Archive for November, 2010

New finding aid! The John Walkinshaw Crauford Papers

November 30, 2010

finding aid to the John Walkinshaw Crauford papers is now available via the Online Archive of California, thanks to the hard work of intern Katie Duvall.

John Walkinshaw Craufurd  was born in 1720/21 at Craufurdland Castle, near Kilmarnock, Scotland. He entered the army at an early age and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel over the course of his career, distinguishing himself at the battles of Dettingen in 1743 and Fontenoy in 1745.  In 1761 he was appointed falconer to the King and in 1762 he received the freedom of the city of Perth.  He occasionally appears in Boswell’s Journals, often as a dinner companion.

Craufurd died, unmarried, on February 19, 1793 in Edinburgh, leaving Craufurdland Estate to his friend Thomas Coutts, an eminent banker. The will was contested by his aunt, Elizabeth Craufurd, and her daughter, also Elizabeth.  The elder Elizabeth died in 1802, but the legal battle waged on until 1806 when the matter was decided in favor of her daughter, Elizabeth Houison Craufurd of Craufurdland and Braehead.

Craufurdland Castle

The Crauford collection contains letters, memoranda, bills and notes retained by Craufurd from 1746 to his death in 1793.  Also included in this collection are posthumous letters regarding the Craufurdland Cause, the legal process that reversed Craufurd’s settlement of his estate upon his friend Thomas Coutts.

Craufurdland Castle is still in existence, owned and operated by the Crauford family.  You can rent out the castle for weddings and other events — or stay overnight in one of the bedrooms!

Item of the Week: O.B.’s Aesthetic Reflections

November 19, 2010

The Clark has recently acquired a small collection of 5 letters from legendary British educator and character Oscar Browning to British-Jewish critic and translator Joseph Leftwich.  These letters, which include 4 handwritten letters and one typewritten letter (with manuscript corrections), discuss Browning’s friendship with artist Simeon Solomon and his opinions of other figures within the aesthetic movement. Leftwich, who translated many Yiddish authors into English, published at least one article on Solomon in The Jewish Forum in 1922, and it is probable he wrote to Browning in hopes of soliciting additional information from him about Solomon.

Browning and Solomon had been good friends from 1868 until the time of Solomon’s arrest in 1873 for indecent acts with another man in a public restroom, when most of his friends severed connection with him.  Solomon had been a young artist of great promise, who was good friends with many important figures in aesthetic circles, including the Burne-Joneses, Walter Pater and Algernon Charles Swinburne, the last of whom many (including Browning) saw as at least partly responsible for Solomon’s decline.  In these letters, Browning refers to Swinburne as a “filthy little beast” multiple times for his leading Solomon into a life of drunkenness, and describes their friendship as one founded on lust, dissipation and the Sadic.  He believes that apart fro other artists, Solomon’s only real friends were Walter Pater and himself.

"His only real friends apart from artists were Pater and myself whom he really loved and we loved him."

Browning’s letters to Leftwich also include some discussion of Greek love as an important key for understanding the aesthetic movement as a whole, as he writes in the excerpt below:

Few people know that the aesthetic movement which had so much influence in England from Ruskin to Oscar Wilde has as one of its characteristics a passionate desire to restore ‘Greek Love’ to the position which its votaries thought it ought to occupy.  They believed that bisexual [here meaning heterosexual] love was a sensual and debasing thing and the love of male for male was in every way higher and more elevating to the character. I was interested, but did not agree with them and, as I was at that time a schoolmaster, it was absolutely impossible that I should take their view of things.

Whether or not this was really the case with Browning is a matter of debate (his affairs, both physical and emotional, with proteges and students were the cause of multiple upheavals in his life). He goes on to explain how he doesn’t believe that Simeon Solomon’s own interest in “Greek love”  actually ever manifested itself in any physically consummated homosexual experiences, though Solomon’s fall from grace and the rapidity with which he was repudiated by his friends seem to contradict this argument.  The fact that Browning was one of those friends who dropped Solomon makes his belated defense of the artist in these letters — written nearly 15 years after his death — quite sad.

We are really excited about these new additions to our collection, and we hope that you will come by to visit them!

Oscar Browning, Letters to Joseph Leftwich, 1919-1920. ba MS.2010.027.


The Clark on Curating LA

November 18, 2010

Jim Gilbert has featured the Clark in a post today on his blog, Curating Los Angeles.  We think it’s great!

Did you miss our Eric Gill event last month?

November 16, 2010

A video of Jennifer Bastian’s presentation on the Clark’s Eric Gill artwork collection is now posted online at Vimeo!

Thank you to producers Frank Rothkamm & Nina Schneider, the Gladys Kreible Delmas Foundation, and the Lodge for Utopian Science.

Veterans’ Day Closure

November 10, 2010


The Clark will be closed tomorrow, Thursday, November 11th, in honor of Veterans’ Day.

Item of the Week: The mysterious John Clifford Cowles

November 5, 2010

A few weeks ago, when two of the Clark’s librarians were going through over-sized items housed in an out-of-the-way spot, they discovered a scrapbook related to American artist John Clifford Cowles, which has apparently been a part of the library’s collections for a long time.  At first puzzled about how and why the scrapbook was at the Clark in the first place, manuscript and archives librarian Becky Fenning quickly realized that not only did the album contain an interesting visual look at early 20th-century Los Angeles, but that Cowles may have been a significant player in the formation of William Andrews Clark, Sr’s art collection as well as a friend to the entire Clark family.

J.C. Cowles and his pug in Echo Park, ca. 1905

Though the details of Cowles’ life and his connection to the Clarks are still shaky, the basic outline of his life and work are relatively easy enough to discover. Born in 1861 in Illinois, Cowles studied art at the National Academy in New York City and was a student of painter Albert Bierstadt, among others.  In the 1880s, Cowles seems to have specialized in landscape paintings of ranchlands in the West, executing a number of still extant paintings for large landowners in New Mexico and Texas, as well as a large painting of Shoshone Falls, Idaho for William Andrews Clark.  By the 1890s, Cowles was studying in Paris with Jean Charles Cazin and Albert Besnard.  While in Paris, it appears that he advised Clark on paintings to acquire for his collection — which, at the time of Clark’s death in 1925, contained 22 paintings by Cowles’ mentor Cazin.  In 1903, Cowles was back in Los Angeles, and in 1932, he published a mystical novel called The Whispering Buddha. He died in 1951 at the age of 90, and many of his belongings — at least the photographic ones — were sold to the Old Trading Post in Echo Park.  A woman named Mary L Bennett happened to buy some of these photos, and intrigued by what she was told about Cowles, walked up to his former house on North Waterloo Street.  The real estate broker who had taken over the property had burned much of Cowles’ remaining belongings, but she was able to talk him into selling her the as-yet-unburnt portion still housed in an old trunk.  She then proceeding to cut up manuscripts, typescripts, news clippings, photographs and other ephemera to make this scrapbook tribute to Cowles.

Cowles in San Diego, ca. 1897

The album is a confusing and sometimes strange assemblage of items, seemingly arranged around the transcriptions Bennett made from a fictionalized biography she found in Cowles’ papers.  Cowles’ own typescripts and handwritten manuscripts are also pasted into the volume.

A reproduction of one of Cowles' paintings, a Christmas greeting from WA Clark, III and a news clipping about his work

Without the original context of these materials (Bennett cut and pasted at will from the manuscripts, it seems), the veracity and attribution of many items is uncertain.  There are lots of images of Yosemite and locations in Europe, and it is nearly impossible to know whether the pictures were taken by Cowles, images he cut out of printed sources, or simply extra illustrations Bennett has added to the album.

Cowles spent winters in Argentina and Venezuela

Regardless, though, Cowles’ story is still intriguing. Hopefully, with the help of other institutions who are actively researching their paintings by Cowles, we will be able to learn more about this multi-faceted artist and his connection to the Clarks.

One more reminder…

November 3, 2010

The Sixth Annual Kenneth Karmiole Lecture
on the History of the Book Trade:

Bankruptcy and the Eighteenth-Century Book Trade

A lecture at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
by Christine Ferdinand, Magdalen College, University of Oxford.
Saturday, 6th Nov. 3:00 p.m.

Some eighteenth-century booksellers made mistakes that led to unplanned bankruptcy, despair, and even suicide, while others seem almost deliberately to have incorporated “failure” into their business plans. This lecture examines the evidence of official records, bank accounts, periodical reports, and individual publishing history to find patterns (or not) of book-trade bankruptcy and insolvency.

Christine Ferdinand is Fellow Librarian at Magdalen College, University of Oxford. She works on eighteenth-century book and newspaper trade history for the most part, but has recently completed D.F. McKenzie’s three-volume Works of William Congreve for Oxford University Press (late 2010) as well as a book on the history of one of Oxford’s most beautiful structures, Magdalen College’s eighteenth-century New Building. Christine Ferdinand received her doctorate from Oxford in 1990, after a career of graduate work that spanned the University of Leeds, the University of Iowa, and the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Admission is complimentary, but advance registration is required.

Please be aware that space at the Clark is limited and that registration closes when capacity is reached. No confirmation will be sent, but we will contact you if we receive your registration after we reach capacity.