Bible of British Taste
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  • February28th

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    Glynn Boyd Harte was born in Rochdale in 1948. He met his wife Caroline Bullock (herself an artist and historian) in the foyer of  the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in 1968, when he was a 21 year old student at St. Martin’s : she was wearing a crinoline, he fell in love with her at first sight. They married in 1970 (and later had two sons, Lucian and Caspar); after this they were very good at everything they turned their hands to, and didn’t bother at all with anything they did not care about. Above all, Glynn’s object was always to have fun, to amuse and to be amused, and in this he generally excelled.

    An Eric Ravilious 'Alphabet' mug, in a lithograph which will be sold by Neil Jennings in a mixed sale of artwork to be held at the Artworkers Guild, 6 Queens Square London WC1 N3AT, from March 3rd 2015. [For more information contact Neil Jennings, neil@jenningsfineart.co.uk   07812 994558].

    An Eric Ravilious ‘Alphabet’ mug by GBH, in a lithograph which will be sold by Neil Jennings in a mixed sale of artwork to be held at the Artworkers Guild, 6 Queens Square London WC1 N3AT, from March 3rd 2015. [For more information contact Neil Jennings, neil@jenningsfineart.co.uk 07812 994558].

    They were part of the Young Fogey gang of coevals who moved into and restored derelict eighteenth housing stock in formerly slummy parts of London that included Gavin Stamp and Alexandra Artley and Dan Cruickshank, described by Robinson and Artley in the Young Georgian Handbook, published by Harpers and Queen in 1985.

    The Boyd Harte’s as ‘Mr. and Mrs. Soanie’, described by Alexandra Artley and John Martin Robinson in Harpers and Queen’s  New Georgian Handbook published in 1985. ‘Like all British thinkers, they run for months on ginger nuts and tea.’ A tiny Ravilious Alphabet mug is in everyday use on the floorboards. The GBH’s were part of the Young Fogey gang of coevals who moved into and restored derelict eighteenth housing stock in formerly slummy parts of London, that included the architectural historian Gavin Stamp, his wife Artley and Dan Cruikshank among others.

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    GBH illustrated many books, but the very best were those that he conceived of and wrote himself. These is the title page from his very first publication, ‘Murderer’s Cottages,’ (Warren Editions 1976), published by that fellow perfectionist Jonathan Gili and now a rare item. Note the Pop Art lettertype. It is in chapbook style measuring approximately 3 x 5 inches, each plate depicting a Staffordshire china souvenir of  a notorious murderer’s cottage. Peter Blake, GBH’s tutor at the RCA, would have appreciated it. Only 500 copies were printed. Glynn’s friend and collaborator as one of the Freres Perverts, Ian Beck, has published all the other plates here.

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    The house in which George Frederick Manning helped his wife Marie de Roux to murder her lover in 1839, and then to bury his body in quicklime under the kitchen flagstones. Both were hanged for their crime. Charles Dickens would later model the character of Hortense in his novel Bleak House on Marie Manning, and Marie appeared as a waxwork in Madame Tussard’s Chamber of Horrors. The murder was remembered as the ‘Bermondsey Horror,’ and so the Mannings’ house was immortalised in glazed ceramic for the popular Victorian market.

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    GBH played the piano soulfully and set the Poet Laureate John Betjeman’s prose poem  script for the television programme Metro-land to music;  the two of them performed it together with megaphone and train noises in various locations, sometimes forgetting their lines. This is taken from his deluxe artist’s book of 1977. His lithographs were and still are reproduced by the Curwen Press.

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    Glynn and Carrie dressed beautifully and fantastically, she in print dresses and tea gowns and he in ‘bags,’ waistcoats and two-tone, co-respondent shoes. But despite his rather fin de siecle good looks he enjoyed telling a joke against himself in which a third party, possibly the late James Lees-Milne,  had referred to him as ‘rather plain.’ A fulsome thank you letter from the 1990s describing sybaritic holidays in Cornwall and France –  lobsters eaten, glorious sunsets, church crawls and ‘Proust’s bedroom at the Carnavalet’ –  ended with the plaint, ‘The question is, had I been less plain, would I have been able to enjoy myself so much?’  Another anecdote involved being spotted by a member of the public buying his little sons an ice cream, taken for a child-molester and detained by the police. It ended with a car chase through the streets of Bloomsbury as the uncertain coppers drove him hither and tither, doubting that he was the marrying kind but searching at his insistence  for the woman whom he claimed was his wife, and whom he had helpfully described to them as, ‘a Bloomsbury bat in a Fauvist frock, Officer!’

    Glynn's father was a commercial artist and art teacher and his grandfather owned a lithographic printing works. The front garden path of his childhood home was paved with old litho stones. At the RCA, Bawden and Ravilious were his artistic heroes long before they came back into vogue, but his earliest works  also shared traits with those of his near contemporary David Hockney. His first works were in crayon but in the early 1980s he changed medium for watercolour, and later, egg tempera, without ever falling below his own self-imposed standard of perfection. He was a genius at depicting the perfectly arranged tablescape, sometimes as the illustration to a cookery book or newspaper column in the Times or Telegraph, sometimes for his own delectation. This is my favourite amongst those that were translated into lithograph, "Mr Dodd's Auricula' (1979). Barbara Jones's  genius King Penguin Guide to the Isle of Wight can be seen in the top right corner. Mr Dodd's house has featured on the bobt here and here.

    Glynn’s father was a commercial artist and art teacher and his grandfather owned a lithographic printing works. The front garden path of his childhood home was paved with old litho stones. At the RCA, Bawden – who taught him – and Ravilious were his artistic heroes long before they came back into vogue, but his earliest works also shared traits with those of his near contemporary David Hockney. His first works were in crayon but in the early 1980s he changed medium for watercolour, and later, egg tempera, without ever falling below his own self-imposed standard of perfection. He was a genius at depicting the perfectly arranged tablescape, sometimes as the illustration to a cookery book or newspaper column in the Times or Telegraph, sometimes for his own delectation. This is my favourite amongst those that were translated into lithograph, “Mr Dodd’s Auricula’ (1979). Barbara Jones’s genius King Penguin Guide to the Isle of Wight can be seen in the top right corner. Mr Dodd’s house has featured on the bobt here and here.

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    GBH in the the Georgian house at no 29, Percy Street, to which they moved in the mid 80s, where the wallpapers were either meticulously hand painted or designed by him and some were reproduced for for his Dolphin Studio design company. Cynthia Kee described her first meeting, finding him up a ladder painting wallpaper on to the bare plaster there, ‘ the stripes were uncompromisingly in period, magenta, with a thinner line alongside and another of gold dots. Glynn was working on the dots.’ This clipping and the following one from The Times, October 1990.

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    Here in Fitzrovia GBH felt entirely spiritually at home, in a house so dilapidated when he found it that the electrical wiring had been gnawed by rats. No matter, for in his imagination the Vorticists were still in the Eiffel Tower restaurant a stone’s throw away, ‘being very avant-garde and angular in black and magenta, Augustus John swishing his coat and beard, Ronald Firbank manfully grappling with a pea. Nina Hamnett, of course – always the perfect lady – was being sick into her handbag over the road at the Fitzroy Tavern.’ What is missing here, is a proper photographic record of  the exquisite rooms that Glynn and Carrie contrived here and earlier, at Cloudesley Square. Glynn’s two lithographs below go some way to supply this.

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    Table-scape at Cloudesley Square, in Islington, the Boyd Harte’s  first marital home in the 1970s, where period decorative treatments and particularly wood-graining were much appreciated in the era of universally stripped pine. The GBH’s had often rushed into a junk shop or workshop to rescue a sweetly grained bedroom chest of drawers from the pine stripper’s chemical tank.

    Chimmneypiece at Cloudesley Square.

    Chimmneypiece at Cloudesley Square.

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    GBH at Cloudesley Square, Islington. The architectural historian John Martin Robinson described meeting Glynn and Carrie for the first time, being asked to supper and then  arriving at an ‘uninhabitable Georgian wreck’ where they removed a bit of rusty corrugated iron, climbed in and then ate a picnic together off the floor.

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    Ravilious bowl, lithograph. The Eric Ravilious ‘Boatrace’ bowl for Wedgwood, standing on a burr walnut table in Cloudesley Square..

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    Foodie books. A labour of love.

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    Asparagus watercolour. Glynn was particularly fond of the grid, trellis or graph pattern as a background matrix.

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    Carnations and brushes lithograph.

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    The album of five musical compositions which he composed, illustrated and dedicated to his wife Carrie.

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    ‘Tea at Farringdon,’ Lord Berners, Penelope Betjeman and her Arab mare, Moti. For the original watercolour, featured in an earlier post, see here.

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    The plangent musical score. ‘The?  Lait?  One-Lump-or-Two? Un Cheval ! Un Cheval Rose !! Encore du The?’

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    ‘The Pyramids.’ Also utilised as the ‘Carte Postale,’ in a dramatic routine performed by les Freres Perverts.

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    ‘Les Mains de Ravel.’

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    GBH as artist in residence during the rebuilding of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

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    The Pansy fabric designed by GBH for Dolphin Studios.

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    GBH’s watercolour, ‘Archie scraping his boot,’ (2000), painted at Charlecote,  the Warwickshire country house of his art school coeval and old friend, Sir Edmund Fairfax Lucy.

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    A.N. Wilson and ex-Battersea Dogs Home cocker spaniel ‘Percy,’ in an infamous incident recorded by GBH in strip-cartoon narrative in memoriam, after Percy died prematurely.

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    Early sketch towards an unrealised painting that was to have been titled, ‘Mr and Mrs. Wilson and Percy,’ after Hockney’s semi-eponymous double portrait of Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell in the Tate. Glynn was an obelisk fetishist with an admirable collection; ‘poor man’s obelisks’ referred to my less desirable shelf full of minature lighthouses manufactured from Cornish Serpentine on the Lizard peninsula.

    All missives, programmes, envelopes and invitations were opportunities for more jokes, wildly embellished gossip and running jokes of long-standing. During his final illness, a friend described a dinner at her house at which GBH and another friend who was a dress designer laughed themselves silly as they discussed couture shrouds - 'a shroud to die for.' After he collapsed in a hospital waiting room his jacket, ripped by the resuscitation team, was exhibited like a toreador's cloak to visitors at  his house in Gower Street.

    All missives, programmes, envelopes and invitations were opportunities for more jokes, wildly embellished gossip and ancient running jokes of long-standing. During his final illness, a friend described a dinner at her house at which GBH and another dinner guest who was a dress designer laughed themselves silly as they discussed couture shrouds – ‘a shroud to die for.’ After he collapsed in a hospital waiting room his jacket, ripped by the resuscitation team, was exhibited like a toreador’s cloak to visitors at his house in Gower Street.

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    Glynn, Lucian, Caspar and Carrie Boyd Harte drawn by an ailing GBH shortly before his death. As Carrie points out, ‘He got all the shoes exactly right.’ GBH is remembered as an enthusiastic Brother and Past Master (in 1996) of the Art Worker’s Guild. When the Guild ‘Revels’ were revived he directed several full-dress pantomimes, which oscillated between ‘farcical under-rehearsal and total professionalism’ ( as one of his collaborators, Alan Powers, recalled in his obituary for the Independent) and were performed to sell-out audiences. As Powers also wrote, ‘The listing of individual achievements fails to convey the totality of Glynn Boyd Harte’s life, which, like Oscar Wilde’s, was the vehicle of genius. It extended to his taste in decoration and collecting, his circles of friends and enemies ( irreversibly and often unreasonably transferred from the first category into the second) and not least, the warmth of the family life that surrounded him.’
    To say that his achievements should be better known would be quite true, to say that he is greatly missed is an understatement.
    All images copyright bibleofbritishtaste / the estate of Glynn Boyd Harte.
    Excerpts and links can be used providing that full and clear credit to bibleofbritishtaste is given along with direction back to the original content.

     

  • February22nd

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    The postcard advertises Bannerman’s Bar in  Cowgate, Edinburgh Old Town,  Julian Bannerman’s legendary first venture in 1979,  the place where he met his wife Isabel Eustace (it is still there). This is a tour of the house and garden which they recently took on in 84 pictures, beginning with the garden, then the house. The pictures are large so that you can see the detail. If you don’t like gardens, fast forward now, but you will be missing the best bit.

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    In 2012 the Bannermans left Hanham Court (one of my first and favourite posts here) the house they had restored and the garden they had created near Bath, for Trematon Castle on the eastern edge of Cornwall.  Here they live in  a long low Regency house built by a practical naval man who was also a follower of Sir John Soane.

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    The entrance front, with olive trees donated from a client’s garden and the Victorian planters that they found in a  salvage yard two years ago and rebuilt. Light bounces off the water and shines straight through the house from front to back.

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    I’ve stayed at Trematon half a dozen times and watched the house transformed with new colour schemes and dozens of their pictures unpacked and hung. This was the front drive at the end of winter in 2014.

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    There was no garden as such before they came. But by last summer the nine acres of castle grounds in which the house stands had been utterly re-made.

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    This is the double border planted and designed by Isabel in the curving contour of the bailey wall. It is what the Bannermans are justly famous for  as I and J Bannerman, Garden Designers and Builders, gardeners by appointment to the Prince of Wales. They have been working together since 1983.

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    The green oak obelisk are  a Bannerman speciality.

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    This is the border in 2014. This year it will be even bigger, bursting and overflowing from its beds.

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    Trematon Castle was built to command the mouth of the River Tamar over the water from the naval base of Plymouth. This is its gatehouse with a handsome upper chamber in which the Black Prince spent a night in the fourteenth century.The castle belongs to the Duchy of Cornwall, it fell into the hands of the Duke of Cornwall soon after the Norman Conquest. When Sir Francis Drake sailed back to Plymouth after his circumnavigation of the globe in 1580, he waited at anchor, then came ashore to store the treasure he had gathered up for his monarch Queen Elizabeth  – gold, silver and emeralds pirated from Spanish ships around the coasts of South America – in safety at Trematon.

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    Here is the garden ‘in the green,’ in early spring.

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    And again,  a couple of months further on.

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    The nineteenth century builder of the new house here hit upon the plan of bashing out sections of the curtain wall at strategic viewpoints, bringing in great gusts of bright effulgent light.

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    The ancient Motte stands on a steeph tump like an upturned pudding basin. Julian sprayed the winter heliotrope that was rampant here choking out all other growth, and now the long dormant seeds of  thyme, Valerian, native orchids and wild fennel have burst back into life.

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    There is a narrow grassy walk along the rampart under the wall that makes a path between Motte and Gatehouse.

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    Here is the garden front, with little wooden dummy cannons made by the Bannermans, trained on Plymouth.

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    The house with its castellated garden front stands on the elevated plateau where the original castle dwelling hall and chapel was once.

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    Young and ancient apple trees and Gunnera in a protected meadow cum orchard between the walls.

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    The ‘Hindoo’ swimming pool installed by previous tenants, where a few newts were swimming around the steps.

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    Stables on the back drive.

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    And at last, the house. The Staircase and Entrance Hall, decorated for the World of Interiors shoot last year (for which the photographer was the excellent Christopher Simon Sykes, who is also David Hockey’s biographer ) and (just) published in March 2015.

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    Isabel’s garden flowers taken as she was arranging them for the shoot on the kitchen table.

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    Binoculars for scanning Her Majesty’s fleet or any other shipping anchored in Plymouth Sound.

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    The Dining Room which often doubles as Isabel’s office.

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    I like this room so much, I’ve taken its picture six or seven times.

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    Isabel getting on with it.

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    Topographical prints and watercolours of antiquarian scenes.

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    A flotilla of warships.

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    Beyond the dining room is s Morning Room or parlour with the TV.

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    All the fireplaces here are original, of the same Regency date as the house.

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    And I am proud that Isabel has added the two little Cornish Serpentine lighthouses from the Lizard peninsula that I  gave her to the mantlepiece.

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    In 2014 she made stripey covers for the chairs.

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    But I like the room in deshabille too, here we watched the Downton Abbey Xmas special in 2012 by the roaring fire, the one when Matthew Crawley dies horribly in a car smash.

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    The huge copper sphere is an ancient finial from Christopher Wren’s Tom Tower in Oxford, taken down during restoration in the 1960s.

    Trematon Castle : Avoid culture all day & night at Bannermans.

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    View of the long border from the Drawing Room window.

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    Blissful Drawing Room.

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    Isabel’s mantlepiece arrangement are matchless, the dynamic opposites of the ‘tablescapes’ contrived by that careful decorator, David Hicks.

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    This picture hang which I like hugely includes a poster for Graham Sutherland and a Paul Nash-like gouache by David Vickery.

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    Upstairs.

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    Master bedroom with the bed made up from lengths of carved Gothick pelmet.

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    More gouaches from their David Vickery collection.

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    A profile silhouette of Julian tucked behind the looking glass frame.

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    Spare room. Isabel’s botanical photographs.

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    These pictures were taken soon after they moved in.

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    A year later the daybed had been re-webbed and the room was looking a lot swankier.

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    Ismay’s bedroom.

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    Early morning. View from my bedroom.

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    My bed, facing out to sea.

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    Isabel and Julian’s bathroom is the nicest I have ever seen.

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    Isabel’s sewing room.

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    Some of her document textiles.

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    And one that puzzles her, she has no idea what it was woven for.

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    That evening we went up onto the rampart walk,

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    turned left at the gatehouse with its plaque commemorating the Black Prince’s visit,

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    where the fireplace held a bundle of bunting,

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    (the recalcitrant pug is their son Bertie’s dog)

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    then up the steep castle mound,

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    and via a vertiginous iron ladder, to the precarious ledge fifty feet up, where Isabel hauled up a new Union Jack in place of the old one, shattered by winter storms.

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    Cannons still trained on Plymouth. This photograph c.Isabel Bannerman. The gardens at Trematon are open to the public, more information here. Isabel’s botanical photographs are with  jonathancooper.co.uk . Probably one of the most beautiful places in Britain. Thanks to the Bannermans.

    All images except this one, copyright bibleofbritishtaste. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to bibleofbritishtaste, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

  • January25th

    Tanya Harrod published  ‘The Real Thing, essays on making in the modern world,’ this week. Its essays are about art, craft and design, and the shifts and spaces in between them.These are subjects she has been thinking and writing about for 30 years. In this book you can read about the taxonomy of the rubbish dump, Barbara Hepworth’s missing archives, Eric Gill, Folk nationalism and reviving ‘peasant art’ in Britain, and on page 86, ‘Why don’t we hate Etsy?’

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    Cutting a dash as a research student at Oxford.

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    She grew up in this Modern Movement house in Surrey, and still describes herself as a Modernist.

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    The house which she shares with her husband Henry Harrod  in west London is a palimpsest, containing the belongings and decorative finishes from three generations. Henry’s  paternal grandmother Frances Forbes Robertson made her home here in the 1930s, the portraits that she painted hang together in the staircase and hall. Next came her son the economist Sir Henry Roy Forbes Harrod and his energetic and strong minded wife Wilhelmina Cresswell (always known as Billa), aesthete and historian who was briefly engaged to the poet John Betjeman, complied the Shell Guide to Norfolk for him, founded the Norfolk Churches Trust and made her last home in the Old Rectory, Holt, in that interesting county. She died in 2005. Tanya’s things are C19th Arundel prints and twentieth century paintings and ceramics, almost all of them by artists and makers about whom she has written. On the Biedermier tallboy is a  ceramic Madonna and Child by contemporary artist-craftsman Philip Eglin, of whom Tanya writes in The Real Thing, ‘Studying my Madonna and Child reminds me of how learned good artists invariably are.’

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    The overmantle picture is by the St.Ives School modernist Terry Frost.

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    ‘Beasties’ Wallpaper by Peggy Angus (1904-1983), designer, teacher and painter, of whom Tanya wrote this obituary when she died in 1993. The painted plate is by Philip Eglin. (You can buy Angus’s papers once again now, from Anne Dubbs at the wonderful Blithfield and Company.)

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    The oil painting on the left is by Tanya’s mother Maria Sax, who painted her own mother on horseback galloping away from her two small, distraught children.

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    Large jars by Richard Batterham, Dorset artist-potter who trained at Leach’s studio and follows the tradition of Michael Cardew and William Staite Murray. In her essay, ‘Heroes with Feats of Clay,‘ Tanya discusses the vexed question of why avant-garde sculptural ceramics haven’t achieved the same high status as abstract sculpture : ‘There may be yet another sticking point for many people. Western art, despite the hiccup of abstraction, is firmly rooted in literature and narrative. Most pots have no easily understood narrative content. They are, as Herbert Read was aware, marvellous examples of pure form. This self-contained remoteness …has come to seem problematic. There is a famous story about a student talking to the eminent designer David Pye. The student said that ceramics did not excite him at all. ‘Did it ever occur to you,’ asked Pye, ‘that their function might be to calm you down?’

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    A Zimmerlinde, a large leaved Austrian Linden or Lime tree cultivated as an indoor plant. Lucian Freud had one of these, it appears in his ‘Large Interior, Paddington‘ 1968-9, and several of his drawings.

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    ‘Billa’s table.’ Her country house was anatomised and photographed for Alvilde Lees-Milne’s book,’The Englishwoman’s House’ in 1984.

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    Small ornaments that she arranged on its hardstone top . ‘We all liked her table so much, so we decided to recreate it.’

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    Tanya’s first subject was John Ruskin and the Arundel Society, the fons et origo of all her writings since on the arts and the crafts. Ruskin’s  ‘cabinet of wonders’  combing visual art, natural history collections and manuscripts made for his ideal society  The Guild of St. George, is still on show at the Ruskin Gallery in Sheffield.  Some of the nineteenth century prints of Italian Renaissance paintings published by the Society and collected by her as a postgraduate student hang in the hall, against crimson ‘Suns’ wallpaper designed by Peggy Angus and hand printed using lino-cut blocks and household emulsion in her Camden Town studio.Tanya’s essays on ‘Peggy Angus and flat pattern’ and ‘William Morris in our time,’ are published in her new book, The Real Thing.

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    Hanging higher up the stairs beneath Tanya’s ancestors, are portraits of the young Roy Harrod painted by his adoring mother,  some of them returned again to London from the Old Rectory in Holt.

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    The best bedroom with Omega-ish walls hand painted by Joao Penalva.

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    A painting by Stella Cardew, first wife to the composer Cornelius Cardew. Tanya’s biography of his potter father Michael, is ‘The Last Sane Man,‘ published in 2013. A. S. Byatt described her as ‘the perfect biographer for such a complex and gifted man,’ you can read her review here.

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    Spare bedroom with Billa Harrod’s Victorian shell flowers under a dome.

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    Peggy Angus’s original hand-blocked bathroom wallpaper,made in her Camden Town studio. As Tanya has written,

    ‘The beauty of her handblock papers has been recognised above all by artists; partly because unlike most wallpapers they form the ideal background to paintings. Over the years Angus invented an extraordinary range of patterns. Many were abstract but others convey a vivid pastoral mood, making subtle use of oak leaves, heraldic dogs and birds, grapes and vines, corn stooks, stylised suns and winds. They seem rooted in the natural world and in the visual arts of the British Isles, from Celtic pattern to heraldry to the art of bargees and gypsies.’

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    Sailor’s tokens and shell souvenirs collected by Billa Harrod hang above the bath.They represent the kind of popular ‘folk’ or ‘people’s’ art beloved of the artist Barbara Jones, of whom I wrote in an earlier post.

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    Posters advertising Sir Roy Harrod’s lecture tour in Japan.

    The same 'TWIST' pattern in a yellow colourway, printed by  Blithfield and Co.

    The same ‘TWIST’ pattern in a yellow colourway, printed by Blithfield and Co.

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    The kitchen overmantle. Drawing by their little granddaughter, a bird plate made by Seth Cardew at Wenfordbridge Pottery and assorted ceramics amassed by earlier generations of Harrods.

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    ‘The Future is Handmade : the crafts in the new millennium,’ poster advertising Tanya’s lecture in Krakow.

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    Large bowl by Michael Cardew, two small apprentice pieces made by Tanya at the Wenfordbridge Pottery under the tuition of Seth Cardew, and her masterpiece biography of  his father Michael Cardew, which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

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    Father and daughter. The Crafts in Britain in the 20th Century, her outstanding magnum opus published by Yale in 1999, and its beautiful offspring, The Real Thing now a 5 star read on Amazon. Its essays were written from the 1980s on, charting the period in which we changed from being a nation of producers to become a nation of consumers, as the centres of mass production moved to the far side of the world and the internet created a new virtual world of ‘infinite images.’

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    Tanya possesses the visual objectivity and academic rigor of the architectural scholar Nicholas Pevsner, but this is overlaid with a sensibility and humanity that makes her writing so much more nuanced, rewarding and pleasurable to read.
    All images (3 portrait photographs and Blithfield’s TWIST excepted) c.bibleofbritishtaste.