Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dangerously listing actually ....

... that's me at this pre-exhibition moment.
It's all very well putting pictures up cyberwise on the worldwide web but my anxiety levels know no bounds when it comes to the prospect of actually hanging the actual pieces in an actual gallery in an actual location.

Complications arise when that gallery is abroad and I have to add the worry of normal travel details like how many clothes and bits and pieces I can stuff into hand luggage.
The large case will be stuffed solely with writers' houses.
So at least that's simple.
My answer to all this is to go into list-making overdrive.
I write everything down on bits of paper.
And given that the studio is naturally awash with bits of paper anyway these lists tend to go under never to resurface ...
So the first and last item on these lists now generally begin with "Do list".
In between I am darting up and down to the framer.
And revising each image.
And adding bits and changing bits.
Like the latest house above which got two more birds and a bit more foliage before glazing.
Anyway, just look at this posting....
.... I have made another list.
(And you now know why I haven't been around much just lately).

Monday, November 12, 2012

Great expectations in a Georgian terraced house

Sweet Baby Charles (whoops - this picture isn't cropped. to be replaced at a later date!)

"A fairly ordinary terraced house near the dockyard in Portsmouth" was the setting for the arrival of Charles Dickens, born here, at 1, Mile End Terrace, on February 7, 1812.

Okay, so the family moved to another house (now demolished) up the road when little Charlie was just three months old, but nobody can take away the honour of being the birthplace of one of  literature's greats from this modest building, now the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum.

John Dickens, Charles's pater, who worked as a clerk at the Navy Pay Office at the nearby naval dockyard, paid £35 a year in rent for No. 1.

As might be expected none of the original furniture belonging to Mr and Mrs Dickens has survived, except for a built-in dresser in the kitchen. What is there, however, rather curiously in a house celebrating his birth, is the chaise longue on which he died fifty-eight years later, in a room next to the one in which he was born. Entrances and exits ... a theatrical twist which Dickens himself would no doubt have appreciated.

The couch was bequeathed to the house by his housekeeper at Gad's Hill in Rochester, his last home, now a school. At the time it was the only Dickens museum in the country. There are now three.

I based this collage on any number of old photographs and postcards of the building and tried to give it a bit of a fussy Dickensian novelish feel. It also, I hope, conveys a sense of happiness, a sunny time before the clouds of debt and poverty overtook the family; before John Dickens "a man prone to living beyond his means" ended up in the Marshalsea debtor's prison in Southwark, surrounded by his family.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

This way for Writers' Houses Christmas cards ...

My Christmas cards are going great guns with Virginia Woolf (above) and the Brontes (the 2012 newcomers) (below) slogging it out for top position this year.
I started the series last year with John Keats (below)
and Jane Austen:
They are printed on white stock card and come with a white envelope in a cellophane bag.
Ideal for bookworms!
On sale in packets of three in my online Etsy shop:
until December 3.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The mystery of Harriet Shelley ...

... did she drown herself - or was she pushed?
Poor Harriet was the much maligned first wife of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley who plucked her from her respectable school for young ladies in Clapham (where she was a fellow boarder with his sister) at the tender age of 16 and ran off north with her to get married.
She was a spirited soul, as her few surviving letters show, who indulged her young husband's idealistic fads, handing out revolutionary leaflets and transcribing his manuscripts. And having babies. And putting up with his selfish crushes on other women.
But she suffered a proper dumping when he eventually came into the orbit of the philosopher William Godwin and his daughter Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. The story goes that, highly pregnant with her third child (whose father may or may not have been Shelley or an army officer), she walked into the Serpentine one November day in 1816 and drowned herself, aged 21.
Little is known about poor Harriet beyond her tragic end. There is no portrait and only a few letters to show she ever existed. She had brought disgrace on her own family and was living in lodgings at the time of her death, though her father, a well-to-do merchant, provided her with money. Her existence seems to have been well and truly suppressed by Shelley, Godwin and his daughter, a fact which has outraged some and prompted support from some notable supporters down the centuries, most notably Mark Twain who wrote a sizzling essay, In Defence of Harriet Shelley.
More recently she has become the subject of a conspiracy theory which places William Godwin in the frame as murderer.
Godwin spent most of his life in debt and buttonholing people for "loans". Shelley provided him with generous funds to keep him and his dire bookselling business afloat. The theory goes that Shelley looked as if he was going to return to his wife (they had had a second official marriage) and Godwin, seeing his income under serious threat, managed somehow to do away with Harriet. It is a very strange thing that her suicide note, which many claim to be a forgery given that it is not in her hand, was found among Godwin's papers after his death.
Did Mary Shelley, who hated Harriet with a vengeance, know about or even collude in the crime and did some trace of it - or rather her or her father's guilt - subsequently find its way into her masterpiece, Frankenstein?
Who knows?
That is the fascination of conspiracy theories.
In the meantime I was between Writers' Houses and concocted an imaginary portrait of poor Harriet Westbrook Shelley.