Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Tennant

10
Sep
14

Exhibition: ‘Cecil Beaton at Wilton’ at Wilton House, Wiltshire and ‘Cecil Beaton at Home: Ashcombe & Reddish’, at The Salisbury Museum

Exhibition dates: Cecil Beaton at Wilton: 3rd May – 14th September 2014
Cecil Beaton at Home: Ashcombe & Reddish: 23rd May – 19th September 2014

Bright Young Things, Costume Balls And Country House Parties
From The Roaring ’20s To The Swinging ’60s
An Exhibition Of Cecil Beaton Photographs
Designed And Curated By Jasper Conran

 

What a gay old time!

Frippery and finery taken by that dandy doyen of chic Cecil Beaton, partying in a highly structured class society that is seemingly oblivious to the approaching horrors of the Second World War (which only adds to the photographs air of insouciance). It must have been so much fun.

The thing is, Beaton was a talented artist who captured it all with total aplomb. To go from the haughty, stylish Georgia Sitwell, Renishaw (1930, below) to the Arcadian beauty of Rex Whistler (1927, below); from the formal organisation of The 15th Earl and Countess of Pembroke dressed for the coronation of George VI (1937, below) to the classic beauty of Princess Natasha Paley (1930s, below); or the structure and stillness of Alice von Hofmannsthal (1937, below) to the vivaciousness and movement of Lady Plunket (Dorothé) and Mr Maurice (1937, below) – takes a consistency of vision and an understanding of craft that few photographers possess.

The photograph of  Lady Plunket is particularly astonishing… to see this composition in the twinkling of an eye: the movement, the joy, the flower in the hair, the women with the crossed legs in the background, and just the sheer grace of the couple, he suspended on one foot, she flying through the air. Unforgettable.

Marcus

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Many thankx to Sotheby’s, Wilton House and The Salisbury Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

East Front of Wilton House

 

East Front of Wilton House
© Wilton House Trust

 

'Cecil Beaton at Wilton House' installation view

 

Cecil Beaton at Wilton installation view
© The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Edith Olivier, Mayor of Wilton, as Queen Elizabeth I for a pageant at Wilton' 1932

 

Cecil Beaton
Edith Olivier, Mayor of Wilton, as Queen Elizabeth I for a pageant at Wilton
1932
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Edith Maud Olivier MBE (31 December 1872 – 10 May 1948) was an English writer, also noted for acting as hostess to a circle of well-known writers, artists, and composers in her native Wiltshire… Olivier had lived with her father and younger sister Mildred, and it was after Mildred died in 1927 that she started to engage a broader social circle. She formed a profound friendship with Rex Whistler and acted as a frequent hostess to an elite, artistic, and largely homosexual, social set which included Cecil Beaton, Siegfried Sassoon, William Walton, and Osbert Sitwell.

Her first novel, The Love Child was published in 1927, and was followed by further novels, biographies, including one of Alexander Cruden, and the autobiographical Without Knowing Mr Walkley. (Text from Wikipedia website)

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Georgia Sitwell, Renishaw' 1930

 

Cecil Beaton
Georgia Sitwell, Renishaw
1930
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Georgia Doble, the Canadian-born wife of Sacheverell Sitwell, was born in 1906 to a banker of Cornish descent. She met Sitwell at a party in 1924 while participating in the social gaiety of the London season. Georgia was familiar with Sitwell’s Southern Baroque Art and enjoyed his company, but she waited almost a year before accepting his marriage proposals. They were married in Paris on October 12, 1925. Their first son, Reresby, was born in 1927 and his younger brother, Francis, in 1935.

Georgia found it difficult to blend in with the Sitwell family, which had more than the usual share of dynamics. She did her best to play the self-assigned role of muse, but Sitwell was not a social man and Georgia missed the busy whirl of London. She attended many social events without him, which led to a great deal of friction between them. They both had affairs over the years, but remained deeply attached to one another throughout their lives. Georgia died in 1980.

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Lady Plunket (Dorothé) and Mr Maurice' 1937

 

Cecil Beaton
Lady Plunket (Dorothé) and Mr Maurice
1937
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Stephen Tennant (1906-1987), William Walton (1902-1983), Georgia Sitwell (1905-1980), Zita Jungman (1903-2006), Rex Whistler (1905-1944) and Cecil Beaton (1904-1980), Wilsford, 1927' 1927

 

Cecil Beaton
Stephen Tennant (1906-1987), William Walton (1902-1983), Georgia Sitwell (1905-1980), Zita Jungman (1903-2006), Rex Whistler (1905-1944) and Cecil Beaton (1904-1980), Wilsford, 1927
1927
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Stephen James Napier Tennant (21 April 1906 – 28 February 1987) was a British aristocrat known for his decadent lifestyle. During the 20s and 30s, Tennant was an important member – the “Brightest”, it is said – of the “Bright Young People.” His friends included Rex Whistler, Cecil Beaton, the Sitwells, Lady Diana Manners and the Mitford girls. He is widely considered to be the model for Cedric Hampton in Nancy Mitford’s novel Love in a Cold Climate; one of the inspirations for Lord Sebastian Flyte in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, and a model for Hon. Miles Malpractice in some of his other novels.

Sir William Turner Walton OM (29 March 1902 – 8 March 1983) was an English composer. During a sixty-year career, he wrote music in several classical genres and styles, from film scores to opera. His best-known works include Façade, the cantata Belshazzar’s Feast, the Viola Concerto, and the First Symphony.

Zita Jungman‘s accounts of her fellow bright young things of the 1920s stress their high vocal pitch and decibel level – “shrieking”, “screaming”, “howling with laughter”. So it is significant that when, in 1926, Cecil Beaton met Zita, who has died aged 102, in the Gargoyle Club, Soho, he responded to her quietness and understanding. She was, he wrote, a “thoroughly unflashy” original… The antics of the bright young things were relatively innocent: bottle parties, fancy dress balls and pageants, with cocktails and fast cars. The Jungman girls, along with clever Alannah Harper, Eleanor Smith and Loelia Ponsonby, staged treasure hunts, using their connections to arrange a fake edition of the Evening Standard or Hovis loaves baked to order with clues inside. 

Enter aspirant photographer Beaton. He had spotted the sisters at a performance of Edith Sitwell’s Facade, and met Zita again in Venice rehearsing for a ball. Alannah Harper modelled for him; Zita followed. He was financially thrilled. “They certainly would get into the papers … so very saleable.” She spent hours before the lens in the Beaton house: “She loved doing her hair in various exotic ways and looked quite beautiful and quite extraordinarily funny. She is a perfect young lady.”

Beaton described the sisters as “a pair of decadent 18th-century angels made of wax” and wrote of Zita: “With her smooth fringes, and rather flat head, like a silky coconut, like a medieval page, and with her swinging gait, she looks very gallant, very princely. But she can, if she wishes, easily become a snake-like beauty, with a mysterious smile and a cold glint in her upward slanting eyes.” Her reaction to the pictures was to “lay back in a chair looking at them for ages, never speaking, just occasionally grunting a grunt of satisfaction”.

Text by Veronica Horwell in The Guardian, Friday 3 March 2006

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Rex Whistler' 1927

 

Cecil Beaton
Rex Whistler
1927
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Reginald John “Rex” Whistler (24 June 1905 – 18 July 1944) was a British artist, designer and illustrator.

Reginald John Whistler was born in Britain on 24 June 1905, at Eltham, Kent, the son of Harry and Helen Frances Mary Whistler. In May 1919 he was sent to boarding school at Haileybury, where he showed a precocious talent for art, providing set designs for play productions and giving away sketches to prefects in lieu of “dates” (a punishment at Haileybury, similar to “lines” whereby offenders are required to write out set lists of historical dates).

After Haileybury the young Whistler was accepted at the Royal Academy, but disliked the regime there and was “sacked for incompetence”. He then proceeded to study at the Slade School of Art, where he metStephen Tennant, soon to become one of his best friends and a model for some of the figures in his works. Through Tennant, he later met the poet Siegfried Sassoon and his wife Hester, to both of whom Whistler became close.

Upon leaving the Slade he burst into a dazzling career as a professional artist. His work encompassed all areas of art and design – from the West End theatre to book illustration (including works by Evelyn Waugh and Walter de la Mare, and perhaps most notably, for Gulliver’s Travels) and mural and trompe-l’oeil painting. Paintings at Port Lympne Mansion (within Port Lympne Wild Animal Park), Plas Newydd, Mottisfont Abbey and Dorneywood among others, show his outstanding talent in this genre. During his time at Plas Newydd he may well have become the lover of the daughter of the 6th Marquess of Anglesey, the owner of the house, who had commissioned him to undertake the decorative scheme. Whistler and Lady Caroline Paget are known to have become very close friends and he painted numerous portraits of her, including a startling nude. Whether this painting was actually posed for or whether it was how Whistler imagined her naked is a matter of debate.

His most noted work during the early part of his career was for the café at the Tate Gallery, completed in 1927 when he was only 22. He was commissioned to produce posters and illustrations for Shell Petroleum and the Radio Times. He also created designs for Wedgwood china based on drawings he made of the Devon village of Clovelly. Whistler’s elegance and wit ensured his success as a portrait artist among the fashionable; he painted many members of London society, including Edith Sitwell,Cecil Beaton and other members of the set to which he belonged that became known as the “Bright Young Things”. His murals for Edwina Mountbatten’s 30-room luxury flat in Brook House, Park Lane, London were later installed by the Mountbattens’ son-in-law, decorator David Hicks, in his own houses.

Whistler’s activities also extended to ballet design. He designed the scenery and costumes for Ninette de Valois and Gavin Gordon’s Hogarth-inspired 1935 ballet The Rake’s Progress.

When war broke out, although he was 35, Whistler was eager to join the army. He was commissioned into the Welsh Guards as Lieutenant 131651. His artistic talent, far from being a stumbling block to his military career, was greatly appreciated and he was able to find time to continue some of his work, including a notable self-portrait in uniform now in the National Army Museum. In 1944 he was sent to France following the D-Day landings.

In July he was with the Guards Armoured Division in Normandy as the invasion force was poised to break out of the salient east of Caen. On the hot and stuffy 18 July his tank, after crossing a railway line, drove over some felled telegraph wires beside the railway, which became entangled in its tracks. He and the crew got out to free the tank from the wire when a German machine gunner opened fire on them, preventing them from getting back into their tank. Whistler dashed across an open space of 60 yards to another tank to instruct its commander, a Sergeant Lewis Sherlock, to return the fire. As he climbed down from Sherlock’s tank a mortar bomb exploded beside him and killed him instantly, throwing him into the air. He was the first fatality suffered by the battalion in the Normandy campaign.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Palladian Bridge at Wilton House

 

Palladian Bridge at Wilton House
© Wilton House Trust

 

 

“Sotheby’s and Wilton House will pay tribute to the life and work of the photographer, writer and Oscar-winning designer Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) with a new exhibition of photographs from Sotheby’s Cecil Beaton Studio Archive, designed and curated by Jasper Conran. Capturing the spirit of country house parties and costume balls, the exhibition will showcase previously unseen images from one of Britain’s most celebrated photographers, giving a fascinating glimpse into his life and a vivid portrait of a charmed age.

Staged at Wilton House in Wiltshire where Beaton was entertained by his friends the Pembroke family at grand parties and pageants for over 50 years, the exhibition will run between 18th- 21st April and 3rd May – 14th September 2014.

Described as “a worldly Peter Pan” who never aged1, Cecil Beaton – the acclaimed photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair – was at the forefront of the fashion for costume and pageantry which swept through British society in the 1920s. Immortalised in the Noël Coward song ‘I’ve been to a marvellous party’, “Dear Cecil arrived wearing armour/Some shells and a black feather boa…,” Beaton was renowned for his flair for fancy dress and costumery, later winning Oscars, Academy and Tony awards for his designs. He invited friends from all over the world to legendary parties at his Wiltshire home Ashcombe, where guests arrived “in the knowledge that they were to exchange reality for a complete escape into the realms of fantasy.”2

As fancy dress became a popular feature of country house parties, and costume balls a highlight of the social calendar, Beaton seamlessly integrated his high-society personal life with his professional artistic quest to experiment with photography and fashion. Using the settings of Britain’s grandest country houses as the perfect backdrop, Beaton persuaded his friends to sit for him in their exotic costumes, often designed by him, for these most unconventional of photographs.

This fascinating collection of photographs will be displayed in a new exhibition space, especially renovated for the event at Wilton House. Situated just a few miles from Beaton’s country houses Ashcombe and Reddish, Wilton was the location for costume balls and theatrical events enjoyed and photographed by Beaton for over 50 years. Despite being pushed into a river at the first Ball he attended there in 1927, Beaton later became great friends with the Earls of Pembroke. Over time he photographed and chronicled the lives of three generations of the family in the surroundings of the house which he described as “perhaps the most wonderful piece in all Wiltshire’s heritage of domestic architecture… at every time of year, in all weathers, unfailing in its beauty.”3 On 14th January 1980, just three days before his death, Beaton celebrated his 76th birthday with a lunch party hosted by the family.

 

The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive 

Sotheby’s is the privileged guardian of the Cecil Beaton Studio Archive, a matchless repository of over 100,000 negatives, 9,000 vintage prints and 42 scrapbooks from the celebrated photographer’s personal collection. Cecil Beaton negotiated the transfer of his private archive to Sotheby’s in 1977 in order to preserve its role for future generations. Today, the collection – some of which is still stored in Beaton’s original filing cabinets – is available for use as a picture library, lending images to be reproduced on the printed page and for exhibition worldwide.

Further photographs from the Cecil Beaton Studio Archive will be displayed at Salisbury Museum’s exhibition Cecil Beaton at Home: Ashcombe & Reddish between 23rd May – 19th September 2014. This exhibition will bring together original photographs, artworks and possessions from Cecil Beaton’s two Wiltshire homes, Ashcombe and Reddish which served as retreats, inspirations, and stages for impressive entertaining, to present a fascinating picture of Beaton’s extraordinary life.”

1 Hugo Vickers, Cecil Beaton: The Authorised Biography, Introduction, p. xxiii
2 Cecil Beaton, Ashcombe: The Story of a Fifteen-year Lease, p. 33
3 Cecil Beaton, Ashcombe: The Story of a Fifteen-year Lease, p. 35

Press release from Sotheby’s

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Cecil Beaton on the Palladian bridge at Wilton House, September 1968' (detail) 1968

 

Cecil Beaton
Cecil Beaton on the Palladian bridge at Wilton House, September 1968 (detail)
1968
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Alice von Hofmannsthal, Ashcombe, 1937, in her Costume for "The Gardener’s Daughter" for "The Anti Dud Ball" at the Dorchester Hotel, 13 July 1937' 1937

 

Cecil Beaton
Alice von Hofmannsthal, Ashcombe, 1937, in her Costume for “The Gardener’s Daughter” for “The Anti Dud Ball” at the Dorchester Hotel, 13 July 1937
1937
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Princess Natasha Paley' 1930s

 

Cecil Beaton
Princess Natasha Paley
1930s
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Princess Natalia Pavlovna Paley (Наталья Павловна Палей), Countess de Hohenfelsen (December 5, 1905 – December 27, 1981) was a member of the Romanov family. A daughter of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia, she was a first cousin of the last Russian emperor, Nicholas II. After the Russian revolution she emigrated first to France and later to the United States. She became a fashion model, socialite, vendeuse, and briefly pursued a career as a film actress…

Ethereal and glamorous, Princess Natalia would not follow any fashion trend, but would dictate her own. Hats and gloves were her signature. With deep-set gray eyes and pale blond hair, she became a sought after model establishing an image for herself in the Parisian elite becoming a well known socialite. As a model, she appeared in many magazines including Vogue. She was a favorite model for the great photographers of her time: Edward Steichen, Cecil Beaton, Horst P. Horst, Andre Durst and George Hoyningen-Huene. (Text from Wikipedia website)

 

Cecil Beaton. 'The Countess of Pembroke acting in Beaton's musical "Heil Cinderella"' 1939

 

Cecil Beaton
The Countess of Pembroke acting in Beaton’s musical “Heil Cinderella”
1939
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Cecil Beaton. 'The 15th Earl and Countess of Pembroke dressed for the coronation of George VI' 1937

 

Cecil Beaton
The 15th Earl and Countess of Pembroke dressed for the coronation of George VI
1937
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Cecil Beaton. 'The Countess of Pembroke in her Robes for the Coronation of George VI' 1937

 

Cecil Beaton
The Countess of Pembroke in her Robes for the Coronation of George VI
1937
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Cecil Beaton in "All the Vogue", Cambridge' 1925

 

Cecil Beaton
Cecil Beaton in “All the Vogue”, Cambridge
1925
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

 

Beauty, decadence and a damned good party: Cecil Beaton at Salisbury Museum

The not so private world of Cecil Beaton – photographer to the Royals, painter, designer of interiors, stage and costume and secret diarist – seems to have been as opulent as his professional career was varied. If we are to believe his candid diaries, it was a world of decadent parties and languid weekend soirees full of bright young things who caroused at his Wiltshire homes against a backdrop of sumptuous interiors and fabulous gardens.

The first of these private pleasure houses was Ashcombe, which he rented for £50 a year between 1930-45. It was followed by Reddish, which Beaton purchased in 1945 and lived in until his death in 1980. By all accounts both were splendid residences, and the stream of celebrities and society people who came and went were photographed by Beaton or captured in his notoriously frank scrapbooks and diaries.

And it is these extravagant worlds that can be glimpsed at Salisbury Museum who, with the help of the vast Cecil Beaton Archive at Sotheby’s, are teasing them back to life. A tantalising glimpse into the photographer’s more hidden moments and the celebrity in-crowd of friends and acquaintances he lavishly entertained, the exhibition brings together 183 unique photographs (including 35 vintage prints) exhibited with some of his artworks and personal possessions within recreations of the interiors.

But it’s the cast of players that grabs the attention; bohemian aristocrats, socialites and some of the biggest stars of the stage, screen, fashion and art world form a procession of decadence that stretched across five decades from 1930-1980. Famous faces include Truman Capote, Leslie Caron, David Hockney, Bianca Jagger and Ivor Novello interspersed here with private snaps of his great loves – the Hollywood icon Greta Garbo, with whom he had an affair, and millionaire art collector Peter Watson, with whom (we are told) he didn’t.

But as well as the society faces the exhibition includes images of the photographer’s inspired garden designs at Reddish and his theatrically-styled home interiors at Ashcombe, which he created so he could ‘live in scenery’, inspired by his visit to Hollywood in 1929. Work in progress shots show the making of Beaton’s fantastical ‘Circus Bedroom’ in 1932 with freshly painted murals of a circus clown, a girl on a merry-go-round horse and a jolly fat lady.

The bedroom was apparently created “on a rainy weekend in 1932” by a typically decadent gang of dazzling society types that included artists Rex Whistler, ‘Jack’ von Bismarck, Oliver Messel, Lord Berners, Edith Olivier, Jorg von Reppert Bismarck and of course Beaton himself. Whistler also designed Beaton’s theatrical four-poster ‘carousel’ bed with gilded unicorns, stripey circus-top canopy and barley twist bedposts. Beaton is pictured with Watson amidst this baroque creation. And visitors can experience it for themselves courtesy of a full-scale recreation reconstructed for the very first time since it was broken up in 1945. A fascinating glance into a decadent disappeared world.

Text by Richard Moss on the Culture 24 website

 

Rex Whistler. 'Ashcombe House' 1930s

 

Rex Whistler
Ashcombe House
1930s
© Private Collection

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Frontispiece montage for Cecil Beaton’s Scrapbook, 1937, Ashcombe' 1937

 

Cecil Beaton
Frontispiece montage for Cecil Beaton’s Scrapbook, 1937, Ashcombe
1937
© Private Collection

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Cecil Beaton on the front steps of Reddish House, Broad Chalke, June 1947, Reddish' 1947

 

Cecil Beaton
Cecil Beaton on the front steps of Reddish House, Broad Chalke, June 1947, Reddish
1947
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Cecil Beaton in his first costume of the night for the Fete Champetre, in his Circus bedroom, 10 July 1937, Ashcombe' 1937

 

Cecil Beaton
Cecil Beaton in his first costume of the night (the famous ‘Rabbit’ outfit) for the Fete Champetre, in his Circus bedroom, 10 July 1937, Ashcombe
1937
© Getty Images/ Time Life

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Dorian Leigh photographed for 'Modess… because' campaign, Reddish House, Broad Chalke, 1950s, Reddish' 1950s

 

Cecil Beaton
Dorian Leigh photographed for ‘Modess… because’ campaign, Reddish House, Broad Chalke, 1950s, Reddish
1950s
© Johnson & Johnson

 

Dorian Leigh (April 23, 1917 – July 7, 2008), born Dorian Elizabeth Leigh Parker, was an American model and one of the earliest modelling icons of the fashion industry. She is considered one of the firstsupermodels and was well known in the United States and Europe.

 

Henry Lamb. 'Portrait of Cecil Beaton' 1935

 

Henry Lamb
Portrait of Cecil Beaton
1935
© Private Collection

 

Henry Taylor Lamb MC RA (Adelaide 21 June 1883 – 8 October 1960 Salisbury) was an Australian-born British painter. A follower of Augustus John, Lamb was a founder member of the Camden Town Groupin 1911 and of the London Group in 1913.

Lamb is noted for his unusual portraits, as exemplified by his well-known picture of an elongated Lytton Strachey. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1940 and was made a full Member in 1949. He was a Trustee of the National Portrait Gallery from 1942 and of the Tate Gallery from 1944 to 1951. His auction record was set at Christie’s in London in June 2006 when his 1910 Breton Boy oil on panel fetched £60,000. As well as the Imperial War Museum, works by Lamb are held in regional museums throughout Britain, in the British Government Art Collection and in the National Gallery of Canada, which received the majority of Lambs portraits of Canadian troops at the end of World War Two.

 

 

Wilton House
Wilton, Salisbury
SP2 0BJ, United Kingdom
+44 1722 746714

Opening hours:
11.30 am – 5.00 pm Sundays to  Thursdays and Bank Holiday Saturdays
The House is CLOSED on Fridays and Saturdays (except Bank Holiday Saturdays)

The Salisbury Museum
The King’s House,
65 The Close, Salisbury
SP1 2EN
Tel: 01722 332151

Opening hours:
Monday to Saturday 10.00 – 17.00
Sunday 12.00 – 17.00

Wilton House website

The Salisbury Museum website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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