On 8/9 June, the BBC World Service will broadcast a radio documentary about Martha Ricks,
18 July 1892
who travelled from her home in Liberia to London, bringing a silk embroidered 'Coffee Tree' quilt as a gift for Queen Victoria. The cabinet photo above was taken by one of the two photographic studios to produce and sell images of the celebrity visitor, whose trip and reception at Windsor Castle attracted public and media interest. The Republic of Liberia, established by African-Americans in 1830, was recognised by Britain in 1847. Throughout the transatlantic world, Victoria would later be honoured for opposition to slavery and personally credited with having made British territory such as Canada a refuge for those escaping enslavement. On this occasion, Victoria relaxed diplomatic protocol to receive Martha Ricks as an individual, graciously welcoming her to Windsor, together with the widow of Liberia's first president, and formally accepting the gift.
The public attention may have facilitated this audience so soon after Ricks' arrival in the UK, as her visit was widely reported. It must also have been assisted by the equivalent of the Palace's press department, as the Graphic newspaper was allowed to send illustrator Reginald Cleaver to record the event, his image of the Court looking on as Ricks and Victoria shook hands being printed on the front page of the Daily Graphic, and a second view, from the opposite angle - where Ricks is shown from in front - on the weekend edition. .Much more on Martha Ricks from Jeff Green here
The BBC World programme is made and presented by Penny Dale.
tomorrow I am giving a talk at the Whitstable Literary Festival, which is dedicated to the Bloomsbury Group and to Vita Sackville West in particular, whose ancestral home Knole is not far away.
I intended to talk about Vita and her portraits, and am indeed starting with those.
Here, for example, is a curious image of the Hon. Vita in 1911, when she donned fancydress for a 'Shakespeare Ball' on the eve of the coronation of George V. It took place in the Albert Hall and dozens from high society took part. Commercial photographers took and published many of the images, which show that many, maybe most of Vita's fellow performers chose Tudorbethan costumes, in keeping with the theme. Vita evidently did not follow the late-medieval trend, but which Shakespearean character is she invoking? it ought to be Rosalind, but the hat and particularly the skirt don't seem to fit that role....
I am also aiming to look at images of Vanessa Bell, which I have not previously seen.
These two photographs , from one of the many photo albums filled by Vanessa and Virginia, were taken in Rome by a professional studio run by Henri de Lieure. They apparently date from 1904, though I can't find references to Vanessa visiting Rome then. They seem untypical images of Vanessa and at first I thought the one with the lattice chair-back was a photo of a painting, given the soft focus that emulates brushstrokes. But as Vanessa is wearing the same gown in each image, I assume the effect is a bit of early photoshopping, such as the Stephens sisters' great aunt Julia Margaret would have appreciated had it been available for her pioneering photographs.
I wonder if Vanessa's companions on this trip, whoever they were, also sat to Lieure.
then there is this striking portrait of Vanessa by Roger Fry, which is just published in the British ArtJournal by Martin Ferguson Smith, together with a hitherto unknown drawing of Fry's wife Helen and a snapshot of Vanessa standing naked against chalk cliffs in Dorset.
The painting, in gouache over pencil outlines, shows dramatically the Post-Impressionist impact on Bloomsbury portraiture.
the MAY MORRIS book is underway and available to pre-order from Thames & Hudson
The first fully illustrated introduction to May Morris, a leading contributor to the Arts and Crafts Movement and daughter of famed designer William Morris
May Morris, youngest daughter of influential designer William Morris, was one of the leading female contributors to the Arts and Crafts Movement. She ran the embroidery department of her father’s famous firm Morris & Co., and had a successful freelance career as a designer, maker, and exhibitor, founding the Women’s Guild of Arts in 1907 and undertaking a lecture tour in the United States between 1909 and 1910. May’s approach to embroidery was innovative and widely influential in the UK and abroad, yet her important contribution to embroidery is often overshadowed by the accomplishments of her more famous father.
The exhibition Portrait of the Artist at the Queen's Gallery Buckingham Palace runs until 17 April, but of course all the items are from the Royal Collection and should not vanish from the website after that. Carefully and cleverly curated by Anna Reynolds and Lucy Peter, the selection reveals how rich a resource the nation's monarch has, in paintings, drawings, miniatures, prints and ceramics, the diversity of medium and genre allowing a whole history of depictions of artists to emerge, from the Renaissance of da Vinci and Durer to the present of Freud and Hockney. Not ignoring the current consort, in a pair of works showing Prince Philip's depiction of artist Edward Seago aboard the royal yacht, alongside Seago's reciprocal painting of Philip on deck working at his own folding easel.
Famously, the collection includes Artemisia's self-portrait as and in the act of painting, a great piece of advertising from the seventeen century.
Other female artists appear in various ways, as in copies after Angelica Kaufmann, Rosalba Carriera and Vigee le Brun.
Plus the very striking and seldom seen self-portrait by Italian-born Emma Gaggiotti Richards, purchased by Queen Victoria as a birthday present for Albert in 1853. The Queens Gallery's explication:
Richards depicts herself with the attributes of her profession: a palette, a mahlstick, and a selection of brushes. She is dressed in black, a colour not solely associated with mourning, but also favoured by working women. Although by this date it had become acceptable for men to fashion themselves as dishevelled Bohemians in their self-portraits, Richards, as a female artist and therefore on the periphery of artistic acceptability, firmly sets herself within the historic, and therefore safe, tradition of self-portraiture established by artists during the Renaissance. Her solemn, intense expression and twisted, three-quarter length pose bring to mind the great self-portraitists of the past and thereby associate her with a long and illustrious line of serious and learned artists
Lastly, two curiosities, of which I was quite ignorant. One is a self-portrait in stitches or needle-painting by Mary Knowles, done for Queen Charlotte in the 1770s.
Knowles had previously stitched a portrait of George III for Charlotte, and here showed herself working on that piece, in her own self-advertisement.
It doesn't photograph very well, being glazed, and embroidered pictures are an acquired taste, but it's nice to see such an example.
Something similar can be said of the bronze self-portrait as bat aka inkwell sculpted by Sarah Bernhardt. Being in a display case, and bronze being so difficult to photograph without special lighting, the Royal Collection cast is accompanied here by that from the MFA Boston, which shows what a strange piece it is.
Here the Adoration as central panel in an elaborate altarpiece by W.D.Caroe, better known as an architect, installed 1911 in Christ's Chapel Dulwich College, accessed from the Picture Gallery garden on selected days.
The three Kings are joined by two boy scholars, in Jacobean-style gowns. I assume the extra man upper right is not a fourth king but St Joseph, hence his halo.