Gabriel Josipovici – The Big Glass,1991

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All those people wear me out. Nothing but running around and organizing. Organizing, he wrote. When the history of our times comes to be written, They Organized Themselves to Death will be the only possible epitaph. No doubt they mean well where the arts are concerned, he wrote, but for that reason they are the biggest menace. No doubt thay think they have the interests of the artist at heart, he wrote, but for that reason they must be avoided like the plague. No doubt they see themselves as devoted middlewomen, bringing the truly important work of the time to the avid masses, but all they are really doing, wrote Harsnet (typed Goldberg) is fucking up the lives of both sets of people. They bring time into what is essentially timeless, he wote. They bring anxiety about venues and dates into what is essentially a calm and anxiety-free activity. They try to ram down the throat of the public what the public quite rightly does not want. The Arts Council should be abolished, he wrote. And the Royal Arts Fund. And the Royal Literary Society. And the Royal Ballet. And the Royal Academy. Especially the Royal Academy, he wrote, with its Presidents and its Private Views and its Signed Goblets and its Concerts of Spanish music to go with the Murillo exhibition and its Concerts of Russian music to go with its Tatlin exhibition and its Concerts of Dutch music to go with its De Hooch exhibition, and its Silk-screened Scarves and its Special Offers and its Jigsaws of the Raft of the Medusa and La Grande Jatte and its Good Taste and its Tondo and its Education Department and its Restaurant with its Tasty Snacks and its Cold Buffet and its Glass of Wine and its Napkins Designed by a Living Artist, and its Proximity to Cork Street, with its Galleries and their Private Views and their Favoured Clients and their Phone Calls to New York and their Summer Shows and their Autumn Shows and their Winter Shows and their Embossed Invitations and their Highly Polished Floors. There is no end to it all, wrote Harsnet (typed Goldberg). When you begin to think about it you grow dizzy, your stomach turns over, not just at the commercialism of it all, but at the aestheticism of it all, not just at the chequebooks but at the Intellligent Conversations, not just at the fifty percent but at the Sensitive Responses, not just at the winks and nods but at the Hushed Silence in the Presence of Art. Our civilization will be destroyed, he wrote, not by the Bomb but by its reverence for the Creative Spirit. Better never enter a church, he wrote, than enter in a spirit of false awe. Churches and art galleries, he wrote. That funereal atmosphere. False awe in the face of death, he wrote. No one knowing how to react, all speaking in low tones with solemn faces. It is the same with art, he wrote. Now even artists work with awed expressions, he wrote. Talk in whispers. Ape the critics. Ape the dealers. Ape the organizers. True art as a release from Art, he wrote. The glass as freedom, not constraint. As a mirror of reality, not Monument to Creativity.

Gabriel Josipovici, born 1940. The Big Glass,1991. pp 92-93

Publisher: Carcanet Press Ltd, 1991, 119pp

Image: Marcel Duchamp, 1887-1968, La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même, 1915–23 (The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even) also known as La Grand Verre (The Large Glass), 1915-1923; oil, varnish, lead foil, lead wire, and dust on two glass panels; 277.5 x 175.9 cm (109.25 x 69.25 inches). Collection: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia

Image: Man Ray,1890-1976. Dust Breeding,1920, Gelatin silver Print, 23.9 x 30.4 cm (9 7/16 x 12 inches), Collection: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Large Glass, and the accompanying notes, The Green Box, are an iconic work of Modern Art and contemporary art theory. Duchamp’s art presents enigmatic interpretations on the meaning and interpretation of an art object creating an ambiguous abstract narrative and proposing conceptual ideas of time, delay, and action in a work that questions the values of traditional retinal painting. Josipovicis text is a continuous, paragraphless meditation on art and its creation, in the form of a series of notes by the artist Harsnet on the making of Big Glass, based on Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass and its accompanying notes. Harsnet is a wit and a prankster, and his notes record much of his life at the time in the form of a continuous stream of information and reflection that indiscriminately incorporates shopping lists and other mundane details of his life. The reader sees part of the plot through the marginal notations and explanatory writings of a former fellow artist, Goldberg, now turned critic and teacher, who is transcribing the notes.” The characters, Harsnet and Golding, suggest the artist Richard Hamilton, 1922-2011, who reconstructed the Large Glass in 1965-66, now at Tate, London, and John Golding, 1929-2012, artist and critic, who published a monograph, Duchamp – The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, 1973. Josipovici acknowledges Octavio Paz’s Marcel Duchamp or the Castle of Purity as a source of inspiration.

Gabriel Josipovici has published more than a dozen novels, three volumes of short stories, several books of criticism, and plays. He is Research Professor in the Graduate School of Humanities, University of Sussex and an admired thinker and writer on the subject of modernism.

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Cuthbert Bede BA – The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green, an Oxford Freshman, 1853

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Chapter XII. Mr. Verdant Green terminates his existence as an Oxford Freshman. 

      After ordering for dinner every thing that the house was enabled to supply, they made their way in the first place (as it could only be seen between 11 and 1) to Blenheim; the princely splendours of which were not only costly in themselves, but, as our hero soon found, costly also to the sight-seer. The doors in the suite of apartments were all opposite to each other, so that, as a crimson cord was passed from one to the other, the spectator was kept entirely to the one side of the room, and merely a glance could be obtained of the Raffaelle, the glorious Rubens’s, [19] the Vandycks, and the almost equally fine Sir Joshuas. But even the glance they had was but a passing one, as the servant trotted them through the rooms with the rapidity of locomotion and explanation of a Westminster Abbey verger; and he made a fierce attack on Verdant, who had lagged behind, and was short-sightedly peering at the celebrated “Charles the First” of Vandyck, as though he had lingered in order to surreptitiously appropriate some of the tables, couches, and other trifling articles that ornamented the rooms. In this way they went at railroad pace through the suite of rooms and the library, – where the chief thing pointed out appeared to be a grease-mark on the floor made by somebody at somebody else’s wedding-breakfast, – and to the chapel, where they admired the ingenuity of the sparrows and other birds that built about Rysbrach’s monumental mountain of marble to the memory of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough; – and then to the so-called “Titian room” (shade of mighty Titian, forgive the insult!) where they saw the Loves of the Gods represented in the most unloveable manner,[20] and where a flunkey lounged lazily at the door, and, in spite of Mr. Bouncer’s expostulatory “chaff,” demanded half-a-crown for the sight.

      Indeed, the sight-seeing at Blenheim seemed to be a system of half-crowns. The first servant would take them a little way, and then say, “I don’t go any further, sir; half-a-crown!” and hand them over to servant number two, who, after a short interval, would pass them on (half-a-crown!) to the servant who shewed the chapel (half-a-crown!), who would forward them on to the “Titian” Gallery (half-a-crown!), who would hand them over to the flower-garden (half-a-crown!), who would entrust them to the rose-garden (half-a-crown!), who would give them up to another, who shewed parts of the Park, and the rest of it. Somewhat in this manner an Oxford party sees Blenheim (the present of the nation); and Mr. Verdant Green found it the most expensive show-place he had ever seen.

[19] Dr Waagen says that the Rubens collection at Blenheim is only surpassed by the royal galleries of Munich, Vienna, Madrid, and Paris.


[20] The ladies alone would repel one by their gaunt ugliness, their flesh being apparently composed of the article on which the pictures are painted, leather. The only picture not by “Titian” in this room is a Rubens, – “the Rape of Proserpine” – to see which is well worth the half-crown charged for the sight of the others.


Cuthbert Bede BA, (Edward Bradley 1827-1889) The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green, an Oxford Freshman,1853. Part I. 

Text: Part I. Chapter XII. Mr. Verdant Green terminates his existence as an Oxford Freshman.

Image: Part III. Chapter IX. Mr, Verdant Green asks Papa.

Publisher: Blackwoods Magazine, 1850s. Nathaniel Cooke, (Late Ingram, Cooke, And Co.) Milford House, Strand, London, 1853. Part II. 1854, Part III, 1857.

Illustrations by Cuthbert Bede BA, (Edward Bradley 1827-1889), with numerous illustrations designed and drawn on wood by the author.

The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green is a light comic novel with illustrations by the author, Edward Bradley, 1827-1889, under the pseudonym of Cuthbert M. Bede. It follows the day-to-day life of Mr. Verdant Green, a first year undergraduate at Oxford University, and became a cult book for Oxford students, published in three volumes between 1853 to 1857. The description of an outing to Blenheim Palace to view the paintings of Titian, Raffaele, Vandyke, Rubens, the Sir Joshuas, and the sculpture of Rysbrach provides continual circumstances for exploitation by the house servants of the Duke and duchess of Marlborough, who fleece the tourists of  half-a-crown at every opportunity.

Cuthbert Bede BA – The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green, an Oxford Freshman,1853

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Part II. Chapter IX. Mr Verdant Green makes his first appearance on the boards.

SCENE IV. The Word. – Miss Bouncer discovered with her camera, arranging her photographic chemicals. She soliloquizes: “There! now, all is ready for my sitter.” She calls the footman (Mr. Verdant Green), and says, “John, you may show the Lady Fitz-Canute upstairs.” The footman shows in Miss Honeywood, dressed in an antiquated bonnet and mantle, waving a huge fan. John gives her a chair, into which she drops, exclaiming, “What an insufferable toil it is to ascend to these elevated Photographic rooms;” and makes good use of her fan. Miss Bouncer then fixes the focus of her camera, and begs the Lady Fitz-Canute to sit perfectly still, and to call up an agreeable smile to her face. Miss Honeywood thereupon disposes her face in ludicrous “wreathed smiles;” and Miss Bouncer’s head disappears under the velvet hood of the camera. “I am afraid,” at length says Miss Bouncer, “I am afraid that I shall not be able to succeed in taking a likeness of your ladyship this morning.” “And why, pray?” asks her ladyship with haughty surprise. “Because it is a gloomy day,” replies the Photographer, “and much depends upon the rays of light.” “Then procure the rays of light!” “That is more than I can do.” “Indeed! I suppose if the Lady Fitz-Canute wishes for the rays of light, and condescends to pay for the rays of light, she can obtain the rays of light.” Miss Bouncer considers this too exigeant, and puts her sitter off by promising to complete a most fascinating portrait of her on some more favourable day. Lady Fitz-Canute appears to be somewhat mollified at this, and is graciously pleased to observe, “Then I will undergo the fatigue of ascending to these elevated Photographic-rooms at some future period. But, mind, when I next come, that you procure the rays of light!” So she is shown out by Mr. Verdant Green, and the folding-doors are closed amid applause, and the audience distract themselves with guesses as to the word.

“Photograph” is a general favourite, but is found not to agree with the three first scenes, although much ingenuity is expended in endeavouring to make them fit the word. The Curate makes a headlong rush at the word “Daguerreotype,” and is confident that he has solved the problem, until he is informed that it is a word of more than three syllables. Charles Larkyns has already whispered the word to Mary Green; but they keep their discovery to themselves. At length, the Revd. Josiah Meek, in a moment of inspiration, hits upon the word, and proclaims it to be CALOTYPE (“Call – oh! – type;”) upon which Mr. Alfred Brindle declares to Miss Fanny Green that he had fancied it must be that, all along, and, in fact, was just on the point of saying it: and the actors, coming in in a body, receive the violet-crowns and laurel-wreaths of praise as the meed of their exertions. Perhaps, the Miss Honeywoods and Mr. Bouncer receive larger crowns than the others, but Mr. Verdant Green gets his due share, and is fully satisfied with his first appearance on “the boards.”

Cuthbert Bede BA, (Edward Bradley 1827-1889)  The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green : an Oxford Freshman,1853

Part II. THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF MR. VERDANT GREEN, AN OXFORD UNDERGRADUATE, BEING A CONTINUATION OF “THE ADVENTURES OF MR. VERDANT GREEN, AN OXFORD FRESHMAN.” 1854

Text + Image: Part II. Chapter VIII. Mr Green spends a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Publisher: Blackwoods Magazine, 1850s. Nathaniel Cooke, (Late Ingram, Cooke, And Co.) Milford House, Strand, London, 1853. Part II. 1854, Part III, 1857.

Illustrations by Cuthbert Bede BA, (Edward Bradley 1827-1889), with numerous illustrations designed and drawn on wood by the author.

The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green is a light comic novel with illustrations by the author, Edward Bradley, 1827-1889, under the pseudonym of Cuthbert M. Bede. It follows the day-to-day life of Mr. Verdant Green, a first year undergraduate at Oxford University, and became a cult book for Oxford students, published in three volumes between 1853 to 1857. The popular novelty of photography is described as Miss Fanny Bouncer creates Daguerrotypes: Moreover, as the adorning of College chimney-pieces with the photographic portraits of all the owner’s College friends, had just then come into fashion, Mr. Verdant Green’s beaming countenance and spectacles were daguerreotyped in every variety of Ethiopian distortion; and, being enclosed in miniature frames, were distributed as souvenirs among his admiring friends.” Part III. Chapter IX. Mr. Verdant Green Takes His Degree.

John Galsworthy – To Let, 1921 The Forsyte Saga

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VII  JUNE TAKES A HAND.

One who was a sculptor, a Slav, a sometime resident in New York, an egoist, and impecunious, was to be found of an evening in June Forsyte’s studio on the bank of the Thames at Chiswick. On the evening of July 6, Boris Strumolowski—several of whose works were on show there because they were as yet too advanced to be on show anywhere else—had begun well, with that aloof and rather Christlike silence which admirably suited his youthful, round, broad-cheekboned countenance framed in bright hair banged like a girl’s. June had known him three weeks, and he still seemed to her the principal embodiment of genius, and hope of the future; a sort of Star of the East which had strayed into an unappreciative West. Until that evening he had conversationally confined himself to recording his impressions of the United States, whose dust he had just shaken from off his feet—a country, in his opinion, so barbarous in every way that he had sold practically nothing there, and become an object of suspicion to the police; a country, as he said, without a race of its own, without liberty, equality, or fraternity, without principles, traditions, taste, without—in a word—a soul. He had left it for his own good, and come to the only other country where he could live well. June had dwelt unhappily on him in her lonely moments, standing before his creations—frightening, but powerful and symbolic once they had been explained! That he, haloed by bright hair like an early Italian painting, and absorbed in his genius to the exclusion of all else—the only sign of course by which real genius could be told—should still be a “lame duck” agitated her warm heart almost to the exclusion of Paul Post. And she had begun to take steps to clear her Gallery, in order to fill it with Strumolowski masterpieces. She had at once encountered trouble. Paul Post had kicked; Vospovitch had stung. With all the emphasis of a genius which she did not as yet deny them, they had demanded another six weeks at least of her Gallery. The American stream, still flowing in, would soon be flowing out. The American stream was their right, their only hope, their salvation—since nobody in this “beastly” country cared for Art. June had yielded to the demonstration. After all Boris would not mind their having the full benefit of an American stream, which he himself so violently despised.

This evening she had put that to Boris with nobody else present, except Hannah Hobdey, the mediaeval black-and-whitist, and Jimmy Portugal, editor of the Neo-Artist. She had put it to him with that sudden confidence which continual contact with the neo-artistic world had never been able to dry up in her warm and generous nature. He had not broken his Christlike silence, however, for more than two minutes before she began to move her blue eyes from side to side, as a cat moves its tail. This—he said—was characteristic of England, the most selfish country in the world; the country which sucked the blood of other countries; destroyed the brains and hearts of Irishmen, Hindus, Egyptians, Boers, and Burmese, all the finest races in the world; bullying, hypocritical England! This was what he had expected, coming to such a country, where the climate was all fog, and the people all tradesmen perfectly blind to Art, and sunk in profiteering and the grossest materialism. Conscious that Hannah Hobdey was murmuring: “Hear, hear!” and Jimmy Portugal sniggering, June grew crimson, and suddenly rapped out:

“Then why did you ever come? We didn’t ask you.” The remark was so singularly at variance with all that she had led him to expect from her, that Strumolowski stretched out his hand and took a cigarette.

“England never wants an idealist,” he said.

But in June something primitively English was thoroughly upset; old Jolyon’s sense of justice had risen, as it were, from bed. “You come and sponge on us,” she said, “and then abuse us. If you think that’s playing the game, I don’t.”

She now discovered that which others had discovered before her—the thickness of hide beneath which the sensibility of genius is sometimes veiled. Strumolowski’s young and ingenuous face became the incarnation of a sneer.

“Sponge, one does not sponge, one takes what is owing—a tenth part of what is owing. You will repent to say that, Miss Forsyte.”

“Oh, no,” said June, “I shan’t.”

“Ah! We know very well, we artists—you take us to get what you can out of us. I want nothing from you”—and he blew out a cloud of June’s smoke.

Decision rose in an icy puff from the turmoil of insulted shame within her. “Very well, then, you can take your things away.”

And, almost in the same moment, she thought: ‘Poor boy! He’s only got a garret, and probably not a taxi fare. In front of these people, too; it’s positively disgusting!’

Young Strumolowski shook his head violently; his hair, thick, smooth, close as a golden plate, did not fall off.

“I can live on nothing,” he said shrilly; “I have often had to for the sake of my Art. It is you bourgeois who force us to spend money.”

The words hit June like a pebble, in the ribs. After all she had done for Art, all her identification with its troubles and lame ducks. She was struggling for adequate words when the door was opened, and her Austrian murmured:

“A young lady, gnadiges fraulein.”

“Where?”

“In the little meal-room.”

With a glance at Boris Strumolowski, at Hannah Hobdey, at Jimmy Portugal, June said nothing, and went out, devoid of equanimity. Entering the “little meal-room,” she perceived the young lady to be Fleur—looking very pretty, if pale. At this disenchanted moment a lame duck of her own breed was welcome to June, so homoeopathic by instinct.

The girl must have come, of course, because of Jon; or, if not, at least to get something out of her. And June felt just then that to assist somebody was the only bearable thing.

“So you’ve remembered to come,” she said.

“Yes. What a jolly little duck of a house! But please don’t let me bother you, if you’ve got people.”

“Not at all,” said June. “I want to let them stew in their own juice for a bit. Have you come about Jon?”

“You said you thought we ought to be told. Well, I’ve found out.”

“Oh!” said June blankly. “Not nice, is it?”

They were standing one on each side of the little bare table at which June took her meals. A vase on it was full of Iceland poppies; the girl raised her hand and touched them with a gloved finger. To her new-fangled dress, frilly about the hips and tight below the knees, June took a sudden liking—a charming colour, flax-blue.

‘She makes a picture,’ thought June. Her little room, with its whitewashed walls, its floor and hearth of old pink brick, its black paint, and latticed window athwart which the last of the sunlight was shining, had never looked so charming, set off by this young figure, with the creamy, slightly frowning face. She remembered with sudden vividness how nice she herself had looked in those old days when HER heart was set on Philip Bosinney, that dead lover, who had broken from her to destroy for ever Irene’s allegiance to this girl’s father. Did Fleur know of that, too?

“Well,” she said, “what are you going to do?”

It was some seconds before Fleur answered.

“I don’t want Jon to suffer. I must see him once more to put an end to it.”

“You’re going to put an end to it!”

“What else is there to do?”

The girl seemed to June, suddenly, intolerably spiritless.

“I suppose you’re right,” she muttered. “I know my father thinks so; but—I should never have done it myself. I can’t take things lying down.”

How poised and watchful that girl looked; how unemotional her voice sounded!

“People WILL assume that I’m in love.”

“Well, aren’t you?”

Fleur shrugged her shoulders. ‘I might have known it,’ thought June; ‘she’s Soames’ daughter—fish! And yet—he!’

“Well, what do you want ME to do?” she said with a sort of disgust.

“Could I see Jon here to-morrow on his way down to Holly’s? He’d come if you sent him a line to-night, and perhaps afterwards you’d let them know quietly at Robin Hill that it’s all over, and that they needn’t tell Jon about his mother.”

“All right!” said June abruptly. “I’ll write now, and you can post it. Half-past two to-morrow. I shan’t be in, myself.”

She sat down at the tiny bureau which filled one corner. When she looked round with the finished note Fleur was still touching the poppies with her gloved finger.

June licked a stamp. “Well, here it is. If you’re not in love, of course, there’s no more to be said. Jon’s lucky.”

Fleur took the note. “Thanks awfully!”

‘Cold-blooded little baggage!’ thought June. Jon, son of her father, to love, and not to be loved by the daughter of—Soames! It was humiliating!

“Is that all?”

Fleur nodded; her frills shook and trembled as she swayed towards the door.

“Good-bye!”

“Good-bye! … Little piece of fashion!” muttered June, closing the door. “That family!” And she marched back towards her studio. Boris Strumolowski had regained his Christlike silence, and Jimmy Portugal was damning everybody, except the group in whose behalf he ran the Neo-Artist. Among the condemned were Eric Cobbley, and several other “lame-duck” genii who at one time or another had held first place in the repertoire of June’s aid and adoration. She experienced a sense of futility and disgust, and went to the window to let the river-wind blow those squeaky words away.

But when at length Jimmy Portugal had finished, and gone with Hannah Hobdey, she sat down and mothered young Strumolowski for half an hour, promising him a month, at least, of the American stream; so that he went away with his halo in perfect order. ‘In spite of all,’ June thought, ‘Boris IS wonderful.’

John Galsworthy, 1867-1933.      To Let, 1921 The Forsyte Saga. Published by William Heinemann Ltd, London

Images: Anthony Gross, The Forsyte Saga

The Forsyte Saga,  is a series of five novels published between 1906 and 1921 that chronicle the  lives of an establishment upper-middle-class English family. The head of the family, Soames, represents the idea of art as a commodity and collects art as a business,Soames had not spent thirty-eight years over his one hobby without knowing something more about pictures than their market values. He was, as it were, the missing link between the artist and the commercial public. Art for art’s sake and all that, of course, was cant. But aesthetics and good taste were necessary. The appreciation of enough persons of good taste was what gave a work of art its permanent market value, or in other words made it “a work of art.” ‘ Art is symbolic of the breakdown of British society and values of principle, tradition, class and taste. His errant daughter, June Forsyte, presents exhibitions in her studio-gallery of Neo-Artists, avant-garde European artists and an English medieval black and whitist, based on the idea of genius and art-for-arts-sake, which Soames describes as “lame ducks”.

John Galsworthy – To Let,1921 The Forsyte Saga

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IX Goya.

Lunch was over and Soames mounted to the picture-gallery in his house near Mapledurham. He had what Annette called “a grief.” Fleur was not yet home. She had been expected on Wednesday; had wired that it would be Friday; and again on Friday that it would be Sunday afternoon; and here were her aunt, and her cousins the Cardigans, and this fellow Profond, and everything flat as a pancake for the want of her. He stood before his Gauguin—sorest point of his collection. He had bought the ugly great thing with two early Matisses before the war, because there was such a fuss about those Post-Impressionist chaps. He was wondering whether Profond would take them off his hands—the fellow seemed not to know what to do with his money—when he heard his sister’s voice say: “I think that’s a horrid thing, Soames.” and saw that Winifred had followed him up.

“Oh! you DO?” he said dryly; “I gave five hundred for it.”

. . . .

Soames passed into the corner where, side by side, hung his real Goya, and the copy of the fresco “La Vendimia.” His acquisition of the real Goya rather beautifully illustrated the cobweb of vested interests and passions, which mesh the bright-winged fly of human life. The real Goya’s noble owner’s ancestor had come into possession of it during some Spanish war—it was in a word loot. The noble owner had remained in ignorance of its value until in the nineties an enterprising critic discovered that a Spanish painter named Goya was a genius. It was only a fair Goya, but almost unique in England, and the noble owner became a marked man. Having many possessions and that aristocratic culture which, independent of mere sensuous enjoyment, is founded on the sounder principle that one must know everything and be fearfully interested in life, he had fully intended to keep an article which contributed to his reputation while he was alive, and to leave it to the nation after he was dead. Fortunately for Soames, the House of Lords was violently attacked in 1909, and the noble owner became alarmed and angry. “If,” he said to himself, “they think they can have it both ways they are very much mistaken. So long as they leave me in quiet enjoyment the nation can have some of my pictures at my death. But if the nation is going to bait me, and rob me like this, I’m damned if I won’t sell the—lot. They can’t have my private property and my public spirit—both.” He brooded in this fashion for several months till one morning, after reading the speech of a certain statesman, he telegraphed to his agent to come down and bring Bodkin. On going over the collection Bodkin, than whose opinion on market values none was more sought, pronounced that with a free hand to sell to America, Germany, and other places where there was an interest in art, a lot more money could be made than by selling in England. The noble owner’s public spirit—he said—was well known but the pictures were unique. The noble owner put this opinion in his pipe and smoked it for a year. At the end of that time he read another speech by the same statesman, and telegraphed to his agents: “Give Bodkin a free hand.” It was at this juncture that Bodkin conceived the idea which salved the Goya and two other unique pictures for the native country of the noble owner. With one hand Bodkin proffered the pictures to the foreign market, with the other he formed a list of private British collectors. Having obtained what he considered the highest possible bids from across the seas, he submitted pictures and bids to the private British collectors, and invited them, of their public spirit, to outbid. In three instances (including the Goya) out of twenty-one he was successful. And why? One of the private collectors made buttons—he had made so many that he desired that his wife should be called Lady “Buttons.” He therefore bought an unique picture at great cost, and gave it to the nation. It was “part,” his friends said, “of his general game.” The second of the private collectors was an Americo-phobe, and bought a unique picture to “spite the damned Yanks.” The third of the private collectors was Soames, who—more sober than either of the others—bought after a visit to Madrid, because he was certain that Goya was still on the up grade. Goya was not booming at the moment, but he would come again; and, looking at that portrait, Hogarthian, Manetesque in its directness, but with its own queer sharp beauty of paint, he was perfectly satisfied still that he had made no error, heavy though the price had been—heaviest he had ever paid. And next to it was hanging the copy of “La Vendimia.” There she was—the little wretch—looking back at him in her dreamy mood, the mood he loved best because he felt so much safer when she looked like that.

He was still gazing when the scent of a cigar impinged on his nostrils, and a voice said: “Well, Mr. Forsyde, what you goin’ to do with this small lot?”

That Belgian chap, whose mother—as if Flemish blood were not enough—had been Armenian! Subduing a natural irritation, he said: “Are you a judge of pictures?”

“Well, I’ve got a few myself.”

“Any Post-Impressionists?”

“Ye-es, I rather like them.”

“What do you think of this?” said Soames, pointing to the Gauguin.

Monsieur Profond protruded his lower lip and short pointed beard. “Rather fine, I think,” he said; “do you want to sell it?”

Soames checked his instinctive “Not particularly”—he would not chaffer with this alien.

“Yes,” he said.

“What do you want for it?”

“What I gave.”

“All right,” said Monsieur Profond. “I’ll be glad to take that small picture. Post-Impressionists—they’re awful dead, but they’re amusin’. I don’ care for pictures much, but I’ve got some, just a small lot.”

“What DO you care for?”

Monsieur Profond shrugged his shoulders. “Life’s awful like a lot of monkeys scramblin’ for empty nuts.”

“You’re young,” said Soames. If the fellow must make a generalisation, he needn’t suggest that the forms of property lacked solidity!

“I don’ worry,” replied Monsieur Profond smiling; “we’re born, and we die. Half the world’s starvin’. I feed a small lot of babies out in my mother’s country; but what’s the use? Might as well throw my money in the river.”

Soames looked at him, and turned back towards his Goya. He didn’t know what the fellow wanted.

“What shall I make my cheque for?” pursued Monsieur Profond.

“Five hundred,” said Soames shortly; “but I don’t want you to take it if you don’t care for it more than that.”

“That’s all right,” said Monsieur Profond; “I’ll be ‘appy to ‘ave that picture.”

He wrote a cheque with a fountain-pen heavily chased with gold. Soames watched the process uneasily. How on earth had the fellow known that he wanted to sell that picture? Monsieur Profond held out the cheque.

“The English are awful funny about pictures,” he said. “So are the French, so are my people. They’re all awful funny.”

“I don’t understand you,” said Soames stiffly.

“It’s like hats,” said Monsieur Profond enigmatically, “small or large, turnin’ up or down—just the fashion. Awful funny.” And, smiling, he drifted out of the gallery again, blue and solid like the smoke of his excellent cigar.

John Galsworthy, 1867-1933.      To Let, 1921 The Forsyte Saga. Published by William Heinemann Ltd, London

Images: Anthony Gross, The Forsyte Saga

The Forsyte Saga,  is a series of five novels published between 1906 and 1921 that chronicle the  lives of an establishment upper-middle-class English family. The head of the family, Soames, represents the idea of art as a commodity and collects art as a business,Soames had not spent thirty-eight years over his one hobby without knowing something more about pictures than their market values. He was, as it were, the missing link between the artist and the commercial public. Art for art’s sake and all that, of course, was cant. But aesthetics and good taste were necessary. The appreciation of enough persons of good taste was what gave a work of art its permanent market value, or in other words made it “a work of art.” ‘ Art is symbolic of the breakdown of British society and values of principle, tradition, class and taste. His errant daughter, June Forsyte, presents exhibitions in her studio-gallery of Neo-Artists, avant-garde European artists and an english black and white Medievalist, based on the idea of genius and art-for-arts-sake, which Soames describes as “lame ducks”.

 

Gilbert Cannan – Mendel; a story of youth,1916

One day in Bishopsgate, that lordly and splendid thoroughfare which led from the dark streets to the glittering world, he came on a man kneeling on the pavement with coloured chalks. First of all the man dusted the stones with his cap, and then he laid another cap full of little pieces of chalk by his side, and then he drew and smudged and smudged and drew until a slice of salmon appeared. By the side of the salmon he drew a glass of beer with a curl of froth on it and a little bunch of flowers. On another stone he drew a ship at sea in a storm, a black and green sea, and a brown and black sky. Mendel watched him enthralled. What a life! What a career ! To go out into the streets and make the dull stones lovely with colour! He saw the man look up and down and then lay a penny on the salmon. A fine gentleman passed by and threw down another penny. . . . Oh, certainly, a career ! To make the streets lovely, and immediately to be rewarded! 



From school Mendel stole some chalk and decorated the stones in the yard at Gun Street. He drew a bottle and an onion and a fish, though this he rather despised, because it was so easy. Always he had amused himself with drawing. As a tiny child, the first time his father went to America he drew a picture of a watch to ask for that to be sent him, and this picture had been kept by his mother. And after that he often drew, but chiefly because it made his father and mother proud of him, and they laughed happily at everything he did. The pavement artist filled him with pride and pleasure in the doing of it : and every minute out of school and away from the Rabbi he devoted to drawing. His brothers bought him a box of colours, and he painted imaginary landscapes of rivers and swans and cows and castles. Every picture he made was treasured by his mother. They seemed to her, as they did to himself, perfectly beautiful. He used his water-colours as though they were oils, and laid them on thick, to get as near the pavement artist’s colours as possible. At school there were drawing-lessons, but they seemed to have no relation to this keen private pleasure of his. 



In the evenings he would lie on the ground in the kitchen and paint until his eyes and his head ached. Sometimes his perpetual, silent absorption would so exasperate his brothers that they would kick his paints away and make him get up and talk to them. Then he would curse them with all the rich curses of the Yiddish language, and rush away and hide himself; for days he would live in a state of gloom and dark oppression, feeling dimly aware of a difference between him and them which it was beyond his power to explain. He would try to tell his mother what was the matter with him, but she could not understand. His happiness in painting, the keen delight that used to fill him, were to her compensation enough for her anxiety and the stress and strain of her poverty.

Gilbert Cannan,1884-1955. Mendel; a story of youth,1916. Book I. EAST. Chapter II. Poverty

Gilbert Cannan was part of a London literary circle including J.M Barrie, D.H Lawrence, Ottoline Morrell, John Middleton Murray and Katherine Mansfield.

Mendel: a story of youth, 1916, is about the artist Mendel Kühler closely based on the early life of Mark Gertler,1891-1939. Mendel was Gertler’s Yiddish name, and the narrative follows Mendel from the poor Jewish immigrant community in Whitechapel to the Slade School of Art. He is described as a talented instinctive genius of a painter as well as being naïve, arrogant, histrionic and impetuous. The novel includes descriptions of Greta Morrison (Dora Carrington, 1893-1932), and Mitchell (John S Currie, 1883-1914. Fellow students at the Slade included artists of the ‘Neo-Primitive’ group, C.R.W. Nevinson, Edward Wadsworth, Stanley Spencer, Adrian Allinson, Dora Carrington, John S. Currrie.

The novel was described by D H. Lawrence, “Gertler… has told every detail of his life to Gilbert… who has a lawyer’s memory and he has put it all down, and so ridiculously when it comes to the love affair… it is a bad book – statement without creation – really journalism.” Dora Carrington commented, “How angry I am over Gilbert’s book. Everywhere this confounded gossip, and servant-like curiously. It’s ugly and so damned vulgar.”

Images: Mark Gertler. The Violinist, 1912

Gilbert Cannan – Mendel; a story of youth,1916

The time came for Mendel to leave school and Issy said he had better be taken into the workshop. Harry wanted him in the timber-yard in which he loafed away his days. Abramovich was for getting Mr. Jacobson to take him into his office, for Mr. Jacobson never failed to ask after the boy who painted the pictures. Now it so happened that Mendel had found a bookshop, outside which he had discovered a life of W. P. Frith, R.A. In daily visits over a period of three weeks he had read it from cover to cover, the story of a poor boy who 
had become an artist, rising to such fame that he had painted the portrait of the Queen. There it was in print, and must be true. Mr. Jacobson’s boy was only in a story, but here it was set down in a book, with reproductions of the artist’s wonderful pictures “The Railway Station,” “Derby Day.” The book said they were wonderful. The book spoke with reverence and enthusiasm of pictures and the men who painted them. 



With tremulous excitement he secretly produced his box of paints again, and squeezed out the colours on to the plate he used for a palette. He adored the colours and amused himself with painting smooth strips of blue, yellow, green, red, orange, grey, for the sheer delight of handling the delicious stuff. It was a new pleasure, the joy of colours in themselves without reference to any object, or any feeling inside himself except this simple thrilling delight. He could forget everything in it, for it was his first taste of childish glee. Nothing would ever be the same again. Nothing could ever again so oppress and overwhelm him as distasteful and even pleasant things had done in the past. He would be an artist, a wonderful artist, like W. P. Frith, R.A.



So when he was called into the kitchen one night and they told him he was to go into Mr. Jacobson’s office, he looked as though their words had no meaning for him, and he said : 

”I want to be an artist.”



An artist? Nobody knew quite what that meant. Golda thought it meant painting pictures, but she could not imagine a man devoting all his time to it a child’s pastime. “He means the drawing!” said Abramovich. “I had a friend at home who used to paint the flowers on the cups.”



”I’m going to be an artist,” said Mendel. 



“But you’ve got to make your money like everybody else,” replied Issy. 



Mendel retorted with details of what he could remember of the career of his idol. Issy said that was a Christlicher kop. There weren’t such things as Jewish artists; whereon Harry threw in the word “Rubinstein.” Asked to explain what he meant, he did not know, but 
had just remembered the name. 



Abramovich said he thought Rubinstein was a conductor at the Opera, and there were Jewish singers and actors. 



“My father,” said Harry, “won’t hear of that. He won’t have a son of his making a public show of himself.”

Golda asked Abramovich to find out what an artist was and how much a week could be made at the trade. Abramovich came in one evening with a note-book full of facts and figures. He had read of a picture being sold for tens of thousands of pounds, and this had made a great impression on him. Mendel was called down from the room in which he had exiled himself. 



“Well?” said Abramovich kindly. “So you want to be an artist? But how?”



”I don’t know. I shall paint pictures.”



”But who will feed you? Who will buy you paints, brushes ?”



”I shall sell my pictures.”



”Where, then? How?” 



“To the shops.” 



“Where are the shops? Tell me of any shop near here, for I don’t know a single one.” for he knew that was how foreigners greeted a lady and then he sat heavily waiting for the situation to be explained to him. Mendel instinctively appealed to him. . . . Oh yes! he knew what an artist was, and some painters had made tidy fortunes, though they were not the best of them. There were Reynolds, and Lawrence, and Raeburn, and Landseer, and some young fellows at Glasgow, and Michael Angelo a tidy lot, indeed. Never by a Jew, that he had heard of. 



“I told you so!” said Abramovich. 



Golda showed Mr. Macalister the boy’s pictures, and he was genuinely impressed, especially by a picture of three oranges in a basket.



”It’s not,” he said, “that they make you want to eat them, as that they make you look at them as you look at oranges. I’ll look closer at every orange I see now. That’s talent. Yes. That’s talent. Aye.” 



Mendel was so grateful to him that he forgot the others and began to point out to him how well the oranges were painted, with all their fleshiness and rotundity brought out. And very soon they were all laughing at him, and that made the meeting happier.



Mr. Macalister explained that in old days artists used to take boys into their studios, but that now there were Schools of Art where only very talented people could survive. He certainly thought that Mendel ought to be given a chance, and if it were a question of money, he, poor though he was, would be only too glad to help. Golda would not hear of that, and Abramovich protested that, in an unhappy time like this, he regarded himself as the representative of his unfortunate friend. 



The corner was turned. Feeling was now all with Mendel, and he went to bed singing in head and heart:

Gilbert Cannan,1884-1955. Mendel; a story of youth,1916.  Book One: East. Chapter II, Prison

Gilbert Cannan was part of a London literary circle including J.M Barrie, D.H Lawrence, Ottoline Morrell, John Middleton Murray and Katherine Mansfield.

Mendel: a story of youth, 1916, is about the artist Mendel Kühler closely based on the early life of Mark Gertler,1891-1939. Mendel was Gertler’s Yiddish name, and the narrative follows Mendel from the poor Jewish immigrant community in Whitechapel to the Slade School of Art. He is described as a talented instinctive genius of a painter as well as being naïve, arrogant, histrionic and impetuous. The novel includes descriptions of Greta Morrison (Dora Carrington, 1893-1932), and Mitchell (John S Currie, 1883-1914. Fellow students at the Slade included artists of the ‘Neo-Primitive’ group, C.R.W. Nevinson, Edward Wadsworth, Stanley Spencer, Adrian Allinson, Dora Carrington, John S. Currrie.

The novel was described by D H. Lawrence, “Gertler… has told every detail of his life to Gilbert… who has a lawyer’s memory and he has put it all down, and so ridiculously when it comes to the love affair… it is a bad book – statement without creation – really journalism.” Dora Carrington commented, “How angry I am over Gilbert’s book. Everywhere this confounded gossip, and servant-like curiously. It’s ugly and so damned vulgar.”

Images: Mark Gertler, Portrait of a Girl Wearing a Blue Jersey (Dora Carrington), 1912, tempera and gouache on board

Mark Gertler. Dora Carrington, Drawing,1913