Archive for August, 2010

Burne-Jones finding aid online

August 30, 2010

The finding aid for the collection of Edward Burne-Jones letters to Violet Maxse is now online via the Online Archive of California.  As mentioned last week, when we highlighted the drawings of Burne-Jones’ “prominent women,” the collection consists of 2 albums of letters and drawings sent between approximately 1892 and 1898 to Violet Maxse (who later became Viscountess Milner).

One of Burne-Jones’ many friends was Cecilia Steele Maxse, the estranged wife of Admiral Frederick Augustus Maxse and the mother of Violet and Olive, who, in their own rights, became close friends of Burne-Jones family. Raised in a rather untraditional household, Violet and Olive were allowed and encouraged to attend adult social functions to speak their minds to adult friends, who included their father’s dear friend Georges Clemenceau, and artistic luminaries such as Burne-Jones and Oscar Wilde. Violet born in 1872, was the youngest Maxse child and she defied normal expectations for a girl of aristocratic background, deciding to pursue an artistic education and career in Paris from March 1893-January 1894. Burne-Jones encouraged her in this work, and in the letter below, asks her to send him some drawings:

Draw me pictures in your letters.  I love pictures from this upwards to Michael Angelo.

In  1894, Violet returned from Paris, met and married Lord Edward Cecil, a soldier and foreign service officer and the son of prime minister Robert Cecil, Marquess of Salisbury.  They traveled widely together and their time in South Africa during the Boer War made a profound impact on Violet’s life. Their marriage was not a particularly happy one, and after Cecil’s death in 1918, Violet married Sir Alfred Milner. The two of them had fallen in love during that time during the Boer War, and they lived happily together until his sudden death in 1925. After her brother Leo’s death in 1929, she took over editorship of the National Review, owned by their family since 1893.

Violet and Burne-Jones carried on a lively and affectionate friendship from her childhood to his 1898 death. As she wrote in her 1951 memoir My Picture Gallery, “the loss of so gifted, so stimulating, so trusted and so affectionate a friend was irreparable.”

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Item of the Week: Burne-Jones’ Prominent Women

August 26, 2010

The Clark recently acquired two albums of letters sent from artist Edward Burne-Jones to Violet Maxse (later Viscountess Milner), the daughter of one of his friends.  Throughout his adult life, Burne-Jones made a habit of making friends with girls and young women to whom he wrote sometimes comic, sometimes emotional, often illustrated letters.  The vast majority of his friendships with these ladies were platonic and non-romantic, and both Violet and her sister Olive carried on their relationship with Burne-Jones from their childhood to his death in 1898.

Though Burne-Jones thought that professional artistic production should never contain traces of the comic, he commonly filled his letters to family and friends with caricatures of himself and others.  He often portrayed himself looking thin and pathetic looking, as below, where he apologizes for missing Violet’s calling at his house.

Oh! Oh! I have just come in & you have only been gone five minutes: Why didn’t you say you needed to come to-day – I went out for a silly walk round & round dull streets and got gloomier every minute – & I might have been here laughing and as merry as a sandboy.

In stark contrast to Burne-Jones’ caricaturing of his thin frame are his drawings of what he liked to call “prominent women.” He was simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by fat, whether on the increasingly stout body of his dear friend William Morris, or in the figures of women (he even reported being repulsed by the “lappets of fat” on pieces of meat). This feeling found its outlet in caricatures.

Though the drawings themselves don’t always seem to reflect a disgust with overweight women, the frequency with which he drew them in letters to Violet Maxse and his other friends drew the disapproval of his wife Georgiana and friend Lady Frances Horner.

When Emma Frank, the American Tattooed Lady, made an appearance in 1894 at the Westminster Aquarium, Burne-Jones drew pictures of her for multiple friends (including Bertram Brooke, The Tuan Muda of Sarawak and Helen Mary Gaskell).  Among many other tattoos, Frank had a version of the Last Supper tattooed on her back.  Unfortunately, this drawing of Frank from Violet’s album doesn’t have any accompanying text, but given the joking nature of their relationship (in addition to prominent ladies, they also enjoyed poking fun at sincere but homely suffragists), one can guess what Burne-Jones might have said to her about the tattooed lady.

This was apparently not the only time Burne-Jones saw Frank during the 1890s.  In a letter to a friend he wrote that during his most recent visit, “she [was] somwhat fatter, and all the face of the Apostles are a little wider and have a tendency to smile.” (Juliet Fleming, A Circle of Sisters, p. 249)

Item of the Week: Curll’s Caesar

August 17, 2010

From Bruce Whiteman, Head Librarian

This second edition (in fact a re-issue of the 1705 edition with an altered title-page) of Bladen’s translation of Caesar is one of the very earliest publications of Edmund Curll (1675-1747), the infamous London publisher of naughty books and the nemesis of Alexander Pope. Curll took over the shop of Richard Smith in 1708 when Smith went bankrupt, but he is known to have shared in publishing four books as early as 1706. Two – the Caesar and A Letter to Mr. Prior – are dated 1706, while two further books – The Devout Christian’s Companion and J. Botton’s Prince Eugene: An Heroic Poem –though dated 1707, are known to have been available in late 1706.

The English Short Title Catalogue records just thirteen other copies of this early Curll imprint.

I scream, you scream

August 12, 2010

Please join the West Adams Heritage Association for an ice cream social on the Clark Library grounds this Saturday, August 14th, from 1.30-4.30pm.  More information is available at the WAHA website!

Item of the Week: Copernicus & the Echo Park Artists

August 3, 2010

Tucked away on the south side of the Clark Library is the outdoor reading room, a little-used space of late that contains some wonderful sculpture.  One of these sculptures is a casting of the face of Copernicus, made from a full-length statue of the astronomer by Archibald Garner.  This full-length statue is a part of the Astronomers’ Monument at the Griffith Observatory in Hollywood, a work commissioned by Garner and several other artists by the Public Works of Art Project in 1934.

Gordon Newell is one of the other sculptors whose work appears on the Astronomers’ Monument, and during the completion of that project, he and Garner became close friends.  Newell, in turn, was good friends with former Occidental College classmate Ward Ritchie, the Los Angeles printer whose shop on Griffith Park Avenue was a nerve center for many area intellectuals and artists, including UCLA librarian Lawrence Clark Powell and Clark Library favorite Paul Landacre.  The choice to donate and place a casting of Garner’s Copernicus here at the Clark Library was an easy one, especially since a casting of a work by Gordon Newell is mounted nearby.

For a better version of this story, please read Archibald Garner’s son Jeff’s account!

Mr Clark’s Littlest Sister

August 2, 2010

William Andrews Clark, Jr’s younger half-sister, Huguette, was the topic of a story featured on the Today Show last week. Though a little bit sensational — one does understand why Huguette retired from the public eye in the first place — there are still some interesting tidbits of information about her as a person, discussed by people who actually knew her.