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The Contemporary Art Society centenary

THE HISTORY OF the Contemporary Art Society provides a microcosm of British taste and collecting within the context of a broad range of modern art during the last hundred years. The Society began as a small group of ‘amateurs’ and collectors who met informally in a private house in London in spring 1909 and was launched under its present name a year later. Since those tea-party beginnings it has grown to become a highly professional organisation, its tentacles reaching throughout England and Scotland by way of its acquisitions, commissioned works and advisory role to public and corporate collections. Its centenary is being celebrated this year with numerous events and exhibitions, providing an opportunity to look at its achievements past and present.

Article (7)

Revisiting the origins of the Sheffield series of portraits of Mary Queen of Scots

By Jeremy L. Smith

THE SO-CALLED SHEFFIELD series of patterned portraits of Mary Queen of Scots, which includes the portraits in Hardwick (Fig.1), Hatfield, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (the Cobham version) and the National Portrait Gallery, London (Brocas), all depict what has been proclaimed as ‘the most popular image of the queen’. The purpose of this article is to offer a reconsideration of the origin of the series and to argue that, despite the prevailing view, it began with a painting created in 1578 rather than in the Jacobean period. What is at stake is not only chronological accuracy but an opportunity to understand properly the iconographical content of the portraits. Both on stylistic and documentary grounds there are good reasons to question the current consensus. Important traces of an Elizabethan original are, in fact, well suggested by the evidence to hand, all of which has long been available to scholars. The current view unjustly ignores the date inscribed on the Hardwick painting and the context it signals. After explaining how and why the extant evidence of a 1578 provenance has been misread for over a century, this article offers a new interpretation of the original context and purpose of these portraits, revealing in the process an unappreciated aspect of Mary’s use of painting as a political instrument.

Paul Sandby, William Pars and the Society of Dilettanti

By Ann Gunn

THE SOCIETY OF Dilettanti, which was dismissed by Horace Walpole as ‘a club, for which the nominal qualification is having been in Italy, and the real one, being drunk’, also has the more creditable distinction of occupying a pivotal position in the study of classical antiquities in Britain in the second half of the eight eenth century. Having supported the publication of James ‘Athenian’ Stuart’s and Nicholas Revett’s Antiquities of Athens in 1762, the Society subsequently became the first British institution to organise and sponsor an archaeological expedition.

Richard Dadd and his demons in France

By Hélène Klemenz

WHILE MUCH HAS been written about the life and career of Richard Dadd in England, and his travels to the Middle East with his patron, Thomas Philips, the sequence of events following his brutal murder of his father, Robert Dadd, in 1843 has remained relatively obscure.

‘An Indian Renascence’ and the rise of global modernism: William Rothenstein in India, 1910–11

By Rupert Richard Arrowsmith

IN THE AUTUMN of 1910, the influential English artist William Rothenstein made what he called a ‘pilgrimage’ to draw and paint both the ancient temples and the rapidly modernising urban centres of India. His journey took him across the Subcontinent by train, boat and bullock-cart, from the indust rial powerhouse of Bombay to the remote cave temples at Ajanta; and from Benares, the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, to the vast metropolitan prospect of Calcutta. During the course of this journey, he observed ‘an Indian Renascence’ in full swing among the country’s younger generation of artists. European painterly conventions, their validity reinforced by the educational apparatus of colonialism, had remained fashionable throughout Asia for most of the nineteenth century. A new spirit of political nationalism in India coupled with the growing military and economic influence of Japan and a widespread disillusionment with Western civilisation meant, however, that the 1900s witnessed a profound and general resurgence of Asian cultural awareness. Rothenstein had already seen this awareness spread to Europe, where his friends Jacob Epstein and Eric Gill had employed the aesthetics and techniques of Indian stone carving in the production of London’s first modernist sculptures. Rothenstein was active in promoting such works of art from the Subcontinent in the city, and had co-founded Britain’s India Society in early 1910 mainly for that purpose. On the Subcontinent itself, however, the artistic ‘Renascence’ was based not on sculpture but on traditional approaches to painting, and it was the two-thousand-year-old Buddhist frescos at Ajanta that finally drew Rothenstein there later in the year.

The identification of the sitter in Harold Gilman’s portraits of Mrs Mounter

By John Rolfe

THE PORTRAITS BY Harold Gilman of Mrs Mounter at the breakfast table, which exists in two versions (Tate, London; Fig.35; and Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool), constitutes one of the most famous and frequently reproduced images of Camden Town School painting. But who exactly was this elderly, stoical woman looking out at the viewer above the cups and quin tessentially English teapot on the table before her? ‘Although Mrs Mounter has long been identified as Gilman’s landlady at 47 Maple Street, off Tottenham Court Road, it seems to me that she was obviously his daily charwoman’, Richard Shone suggested. ‘In the London street directory for 1916, the firm of Alfred Holdgate, fine art printers, is given as the tenant of the house (no longer extant). In the same year, the directory lists only one Mounter in London, a Mrs Charlotte Mounter at 2 Freeling Street, off Caledonian Road’.

‘The only English periodical of the avant-garde’: Sidney Hunt and the journal ‘Ray’

By Iria Candela

SIDNEY HUNT (1896–1940) was a British draughtsman, painter, poet and editor who published the avant-garde journal Ray in London between 1926 and 1927. Despite his multi-faceted career and the historical relevance of his periodical, no detailed study of his work has yet been attempted. A first analysis of Ray demonstrates that this publication was indeed the only English equivalent of influential art journals from the 1920s, such as Merz, De Stijl and Mécano, and the first to introduce English readers to some of the leading figures of the European avant-garde of the time such as Kurt Schwitters, El Lissitzky, Theo van Doesburg, Naum Gabo, László Moholy-Nagy and Hans Arp.

Nature and things: recent paintings by Howard Hodgkin

By John-Paul Stonard

HOWARD HODGKIN HAS stated that he is seeking more ‘actuality’ in his recent paintings. And, indeed, in a group of paintings completed in the past couple of years, an earlier concern with human subjects, memory and emotion has given way to the presence of simple objects. This new objecthood of Hodgkin’s paintings reveals a more direct engagement both with things and nature, and consolidates a new period in his work – a remarkable achievement for a painter who has been working for some sixty years.

Book Review (17)

The Cave Church of Paul the Hermit at the Monastery of St Paul, Egypt

Reviewed by Robin Cormack

Der heilige Schatz im Dom zu Halberstadt

Reviewed by Willibald Sauerländer

Künstler zeichnen. Sammler stiften: 250 Jahre Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München

Reviewed by David Scrase

Drawings by James Ward 1769–1859

Reviewed by Richard Green

Compass and Rule. Architecture as Mathematical Practice in England

Reviewed by Owen Hopkins

William Beckford: A Bibliography

Reviewed by Robert J. Gemmett

British and Continental Gold and Silver in the Ashmolean Museum

Reviewed by Vanessa Brett

The English Parsonage in the Early Nineteenth Century

Reviewed by William Whyte

Gustave Moreau. Catalogue sommaire des dessins du musée Gustave Moreau

Reviewed by Peter Cooke

John Singer Sargent: Venetian Figures and Landscapes, 1898–1913, Complete Paintings, Volume VI

Reviewed by Marc Simpson

The Cosmopolitan Interior: Liberalism and the British Home 1870–1914

Reviewed by Tanya Harrod

Apostles of Beauty: Arts and Crafts from Britain to Chicago

Reviewed by Christopher Long

Tatlin’s Tower. Monument to Revolution

Reviewed by Martin Hammer

The Buildings of England: Yorkshire West Riding. Leeds, Bradford and the North

Reviewed by Lesley Milner

John Piper. Myfanwy Piper. Lives in Art

Reviewed by Jane Rye

Landscape, Art and Identity in 1950s Britain

Reviewed by Toby Treves

The National Gallery. A Short History

Reviewed by Richard Shone

Exhibition Review (10)

Vincent van Gogh. London

Reviewed by Richard Shone

Crash: Homage to J.G. Ballard. London

Reviewed by Christopher Griffin

Recent and current exhibitions. London (Eve Hesse)

Reviewed by George Major

Star City. Nottingham

Reviewed by Anne Blood

Jean Raoux. Montpellier

Reviewed by Christoph Martin Vogtherr

Giorgione. Castelfranco

Reviewed by Paul Holberton

Luc Tuymans. Columbus and San Francisco

Reviewed by Robert Silberman

Recent and current exhibitions. London (Matthew Barney)

Reviewed by George Major

Recent and current exhibitions. London (Art Bin)

Reviewed by George Major

Recent and current exhibitions. London (Dan Perfect. Dæmonology)

Reviewed by George Major

The Burlington Magazine – April 2010