The Silence of the Blog

I’m afraid that the blog always tends to go silent in the last weeks of August as I try to use what holiday remains to me to tidy up my life at home – an endless and entirely vainglorious activty which never succeeds in diminishing the large pile of unread books, some still in their plastic wrapping, and out-of-date magazines, which I can’t quite bring myself to throw away.

As I work my way through the dross, I find a few unsuspected treasures:-

1.  A run of The Royal Academy Illustrated , dating from 1927 to 1937.   These must have been acquired from the clear-out of my parents-in-law’s house about ten years ago, since they presumably derive from the clear-out of the house of Arthur Livingstone Savage, my father-in-law’s father, who was trained as a painter at the Academie Julian in Paris in the 1890s and, I suspect, continued to submit work to the Summer Exhibition during the 1920s and 1930s, or, at least, certainly took an interest in it.   Leafing through them demonstrates the extent to which the Summer Exhibition was then dominated by official portraiture, a genre which has now completely disappeared from its walls.

2.  Quite a number of books published by Notting Hill Editions, a small, but wholly admirable press which specialises in the publication of reprints of classic works, long out of print, including, for example, Essays on the Self by Virginia Woolf and a book about Katherine Mansfield, as well as interesting oddities, like Jonathan Keates’s London Library lecture about guidebooks, The Portable Paradise, and Jon Day’s Cyclogeography .   I realise that I acquire them as much for their quality of print and typography as for their content.

3.  A booklet called Ibid., which includes a short essay I wrote about the origins of the V&A/RCA MA course on the History of Design.

4.  I am very pleased to find a pamphlet about the late Nigel Greenwood and his gallery at 41, Sloane Gardens, which I can’t remember when or how I acquired it, but commemorates an exhibition held at Chelsea College of Art, which I didn’t see.   It reveals the amazing roll call of artists that Greenwood represented from 1970 onwards, including John Golding, Gilbert and George, Alan Johnston, which is how I got to know the gallery, Richard Tuttle and Ian McKeever.   He represented an era when gallery owners were able to be more interested in the art than the money.   In an interview, he claims that the contemporay art world consisted of 150 people ‘in the whole enterprise worldwide’.


9 thoughts on “The Silence of the Blog

  1. Those were the days! And The New Art Centre, and the Rowan Gallery. Mark Lancaster, Jeremy Moon, Paul Huxley, Prunella Clough, John Hubbard, Sandra Blow.

    Days worth remembering !

  2. Charlotte Verity says:

    Glad you’ve mentioned Nigel Charles, he was an important part of our lives. Christopher (Le Brun) joined the Gallery in 1979 and was one of the few artists that stayed with him until he closed in the early nineties.

  3. And one of the few collectors, my brother Max, who took me to Nigel’s gallery one Saturday afternoon in ?1970 to see Gilbert and George performing Underneath the Arches on a tabletop.

  4. I like Notting Hill Editions editions, though the bindings are bit too heavy and rough for my liking. In the age of the e-book, print needs to be more lightweight and responsive.

    I’d love to read your piece on the V&A/RCA MA course on the History of Design. A cohort of students from the programme came to a 1994 debate entitled ‘Do Designers Need Design History’ I hosted at the Business Design Centre, with Nigel Whiteley, Catherine Cooke, and Ken Garland. The study of design history seems to have declined since then, with almost no work on the history of design in digital media.

    • Dear Nico, I’ll send it to you when I’m back in the office (that is, if it’s not available online). It’s very short. On Notting Hill Editions, isn’t it a deliberate reaction to online that books are being treated more obviously as artefacts ? Charles

      • I can’t find it online, after some searching, so if you could share it, it would be much appreciated (

        On Notting Hill Editions, I agree it is part a product of what you characterised as the ‘revenge of analog’ (and about which I noted in that post that ‘the transition to digital models of activity… has left people wanting more analogue experiences’ []). And this is seen in periodical and book publishing, exemplified by the MagCulture shop in St John Street, Magma Books in Clerkenewell Road, Libreria in Hanbury Street, and countless art gallery bookshops, not least the Whitechapel’s. But I feel these books still have to respond to modern developments and not just be facsimiles of old publishing forms. In this case that might mean being more temporal, personalised, or – in the case of Notting Hill Books – being conduits to debate about the essay themes.

      • Yes, I will do. Actually, better, I will post it, but not immediately. I think Notting Hill editions is one of the more successful examples of the efflorescence of small presses publishing essays, which, as you say, one finds in bookshops like Libreria. Charles

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