I finally made it to Eileen Cooper’s exhibition having tried a couple of times previously without success. It’s in a gallery I didn’t know called Rook & Raven in Rathbone Place just north of Oxford Street and consists of work she has done since her exhibition at the RA, based on loose interpretations of the theme of Love-in-Idleness, inspired by a speech by Oberon in Midsummer Night’s Dream. They hover intriguingly between realism and myth:-
Mention of Mario Praz in my post about Hugh Honour has made me realise that many people already know much more than I do about his significance to English writing about romanticism and design. He arrived in England in 1923 with introductions as to who to meet from Vernon Lee, taught Italian Studies at Liverpool University for ten years before taking up a chair in Manchester, and published La Carne, la Morte e il Diavolo nella letteratura romantica in 1930. It was about sadism, incest and necrophilia. His book about seventeenth-century emblem books was published by the Warburg in 1939 and Gusto Neoclassico in 1940. I had assumed he was gay, but, on the contrary, he married an Englishwoman, had a mistress in the war and described his furniture as his whores.
I did one of my regular tours of our building project. Each time one can see the signs of progress. The Lecture Theatre is now a grand empty volume:-
I have been thinking more about meeting Hugh Honour in the summer of 1975. I travelled to Lucca from Siena where I was staying in the Monastery of Pontignano. He had lived in Asolo in the late 1950s before moving to Lucca and at the time was working on a life of Canova which he never completed. He used to visit England every year, staying in the Traveller’s Club and getting his hair cut in Trumper’s. He talked about Mario Praz, who he and his partner John Fleming would have known as the great English scholar in Rome, author of The Romantic Agony and The House of Life. He said that Praz had the evil eye and could cause a light bulb to break if he wished. I only met him later in the bookstacks of the Warburg Institute, but retain my admiration for the quality of his writing as an independent scholar.
I was tipped off that there is a new and elegant building for Valentino on Old Bond Street which has been designed by David Chipperfield. Indeed, there is:-
As I was slightly early for breakfast, I made a detour on my morning walk across the parks to inspect the Victoria Memorial, one of those great and overblown monuments which it is easy to ignore. Its design was the result of an open competition held in the summer of 1901 which was won by Thomas Brock RA, who had recently completed an equestrian statue of the Black Prince for Leeds. It was paid for not by grant from parliament, but by subscription throughout the Empire. The work took some time to complete. The bottom half was unveiled on 24 May 1909 and the final monument in March 1911. It benefits from close inspection rather than just being seen out of the car window with good bas-reliefs round the basin:-
I went to the party to celebrate Vogue’s centenary (not the only one, I know). Two things struck me. The first was that it was founded in 1916, at the height of the first world war, when, as Nicholas Coleridge explained, there was both clothes rationing and paper rationing, not the most auspicious moment for the launch of a fashion magazine. But British readers were apparently missing the shipment of American Vogue. The second is the longevity of the Condé Nast stable. Coleridge himself has been there for as long as I can remember (although he cut his teeth on Harper’s and Queen). And Alex Shulman has been editor of Vogue for a quarter of its existence.
I have only just read of the recent death last Thursday of Hugh Honour, the writer and polymathic art historian, through his obituary in the Daily Telegraph which was tweeted (I don’t normally do twitter). I greatly admired him and owe him a debt of gratitude for suggesting that I study at Harvard as he had enjoyed the hospitality of the Fogg’s common room. The Companion Guide to Venice was my first introduction to the literature of travel and I still regard it as the perfect model of a guide book. I bought the book that he commissioned from Michael Levey on the Early Renaissance when it first came out and used his book in the same series on Neoclassicism as an exemplary introduction to the topic. In fact, the books in the Penguin Style and Civilisation series remain models of literate and discursive art history. A great and admirable man of letters.
Another pleasure of visiting Photo London was having an opportunity to see and admire the luxuriant marine sculpture on the river front of Somerset House. I’m not sure who it’s by. John Bacon senior ?
We went to Photo London. One of the great pleasures was seeing the so-called Norman Album which has been consigned for sale by the lineal descendants of Julia Margaret Cameron’s daughter, who was given a set of the best of her mother’s prints bound together in a special album which has been preserved by her family. It is peculiarly intense seeing photographs so immaculately well preserved, including many of Cameron’s most famous photographs – Darwin, Herschel, Tennyson, Henry Taylor, Benjamin Jowett, many bearded and looking like Old Testament prophets – together with her more theatrical tableaux and photographs of the local children in Freshwater Bay as beggar maids.
MRS. CAMERON’S PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE LIFE:-
In the flyleaf is Cameron’s own list of the subjects:-
There is a dedication to her daughter and son-in-law, Charles Norman:-
And the place and date:-
It’s a complete record of the intellectual aristocracy of the 1860s and should surely be in an English public collection, if not the Morgan Library or the Getty.