Friday, January 31, 2014

Shop Window Displays of the 1970s

James Barry Wood's book, Show Windows. 75 Years of the Art of Display yielded a blog post last week on the shop windows of the 1950s that proved very popular so for this second and final post of images from the book I thought we would move to the 1970s. The dashing chaps above are from Barney's in New York, a window designed by Guy Scarangello in the late 70s. Below from top downwards we have: Frank Myers designing a window displaying bow ties for Carson Pirie Scott in Chicago in 1973; the t-shirt display from the same designer in the same shop but later in the decade; the insomniac sheep counting leaping men, again by Myers for Carson Pirie Scott; perhaps my favourite though is the last photo below of white porcelain emerging from heaps for coal like buried treasure, this by Candy Pratts for Bloomingdales New York in 1978.
Wood's book is a brilliant pictorial survey and I can't recommend it enough for anyone interested in vintage style or looking for dsiplay ideas.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Albert Wainwright: Three Portraits

Three images here by Albert Wainwright currently on display at The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield. Although the two below are very typical of his paintings, and very beautiful and delicate paintings in their own right, it is the one above that I think shows an artist at the height of his powers: to attempt a portrait, and we must call it that because the sitter is known (Peter Wilkinson, 1923), in which the sitter's face is mostly obscured is really the sign of a confident and assured hand, and I'd be prepared to bet money that anyone who knew Peter Wilkinson in the 1920s would have recognised him instantly from this painting without having to see his face. The paintings below are a portrait of Daniel Gill (1930) and an unidentified male nude. (c.1930)

Friday, January 24, 2014

1940s Male Life Studies

You might remember that I was showing off a couple of sketches from a sketchbook I bought at the weekend. I mentioned then that there were some more fully worked drawings in the sketchbook as well as the dancers I liked... and here are a couple of rather handsome chaps to prove it!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pierre's Pebbles

I would be surprised if anyone coming to this blog doesn't know the work of Pierre et Gilles, the French artist couple who create fabulous, spangled, airbrushed homoerotic photographs of mythic, religious and iconic scenes. (If you are unaware of them then Google image search is your friend).
They have been a feature of my 'gay consciousness' since I can remember but I'd never seen these before and I'm completely charmed by them... Painted on pebbles, by Pierre (which is, in itself a lovely linguistic touch) I think these little images of sailors and their friends are just delightful. The top pebble, in black and white.. a picture of Pierre et Gilles together.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Things That Fall From Books #17: Poignant Poems

Miss M G Meugens wrote slightly sentimental poetry about the Great War and is published in magazines and newspapers of the time and remembered in a couple of anthologies. The fact that this isn't great poetry is immaterial, for here, tucked inside an otherwise unrelated book is a small piece of mourning notepaper on which someone has been moved to copy out, possibly from it's original appearance in Country Life, a poem about Gallipoli in 1916. One can only wonder at the tragic connection between the copyist, the battle, the poem and the paper...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Vintage Swimwear Madness

One of the places I fuel my habit in vintage swimwear photos is Ebay. It's an interesting market place where the normal rules about what something is worth don't seem to apply. Every six months or so a couple of people turn up who have more money than sense and suddenly the auctions end at silly money, like the charming photo above that sailed away at the weekend for nearly 140 GBP. You could buy a decent sized print by a professional photographer for that kind of money and yet, here someone is shelling out for the amateur, the candid and the ephemeral. These collectors with huge money to spend are fickle, they come and go... there is always plenty of vintage photo goodness... and vintage swimwear goodness to be seen on Ebay but if you find yourself outbid by hundreds of pounds you just have to shrug and accept that there are people with odd priorities in this world!

The Grand Shop Windows of the 1950s

I have been reading a wonderful book recently: Show Windows. 75 Years of the Art of Display by Barry James Wood. There are some amazing images of shop window display from the 1930s through to the 1970s (and I may treat you to some of the 1970s windows at a later date) but I thought I would single out the 1950s today. From top to bottom... above we have Jim Buckley for Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills; and next below is another by Jim Buckley for Sacks Fifth Avenue this time in Detroit, a riff on the idea of 'Toiletries' and yes, that's a bottle of Chanel hanging in the tree; The Gene Moore design for Bonwit Teller in New York with a beautiful woman caught behind a web resulted in loads of calls from model agencies wanting to know who the woman was, "she's gone back to Sweden" is what he told them, to cover the fact that is it is actually a man in drag; Warren McCurtain demonstrates just how elegant one can be with a roll of cellophane; and the last is actually from 1949, again by Gene Moore for Bonwit Teller in New York and who can resist a design in which a woman loves hats so much she has to grow an extra head to wear them!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Now We Are Pope. Frederick Rolfe in Venice

It has been a long time since Frederick Rolfe has been on the stage. Longer still since his life has inspired a dramatist to create a new piece. So if you are in London in March it will be well worth checking out this new production, Now We Are Pope, which will also be seen at the Edinburgh Fringe later in the year. Martin Foreman is a writer whose themes often touch on sexuality, literary subjects and religion, previous productions have included Tadzio Speaks in which Thomas Mann's beautiful boy returns to the Lido as an old man, so it seems wholly appropriate that he should be turning his pen towards the life of Frederick Rolfe and in particular Rolfe's final years in Venice.

Martin says: "Although the play itself is a work of imagination, all the incidents referred to in Now We Are Pope either took place in real life or are taken from Rolfe's fiction. Furthermore, much of the play consists of quotations from his letters and novels. Among the many sources consulted in writing the play, most notable is Miriam J Benkovitz's Frederick Rolfe: Baron Corvo; Robert Scoble's recently published Raven was also of help. An annotated version of Now We Are Pope will be available later in 2014."

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sketches: A Male Dancer

At the same fair today where I bought the chap below I also bought a 1940s sketch book. It contains quite a number of much more fully realised life-drawings but it was these two sketches of a dancer that really caught my eye.

A picture of my Willy

No, Front Free Endpaper hasn't suddenly turned into a very different kind of blog. This handsome fella that I picked up today at a fair is identified on the verso in pen as 'Willy'. That's all there is! we are left to wonder if he was perhaps an usher at an Empire Cinema, or a bus boy at an Empire Hotel...

Saturday, January 18, 2014

St Hervé and the Wolf by Clive Hicks-Jenkins

These stunning images that appeared on Clive Hicks-Jenkins artlog this week are photographs of two articulated maquettes that Clive created as a precursor to a full scale painting of Herve and the Wolf. Herve is a Celtic/Breton saint, a folk-saint really, whose story is still alive in certain parts and about whom, because of Clive's interest and prompting, I wrote a poem some time ago. That poem found its way into The Book of Ystwyth along with other poetic responses to Clive's work and regular readers may remember that I was delighted to go to the book launch in Aberystwyth a few years ago now and read from my contributions to the book. I'm delighted now that Clive is still using the poem as a jumping off point for his responses to the story and a couple of stanza are quoted alongside these maquettes in the artlog post. For me though, I just can't get enough of the maquettes.. the skin of a saint is always that part which defines both their humanity and their holiness and Herve's skin here just sings against the vivid blue/black of the wolf and his jacket... he doesn't need a halo, his holiness is glowing from within...

Jesus Christ Superstar: A Forgotten Photo in a Box

When sorting through old photos today I discovered this photo I had completely forgotten about. A school production of Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar in which I was involved. It was so moody and full of atmosphere that I thought I would share it here.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Simeon Solomon signs a book to Algernon Swinburne

Well, this isn't something you see everyday... items signed by Simeon Solomon are fairly scarce in the first instance but an association copy in which he presents a book to his friend and fellow nineteenth century roustabout Algernon Swinburne is likely to make this an estimate-busting lot when it comes up for sale at Bonham's in Los Angeles on the 10th February. The pre-sale estimate is 5,000-7,000 USD. The book itself is a much more important early piece of gay literature than it is sometimes given credit for. There is a really good write up of this lot on the Bonham's auction page.
UPDATE: As predicted, this item sold well. Over twice the top estimate in fact at $17,500. Well done Simeon, if only he had known such riches in his lifetime.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Marbled Paper at the British Library

Well, I made an informal New Year's resolution this year to get back to daily blogging again... it was also going so well until this year's first bad cold kicked in and, Byronesque, I have been lounging on my couch instead of in front of the screen for these last few days...
But hopefully getting back on track now. So, thanks to John Coulthart for the heads-up, the British Library is putting a million copyright-free images online from books and other sources. The creation up of Flickr "Sets" is going to take a while but people are making a start and I was delighted to see that there is already a set of images of patterned paper... it's not large yet and consists mainly of marbled papers, but definitely one to watch for the future.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Lionel Birch

A few weeks ago I featured the rather lovely patterned paper on the outside of a book of poems by Lionel Birch called Between Sunset and Dawn, and one of the poems from the book as well. This above is the frontispiece design by Michael Stewart from the same book.

Birch is a figure who features in footnotes and small anecdotes here and there in literary history and in particular in gay literary history. He wrote a number of non-fiction books on such subjects as journalistic writing and the TUC, he married and had children, and yet, at the age of eighteen he was publishing these poems which begin with the David and Jonathan quote about the love that "passeth the love of women" and a number of which are clearly loaded with homoerotic undertones. And just two years later he also published a novel about schoolboy homosexuality Pyramid (Philip Allan, London: 1931) and then another the following year The System (Philip Allan, London: 1932) both of which are now very scarce. The first novel opens with two boys being summoned to see the headmaster who puts it to them, "It has come to my ears that you two are in the habit of kissing each other. Is that so?" We also know that, as a young man Birch was reasonably well connected to other gay writers: he was in correspondence with Edwin Emmanuel Bradford for example, reading and commenting on Bradford's books in some detail. And yet, Birch remains a slightly obscure character. So I was delighted to come across a copy of his obituary laid into one of his books the other day...

"Lionel Birch, a distinguished figure in Fleet Street, died yesterday aged 71. He had worked for The Sunday Telegraph since its first issue in 1961 and for more than 20 years he had edited the "Mandrake" Column.
"Bobby" Birch (as he was widely known) was a man of charm and unfailing courtesy and a writer with an urbane and entertaining style.
He was educated at Shrewsbury and he took a First in English at Cambridge, where he was a pupil of F. R. Leavis. While still an undergraduate he wrote a best-selling novel about public school life.
After service in the Army in the last war, when he attained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, he joined Picture Post, the Hulton magazine, and subsequently became its editor.
Birch had struggled against illness for several years but insisted upon keeping up his work. He was at his desk only a few days ago.
He is survived by his widow and their daughter, as well as by children from an earlier marriage."
The Daily Telegraph, February 19th, 1982.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Sarah Fanelli illustrates Butler, Rimbaud and Cocteau


I have already featured here, and on Twitter a number of items I bought from one of the best stationary shops ever - in the Snape Maltings near Aldeburgh in Suffolk. These are the last. Sara Fanelli is an internationally known illustrator. She has done a lot of work with the Tate Gallery in London, including decorating their walls to define exhibition entrances and spaces. But she also published a book with the Tate called Sometimes I think, sometimes I Am. Each image accompanies a quotation or aphorism from a famous figure in literature or the arts. I didn't buy the book but I couldn't resist the postcards. Above, as well as the case in which the postcards are sold I picked out three cards which from left to right illustrate: "To live is like to love - all reason is against it and all healthy instinct for it" (Samuel Butler); "Idle youth enslaved by everything, by being too sensitive I have wasted my life." (Arthur Rimbaud); "Life is a horizontal fall" (Jean Cocteau).

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Albert Wainwright Extends at the Hepworth Gallery

I keep hearing good things about the Hepworth Gallery's current exhibition in Wakefield of work from their large collection by Albert Wainwright. And they must think it's been going well too because they have now extended it by a couple of months to the middle of May. They have also posted this brilliant introductory video with a really good commentary by Holly Grange about Wainwright and his work that also shows off some of the artwork from the exhibition.

The eagle-eyed among you may notice that the sketchbooks we published last year that chronicle Wainwright's relationship with a young man called Otto are among the items on display. It's lovely to see them there. People who have visited tell me that it's really a very good insight into the man and his art and, as Ms Grange points out, he really does deserve more of a following than he currently enjoys.

(If you have already bought and enjoyed the Wainwright book from Amazon, and I can only assume that some of the people who have bought it must read this blog... could I impose on you for a favour. It is very difficult for such a small publisher with such a niche book to generate much by way of Amazon reviews but if any of you felt able to offer a short paragraph on the Amazon page for the book that would be much appreciated.)

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Roundhouses in the 1930s

I have always had a soft spot for photographs of the great Art Deco American skyscrapers. So my eye was caught by this great photo of the Fisher Building in Detroit taken through the arches of the ground floor of the Cadillac Building opposite when I was flicking through an old children's encyclopedia the other day. But when I turned the page I was confronted with two examples of circular building that seemed quite science fiction... especially the first one which is described as a street of perfectly circular houses having been built in Dresden. Google didn't help me very much and I'd love to know whether they still exist but I suppose it is unlikely they survived WW2. In particular, it would be nice to find a better photo of these space-age looking buildings. The bottom photo is of a development which is, I suppose, much more likely to have survived in some form, described as "an experiment in building healthful homes on the flat principle for the artisan classes" and says it is known locally as "The Round House".
UPDATE: 8th January 2014. Thank you so much to good friend of this blog Noctambulate who, in the comments below, pointed the way to an article on Retronaut which was accompanied by photos of a house at a exhibition that was definitely the same design as those seen in the photo of the street below. This in turn mean that I knew the German name for the design, thought to be the worlds first spherical house, was Kugelhaus and searching under that name we discover a little more information and indeed that the Kugelhaus has its own German Wiki page. All this is great and it's wonderful to see some photos of what these things look like from the inside. However, none of this progress has yet led us to a place where a whole row of these "Ball Houses" might have been. I did wonder if it was possible that this was a photograph of an architects model and never a fully realised development, but I think our sense of what is real and what is 'made up' in old photographs is fairly developed these days and, to me, it looks real: as do the people in the bottom right hand corner of the picture... So still more to know but thank you Nocambulate for taking the time to get involved...

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Richard Roberts Glass

Richard Roberts is an artist and craftsman who began his sculpting by working in bronze with a heavy emphasis on modelling the natural world with some very sensitive work focused on the image of birds and animals. Of late he has begun working with glass and it is a medium which has lent itself well to another of his interests, the human form and the way it interacts with water. These pieces, reproduced here by permission, are to be seen in an exhibition by the Society of Designer Craftsmen at The Mall Galleries in London from Friday 10th to Sunday 19th of this month.


Monday, January 06, 2014

A Long-Overdue Post of Vintage Swimwear

I haven't bought any new vintage swimwear photographs for a while, so I haven't been able to share any either. However, I have raided the folders on my hard drive and come up with this selection culled from all over the Internet, some recently, some a long while back. I'm sorry I don't have any attribution details for any of these but chances are they came from Ebay listings or Tumblrs... Enjoy...

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