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Archive for the ‘Former Residents’ Category

We have quite a bit of modern furniture and in a conversation with a recent visitor she expresses a strong preference for a more traditional flair.  A former neighbour, Alan Day would have full-heartedly concurred and I thought I show how he designed his Studio in what I believe took more than 10 years.

The Hallway in Alan's former Studio

The Hallway in Alan's former Studio

Alan stayed as close as he could to the original idea of the house, thus he made the front room (in our house now a library) a presentation room – here the Bachelor Artist according to the original plan would have entertained clients.  This room could have been decorated by William Morris himself.

... let's talk further about this commission ...

... let's talk further about this commission ...

The studio was there for work and would probably not have been shown, although I am sure Alan did make exceptions to this rule…

Alan was an architect and worked in the studio

Alan was an architect and worked in the studio

After Alan’s demise the house was sold and the furnishings sold at an amazing auction at Bonham’s (I got none of the lots I bid for).

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I have had all kinds of interesting conversations per email or phone due to this blog, one of the best started with a comment from New Zealand.  Nick Meek got in touch “I was bought up in that house (1964-1976). It was a cool place to live and I think back to it often. Next time I am in London (live in N.Z. currently) I intend to drop around; I expect to be let in. ;-)”.  I checked and indeed Alan Meek moved in in the early 60s (see my earlier article on former residents here).  So I replied casually “sure, why not” – thinking I would be long out of here before Nick makes it over!

But the Meeks upped the ante, the next to get in touch was his brother Alex, stating that he was effectively born in the house and that his father would like to have a look.  We thought this would be quite fun and arranged to meet.

A few days later Alan and Alex Meek came for coffee and – for a change – gave us a tour of the house!  My now office housed 5 children in a bunk and double bunk bed, our bathroom was their kitchen, they had birthday parties in our library, the studio was a proper photography studio and there was a huge field on the other side of the road.  It was lovely to meet our predecessors and to hear their stories!

Days later Alan popped by and brought us some photos of the good ol’ times:

Yes, this is our library

Yes, this is our library

The grass was greener on the other side back then!

The grass was greener on the other side back then!

Keen to hear what Nick might have to say when he comes…

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Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias, DBE, (18 May 1919 – 21 February 1991), the British prima ballerina assoluta, was considered by many to be the greatest English ballerina, and one of the greatest dancers of the 20th Century (apparentely there were only 5 prima ballerina abssoluta tin total – ever!).

Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev in the Grand Adage of The Kingdom of the Shades in 1963

Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev in the Grand Adage of The Kingdom of the Shades in 1963

She was born Margaret Hookham 1919 in Surrey , to an English father and an Irish mother of Brazilian ancestry, who was the daughter of Brazilian industrialist Antonio Fontes. Early in her career, Margaret transformed Hookham into Fontes into Fonteyn and Margaret into Margot; for a much better ring to her name. Her mother signed her up for ballet classes with her brother when they were young.  She joined the Royal Ballet while sin her teens and had been trained by some of the greatest teachers of the period, Olga Preobrajenskaya and Mathilde Kschessinskaya . Already in 1939, she was the company’s prima ballerina assoluta and the inspiration for many ballets of the day, such as Ondine, Daphnis and Chloe, and Sylvia.  Fonteyn was awarded a DBE  in 1956 at the young age of 37. In 1949, the Royal Ballet toured the United States and Fonteyn became an instant celebrity.  She lived for a number of years in Studio No. 8 and her ballet mirrors are still there (she used the sutdio for training).

I like some of her bonmots, like this one “Life offstage has sometimes been a wilderness of unpredictables in an unchoreographed world.”  As to that constantly asked question if she had an affair with Rudolf Nureyev I leave that up to others to decide (the residents of the studios hold together).  Here at article in the Sunday Tims on the subject.

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Nearly all the occupants of St. Paul’s Studios, up until the First World War at least, are identifiably professional artists. Here some others that I came across living and working in the Studios:

  • William Logsdail (1859-1944) genre painter particularly of London scenes,
  • Edward Tennyson-Reed (1860-1933), Punch cartoonist from 1893,
  • Charles Sims R.A. (1873-1928) painter and illustrator and Keeper of the R.A. from 1920-1926, and
  • Otto Scholderer (1834-1902) a German born painter of still life and friend of Manet and Fantin-Latour.

And here samples of their work:

William Logsdail's St Martin-in-the Fields, Oil on canvas, 1888

William Logsdail's St Martin-in-the Fields

Edward Tennyson-Reed's In Vain You Argue or Protest

Edward Tennyson-Reed's In Vain You Argue or Protest

Clarles Sims' Night Piece to Julia

Charles Sims' Night Piece to Julia

Otto Scholderer's Violin Player at the Window

Otto Scholderer's Violin Player at the Window

And now please do vote for your favourite St. Paul’s Studios artist in our poll.

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Colet House

Colet House

Originally 46 Colet Gardens and now 151 Talgarth Road Colet House is part of our terrace of houses that was originally known as 1-9 St Paul’s Studios. It was built circa 1885. The eight individual studios were built a couple of years later than Colet House. All nine houses have huge windows catching the north light. Colet House is much the largest and is differently designed from its neighbours. It has two spacious ground floor studios and an exceptionally large studio on the first floor – 10.5 metres by 22.5 metres (35ft x 75ft), comfortably long enough for a cricket pitch. There is a symmetry that is almost exact with one side of the house being virtually the mirror image of the other. The present main staircase was a 1938 addition, there being, originally, two staircases at the rear. There are still stone turret staircases at the east and west perimeters. Behind each ground floor studio is a rear room, probably once intended for domestic use and suggesting that the ground floor was originally suitable for division into separate accommodation.

Top Studio (22m x 10m)

Top Studio (22m x 10m)

Sir Coutts Lindsay, a painter and founder of the first Grosvenor Gallery in Bond Street, then something of a rival to the Royal Academy, is reputed to have been the builder of the studios. What is now Colet House, from the start, had a multiplicity of occupants, mostly painters. The best known was Sir Frank Brangwyn (1867- 1956). Son of a Welsh architect, he was born in Bruges, Belgium, and came to London, aged 10. He was apprenticed to William Morris, travelled widely, establishing himself first as an illustrator, but turning also to design of furniture, stained glass, metalwork and much else. By early 20th century Brangwyn had built a new reputation as a painter and etcher but also as creator of large – very large – works! His main studio was at his house just off Hammersmith Broadway and there it was big enough for him to handle most of his commissions, including a set of wall paintings for the House of Lords (these were never hung where intended but ended up in the Guildhall in Swansea). But one commission was clearly too large for his available space. In the early years of the 20th century, Gordon Selfridge was planning his huge department store on Oxford Street.   Brangwyn was commissioned to design mosaics for the building’s dome, which was to be 70 ft in diameter. It is thought that it was to create this work that Brangwyn acquired space at Colet House. He is reported to have described the ‘Baron’s Court Studio’ as ‘a wonderful place … the finest studio in London … a place fit for Michelangelo himself…’ In fact, the Selfridge dome was never built — its potential weight was judged to be so great as likely to cause the whole store to sink onto the Underground tracks running beneath!

One of the two Studios on the lower floor (8.5m x 10m)

One of the two Studios on the lower floor (8.5m x 10m)

Many artists continued to occupy Colet House studios until the mid-30’s when dancers began to have classes in its fine studios. Nicolai Legat, the Russian ballet master, held classes there with Margot Fonteyn, Ninette de Valois, Anton Dolin and Serge Lifar reportedly amongst his pupils. The Russian influence in the house increased and in 1938 P D Ouspensky, the philosopher and writer chose it to be the headquarters of his work. It was at Colet House that he founded a society, today known as The Study Society, or to give it its full name, the Society for the Study of Normal Psychology. Large gatherings assembled in the top floor studio that was then equipped with plush tip-up seating. A printing press (since removed) was put into the basement. At the start of World War II the building was requisitioned by the Admiralty and returned in time for Ouspensky’s last lectures in 1947. Shortly afterwards it was leased to the Royal Ballet, their main school being next to Colet House (now housing the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art or LAMBDA) to the west. In 1957, with the ballet’s own premises enlarged, the house was for sale and was again acquired by Study Society.

There are lots of other rooms, like the Blue Room (6m x 6m)

There are lots of other rooms, like the Blue Room (6m x 6m)

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The following is my first guest column, written by our friend Peter Risdon, an expert and an ardent fan of Alfred Wolmark.

Alfred Wolmark Self-Portrait

Alfred Wolmark Self-Portrait

Alfred Wolmark came to England as a child in the 1880s, when his parents fled Poland. He early developed skill at drawing and after studying at the Royal Academy School he became a full-time painter. His early works reflected his parents’ Jewish circle, but after 1910 he took inspiration from the French avant-garde Fauves and painted many works in strong, imaginative colours, with less concern for exact drawing.

Wolmark was one of the pioneers of Modernist art in Britain, and before the First World War he was a close friend of the French sculptor Gaudier-Brzeska (of whom he painted remarkable portraits), and of Jacob Epstein, mixed with the members of Sickert’s London Group. Between 1910 and 1935 he achieved his full potential as a creative artist, and he was active in many fields other than painting, such as stage design, ceramics, posters and sculpture. He designed a huge stained glass window for St Mary’s church at Slough, which can still be seen.

He took his subjects from the whole range of portraits, landscapes, still-lifes, and nudes both mythological and profane. Portrait sketches were a feature of his work and many important cultural figures sat for him, such as Thomas Hardy, Somerset Maugham, and Aldous Huxley.

Wolmark travelled widely within Britain, to Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and Devon, and in Europe to Paris and Switzerland, where he painted numerous mountain scenes. Further afield, in 1919 he went to New York where he painted several skyscraper views, and in 1927 to Tunis where he painted the local people.

He lived in London, except for a few years during the Second World War when he and his family sought safety in Oxfordshire. He moved to St Paul’s Studios at the end of the war and settled into his last home there.

Never a member of a prominent artistic group, he preferred to mix socially with other artists with progressive views and to plough his own furrow throughout a long and productive life of over 80 years until his death in 1961. His works can be seen in public collections such as the National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain and Birmingham City Art Gallery. In his lifetime he exhibited widely in Britain and Europe, and a large exhibition was shown at the Ben Uri Gallery, London, and the Ferens Art Gallery, Hull in 2004 (here a link to the Exhibition Announcement).

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Young Lady in a Blue Bonnett, oil painting on canvas

Young Lady in a Blue Bonnett, oil painting on canvas

Here is another artist working from St Paul’s Studios (I do not know which one yet). Apprenticed to a lithographic draughtsman he studied in the evenings, later for a year at the Acadamie Julien in Paris (his allowance was one Pound a week).  He worked also briefly in Belfast.

Barribal created such memorable images as posters for the Schweppes advertising campaign and the Waddingtons playing cards series, which are avidly collected today. He is also well-known for the bold Art Deco posters designed in 1920s and 1930s for the London North Eastern Railway.

Barribal also worked for various magazines, including the fashion champion Vogue, and between 1919 and 1938 regularly exhibited his work.

Interestingly, after he married his wife became his only model and inspiration, appearing on picture postcards, almanacs, calendars and pages of leading weeklies.

I'm thinking of you Postcard

I'm thinking of you Postcard

His images of exquisite and fashionable Edwardian women have become classics and the work of many a modern fashion artist shows traces of the unmistakable “Barribal style”.

I assume that both painting and postcard show the mysterious Ms Barribal, another form resident.

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