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Articles on this Page
- 11/26/12--23:00: _Orchestra of Exiles...
- 11/30/12--13:00: _Wakefield's colonia...
- 12/03/12--23:00: _Bayeux Tapestry por...
- 12/07/12--13:00: _Johannes Vermeer an...
- 12/10/12--23:00: _Anna Pavlova: meri...
- 12/14/12--13:00: _Arcadia in Philadel...
- 12/17/12--23:00: _Spanish Civil War 1...
- 12/21/12--13:00: _Palladio's architec...
- 12/24/12--23:00: _Jacobites, politics...
- 12/28/12--13:00: _Remarkable Sassoon ...
- 12/31/12--23:00: _Pope Urban II and h...
- 01/04/13--13:00: _Crystal Palace, 185...
- 01/07/13--23:00: _Rare Adventures and...
- 01/11/13--13:00: _Virginia Woolf's ru...
- 01/14/13--23:00: _Anglo-Jewish art co...
- 01/18/13--13:00: _Women Against the V...
- 01/21/13--23:00: _Recruiting British ...
- 01/24/13--23:00: _Russian composers, ...
- 01/28/13--23:00: _Goethe's home in We...
- 02/01/13--13:00: _Right wing Mothers ...
- 11/26/12--23:00: Orchestra of Exiles 1936 - getting Jewish musicians out of Germany
- 11/30/12--13:00: Wakefield's colonial dream - Australia, Canada, New Zealand
- 12/03/12--23:00: Bayeux Tapestry pornography?
- 12/07/12--13:00: Johannes Vermeer and the Golden Age of Dutch Art
- 12/10/12--23:00: Anna Pavlova: meringue with cream, strawberries and passionfruit
- 12/14/12--13:00: Arcadia in Philadelphia USA
- 12/17/12--23:00: Spanish Civil War 1936-9: brave artists
- 12/21/12--13:00: Palladio's architecture: Inigo Jones and the Whig taste makers
- 12/24/12--23:00: Jacobites, politics and treasonous alcohol: 1688-1745
- 12/28/12--13:00: Remarkable Sassoon family: the English branch
- 12/31/12--23:00: Pope Urban II and his Norman knights: the first crusade 1096
- 01/04/13--13:00: Crystal Palace, 1851 and the world's greatest jewel
- 01/07/13--23:00: Rare Adventures and Painful Peregrinations: William Lithgow
- 01/11/13--13:00: Virginia Woolf's rural idyll: Bloomsbury Set
- 01/14/13--23:00: Anglo-Jewish art collectors
- 01/18/13--13:00: Women Against the Vote: 1908-1918
- 01/21/13--23:00: Recruiting British adolescents to work in Australia: 1922-4
- 01/24/13--23:00: Russian composers, playwrights and tennis players?
- 01/28/13--23:00: Goethe's home in Weimar: 1782-1832
- 02/01/13--13:00: Right wing Mothers in war time USA
“Orchestra of Exiles” is a fine film that premiered in Dec 2011, directed by Josh Aronson.
Bronislaw Huberman (1882–1947) had been a child violinist in Poland who was exploited and pushed by his father, yet was enthusiastically cheered by Brahms. Pulled out of school, the young lad played in Austria, Germany, Russia, Poland and the USA. The sky was the limit for his career.
But Huberman was Jewish. By 1933 he understood that the Nazis would be gunning for every Jew in Germany and then in other countries. This was true, regardless of how elevated the cultural level of Jewish communities was; regardless of how badly the great orchestras would suffer if 40-50% of their players were sacked.
Wilhelm Furtwängler (1886–1954) was the German conductor and composer who was given the responsibility of leading the Berlin orchestra, and he was Huberman's friend The question was raised in the film about why Furtwängler remained in Nazi Germany, even though he was not a member of the Nazi party. And how did he react to the many Jewish members of his orchestra, from 1933 on?
At the same time Huberman was trying to get musicians OUT of Europe, the Jüdische Kulturbund-Jewish Cultural Federation under Kurt Singer was providing an alternative workplace WITHIN Germany, for those Jewish artists, musicians and actors already fired from German institutions. The Jüdische Kulturbund’s 70,000 members actually lived quite well, at least until 1941. Then they did not.
At least the Kulturbund’s conductor, Hans Wilhelm Steinberg, who fled to Moscow and then Tel Aviv, survived the war. Steinberg had been invited to conduct and train the newly established Palestine Symphony Orchestra!
Perhaps the most anxiety-provoking parts of the film were the Arab riots of 1936 and the British decision to block Jewish refugees from arriving by ship to Haifa. Only through the intervention of Chaim Weitzmann in Britain (Israel’s future head of state) and Albert Einstein in the USA could enough visas be obtained and enough money raised. It seems that Einstein had been a talented violinist himself in his youth and greatly admired Huberman's music.
Eventually the Palestine Symphony did start its concert tours in Dec 1936, a few months later than intended but nonetheless led by the greatest composer in Europe, Arturo Toscanini (1867–1957). Golda Meir, David Ben Gurion and every other communal/cultural figure in Palestine was at the first concert, which was held in the Italian Pavilion of the Levant Fair Ground in Tel Aviv.
A lot of the initial data for the film came from the daughter of Viennese violinist David Grunschlag who was one of the few world class musicians to survive the Holocaust. Huberman got the Grunschlag family tickets to Palestine, to play in the orchestra of exiles that Huberman and Toscanini were creating. That the director of this film, Josh Aronson, is himself a classical musician and Jew of European origin.. could only have helped in making a sensitive recreation of this era.
The film opened in December 2011, exactly the 75th anniversary of the founding of the orchestra.
The colonising exploits of Edward Gibbon Wakefield (1796-1862) were not part of Australian history curricula for primary school students. But recently a favourite blog, The Resident Judge of Port Phillip, reviewed two books on the subject. And I soon read another blog, Keith Johnson Wellington New Zealand, on the Wakefields.
And three quite unrelated events occurred to arouse a special interest in the said Mr Wakefield. Firstly a New Zealand commentator noted that NZ students heard endless stories from primary school history classes where Wakefield was the founder of their nation. Secondly I was already fascinated by the development and collapse of a different Utopian dream. Thirdly a Canadian involvement came to light, and I love Canadian history.
Wakefield did not come into adulthood with clean hands. Seeking a decent income to secure a seat in the House of Commons in 1816, Wakefield abducted a VERY young daughter of a Cheshire silk manufacturer, and married her. Worse still, he had two children, but dumped the babies onto a relative when his wife died in childbirth. He later tried to marry another child bride and this time the girl’s father ensured that Wakefield was tried in court. In May 1827, Edward was sentenced to three years gaol.
In 1831 Wakefield became involved in projects that advanced the colonisation of South Australia. He believed that many of Britain's social problems were caused by over crowding, and he promoted the concept of emigration to the colonies as a solution. Wakefield’s colonisation scheme was not based on involuntary convict labour as New South Wales had had – rather he was promoting a voluntary labour force of workers, artisans and capital, working in unison.
The South Australia colony started slowly. Although Wakefield had created the original dream, he found he was being pushed out of the decision-making. Why was this so - a lack of interpersonal skills on Wakefield’s behalf? A utopian dream not shared with the other commissioners? Religious conflicts? Eventually, when the conflict was intolerable, Wakefield took his bat and went home.
As quickly as possible, in 1838, some of the colonisation commissioners approached Dr Gregory of the Royal Military College to recommend a different, more godly man as governor of South Australia, and Gregory advised George Gawler to apply. The task was to concretise the experiment in systematic, self-supporting colonisation, devised by our very own Edward Gibbon Wakefield.
The union of Upper and Lower Canada in 1840 was no mean achievement, especially since Durham’s adviser Edward Wakefield had proved what a skilful diplomat he could be, when required. Yet Durham suddenly resigned; he and Wakefield returned to Britain together. What happened?
Back at home, Durham presented to Parliament a report on his years in Canada (1837-9); this report became the basis for British Colonial policy.
By 1839, Wakefield was invited to become the director of the newly formed New Zealand Company. This time around he was smarter; he stacked the board with his relatives. Their first ship sailed for NZ in mid 1839 and within six months he had sent eight more ships. This was a brave (or foolhardy) experiment, since the NZ colony was an uncertain entity. More and more Wakefield siblings were thrown into the project.
While active with the New Zealand Co, Wakefield still watched Canadian affairs. The North American Colonial Association of Ireland sent him back to Canada as their very well paid representative in Jan 1842 and he stayed in Canada for another year. During that short period, he had got himself elected to the Canadian Parliament. Yet again, he pulled up his wickets and sailed for home. What happened??
By 1846 Wakefield was focusing entirely on NZ, but I don’t think the 50 year old was a well man. In May 1847 the British Government agreed to take over the debts of the New Zealand Company and to buy out their interests in the Colony. The directors accepted the offer!
During 1851 and 1852 Wakefield continued to work for the Canterbury Association and also to work towards making New Zealand a self governing colony. The New Zealand Constitution Act was passed in June 1852. New Zealanders liked the idea, of course, although they did not like that their new government had to absorb the remaining debts of the defunct New Zealand Co.
At last Wakefield personally sailed from Plymouth in Sept 1852 for New Zealand. Within a very short time Wakefield was completely disenchanted with Canterbury. He claimed the citizens were far too parochial in their outlook; they were far more concerned with domestic issues rather than national politics. Clearly they were not worthy of Edward Gibbon Wakefield so he soon sailed for Wellington.
But Wellington was a disaster - Wakefield went on the attack almost as soon as he landed. He took issue with Governor George Grey on his policy on land sales. Grey, who thought Wakefield was a speculator and hustler, was in favour of selling land very cheaply to encourage the flow of settlers. Wakefield, who thought of himself as an ideologue, wanted to keep the price of land high so that the growth of the colony could be financed by land sales. This had been a core principle of his colonial theory since 1831.
Governor Grey did not quietly give in to Wakefield’s beliefs; Grey drew attention to the generous fees that had been paid to Wakefield as a Director of the New Zealand Company at a time when the company was reneging on its debts in New Zealand. It was an ugly struggle.
After decades of political battles, Wakefield withdrew from all public life. This very difficult man died in Wellington in 1862, still annoyed at all his plans that had been frustrated by other, more powerful people. However he was very pleased to see that the Wellington settlement was successful.
Real Gold, Treasures of Auckland Libraries and
Philip Temple, A Sort of Conscience: The Wakefields, Auckland UP, 2002.
Once the Normans left Scandinavia and settled in Northern France, they made Caen, Rouen and Bayeux their most important towns. Their administrative and taxation systems were well organised, and they used money to build fine churches, cathedrals and monasteries.
The Romanesque cathedral Notre-Dame de Bayeux urgently needed to repaired or rebuilt. Bishop Hugo began the cathedral’s reconstruction, but he died in 1049. As quickly as possible, Duke William managed to have his adolescent half brother Odo appointed bishop of Bayeux.
During the mid C11th, the new, young Bishop of Bayeux lent powerful support to his brother William, including in battle against the English. As a reward for his loyalty, King William I granted the entire English county of Kent to Odo.
Despite his lack of visible talent, Odo had become the Bishop of Bayeux AND the Earl of Kent. He was amassing an immense fortune coming from England, and decided to continue rebuilding the Bayeux cathedral at his own expense, taking up where Bishop Hugo had left off.
In his county of Kent, Earl Odo had greatly admired the wall hangings which were used to adorn sanctuaries. And knowing the splendid celebrations that would accompany the consecration of his church, he commissioned a hanging that glorified King William’s exploits in England and flattered Odo's own role. The Romanesque cathedral Notre-Dame de Bayeux was completed and dedicated in 1077, only eleven years after the conquest of England. So the date of the Bayeux Tapestry's completion was most likely 1077 as well.
The tapestry was an enormous piece of hand-worked embroidery in coloured wools on unbleached linen. Rather than being designed as covers for large panels of wallspace, the Bayeux Tapestry pieces were sewn together into a 70m long filmstrip; it was only 50cm high. I am using the past tense because the tapestry may be a bit shorter than it was originally and some of the stitching may have been repaired over the centuries.
It was divided into a large number of scenes and featured hundreds of people and animals. Even though contemporary audiences would have known who was who, each of these 75 scenes was explained in bold, clear Latin captions. Tapestry For Dummies!
Along the top and the bottom ran decorative borders with figures of animals, tales from Aesop’s fables, scenes from husbandry and the chase, familiar scenes in a rural community. And there were figures falling out of the central part of the tapestry,overflowing into the borders either for dramatic effect or because the main images would have otherwise been very cramped.
Drawing and stitching the central story would have been under the strict control of Bishop Odo and his French supervisors in a workshop in Canterbury associated with St Augustine’s Abbey. Control of the angry and sulky English was essential, if the embroidery was to tell the French version of history.
But Joanna Laynesmith has asked whether the less important border images might have been composed by the English embroiderers themselves. This historian was interested in the enigmatic central scene where an unknown cleric touched Elfgyva’s face. Who was the mysterious, but important woman? Who was the powerful cleric? What was the connection of this event to that of Harold swearing on the Bayeux relics (that William’s claim was superior in God’s eyes to Harold’s own)?
I want to tackle a much simpler issue. The borders of the Bayeux Tapestry were indeed decorative, but they also added a great deal of accurate information about contemporary animals, clothing and headgear, buildings and weapons. Now there is another possibility - that the decorative borders could have been read as observations on greed, sexual immorality, property acquired by trickery or other deeply moral offences perpetrated against the English people by the invading Frenchmen. Or perhaps by some of their own treacherous Englishmen.
The depiction of the naked man with enormous genitalia, directly below Elfgyva, was not just to titillate the gentle lady embroiderers in Kent, nor to amuse Bishop Odo and his flock back in Bayeux. Rather the cleric’s extending arm and caressing hand exactly replicated (in mirror image) the gesture of the naked man below. In the past in England, there had indeed been accusations against queens of consorting with senior clerics. Was another royal sexual scandal occurring in the 1066 era?
King Edward VII should have been grateful that the Bayeux Tapestry was not created during his reign.
Johannes Vermeer and the Golden Age of Dutch Art is an exhibition showing in the Scuderie del Quirinale Rome until January 2013. It is displaying eight works by Vermeer (including The Girl with a Glass of Wine, Little Street, Woman with a Lute, Girl with a Red Hat and A Young Woman Seated at the Virginals), alongside the works of other C17th Dutch genre artists.
In April 1653 the Protestant artist Johannes Vermeer married a Catholic woman, Catharina Bolnes, in a Catholic ceremony near Delft. His mother-in-law, Maria Thins, had the house and income that Vermeer later required, so it seems likely that it was the mother-in-law who insisted Vermeer convert to Catholicism before the marriage went ahead.
When the art dealing business went bad for Vermeer, he and his growing family left the Mechelen inn in 1672, to move in with the mother-in-law Maria Thins in Amsterdam.
So what gave Vermeer his passion for painting the small scale, the domestic, the non-wealthy? There are at least two possibilities: a] he was only converted to Catholicism and never truly absorbed its values of grandeur, muscular Christianity and glorious history-telling. Or b] that Vermeer struggled all his life like other working families in the Netherlands, giving him an insight into the modest and the domestic.
In any case, Vermeer was not alone. As a painting type in its own right, not as a prop for portraiture or religious themes, there was no nation as interested in domestic genre scenes as the post-Reformation Dutch. The Dutch middle class wanted small, realistic images of their own life to hang on their walls, images where education, exploration, science, business and Protestant virtues were honoured.
The Calvinist state religion tolerated no papist superstition in art, public or private. There was something about bourgeois Protestant Holland that promoted this celebration of domestic virtues: orderliness, cleanliness, piety, the proper care of servants, thrift and the proper education of children.
The Dutch raised domestic genre scenes to a very fine art form, and made it their own. Often the canvases were small and jewel like, emphasising the smallness and quietness of the theme. The finest Dutch artists of the 1650s and 1660s often cannot be distinguished from Vermeer, at least by the subject matter.
Christopher Allen called Vermeer the sublime poet of the banal, whose reticent mystery was only possible in the smaller and more private milieu that he inhabited (i.e not in Italy). It was an act of revelation through which the artist teaches us how to apprehend the world more vividly by abating the will and attending to something outside ourselves.
Although Vermeer died in poverty in 1675, his popularity seems to have no limits now. Vermeer and Music: Love and Leisure in the Dutch Golden Age will commence at the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery of Art London in June 2013. According to the National Gallery, this exhibition will enhance viewers’ appreciation of beautiful, evocative paintings by Vermeer and his contemporaries, by juxtaposing them with musical instruments and songbooks of the period. Visitors will be able to compare C17th virginals, guitars, lutes and other instruments with the painted images, to judge the accuracy of representation and to assess the liberties the painter might have taken to enhance the visual or symbolic appeal of his work.
Anna Pavlova (1881-1931) was a Russian ballerina who grew up at a time when Russia was producing the best dancers, choreographers, costume designers, artists, composers, writers and every other creative profession in the world. Pavlova is the name of a town near Omsk and Novosibirsk, but Anna’s stepfather, from whom she took her surname, did not seem to have any relationship with that location.
Anna Pavlova was a student at the Imperial Ballet School in St Petersburg, and quickly joined Imperial Ballet when she finished school in 1899. Fortunately for the teenager, she was offered many roles with this busy company and came to be admired by the ballet-going public of the very cultivated city of St Petersburg. It was in the role of The Dying Swan, a solo choreographed for her by Michel Fokine in 1905, that was most memorable. As was The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns.
In the first years of the Ballets Russes, Sergei Diaghilev (1872-1929) revolutionised ballet. Diaghilev made managerial and aesthetic decisions about who to work with: composers like Igor Stravinsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Sergei Prokofiev, and dancers and choreographers like Vaslav Nijinsky, Mikhail Fokine, Leonide Massine, Alicia Markova and George Balanchine. Finally there were the costumers and set designers like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Alexandre Benois and of course the incomparable Leon Bakst. Originally Anna Pavlova was invited to take the main role in Mikhail Fokine's The Firebird. Amazingly she turned down the role, apparently because Igor Stravinsky's music was too avant-garde.
Nonetheless Diaghilev took Pavlova to Paris in 1909 as her reputation was already well known in that distant city. But she soon left the Ballets Russes because, she said, of Diaghilev's preference for the male dancers. Within one year, Pavlova had formed her own company, with eight dancers from the original St Petersburg group. As she toured the world, she enlarged the company with non-Russian dancers.
During her first tour of Australia in 1926, Pavlova and her 45 dancers visited Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide. So famous was she that ten thousand people welcomed her when she arrived by train at Sydney's main railway station. [No-one other than King George V himself received such large and welcoming crowds]. She presented fifteen ballets where a very young Robert Helpmann (1909–86) was one of the extra Australian dancers, hired for the occasion. She then continued this section of the company’s world tour in New Zealand, again to rapt acclaim.
For her second Australian tour in 1929, Pavlova travelled thousands of ks throughout rural Queensland, on a special train that was proudly provided by the Queensland state government. They visited the rural cities of Rockhampton, Mackay and Bundaberg prior to her Brisbane opening in the newly completed His Majesty’s Theatre. This was followed by star appearances in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.
Although members of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes toured Australia as far back as 1913, it was Pavlova who created the sensational response in Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s. Both tours were directed by the giant theatrical company, JC Williamson. Monte Luke, who had earlier been a successful stage actor and film-maker, had an on-going relationship with Williamson’s and worked as their official photographer. Pavlova photos were on every newspaper and magazine in both countries.
Pavlova’s passion for ballet inspired a generation of young women, their mothers, newspaper journalists and women’s magazines. Professional ballet dancers and teachers in Australia were inspired to create branches of the Royal Academy of Dancing and the Cecchetti Society in Australia. Perhaps the tours led, eventually, to the creation of the Australian Ballet.
The dessert, pavlova, was either created in a Wellington hotel after her 1926 tour of New Zealand or in a Perth hotel after the 1929 tour of that city. What is certain is the name of the dessert was specifically used to honour the Russian dancer and to thank her for exciting ballet-lovers in far flung Australia and New Zealand. 85 years later, pavlova is still a hugely popular sweets dish and an iconic part of the national cuisine of both countries. The meringue, whipped cream, sunny strawberries and summer passionfruit look and taste exotic. For a relatively easy recipe, see AllDownUnder.
Pavlova never travelled to Australia or New Zealand again, as she died from pleurisy in The Hague in 1931. If modern readers don’t know the first thing about the Imperial Russian Ballet, the Ballets Russes or indeed Sergei Diaghilev, at least they will still recognise Pavlova’s name, her Dying Swan and definitely Australia/New Zealand’s most famous sweets dish.
A much more substantial link between Pavlova and the British Empire occurred in 1912 when she bought Ivy House in London. Pavlova had her furniture and artwork shipped from St Petersburg and began to make Ivy House her London home. Pavlova’s love for her house and its gardens increased each year, and she cherished the brief time she could spend there between tours. The dancer’s home was also her retreat from the endless months of touring AND the artistic hub of the Pavlova Company.
After calling Ivy House her home for 30 years, the house and its contents were auctioned with the ballerina’s premature death in 1931. The current residents of Ivy House, the London Jewish Cultural Centre, celebrated the centenary of the great ballerina during a week of celebrations in 2012.
The theme of an earthly paradise, or Arcadia, has been popular in literature, music and art for a very long time, starting with the valley of Arcadia in ancient Greece. If we had to summarise the concept in few words, I would say it was a place, in the past, with simple and ordered pastoral happiness. And it often had powers to heal the soul. In France, art historians cited Nicolas Poussin (died 1665) as making Arcadia his central concern.
But in the book I am reading, “Gauguin, Cézanne, Matisse: Visions of Arcadia” by Joseph Rishel 2012, it is suggested that the specific alliance between Arcadia and the state’s promotion of national moral order did not begin until a particular set of mural paintings were displayed at the 1861 Salon. These comforting murals, by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, were quickly purchased by the French state to decorate the new Musee Napoleon in Amiens.
The exhibition "Gauguin, Cézanne, Matisse: Visions of Arcadia" was held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2012. The goal of the exhibition was to allow visitors to experience works by these three significant post-Impressionist artists, as well as the Arcadian links between them and other contemporary artists. In total, the exhibition featured sixty works by 27 different artists! Moving beyond the classical treatment of Arcadia that had long dominated European painting, the avant-garde (Gauguin, Cézanne, Matisse in particular) interpreted it in new and very different ways. Their work in turn provided a foundation for later European, modernist artists.
Does it matter that I am reading a book from the exhibition, rather than seeing the paintings on the walls with my own eyes? Two factors make it alright. Firstly art philosophy is easier to “read” inside a book than it is to “intuit” from viewing a series of paintings on a wall. Secondly I already know all of the main paintings and some of the additional paintings very well. So the descriptions in this post will come from the exhibition catalogue-book; the analysis at the end is my own.
Inspired by his travels in Tahiti, Gauguin painted Where Do We Come From? (1897-98; Mus Fine Arts Boston) as an embodiment of his vision of Arcadia just before the turn of the century. Shortly after its completion, the painting was exhibited in Paris at the art gallery of Ambroise Vollard. Also in Paris at that moment were Paul Cézanne, who was working on a portrait of Vollard, and Henri Matisse, who had begun his career as an artist. Did Cézanne or Matisse know of Gauguin’s vast canvas?
Cézanne’s Arcadian ideal was displayed in the painting The Large Bathers (1900-6; Philadelphia Mus Art), which combined figures and landscape in a stage-like setting, deeply rooted in the past. Matisse was marginally later, completing one of his own largest paintings, Bathers by a River (1909-17; Art Institute of Chicago), in several stages until the middle of WW1. Matisse’s vision evolved from a stylised version of an idyllic scene to a Cubist-inspired representation that wasn’t totally blissful.
After Gauguin, Cézanne and Matisse, the reader should examine important works by younger, more modern artists like Robert Delaunay, Andre Derain, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau and Paul Signac. Were the three old masters good predictors of art to come?
The Gauguin, Cézanne, Matisse: Visions of Arcadia exhibition opened almost at the same time as the 2012 opening of new Barnes Foundation museum, also in Philadelphia. Dr Albert Barnes, as discussed in this very blog, owned hundreds of Renoirs, Cézannes, Matisses, Picassos and Van Goghs. The timing was intentional – to open up a rich dialogue between the two neighbourly collections .
I enjoyed the book very much. The images’ production values were impressive and the essays were well written. And the checklist of the exhibition was particularly well done. But I am still not sure that what united the selected works was a “shared view of Arcadia”. Or even “disparate views of Arcadia”. If Arcadia was a place in the past where people could frolic in harmony with nature, I would expect this dream to have had an ongoing appeal for many artists.
We know very well that a perfect, ordered paradise can never be fulfilled on earth, but I don’t think many of these artists were even trying! Just because a painting had lush greenery or the open ocean in the background, it doesn’t mean the artist was thinking of personal, communal or earthly peace. Perhaps he was more interested in naked ladies’ hips and bums.
Joking or not, I might be quite close to the truth here. According to the book, Matisse owned and revered a small painting by Cézanne on the theme of the bathers, citing this theme and these paintings as one of the greatest influences in his professional career.
But it does mean that artists after 1890, if they embraced the theme of a serene and joyous life in harmony with nature AT ALL, had to adapt it to the new and scary world. So were they actively engaged in Arcadian imagery during their lifetime or was the Arcadian understanding constructed around these artists by modern art historiams?
With hindsight we can see that the period leading up to the carnage of WWI hoped for serenity but eventually expected tragedy. The fate of humanity was never so fragile, as it turned out, as in the trenches of 1914.
Joseph Rishel's book was published by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The exhibition was held from June 2012 till Sept 2012. Note that the city's name, Philadelphia, was Greek for brotherly love (phileo=to love, adelphos=brother). Not Arcadia, but a great place for the art.
The Second Spanish Republic was the democratically elected government of Spain from April 1931 on. It was pro-workers, anti-Church and luke-warm on monarchy. The new constitution established women's rights, allowed divorce, supported unions and took education away from priests in favour of professional teachers. The banks and railways were given back to the Spanish community.
Inevitably the conservative groups who had seen their power base slip away in 1931 were going to fight back - the Catholic Church, the pro-German Fascist Party, the nobility and especially the Army. In July 1936, the most bloody of Civil Wars broke out in Spain, under General Franco.
Art and politics came together in one of the most complex relationships in the history of art. So says the book Art and The Civil War from the Museu Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia Madrid, edited by Juan Jose Lahuerta and published by Ediciones de La Central in 2009. In painting, sculpture, photography and film, these artists denounced the indiscriminate massacre of the civilian population and the destruction of Spanish cities. They celebrated the courage of ordinary men and women fighting behind the barricades; and they bore witness to the bravery of the Republican side and the murderous brutality of the Fascists.
Joan Miro was very direct, simple and passionate about publicising the Republican cause. He designed a colourful print in 1937 to raise money for the Republicans, showing a Catalan peasant raising a thick, defiant fist and the slogan Help Spain. This print in turn created a poster sold at the Spanish Republican Pavilion at the 1937 International Exposition in Paris. Visitors could purchase it after viewing Picasso’s Guernica and Miro’s own monumental mural, The Reaper (now lost).
Artists Antonio Rodriguez Luna and Horacio Ferrer were politically and artistically engaged in the Civil War from the Republican ranks. Alberto Sanchez was a Spanish sculptor who turned his creativity to the victims of this war. Sculptor Jacques Lipchitz in Paris became one of a number of foreign artists who became involved in Spain's struggle, producing works in solidarity with Spain's ordinary working families. Hungarian photographer Robert Capa travelled around Spain during 1936-9, taking stunning photos from behind Republican lines.
The biggest surprise for me was from the French architect, Le Corbusier. He anguished over the bombs being dropped on Spanish families and produced some wonderful paintings and drawings called The Fall of Barcelona. He was devastated when his town planning project for Barcelona was cancelled because of the war, and even more devastated when his close friends died during the war.
Another source of information was the International Exposition Dedicated to Art and Technology in Modern Life, in Paris in 1937. The pavilion of the Spanish Republic was very telling. It was designed by Joan Miro, along with important contributions by Alexander Calder, Julio Gonzales and Pablo Picasso. The Republican government used Paris' World Fair to mount concerts, theatrical performances and dancing groups as symbols of popular Spanish culture and as a propaganda weapon against Fascism. They displayed traditional Spanish ceramics and textiles, and above all, they hung the famous anti-war work by Picasso, Guernica.
Pablo Picasso's famous painting revealed the horrors of the Spanish Civil War. He created this huge image in protest against the aerial bombing and the catastrophic slaughter of civilians in Guernica in 1937 by German bombers. Picasso used symbols and images of broken people, with most of the faces looking up to the sky from where the bombs fell.
In a world where almost every country remained neutral on the Spanish question, propaganda opportunities were to be firmly grabbed by the struggling Republicans. (The Russians and Mexicans supported the Republican government; the German and Italian fascists sent equipment and money to the Spanish Fascists). "Espagne 1936" was a film that was screened in the Spanish Pavilion during this World Fair. The battle cry of the Republic, "They shall not pass. Madrid will be the grave of fascism" was clear from the film. Wrong! Fascism survived brilliantly; Spanish mothers and children were slaughtered by Fascist soldiers.
Could some painters, sculptors and photo journalists have been on General Franco's side in the war? Salvador Dali, for example, was known not to have liked the Republicans. So yes, there may well have been some artists whose works are not represented at Madrid's Reina Sofia Museum, in their permanent exhibition on the Civil war. But perhaps not. The artists wrote at the time that "it is our hope that all art produced in the revolution, and passionately in agreement with the revolution, would respond ideologically to the human content of this revolution" (July 1937, International Congress of Writers for the Defence of Culture in Valencia).
The architectural style of Andrea Palladio (1508–1580) and his Renaissance villas was set out in his 1570 book Quattro Libri, showing a style that was calm, simple, sophisticated, bound by the rules of proportion and above all, planned. Enthusiasm for the style was first seen in the writing of up-and-coming British architect Inigo Jones (1573-1652). In Vicenza Inigo Jones minutely examined Palladio's villas in person, then returned to England ready to introduce this classical architecture into England.
Jones' Italianised taste a la Palladio affected local architecture both directly and indirectly. He had a direct impact through the buildings he designed as Surveyor of the King's Works - the Banqueting House in Whitehall; Queen's House at Greenwich and St Paul's Covent Garden. Classical Palladian patterns were introduced into homes via fully integrated architecture, furniture and decoration. And he had an indirect impact, as a result of having travelled to Italy with the young Thomas Howard Earl of Arundel (died 1646). This was the man who went on to become one of the greatest patrons and art collectors of his era.
These were honourable men for whom politics was more than a bunfight between vested interests. They believed that politics included ethics, art and aesthetics. And their politics laid emphasis on social duty, moderation, tolerance, stoical good sense, politeness, decency and the civilised virtues; a distrust of enthusiasms and of vigorous dissent. We can safely say they created a British Georgian style, using the Italian design of Andrea Palladio.
Once adapted to British taste, the Italianised villa was built on hills, giving emphasis to the long gallery and focusing on maximising the views. In Kent, Mereworth Castle was closely modelled by Colen Campbell on the most famous Palladian site, Villa Rotunda in Vicenza. In Derbyshire, Chatsworth House was an Elizabethan home rebuilt by the first Duke of Devonshire early in the C18th. The southern and eastern fronts of his new classical palazzo style building were designed byWilliam Talman, while the west and north fronts were done by Thomas Archer. Talman was directly influenced by Indigo Jones and his books on Palladio.
Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl Burlington, had lands in Ireland, Yorkshire and fashionable NW London. In 1714-15 Burlington travelled through Belgium, Holland, Germany then Italy as a gentleman architect. For him, taste came directly from his Grand Tour and Palladianism. On his way home, Boyle stayed in Pisa Padua and Venice where he saw the Vicenza villas of Andrea Palladio.
But beauty was equally the determinant of form, though beauty of a special kind. Palladio was designing buildings for a clientele who, whether princes of commerce, traditional soldier-aristocrats or gentlemen of leisure, shared an intense admiration for ancient Rome. They were children of the High Renaissance and steeped in humanist learning. Palladio was the first architect regularly to apply the colonnaded temple fronts to secular buildings.
The beauty of his villas was not solely a matter of applied ornament. As can be seen particularly in his low-budget, pared-down villas and auxiliary buildings, there was a geometric order which arose from sophisticated systems of proportion and an unerring intuitive sense of design. It is little wonder that Andrea Palladio became arguably the most influential architect the western world has ever known.
Martin Randall Travel’s three tours of Vicenza in 2013 will cover most of the finest surviving Palladian villas and palaces, as well as some of the lesser-known and less accessible ones. Each tour takes six days.
In 1688 James II, the recently converted Catholic king was ousted by parliament in the Glorious Revolution. He sent his second wife and baby son to Catholic-friendly France, then fled himself into exile in France. King Louis XIV was only too thrilled to pay for the British court-in-exile in Paris.
But James never surrendered his claim to the British throne. Thus began a political and military struggle which lasted until the mid-18th century as the Stuart dynasty sought to grab back the nation they had been expelled from.
The strongholds of Jacobitism were the Scottish Highlands, Ireland and Northern England, places as distant from Parliament and the royal residences in London as possible. Therefore whenever King James or his family returned, it was always via Scotland, Ireland or Northern England.
The most famous event in this long but episodic struggle occurred in 1745 when James II’s grandson, Bonnie Prince Charlie, led an armed invasion of Scotland and England. Charles' Jacobite army, which consisted largely of Scottish Highlanders, was defeated at the bloody Battle of Culloden in Scotland. No Jacobite uprising was ever attempted again.
Throughout the years of struggle in exile, the Stuarts continued to have many supporters in England and Scotland. Such support was naturally seen as treasonous by the ruling Georgians. So the Jacobites, the people who supported the son and grandson of ex-King James II, had to be very cautious about who knew their true allegiances. An elaborate system of symbolic practices was devised, hidden except from other Jacobite supporters.
Consider Jacobite wine glasses. Apart from the special engraving, Jacobite glasses look very similar to other wine and liqueur glasses of that period: mostly the viewer seens an elegantly simple shape on a long slim stem, often with an interesting element inside the stem. Stuart roses and Scottish thistles were often part of the engraved decorative scheme.
And many historians talk of the Jacobite ritual involving passing the glass over a bowl of water before drinking. This was a reminder of the king over the water, in France.
King Over The Water wine glass
c1750, 15 cm tall,
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
The National Museums of Scotland display subversive Amen glasses, called that because they were inscribed with verses from the Jacobite version of the National Anthem, which ended in the word Amen. The bowl of this 1750 example has a crown over the letters JR which are intertwined with the figure 8, a reference to King James VIII of Scotland.
Ian McKenzie and Geoffrey Seddon believe the most likely artist of the Amen glasses was the famous Scottish line engraver Sir Robert Strange. Most of the extant Amen glasses were engraved over the very short period in the 1740s, using a diamond point. Strange’s life (his marriage to an ardent Jacobite, his period of service in Prince Charles's army in the ’45 rebellion; his life in Edinburgh and his period in France) fitted the profile of the Amen glasses perfectly.
Some Jacobites were prepared to die for the cause while other families were prepared only to do the drinking part of the Jacobite ritual. Since the foot of the Amen glass in the photo is engraved with the words 'To the Prosperity of the Family of Lochiell', we know it belonged to the Fighting Camerons of Locheil, ardent Jacobites who definitely fought at Culloden. Nonetheless it has to be recognised that just having glasses with Bonnie Prince Charles images was, in and of itself, very dangerous.
c1750, 18 cm high.
National Museum of Scotland
The National Gallery of Victoria has a special exhibition of Jacobite glassware called Kings Over the Water, examining the practice of drinking toasts to their true king in France. The beautifully engraved glasses sometimes depicted a body of water, literally reflecting the English Channel, over which a raised drink saluted the old king and his dynasty. The NGV has put on the Kings Over The Water exhibition until June 2013, to explore the secret symbolism of these beautiful objects and to analyse a doomed political adventure whose history was seen as both romantic and tragic.
Since these glasses were passed around in secret societies devoted to the restoration of a Catholic monarch in all of Britain, we can expect they are now rare and expensive. Of the 37 glasses that are known to have survived, one fetched £43,000/Aus $68,000/USA $72,000 at Shrewsbury auction in Nov 2012.
I need to mention a 2005 exhibition called The Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Royal House of Stuart: works of Art from the Drambuie Collection in London. These Jacobite paintings and works of art consisted of 100+ works that included engraved glassware, grand court portraits, miniatures, silver and gold medals and ceramics. All of the works were, as you would expect, either small or easy to conceal, or featured symbolic designs and intentionally obscure inscriptions.
But Mary Miers (Country Life, 15th Sept 2005) added one more important consideration. The exiled Stuarts THEMSELVES patronised some of the finest court artists in Europe, creating portraits that were then copied by leading engravers and widely circulated among supporters. The exiled Stuart court actively became the centre of an elaborate cultural web from which emanated highly sophisticated works of art. The royals clearly wanted to keep hope alive among their passionately loyal supporters back in Britain.
In reviewing Peter Stanksy’s book, Sassoon: The Worlds of Philip and Sybil (Yale UP, 2003), we need some historical context. The Sassoon family were Iraqi Jews who specialised in silk and cotton, spices and pearls. The first truly mobile family member was David Sassoon (1792-1864) who built an international business in Mumbai and staffed it with Baghdadi managers. Even the managers moved between countries, asked to run the branch offices of his business in India, Burma and Malaya. Soon David opened up in China - where the beautiful Sassoon House/now Peace Hotel on Shanghai’s Bund is famous still. Later in Shanghai Sassoon’s massive Cathay Mansions, The Grosvenor Mansions and Grosvenor Gardens apartments, all built from 1929 to the early 1930s, were elegant and modern.
John Singer Sargent, 1913
86 x 67 cm
David's sons cornered the shipping industry in India and then China, to free up David so that he could extend his endless charity to facilities for the sick, the poor and the young. Son Elias (1820-1880) opened offices in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Another son, Albert (1818-1896) took on the running of the firm in the next generation, and built the famous Sassoon Docks in western India. Albert later became prominent in England and became great friends of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. In Britain a third son, Sir Edward Sassoon (1856-1912), married one of the Rothschild daughters, and was a Conservative member of Parliament from 1899 until his death. That seat then passed to his son Philip (1888-1939), the subject of this book.
Sir Philip Sassoon
John Singer Sargent, 1923
Tate Gallery, London
95 x 58 cm
His father dying quite young in 1912 was sad, but it was not all tragic news for Philip. The young man “inherited” the Hythe electorate from his father, along with his baronetcy and the family fortune. Certainly Philip's election as the youngest Member of Parliament, from 1912 until his death in 1939, was carefully documented. As was his service as military secretary to Sir Douglas Haig during the bulk of WW1 (1915-1918) and as parliamentary private secretary in David Lloyd George’s cabinet after the war. Sir Philip became the nation’s Under-secretary of State for Air (1924-29 and 1931–37). Finally a wise Prime Minister chose to make Sassoon the First Commissioner of Works and Public Buildings (1937-39).
In the 1920s and 30s Philip became very involved in the art world, particularly as the trustee of important museums. In his city home in Park Lane, he bought many works by John Singer Sargent, J.A Whistler, David Bomberg and Wilson Steer, Thomas Gainsborough and Johann Zoffany. So Philip was hardworking, well connected, an art patron, mega-generous to his charities and in the right place at the right time. But he was Jewish, gay and his grandparents were not English-born.
My favourite section of the book examined Philip’s building and renovation of his country homes. Port Lympne Mansion in coastal Kent (built in 1912) had a very grand triumphal staircase, marble a go go and murals. Trent Park Herts was bought by the family in 1909 and inherited in 1912 by Philip. These homes enabled him to be surrounded by the gardens and collections he personally found to be beautiful. And to open up his private life to endless hospitality, including to members of the royal family and members of Parliament. Trent Park and Port Lympne became bases for paintings, sculpture, Rex Whistler's tentroom, murals, rich ironwork staircase, Moorish courtyards and impressive garden design.
Plus they became home away from home for the artists he chose to patronise, especially John Singer Sargent. Other than Sassoon, how many other aristocrats opened their doors and held influential art exhibitions in their country homes? And how many politicians were in regular correspondence with art world celebrities like Lytton Strachey, Roger Fry and Virginia Woolf?
Although Philip’s sister Sybil (1894-1989) was as well educated as her brother, she was depicted as living a less public existence. Yet this was the Sassoon who married into the dizzying heights of the greatest English noble families. In 1913 she married George the Marquess of Cholmondeley, had three beloved children and restored Houghton Hall in Norfolk. There were two connections here that would melt the heart of the hardest historian: 1. Houghton Hall had been the home of Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole in the mid 18th century. And 2. Sybil brought her own great art collection into Houghton, given that the sale of Sir Robert Walpole's collection to the Russian Czarina Catherine the Great had left some serious gaps. Her patronage was quieter than her brother's, but still significant.
I loved the book and I loved the images. Stansky was spot on when it comes to discussing great wealth, the English aristocracy, Jewish families, gay men, great art and modernity. But let me quote two other journal articles. Ferdinand Mount noted that almost everyone who met Philip Sassoon described him as "strange, unknowable and Oriental". Philip Hoare (BBC History July 2003) said the Sassoons (Philip and Siegfried) remained "exotics and sexual outsiders". Their conclusion was that Philip in particular was too far removed from Anglican aristocracy to be truly beloved. I agree. Only Sybil was fully accepted.
More about Siegfried Sassoon in 2013.
In examining the First Crusader to liberate the Holy Land from Muslim infidels, my students had to discover why almost all the first responders were Frenchmen and why the majority of these Frenchmen were Normans.
All Norman nobles were themselves mounted warriors, as well as being lords of their men in the feudal system; the higher a man was in the social hierarchy, the more fighting he did. Thus the social elite in Normandy had become the military elite, but alas it had no focus on French soil except for random violence. The Church could not stop the killing, but it could try to redirect the killing off-shore. Instead of killing being a sin for which repentance was required, it became a positively meritorious act which did not need punishment, as long as the dead were infidels. In transforming this warrior class into a Christian knightly order, the Church possessed a valuable political weapon. This would boost each pope’s stocks in his ongoing battle against the Holy Roman emperor.
And by placing himself in the pope’s service, the warrior would do very well for himself. He stood to gain indulgences, booty, land, travel, sexual freedom and in case of death, martyrdom. Clearly these Godly wars were to be in areas far from France, removing the violent men off-shore.
These were very troubled times for Christianity and only Sicily was going well for the Church. The Turks captured Armenia in 1059, more of Byzantium in 1071; Anatolia 1081, and Antioch in Syria in 1085. Even Spain, the main battleground for Christendom against Islam, was not going well. In 1089, Pope Urban II (reigned 1088-1099) promised spiritual benefits to those rebuilding Tarragona in Spain, explicitly comparing the task with pilgrimage.
One Christian state tried to defy Islam - Byzantium. In 1095 the new Byzantine emperor Alexius Comnenus (reigned 1081-1118) was desperate to regain his lost provinces from the Muslims, so he begged the pope in Rome for military assistance. The Byzantine ambassador spoke of Muslims ravaging their important churches. Pope Urban was delighted to cooperate because he hoped to reunite the Latin and Orthodox Churches under Rome's leadership. Was Urban also secretly thinking of pushing on to Jerusalem, liberating the land where Christ himself had taught?
Pope Urban directed his call not to all Christians but to his beloved French nobles. He did not want the sick to go against the infidel, even though these were the most likely to go on pilgrimage. He appealed directly to the knightly class in terms appropriate to their society: "race chosen and beloved by God"; "You girt about with the badge of knight hood". His speech was then repeated by other churchmen across France.
No one responded to Pope Urban II as warmly as the Norman knights. Perhaps fear of criticism from the local church motivated some, given that so many other young men from Normandy had immediately volunteered to Take The Cross. Perhaps the Normans were having a tougher time economically than other Frenchmen, with failed crops throughout their region. In any case, there was a struggle for land. First sons inherited all the land a family had, and could therefore marry and breed; second sons went into the church; third subsequent sons, who could not marry, had to be found useful employment.
Underlying Pope Urban’s success was a great spiritual, cultural and economic revival and an expanding population, combining to make the crusade both conceivable and doable. Religious pilgrimage, military crusading and a yearning for new spaces all merged.
After the lectures were over, a student sent me a document written by Dominic Sandbrook in BBC History Magazine (13, 11, November 2012). Sandbrook agreed on the key points:
1. That Pope Urban II was himself a Frenchman and turned to other Frenchmen when he needed support, especially in his ongoing battle against the Holy Roman emperor.
2. That the new Byzantine emperor Alexius Comnenus was desperate to regain his lost provinces from the Muslims, so he begged the pope in Rome for military assistance.
3. That all Norman nobles were already well trained and equipped warriors who had no real role to play inside France. The Church needed to divert these knights off-shore.
The Pope was not responding spontaneously to the Byzantine emperor Alexius Comnenus’ heart-rending request for support. The Pope had planned, long and carefully, to mount a campaign across France that would change history. Responding to the call were more than 200 Archbishops and Bishops, 4,000 clerics and 30,000 laymen – more probably than the Pope had anticipated in his most fervent prayers. Change history single handedly, he clearly did!
The World Fair was a very large public exhibition, held every 4 years or so in different countries. It was a tradition that started in the mid-19th century and has continued ever since.
Since it cost the host nation a great deal of money to collect the objects to be displayed, make an inner-city site available, build the exhibition buildings, mount the publicity and organise all public transport systems, profit clearly was not a motivating factor. Instead each World Fair was a basis on which a city could display its own modern science, engineering and arts. And the city could invite the rest of the world to build national pavilions and to display the best in science and the arts from across the globe. Ordinary families were encouraged to visit their nation’s Fair, providing these families with an educational opportunity as good as high school.
The opening of the exhibition, usually by royalty, was the highlight of the year. Vienna’s World Fair of 1873 was inaugurated by Emperor Francis Josef of Austria, with imposing ceremonies, in the presence of a vast throngs. The day was immortalised by the music of Handel and Strauss. And almost all the World Fairs were immensely popular. 27 million visitors arrived at the Chicago Fair in 1893, a third of the country's population at the time.
The majority of the World Fair structures were meant to be dismantled at the end of the festivities. The Eiffel Tower (Paris 1889) and the Exhibition Buildings (Melbourne 1880) were clear and fortunate exceptions. As was the last remaining building of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, the Palace of Fine Arts (now Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry). Even the main attractions at World's Fairs, the national pavilions that were created by participating countries, were always pulled down.
The diamond reached British hands through the annexation of the Punjab in 1849. As the de facto civil authority, the British East India Company came to own it. To mark its 250th anniversary, the Company decided to present the gem to Queen Victoria to whom it was delivered in July 1850.
The Koh-i-Noor had originally been one of the world’s largest diamonds at 793 carats, but by the time it reached Britain, the size had been much reduced. Nonetheless there was enormous excitement and wonder in Crystal Palace, when official commentators and the general public saw the jewel. Although there were 100,000 other exhibits displayed in Crystal Palace, the queues to see Queen Victoria’s diamond were the longest of all.
Despite the undoubted success of the Crystal Palace exhibition, and its popularity with ordinary families, Karl Marx saw this World Fair as an emblem of the capitalist fetishism of commodities, a shameful circus of greed where materialism was unconcealed and vanity given full play. But he had a separate attack for the Koh-I-Noor diamond - it was, he said, a forfeit of Oriental faithlessness and the prize of Saxon valour.
Scottish writer-traveller-explorer William Lithgow (1582-1645) travelled extensively throughout the Levant in three substantial journeys between 1610 and 1622. He completed his major work, The Total Discourse of the Rare Adventures and Painful Peregrinations of Long Nineteen Years Travails from Scotland, to the Most Famous Kingdoms in Europe, Asia and Africa in 1632. When the book appeared, it must have surprised and delighted readers, especially readers who had never travelled outside their own town.
Shapero Rare Books, who auctioned Rare Adventures and Painful Peregrinations in 2012, wrote: This book is probably the earliest authority for coffee-drinking in Europe, Turkish Baths, a pigeon post between Aleppo and Baghdad, Turkish tobacco-pipes, artificial incubation and the importation of currants from Zante to England. This classic account first appeared in 1614 and went through numerous additions, being constantly added to as Lithgow made more travels. He visited Italy, the Ionian Islands, Athens, Crete and the Aegean Archipelago in 1609 and stayed for a time on Chios, where he met two French merchants whom he joined to visit Greek monuments and antiquities. Lithgow travelled some 36,000 miles as described in this work.
There were many lovely woodcut illustrations in the book, including the woodcut frontispiece portrait of Lithgow in Ottoman dress. Estimated value of the book at auction was £6,500 or Aus $10,000 or USA $10,550.
Why did William Lithgow have an irresistible desire to visit strange lands and how did he fund these extensive trips? Significant Scots believed that wanderlust was the ruling passion of his life. Together with a roving, unsettled and restless disposition, wanderlust was the principal agent in compelling him to undertake the formidable journeys which he accomplished, and enabled him to bear up with such a series of hardships and bodily sufferings, as perhaps no man ever before or since has endured. He made it a strict rule, but probably not for financial reasons, to not use any conveyance during a journey when he could accomplish it on foot, except for crossing water. During all his travels he never mounted a horse, or put his foot into a carriage, or used any type of vehicle whatever.
Only late in his career did a financial windfall occur to Mr Lithgow. He had the good fortune to join up with three Dutchmen at Jerusalem, who were journeying with a caravan in the same direction. These he joined, and kept by them until they reached the Egyptian capital. Here his three companions speedily killed themselves by drinking local alcohol. As each man died, he left the survivors all his money and jewellery, and the last bequeathed the whole accumulated amount to Lithgow! Thanking God for his good fortune, Lithgow now proceeded, quite at his ease as to money matters, to inspect every thing that was curious in the city.
I don't know if Lithgow really was the earliest authority for coffee-drinking in Europe, Turkish Baths, a pigeon post between Aleppo and Baghdad, Turkish tobacco-pipes, artificial incubation and the importation of currants from Zante to England. But he was a very impressive, intrepid and curious traveller. And a fascinating writer.
There is no doubt that Virginia Woolf spent a great deal of time in Charleston Farmhouse, East Sussex with her sister and brother in law, Vanessa and Clive Bell. We can see Bell's portrait of Virginia Woolf, painted in Charleston in 1912, now in the National Portrait Gallery London. And we can see the furniture that was bought for Vanessa by her sister in the drawing room.
Virginia Stephen married writer Leonard Woolf in 1912. The two of them had a loving marital relationship, and they also collaborated professionally. Virginia (1882-1941) and Leonard Woolf had two places of their own. They had their normal London flat in Mecklenburgh Square, Bloomsbury, but increasingly spent time in their old weatherboard cottage in Rodmell, close to Lewes. It was called Monk’s House, bought by the Woolfs as soon as possible after WW1 ended. Improvements were made to the home with the income from Virginia's books.
Bought in 1919, two-storey extension added in 1929
Clearly all the important Bloomsbury Set visitors who frequented Charleston House were also regulars at Monk House eg Roger Fry and Lytton Strachey. These two modest homes in East Sussex, only 10 ks apart, provided a rural idyll for the Bloomsbury Set.
Two aspects of life at Monk’s House made it perfect for Virginia Woolf’s writing career. Firstly the couple bought the house with a well established garden and orchard that provided peace and tranquillity after the hubbub of Big City living. And this was even more so when, a decade later, they bought another field next to the house to increase the splendid rural views.
Monk’s house, Virginia Woolf’s writing lodge
Added in 1921.
Secondly one of the sheds in the backyard was converted into a writing lodge for Virginia. It must have been peaceful because here she wrote important parts of Mrs Dalloway, The Waves and Between the Acts out in her lodge. In fact the National Trust says that her final novel, Between the Acts (published July 1941), is full of references to the traditions and values of Rodmell and its residents. A very appealing social space emerged when a paved seating area was laid in front of the writing lodge.
Contemporary photos captured the Woolfs and their friends, lounging in deck chairs, drinking and dozing in the summer sun. The Monk’s House albums include the 1,000 photos in Maggie Humm’s book Snapshots of Bloomsbury: the Private Lives of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, 2006.
The National Trust inherited Monk’s House in 1980. The gardens are wonderful and the ground floor, including sitting room, dining room, kitchen and Virginia's bedroom, is open to the public. But check www.nationaltrust.org.uk for open days.
Socialising in the sun. (L-> R) Angelica/Vanessa/Clive Bell, Virginia Woolf, Maynard Keynes. Photo credit: More Bloomsbury Group & Friends 2
Since I returned to university in 1990 to do history and art history, my interests have been very broad. But if I had to specify which subjects appeal most, the key labels in the blog return again and again to seven topics:
1. Jewish paintings, architecture and decorative arts;
2. British history, especially Victorian and Edwardian;
3. art patronage, collecting and museology;
4. World Fairs, cultural salons and exhibitions;
5. Belle Epoque in Paris;
6. The Vienna Secession and the Bauhaus; and
7. Huguenot arts, after the 1685 expulsion from France.
Imagine the thrill in finding a reference to a thesis titled: ANGLO-JEWISH ART COLLECTORS OF THE VICTORIAN PERIOD: PATTERNS IN COLLECTING, by Barbara Gilbert 1986
The abstract notes that this study focuses on six Anglo-Jewish art collectors who shared in England's growth as the world leader of private art collections. Since the Jews had the opportunity to participate in English life earlier and to a greater extent than in most other countries, the phenomenon of Jewish integration into English society can be investigated through the vehicle of art collecting. The objects collected were characteristic of English collections ranging from Old Master paintings to decorative arts, prints and paintings by living English artists.
Moses Hart (1676-1766) and Samson Gideon (1699-1762) were both financiers who successfully acquired gentry status. Each purchased a large country estate which was filled with customary types of Old Master Italian and Dutch paintings acquired by other gentry.
Lionel de Rothschild (1808-1879), in his preference for Old Master Dutch paintings, was a collector transitional between 18th and 19th century interests. His acquisition of Rococo decorative arts was more forward looking, reflecting the aristocratic taste of the Rothschild family in England and on the Continent. Ralph Bernal (c1786-1854) was one of the first collectors to focus on the decorative arts. His collection included objects from as early as the C10th and reflected current Gothic Revival attitudes as well as providing models for English industrial design. Samuel Mendel (1811-1884) was a Manchester textile merchant who had one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of contemporary Victorian paintings, most of which were acquired with the guidance of art dealer Thomas Agnew. Israel Solomons (1860-1923) was an antiquarian and a collector of Anglo-Judaica which documented the Jewish experience in England beginning with the resettlement of the Jews in 1656. He participated in the Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition (1887) and the Exhibit of Jewish Art and Antiquities (1906), which were among the first exhibits to focus on Jewish material.
Commode by the French master Adrien Delorme, from the collection of Baron Lionel de Rothschild. The rosewood veneer is arranged in an inlaid wooden frieze of flowers. The 145 cm-wide front is outlined by a gilded bronze frame
I realise copies of this PhD thesis are available only from Micrographics Department, Doheny Library, USC Los Angeles. But a reader might direct me to a journal article or conference paper by the same author on this topic.
While the 18th century personalities in this thesis (Moses Hart and Samson Gideon) were probably a tad early for me, the other four worthies were amazing people. Ralph Bernal, in particular, was a Whig politician, president of the British Archaeological Society and built up a substantial collection of glass, ceramics and other decorative art objects.
The questions to be asked of the thesis are complex. Where did these collectors live? Did they have a personal philosophy of collecting? Did they have expert advice from art historians and connoisseurs? How much of their income was spent on collecting and from which country were the art objects collected? Was the architecture of their country homes designed or redesigned to hold the treasured objects they collected? Who from outside the family had access to these treasures? What happened to each collection after the patron died?
And because the collectors were Jewish, I want to know if their collecting differed from non-Jewish collectors of the same era and the same social class. Dr Gilbert is the right person to ask. She is senior curator emerita of fine arts at the Skirball Cultural Centre, has organised major exhibitions on artists Max Liebermann, Henry Mosler, Larry Rivers and George Segal.
The Victoria and Albert Museum acknowledge its debt to some of these connoisseurs. Just one example. John Webb, a dealer and adviser to the South Kensington Museum, was charged with the responsibility of acquiring objects from the sales of several high profile collections, notably the Ralph Bernal, Jules Soulages and Prince Peter Soltykoff collections. During the 1850s and 1860s, holdings of the V & A's Italian Renaissance tin-glazed maiolica and French Renaissance earthenware received a considerable boost with the purchase of stunning maiolica from the Ralph Bernal sale of 1855. A report on the sale of the Bernal Collection, including a list of descriptions transcribed from the sale catalogue, was published in the Third Report of the Department of Science and Art, London, 1856.
We expect that Edwardian women would have either supported universal suffrage or been neutral on the topic. Women might have been too busy running a home and caring for their children, for example, to worry about voting rights; or they may have been afraid of their own husbands’ and fathers’ responses. Men on the other hand might have opposed universal suffrage, as a defence of vested interests in an era when there was clear public anxiety over women’s rights in general and suffragette activism in particular.
Yet many intelligent women thought deeply about universal suffrage and opposed it vigorously. Julia Bush showed how a British anti-suffrage campaign had taken place in The Times newspaper in 1906 and 1907. Soon a letter was circulated to announce the creation of a National Women's Anti-Suffrage Association and inviting recipients to become a member of the central organising committee or a member. Thus the Women's National Anti-Suffrage League was established in London in July 1908. Its aims were to oppose women voting in parliamentary elections, although it did support their having votes in local government elections. It was particularly noted that at least 30 women from noble families identified themselves as active anti-suffragists, as well as a number of peers and MPs.
The first meeting of the Women's National Anti-Suffrage League was held in July 1908 with Margaret Countess of Jersey in the Chair. 17 persons were nominated to the central committee at this meeting, including novelist Mrs Humphrey (Mary) Ward in the chair of the Literary Committee and writer-traveller Gertrude Bell as secretary. Other members were Violet Markham and Hilaire Belloc MP.
The League's aims were to oppose women being granted the parliamentary franchise, though it did support their having votes in local and municipal elections. They encouraged women to spend their energy and talents on the big moral issues of the day: philanthropy, local government, childcare, health, education, housing and moral welfare, not politics. Looking At History believed the rhetoric that informed both anti- and pro-suffragist political argument was in some ways very similar. Mary Ward’s view of differentiated citizenship celebrated the distinctive roles of men and women in society, while suffragists emphasised what men and women had in common. So the League members had no trouble in cooperating closely with suffragettes on non-political causes, causes that concerned all female activists.
Branches were opened in Kent in 1908 then in London. In May 1910, a Scottish branch was organised into the Scottish National Anti-Suffrage League by the Duchess of Montrose. By July 1910, there were 104 branches with up to 50,000 members.
Then in 1910, the Women's National Anti-Suffrage League made a very bad decision. This very large group amalgamated with the very small Men's National League for Opposing Women's Franchise to form the National League for Opposing Women's Suffrage, with Evelyn Baring 1st Earl of Cromer as president and Countess Margaret of Jersey as Vice-President. The women and men shared their anti-suffrage position, but disagreed on every other thing. The women wanted British women to be stronger, more involved in female-inspired reform programmes and to practise motherly social work. Lord Cromer and the men loathed vocal women; they felt that any major departure from women's role as wives and mothers would bring social chaos to Britain and destroy the Empire.
The former viceroy of India, George Curzon 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, became president in 1912. Although the organisation managed to mount some sort of campaign up to the war under Lord Curzon, it became increasingly difficult for the large number of positive women to work with the small number of misogynist men.
In the end, two factors caused the organisation to end its work. Firstly by 1914 the anti-suffrage women turned to focus on the war; they were keen to demonstrate their superior patriotism, and to pursue their gender beliefs in the new wartime debates over such issues as female employment, maternity and childcare. The organisation’s activities and publications continued for the four war years, but by 1916, the anti-suffrage cause was seriously weakened and it became clear that franchise reform was inevitable. Secondly by 1918, when the first women's suffrage was granted (to those aged 30 or older), the movement was looking out-of-date and truly redundant.
Bloggers might like to read:
Julia Bush, Women against the Vote: Female Anti-Suffragism in Britain, Oxford, 2007
The Australian states federated into a nation in January 1901. From 1910 on, the Australian Government, churches and a range of private and philanthropic institutions sponsored a dozen migration schemes for young British workers. These workers were regarded as ideal immigrants – single, adaptable and not seen as competition for adult jobs. In short, the schemes aimed to populate the young burgeoning ex-colony and provide much-needed agricultural labourers and domestic workers.
By January 1919, the need for young migrant workers was urgent. The loss of tens of thousands from a generation of Australians in the WW1 trenches was devastating. Returning soldiers were allocated land under the government’s Soldier Settler Scheme but there was a shortage of fit young men, to help clear the land and establish viable farms. Migrant worker schemes established in 1910 had to be abandoned during the war, so in 1922 the South Australian premier started again. He launched a three year apprenticeship programme called The Barwell Boys. Let me examine Lydia McLean’s story then ask the questions at the end.
A copy of this group photo was sent to each set of parents back in the UK
Photo credit – State Library of South Australia
Henry Newman Barwell was elected Member of Parliament for Stanley, South Australia in 1915, becoming leader of the Liberal party and Premier of South Australia in 1920. He received a knighthood during his visit to Britain in 1922 to promote trade and migration.
In London Mr Barwell brought a message of loyalty and devotion from the Government of South Australia and of good will and affection from the Australian people. They were proud to call themselves members of the British Empire, he said. The greatest need of Australia at the present time was the early and rapid development of the illimitable resources of that really wonderful country. They wanted active, industrious people from the Mother Country.
These were the days of ‘Populate or Perish’ and the ‘White Australia’ policy. Australia’s population in the 1920s was only 5 million. Barwell wanted a bigger population so that Australia would be one of the greatest countries in the world in the future. Great hopes, Barwell said, centred in a scheme of migration for boys between the ages of 15-18. The ideal, which aimed at the replacement of the 6,000 South Australian soldiers who were killed in the war, was an instalment of practical Imperial reciprocity.
The picture of very warm, well-fed and spacious Australia would certainly have appealed to young men from a crowded, rain-soaked post-war Britain with its millions of unemployed. By the time the first ship sailed, 14,000 applications from would-be farm apprentices had been received. Of the £38 fare, the boys paid £10 cash and the South Australian government contributed £12. The remainder was advanced by the government as an interest-free loan, to be repaid from the boys’ wages of 15 shillings/week.
South Australian landowners in country centres were told the scheme would ensure that South Australia would soon have thousands of young men trained in agricultural and horticultural pursuits. The Commissioner of Crown Lands invited farmers, who wish to secure one or more boys to train, to apply at once to the State Immigration Dept in Adelaide. They were told that many of the boys selected would probably be sons, possibly orphans, of British ex-service men. This would tend to strengthen the bonds of Empire.
100 teens embarked on a six-week voyage on each and every ship, travelling steerage with eight berths to a cabin. The Minister addressed the boys at a dinner when each boatload arrived in Adelaide: “We sent for you to come out to help us to develop the country. We desire you to go on the land and eventually to become producers. If you possess the good old British characteristics of pluck & determination you are sure to make good. You lads are the type Australia wants: you will be treated like sons. Good luck!”
Within 48 hours of their ship docking, the boys were sent on another long journey by road, rail or sea to their new employers all over rural South Australia. At the distant train stations, a representative from a welfare organisation escorted the lads to their employers/ foster parents.
These lads had not been on farms in Britain, and it was inevitable that there would be disputes between farmers and their new British employees. The inexperienced boys frequently suffered accidents in handling unfamiliar farm equipment or animals; some committed suicide. A select committee established in 1924 to report on the two year scheme revealed that of the 1444 boys who migrated to Australia, nine had died, 467 had been transferred and 222 left the programme completely.
Some farmers, on the other hand, reported that their Barwell boys were splendid types of farm youth. After completion of their apprenticeships, many of the boys stayed on the land to farm in their own right. Others moved to the cities, or interstate; a few returned to England. Later in life, many of them joined the Australian forces and served in WW2.
Sir Henry Barwell had originally aimed to recruit 6,000 farm apprentices to help ‘restock’ the state after the heavy loss of young lives during the War. However the scheme was stopped when Labour came to power in 1924, so only 1,444 Barwell Boys had had a chance to arrive.
How successful was the programme, for the boys and for their new country? These young migrants certainly performed many of the basic, but extremely rigorous tasks that underpinned the settlement and agricultural development of South Australia after WW1. But at what cost? Some Barwell boys were sent to farms with warm, loving families while others told stories of horrible mistreatment and rank exploitation. Some lived with the host family in a proper house, while others were dumped in a shed with no furniture or facilities. They were paid 15 shillings a week to start with, at a time when the average wage was 2-3 pounds a week. And they were putting in VERY long days, 16-18 hour days, for their low pay.
South Australian Department of Immigration gave their Director the responsibility of supervising the scheme, being responsible for the boys' reception, assigning employment and welfare. The records show that he did correspond with the boys and their farming families. But what accountability was there in the day-to-day sense, and did anyone supervise the placements locally?
Elspeth Grant found it intriguing that Australia began participating in adolescent migration at the same time that Canada was scaling back its involvement, due to ethical concerns!
I presume the ethical issues raised by the Barwell Boys’ programme did not dampen Adelaide’s ardour for more young, fit farming apprentices. When a Liberal government returned to power in 1927, the programme was revived once again. This time, however, the newly named Little Brothers Scheme ensured that each young migrant was to be supported by a prominent South Australian citizen. 125 Little Brothers arrived during 1927–28.
To my mother’s certain knowledge, Russians and their neighbours were born and educated to be composers, instrumentalists, painters, sculptors, doctors, academics, scientists, writers, dancers, theatre people and architects. It was as though the entire population was educated, cultivated and decidedly intellectual.
For many years I truly believed that Anna Pavlova, Vassily Kandinsky, Sergei Rachmaninov and Marc Chagall were my cousins. Vaslav Nijinsky, Sergei Prokofiev and Boris Pasternak simply HAD to have been uncles. Czechs Antonin Dvorak, Bedrich Smetana, Leos Janacek and Austrian Arnold Schoenberg, whose parents were Czech, had to have been cousins of my husband. However it was not random bragging - there was no mention made of athletes, farmers or soldiers in my mother’s world view.
At the Australian Tennis Open this fortnight, spectators were struck by brilliant Russians, Czechs and Ukrainians alright, but they were not pianists or novelists. Of the top 32 women in the tournament, 17 were Russians or its immediate neighbours, four women with East European surnames (Varvara Lepchenko, Caroline Wozniacki etc) were playing for distant countries and a paltry 11 represented the rest of the world. Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Nadia Petrova, Agnies Radwanska, Anna Ivanovic, Maria Kirilenko, Dominika Cibulkova, Lucie Safarova, Ekaterina Makarova and Yanina Wickmayer smiled up from the published tournament programme and smiled down from the bigger-than-lifesize posters around the Melbourne Tennis Complex.
The women tennis players from Russia and its neighbours are tall, athletic, well coached and good looking, but no more tall, athletic, well coached and good looking than other star tennis players. So what is the explanation? Drugs haven’t been found in tennis, as they have been in weight lifting and cycling, so that is not an issue. Money is not an issue since the Australian and American women presumably receive more prize money and endorsements than Russian, Ukrainian and Polish women receive.
My mother’s theory goes like this. When the economy is booming and employment is guaranteed, Russian parents will encourage their clever children to go into music, ballet, drama, literature or any career in which they can shine. But in tough times, “luxury” industries stop hiring young people. Carl Fabergé might have made brilliant and very desirable jewellery in the early 20th century, but if he had been alive now, he may have had to accept work in a chicken factory. Wise parents, therefore, have encouraged their clever daughters to go into an industry that everyone in the world wants to watch – tennis.
The Duke of Sachsen Weimar Eisenach was clearly besotted with the famous author, Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749–1832). and invited him to move to Weimar and to lease rooms in the Duke’s lovely summer palace that was first built in 1709. By 1792, the entire house was presented to Goethe by his grateful patron. For the last 50 years of his life, Goethe was made a minister of state, ennobled, travelled back and forward to Italy, renovated the Weimar house beautifully and led a thoroughly enjoyable life.
The influence of Italy is still visible in Goethe’s House today. It has been a plain but refined two-storey building in cream. The attic floor and dormer windows, which rang the full length of the house, were in smart grey.
Although he could not necessarily buy original art works, Goethe happily bought copies of classical paintings and casts of classical sculptures. Visitors were immediately taken to see one room that had been dedicated to his collection of sculpture and another room that had been set aside for his paintings. A third room was specially decorated for large dinner parties and the main saloon was used as a music room.
The most important room in the entire house was Goethe’s study which was organised, quiet and little decorated. When the visitors had gone and the wife, children and staff were busy elsewhere, Goethe liked nothing more than to sit, think and read in peace. He wrote Faust in this very room.
I did not realise Goethe was the director of the court theatre in the 1790s. Perhaps that was why Jeremy Musson regarded the house in total as a theatrical experience, particularly the main staircase and the Bridge Room. Goethe wanted a spacious staircase with 3 passageways, niches for sculptures and the mounting of stucco friezes. This re-construction reflected Goethe’s ideology of classical art.
The Bridge Room bridged the courtyard and provided a central link between the north and south, using two passages on the upper floor. They also bridged the coach house and inner courtyard with the fountain. The back of the house might have been the working areas, but they overlooked attractive gardens.
Goethe’s House, classical layout of the rooms. Note the painted frieze
For a man of letters, Goethe was amazingly flexible in his projects; he was responsible for designing the park grounds along the River Ilm. He had a small villa, surrounded by green park grounds, which he kept as an informal summer residence. The building was restored recently and the garden today looks as it would have looked, when Goethe performed his botanical experiments. A man of many talents!
In 1832, Goethe died in Weimar and was appropriately buried in the Ducal Vault at Weimar's main cemetery. Only when Goethe’s grandson died (in 1885) did the family agree to give the house and collections to the state. Since being renovated in recent years, visitors have had access to 18 of the rooms which display Goethe’s own furniture and household goods, and objects from the Goethe’s collection of paintings, sculptures and decorative arts. The Goethe House and National Museum are open every day except Mon.
I visited Weimar (pop 65,000) specifically on a Bauhaus pilgrimage and had enough time to enjoy all the Goethe facilities in the city as well. Had I known beforehand, I'd have allowed much more time to see Bach’s house, the Duchess Anna Amalia library palace, Liszt House Museum, Lucas Cranach’s house and the Nietzsche Archive Museum.
Goethe's garden house
Glen Jeansonne 's book Women of the Far Right is powerful. When World War Two broke out in Sept 1939, a mass movement of American women was outraged not by Hitler’s atrocities, but by the possibility of the American government aiding those in peril in Europe. A confederation of groups coalesced into the Mothers’ Movement. These mothers fervently combined the great themes of their age: maternalism, anti-Semitism, love of Jesus and hatred of Franklin D Roosevelt, President of the USA from 1933–1945. They were powerful, claiming up to 10 million members at their peak. And they were part of an even larger isolationist movement, making common cause with men of the anti-Semitic extreme right in print and on radio.
Upper-middle-class, college-educated, the Mothers were neither socially deprived nor impoverished. Rather they were alienated and frightened, manipulated by leaders who were ambitious, angry, energised and charismatic. The women were motivated by super-patriotism, love for sons and husbands who might be conscripted and virulent hatred of Jews, Communists and F.D Roosevelt
Waters’ verbal explosions overflowed with bigotry. She claimed that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had invited Hitler to attack Britain, specifically so that Chamberlain could raise taxes on the British. She believed that the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin also needed an outside threat, so he invited Hitler to attack the USSR and to massacre Russian citizens. Furthermore Roosevelt and the Jews had conspired to restore the USA to the British Empire, merge it with the Soviet Union, eliminate Christianity and create a world government ruled by Roosevelt and Hitler. Hitler would finally declare himself a Bolshevik only at the end of the war. [The Protocols of the Elders of Zion springs to mind].
Waters conceived of an ingenious plan to thwart the conspiracy. First impeach Roosevelt and make Henry Ford commander-in-chief. Then abolish conscription for ordinary citizens, instead conscripting convicts to fight. If convict soldiers were insufficient, take Central and South America so Latin Americans could be impressed to fight.
One can certainly imagine committed women being anti-war. After all the National Legion of Mothers of America was perhaps the largest women’s peace group ever organised in the USA. The NLMA created a network of pressure groups designed to force changes in Roosevelt’s foreign policies. And while the NLMA extolled women’s supposedly superior judgement in moral matters, and praised their influence in purifying politics, the organisation under Kathleen Norris was chiefly pragmatic. She dispatched women to deliver speeches and lobby Congress. Their crusade was a peace-based political campaign.
Only when the far right wingers took over from the moderates in the NLMA did Norris lose control. The New York branch created a women’s rifle corps to shoot invading paratroopers; they sponsored campaigns to ‘Buy Christian, Employ Christian’ and to ‘Boycott all Sponsors on the English Jew Controlled Radio!’ Blacks were allowed in the new NLMA, but segregated to their own groups. Unable to stop such extremism, Norris resigned as NLMA president in April 1941.
The revised National Legion of Mothers of America was said to be inspired by William Randolph Hearst; he used his newspapers to promote the group, and thus, his preference for isolationism.
The forceful and manipulative Lyrl Van Hyning mixed anti-Semitism and maternalism in her efforts to keep America out of the war. Jesus and his disciples were Gentiles, she claimed, except for Judas, who was a Jew. Jews had inspired the American Civil War, the assassination of President Lincoln, the First World War, the election of FDR, and the Second World War. "Woodrow Wohlson", president during the First World War, was a Jew. Communism was Judaism. Women’s participation would render politics moral and humane, building upon the experience of motherhood.
In February 1941 Lyrl Clark Van Hyning co-founded We, the Mothers, Mobilise for America, a group organised to prevent American participation in WW2. The group started a newsletter Women’s Voice which grew into a major newspaper representing ultra-nationalist views.
Unlike most non-interventionist organisations, the Mothers’ groups did not disband after Pearl Harbour but continued to oppose the war. They sought to persuade women to disobey rationing and refused to cooperate with efforts to organise the home front for war. After Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Mothers’ malice toward the Allies intensified. Pearl Harbour was not the fault of the Japanese but of the British.
What a mixture! The true believers extolled motherhood and women’s solidarity and believed men had wrecked politics, yet only liberal men were their enemies. They championed patriarchy and found Christianity liberating. The mothers’ real failure was their inability to convert their passion into votes. Working primarily through the Republican Party, they failed to elect supporters. Their crude approach failed in light of the dazzling political finesse of their arch-enemy Roosevelt.
Jeansonne's summary was powerful. The Mothers’ groups constituted a massive women’s movement that was not feminist, and an anti-war movement that was not a peace movement. Up to 10 million Mothers believed the USA simply was fighting the wrong enemy. If their passion for neutrality was shared by many Americans, their hate-mongering was not. Only the most deluded souls really believed that Hitler was a devout Christian and Roosevelt a devout Bolshevik.
Still, the persistence of similar beliefs in contemporary society is one good reason not to dismiss the Mothers as irrelevant.
Readers might like to read:
Glen Jeansonne, Women of the Far Right: The Mothers’ Movement and World War II, Chicago UP 1997 and "The Right-Wing Mothers of Wartime America", in History Today, 49, 12, 1999.