Saturday, June 18, 2016

Maxwell Carew as "September Morn"

My husband found me this extraordinary photograph for my collection the other day. To be honest, I have very little idea what's going on and Maxwell Carew is only referenced a couple of times on the internet on websites interested in Variety performers in the 1930s and 40s, sometimes as an "International Tenor". But I love this mainly for the madness of it, for the hope that he is wearing a prosthetic nose and that he isn't graced with that thing the whole time, and also for it's raggedness: I love a good vintage photograph that looks like it has 'had a life'.

UPDATE: As ever, my wonderful readership comes up trumps. Cosmo has posted some excellent notes and links in the comments, but as I know from experience that many people skip the comments I have decided to elevate them to the main post. Cosmo, we salute you!

Anonymous Cosmo said...
He may have been a tenor, but his balls were well tucked!
Born Leeds 1882. Died 1938.

Maxwell, who as a female impersonator, comedy dame, or character singer, has few equals on the vaudeville stage, appeared at the London Coliseum about the middle of 1910 on the same programme as the famous Sarah Bernhardt.

Carew apes the woman of fashion, rather than a wash lady who extols the merits of a departed husband. His dressing, which he studies like, a debutante, is designed on Parisian lines, and constant practice has made him a veritable fashion plate for the
lady members of the audience.

A feature of Maxwell Carew's act at the Theatre Royal is his marvellously quick changes. He prides himself on holding the world's record for a series of complete changes, with an average of about three seconds. His female impersonations are remarkably clever. Although the frock itself is changed behind the screen, the wig, shoes, and smaller parts are changed in front of
the audience Maxwell Carew,sings in French and Italian as well as in English, his repertoire including such classics as "Don Mobile," from "Rigoletti," 'The Misere Scene" from "Il Trovatore," "Parted" (by Tosti), as well as the more modern syncopated songs. During last week his "turns" were enthusiastically applauded.

And here's the painting he was aping:

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Henry Lamb (1883-1960)

One of my favourite ways to discover a new-to-me artist and their work is through a secondhand exhibition catalogue. This is exactly what happened the other day with Henry Lamb (1883-1960): I stumbled on a catalogue from his 1984 retrospective at Manchester. As the catalogue notes, he was possibly the last of that generation of early twentieth century artists to be given a full-scale retrospective. The top two black and white images on this post, "Phantasy" and "The Green Man or, The Traveller" are scans from that catalogue. It's too easy to assume that the Internet will simply offer up full-colour, hi-res images of any art work you want to see these days but this is not the case. To find the full-colour image of The Green Man below at anything like a reasonable size I had to hunt down auction results, screen capture the image in bits and then stitch it back together. I still haven't found a colour reproduction of Phantasy even though it currently resides in the Tate collection. 

In both cases it would be nice to know more about the thought and feeling behind these paintings. The Phantasy was painted in 1912 at a time when Lamb was riding a lot. The catalogue quotes Lady Pansy Lamb rather enigmatically reporting that Henry "always had a fantasy about a white horse, especially one with wings." The painting was done as a commission by Lord Bentinck but, on completion, was bought by Robert Ross. Lamb wasn't very happy with it "the colours are not ethereal enough and the background is badly bothered.. still something of the idea remains visible." The Green Man, whilst clearly influenced by Picasso also remains something of a mystery in terms of the motivation and thought process behind it.

Having found a couple of images in the catalogue that grab my attention, of course the next thing is to comb the internet for others. Art UK, which used to be the BBC Your Paintings website can be very helpful, as can auction results: images from which often don't appear in straightforward google image searches. Lamb was a versatile artist who produced decorative work, WW1 imagery and a large body of very sensitive and subject-responsive portraiture.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ronald Firbank and six other writers deprecated by unimaginative people

As trailed a few weeks ago, I am delighted to announce the publication of a new catalogue "Ronald Firbank and six other writers deprecated by unimaginative people. One hundred items from the collection of Robert Scoble."

The catalogue is made up of half items by and about Ronald Firbank, and for the rest divided into sections on Simon Raven, Roger Peyrefitte, Montague Summers, Lord Berners and Gerald Hamilton.

You can view the full, illustrated catalogue online here:

Members of my mailing list have had access to the catalogue for about a week and so a good number of the items have already sold but there is still plenty of exciting and intriguing material left now on public sale. Details of how to order if anything catches your fancy can be found within the catalogue.

Printed copies of the catalogue, of which there are only 40, each numbered and signed by both collector and bookseller, can also be ordered for £20 plus postage; please email for details.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

William Stobbs illustrates Summer Visitors by William Mayne

William Stobbs has appeared once before on this blog and elicited at the time a number of appreciative comments from people who knew either him or his work. He's been one of my favourite illustrators since discovering the book Gianni and the Ogre that I originally blogged in 2009. So it was a delight to discover that he also illustrated a book by my current favourite author, William Mayne: Summer Visitors. Stobbs illustrations for this one are a little less stylized than for the orgre book but nonetheless they are just so assured and fine whether illustrating figures or landscapes there is an exquisite use of black line and white space, there is a real sense of the neo-romantic about his landscape work in particular. Above all you can tell that here is someone who genuinely understood the process involved in getting his artwork into print because these images zing from the page even on soft, not particularly good quality paper. He was a real master of his craft and deserves to be better known. The book, I am afraid, is one of the Mayne titles that I have on the shelf to read but not yet...

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Young Couple by Johannes Hansen

In these days of the Internet and the Google image search, it is easy to assume that all the thousands of works of art in thousands of museums and galleries round the world can be brought to the screen in a hi-res full-colour image in a moment of seconds. But it's not true. It is why I sometimes pick up black and white photographs like this one because you just can't assume that it will be on the Internet when you get home from the antique shop or car boot sale or whatever...

Sure enough, this stunning and quite large format photograph was produced by the State Art Museum in Copenhagen and depicts a beautiful work by Danish sculptor Johannes Hansen which I can't find illustrated anywhere else on the net.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Latest Vintage Photos

As ever when the postman brings a few more vintage photos for  the collection, I like to make sure they are shared here for you all.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Unknown Illustrator: Lorna Thomas

I was delighted to acquire these two original illustrations by someone called Lorna Thomas. Clearly they are for a book telling Celtic myths and legends but I can find no record of such a book nor of any of Ms Thomas's work on other titles: which seems odd seeing as just from the evidence of these two alone, she was clearly a talented illustrator at a professional standard. Perhaps she married and changed her name. The two images are actually on the same sheet of parchment paper but were two large to scan together. 

Who links to my website?