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activty which never succeeds in diminishing the large pile of unread books, some still in their plastic wrapping, and out-of-date magazines, which I can’t quite bring myself to throw away.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’.