Saturday, 27 January 2018

The dilemma of the Austin brothers…

Like all best laid plans this one did not work out the way that I had hoped. My idea was to promote the works of Frederick Austin as his elder brother Robert had received more exposure through exhibitions at the Ashmolean 1980, and some more recent exhibitions at the Fine Art Society and even more recently at the Royal Academy of Arts in 2009. Through the now infamous, well it has become this in my endeavours, 1931-32 prospectus for the Blackheath School of Art I discovered that Frederick Austin taught Pictorial Design and Antique and Architectural Drawing on Mondays and Tuesdays.[1]

I had got as far as beginning to plan about writing about Frederick Austin and how he had followed in his brother Robert’s footsteps by winning the Prix de Rome. Robert won it in 1922 and Frederick in 1927.[2] I wrongly assumed that this is where the ‘following in the footsteps’ of his brother had ended. Up until a few days ago I believed that Frederick Austin was the only member of his family who was connected with the Blackheath School of Art.[3] When looking through my new go to guide about the BSA, The Blackheath Local Guide, I discovered an article from 1930 referring to the newly employed Frederick Austin as ‘the brother of a former member of staff’.[4] This must have been his brother, and more renowned printmaker Robert Sargent Austin.

So now my focus was taken away from Frederick and my curiosity peaked into finding out more about Robert and his association with the school. Again the Blackheath Local Guide has been my source of information in finding out more about Robert Austin and his connection with Blackheath. He became a teacher specialising in etching in the Autumn Term 1925, employed by John Howard Hale.[5] It was something of a tradition that newly employed teachers at the school had some of their art works exhibited on the premises and Robert Austin was indeed no exception to this rule. These exhibitions provided an opportunity for current students to know more about their new teachers and would also have enticed prospective students through exposure to the art works of the teachers.

Both Robert and Margaret Holden Jones, who was returning to the school after teaching in the US, were scheduled to have works on display as a part of the Students’ exhibition in September 1925. Austin’s exhibition was delayed, due to a lack of space, eventually running from 19 to 24 October.[6] The exhibition featured sketches and drawings by Austin relating to his time in Europe after winning the Prix de Rome. The anonymous reviewer of the exhibition described it as follows:
His work is wonderfully intensive. The portrait studies are exceptionally strong, and in the treatment of the figure he betrays wonderful skill, in expressing vitality and other characteristics. Nowadays there is happily a renaissance of drawing, and in his series of pencil sketches done in Rome, Venice, Frankfort on the Maine, Paris and elsewhere, Mr. Austin is unquestionably a skillful exponent of it. He has the rare faculty of embodying a mass of correct detail into an obviously rapidly sketched-in drawing. The collection betrays the sure hand and quick touch of the artist.[7]

Robert Austin, The Birth of Venus (after Botticelli), etching.
Courtesy Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - more here
Robert Austin, Women in a Church, etching.
Courtesy of Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - more here

Robert Austin, The Angel of Saint Matthew, Orvieto, etching.
Courtesy of Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - more here

Even though there is no reference to specific subjects of the sketches included in the show it would be nice to think that the sketches may have informed later prints including Women in a Church, Spanish Steps Rome, Souvenir of Paris, The Mother, San Domenico, Perugia, The Angel of Saint Matthew, Orvieto, Italian Bride, The Birth of Venus (after Botticelli), Litany and German Madonna (these images all feature on the Liss Llwellyn Fine Art website - here).[8]

It seems likely that Robert Austin left the Blackheath School of Art in 1927 at the end of the Summer Term.[9] This is the most probable conclusion that I have been able to come to is his brother-in-law, James Woodford, who he met whilst in Rome, took over as life teacher in the Autumn Term of 1927:
Sculptors living in the neighbourhood and art students generally will be pleased to hear that the modelling classes have re-opened this session. The school has been fortunate in securing the services of Mr. J. W. Woodford, Prix-de-Rome, gold medallist to take charge of the classes.’[10]

In describing the works of the students’ exhibition in 1928 Woodford was referred to as the teacher of the life class. Given teachers were not referred to in the review of the 1927 exhibition I believe I am right to presume that James Woodford took over the Life Class from his brother-in-law Robert Austin but unfortunately I cannot be sure of the exact year, 1927 or 1928. It also confirms that my assumption that Frederick worked here because of his links with John Platt at the Leicester College of Art probably are not true as he was at the Royal College of Art from 1924 to 1927 and Platt was at Leicester from 1923 to 1929.[11] Most likely he came to work at BSA through more direct family connections, through his brother Robert or James Woodford.

Frederick Austin started working at the Blackheath School of Art in the Autumn Term of 1930. He started alongside two other teachers, Douglas Percy Bliss and Joan Herrin. He probably would have come across both Bliss and Herrin at the Royal College of Art as Bliss was a student there between 1922 and 1925 and Joan Herrin studied Design at the Royal College of Art from 1924 to 1927.[12] Writing in 1981, Bliss remembered Austin, as one of his few colleagues at the school, still living at this time.[13] His link with Herrin became initially apparent through an etching by Frederick Austin of the Adoration of the Shepherds, which is dedicated to Joan Herrin and dated 1926, when Austin was at the RCA.[14]

Frederick Austin’s initial introduction to the BSA students and interested locals, like his brother, came through his works being exhibited in a show alongside Bliss and Herrin, described as ‘works by modern artists’. This exhibition was held in the lecture hall in October 1930 and Austin’s works were briefly described as follows:
‘The examples of Mr Austin’s works are also arresting. Whilst he strikes a modern note, he does not offend by being too extreme.’[15]  

Frederick Austin, The Harvesters (4th state), etching, 1926.
Collection of the author.

Frederick Austin, Apple Orchard with Chopped Wood and Chickens, etching, circa 1936.
Collection of the author.

Frederick Austin’s subject matter of his prints included both rural scenes and religious images. Two of the rural images include The Harvesters from 1926 and Apple Orchard with Chopped Wood and Chickens circa 1936. The strong lines and attention to detail like the apples, ladders, fences and even his initials put on a chopped log in the orchard are characteristic of Austin’s work. Whilst the monumental, statuesque, quality of the hard working women in the fields harvesting wheat gives the scene a timeless feel in they could come from any era.

Ghislebertus, Christ Enthroned, central portal of the Tympanum, Twelfth Century, Vezelay Abbey.

Frederick Austin, French Sculpture (after central tympanum Vezelay Abbey), etching, 1954.
Collection of the author.

Inadvertently my two year old son led me to discovering the link between Austin’s French Sculpture and Vezelay Abbey. Such is my wish to introduce him to art and the dual nature of a visual memory which is sometimes a blessing and a curse. Whenever we went to the local library in Deptford, I would take an art book to show him some pictures in between reading children’s stories. On this occasion it was a blessing as looking at the sculpture in the book, What Makes a Masterpiece?, I immediately realised where I had seen it before when looking at the photograph of the enthroned Christ .[16] Austin’s print, depicts the reverse of the central portal of the tympanum of Vezelay Abbey, portraying Christ positioned on an elaborately decorated throne relaying his message to his Apostles. It is an incredibly powerful Christian image in both the sculptural and printed forms. Austin produced his print for The Print Collector’s Club in 1954. Vezelay also brought back memories of choices made in the past whilst visiting Burgundy about five years earlier. We chose to visit Autun rather than Vezelay in the summer of 2011. I do regret not visiting l’Abbaye de Vezelay but if I hadn’t been to Autun I wouldn’t have discovered the amazing Last Judgement of Ghiselbertus of been able to discover more about one of Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden’s great patrons, Nicholas Rolin. I guess this will be a destination for future journeys.

Both Robert and Frederick Austin were two great exponents of the art of engraving and the Blackheath School of Art were indeed incredibly privileged to have them both on the staff as teachers. The calibre of these teachers is one of the reasons why the art school was held in such high esteem in the 1920’s and 1930’s. As with all of my entries I will continue to update information as and when I come across it in my sporadic research.

[1] Blackheath School of Art Prospectus 1931 1932 Session. Fred Austin taught Pictorial Design on Mondays 10am to 1pm and Tuesdays 10am to 1pm and Antique and Architectural Drawing on Tuesdays 2.30pm to 4.30pm.
[2] Nottingham Journal, 20 June, 1928, p. 1. There is a photograph on the front page featuring the brothers shaking hands entitled ‘Leicester Triumph’.
[3] Robert Austin and James Woodford married the sisters Ada Mae and Rose Harrison respectively.
[4] ‘Blackheath School of Arts and Crafts’ in Blackheath Local Guide, 4Oct 1930, p. 2. The article describes the artworks exhibited by three new members of staff at BSA Douglas Bliss, Frederick Austin and Joan Herrin referred to as an ‘exhibition of work by modern artists’.
[5] ‘Blackheath School of Arts and Crafts’ in Blackheath Local Guide, 19 Sep 1925, p. 18. Robert Austin is referred to as being newly employed and that some of his pictures from his time in Rome, as the Prix de Rome winner, and those of Margaret Holden Jones will be included in the student exhibition scheduled for 21 to 26 September 1925.
[6] Blackheath Local Guide, 17 Oct 1925, p. 10. I can only assume that Margaret Holden Jones’ works were included with the student exhibition as there is no mention of her exhibition being postponed. The article describes Austin as taking up teaching of the Life Class which would help enable students in gaining entry to the RCA, Slade, Royal Academy Schools and also various teaching certificates.
[7] Blackheath Local Guide, 31 Oct 1925, p. 23. Sadly I am yet to come across a record of any of the works that featured in the collection.
[8] Thanks to Paul Liss for providing me with an article titled ‘Brothers in Art’ in Antique Collecting, pp. 10 – 12.
[9] Blackheath Local Guide, 21 May, 1927, p. 2. Austin received a mention in notes about the school during the summer term referring to him as the teacher of the life and etching classes.
[10] ‘Blackheath School of Art Notes’, in Blackheath Local Guide, 12 Nov 1927, p. 38.
[11] Whilst there has been plenty written about Platt’s tenures at various schools I thought it would be nice to refer to the first page of his leaving gift from Leicester College of Art, a beautiful calligraphy dedication which reads: ‘We the undersigned members of staff at the Leicester College of Arts and Crafts wish to express our appreciation of your valuable work during the five and a half years you have been our Principal. We thank you for all of your kindness and for the trust you have placed in us throughout that period and while much regretting your departure, we hope that your future will continue to be a prosperous one.’ Thanks to Liza Axford for allowing me to view this exquisitely designed gift.
[12] Thanks to Neil Parkinson at the RCA who let me know that she graduated in 1927 with a Diploma in Design.
[13] DP Bliss, Letter to Neil Rhind, Mon 6 Apr, 1981, Collection of the Conservatoire. Bliss wrote: ‘Of the teachers of art I think that only Frederick Austin, the engraver is alive. He (‘The Times’ informs me) is holding a show of his works at present off Bond Street. He is the brother of the distinguished engraver and RA, Robert Austin, who engraved the Queen’s head on the first of the new-style bank notes.’ This adds further weight to Robert Austin having left before 1930 otherwise Bliss would have met him at BSA.
[14] The image appears on the Campbell Fine Art website - The inscription states ‘To Miss Joan Herrin, from Frederick Austin. 1926.’
[15] Blackheath Local Guide, 4 Oct 1930, p. 2. Just like the review of Robert’s exhibition in 1925 sadly there is no clue as to which of Frederick’s works were included in the exhibition.
[16] Dell, C (ed.), What Makes a Masterpiece?: Encounters with Great Works of Art, London, 2010, pp. 76-77. I was initially attracted to the book as some of my former colleagues and teachers at the Courtauld Institute of Art featured in it.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

An early real life 'Indiana Jones' - 
Blackheath School of Art student Hugh Hopgood

It has a been a while since I have added an entry about the Blackheath School of Art and this artist was a bolt from the blue as I had never heard of Hugh Hopgood. His works can be found today in New York. Hopefully he will provide a little but of interest before I delve into the school in more detail under the leadership of John Edgar Platt as I have recently discovered that the British Library holds copies of the Blackheath Local Guide (more about these discoveries from this valuable source soon)...

Born in 1886 in Ryde on the Isle of Wight, Hugh Hopgood was one of two children of Richard and Sarah Hopgood. Hopgood was a student at the Blackheath School of Art and was listed as an art student in the 1911 census (the family lived at 40 Mayhill Road Charlton).

Hopgood was seen as a student of great promise and this was revealed in articles and exhibition reviews of the Blackheath School of Art in the early 1900’s. Hugh received a number of awards and certificates in 1908 including: certificates for anatomy, drawing from life and machine construction,   the drawing prize for ‘time studies from life’ and the Sketch Club prize.[1] Hopgood’s work was singled out for praise in the 1908 student’s exhibition. His ‘time studies’ were praised as were his book illustrations under the tutelage of Max Cowper.[2] In this discipline the author of a Kentish Mercury article felt that ‘Mr H Hopgood with his imagination and strength has a fine future’.[3] In 1910 Hopgood achieved a large number of accolades for his studies at the school. He could count amongst his achievements the King’s Prize for excellence in life drawing, National Book prize for sgraffito design on a vase, prize for works selected for competition, principal’s medal for time studies from life, first class certificates for drawing from life and the antique, and painting from still life and second class certificates for design and principles of ornament. [4]

Hopgood then travelled to Egypt as a member of a party to copy monuments in Egypt. He travelled with the renowned archaeologists Norman and Nina Davies, returning to Tilbury Docks in 1915.[5] He was travelling to Egypt as a part of a Metropolitan Museum of Art entourage to record certain paintings to ensure their posterity without damage. Even back then there was concern for the conservation of ancient paintings as their removal would result in irreparable damage or destruction. Hopgood also travelled to Egypt again in 1916 as manifests show that he returned to Plymouth from Alexandria on 21 April.[6]

Hugh Hopgood, Men Preparing Fish, Tomb Puyemre, tempera on paper, 1915 (?), Rogers Fund, 1930.
Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Hugh Hopgood and Nina Davies, Osiris and the Four Sons of Horus, Tomb of Nebamun and Ipuky, Thebes, tempera on paper, 1915 (?), Rogers Fund, 1930.
Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The resultant works are on display in the Met in New York today, brilliantly brightly coloured tempera images on paper. Some of his works were collaborations with Nina Davies, one example featuring Osiris and Horus (above) from The Tomb of Nebamun and Ipuky, Thebes. Hopgood’s early skills with ‘time studies’ had held him in good stead. The colours are quite vibrant (in the reproductions) and I was quite surprised at how, even in the early years of the twentieth century that artists were employed to make facsimiles of ancient art rather than it being removed to be included in a museum collection.

Hugh Hopgood, Ceiling Fragment, Tomb of Amenemhat Surer, tempera on paper, 1915 (?), Rogers Fund, 1930.
Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I have not come across much about Hopgood as an artist other than his work creating facsimiles for the museum. He joined the RAF later in the First World War, and electoral rolls recorded him living in the family home (1920), Chelsea (1922) and Croydon (1965). He was married to Bessie Flora Marks, a nurse, in December 1920. Hopgood died on 2 December 1976 in Croydon.[7] 

It’s great to be able to find out about BSA students becoming artists who worked in far off places - as he followed Nora Cundell to be one of the adventurous ex-students of the Art School. As with all entries I will update his biography as and when I come across more information.

[1] Blackheath School of Art: Distribution of Prizes by M David Murray, R.A., Kentish Mercury, Fri 6 March, 1908, p. 2. Nora Cundell also won the Sketch Club Prize in 1908. Hopgood’s brother Howard also achieved certificates for machine construction and drawing in 1908.
[2] Blackheath School of Art: Exhibition of Students’ Work, Kentish Mercury, Fri 2 October, 1908, p. 4.
[3] ibid.
[4] Blackheath School of Art: Distribution of Prizes by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, Kentish Mercury, Fri 11 February 1910, p. 2.
[5] Hopgood travelled with the Davies’ on the ship Gloucestershire in 1915.
[6] Hopgood travelled on Trafford Hall from Alexandria to Plymouth.
[7] The probate shows that his address was 3 Park House, Park Lane, Croydon.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Douglas Bliss and Phyllis Dodd, and the Blackheath School of Art

Cover of the Fleece Press Prospectus for Gargoyles and Tattie Boggles: The Lives and Work of Douglas Percy Bliss and Phyllis Dodd, 2017.
Courtesy of Simon Lawrence, Fleece Press.

Rosalind and Prudence Bliss in the Brockley Deli at the Conservatoire, May 2017. They are sat in front of works by their father (Lachrymae Rerum and a reproduction of The Figureheads) and the cover of the 1931-1932 Blackheath School of Art Prospectus designed by James Woodford.

It is perhaps the perfect time to focus on two of my favourite artists from the Blackheath School of Art of the 1930’s. I have decided that it’s time to write this entry ahead of the publication of the exciting tome focusing on the Bliss family of artists by Simon Lawrence’s Fleece Press written by Malcolm Yorke due to be released in September 2017: (more about this exciting book here) Planned to coincide with the release of the book there is an exhibition being put on by Liss Llewellyn Fine Art. Having enjoyed the WW2: War Pictures by British Artists exhibition at the Morley Gallery recently (more about the exhibition here) and the stellar research Sacha Llewellyn put together in curating the Winifred Knights exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery - (more about the exhibition); it is an incredibly exciting chance for Bliss and Dodd to be reappraised and also gain the wider appreciation that their work certainly deserves. Recently I had the pleasure of meeting their daughters Prudence and Rosalind to show them around the Conservatoire (see above).[1] Works by Phyllis Dodd may linger in recent memories for some people as a photograph she took of Ravilious is in the Fry Art Gallery, Saffron Walden, and Nicola Sturgeon chose an image of Dodd’s as the Scottish parliament’s Christmas card in 2014 which was widely reported by various media outlets.[2]

I am not sure that I can add anything extra to the early lives of Douglas Percy Bliss and Phyllis Dodd that has been published recently and that will also appear in the forthcoming Malcolm Yorke tome. Suffice it to say that Bliss was close friends with both Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious, having met at the Royal College of Arts in 1922.[3] At the RCA they took architecture classes together and were also taught by part-time tutor and artist Paul Nash.[4] The intake of new students for that year included, in addition to Bliss, Bawden and Ravilious many artists who would become well known in the history of British Art.[5] The three also became junior members of the Art Worker’s Guild having been signed up by Robert Anning Bell in 1924.[6]

Douglas Bliss, Edgar Allen Poe: Some Tales of Mystery and Imagination cover, 1939.
Collection of the author.

In 1925 Bliss’ first book illustrations were published in Border Ballads by Oxford University Press.[7]  At the RCA Bliss must have been aware of his future wife Phyllis Dodd who was in the year above, they later became closer and married in 1928. In the collection of the Conservatoire there are two original handwritten letters by Douglas Bliss. They were responses to letters written by Neil Rhind. Rhind had written to a number of former students and teachers prior to the school’s reopening in 1983. We can be thankful that Bliss was one of the few teachers still alive when the school re-opened in the early 1980’s and the letters provide an insight into the school in the 1930’s.

Douglas Bliss, They Visit a Hermit, illustration from The History of Rasselas: Prince of Abisinnia, 1925, p. 70.
Collection of the author.

Eric Ravilious, Church Under a Hill, illustration from Bliss' A History of Wood Engraving, 1928, p. 243.
Collection of the author.

Bliss taught book illustration and decoration, and wood engraving on Monday afternoons and evenings. In his letters Bliss refers to working at the school, and also filling in when needed in addition to his regular classes, because he lived nearby at 38 Lee Park having moved to Blackheath in 1932.[8] Bliss provided illustrations for many books including Edgar Allan Poe’s Some Tales of Mystery and Imagination, The Devil in Scotland, The Spanish Ladie by Cervantes, Rasselas Prince of Abyssinia, and had even written an extensive book on the history of wood engraving published in 1928. In 1925 he lived with Ravilious creating illustrations for Samuel Johnson’s The History of Rasselas: Prince of Abisinnia, whilst Ravilious illustrated Martin Armstrong’s Desert.[9] In this volume Bliss included an illustration of Ravilious’ Church Under a Hill on page 243 (above) along with images by his RCA teacher Nash.

Douglas Bliss, Lachrymae Rerum, wood engraving, 1925.
Collection of the author.

He was best known for his wood engravings before the outbreak of World War II. Sadly the family was forced to move out of Blackheath following bombings in the area, moving to Uxbridge to join the RAF.[10] Whilst away their house in Lee Park was broken into and many of his engraving blocks were either destroyed or stolen. Thankfully prints from this period, before the war, do survive and one such example is Lachrymae Rerum (above). The title comes from the Aeneid written by Virgil before 19BC. It refers to tears for things past bringing a sense of hope and optimism for the future.

Whilst in Blackheath Bliss became increasingly concerned about the future of the built environment in Blackheath. Joining forces with Roger Martin he formed the Blackheath Society in 1937 in order to protect the natural beauty of the village and its surrounds. The Conservatoire still has an original membership form (see above).[11] Bliss’ concern for heritage preservation continued with his efforts to rekindle appreciation for Charles Rennie Mackintosh when he was Director of the Glasgow School of Art in the 1940’s.[12]

In his letters Bliss referred to some of his colleagues at the school including Charles Paine, James Woodford, Frederick Austin and the principal John Edgar Platt. He was greatly impressed by the work of James Woodford and later heaped praise on Woodford’s magnificent Queen’s Beasts carved for the Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953.[13] Bliss also mentioned one of his students Beryl Laverick who had made an impression on him. This was the subject of my previous entry and I won’t go into detail here (see below entry). Bliss also remembered that the school, despite its small size was seen to be a success and wrote in response to the news of the planned re-opening:
‘It was a good little school and served a useful and agreeable purpose. Although possibly the smallest of LCC schools of art it was much approved by officialdom and deserves to be brought into being again.’[14]
Bliss goes on to add further detail about the students at the school by concluding that; ‘I sincerely believe that the old school justified its existence in its own day…’[15]

Phyllis Dodd, Portrait of Mrs Martin, mid 1930's.
On loan to the Conservatoire from the Bliss family.

Phyllis Dodd, Detail of the face of Mrs Martin, mid 1930's.

Phyllis Dodd, Detail of hand of Mrs Martin, mid 1930's.
Detail from photograph of Conservatoire Student's Party 29 February 1936. Mrs Martin is the woman in black and white dress.
Collection of the Conservatoire.

A couple of years ago the charismatic leader of the Conservatoire and the main reason why I became so interested in the history of the school, Sydney Thornbury, hung an interesting portrait of an older woman on the wall in her office. It looked like it came from the 1930’s and the signature at the top left, in capital letters, ‘P DODD’ gave me something to work with. I quickly discovered that the painting was by Phyllis Dodd. The portrait features bold brushstrokes depicting the features of the sitter, her clothing and jewellery (including necklace and ring). Initially I thought that the portrait was of Lady Robertson, who was one of the board members of BSA in 1930’s; however thanks to both Neil Rhind, and Simon Lawrence via Dodd’s daughters, Rosalind and Prudence Bliss, I have since been reliably informed that the portrait is of Mrs Martin. Mrs Martin was the mother of Roger Martin, the co-founder of the Blackheath Society, with Douglas Bliss in 1937. A photograph of a student party at the Conservatoire dated 29 February 1936 features a woman who looks very like Mrs Martin. Dressed in a dark coloured dress with white highlights her hair is pulled back tightly and she is wearing a black necklace very similar to the one in Dodd’s portrait (see above). The painting now hangs proudly in the Waiting Room of the Conservatoire alongside works by previous students and teachers from the art school.

We assume that this is the painting referred to in the meeting minutes from December 1984 as currently there is only one portrait at the Conservatoire by Phyllis Dodd. This was generously loaned to the Conservatoire in December 1984 by the Bliss family. Two paintings were brought to the Conservatoire at this time but unfortunately there is no record of the portrait of Beryl Laverick, which was the subject of my previous blog (see below for more info), in the meeting minutes of the Blackheath School of Art at this time. Unfortunately I have not yet been able to find any trace of it.[16] The portrait of Mrs Martin was displayed on the wall of the Principal’s Office.[17]

When the School of Art reopened in the early 1980’s it was decided that a scholarship was to be introduced in honour of Douglas Bliss’ tenure as a teacher. Regrettably I have not yet found any information regarding who was awarded the scholarship or how long it was available for. There is a note in the archives that ‘Mrs Bliss had agreed enthusiastically to a scholarship in her husband’s memory’.[18] It was a well-considered gesture which ensured that the legacy of the school pre 1940 continued into its new incarnation following its re-opening in 1983.

[1] The Conservatoire and Blackheath School of Art merged in 1991. Prudence and Rosalind Bliss visited on 25 May 2017. Thanks to Martin Murray for enabling me to display works relating to Bliss and his Blackheath contemporaries and for being such a fantastic host for afternoon tea.
[2] Dodd’s photograph of Ravilious can be seen here - The plan was for the print card to be sold through the National Galleries of Scotland in time for Christmas 2015 -
[3] Bliss, Douglas Percy, Edward Bawden, 1979, p. 18. Having earlier described his initial period at the RCA and his friendship with Bawden as one he ‘greatly profited’ from Bliss wrote: ‘Looking back I regret that I had not been banished from the Paradise of Painters (for we felt ourselves to be the Elect) into the Purgatory of the Design School. For my two best friends were in Design. The other best friend was Eric Ravilious.’
[4] Nash taught Design at the Royal College of Art part-time in 1924 and 1925. Russell, J. Ravilious: Exhibition Catalogue, London, 2015, p. 158. Nash and Bawden looked forward to their lessons with Nash at the RCA calling Fridays ‘Paul Nash day.’ Robert Upstone on Teaching Art for the Modern Times: 175 Years of Design at the RCA. RCA website -
[5] The other students enrolling in 1921 – 22 were Barbara Hepworth, Enid Marx, Barnett Freedman, Henry Moore, Edward Burra, John Tunnard, Peggy Angus, Helen Binyon, Raymond Coxon, Percy Houghton and Vivian Pitchforth. Cooke, G, A Breath of Fresh Air: Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden & Douglas Percy Bliss, Fine Art Society, 2007, p. 5.
[6] Friend, A, Ravilious & Co: The Pattern of Friendship, Towner Art Gallerey, 2017, p. 45. During a visit to the Art Worker’s Guild in relation to Harold Nelson I did not come across any reference to Bliss as a full member of the Guild.
[7] It was most likely Paul Nash who recommended Bliss show his woodcuts to the publisher. Cooke, loc. cit., p. 43.
[8] Lee Park, as many readers will know runs just off Lee Road. As revealed to me by Prudence and Rosalind Bliss the house no longer exists as it was destroyed in World War II.
[9] Bliss and Ravilious shared a studio in their final year at the RCA, 1925 . Bliss’ qualification from Edinburgh University included an MA in English Literature and a medal in Art History. Cooke, loc. cit.
[10] Letter 6 April 1981 – The very next day after he left Lee Park for good, Bliss headed to Uxbridge to join the RAF.
[11] Letter 6 April 1981 - Bliss counted his friends and allies in conserving Blackheath Village and surrounds as Roger Martin, Jack Bullocke, Phillip Wayne, Moir Carnegie (who was also Secretary of the school), and William Davidge. The first meeting of what became the Blackheath Society was held in Blackheath Halls.
[12] Thanks to Lorne Campbell who mentioned that he referred to  Bliss as ‘Percy’ when he knew of him in Glasgow. It was quite some time after Lorne’s comment that I realised that the Glasgow School of Art still refers to him as Percy as can be seen in the notes regarding Dodd’s painting of Adam Gowans which was sadly destroyed in the fire at the school in 2014 -
[13] Rosalind and Prudence Bliss mentioned their father’s interest in the sculptures during a recent visit to the Conservatoire on 25 May 2017. It was nice to be able to reveal to them the fact that Bliss and Woodford were colleagues at the school in 1931 may have contributed to his enthusiasm for the sculptures.
[14] Letter 6 April 1981 – Bliss began the letter by saying how pleased he was to hear the school was re-opening.
[15] ibid. Bliss also revealed that most of the students of the school were ‘girls’ from well-off middleclass families and were ‘quite an industrious crowd’.
[16] The existence of this portrait only came to light from Simon Lawrence who relayed a message from Prudence and Rosalind Bliss. Phyllis Dodd initially offered the portrait to Laverick’s husband Reginal Maudling who declined it. Instead Rosalind brought it to the Conservatoire to be displayed on long term loan in memory of her husband along with the portrait of Mrs Martin. After meeting with Prudence and Rosalind we have come to the conclusion that the portrait of Beryl Laverick went missing before the meeting and that the painting referred to in the Blackheath School of Art Committee Meeting Minutes of 12 December 1984 was Mrs Martin.
[17] Even though there was no description of who the sitter was in the painting we must assume for now that it was Mrs Martin that hung in the Principal’s office (Blackheath School of Art Committee Meeting Minutes 11 March 1985). Interestingly the word loan does not appear in this entry rather that the ‘painting, that had been presented to the School of Art by Mrs Bliss…’ This does raise the question of why there is no record of the portrait of Beryl Laverick arriving in Blackheath as colleagues mentioned that the portrait of Mrs Martin hung in the Art Building offices, most likely the Principal’s Office, before the building was cleared in 2012 / 2013.
[18] Blackheath School of Art Trustees Meeting, 3 July 1984, p. 4.