophist Annie Besant. It’s all quiet now after being converted into apartments in 1987:-
I went to see St. Mary, Bow Road, but at a bad time as there was a service with a surprisingly large congregation considering it’s on a roundabout. Some of it at least is fourteenth century, but the tower looks later, partly because it was rebuilt after the war. It owes its preservation to the failure of numerous plans to rebuild it in the nineteenth century and to CR Ashbee who oversaw a conservative restoration in the 1890s:-
This is the west window, which looks fungoid:-