Sunday, 29 November 2015

The eye of the Beholder

Dearest Emily,

Our heroine Mrs C, has her bi-centenary exhibition finally opening on Wednesday night at the V & A. Big day for her...

A mere 150 years has gone by since she first exhibited there. Of course, when she first exhibited all those years ago- she wasn't a Museum piece. It was the South Kensington Museum and she- and her mate G.F.Watts were the Contemporary Gallery exhibitions at the time!

G.F.Watts photographs kept by himself and his descendents found their way to the V & A in the 1960's- and it's only now- that we begin to see her in her true light.

For example- the damaged plates she sent to Watts were at his request- he wanted her to save her perfect work to sell- he was merely her friend and critiquing them.

We can finally today, understand what she was aiming at achieving with a better understanding of her works in progress, and with Marta Weiss' fabulous catalogue ( Photographs to Electrify you with delight and Startle the World ) we are given valuable insight into her sense of fun and somewhat comedic personality.

A recent acquisition of some of Julia's jewelry to Dimbola, has got me inspired Em. We got it out for our recent Woman's Hour interview (I'll let you know when that's to be broadcast.)

The more I thought about it- the more interesting I find it. Here are the pieces...

They are Indian Silver, here's Mrs C wearing the locket with her daughter in 1858/9- a photograph maybe attributed to Lewis Carroll. Thanks be to Kimberly Eve for her sharp eyes and sending it to us.

The jewelry appears to have been given to her maid and model- Mary Hillier on the occasion of her wedding, and passed down to her descendents.

What intrigues me, is the diversity of these pieces- an apparently Pagan cross, with a locket showing a Shiva Hindu God, and a diamond shaped brooch, depicting possibly the Hindu Monkey God- Hanuman.

These- for a devoutly religious Woman, who depicted Madonnas and pious scenes, is interesting. The diversity interests me. Charles, her husband was a Bentham Utilitarianism devotee. It seems Julia's icons were all-inclusive of religion. How refreshing.

It got me thinking- and I rang Mrs Avery , about who we might shoot in the jewelry (photographically, Em) and she came up with Jo Brand to be photographed by fab photographer husband- Mr Avery.

Fast-forward a week and there we were this morning with the lovely Jo Brand.

She told me about how she had been to Dimbola, when her children were young with her husband- as they were into Art, and liked to visit family-friendly places. She likened it in feel to Charleston- and we were off- and running, me saying how I had come to Dimbola with the same realisation- and ending up with the never-ending quest of how JMC influenced Bloomsbury, and how these Women were a type outside of easy definition- outside of their time- and strong, individual characters...

It was easy then, to see Jo as a JMC study. Simon used available light, and swathed the windows with cloths. Jo was swathed in a  Paisley shawl, caught up with the Monkey-God brooch, and holding a crucifix.

It worked rather splendidly Em, and I'll show you the final portrait when it is ready. The first, in a series to be entitled Julia's Great Women. 

Jo, mentioned that she had landed a passenger plane recently. Just like that- having been nvited into the Cockpit. I was rather amazed by this and said so. "Well, I won't tell you the airline." she said.

Next week, Emily- I'm off to see Julia's Tea set. It's still in use.

Your ever-loving Grandmother, GiGi xxx

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Lady in Waiting

Dearest Emily,

I'm not sure why your little sister' portrait has turned out  with the feel of a little old woman- however, I make no apologies.

Here's my thinking.

Here you are at the same age, and I remember thinking how you struck me as a little old lady, with your handbag and your cardi.

See- more evidence!

So- today my post is about us girls- all being old ladies in training. GiGi is further on with her training than you two- and with luck I fully intend to embrace the status.

However Em, I also intend to never leave the child behind. The joys, the excitement, the wonder of discovery- and the sense of fun, and the fantastic.

For example Em- I've been in a state of excitement all week- as this friday- we did an interview for Woman's Hour- can you imagine! Fave radio station- fave programme- and absolutely ideal platform for Mrs Cameron and her £20 Note Campaign.

The way it came about was a bit of magic Emily.

It was back in May, when at one of the old 'Board Meetings' someone mentioned that Woman's Hour had suggested Julia Margaret Cameron as a possible candidate for the visual artist on the new £20 note.

I went home and pulled out one of my old fake £20's that I made as gift tokens when I ran the shop there. I'd put Julia on as the Queen (treasonable, I was told) and the next thing I knew I was writing to On the Wight about campaigning to nominate her from the Island- including the link to the Bank of England's web-site. The lovely On the Wight published straight away...

Little known to me- all the way across in Newport- a lovely lady called Julie had heard the programme too- and had written away to The County Press with the same intention as me. The County Press made up a much more appropriate fake note than I- so, they won't go to the Tower.

Next thing I knew- joint friend Tracy was on the phone- and put Julie the lovely lady from Newport on. We decided to join forces, and the first time we met was a few days later- in a car-park outside Isle of Wight Radio. We're now firm friends.

Campaigning has been huge fun- and really seemed to garner public support. Fast-forward to September, and there we are at Bestival in the Feminist tent- performing a fringe talk on Mrs C.

A lady comes up to us at the end, saying how much she enjoyed it- and it turns out she was the Producer of the actual programme that inspired us both!

She thinks about running a piece to coincide with the up-coming V & A Exhibition of Julia's work- and hey presto- we're fixed up for friday.

Here are some pics Em- it was great fun- Louise was a joy to work with- and let's see what makes it on air.

We had fun, hope you and Annabel are too,

Your ever-loving Grandmother,

GiGi xxx