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Hooray! Hooray!  Raise A Glass Today!

Hooray! Hooray! Raise A Glass Today!

Hooray! Hooray! Raise A Glass Today!

As the London Times noted recently: ‘March 29, 2019 is etched in the minds of many. No, not as the date that was set for Britain to leave the EU, but the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sir Edwin Lutyens.‘ The young ‘Ned’ Lutyens’s father was a painter of horses and had him christened Edwin Landseer in honour of his hero, the artist Sir Edwin Landseer, beloved by Queen Victoria and later to be celebrated throughout the world as the painter of The Monarch of the Glen.

Ned Lutyens was precocious and a compulsive drawer. He set up his own architectural practice in 1888 at the age of nineteen, having already completed his studies at the South Kensington Schools and worked briefly for the practice of Ernest George and Peto. His first commission was a house in Surrey, at which time he met the renowned landscape gardener Gertrude Jeckyll, initiating a partnership that was to have an effect world-wide in regard to the relationship between building and nature, and we will see tangible proofs of this when we visit Le Bois des Mouitiers (1898) at Varengeville in June. A few years later he built Munstead Wood for Miss Jeckyll, a landmark in domestic architecture, and in 1904 the German writer and architectural critic, Hermann Muthesius, in his great work, Das Englische Haus, predicted that Lutyens, who was still only thirty five, would ‘soon become the accepted leader among English builders of houses.‘ He was not wrong!

Lutyens was the most inventive British architect since Sir Christopher Wren, as is borne out by the seldom seen La Maison des Communes, built on a triple-butterfly plan, which we will visit while we are in Varengeville. However, he was not just content to design and build houses. The imperial city of New Delhi, which he planned and created in an often uneasy partnership with Herbert Baker, is architecture on the grandest scale, and the gardens of the Viceregal (now the Presidential) Palace are yet another tribute to his collaboration with Miss Jeckyll. However his greatest work was still to come.

Towards the end of the war he was appointed one of the three principal architects to the Imperial War Graves Commission. Among the many monuments and memorials he was to design is the Monument to the Missing at Thiepval, which we will also visit in June. This stark monument is not only awe-inspiring in its complexity, it is also chilling in the respect it inspires for those tens-of-thousands of British and Commonwealth soldiers, whose bodies were never found but whose names are here engraved in stone – ‘Their Name Liveth For Ever More’. This great monument , with its elaborate geometry, stands in stark contrast to his simplest – and possibly best known – memorial, the Cenotaph in London’s Whitehall, the scene of the annual Service of Remembrance.

Join us in June in Normandy and Picardy when we can toast his memory once again, perhaps this time with a glass of the refreshing local cider, or even calvados.

 

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Lest We Forget! Lest We Forget!

Lest We Forget! Lest We Forget!

Lest We Forget! Lest We Forget!

This is a year of centenaries and celebrations. Any of you lucky enough to be in London before 22nd April should head straight for Two Temple Place, that extraordinary Gothic mansion beside the Thames, just along from the Savoy Hotel. Number Two was Waldorf Astor’s London office, purpose-built by John Loughborough Pearson, the architect of Truro Cathedral, in a style that can only be described as Fifth Avenue French Gothic. It is a treasure house in its own right, but it is also currently the venue of a splendid and wide ranging bi-centennial exhibition devoted to John Ruskin, who was born on 8th February 1819. Ruskin’s passions and obsessions are well covered both in his own work, the works he commissioned and also in the multi-varied items from his collections ranging from Turner watercolours to cases of minerals – mineralogy was a life-long passion – as well as drawings, photographs and plaster casts of decorative carvings from the great medieval cathedrals of Northern France..

It has been said of this visionary educator that whenever he wanted to learn about a subject he wrote a book, and his collected works in the standard Wedderburn edition fill thirty-eight weighty volumes. I have one by me now as I write which contains his Bible of Amiens: it is 2 1/4 inches thick and weighs 3 3/4 pounds, and is copiously illustrated with the photographs he commissioned to accompany his hundred and eighty page text, covering not only all the prophets and saints whose images bedizen the triple arches of the great West door, but also the elaborate choir-stalls. The Cathedral at Amiens will be one of the architectural highlights of our June tour, when we are lucky enough to have the Cathedral archivist as our guide.

Although we will be following in William Morris’s footsteps, Ruskin had already visited both Chartres and Rouen a couple of decades earlier, as had others of the great Gothic Revivalists, inspirers of the Arts and Crafts Movement, including Augustus Welby Pugin, who regarded the city as a ‘touchstone’, and William Burges.

Amiens Cathedral

Amiens Cathedral

2019 is also an anniversary year in the Morris calendar for two reasons: 1869 marks the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the completion of The Earthly Paradise, his best known literary work, and was also the year he took up the serious study of the Icelandic Sagas. A study that is reflected in the final sections of The Earthly Paradise which was part inspired by the “Volunda Saga”. Morris’s friend Magnus Magnússon not only taught him the ancient Norse language, but fed his appetite for the Icelandic legends, poetry and literature, but Normandy, too, was a Norse country, its people, including Duke William (William the Conqueror – King William I of England) were descendants of its original Viking settlers. It is this Norse heritage that has recently prompted the Museum at Rouen to purchase Walter Crane’s mural, The Skeleton in Armor. This vast mural in seven sections, inspired by Longfellow’s poem of the same name, was commissioned by Catharine Lorillard Wolfe in 1883 for her Summer residence, ‘Vinland Mansion’, at Newport, Rhode Island. Our group will be given privileged access to the conservators and conservation studios to see work in progress on its restoration. Duke William’s brother had his main castle, now a ruin, at Arques, just outside Dieppe, but more importantly for us as we progress it was along the coast here at Varengeville-sur-Mer that Edwin Lutyens built one of his earliest country houses, Le Bois des Moutiers for the Mallet family, who we will visit and dine with, and enjoy the world-renowned gardens, as well as visiting another little known Lutyens masterpiece.

Lutyens, along with fellow architects, Herbert Baker, Charles Holden and Walter Allward will dominate our last two days making us accutely aware of the imminence of yet another centenary. We will be visiting the monuments and war memorials at Thiepval, Delville Wood, Neuve Chapel and Vimy Ridge, just a week before the centenary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28th June 1919, that signalled the official ending of the First World War. Lest we forget.

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A Fresh Look At The Works of Ernest Gimson

A Fresh Look At The Works of Ernest Gimson

A Fresh Look At The Works of Ernest Gimson

A new book titled Ernest Gimson: Arts and Crafts Designer and Architect written by Annette Carruthers, Mary Greensted and Barley Roscoe is being published by Yale University Press in October 2019.

Ernest Gimson has been described as ‘the greatest of the English artist-craftsmen’ (Pevsner 1960) and was a central figure in the British Arts and Crafts Movement. He died aged 54 on 12 August 1919 so it’s appropriate that this book will appear in his centenary year. Based on extensive new research from original sources, written by experienced authors and illustrated with many unpublished images and superb new photographs by James Brittain, it will fill a major gap in the field of Arts and Crafts studies and is expected to become the standard work on Gimson.

The book is divided into two sections: the first looks in detail at Gimson’s life, the development of his approach to his work, his contacts and his influences. Trained as an architect in his home town of Leicester, Gimson worked in London in the 1880s, joining the circle around William Morris and Philip Webb at the Art Workers’ Guild and in the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. In 1893 he moved with friends and fellow architects, Ernest and Sidney Barnsley, to live and work in a radically different way deep in the Cotswold countryside. There he practised as an architect, made modeled plasterwork and set up workshops for the production of furniture and metalwork, rapidly establishing a reputation for both his distinctive style of design and the superb quality of making by his assistants.

Gimson’s architectural projects, the making of furniture, metalwork and plasterwork, and his designs for the embroideries and bookbindings executed by his female relatives are described and analysed in detail in the second section. The final chapter discusses Gimson’s influence in Britain and overseas and his continuing relevance to debates about the role of craft in the modern world.

Finally a list of Gimson’s major works brings together newly researched and existing information.

We would love to have you join us and share our enthusiasm for this history – and the continuation – of this extraordinary Movement and group of architects, designers, philosophers and urban planners. For more information, visit the official Gimson and the Barnsleys tour page and join us on this wonderful tour

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Whether you have a starting interest in learning about the Arts and Crafts Movement or have a desire to see some of the most fascinating places, people, and artifacts of the era, join us on one or more of our upcoming tours and immerse yourself in history.

The Holiday Blog

The Holiday Blog

The Holiday Blog

The Arts and Crafts Movement was a deeply serious philosophical, practical and committed response to the industrialization of England, its ‘green and pleasant land’ in danger of being blackened by the ever burgeoning factories and the movement of the rural population to the sprawling, insanitary slums surrounding the industrial cities, epitomized by Charles Dickens’s Coketown in Hard Times. Nonetheless William Morris and his friends still found time to enjoy friendship and the joys of life, and perhaps never more so than around Christmas.

Indeed, the Art Workers’ Guild of which he was Master in 1892, has a long tradition of mounting Revels and other such communal expressions of enjoyment. The most famous of these is Beauty’s Awakening, which was performed in London’s Guild Hall in 1899 with most of the great names – Ashbee, Walter Crane, Christopher Whall, Harrison Townsend, etc – either taking part or contributing to the script, with music specially arranged and performed by Arnold Dolmetsch.

Alan Crawford in his great monograph on Ashbee describes Beauty’s Awakening thus: ‘This curious extravaganza had started in a small way, at a meeting of the Art Workers Guild on ‘Masques and Pageants’ in April 1897; but it grew, slowly at first, and then uncontrollably. The architects, painters, sculptors and craftsmen of the guild versified, argued, rehearsed and argued again; lavished disproportionate care on the stage and its furniture; drove their womenfolk to extraordinary lengths of patient needlework; and produced a gorgeous and ephemeral spectacle, the event of the Arts and Crafts Movement, a demonstration of its various talents and of its blessed irrelevance. Somehow the time was ripe. It was to be formal, like the old masques, design, pageantry, allegory, but not an antiquarian revival, for there was a symbolic and processional strain in the Arts and Crafts which found a welcome expression in the masque: it was as if their allegorical figures had stepped out of the picture frames, down from the sculpted friezes, and now enjoyed the extra freedom of verse, music and dance. And, being the Arts and Crafts, it was didactic, an allegory of London and the artists’ hope for their city, touching and specific.’

The masque nearly bankrupted the Guild and nothing as ambitious has ever been performed again, but a few years ago, when Glynn Boyd-Hart was Master, we had a glorious pantomime with costumes by Brother Madeleine Dinkel, and a splendid performance by a yodeling cow!

The spirit of irreverence lives on and long may it continue to do so, and not just at Christmas. Ashbee recalled one occasion when the Guild was expecting a lecture from William Morris he read them a chapter of Brer Rabbit instead!

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The Road from Arras to Bapaume

The Road from Arras to Bapaume

The Road from Arras to Bapaume

Fiona MacCarthy in William Morris: A Life for Our Time, describes Morris recalling nostalgically the poplar meadows and little villages of the Somme as well as the long straight roads of Picardy seemingly stretching into eternity: “Those long straight roads of Northern France”, she wrote, “remained in Morris’s mind as they would remain in the memories of the English veterans of the First World War.”

The Road from Arras to Bapaume

Elaine and I recently traveled many of these same roads, which neither Morris nor the British troops would have difficulty in recognizing today, as the landscape is little changed, apart from the implantation of the now ubiquitous wind farms, and the chilling number of cemeteries and memorials to the British and Commonwealth war dead. As we drove through this wide open flat landscape two images kept coming into my mind; Harry Lauder’s poignant ‘Keep right on to the end of the road‘, adopted by the British troops as one of their popular marching songs, and C.R.W. Nevinson’s haunting (and daunting) 1918 lithograph The Road from Arras to Bapaume. It was, of course, the memorials that drew us to Picardy and Flanders, but given the pounding this area of Northern France suffered during two World Wars it was surprising to find that anything of antiquity still endures.

Following our stay in the lush Norman countryside our base for the last two days will be Arras, a remarkable city with two great cobbled squares – the Grand Place and the Place des Heros. The architecture of which – as indeed the cuisine – reminds us that we are now unmistakably in old Flanders, its towns and cities only ceded to France in the early eighteenth century. In June we will have unrestricted access to these squares and will be able to walk freely around, a pleasure denied to us because, true to their roots, the locals were busy setting up the round-a-bouts, hurdey-gurdies, and other trappings of a typical Flemish Christmas Fair.

In 1917, well before the end of the war, the British Government had the foresight to set up the Imperial War Graves Commission under the chairmanship of Sir Frederick Kenyon, paleontologist, biblical scholar and Director of the British Museum. In January 1918, Kenyon published his prescient and authoritative report: ‘War Graves: How the Cemeteries Abroad Will be Designed’, which established the architectural and administrative framework for the design of all the British and Commonwealth cemeteries.

Lutyens, Herbert Baker and Reginald Blomfield were appointed by the Commission as the Principal Architects, and Arthur Hill, from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, was appointed to devise the simple, sustainable and dignified planting of trees and shrubs. Despite these guidelines the architects’ job was no easy one as the combatants, to be memorialized side by side, were of all religions and none; their gravestones simply carved with their names in the Roman typeface specially designed by Macdonald Gill, brother of the better known Eric Gill, and along with their regimental badges. Lutyens designed the altar-like, but non-denominational, War Stone inscribed simply ‘Their Name Liveth For Evermore’, which was placed at the heart of all the cemeteries, often in conjunction with Blomfield’s equally dignified non-denominational cross. Between them they give an overall unity to otherwise diverse designs.

le Maison des Communes.

In my last blog I described Lutyens’s late nineteenth-century domestic architecture at Varengeville-sur-Mer, and his inventiveness and playfulness with architectural forms, especially the triple-butterfly plan for le Maison des Communes. Here on the battle fields of the Somme, faced with the realities of mass slaughter, a hardness entered into his architectural vocabulary. His delight in the effect of contrasting architectural forms is still evident, but coupled now with a sense of grimness: his playfulness overlayed by a rigid austerity, emphasized further, in a number of instances, by the close proximity of serried ranks of identical gravestones.

Our June tour is devised primarily as an Arts and Crafts tour in the footsteps of William Morris and Lutyens, rather than a tour of the many cemeteries and memorials on the Western Front, so for these two days we have been ruthless in selecting those we will visit. These will include the four grandest – Lutyens’s Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval and his Australian Memorial at Villers Bretonneux, Herbert Baker’s Delville Wood (also Australian) and Walter Allward’s Canadian War Memorial at Vimy Ridge.

We will also visit Lutyens’s Daours Communal Cemetery Extension, which, in its modesty and human scale, reflects more closely his earlier Arts and Crafts ideals, which are also evident in Charles Holden’s nearby Corbie Military Cemetery. Herbert Baker, architect of imperial buildings in South Africa and Lutyens’s nemesis at New Delhi, exemplifies in his work that period progression from Arts and Crafts to stripped-down classicism and in addition to Delville Wood, we will visit his Indian Memorial at Neuve Chapelle which, in the diversity of its decoration, shows the eclecticism of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Walter Allward’s dramatic Canadian Memorial at Vimy Ridge is all together more starkly modernist, rising out of, and dominating, the landscape like some great pharaohnic obelisk. We were lucky enough to see it in the cold clear light of a setting November sun and, although the June days will be long, we will save this for the final experience on our last evening.

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Whether you have a starting interest in learning about the Arts and Crafts Movement or have a desire to see some of the most fascinating places, people, and artifacts of the era, join us on one or more of our upcoming tours and immerse yourself in history.

Following in William Morris’ Footsteps in Normandy

Following in William Morris’ Footsteps in Normandy

Following in William Morris’ Footsteps in Normandy

Early last month Elaine and I did a preliminary reconnaissance for next June’s Normandy and Picardy tour. Starting in Chartres we followed William Morris’s route through Dreux, Evreux and Louviers to Rouen, revelling in those great gothic cathedrals which inspired not only Morris, but also Pugin, William Burges and others. Morris described the journey that he and Burne Jones made in a long letter to Cormell Price date August 10th, 1855, a severely truncated version of which I quote below:

Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres

Behold our itinerary. We started from Chartres quite early (six o’clock) with drizzling rain that almost hid the spires of the Cathedral, how splendid they looked in the midst of it! but we were obliged to leave them, and the beautiful statues and stained glass, and the great, cliff-like buttresses […] and went off, with the rain still falling a little, through the beautiful country to Dreux, for a distance of about 17 miles; there was plenty to look at by the road, I almost think I like that part of the country better than any other part of the lovely country we have seen in France; so gloriously the trees are grouped, all manner of trees, but more especially the gracious poplars and aspens, of all kinds; and the hedgeless fields of grain, and beautiful herbs […] looking as if they belonged to no man, as if they were planted not to be cut down in the end, and to be stored in barns and eaten by the cattle, but that rather they were planted for their beauty only.

Amiens Cathedral

So we went on through this kind of country till we came to Dreux, and the rain had cleared up long before we reached it, and it was a bright sunny day. […] Well, we had to stop at Dreux about an hour and we saw the church there, a very good one, flamboyant mostly, but with an earlier apse very evilly used, and with a transept front very elaborately carved once, now very forlorn and battered, but (Deo gratias) not yet restored: there is a delightful old secular tower at Dreux too, and that is flamboyant also, with a roof like the side of a cliff, it is so steep. So we left Dreux and set our faces as though we would go to Evreux; […] We had only a very short time to stay at Evreux, and even that short time we had to divide (alas ! for our Lower nature) between eating our dinner and gazing on the gorgeous Cathedral: it is an exceedingly lovely one, though not nearly so large as most of the Cathedrals we saw, the aisles are very rich flamboyant, with a great deal of light canopy work about them; the rest of the Church is earlier, the nave being Norman, and the choir fully developed early Gothic; though the transepts and lantern are flamboyant also by the way: […]

Church of Notre-Dame de Louviers

When we left Evreux we found that the country had changed altogether, getting much more hilly, almost as glorious in its way as the other land perhaps, but very different; […] so we kept on going, first winding up a long hill, then on a table land for a greater or lesser time, then down into the glorious lake-like valley, till at last we got to Louviers; there is a splendid church there, though it is not a large one; the outside has a kind of mask of the most gorgeous flamboyant (though late) thrown all over it, with such parapets and windows, it is so gorgeous and light, that I was utterly unprepared for the inside, and almost startled by it; so solemn it looked and calm after the fierce flamboyant of the outside; for all the interior, except the Chapels, is quite early Gothic and very beautiful; I have never, either before or since, been so much struck with the difference between early and late Gothic, and by the greater nobleness of the former.

So after we had looked at the Church for a little time we mounted the omnibus to go to the railway station where we were to take the train to Rouen – it was about 5 miles I should think from Louviers to the station. What a glorious ride that was, with the sun, which was getting low by that time, striking all across the valley that Louviers lies in; I think that valley was the most glorious of all we saw that day, […] it was all like the country in a beautiful poem, in a beautiful Romance such as might make a background to Chaucer’s Palamon and Arcite; how we could see the valley winding away along the side of the Eure a long way, under the hills: […] fancy, Crom, all the roads (or nearly all) that come into Rouen dip down into the valley where it lies, from gorgeous hills which command the most splendid views of Rouen. […] I had some kind of misgivings that I might be disappointed with Rouen, after my remembrances of it from last year; but I wasn’t a bit. O! What a place it is. I think Ted [Burne Jones] liked the Cathedral, on the whole, better than any other church we saw.”

Cathedral of Saint Peter of Beauvais

Morris was, not surprisingly, right in his description of the church at Louviers: the West end is covered in a vast spider web of tracery, a masterpiece of the stonemason’s craft, while the interior retains the starkness and simplicity of early gothic. He was equally enthusiastic about Beauvais and Amiens, which we also visited and, despite the fact that the two World Wars ravaged much of this country, it is staggering what survives not just in terms of major cathedral architecture, but also in the half-timbered domestic streetscapes that surround them. Beauvais Cathedral Morris described as ‘one of the wonders of the world; seen at twilight its size gives one an impression almost of terror: one can scarcely believe in it.’ But it was the sight of Amiens Cathedral that decided him to abandon the study of theology in favour of architecture. It was also the great west porch of Amiens, adorned with a multiplicity of carvings of saints and other figures that inspired Ruskin to write his Bible of Amiens, which Proust later translated into French. Great as the west porch is, the sixteenth-century choir is almost more breath-taking, the stalls embellished with three-and-a-half thousand carved figures in oak. This is not generally accessible to the public, but the archivist has offered us a specially conducted visit. Just one of the personal touches that promise to make next June’s tour especially memorable.

Le Bois des Moutiers

I have concentrated here on the great Gothic Cathedrals, but as a stark contrast to the flamboyance, especially of Louviers, is the proto-modernism of Lutyen’s Le Bois des Moutiers and Maison des Communes at Varangeville-sur-Mer outside Dieppe, were we will be welcomed by the owners, but I will revert to them in detail in my next blog. The contrast between early, domestic, Lutyens – he was only twenty-eight when he designed Le Bois des Moutiers – and his War Memorials, especially the Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval is equally dramatic. Elaine and I are going to Arras – Cathedral eighteenth century – in a couple of weeks time to visit several of the major memorials, including Thiepval and Villers-Bretonneux, both by Lutyens; Herbert Baker’s Australian Memorial at Delville Wood and Indian Memorial at Neuve Chapel as well as Walter Seymour Allward’s Canadian War Memorial at Vimy Ridge.

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