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Ryuson Chuso Matsuyama: A Japanese artist in England

Matsuyama-photo

We have been fortunate to acquire a collection of works by the Japanese artist Ryuson Chuzo Matsuyama (1880-1954). He was a member of a small but intriguing group of Japanese artists working in England during the first decades of the 20th century. While the best known of this group are the printmaker Urushibara Mokuchu and the illustrator Yoshio Markino, Matsuyama is arguably the more interesting, bringing a freshness of practice and perception to the essentially British art form of watercolour. He also adopted Britain as his home, marrying an English girl, Mabel Davies, in Chelsea in 1914, and bringing his family up in London and the Surrey countryside. Unlike the great majority of the Japanese expatriate community, who left the UK to return home in the face of increasing anti-Japanese feeling in the 1920s and ‘30s, Matsuyama remained in England, becoming a naturalised British citizen in 1947.
After initial training in a broad range of media, as well as receiving an introduction to watercolour in Tokyo, Matsuyama travelled to England in 1911 to develop his knowledge and practice. We have two small sketches produced during his journey – recording scenes in Singapore (shown here) and Marseilles.Matsuyama-Singapore-2 Settling in London, he, like the painter Sato Takezou, studied at the Chelsea School of Art, while also working as a decorative painter, restorer and lacquer repairer. His watercolours of London scenes found a ready market within the Japanese community, and he exhibited regularly at the Japanese Club in Cavendish Square, showing alongside his compatriots as well as artists such as Frank Brangwyn and George Clausen, who were active supporters of the group of Japanese artists. He was also an active and successful member of the British art world, exhibiting from 1916 at the Royal Academy, the Royal Scottish Academy, the National Portrait Society and regional art galleries. He was a member of the Holborn artists’ society and was elected an Associate of the British Watercolour Society – an honour he was asked to resign in 1947 in the aftermath of World War II – a shameful act by the Society, which coincided oddly with his receipt of British citizenship

.Matsuyama-still-life-1As well as London scenes, Matsuyama’s earlier subject matter includes floral still-lifes, reminiscent of prints by Urushibara, and an aesthetic in landscape and genre scenes which seems to owe much to the Japanese shin-hanga movement. He undertook a range of painting tours to archetypal picturesque areas such as North Wales, the Lake District and the South West, but also visited Flanders and Northern France in 1920, recording the devastation wrought by the First World War, as shown in his view of Ypres (right).Matsuyama-Ypres-2
It is perhaps his mature work of the 1920s and ‘30s that is most striking, He seems to have taken delight in the colours, activities and seasonal rhythms of the English countryside, recording particularly the landscapes of Surrey, especially those around Dorking and his home in Holmwood. His landscapes are rich, authoritative and idiosyncratic: flooded with saturated colour, applied from a heavily laden brush, and contrasted with precise, calligraphic linear outline.Matsuyama-Walking-to-Littlehampton-1 Most are carefully annotated with place and date, and convey real pleasure in the subject,  sometimes recording favourite places or walks. Much of his work is subtly imbued with a charm and gentle humour – more obviously seen in his cartoon of the family (noticeably excluding Mr Matsuyama himself) struggling to hoist the roof onto the family’s new shed.
While much is documented relating to Japanese ceramic artists working in Europe, particularly those associated with Bernard Leach, too little is known of the community of Japanese painters, printmakers and illustrators working in London at the beginning of the 20th century. The work of Matsuyama and his contemporaries deserves more serious research.Matsuyama-Garden-Shed-2Matsuyama-Putney-Heath-2

Posted in Research, Stories

An exotic chocolate box for A J Caley of Norwich

Caley-Box-1The firm of A J Caley of Norwich were manufacturers of jolly things in the 19th and 20th centuries – making mineral waters, Christmas crackers and chocolates. Still going strong, they reintroduced their classic chocolate ranges in the 1990s, moving to Fairtrade products in 2006. But our little box (one of two identical pieces – one now sold) seems to be associated with their early ventures into chocolate making. Caley-Box-6It bears a label from their Fleur de Lys factory, built in the Chapelfield area of the city in 1890, which suggests that the box was used as a form of high quality packaging. Although the box itself is fairly simple, it would still have made a very expensive form of mass packaging, specially imported and nicely finished. So perhaps our box was intended as a specific gift or promotional piece. Caley’s set great store by the quality of their chocolate, the recipe for which was intended deliberately to compete with imported Swiss milk chocolate, so maybe dressing their still-relatively new chocolate (they only started making milk chocolate in 1883) in a flashy box was all part of the market positioning.
It’s relatively unusual to find imported objects being used as commercial packaging. Porcelain ginger jars and packaging for tea and so on can be beautiful and elaborate, but they were imported together with their contents.
It’s a bit of a mystery really.

Posted in Stories

Halima Nalecz (1917-2008)

Halima Nalecz brought a mid-European glamour to a rather dowdy post-war London art market. In establishing the New Vision gallery in Marble Arch in 1956, and her own Drian Gallery in 1957, she created a vehicle for the active promotion of new British artists, as well as for her own work.

Halima Nalecz was born near Vilnius in 1914, and spent much of her youth as a refugee, travelling around Europe and the Near East, before arriving in Britain in 1947, and marrying Zygmunt Nalecz in 1952. Her work is fresh, idiosyncratic and decidedly un-English, drawing on imagery from nature – fat, heavy flower heads and startling upright foliage, strange animals, vivid starlit skies – all transmuted through a semi-abstracted vision. The National Portrait Gallery holds some lovely images by the photographer Bob Collins of Nalecz in her studio, surrounded by examples of her mature work.

Famously unselfish, she was a generous supporter of new talent, giving artists as diverse as John Bellany, William Crozier and Leon Zack their first major London shows. Her commitment to buy a new work from another artist for every picture of her own which she sold, enabled her to present a large collection of contemporary art to the Polish state in 1983.

Read more about her in the Guardian obituary by Adam Zulawski.

See her work for sale with Lloyd Ellis

Posted in Research, Stories

A Cecil Hepworth Archive

We have been lucky enough to acquire a significant group of still images from the archive of the great pioneer British film maker Cecil Hepworth (1874-1953). The collection includes both portrait stills and stills from Hepworth’s extraordinary film output from the first two decades of the 20th century, including images from films now lost. The date of the photographs is unclear, but they appear relatively recent. The original film from which the copy images are taken is unknown.

Cecil Hepworth was both a pioneer cinematographer and technical innovator. A photographer, director, producer, screenwriter, actor and inventor of commercial film and sound techniques, he established himself as one of the principal figures of the early British film industry, and established the industry as one of the most dynamic and inventive in the world.

From setting up his first production company, The Hepworth Manufacturing Company, in Walton on Thames in 1899, his film output was prodigious. Commercial success came in 1905, with the wildly popular ‘Rescued by Rover’. Hepworth’s move into directing ‘feature’ films, collaboration with other production companies and the development of a stable of regular actors facilitated an increasingly ambitious range of work.

However, little of his work now survives. Following bankruptcy in 1924, his entire film stock was melted to retrieve the silver, destroying the great majority of one of the most important early British film collections in existence. Half a dozen films have been saved, together with around 85 previously known still images.
Hepworth-Ernest-Bliss Still image from the 1920 film The Amazing Quest of Mr Ernest Bliss

Our collection includes stills from several films for which no other evidence exists, as well as images featuring several of his ‘stars’, such as Chrissie White (1895-1989) and Henry Edwards (1883-1952). Many of the images are previously unknown, and not included in the catalogues of his work.

More information is available through the British Film Institute.

Posted in News, Research

Antoine Guillemet (1843-1918)

It isn’t often that we have a chance to offer a work by an artist at the very heart of the French art and literary world in the 19th century, whose work encompassed both Salon and Impressionist rebellion.

Guillemet-in-frame

A pupil of Corot and Daubigny, Guillemet’s career began with his debut at the Salon of 1859. Gregarious as well as talented, his friendships included Monet, Cezanne, Stevens, Courbet and the writer Guy de Maupassant. His close friend Eduard Manet included him in his famous painting Le Balcon (Musee d’Orsay), flanked by Berthe Morisot and the violinist Fanny Claus.

Manet-balcony-detail

Under the influence of his friend Emile Zola, from the 1870s Guillemet became increasingly interested in Naturalisme, and the depiction of rural, peasant life in a fresh, impressionistic style. This became the foundation of his work after he settled in the Dordogne later in his career.

By the time of his death, he was both highly decorated and honoured: a Commander of the Légion d’honneur and a member of the grand jury of the Salon.

Posted in Stories

Shepton Mallet Antiques and Collectors’ Fair

Shepton is our largest fair, in the Bath & West Showground, just down the road from the charming Somerset town of Shepton Mallet. Here we have a chance to create our own environment in one of the fair’s shopping arcades (we are always in Arcade No 6 – about a hundred yards on the left from the Fair’s entrance) – a much more exciting prospect than setting out a few tables in one of the big sheds. It also gives us a chance to bring a wider variety of stock than we would normally carry – including material associated with rural industries, larger scale sculpture and furniture too.
Confronted with an empty tent, it feels a bit like setting up an exhibition in a gallery – but having to do it in 3 hours, without any solid walls to work from. We first dress the tent walls with fabric, set out and hang pictures and finally set out the tables and arrange the objects. Daisy the dog is briefed to welcome visitors and provide basic information on our stock and at 12 o’clock the show opens!
Images are from last week’s fair, when the sun shone and the crowds roamed free.

Seeing double with William Reid Dick

Recently, we sold a bronze version of one of Reid Dick’s beautiful, sensitive sculptures of young children, perhaps one of his own baby daughters. Imagine our surprise when we came across a plaster version of what looks to be the very same piece. How many Reid Dick sculptures do you stumble across in a couple of months?
Our bronze was cast with the details of one of the most celebrated firms of mould-makers in late 19th and early 20th century England, the Smith Family of Kentish Town, London. in intaglio on the back, and it is likely that the plaster was produced as a pattern by them, from which a trial mould could be made.
Although very close to the bronze, the plaster shows significant differences, and the child’s collar (and perhaps her little nose) have been abraded. The plaster is much less highly finished than the bronze, with simpler collar, hat and facial detail. Whether this means that the plaster is an early stage in the process, and the sculpture less highly worked, or whether it represents a very similar, but different, sculpture, I don’t know. Following the success of his rendition of his new-born son in 1921, Reid Dick produced sculptures of both his baby daughters during the 1920s, and it is tempting to think that these sculptures might represent one or both of them. I’ve not come across any images to confirm either way. It might have to wait for a research visit to the Tate Archive, which holds Reid Dick’s papers.
Unless someone else has any ideas….Reid-Dick-plaster-3Reid-Dick

Another day, another Newark

Great fun at the IACF Newark International Fair. Lots of new and old friends and customers – including this elegant young poseur.

 

Bedlington at Newark

Newark International Antiques Fair

Find us at our usual stand in the George Stephenson Hall at the largest antiques and collectors’ fair in Europe, at the Newark & Nottinghamshire Showground. We’ll be bringing our latest stock: rare treats for all!

Anthony Colbert (1934-2007) Vietnam War Series, 1967

We have acquired three amazing paintings by the British artist Anthony Colbert (1934-2007). Although he is now known as one of the most successful illustrators of the later 20th century, in the mid-sixties Colbert was working for The Observer newspaper. In early 1967, he was commissioned by the paper and the charity Save the Children to travel to Vietnam to record the impact of the increasingly devastating conflict on women and children in the warzone. He travelled at a dangerous time. The Vietnam War was escalating rapidly: the bombing campaign Operation Rolling Thunder was flattening the North, and a ground war was building in lead up to the huge battles of the Tet Offensive in January 1968. What safe-conduct Colbert travelled under we don’t know, perhaps as a journalist. He wasn’t an official war artist, and, although the US Vietnam Combat Artists Program had already started, as a foreign non-combatant it is unlikely that he was able to link up with them.

He returned safely (miraculously!) in the summer of ’67, with a substantial body of work, which was exhibited at the Artists’ International Association galleries in August. The majority seems to have comprised rapid sketches on paper. Our paintings are three of only four oils in the exhibition, and they are dramatic and powerful works. In all the paintings, the figures float, isolated against a neutral background, reinforcing the sense of abandonment and helplessness of the subjects. The muted colours, the strange use of apparently military-issue khaki gloss paints and the violent physicality of the application of the oils (almost scrubbed on in some cases), all contribute to the sense of urgency and desperation which these works carry.

It would be great to learn more about this amazing episode of British charitable intervention into an American war. What, for example, did the Observer and Save the Children do with the knowledge and results which Colbert brought back?

Any ideas, please get in touch!

Click here to view artwork

Colbert 268-15.1

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