Tuesday, September 9, 2014

C-3. Other people in Phoebe Traquair's mural in All Saints

C-3.  Other people in Phoebe Traquair's mural in All Saints

Phoebe Traquair creates a heaven above and an earth in the middle in her apse mural in All Saints, Thorney Hill, England in 1920-22. As we have shown in another blog, she includes in the earthly scene many of the members of the Manners family as a way of paying tribute to Lord John Manners, the commissioner of the mural, and his wife, Lady Constance Manners who died in 1920. Traquair fills the spaces not occupied by the family members with other people, some of whom are living when she paints the wall, some of whom are dead by 1920. With help from Burn and Elkins' book on the Manners (mentioned in the first Traquair blog), we can identify most of the other people she includes in the group around the Holy Family in the center. 
In the earth section there are 23 figures to the left of the Madonna and Child and 20 figures to the right of them from the viewer’s perspective; spread over the curved apse wall are 47 figures altogether, if we include the Madonna and Child, the 2 putti (child angels) holding the banner of the title, and those figures shown only in halo. 
         I am grateful to Luke Griffiss-Williams, M.A., for photos he took for Canon Elkins in 2002 for the keys I have made here:

A.    LEFT SIDE of MURAL in ALL SAINTS, THORNEY HILL           

       1      2      3      4     5        6                  7         8         9        10        11  12   13     14   15 16   17-18


                   19                                                          20                 21                22                        23

  KEY:

1 – unknown red-winged choir singer, angel

2,3,6 – Bishop of Exeter's soldier sons (3), killed in WWI

4 – Burn and Elkins' candidate for Mary Christine (Molly) Manners

5 – St. John the Baptist (portrait of Eric Gill, the carver)

7 – St. Peter (portrait of Charles Gore)

8 – Constance Hamlyn-Fane Manners, 3rd Baroness Manners

9 – St. John the Evangelist as prophet (portrait of Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

10- Bron Herbert, painted over damaged area, Boer War hero (not Traquair figure)

11- St. John the Evangelist as writer (portrait of William Blake, artist and poet)

12- Phoebe Traquair, self-portrait of the artist

13- St. Joseph (portrait of William Gascoyne-Cecil, Lord Bishop of Exeter)
14- Rex Whistler, artist
15, 16- Christ Child and St. Mary, the Madonna
17,18 – Katherine Horner and Raymond Asquith (husband and wife)
19 – Angela Manners (twin)
20 – Rt. Hon. John Manners
21 – eagle (symbol of St. John the Evangelist)
22,23- 2 putti holding Te Deum Laudamus


B.     RIGHT SIDE OF ALL SAINTS MURAL (photo courtesy Luke Griffiss-Williams, M.A., 2002)
  15 16    17    18                 24    25    26                        27       28          29 
            23                       31                                                                                               30  
KEY:
15,16- Madonna and Child
17,18- Katherine Horner and Raymond Asquith
23 –  Putto holding Te Deum Laudamus
24 -  St. George (portrait of John, Lord Manners (the patron))
25 -  Edward Horner
26 -  Mary Christine (Molly) Manners, daughter of patron
27 -  Joseph, Lord Lister, O.M., FRS, PC
28 -  Louis Pasteur, Member Academie française
29 -  workman, mason
30-   Betty Manners (twin)
31-   Dragon killed by St. George
Identity of Unnumbered figures is unknown       


Fortunately, the artist herself identifies some of the figures in a letter to her sister mentioned in Elizabeth Cumming's 2005 book on Phoebe Traquair, p. 96: "my composition includes John the Baptist, Tennyson, Blake, the apostles, the Madonna, Lord Lister, Pasteur, workmen, soldiers, and angels."
Her list reads in the same order left to right as some of the figures in the mural:
 ST. JOHN the BAPTIST, I suggest, is a portrait of Eric Gill (1882-1940), carver of the All Saints memorials and perhaps the carver of Molly's heads on the doors of the church. The curve of his right eyebrow is the same in self-portrait and painted image. We know that Eric Gill, a complicated rebel artist, whose sexual proclivities would alarm us today, considered himself a religious man; he disliked trousers, and, in 1919, when he became a Tertiary of the Dominican order, he wore a monk’s habit as John the Baptist wears here.[ii]  Traquair pays him the honor of making him a name saint for the patron's son as a way of acknowledging his work in the chapel.
Traquair, St. John the Baptist, Te Deum Laudamus, detail (Author’s photo)      
Portrait of Eric Gill, photograph, n.date, available at http://www.nndb.com/people/945/000113606/eric-gill.jpg
Photo courtesy of Burn and
 Elkins, p. 69.












Desmond Chute, Portrait of Eric Gill, monogram photogravure, Harrison & Sons, Ltd., n.date









Burn and Elkins realized that ST. PETER, the APOSTLE, is a portrait of Charles Gore (1853-1932), Bishop of Oxford, and a leading religious thinker in the period.
                                                               Glyn Philpot, Portrait of Charles Gore, 1921, wikimedia image
 
He is placed left of Lady Manners as her spiritual adviser.[iii] He carries Peter’s keys and a net full of fish, 
reminding us that Peter was a fisherman and that Christ calls on Peter to be “a fisher of men.” The water beneath the net may refer to the Sea of Galilee (where Peter fished), to the Jordan River (since John the Baptist touches the water, too, and he baptized Christ in the Jordan), or to the Avon River of the estate, especially since the word “Avon” in the banner is angled toward the water.
 
In Traquair's representation of eternal time where the living and the dead are intermingled, the time-specific identifications of people merge as do the names of the rivers.   


[i] For biographies of Gill, see Fiona McCarthy’s, Eric Gill (London: Faber and Faber, 1989) and Malcolm Yorke’s, Eric Gill, Man of Flesh and Spirit (New York: Universe Books, 1981).
[ii] Fiona MacCarthy, Eric Gill, pp.143-146.
[iii] Charles Gore wrote about the Holy Spirit and its power, so he is appropriate for a mural where the Holy Spirit is in the center between heaven and earth. Gore was one of the founders of the Oxford movement and had a special connection to women because in 1917 he licensed the first female lay readers in the Anglican Church. Despite that innovation, he had a deep regard for the traditional sacraments which makes his appearance here as Peter most apt. Why he is depicted in close consultation with Lady Constance is not known to this author; was she a lay reader?


Next mentioned in the text of Traquair's letter is ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON, the poet laureate (1809-1892), whom Traquair admired. The figure she paints is a portrait of the real Tennyson (perhaps taken from the carbon print by Julia Cameron of Tennyson), but he holds a cross and has the symbol of John the Evangelist, the eagle, at his feet.
                                                        1869 Carbon print by Julia Margaret Cameron
 


 The eagle covers Tennyson's feet with one wing and William Blake's with the other. These two English poets share a double identity as different parts of St. John the Evangelist's life: Tennyson displays the cross because John the Evangelist was present at the Crucifixion, Blake the book of John's writings on Patmos. Both men are painted next to the Hon. John Manners as they protect him as name saints along with John the Baptist behind him. The figure between Tennyson and Blake has been painted over in a later period after a fire in the church; Phoebe's original figure is lost and the face there now is that of Bron Herbert, a local veteran. BLAKE, however, is clearly given a portrait in the mural and he is the next person mentioned in the letter's list:

                                 Wikipedia, Thomas Phillips, Portrait of William Blake (1807),National Portrait Gallery
 From left to right Traquair has painted the people she has mentioned in almost the same order:
JOHN THE BAPTIST, APOSTLE PETER, TENNYSON, BLAKE. Is there another apostle to the left of
Mary and to the right of Joseph? He has a halo and open mouth; he seems to be a portrait of another English artist, Rex Whistler (1905-1944), who would have been fifteen when Traquair's project starts.
 









                                                               Rex Whistler, Self-portrait, 1924 Photograph: © the Estate of Rex Whistler 
(For more on Whistler, see a recent book by Hugh and Mirabel Cecil, reviewed June 2013 in TLS.)
That leaves the remainder of Phoebe Traquair's list:  the MADONNA, LORD LISTER, PASTEUR, WORKMEN, SOLDIERS, ANGELS.
The Madonna holds the child in the center of the apse wall. According to Burn and Elkins, she is meant to be a portrait of Lady Laura Lovat. (Photo courtesy Burn and Elkins)


 LORD JOSEPH LISTER (1827-1912) is next on Traquair's list, amusingly. He is one of two scientists placed together on the right side of the mural. He was a Baronet, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and an original member of the Order of Merit. His work in preventing disease by using sterilized medical instruments for surgery at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary and then at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary was indebted to Pasteur's microbiological studies. Phoebe gives both scientists in her mural, Lister and Pasteur, cross badges pinned to their red gowns with the word "IMMORTAL" written beneath with their names below that.


Both Lister and Pasteur next to him are portraits meant to be recognizable to the contemporary viewer.


LOUIS PASTEUR (1822-1895), the French chemist, holds a beaker to indicate his status as scientist and his contribution to chemistry that earned him a place in the French Legion d'Honneur. (The cross resembles the cross badges given to recipients of that award, appropriate for Pasteur, but Lister was never made a member of the Legion of Honor; perhaps Traquair felt the Order of Merit and the Legion d'Honneur were equal in conveying status.) In his work Pasteur used a swan-neck beaker to demonstrate that bacteria grew from sources outside the liquid in the beaker, a scientific way of proving that microbes caused disease. It is Pasteur's work on microbes that was key to Lister's sterilization of medical equipment as a surgeon. Both men were credited with having saved many lives through their discoveries.
















              It is unclear whether Phoebe Traquair included these figures in the mural for her own personal reasons or whether the patron requested them. 
WORKMEN, SOLDIERS, ANGELS
Next in the foreground as the viewer's eye moves from left to right is a man with a workbelt around his waist who holds onto a basket of tools by a strap in his right hand that draws the weight of the basket over his head. He is clearly the "workman" of Traquair's list, but since there is only one like him, the use of the plural noun in the letter is the artist generalizing about her figures. He is not a portrait of the architect Blow or the sculptor MacKennal:
 Sir Bertram MacKennal,
Google images.

Detmar Blow (photo courtesy Burn and Elkins)
He has a similar gesture to that of the builder figure in the Song School painting executed earlier in her career (here on right), but he is a different worker and probably a portrait.





















SOLDIERS
The painting is filled with British soldiers dressed in the uniforms of WWI; three young men in uniform appear to the right of the the workman. The one on the left looks at the middle one, shakes his hand and puts his left arm around him while the one furthest right looks up to heaven, his left hand held out towards the viewer in awe of the heavenly scene.
ANGEL - Below them, of course, is Betty Manners as an ANGEL, the last of the figures to be mentioned by the artist in her letter to her sister. Since there are two ANGELS in prominent positions in the earth scene, the plural used in the letter is understandable in this case.
Traquair's list, then, is a useful document for comprehending her own outline of the basic groups:
John the Baptist, Tennyson, Blake, the apostles, the Madonna, Lord Lister, Pasteur, workmen, soldiers, and angels;  couched in another way the list reads as :
SAINT, 2 POETS, APOSTLE, Madonna, 2 SCIENTISTS, WORKMAN, SOLDIERS, ANGELS.
The poets balance the scientists across the chancel, the twin angels balance each other across the chancel, the soldiers balance another group of soldiers placed in an identical location opposite. Her symmetrical placing of family members is in keeping with other symmetrical alignments.
In her list she never mentions any of the Manners family members, though, nor does she refer to St. Peter or St. George. There are several other portraits not mentioned in her list:
FROM THE LEFT:
3 soldiers who are the sons of the Bishop of Exeter (St. Joseph in the mural) are known to have been included on the left-hand side:
 St. JOSEPH is a portrait of the Bishop of Exeter (see more about him in the blog entry on the DRAWING.)
 

He is the father-in-law of Hon. Francis Manners, the second son of Lord Manners. William Gascoyne-Cecil (1863-1936) was the second son of a Prime Minister, Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, Lord Salisbury. We owe the identification of this figure to the research of Burn and Elkins.[i] Canon Elkins knew Lady Mary Manners (wife of Francis Manners, the heir in 1921) before she died in 1994, and she told him that this figure is a portrait of her father, Bishop Cecil, a fact confirmed by the photo comparison.[ii] Since she was present in the apse while Traquair was painting the mural, she is a direct source for the identity of this figure.





[i] Burn and Elkins, 99.


[ii] Email from Revd. Canon Elkins, 2012; Burn and Elkins, 99 (for them Bishop Cecil is St. Matthew. See my blog entry on the DRAWING for my reasons for thinking he is St. Joseph.)

RAYMOND ASQUITH (1878-1916) - soldier nearest the Madonna to the right with KATHERINE HORNER, his wife (singing with eyes down, set between Asquith and the Madonna).
 
Raymond was the son of the Prime Minister H.H. Asquith; like John Manners, he had gone to Balliol, Oxford, but unlike John, he entered the war after marrying and having three children. He died in France in WWI in 1916. His prominent position in the mural can be explained by his status as son of the Prime Minister and by the fact that his wife had been good friends with Molly Manners as a child. Katherine had remained close to Lady Constance Manners after Molly's death, and Raymond and Katherine celebrated part of their honeymoon at Avon Tyrrell (Burn and Elkins, p.76.) In the mural husband and wife incline their heads towards each other, acknowledging their union. 
EDWARD HORNER, Katherine Horner's brother, who also died in the Great War in 1917, is shown between Lord Manners and his daughter. He was a frequent visitor to Avon Tyrrell as well. 



























The equestrian statue of him by Sir Alfred Munnings at Mells' church, St.Andrew's, is a moving tribute to him and to the youth of the nation who perished in the war. The horse's head in silhouette bends down as if in mourning for the loss of the young man on his back and so many more like him.


That leaves one person in the mural who should be identified, the artist herself. Phoebe Traquair paints
herself into the mural near the center as the woman dressed in red looking up between Blake and St. Joseph:
More will be said about her self-portrait in the discussion for the blog entry on the only preparatory drawing known to exist for this mural in Thorney Hill.



















Before we leave the subject of this entry, however, we should summarize what we have learned about this complicated image from looking at all the figures in the earthly scene. In the middle band of the apse wall Traquair has created a world in 1920 populated by figures living and dead.

LIVING:  Lord John Manners, Angela, Betty, and Francis Manners,
Eric Gill, Charles Gore,  Phoebe Traquair, Bishop of Exeter (William Gascoyne-Cecil), Rex Whistler, Lady Laura Lovat, Katherine Horner

DEAD: Constance Manners, Hon. John Manners, Mary Christine Manners,
Tennyson, Blake, Raymond Asquith, Edward Horner, Lord Lister, Pasteur, sons of Bishop of Exeter and other WWI soldiers.  

She has created a world populated by poets, artists, politicians, saints, clergymen, scientists, workmen, and angels. The diverse realms of human endeavor are given people to represent them in the human landscape, but they share space with ethereal beings and beings not alive but recognizable.

          Traquair’s mural is meant to be a celebration of both the living and the dead, all souls standing under the dome of God’s throne, singing praise to God, specifically the hymn of the Te Deum Laudamus. People from past eras are mixed here with contemporaries of Traquair or Constance as though eternity eclipses age and year differences. The haloes denote holiness, not ecclesiastically-conferred sainthood. Workers, people from all walks of life, are saints. For Traquair there is no inconsistency in representing eternal time and particular time; all time is conflated in art.
            In Italian Renaissance art the sacra conversazione describes an art work where holy figures are in "sacred conversation," i.e., sharing the same time and space and physical size, with the holy figures of Mary and Jesus. The sacra conversazione in Traquair's mural presents the Madonna, Joseph, child, and angels sharing time and space with real figures on the earth, eliminating limits between sacred and earthly worlds. For Traquair sacred time is a human continuum. Since the people represented in the painting are today in 2014 all dead, her painting serves as a way for viewers to connect to human history while being reminded that the people represented go on living in her art. Her idea that there is no distinction between sacred and profane enables the viewer to accept more readily the death that will come to us all. For Traquair the separation of heaven and earth on the wall is belied by her insistence that the living and the dead share the beautiful life of souls interacting, singing, standing together, worlds without end.

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