Saturday, June 27, 2015

Crossdressing Boys

This is a scrapbook from the 1920s of press clippings made by The Art Theatre Company about their productions at that period. There are several pages devoted to their production of a new play by George Moore called "The Making of an Immortal", a play about Shakespeare, so far so straightforward. My eye was drawn to the image at the bottom of the page though in which we see three boys dressed as women, to play the women's parts in the play, as in Elizabethan theatre. It can't surely be the last time that boys played the women's parts on the West End stage... but it might be close!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

British Neo-Romantic Art in South Wales

Having had the immense privilege to see France and Nicolas McDowall's art collection 'in situ' as it were, over the years, I am thrilled to bits to hear that a large selection of their assiduous, forty-year in the making, collection of British Neo-Romantic art is to be exhibited. It was, in fact, only after encountering and spending time with this collection and the careful and quiet thoughts of Frances and Nicolas that I even knew there was something called Neo-Romantic art!

If you are anywhere close to South Wales in the next couple of months it will surely be a must see exhibition. There is to be a catalogue too, 74pp, heavily illustrated and with words by the lovely Dr Peter Wakelin and very reasonably priced from the Monnow Arts Centre.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Little Juggler by Barbara Cooney

This is The Little Juggler (of Our Lady). It's a story many of you will know I'm sure. It is based on a 13th century French manuscript that tells the tale of orphan and street juggler Barnaby who becomes a monk. Discovering that he has nothing to give the Virgin Mary as a gift during the spring festival he juggles for her instead (you may by now be realising this is basically the same story as The Little Drummer Boy) which the monks think is outrageous and he gets into a whole heap of trouble and needless to say the Blessed Virgin herself comes to his aid and the moral of the story is happily asserted that even the smallest offering made sincerely is worthwhile. 

The story was popularised in the 1890s by Anatole France and this version is often described as an 'adaptation' of his story. In fact, Barbara Cooney who provides both text and illustrations made her own adaptation of the story direct from the medieval source. It's a delightful book and the illustrations are in both colour and black and white but the colour ones, some of which are reproduced here have such an incredible vibrancy in just blue, red and green that I just had to share them.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Vivian Forbes

I wrote a little bit about Vivian Forbes on this blog a couple of years ago explaining how he was a devoted to his fellow artist Glynn Philpot but probably as a result, rather overshadowed by him. He isn't particularly well served on the internet either for images of his artwork. So I have gathered a few here. Some of these come from auction websites and others are my own scans of auction catalogues. His prices are very reasonable at auction still with a number of these selling for less than £500 in the late 1990s

Monday, June 15, 2015

Albert Wainwright

Today's post is staying in the 1930s but this time with Front Free Endpaper favourite, Albert Wainwright. I spent an extremely enjoyable afternoon yesterday with Nick Elm, with whom I edited a book reprinting Wainwright's diaries of his affair with a young German chap called Otto. We were working on a new book and in the process I got to browse through all manner of Wainwright's artwork and sketchbooks, which is always a joy. So, not being one to keep things to myself here are a few pieces. The painting above is quite simply beautiful. We think that maybe it is a painting of the Queen of Sheba given the presence of the lion, but we'd be happy to hear other ideas. Whatever the subject it is quite the most exquisite of his paintings I have ever seen I think. The dark, moody background sets off the jewel like quality of the colours in the foreground perfectly.

These next two are pages from his sketchbooks, which AW used like we might use a diary. These are from a sketchbook he filled when on holiday in Ostende in the late 1930s, just before the war.

If you are interested in Wainwright then do have a look as our book Albert and Otto: Albert Wainwright's Visual Diary of Love in the 20s on Amazon, it's available on most local Amazon sites too if you prefer.

Mercury in the Courier

 This will, I promise be the last post to come from these copies of Courier magazine from the 1930s and 40s! I have a particular devotion to Mercury and so I was immediately struck as I flicked through these magazines, how often he crops up. Now, I know that three of these five images are adverts for the same company, but even so, I only have six different copies of the magazine and I haven't included a scan of the Goodyear advert which has their logo of a winged mercurial foot! Perhaps there was something about the period which made Mercury seem a good bet...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

3 Pages from the Sketchbook of J. S. Barrington

No, alas, I haven't stumbled across a long lost sketchbook by Barrington in a dusty corner of a junk shop; these three pages were published by Barrington in his 1951 book, Art and Anatomy, most of which is photographically illustrated. The book distinguishes itself from others in the genre by devoting as much space, if not more, to the male figure as the female and having the male figure come first in the book, the female second. Also, this book is different for its use of what would now be termed 'beefcake' photographs of men rather then specifically taken anatomical studies. On the whole, the photographs are not Barrington's own and the book includes quite a number by Angus McBean alongside the single-name pseudonyms of the beefcake magazine photographers.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015


A few days ago I shared a set of drawings of fantastic animals that I had bought at an antiques fair. In the same envelope where these rather fine, I thought, hand-drawn silhouettes of people engaged in all manner of sporting and other physical activities.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Two Vintage Gay Novels

For many years now I have had searches 'set up' on a number of internet marketplaces so that, should a book I am interested in be listed, I will be emailed automatically. This is a great system but over time it leaves one open somewhat to what happened the other day. I had an email triumphantly announcing that a book I wanted had been found on a particular website... and I couldn't for the life of me remember why I wanted it. 

This is the book above, Out of Sickness by John Paignton. Looking up the book in the ever-indispensable bibliography of gay men in fiction by Ian Young I discover it is there but that it has no asterisk, a punctuation mark awarded to an entry in the bibliography by Young if the book mainly or wholly gay. It wasn't until I started digging around the publisher that it all fell back into place and I remembered! The publisher, Neville Woodbury seemed like a peculiar operation as on the back cover of the jacket of this book was an advert for A Guide to Designing Windows by Neville himself, and the letters after his name tell me he was an architect as well as a publisher/author. Interrogating the British Library catalogue I discovered that Neville Woodbury published just five books between 1950 and 1952. One of those was the key, Art and Anatomy by J. S. Barrington. Ever got to the end of quite a bit of research on the internet only to discover you already knew what you were looking for but had forgotten? 

Not only is the rather outre cover design initialled "J.S.B." for John Shreeve Barrington, it was then I remembered that way back in 2012 when J S Barrington featured heavily on this blog, I had been searching for a copy of his scarce autobiographical novel Out of Sickness written under his often-used pseudonym, John Paignton. According to the blurb, which we might assume was written by Barrington himself, "The author spent ten years living this novel, and five years writing it... This is the story of the youth of David, a psychopath, a schizophrenic, but nevertheless a very lovable young man. He was, in fact, a young man who was loved too easily."


So that mystery is solved. But a correspondent of the blog has been in touch to ask about this book below, White Fire by Michael Laurie (Quality Press, 1948). He rates the book highly and wonders therefore if Laurie is a pseudonym and if so, can any of you very clever people out there crack it?

I am paraphrasing my correspondent now. The story is about a teacher, Robin, who falls for Anthony at prep school and then tutors him until he is fourteen. He guides Anthony's reading through Carpenter, Whitman, Housman and Gide and when Anthony reaches sixteen and falls for an older athlete of eighteen, the teacher encourages the relationship. The 'White Fire' of the title refers to the blossom of cherry trees which is used as a symbol of puberty and desire but also of purification and the cycle of death in winter and rebirth in spring. The text mixes lyrical description of nude swimming in sunlit pools under green trees,with a psychological analysis of adolescent self-discovery and a defence of the invert as natural, vital and right,

Pseudonym or not, it is always unusual and intriguing to discover a well written book which appears to be the only one by the author. Is it possible that this was written by someone a little better known under a different name? Or is this book simply the one story that this author had to tell?   If anyone out there has an idea, do let us know!

A Vintage Swimwear Bundle

Another bundle of vintage swimwear photos came in the post today and this is a selection from them. The handsome chap above sporting his jaunty off-the-shoulder look is rather nice I think but I can't tell you anything more about him than that the postcard onto which this photo was printed was written by someone in 1922. I have popped a scan of the verso with its Cyrillic text at the bottom of this post in case there is any particularly clever reader of this blog who can let us know more.

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