Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Nasty Nick Small. Liverpool City Councillor.

Who Is No Help At All.
I recently asked Nick Small if he would meet with the shopkeepers of India Buildings who were having a horrid time because of the inefficient and ineffectual builders that saw the pavements blocked and at least 10 holes dug in the streets outside their shops.
Nick Small is the assistant Mayor of Liverpool.
I had heard that the builders had bought the streets around India Buildings from the council for a year. Purchasing out all the parking bays and having Fenwick Street closed. This seemed the reason why all the local shopkeepers were struggling. Business was down significantly.
He did not willingly return a call.
 It was only when I was put through to the Mayors office while calling the Labour Party offices that he called me back and arranged to come out and see those shopkeepers, struggling in his ward.

He turned up 30 minutes late and one shopkeeper had to leave right away as they had an appointment booked.
Then right from the off he started shouting at the other small business owners who were worried about their livelihoods and wished to talk to him.
I could not believe it. I tried to calm him down and not get him wound up but there was something wrong with him. Nobody behaves like that in public office.
I took him into Mr Gazali's newsagent, City News, saying to him this poor guy is being stripped of his ability to trade by the pavements being closed. Also there were obstructions and numerous signs blocking the way people walk.
The council had placed signs in a most inappropriate way, that did more to hinder movement than assist.
The main sign was a massive one saying Access to SHOPS Only.
That was, in the way and where it was placed, was actually blocking the Water Street Merseyrail entrance. To make things worse the council placed several more signs in front of it with arrows marking that pedestrians should walk around the signs that did not really seem to be in the right place anyhow. There did not seem to be anyone thinking about the situation at all.
Just have a word with this poor guy I said he may not be here that long if it continues like this.
“Well we will get other shops in here when the building is done up”
I stood there in disbelief to what I had just heard. My mouth dropped. I had asked him out to help and he had, it seemed to me, come out with an agenda that was hard to understand.
In City News along with another shopkeeper and he insulted them. The shopkeeper spoke English as a second language and luckily for him, he did not get the full gist of his tone. But I did, and it stank.
After a short while of him mouthing off in front of customers we walked out, mainly so I could try to calm him down.. He was out of control. I could smell alcohol on his breath and I wondered if he was drunk.
Then when we got outside he continued arguing with the Drury Lane shopkeeper and she said “I am not listening to you anymore I have had enough, you are in another world. “We are all micro businesses and we cant afford to lose money because of all this” she said and stormed off.
“What are you doing” I said “you cant come out to see people and then insult them like this”
I took him back into my shop and he would not stop.
“I cant see what the problem is” he said “The newsagents was busy then when I went in”
“Mr Small three people in lunchtime one bought a Mars Bar do you know there is only about 5p profit on a Mars Bar. The other bought a packet of ciggys and the profit margin is about 2% on them”
He would not stop, he continued droning on about how this development of India Buildings has to work.
I told him that I understood that and had moved from Holts arcade to Water Street to enable the development to happen but this way of treating the small shopkeepers was not good and we are looking to the council for help otherwise we would lose our lively hoods. He was not interested.
“Calm down Nick I kept telling him I have not invited you out for an argument but to try to help us”. He would not stop on and on he went without any questions asked. I nearly threw him out the shop so annoyed was I.
“Lets have a look in the street” I said to him, and we went outside. I couldn't get his attention on the problem.
He was not interested at all. He had another agenda, and it was not to help us. Or even listened to us. I called a member of the public over at random and asked him what he thought. “I walk here everyday and this is dangerous” he said “People are walking out into the road right from the station entrance. People walk in a way they are used to.”
He then started arguing with him. I stood there with my mouth open disgusted. The man went after being bemused that I had entered him into an argument in the street, especially as I had said he was the assistant Mayor.

I turned to Mr Nick Small and told him.
“Mr Small I am disgusted by your attitude. Have you been drinking”
He shook his head and said “No”.
I was not convinced.
“Mr Small to have a Labour Councillor who is not in the slightest bit interested in the small businesses who have been trading in the locality for 20 years.......”
He tried to interupt “No you are a disgrace to the Labour Party, you really are, I wonder just how you speak to the owners of the building no doubt you dont shout abuse at them when they are trying to make money do you”?
He tried to intimidate everyone present in a disgraceful and disrespectful way that leads me to believe he has his own agenda and that he does not care in the slightest about anyone other than the developers of India Buildings

I really have to question his motives.

The newsagent was evicted two weeks later and the other shopkeeper has been forced out by the dispicable Landlord of India Buildings. The Post Office has also been forced out and I am currently fighting eviction by the most unscrupulous sort.
“Thanks for your help Nick. Or not. Lawrence Kenwright has got the measure of you alright. You were a complete waste of time. Behaved with no respect for the people who get you elected, your constituants.
And stop drinking while you are representing the council.
You should be ashamed of yourself you nasty little, or small man.”


Saturday, 10 March 2018

Augustus John and Gwen John. The Brother and Sister of Art.

For a long time I have known the name of Augustus John and his connection with Liverpool. 
I keep on seeing his portraits, such as The Marshesa Casati with her flame red hair. Luisa Casati looks like a Vamp.
Not as much is known of his sister Gwen.
He had been a prominent player in Liverpool's Art School and in its standing in the wider establishment. 
It appears that for him being there and passing on his valuable experience and energy to another generation that, we are all the better for it.
Augustus Edwin John had trained at The Slade School where he was a star.
He was appointed to the Liverpool Art Sheds 1901-02 to replace Herbert Jackson who had joined up to serve in the Boer War.
It was said he had a brilliant technique and a uninhibited approach and his Bohemian personality was well noted. 
This drew many students to his life classes. He looked Bohemian almost like a Jesus of Nazareth character with long flowing locks of hair down to his shoulders. His sister Gwen was totally the opposite more of a wallflower.
He married Ida in 1901, she was also a Slade student.
He painted many University figures while in Liverpool.
There were many artists around, C.J Allen, Herbert MacNair and Charles Reilly among many others were to become prominent figures in Liverpool, Allen being a one time assistant to Hamo Thorneycroft. 
The Art Sheds were a place where ideas and thoughts could be brought to fruition by those who attended.
John settled for a short while at 66 Canning street after short stays with friends. His studio then was No 2 Rodney Street. In 1902 after the birth of their first child David the John's moved to 138 Chatham Street for five months.
Gwen visited them that summer.
He then moved to Fitzroy Street London shortly after a failed election to Liverpool Academy in 1902 but he was back and forth to London by then.
He took a trip to Wales with John Sampson in 1903 and was still in Liverpool 1904 when Charles Reilly became Professor of Architecture. Charles Reilly would champion a new classical style moving away from the Arts and Crafts that was the fashion of the day, with haste.
Many of his drawings of Liverpool models were sent via William Rothenstein for exhibition at the Carfax Gallery.
He was made Honorary Member of Sandon Society of Artists 1908.

Brought up in the middle class town of Tenby, the Johns were born the children of a lawyer. Their mother had died when they were young and they had a nanny to look after them.
Gwen was shy and both her and Augustus showed a talent for art from an early age.
They stayed aloof from the goings on in the town. Showing an air of respectability for a middle class lawyer. He taught his children moral values. Those children would rebel against the steadiness of their fathers strict Anglican principles.
Augustus who was born 1878 reversed the tutoring of his father and headed for London to enrol in the Slade School of Art. He was uncertain of himself and his work was methodical and unremarkable. The revelation and new sensations of the model in his first life class would be something he would remember. He worked hard and in his second year his work became steady and his old master style astonished the tutors. Henry Tonks proclaimed him the best draughtsman since Michelangelo. His line became sure and his style became that of the bohemian.
 He discovered women. Woman is beauty and every artist loves beauty so every artist must love woman. This was an excuse he needed as he liked the company of woman above anything and the art gave him his chance to discover his own way of life centered around the female form.
Augustus became a legend at The Slade for his drawings but struggled with a brush but won an award for a biblical scene which was contrived from the old masters.
Gwen joined him there but remained in the background around Augustus's centre of attention approach. He commanded the signature John claiming it in his own pushy way.
They lived together for a while. In several cellars and basements and It was life of differences and she found it more difficult than he.
He was overpowering and she restrained. He married a friend of Gwen's, Ida to the dismay of her family. She adored Gus.
Gwen set off for France with a friend in 1903. Walking from Bordeaux to Rome she wanted to take her time and paint. It was said Whistler who she met in Paris influenced her after she abandoned her walk in Toulouse.
Montparnasse was her home living frugally in order without mess yards from Modigliani who arrived shortly after her. She painted many scenes with flowers that adorned her room. 
Inside her there always seemed to be that her inner eye was focused towards the church.
She posed for other artists including Rodin at the age of 63.
 He was the greatest living artist and she fell in love with him and his prodigious sexual appetite. 
She was obsessed by him but he would not be able to meet her demands though he really loved her.
He paid her rent and worried about her cat.
 I often think is that Gwen when I see a Rodin sculpture.
The memory of Whistler stayed with her. Her style stays strong from the start. She painted ordinary folk while Augustus later went for the big blockier strokes laying paint in a style of abandon. That worked. 
But he always retained a conservatism within the shadows of his work he always searched where Gwen seemed to have already found what she wanted to do. He dressed his sitters in fancy dress. She painted people that she identified with. Introvert and unassuming.
Augustus decided the Gypsy life was for him and he hit the open road falling in love with Dorothy McNeil who he met while living with Ida. His drawings of her show her as a real timeless beauty. Gwen talked her into becoming his muse and they set off for a life with Ida. The romanticism of the Gypsy stayed in his heart and he would take his caravan to Dartmoor with the two woman looking after Ida's newly born child.

He went to Paris.

Kindly drawn pictures of Caspar show a tenderness that did not represent the reality. Ida died in a Paris hospital giving birth. 
His wife had posed for him while looking after seven children.
Romelly John is quoted as saying”They had to compromise from the Gypsy life to the outside world”.
His paintings of the family show affection.
He then went to North Wales and he painted the mountain......that captivated him like one of his lovers. 
He then escaped further into nature but returned to Dorset painting blue pools, perhaps some of his best. His work shows impossible dreams and fantasies that dwelt in his mind.
He painted Yates and Shaw while in Ireland and was becoming a society painter in demand capturing the spirit of the sitter. His work never lost its uncertainty.
Provence called him to the classical land of his dreams. Roman lands of Greeks and gypsy spirits.
Martigues in Province became his home before the tourists arrived. He moved north and lived in complete simplicity with no running water just a well.
His children recalled him as a overbearing character who always vied for attention.

He built a studio in Chelsea while partying in the evenings with the rich and famous of the day. 
He was at the peak of his career. He would stride the Kings Road and Chelsea.
In 1913 Gwen became a catholic. This was at the deepest time of her affair with Rodin. Maybe a rejection of her upbringing she found a monastery and the nuns wanted her to paint religious pictures. Rodin disliked her praying in Church. “I am like a little animal groping in the dark” she told Gus. She moved, with her cats into a single room where she seemed happy. She took time to visit Gus. She rented a room by the sea in Brittany where she drew the local children wearing the black pinafore of the school. She drew the innocence of the little folk with tenderness. She controlled the paint more than she could people. She did not like to sell her work.
She collapsed in Dieppe right off the train and she died a few days later.

Augustus threw party's which were funded by his work but was still searching and in Friars Court he painted with a passion and intensity that was noticed by his sitters who were lit perfectly while he mixed his paint telling the sitter off if they moved a bit. His children found the sittings a strenuous time when he painted them, always alone except while he painted Dylan Thomas when one of his children was employed to fill the sitter with beer and keep him happy.
He painted T.E Lawrence.

Lord Leverhulme was so upset with his portrait that he cut out the head (since only that part of the image could easily be hidden in his vault) but when the remainder of the picture was returned by error to John there was an international outcry over the desecration.

His work was his life but forever he searched for inspiration and perfection.
He became unfashionable and the excitement had gone in the 1950's.
The flame had died. His last painting was a painting of the Camargue gypsies paying homage to their patron saint.
He called it a failure and said 50 years from now “I will be known as the brother of Gwen John”.
He missed the gypsy life, the outdoors and said “I wish I had never left Wales”
In 1961 he died aged 83. “Give me another hundred years” he had said “And I will become a very good painter”
In the latter years he would sit and stare at his sisters paintings and the fountain of her work that showed her moving towards her own abstraction. She did not see small things in a small way. The things she owned and people she knew, her cat's.
She exiled herself and the conflict within them both was played out through the canvasses they left behind. The essence of her life and existence. The little lark ascending.
Did they have the same insecurities that drove them on. 

Where else can you find a brother and sister on a journey through art like the John's.
Gwen John 1876-1939

Friday, 18 August 2017

India Buildings Liverpool Twenty Years Of My Life.

Twenty years in the same place. Twenty Years In India Buildings.
I wouldn't have believed it.
 I thought I had gypsy blood at one time I was travelling so much.
I declared when I became a carpenter all those decades ago that I loved it because there was always a different place to work. New surroundings' new people to meet. 
 And then I fell in love with a perfect piece of architecture. 
When something is so perfect as Holts Arcade where else would you want to be.

 There is nowhere else like Holts Arcade, or Holts Parade as it is always referred to in lease documents and rent demands by the various shysters that have owned the building. 
And there have been a few. Twenty years in quarterly bills, that's more than a few.
I first discovered India Buildings about 1984 when a rather attractive and exotic looking lady that I met in town said she worked there. For the Inland Revenue or was it the VAT office. 
You entered in the back entrance on Brunswick street and went up to the mezzanine level and then if I recall there was an office where she worked. 

My grandmother talked about it when I told her I was moving there she told me it was once the Law courts or a Coroners office. 
She had to visit there when she lost her husband just before I was born. I think my great grandmother had a cleaning job here and other places such as Exchange Flags.

Discounting sleep I probably spent more time there than at home.
I was travelling a lot when I first opened the shop, backwards and forwards to France sometimes twice a month. Looking for swag. 
I loved my job then and roughed it a bit on my travels.
 And this made me appreciate the place when I returned.
I recall an old fashioned song that used to come into my head when I was heading back up the A9 through France, from Montpelier or Avignon through beautiful countryside. 'I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls'. I don't even know who originally sung it. It was in a film, an old black and white one.
 I will always remember the way the sentiment of the song was used to describe the feelings of the poor girl who was wishing in a fairy tale way, in a Cinderella way to escape to a grand house and live in luxury without the cruel wind of everyday life. Don't know what happened in the end. Maybe she lived happily ever after, with Errol Flynn. 
But it seemed to ask me questions such as why would you need to wish for another place to dwell?
Its why I stayed really because business has not always been brisk.
Though in reality there was always one question to answer. Where is the rent going to come from?
So I stayed watching other antique dealers close all over the place. Chester was decimated. 
The Internet arrived and changed the face of the trade. 
But I could not get away from the fact that this was not just a job to me. Its a way of life. A learning curve. A thirst for knowledge, and it became apparent that I was not doing it for the money. 
Being involved with art and history and the stories that they tell is far more important to me than money. I could always lose myself.
And like the character I used to watch when I was a kid at times I felt like Mr Benn.
I would put my key in the door and turn it and enter into another world.
Like the world of tales of times gone by, of adventures and history.
I love learning and this is the job to unfurl mysteries and peoples stories.
Insights into personalities who owned or made objects fills my inside with a feeling that you would never get making doors or fitting staircases, even though in different places every week. Although I can never stop using my hands and always keep my skills alive recently i have become interesting in clay and love creating works of art. It may be time to put the key in that door soon and walk through into another life.
So I stayed and then stayed a bit longer and people come and went and new friends appeared as others left and I let it all drift me by and I watched the world go by while fighting vociferous heritage battles for Liverpool's skyline, and trying to get various buildings listed before they would be ruined.

I felt the sense of place was being changed all around me. Everywhere was turning into homogenised nothing shops full of stuff you can get anywhere, in any town.
But still India Buildings beautiful arcade stayed the same. Because it always should, its so perfect.
Then they wanted to close me down and I fought hard and got angry. Fighting for the right to survive would always have challenges. The biggest challenge was always the changing times and the regeneration of Liverpool had opened up different aspects of the city that took people in different directions and India buildings drained of offices, and people left.

And now they say the HMRC is going to relocate a regional super call centre here.
I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls.......maybe no more.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Remembering The Battle Of Passchendaele And Flanders Fields.

Remembering The Fallen.
All I can do is take some time in reflection, to remember those I never knew.
This week the commemorations for Passchendaele and the Third Battle of Ypres are being held with full dignity and solemnity by the BBC.

I have visited many of Flanders war Cemetery's on my visits to France and Belgium.
One trip saw rain of biblical proportions. It gave me an insight to the misery. But I could book into a hotel unlike those soldiers of a hundred years past, who had to endure the misery.
I always sit there and cry like a baby when I reflect on the beautifully kept war graves, that hide the misery that befell so many, so I could write in free spirit.
My last visit I stopped at Poziers Memorial.
It was beautifully kept and the amazing geometry of the glistening headstones against the green of the land and the blue of the sky was a sharp contrast to my mind.

The Pozières Memorial is a World War I memorial, located near the commune of Pozières, in the Somme department of France, and unveiled in August 1930. Wikipedia

My Grandfather was there in the trenches.
Although I have not studied his actual service, something I have wanted to do for some time now, I grew up with the legacy he left his sons.
The large family would have listened to the stories that this gregarious character I hardly knew, had told them.

I think he looted the whole German army his house was full of souvenirs that he had brought back from the grim escapades in Flanders.

Grenades, a Luger pistol and all the bits and pieces that he may have felt belonged to him.
I hardly knew him but was banned from certain rooms in his house, one where his war booty was kept was full of copper and silver coins.
He had a paper stall facing St Mathews Church on Queens Drive. 
I would say hello to him as he served his customers shouting “Echo, Get Your Echo”.
He was a well known character in the area. 
The budgie cage in the parlour was covered when I or my siblings visited.
 He had taught little Joey how to swear and when his wife, my Grandmother, a lovely kind lady who had thirteen children entered the room, the little creature shouted “You silly old cow.”
He was alright, probably scarred, how could any person not be having gone through the First World War, and his sons of which there were many grew up hearing about the brutality.
And they told me about those who shot their toes off to escape the horrors.
How could such a war have have happened?

I don't wish to explore that here just to pay a little respect to those, who gave their lives so we could be free. 
And to my Grandfather that I hardly knew. 
He came back.
We must not forget them.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Liverpool's World Heritage Site Status-In Ruins.

UNESCO have now decided that the city of Liverpool does not understand the concept of looking after its best asset, it's World Heritage Site. They meet this week to discuss whether Liverpool should be removed from the World Heritage list.
They have asked repeatedly that Liverpool provide them with provisions of how to manage its world heritage site.
No such undertakings have been received.
The United Nations cultural arm have expected a city that has a world heritage site would have people in place who would understand its cultural significance in terms of world importance and they would protect it against planning blight, and we get Joe Anderson, before him Mike Storey and in between the both of them Warren Bradley.
Unesco World Heritage Committee meet in Krakow high on the agenda is Liverpool.

In view of the above analysis, it is recommended that the Committee expresses its deep concern that the projects already approved as well as those approved in outline have actual and potential highly adverse and irreversible impacts on the OUV of the property. 
Therefore, it is also recommended that the Committee retain the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger but consider its deletion from the World Heritage List at its 42nd session in 2018, if the State Party does not reverse course and stop the granting of planning permissions which have a negative impact on the OUV of the property, provide substantive commitments to limitation on the quantity, location and size of allowable built form, link the strategic city development vision to a regulatory planning document, and lastly provide a DSOCR and corrective measures that could be considered for adoption by the Committee.

Read it yourself here.

I have been forced to watch as my cherished views have been destroyed by these consecutive city council leaders who seem blind to seeing what I used to be able to see, my history, my culture.
  Both pictures here are of the same view before and after note the cupola of the Port of Liverpool Building...now obscured.
For over ten years now I have been campaigning vigorously to stop the continual erosion of the majesty that once was Liverpool.
They have taken away my pride.
They have stolen it from me.
I have fought hard, really I have fought hard but the power that these people possess has surprised even me.
Civic vandalism is too tame a description of the sheer destruction of the soul of the city that in places has been stripped bare of all historic meaning.
Capital of Culture became Culture of Capital.
It was easy to pull the wool over the eyes of a lazy electorate.
Yes strong words but true.
Shame on all those who could see what was happening, but did nothing, often as with the guardians of our museums they had the brains........but were in on it. They destroyed Manchester Dock which pre-dated The Albert Dock by 60 years......to build a new museum.
The directors and curators busy making their names and furthering their own careers.
Yes you at Liverpool Museums you know who you are.
There were others who also had opinions. 
See Ptolemy Dean video describing on a programme entitled Britain's Vanishing Views.
I don't claim easily that the brain drain that happened in Liverpool in the 1960's has left us with a foolish breed of poorly educated architects without morals. But its true.
So what of these architects of disaster who sold themselves short for wages. Sold, well our soul really.
And of English Heritage whose ill conceived Chairmen such as Sir Neil Cossons and consecutive Chief Executives have to share most of the blame, allowing their operatives to be in on the deals.
I met with two Unesco reactive monitoring missions and asked Ron Van Oers of Unesco face to face, “Why did you allow them to destroy the Pier Head”
“With English Heritage supporting the developments there was nothing we could do”, was his reply.
Now we can't expect people from The United Nations to save a city from itself or understand the way Liverpool's forever corrupted regimes work the planning system.
Its really not their fault the blame lies elsewhere. 
You cant blame the barometer for the weather.
There are third world country World Heritage Sites to look after, surely they can't believe that a country such as the UK, as member of the G7 would behave like the Taliban in destroying its own heritage sites. 
Though instead of blowing them up with TNT they destroy them with planning blight.
Some historic buildings, listed, now look alien in their own environment because of what was allowed to be built around them.
Liverpool was placed on the Unesco 'World Heritage In Danger' List at the same World Heritage Committee meeting that saw Aleppo and the Palmyra Temple added, that was subsequently blown up by ISIS.
I feel like I have wasted so much time now, but for years I have been fighting for Liverpool's historic buildings, fighting against the odds, with planners, turning up to argue at planning committee meetings in my own time, those committees that had carefully politically placed members who had already taken the decision to pass the very plans that have now done the damage, thus denying me and other objectors, a democracy of fairness.
It's as if those with the power are walking round with welders goggles on, oblivious to the beauty that the forebears had left us, unable to see. Or are taking liberties for their own gain, they have just let it happen.
Frustration has become a way of life for me.
But now, Liverpool having been on the Unesco register for quite some time, it appears that we are at the last chance saloon, before we as a city, lose the title of World Heritage Site.
How can so many be let down by so few.

Monday, 15 May 2017

E.W Godwin. The Forgotten Giant of Design.

Edward William Godwin (1833-1886) Architect, designer, interior decorator, theatrical producer, antiquary, writer, reformer and critic. That’s a bit of a list
Today he has been relatively forgotten. 
But he remains an important figure in nineteenth century modernism.
“One of the most artistic spirits of this century” said Oscar Wilde describing Edward William Godwin. 
Wilde employed Godwin to design the interior of his house.

Godwin exhibited furniture in some of the great international exhibitions of the nineteenth century including Vienna in 1873, Philadelphia 1876 and Paris 1878 after which he received commissions as far a field as Connecticut and Vienna.

He worked for some of the leading furniture manufacturers. Collin son and Lock, William Watt and Gillows amongst others.
Some of his completed work are now thought of as, beacons of design.
The Anglo-Japanese sideboard of 1867 was far ahead of its day.

The spindle legged coffee table that he designed for William Watt was one of the most copied designs in the 1870's and 1880's.

I first came across Godwin's work in The Sudley Art Gallery. (Before the current director ruined it). His table almost looked strange..... Too many legs but that was the uniqueness of the piece. This table made by William Watt and illustrated in Watt's Art Furniture could be bought in Walnut for £7.7s. 0d or in ebonized wood for the higher price of £7.15s.0d. Brass shoes for added stability for an extra £1.10s.0d.

Art Furniture and Designs by E.W Godwin, F.S.A and Others, with Hints and Suggestions on Domestic Furniture and Decorations was published in 1887 and reprinted 1878. Allowing the public to ponder over his designs and influence on modern taste.

He designed wallpapers and floor coverings and fabrics often coming up with new ideas how to hang curtains and decorate walls.
He designed ceramics for W. Brownfield and Sons, Cobridge and tiles for Minton and Hollins.

He played a leading role in aesthetic taste in Britain pioneering the use of plain distempered walls with plain wood floors covered simply by Indian matting or perhaps an Oriental carpet.
He wrote some 450 articles for architectural and building journals along with other publications that saw his influence reign over a country ready for changing styles.

He did not rely on one style but combined historic styles such as Jacobean and Greek with the new taste for the East.
He encouraged others to do the same. 
He was eclectic in his choice of influence.
A.W.N Pugin in the 1840's had exclusively designed in Gothic.
Godwin used amongst others classical motifs. 
Attempting to fuse historicism with modernity at a time Britain saw itself as the Empire nation that imported a vocabulary on design that it felt, with a brash arrogance, could do better. 
The bringing together of the world into a British style.

Britain’s internationalism was also part of its superiority complex and the middle classes were rich enough to be able to aspire to the new found evocation of their need to be ahead of the rest and furnish their homes with all sorts of new exotic designs with inspiration from the world.
After the first Japanese delegation arrived in Britain in 1862 and Japanese goods were shown at the international exhibition Japanese creativity became the influence of a new dawn on British design.
Designers such as Godwin were thought of as innovators rather than cross-references of eastern art.
His modular furniture designs was far ahead of the mid 20th century happening. The coming together of the need for built in furniture and hygiene combined with simplicity.
Most people would not put the era of the 1860's and minimalism together.

He was the architect of Herbert McNeil's Whistlers house in Tite Street that he named The Whitehouse.
A paired down style at a time when ornamentation was king.
Though other styles came into play, Japan was his main inspiration which is hardly surprising whith the influx of artefacts from Japan that came to the attention of the west when the Japanese opened up their trade links, after a little bit of gunboat diplomacy.
The fashion for ebonised furniture and dark weighty heavy pieces saw him move into a simple style of designing that now seems way ahead of its time.
Minimalism with maximum effect.
This was a time of aesthetic movement, a new romantic of the 1870's where people could, as Oscar Wilde would, wander round town in velveteen, reciting poetry, smelling gardenias.
Where new movements such as the Pre-Raphealites would declare.... the end of art is the new beginning......

A modest provincial upbringing in Bristol. His father was a leather dresser who died young, but before he died he had Edward apprenticed to a sober architect by the name of William Armstrong.
William knew his calling was London and eventually his aspirations took him there.
His attentive mind saw him involved, or interested in all aspects of design.
He was a Theatre critic for a while. 
One thespian that did not like his review turned up at his house. Where Godwin was dressed as Henry V in fine hose and was subsequently chased with a horsewhip by the disgruntled actor.
He was influenced by the Italian Gothic revival led and held in such high regard by John Ruskin, who championed it.

Being an architect Godwin said, “You were the mother of all arts.” For that reason he wanted to design everything right down to the knives and forks that came out only for dinner.
Beauty above truth........... The aesthetic movements clarion call was a vocation meant to run through all aspects of ones life.
He belonged to a club without membership. This entertainment for the masses was portrayed in print in the publications of their day, for all to see.

He kept a journal and would write about pretty chambermaids at every inn he stayed while out studying medieval architecture in Cornwall.
He married 1850 to his first wife who was the daughter of an independent minister.
They enjoyed many interesting visits to historic buildings together.
He was living in Bristol when he went to the International Exhibition of 1862, the follow on of the great Exhibition. There he discovered the art of Japan and went on to decorate his house in the new taste with Japanese prints on the wall.

Ellen Terry was 14 when she visited Godwin then still living with his first wife.
He designed a dress for her. Later on she described how impressed she was with the house he had designed, and with him.
She at 16 married G.F.Watts but she became somewhat unhappy with a man 30 years older than her and she always had a fondness for Godwin, and he stole her, she eloped with him.
She was famous, a serious actress in the 1860's. The scandal ensued. They had two children out of wedlock.
 He was a philanderer and while living in Hertfordshire he would visit ladies in London. 
He was obstinate in his ideals and did not want to listen to his clients more often than not he would do things his way. The pair had a bit of a tough time financially but went to London to straighten out finances where his head was turned again. They split and it was not long before he met Beatrice an architectural student who he taught.

He and Whistler were forever involved this was a period of excitement and change. The 20th century was just around the corner.
His students were thankful for the time he spent with them helping them. 
But he was also known as a selfish person greedy to do lots of things.
A biography in the Spectator Review “The conscious stone” by Dudley Harberin around 1914 said. 

“Few people will be familiar with the name of Edward Godwin this proud and disappointed man was the victim of providence's most malevolent tease for he was endowed with a immeasurable fertility of mind and a contrasting lack of creative ability. But the plain truth is his artistic output was exiguous and unimportant and Godwin was a man of eccentric and violent prejudices that he never hesitated to express in the most uncompromising and dogmatic terms. He was moreover almost always in the right. Such people are of course disagreeable to live and work with, and his relations with his wives, colleagues and clients show him to be a little bit of a cad, and dare we say it crook.”

He was not a man of that time. 
He was a man of Gothic time of Victorian sturdy ornamentation. But the second half of the 20th century saw us looking back to the inspiration for modernism as well as modernism itself. We now know more about the man then we did then.
One of his complimentries said he was “ an architect who had no compeer in England and a designer on consummate skill”.
The later obituaries say that he was a man unfulfilled who didn’t achieve his full potential.
The Whistler Whitehouse and the Wilde Interior were great works indeed. 
They captured the spirit of an age. The vivid colours of the interiors and the white furniture, which now seems lost in the scourge time, were ahead of its day.
Did he inspire the Mackintosh Glasgow interiors?
He won many architectural competitions showing artistic vision.
He had a yearning for the middle ages and was obsessed with accuracy in costume design.
Truth before beauty was the benchmark for his historical costumes for the theatre. This was a reversal of the motto of the aesthetes. He also produced plays.
Along with Lady Archibald Campbell the great Grey Lady. The great aesthetic muse of the day. They decided to put on Shakespeare in Coombe Forest........... As You Like It.
The play was performed as if they were really living in the woods with forest men carrying deer over their shoulders. Godwin dressed as a monk in one play.
He had an ambition and wanted to be a Theatre producer and built a studio flat in Tite Street where he could entertain his ambition.

Godwin was often called The Wicked Earl.

He married Beatrice 1876 but he never built much after.
He was buried in 1886 in an unmarked grave in his early fifties after a kidney operation that went wrong.
His wooden casket was carried on a farm cart and it was said that Beatrice, Whistler and Lady Campbell ate a sandwich on top of the coffin.
An account said the widow was in a white fur lined coat and wild gypsy hair. The second in a yellow Ulster with turquoise tam-o-shanter and a third in a French grey sailor blouse and hat. Rustics shouldered the coffin.
Lady Archibald Campbell said that at this precise moment she saw the first flirtation between Whistler and Beatrice. They soon became husband and wife.
Godwin and Beatrice's son Teddy designed the angels around Whistlers grave.

For a long time he was forgotten.

Roger Fry wrote about Godwin’s style as “a horror genuine modern style as yet which has no name, a period of black polished furniture with spidery lines”.
Nicholas Pevsner’s first edition of Pioneers of the Modern Movement from William Morris to Walter Gropius had no mention of Godwin at all.
Though Maurice Adams described him as a genius, but considered his career a failure.
C.F.A Voysey admitted his work owed much to earlier architect-designers such as William Burgess, E.W Godwin A. H MacMurdo, Bodley and others.
1945 saw Dudley Harbron write a scholarly essay on Godwin for Architectural Review. 
He highlighted this five-page article with line drawings.
 Three years later Pevsner praised Godwin's wallpaper designs.
Harbron in 1949 published a small biography with many inaccuracies but the work saw a turning point in the understanding of the forgotten man. 
Letters between Oscar Wilde and Godwin were found and in 1952 the Victoria and Albert Museum highlighted Godwin’s influences in the first museum-based exhibition of his work.
The 1950's and 60's saw a steady appreciation of his place in the 19th century. 
In 1960 the third edition of Pevsners Modern Pioneers of Design sealed his placement on the steps of design.
The 1970's saw numerous exhibitions including one at the Royal academy named Victorian Decorative Art that showed the collection of Charles Handley-Read that included four pieces of Godwin Furniture.
1976 saw Bristol Museums staged a show of Marcel Breuer and Godwin furniture two designers with links to Bristol this accompanied a bequest of fourteen pieces of furniture from Godwin's daughter Edith Craig.
In 1978 William Watts Art Furnishers catalogue was reprinted.
The 1980's saw more Godwin pieces appearing on the market and being snapped up by institutions.
The over decorated Victorian period has been thought of as a period of design as ebonised as much of the furniture that was created, back then.

 Much of Godwin’s output was retailed though Liberty & Co to an avant-garde clientele that included Godwin’s close friends.
Godwin himself complained in the foreword to the 1877 William Watt trade catalogue Art Furniture that an ebonised side table, designed in 1867 and made by Watt in the late 1860s and 70s, had been regularly copied without authorisation.
These look-alikes find a ready market today, at around £100-150, the fraction of the price of a William Watt made Godwin original.
There is also a distinction to made between the designs Godwin produced - both earlier in his career and for more conservative clients - which are grounded in traditional Victorian design and the more desirable stark geometric forms for which he is most admired.

 There were many plagiarised copies of his tables.

But along with Christopher Dresser there seems to my mind a thorough examination must be taken of the enduring modernism of this Great Victorian.  

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Ernst Riegel Silver Box-Piece Of The Week.

 I love this beautiful silver box and cover.
 It is not hallmarked being continental, the same rigid hallmarking system was never adopted on the British scale. 
German silver is often marked 850 against our 925 standard.
When a friend brought it in I was impressed by the sculptural qualities of the minute female figure standing aloft on a silver plinth flanked by four cabochons with semi precious stones encased within. 
It is only small 14 cm high and the figure is a dainty 7cm.
The next thing I noticed is how the lid just fits so perfectly as if there isn't a join at all, the maker has put the join on the edge of the box so that it is almost a secret opening. Its been thought about alright. Years of skill encompassed in such a jewel like object.
It is hardly surprising to find out that the maker was a master gold and silver smith steeped in a sculptural tradition that allowed him to cast silver to perfection, loosely and playfully echoing the prevailing style. 
Art Nouveau. 
He did have to switch with the times when a more modernist approach was required. 

There are no fingers or facial expressions, for me, it has the qualities of a ten minute sketch by a master artist.
This is a small work by Ernst Riegel.

Ernst Riegel was born 12 September 1871 in Münnerstadt, Franks, and died 14 February 1939 in Cologne. He was a German goldsmith, sculptor and university professor.
From an early age he was impressed by the works of Tilman Riemenschneider and especially of the famous winged altar in the church he saw.
In 1890 he studied sculpture and the goldsmith's art for five years at The Royal School of Applied Arts in Munich , with amongst others, Fritz Miller.
He joined the Darmstadt artists' colony in 1908 and came third in the Hesse exhibition.
Riegel was a member of the Deutsche Werkbund.
He was commissioned to make the chain of the office of the Lord Mayor of Darmstadt and was commissioned in 1912 with the design of the Lutheran Church in Worms.
He brought Emil Thormählen to Cologne in 1913 who, he entrusted with the management of gold and silversmithing class.
In 1926 he was appointed professor at Cologne led by Richard Riemerschmid.
During The World War when the motto was "I gave gold for iron" it was difficult to work with precious metals. After the war there was subsequent period of massive inflation, it was almost impossible to work with precious metals during this period.
To allow the students a realistic and practical time-and labour on materials, he initiated the establishment of a business office at the factory schools run by a commercial director.
The aim, through his contacts made with industry, government agencies and private citizens was to obtain work orders and the studios and workshops on performance of the Cologne factory schools to make development and testing laboratories.
His plan worked: the precious metals department and the Department of Religious Art financed almost half the budget of the university.
The city of Cologne could be called a factory school.
The Lord Mayor Konrad Adenauer awarded well-paid jobs that were, in 1929, laying the foundation stone of the new building of the University of Cologne.
Lindenthal, the headmaster had chains in gold and cups in silver manufactured by Ernst with his students.
Wealthy citizens of Cologne patronised the school - the Association of Friends of the Cologne factory schools - placed orders thus allowing for a qualified student education.
With the rise of the Nazis the work of the Cologne factory schools was defamed, and in 1933 a dozen artists and teachers were dismissed.
Among them was Ernst Riegel, "fired with immediate effect. His successor, was Charles Berthold.

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