Tag Archives: Second World War

‘Contemporary Gothic to read in bed’

Paul Bowles and Erich Alport

The Lemon by Mohammed Mrabet ; translated from the Moghrebi and edited by Paul Bowles. London : Peter Owen. 1969

Rob, from the Univ Development Office, reading The Lemon by Mohammed Mrabet ; translated from the Moghrebi and edited by Paul Bowles. London : Peter Owen. 1969

“For Erich Alport after thirty-nine years of friendship,” wrote Paul Bowles in the last book he gave to Erich Alport just a year before Alport’s death in 1971. Their long friendship is reflected in Alport’s ownership of first editions of nine of Paul Bowles works: novels, short stories and translations.

Up Above the World. London : Peter Owen. 1967.

Cover and extract from Up Above the World. London : Peter Owen. 1967. Inside Bowles wrote, “For Erich (a bit of contemporary Gothic to read in bed.) Paul, Tangier, 5/II/68”. Excerpt from ‘Up Above the World’ by Paul Bowles. Copyright
1967, Paul Bowles. This is used with permission of the Paul Bowles Estate. Not for reuse.

Paul Bowles started writing young. His poem ‘Spire Song’ appeared in the Parisian, Avant-Garde literary journal Transition when he was 17. Born in New York, he later made his base in Morocco and travelled widely. He was a prolific musical composer, collaborating in the theatre with Tennessee Williams among others. He increasingly turned towards writing and inspired authors of the American Beat Movement including William S. Burroughs. Jane Bowles, nee Auer, with whom he shared an unconventional marriage, was also an innovative writer.

Cover and extract from Jane Bowles' Plain Pleasures. London : Peter Owen. 1966

Cover and extract from Jane Bowles’ Plain Pleasures. London : Peter Owen. 1966. Excerpt from ‘Plain Pleasures’ by Jane Bowles. Copyright 1966, Jane Bowles. This is used with permission of Rodrigo Rey Rosa. Not for reuse.

Cutting about Jane and Paul Bowles from The Observer, 12 October 1959.

Cutting from The Observer, 12 October 1959. It is kept in the University College Archives [UC:P110/C6/9].

Bowles and Alport kept up a correspondence, some of which was found in Alport’s books and is now kept in the College Archives. They stayed in touch, despite both being often on the move, and sometimes met on their travels. In his letters, Bowles often mentions his friend, the painter Ahmed Yacoubi, whose work Alport collected.

Letter from Bowles to Alport, undated

Letter from Bowles to Alport. It is undated but probably from the 1950s as it was found with other letters of that date in Alport’s copy of Bowles’ novel, The Sheltering Sky. It is kept in the University College Archives [UC:P110/C6/3]. Materials from the Paul Bowles archive. Copyright 2012, Paul Bowles. This is used with permission of the Paul Bowles Estate. Not for reuse.

Letter from Bowles to Alport dated 26 October 1954

Letter from Bowles to Alport dated 26 October 1954. It is kept in the University College Archives [UC:P110/C6/4]. Materials from the Paul Bowles archive. Copyright 2012, Paul Bowles. This is used with permission of the Paul Bowles Estate. Not for reuse.

 

Paul Bowles and Gertrude Stein

Paul Bowles knew of Gertrude Stein from childhood. In an interview with Florian Vetsch he recalls that in High School his English teacher told his class that they must write properly as they were not James Joyce or Gertrude Stein. This made him wonder who Gertrude Stein might be and led him to her ‘A Wife Has A Cow’ in a second hand copy of Transition magazine. He read it and thought it made no sense. Then he thought, “That’s wonderful. There [in Paris] you can publish things that don’t make sense at all and not even in proper English”.

Text and illustrations from 'As A Wife Has A Cow A Love Story'

Extract and illustration from A Book Concluding With As A Wife Has A Cow A Love Story by Gertrude Stein with artwork by Juan Gris. Paris : Editions De La Galerie Simon. 1926.

 

At twenty Bowles made his second trip to Paris and met Gertrude Stein in person (he didn’t meet anyone on the first visit as he was too shy). This and subsequent interactions with Stein had a great impact on Bowles’ literary career. It was she who suggested that he go to Morocco, a place which was to inspire him.

Bowles was among the young male friends Stein made after WWI with whom she had sexual as well as artistic nonconformity in common.  Others included Virgil Thomson, Bernard Faÿ, and Francis Rose. The National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian has an excellent exhibition of images of Stein which includes more on these friendships.

Gertrude Stein in the Alport Collection

…the creator of the new composition in the arts is an outlaw until he is a classic – Gertrude Stein (Composition as Explanation, 1926)

Biographically speaking, Erich Alport overlapped with Gertrude Stein. Both were from German Jewish backgrounds, both were gay, both collected contemporary art. Perhaps this explains why Alport acquired several of her books. They also had acquaintances, such as Paul Bowles, in common. So perhaps Stein’s work was recommended to Alport by his friends.

Page from A Village Are You Ready Yet Not Ready. Paris : Editions de la Galerie Simon. 1926.

Page from A Village Are You Ready Yet Not Ready. Paris : Editions de la Galerie Simon. 1926. Alport’s copy is 31/100. The lithographs are by Elie Lascaux.

Stein’s work in the Alport Collection includes her experiments with language such as A Book Concluding With As A Wife Has A Cow and A Village Are You Ready Yet Not Yet, both published by Andre Simon in signed, limited editions of c. 100 copies. It also encompasses her bestselling books about herself, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, written by Stein from the point of view of Alice her life companion, and Wars I Have Seen, about her experience of living in occupied France.

Cover and publishers 'blurb' from Wars I Have Seen. London : B. T. Batsford. 1945

Cover and publisher’s ‘blurb’ from Wars I Have Seen. London : B. T. Batsford. 1945. The cover design is by Cecil Beaton who was better known for his society photographs.

In Composition as Explanation, published in 1926 by Virginia and Leonard Woolf at the Hogarth Press, Stein talks about her writing. She touches on the effect of the World War on the reception of literature.

Cover of Composition as Explanation. London : Hogarth Press. 1926

Cover of Composition as Explanation. London : Hogarth Press. 1926. The cover design is by Vanessa Bell, sister of the printers.

Stein posits that War broke the trend that art needs time to become socially acceptable (“classic”). War “made every one not only contemporary in act not only comtemporary in thought  but comtemporary in self-consciousness made every one contemporary with the modern composition” (Composition as Explanation, p. 26). The literary world that Alport and his friends inhabited was one where those “who created the expression of the modern composition were to be recognised before we were even dead some of us quite a long time before we were dead” (Composition as Explanation, p. 26).

You can borrow some of Paul Bowles work from the Library:

The Sheltering Sky (YLM/BOW)

Collected Stories (YLM/BOW)

Other sources used in this post were:

Birch, Dinah (Ed.). The Oxford Companion to English Literature. OUP : Oxford. 2009. (ZC)

The Authorised Paul Bowles Website. Accessed 21 Nov. 2012 http://www.paulbowles.org

Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories. Online exhibition from National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. Accessed 21 Nov. 2012 http://www.npg.si.edu/exhibit/stein/intro.html

All images on this page are copyright of University College.

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‘The complete sculptor’

Henry Moore’s drawings

Henry Moore was primarily a sculptor as defined by Herbert Read:

The complete sculptor…will be prepared to use every degree in the scale of solids, from clay to obsidian, from wood to steel – Herbert Read (Introduction to Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings, 1944)

Drawing, however, was integral to Moore’s artistic practice throughout his career, albeit with a changing relationship to his sculpture over the years. Drawings feature in all the books about Moore in the Alport Collection. Alport also owned at least one of Moore’s sketches.

Colin reading Shelter Sketch Book by Henry Moore. Editions Poetry London : London. 1940.

Colin, one of Univ’s Porters, looking at Shelter Sketch Book by Henry Moore. Editions Poetry London : London. 1940. Colin is standing beside one of the sculptures to be found around the College, The Shelley Memorial. It was created by Edward Onslow Ford in the late nineteenth century.

Early work

The first book dedicated to the work of Henry Moore was published in 1934 at a relatively early stage in his career (he attended art school after serving in WWI). In his introduction Herbert Read praises Moore unreservedly as at “the fullness of his powers” and offering “the perfected product of his genius”.

Henry Moore. A. Zwemmer : London. 1934.

The cover of Henry Moore. A. Zwemmer : London. 1934, with part of Herbert Read’s introduction (p.16)

Between the wars, Moore lived in Hampstead. He had friends nearby among whom were other artists such as Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson; architects like Walter Gropius; and writers including Alport’s acquaintances, T.S. Eliot and Stephen Spender.  Stephen Spender also collected work by Moore. The picture below, from Stephen Spender’s collection, exemplifies Moore’s use of drawing to inspire sculpture at this stage in his career.

Sketch belonging to Stephen Spender from Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings. London : Lund Humphries and Company. 1944.

Ideas for Stone-Seated Figure, 1934, 22 x 15 ins., charcoal and pen, from the collection of Stephen Spender, featured in Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings. London : Lund Humphries and Company. 1944.

Shelter Sketch Book

It is the human figure which interests me most deeply – Henry Moore (‘Notes on Sculpture’ in Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings, 1944)

The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 brought a halt to Moore’s production of sculpture. As the War progressed the materials he needed became harder to obtain and he made no sculptures between September 1940 and June 1942.

From Shelter Sketch Book by Henry Moore. Editions Poetry London : London. 1940.

Drawing from Shelter Sketch Book by Henry Moore. Editions Poetry London : London. 1940.

Moore continued to draw during the War and, as Herbert Read wrote, his output during this time allowed “a far larger number of people…to enjoy and possess some example of the artist’s work than would otherwise have been the case” (Introduction to Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings, 1944).

Drawing from Shelter Sketch Book by Henry Moore. Editions Poetry London : London. 1940.

Drawing from Shelter Sketch Book by Henry Moore. Editions Poetry London : London. 1940.

One night in September 1940, Moore and his wife had to stay on the platform at Belsize Park underground station during a bombing raid. Moore was fascinated by the figures of the Londoners, men, women, and children who were spending the night there sheltering from the Blitz. Within a few days he produced the first of his shelter drawings.

Drawing from Shelter Sketch Book by Henry Moore. Editions Poetry London : London. 1940.

Drawing from Shelter Sketch Book by Henry Moore. Editions Poetry London : London. 1940.

Moore’s shelter drawings of 1940–41 were exhibited at The National Gallery during the War. They transformed Moore’s public reputation. He went almost overnight from an avant-garde artist to one whose work Londoners could identify with.

Festival of Britain

In 1951, Moore was commissioned to produce a sculpture for the Festival of Britain (organised by the government to promote a sense of recovery after WWII and to celebrate British achievements in the arts, science and technology). The outcome was the bronze Reclining Figure: Festival, a cast of which is now held at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. The Arts Council also arranged Moore’s first London retrospective, at the Tate Gallery, to coincide with the Festival.

The year before this exhibition Alport went to see Moore at his studios in Perry Green, Hertfordshire. His visit prompted Moore to write asking for photographs of the examples of his drawings in Alport’s collection. Moore also mentioned that the Arts Council might be interested in borrowing the works for future exhibitions.

Letter from Henry Moore to Alport written on 10 October 1950

Letter from Henry Moore to Alport written on 10 October 1950. It is kept in the University College Archives [UC:P110/C24/1].

Letter from Henry Moore to Alport written on 15 January

Letter from Henry Moore to Alport written on 15 January 1951. It is kept in the University College Archives [UC:P110/C24/2].

Some ‘Rocking Chair’ sculptures, like the one referred to in Moore’s second letter, can be seen in action in a documentary about the artist produced by the BBC also in 1951. One of the drawings that Alport owned can be traced as it has been sold at auction several times since Alport’s death. Its title is Three Seated Figures: Ideas for Sculpture. It was produced by Moore in 1941 using wax crayon, coloured crayon, chalk, pastel, charcoal, watercolour and pen and ink on paper. Its dimensions are 11 x 14 7/8 in. (27.7 x 37.5 cm). Similar sketches appear in the 1944 overview of Moore’s work.

Drawings featured in Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings. London : Lund Humphries and Company. 1944.

Drawings of three seated figures featured in Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings. London : Lund Humphries and Company. 1944.

Later drawing

By the mid-1950s Moore’s drawings were no longer his means of generating ideas for sculpture. Instead he took inspiration from natural forms such as bones, shells and stone, from which his sculptural ideas evolved.

Moore returned to drawing when he took up print making later in life. By then drawing, for him, was a separate activity from sculpture. From 1970 he produced an great number of drawings, particularly during the early 1980s when he was too ill to work on his sculpture. Many of his drawings are exhibited alongside his sculptures at his former house and studios in Perry Green, Hertfordshire, which are now the home of the Henry Moore Foundation. They are well worth a visit.

Other sources used in this post were:

‘Henry, OM, CH Moore – 1898-1986’. Accessed 5 Nov. 2012 at http://www.artfact.com/auction-lot/henry-moo-5xy5t6owvf-13-m-ec6de58c4c

Wilkinson, Alan. “Moore, Henry Spencer (1898–1986).” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. OUP : Oxford. Accessed 5 Nov. 2012 <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/39962&gt;

All images on this page are copyright of University College.

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