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Joe Orton, Genius

Today is a sad anniversary: 50 years ago today the playwright Joe Orton was murdered by his lover, Kenneth Halliwell.

Joe Orton in 1967.

I have long been obsessed by Joe Orton. I was a young teenager when I first saw one of his works: the wonderful 1970 film of Entertaining Mr Sloane, based on his 1964 play of the same name. It was dark – blackly dark, and funny as hell, and full of the most joyous and brilliant language.

It spoke to me, even more so when I learned that he was from Leicester, the Midlands city where I lived at the time. From then on, I tried to find out as much as I could about him, to see all his plays and read everything he had written, and that had been written about him. It seemed so cruel that such a wicked, witty and scabrous mind had been taken from us at just 34 – what other wonders would he have created had he not died so young?

Joe in the one-room flat he shared with Kenneth Halliwell in Noel Road, Islington, 1964. (c) The Leicester Mercury.

John Lahr wrote a fantastic biography of Orton, Prick Up Your Ears, which was published in 1978. He later in 1986 published Orton’s diaries in edited form.

This BBC Arena documentary from 1982 is a good introduction to Orton:

A film adaptation of Prick Up Your Ears was released in 1987. Gary Oldman plays Orton, and Alfred Molina plays Halliwell. I can’t think of a better actor at the time than Oldman to capture not only the physical likeness of Orton, but his mischievousness and charm and sexual confidence and humour, all of which are abundantly clear in Orton’s diaries.

I have always felt a connection to Joe, even though he was a gay man and I am a straight woman: I adore his black humour, his sexual innuendos and irreverence, his pomposity pricking and subversion. He is my writer. I was even happier to learn that he had lived for his first two years in Clarendon Park, the same area of Leicester in which I had lived.

Joe Orton.

In 1988 I briefly worked in a bookshop in Leicester, and helped out when the shop hosted an evening with John Lahr, to coincide with the new productions of two of Orton’s lesser-known plays, The Ruffian on the Stair and The Erpingham Camp, at the Haymarket Theatre. He gave a very interesting talk about Joe, and Leonie, Joe’s sister, was there too to answer questions. I took all my Lahr Ortonalia along for the great man to sign: treasured possessions still.

Joe in 1965, photo by Lewis Morley. You can read Morley’s recollections of the photo session during which the photo was taken here.

The publication in 1993 of Kenneth Williams‘ diaries, edited by Russell Davies, gave another wonderful insight into Joe’s life. Lahr had talked to Williams for Prick Up Your Ears, and had been allowed to quote from Williams’ diaries, but the publication of the diaries gave us a much fuller picture of Joe, and his relationship with Halliwell and with Williams.

Joe in 1966. Photo by John Haynes.

If you haven’t discovered Joe Orton yet, I encourage you to dive in, head first. Entertaining Mr Sloane is my favourite play of his, and the film version starring Beryl Reid, Harry Andrews and Peter McEnery captures its anarchic irreverence perfectly.

Joe Orton, 1 January 1933 – 9 August 1967.

Joe Orton website, run by his estate

BBC Radio 4 Front Row half hour special edition on Joe, first broadcast 11 August 2017 and available for download. Features Leonie Orton, Sheila Hancock and John Lahr, among others.

Elsie Higgins 1872-1953

I have just posted a package to one of my customers. I like to put postcards in with my parcels, and as my customer has already had one of my John Ruskin kingfisher postcards that I had printed as part of my (not-very competent) attempt at branding, I decided to send them another one, one of the large collection Chap and I recently bought at Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery. (The Museum is closing for a couple of years for its very exciting development and refurbishment, and so they were selling off all their cards and postcards for a song, and we can never resist a bargain!). The card I sent is A May Morning, by Elsie Higgins.

A May Morning, by Elsie Higgins. (c) Plymouth City Council: Museum and Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

‘A May Morning’, by Elsie Higgins. (c) Plymouth City Council: Museum and Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

All it said on the back of the card about the artist was ‘Exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1905. Oil on canvas, 43.2 x 68.5 cm’. There are no dates or biographical details given for Elsie. I wondered about her – was she a Glasgow Girl maybe? A bit of internet truffling was in order.

The Royal Academy of Arts: a Dictionary of Contributors and Their Work From Its Foundation in 1769 to 1904, Vol. 4, 1905 has been digitised and has an entry for her. It shows that she had three paintings exhibited at the RA (presumably the Summer Exhibition), one each in 1899, 1900 and 1901, titled Miss Edith Gorham, Summer time, and The rompers. It gives her title as Miss Elsie Higgins, and her address in 1899 as ‘Red House, Rye, Surrey’, in 1900 as ‘The Lynches, Salford [sic – Shalford], Surrey’ and in 1901 as ‘1, Rosebery Road, Bushey’. This was further googling gold, and for Rye up comes the site Portraiture in Sussex Before Photography: apparently Elsie was also a miniaturist. Her dates are given: born 1872, and flourished 1899-1901. Maybe those were the dates she flourished at miniature painting, but going on A May Morning she was clearly flourishing artistically for longer than that. She would have been about 33 when she painted A May Morning.

In (deep breath) British and Irish paintings in public collections: An index of British and Irish oil paintings by artists born before 1870 in public and institutional collections in the United Kingdom and Ireland by Christopher Wright, Catherine May Gordon and Mary Peskett Smith (2006), the entry for Elsie reads ‘Working Birkenhead, Cheshire (later Merseyside); Rye, Sussex, Shalford, Surrey, & Bushey, Hertfordshire, 1895-1916’ and it appears the only piece of hers in a UK art gallery or museum is A May Morning.

Googling Bushey brings about more and detailed information: Elsie was the life-long companion of fellow artist Edith Gorham (born September 1864, and who was deaf-mute from birth), and Elsie’s “portraits, miniatures and landscapes were shown between 1895 and 1916, including eleven times at the Royal Academy. A photo and report on her work appears in The English Illustrated Magazine of September 1907 ‘Some Lady Artists of Today’ … Edith and Elsie Higgins shared a house [in Bushey] on Merry [Hill] Mount for more than 40 years, until Edith died at the age of 66 [sic – 76] in June of 1941. She left an estate of £5,418, which passed to her friend Elsie, until Miss Higgins herself died in 1953.” (This information comes from a fascinating blog post about an 1832 map signed by Isaac Manley, who sailed as a young boy with Captain Cook on Endeavour – it’s very interesting, and well worth a read).

And that’s it, for now. I am sure there is much more information about her in various archives, but that’s all I could find out on the web about her so far.

If anyone has any more knowledge of Elsie, I’d love to hear. Did she study at an art school or was she self taught? What did she do for a living? How many paintings did she paint? Where are they?

Rings that remind me of things, Part 10

Part 10 of an occasional series about rings in my Etsy shop that remind me of things.

Ring:

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Vintage foiled raked glass ring with a lovely swirly pattern. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

Thing:

The Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh, June 1889. Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh, June 1889. Museum of Modern Art, New York.

UPDATE: The ring has now sold. Sorry!

So far I have had rings that remind me of an Iron Age hillfort, an alien spaceship, a cream horn, a radio telescope, Noah’s Ark, an octopus tentacle, spider eyes, Pluto and its moon Charon, and the rings of Saturn.

A Charles Rennie Mackintosh Mockintosh

Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) is the most iconic of all Scottish Arts and Crafts designers. Glasgow-born and based Mackintosh was a talented architect, furniture designer, artist, and more. His works have inspired a range of replicas and items inspired by his designs, and these are fondly known as ‘Mockintoshes‘ (I’m a sucker for a bit of word play).

I recently acquired a piece of silver jewellery, a pendant, in a style that I thought was almost certainly Mackintosh, but with a motif I didn’t recognise. The pendant has two turbaned figures with what look like long capes facing each other. They are so stylised that it is easy to look at the design and not see the figures immediately.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh-inspired sterling silver pendant by Malcolm Gray of Ortak. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh-inspired sterling silver pendant by Malcolm Gray of Ortak. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

I wondered what the inspiration for the piece was. Some internet truffling was in order. Luckily for me I hit pay dirt in the first place I looked: the Wikipedia page on Rennie Mackintosh:

Cabinet designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, in the collections of the Royal Ontario Museum, Canada. Photo by Tony Hisgett.

Cabinet designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, in the collections of the Royal Ontario Museum, Canada. Photo by Tony Hisgett.

Going to the Royal Ontario Museum website, I found that the cabinet was designed by Rennie Mackintosh in 1902, and made by Francis Smith and Son in Glasgow that same year. The cabinet is in white painted oak, and the insides of the doors are lined with silver foil inlaid with a design in coloured glass of a woman holding a stylised rose in the design known as the Glasgow Rose. The Museum acquired its example in 1983-4.

More truffling showed that Mackintosh’s original design for the cabinet (accession no GLAHA 41118) is held by the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery at the University of Glasgow. The Hunterian holds a huge collection of material by and related to Mackintosh. The pair of cabinets were designed for Mrs Rowat (the mother-in-law of Mackintosh’s friend and mentor, Francis Henry Newbery) for the living room of her house at 14 Kingsborough Gardens, Glasgow.

Mackintosh had a duplicate pair made for his own home in Glasgow, and this pair is now on display in ‘The Mackintosh House’ in the Hunterian Museum (accession nos GLAHA 41221 and 41222), where they can be seen flanking one of the fireplaces.

As well as featuring the Glasgow Rose, the design also features the heart-shaped leaf motif known as the ‘cicely leaf’ or ‘cecily leaf’. Both motifs were used by Mackintosh and so are often found in Mockintoshes. I’ve written a short blog post on the cicely leaf motif here.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society website.

John Ruskin

I have long loved the art of John Ruskin (1819-1900). I was given a card in the 1970s with a reproduction of one of his watercolours, and I still have it. It’s a study of a peacock breast feather, held in the Collection of the Guild of St George, Museums Sheffield.

John Ruskin. Study of a Peacock's Breast Feather. 1875. Watercolour, 22.3 x 14.7 cm.

John Ruskin. Study of a Peacock’s Breast Feather. 1875, watercolour, 22.3 x 14.7 cm.

This first got me interested in his art, especially his stunning watercolours (click on all pics to make bigger):

John Ruskin. Rocks and Ferns in a Wood at Crossmount. 1847. Perthshire. Pencil, ink, watercolour and bodycolour, 32.3 x 46.5 cm

John Ruskin. Rocks and Ferns in a Wood at Crossmount, Perthshire. 1847, pencil, ink, watercolour and bodycolour, 32.3 x 46.5 cm.

John Ruskin. The Garden of San Miniato near Florence. 1845, watercolour on paper.

John Ruskin. The Garden of San Miniato near Florence. 1845, watercolour on paper.

John Ruskin. Mountain Rock and Alpine Rose. 1844-1849, pencil, ink, chalk, watercolour and bodycolour, 29.8 x 41.4 cm.

John Ruskin. Mountain Rock and Alpine Rose. 1844-1849, pencil, ink, chalk, watercolour and bodycolour, 29.8 x 41.4 cm.

John Ruskin. Part of the Façade, San Michele, Lucca. 1845, pencil and watercolour on pale cream paper, 33 x 23.3 cm.

John Ruskin. Part of the Façade, San Michele, Lucca. 1845, pencil and watercolour on pale cream paper, 33 x 23.3 cm.

John Ruskin. The Chateau of Neuchatel at dusk, with Jura mountains beyond. 1866, pencil and watercolour, 13.3 x 21 cm.

John Ruskin. The Chateau of Neuchatel at dusk, with Jura mountains beyond. 1866, pencil and watercolour, 13.3 x 21 cm.

John Ruskin. Coast Scene near Dunbar. 1847, pencil and watercolour, 32.5 x 47.5 cm.

John Ruskin. Coast Scene near Dunbar. 1847, pencil and watercolour, 32.5 x 47.5 cm.

The Casa d'Oro, Venice. 1845, pencil and watercolour, with bodycolour, 33 x 47.6 cm.

John Ruskin. The Casa d’Oro, Venice. 1845, pencil and watercolour, with bodycolour, 33 x 47.6 cm.

John Ruskin. Study of a peacock feather and another feather.

John Ruskin. Study of a peacock feather and another feather.

Ruskin was particularly fond of painting peacock feathers. In 1875 he wrote, ‘I’ve to draw a peacock’s breast-feather, and paint as much of it as I can without having heaven to dip my brush in.’

I wanted to get some postcards printed for my Etsy shop – my first attempt at branding – and needed an image. My photography doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny, so in the end I thought I’d just choose an image I love, and that was available for free use. It meant that my postcards wouldn’t reflect what I sell in my shop – probably a huge no-no when it comes to branding, but I’d rather have a lovely picture rather than a crappy one I took of some of my beautiful vintage jewellery. The image I settled on is one Ruskin painted of a kingfisher.

John Ruskin. Kingfisher.

John Ruskin. Kingfisher. 1870-1871, pencil, ink, watercolour and bodycolour, 25.8 × 21.8 cm.

If you would like to know more about John Ruskin – he was so much more than just an artist – his Wikipedia page has much information and many links to more. Also, this blog is an interesting place to start.

Stoneywell, an Arts and Crafts house

Stoneywell is a wonderful Arts and Crafts house built by designer-architect Ernest Gimson (1864-1919) for his brother Sydney in Ulverscroft in the Leicestershire countryside between 1897 and 1899, and lived in by Sydney’s family until 2012. It has been bought by the National Trust and restored to the state it was in in the 1950s, and is now open to the public, opening for the first time ever this spring.

Stoneywell. Photo by Joe Giddens/PA.

Stoneywell. Photo by Joe Giddens/PA.

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Stoneywell, drawn by Ernest Gimson in July 1898.

Stoneywell is in Charnwood Forest, north-west of Leicester, and I know the area well because I grew up in Leicester, and Charnwood Forest and Bradgate Park (‘Braggy Park’) were favourite weekend family walk spots. I’m also familiar with the work of Ernest Gimson, because there were a couple of his houses just around the corner from where I lived in Leicester, Inglewood on Ratcliffe Road and The White House on North Avenue.

Inglewood (1892), a house by Ernest Gimson on Ratcliffe Road. Photo by NotFromUtrecht.

Inglewood (1892), a house by Ernest Gimson on Ratcliffe Road, Leicester. Photo by NotFromUtrecht.

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The White House (1898), a house by Ernest Gimson on North Avenue, Leicester. Photo by NotFromUtrecht.

Gimson built several houses at Ulverscroft for his family. Stoneywell is special because it was furnished by Gimson and his furniture-making colleagues the Barnsleys, and as the family never left the house, much of the original furniture remains.

The kitchen at Stoneywell. Photo by Joe Giddens/PA.

The kitchen at Stoneywell. Photo by Joe Giddens/PA.

The living room at Stoneywell. photo by Joe Giddens/PA.

The living room at Stoneywell. Photo by Joe Giddens/PA.

The master bedroom at Stoneywell. Photo by Joe Giddens/PA.

The master bedroom at Stoneywell. Photo by Joe Giddens/PA.

Now here’s a little story. When I was about 14, on one of our weekend trips to Charnwood Forest we passed an antiques shopI can’t remember where it was: Woodhouse Eaves, maybe?and some of its wares were displayed out on the pavement. My eye was caught by a beautiful chair with a twisted cord seat, and I asked my Dad to stop so I could look at it. I found out how much it was from the shop owner (I think he might have taken pity on me and given me a good price), worked out how many months-worth of pocket money that would be, asked for a sub from my parents, and bought the chair. Luckily our car was big enough to take it home in the back.

I still have it: such a pretty little Arts and Crafts chair. Maybe this is a little fanciful of me, but I like to think it could have been a Gimson or a Barnsley chair, from one of the Gimson houses in the area. Whoever it was made by, I haven’t ever seen another like it. Update December 2016: an extremely knowledgeable Arts and Crafts collector tells me that my chair is by William Birch. At last I know who made it. Thank you, Vanessa!

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National Trust information on Stoneywell.

Eric Gill, The Song of Songs

I have always loved Eric Gill‘s work (though revelations in his 1989 biography by Fiona MacCarthy make me not at all keen on the man himself). Gill (18821940) was a supremely talented sculptor, typeface designer (Gill Sans is probably his most famous), stonecutter and print maker. His work has a wonderfully sparse, graphic quality, with purity of line and lack of fussy ornamentation and detail.

Gill illustrated a 1925 edition of The Song of Songs, otherwise known as The Song of Solomon from the Old Testament of the Bible, published by the Golden Cockerel Press in a limited run of 750 copiesThe Song of Songs is a strange part of the Bible: it is a celebration of erotic, sexual love. Gill was drawn to erotic subjects, and so it is no surprise that he chose The Song of Songs to illustrate.

Eric Gill, woodcut from The Song of Songs, published by the Golden Cockerel Press, 1925.

Eric Gill, woodcut from The Song of Songs, published by the Golden Cockerel Press, 1925.

This piece accompanies the part of the text that reads:

     While the King was reclining

           mine own spikenard gave out his odour.

     A bunch of myrhh is my beloved to me:

          he shall rest between my breasts.

A hand-tinted version of the Eric Gill woodcut in an edition of The Song of Songs, published by the Golden Cockerel Press, 1925.

A hand-tinted version of the Eric Gill woodcut in an edition of The Song of Songs, published by the Golden Cockerel Press, 1925.

I recently bought a small brass plaque with an image that I didn’t recognise, but a style that I did. A bit of poking about on the internet, and my hunch was confirmed: it was based on an Eric Gill woodcut, specifically one from The Song of Songs.

Brass plaque based on the Eric Gill woodcut in , for sale in my Etsy shop. Click on photo for details.

Brass plaque based on the Eric Gill woodcut in The Song of Songs, published by the Golden Cockerel Press, 1925. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

Another view of the brass plaque based on the Eric Gill woodcut in The Song of Songs, published by the Golden Cockerel Press, 1925. For sale in my Etsy shop. Click on photo for details.

Another view of the brass plaque based on the Eric Gill woodcut in The Song of Songs, published by the Golden Cockerel Press, 1925. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

I’m not for a moment suggesting that the plaque itself is by Gill, but it is clear whose artwork is depicted in low relief. The ‘Relax’ underneath is also nothing to do with Gill (a shame the makers didn’t use a Gill typeface for it … Bit of a missed opportunity there!)

There is also a lovely hand-coloured Gill woodcut for sale in the FittedFab shop on Etsy at the moment:

Hand-coloured woodcut 'Angels and Shepherds' by Eric Gill, 1923. For sale at FittedFab on Etsy: click on photo for details.

Hand-coloured woodcut ‘Angels and Shepherds’ by Eric Gill, 1923. For sale at FittedFab on Etsy: click on photo for details.

Website of the Eric Gill Society.

Lost sheep, icy murders, and an immortal

Every now and then I hear a piece of music that is so distinctive that whenever I hear it subsequently I know it immediately. One of these earworms for me for a Norwegian folk song called ‘Den Bortkomne Sauen’‘The Lost Sheep’.

I first heard this melody while watching the marvellous Coen Brothers film Fargo, which was released in 1996. The main theme of the film is an adaptation by Carter Burwell of ‘Den Bortkomne Sauen’.

Such a distinctive melody, which seemed to echo so well the icy landscapes of northern Minnesotaa wintery land populated by people of Scandinavian extraction where horrible murders happen, wood chippers optional, and heavily-pregnant police chiefs doggedly pursue their man. The music stuck with me, a lovely earworm I didn’t expect to hear again.

Fast forward a few years. I listen to a lot of BBC Radio 4 while I work, and I particularly enjoy the afternoon dramas. One set of plays that grabbed me right from the start was the Pilgrim series by Sebastian Baczkiewicz, the first episode broadcast in 2008 and now five series in. The stories involve William Palmer, a 12th century immortal cursed to wander the modern British countryside, encountering faeries and demons as well as hoodies and housewives. And lo! Used in Pilgrim was ‘Den Bortkomne Sauen’, a version played by Norwegian musician Annbjørg Lien on her Hardanger fiddle, accompanied by a church organ:

The later Fargo version, with its syrupy harp at first and rather overblown orchestration after the fiddle part, has wonderfully slow tempo, full of foreboding. Annbjørg’s 1994 version is plaintive and stripped-down, but at a slightly faster tempo, and I could really sense the lost sheep in the icy Nordic snowdrifts as she played. It also fitted perfectly with the theme of Pilgrim, with Palmer the lost soul condemned to wander forever.

A Hardanger fiddle, made by Knut Gunnarsson Helland. Photo by Kjetil r.

A Hardanger fiddle, made by Knut Gunnarsson Helland. Photo by Frode Inge Helland.

Annbjørg’s version is available on her album Felefeber (‘Fiddle fever’), released in 1994, and available on Amazon. Series 3 of Pilgrim was awarded the Silver Medal for the Best European Radio Drama of the Year at the Prix Europa in Berlin, and nominated for the Prix Italia Best Original Radio Drama award. It’s a great listen if you get the chance. As one other listener described it so well: ‘I love the way one world settles seamlessly in-between the cracks of another’, and in that same post Sebastian has confirmed that Series 6 and 7 have been commissioned, hurrah!

And then earlier this year, I was delighted to see/hear that the title track of the 2014 television series adaptation of Fargo, which I hugely enjoyed, had nods to ‘Den Bortkomne Sauen’ and its use in the original film:

I haven’t seen it yet, but apparently ‘Den Bortkomne Sauen’ also crops up in the Norwegian tv series Lilyhammer (and no, that’s not a typo). I am definitely going to catch up on this one as it is a Norway-set mash-up of The Sopranos (my all-time favourite tv series) and Scandinoir, with a good dash of comedy thrown in, and stars Steven Van Zandt as Frank, an Italian-American mafioso relocated by the Federal Witness Protection Program to Lillehammer. Frank even picks up a lost sheep in the very first episode, so I read.

Update 22 December 2014: A new series of Pilgrim has just started this afternoon on Radio 4. The Beeb hasn’t exactly gone overboard with publicising it, as the first I heard about it was when I was listening to the radio and it started! But hurrah, more, new Pilgrim!

Filming locations: Wilton House

I’ve been meaning to write about Wilton House for a while, but was spurred on today when I sold a little brooch in my Etsy shop. I sent a thank-you notecard with the order, one from a set I’d bought many years ago from the Wiltshire Records Office (as was: now the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre), and the one I chose featured a late 18th century engraving of Wilton House:

Wilton House. Late 18th century engraving.

Wilton House. Late 18th century engraving, showing the south front of the house on the left and the Palladian Bridge on the right.

(Or perhaps more accurately, an engraving of a couple of lovely trees and a party of people, with a section of Wilton House and the Palladian Bridge lurking in the background.)

I regularly drive past the impressive gates of Wilton Houseso regularly that I’ve almost stopped noticing them. Not an easy feat: just look at them! Isn’t it terrible to take something so spectacular so for granted?

The impressive gates to Wilton House. Photo by MrsCommons.

The impressive gates to Wilton House. Photo by MrsCommons.

Unlike many of the other grand houses I’ve written about, Wilton House is still a family home, the seat of the Earls of Pembroke for the last 400 years. The first building on the site was a priory founded in c. 871 AD; the first Earl of Pembroke took possession of the site in 1542. Relatively little of the first, Tudor house survives: what is visible today is mostly the Palladian building of the 1630s and 1640s, designed with the involvement of Inigo Jones, and later alterations by James Wyatt in the early 19th century.

The south front of Wilton House. Photo by John Chapman.

The south front of Wilton House. Photo by John Chapman.

Wilton House, south and east fronts. Photo by Henry Kellner.

Wilton House, south and east fronts. Photo by Henry Kellner.

Wilton House, east front. Photo by Mike Searle.

Wilton House, east front, with the Tudor tower in the centre. Photo by Mike Searle.

The interiors of Wilton House are sumptuous, and among the state rooms designed by Inigo Jones are the Single Cube Room (measuring 30 feet (9.14 m) long, wide and high, and the Double Cube Room, which is 60 feet (18.29 m) long and 30 feet (9.14 m) wide and high.

Wilton House, the Double Cube Room.

Wilton House, the Double Cube Room.

The grounds and gardens are beautiful, with one of only a handful of Palladian bridges in the country, built over the River Nadder.

Wilton House, the Palladian Birdge. Photo by Mike Searle.

Wilton House, the Palladian Bridge. Photo by Mike Searle.

Such stunning locations have not surprisingly been used a lot in movie and television filming.

There is a much more comprehensive list on the Wilton House website location filming page.

A scene from Pride and Prejudice filmed at Wilton House in the Double Cube Room.

A scene from Pride and Prejudice filmed at Wilton House in the Double Cube Room.

Update 10 August 2015: I’ve just learned that the television series Outlander has just finished two weeks’ filming at Wilton House, which is standing in for the Palace of Versailles. Apparently the British furniture and furnishings were moved out, and appropriate French ones were moved in for the duration of the filming. Plus the candle budget was £1000 a day! Simon Callow was one of the actors.

Jessie M King, Arts and Crafts jewellery designer

Jessie Marion King (1875—1949) was a Scottish designer and illustrator. She is perhaps best known for her work as a book illustrator, mostly of children’s books, but her many and varied skills included bookbinding, the decoration of ceramics and tiles, and book cover, wallpaper, textile and jewellery design. I love her jewellery designs so decided to write a short piece about her: her Wikipedia page focuses solely on her book illustrating career so I thought I’d try to fill the gap a little. If you want to know more about her book illustrations, here is a good starting point. But I am here for the jewels!

Jessie M King by J. Craig Annan (autochrome, 1908).

Jessie M King by James Craig Annan (autochrome, 1908).

Jessie enjoyed a successful career teaching and illustrating books and book covers, but as multi-talented and artistic people are often wont to do, she worked just as successfully in several other disciplines. From what I can gather, she first worked for Liberty in the very early 1900s designing wallpaper and fabrics, with commissions to design jewellery and silverwork for Liberty’s Cymric range following soon afterwards. She designed the jewellery but did not make it – that was undertaken by jewellers employed by Liberty.

Jessie’s jewellery designs can be broadly split into two types: pieces made with silver and enamel, often in quite large panels, only very occasionally with a freshwater pearl dangle, and generally more “Art Nouveauy” in feel:

Jessie M King design: silver and enamel pendant necklace and chain, dating from 1905. Made for Liberty & Co, its design is in the Liberty Pattern Book, no 8809. In the collections of the National Museums of Scotland.

Jessie M King design: silver and enamel pendant necklace and chain, dating from 1905. Made for Liberty & Co, its design is in the Liberty Pattern Book, model 8809. In the collections of the National Museums of Scotland.

Pendant necklace of silver, enamel and mother of pearl, designed by Jessie Marion King for Liberty & Co, 1904-1906. Collection of Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, UK.

Pendant necklace of silver, enamel and mother of pearl, designed by Jessie M King for Liberty & Co, 1904-1906. Collection of Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, UK.

Silver andenamel buckle, designed by Jessie M King for Liberty & Co.

Silver and enamel buckle, designed by Jessie M King for Liberty & Co.

and those made with precious metals (often just gold, or gold with silver, or just silver), precious and semi-precious stones and/or pearls, and only small areas of enamel detailing, which are generally more “Arts and Craftsy” in feel:

Jessie M King brooch design for Liberty & Co. Gold, moonstone and enamel. Liberty model number 1800. Sold by Tadema Gallery.

Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. Gold, moonstone and enamel brooch. Liberty model number 1800. Sold by Tadema Gallery.

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Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. Gold, silver, enamel and chrysoprase ring. Sold by Tadema Gallery.

Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. Gold, sapphire, moonstone and green enamel necklace. Sold by Van Den Bosch.

Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. Gold, sapphire, moonstone and green enamel necklace. Sold by Van Den Bosch.

Jessie Marion King for Liberty & Co. Gold, enamel and amethyst pendant, c. 1900. H: 5.5 cm (2.17 in) W: 2.2 cm (0.87 in) British, c.1900 Fitted Case Minor repair to enamel Literature: cf. Liberty Jewellery sketch-book, page 290 Model number: 8603

Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. Gold, enamel and amethyst pendant. Liberty model number 8603. Sold by Tadema Gallery. Shows both of her common enamel motifs, the bud and the ‘lily of the valley’/three pointed flower.

Jessie M King for Liberty & Co. Silver pearl and enamel pendant. Liberty model number 9257. Sold by Tadema Gallery.

Jessie M King for Liberty & Co. Silver, pearl and enamel pendant. Liberty model number 9257. Sold by Tadema Gallery.

Jessie M King (attrib). Silver, citrine and enamel pendant. For sale at VictoriaSterling at Etsy (click on photo for details).

Jessie M King design (attrib). Silver, citrine and enamel pendant. For sale at VictoriaSterling at Etsy (click on photo for details).

Jessie M King for Liberty & Co. Moonstone, enamel and silver pendant. Sold at Tadema Gallery.

Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. Moonstone, enamel and silver pendant. Sold at Tadema Gallery.

Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. A Glasgow School gold and sapphire necklace, Liberty pattern Book model 8498. Sold by Van Den Bosch.

Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. A Glasgow School gold and sapphire necklace, Liberty Pattern Book model 8498. Sold by Van Den Bosch.

Her colour palette is overwhelmingly blue, green and purple. I have to add this is my personal take on her jewellery and I am no expert!

The Liberty Pattern Book holds many of her original designs, each one numbered.

Some of Jessie M King's jewellery designs in the Liberty book.

Some of Jessie M King’s jewellery designs in the Liberty Pattern Book, with model number. Pattern 8605 (bottom right of the drawings) is shown in its realised form below.

Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. Gold, amethyst and enamel pendant. Liberty Pattern Book 8605.

Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. Gold, amethyst and enamel pendant. Liberty Pattern Book model 8605, shown above.

A brief biography:

Jessie was born in New Kilpatrick, near Bearsden in Dunbartonshire, and studied at the Glasgow School of Art from 1892. Here she was influenced by, and later herself influenced the world famous Glasgow Style, a development of Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movements. While at the School she was a member of what was later known as the “Glasgow Girls” group of female artists, and met and formed lifelong friendships with artists such as Helen Paxton Brown and Mary Thew.

Jessie was an award-winning student, and in 1899, the same year that she graduated, she was appointed Tutor in Book Decoration and Design at the School of Art, where she continued to teach until 1908. Her first commissions were for book covers, with book illustrations following in 1902, and it was around 1904 that she started to design fabrics for the famous firm of Liberty & Co. of London and just a little later jewellery, also for Liberty.

She embarked on a study tour of Italy and Germany in 1902, and the next year became a committee member of the Glasgow Society of Artists. In 1905 she joined the Glasgow Society of Lady Artists. Her first solo exhibitions were at the Bruton Street Gallery in London in 1905 and at the studio of T and R Annan (Annan’s Gallery) in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, in 1907.

Glasgow School of Art, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Photo by Ad Meskens.

Glasgow School of Art, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Photo by Ad Meskens.

After a ten year engagement, in September 1909 Jessie married the artist E A (Ernest Archibald) Taylor, and moved with him to Salford where he worked designing for the firm of George Wragge Ltd. Here their only child, Merle Elspeth, was born. The family moved to Paris in 1910, again for Ernest’s career as he had gained a teaching position at Ernest Percyval Tudor-Hart’s studios. In 1911 Jessie and Ernest set up their own art teaching school, the Shealing Atelier. While in Paris Jessie met and was influenced by artists including Henri Matisse, Marie LaurencinThéophile SteinlenJohn Duncan Fergusson, and Samuel Peploe; she also learned the art of batik. The couple ran summer schools on the Isle of Arran in Scotland.

The progress of World War I meant that Jessie and her family had to return to Scotland in 1915, and they settled in Kirkcudbright, at Greengate, a house on the High Street Jessie had bought in 1907 before she was married, and where she was to live for the rest of her life.

Jessie M King and E A's house, Greengate, in Kircudbright. The entrance to the 'Greengate Close' is through the open gate on the right.

Jessie M King and E A Taylor’s house, Greengate, in Kirkcudbright. The entrance to the ‘Greengate Close’ is through the open gate on the right.

Jessie and Ernest gathered artists around them, and an artists’ colony known as the “Greengate Close Coterie” became established in the cottages along an alley behind their home. Friends and visiting artists would stay, sometimes for extended periods, and “according to Robert Burns, of Edinburgh College of Art, no student’s training was complete without a stay in one of the cottages at their home, Greengate.” The cottages in the Close were known by the colour of their front doors.

Jessie was an eccentric character. She dressed flamboyantly, with a fondness for wide-brimmed hats and buckled shoes, long after these had gone out of fashion. One woman, recalling her childhood in Kirkcudbright, remembered Jessie “riding through the streets on her bicycle … We all thought she was a witch!”. Jessie believed that she had second sight, and had been strongly influenced by Mary McNab (d. 1938), her devoted Gaelic-speaking nursemaid and later housekeeper who possessed a wealth of folk tales. Jessie was so connected with Mary that her ashes were scattered on Mary’s grave. 

By the way, if you want a Greengate Close Coterie holiday, the house in which Jessie and Ernest lived in Kirkcudbright is now a B&B.

Portraits of Jessie:

Jessie M King.

Jessie M King.

Jessie M King.

Jessie M King.

Jessie M King painted by her husband E A Taylor. Undated.

Jessie M King painted by her husband E A Taylor. Undated.

Jessie M King.

Jessie M King.

Jessie M King by James Craig Annan.

Jessie M King by James Craig Annan.

Jessie M King by Ernest Archibald Taylor.

Jessie M King by Ernest Archibald Taylor.

Portriat of Jessie M King by Helen Paxton Brown, undated. In the collections of the national Portrait Gallery of Scotland.

Portrait of Jessie M King by Helen Paxton Brown, undated. In the collections of the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland.

Jessiee Marion King 2

Portrait of Jessie M King by Helen Paxton Brown, undated. In the collections of the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland.

Jessie M King by Lena Alexander. (c) Dumfries and Galloway Council (Kirkcudbright); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Jessie M King by Lena Alexander. (c) Dumfries and Galloway Council (Kirkcudbright); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Jessie M King.

Jessie M King.

Sources: Jewelry and Metalwork in the Arts and Crafts Tradition by Elyse Zorn Karlin, 1993, 139-140; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry for Jessie Marion King by Jan Marsh; Jessie M King entry in the ExploreArt at Gracefield Arts Centre website; Jessie Marion King entry in Artists in Britain Since 1945—Chapter K by the Goldmark Gallery; the Jessie Marion King Papers at the University of Glasgow; Jessie Marion King entry in In the Artists’ Footsteps; Jessie M King page on Wikipedia.

This great blog has lots of photographs of Jessie’s illustrations, book covers, painted pottery and other artworks.

Further reading: The Enchanted World of Jessie M King by Colin White, Canongate Publishing Limited, 1989; Jessie M. King and E. A. Taylor: Illustrator and Designer. Sotheby’s Sale of 21 June 1977 at the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society. Glasgow: Sotheby’s Begravia, 1977. No. 169; Glasgow Style by Gerald and Celia Larner, Paul Harris Publishing, Edinburgh, 1979; Glasgow Girls: Women in Art and Design 1880—1920 edited by Jude Burkhauser, Canongate, Edinburgh, 1990; Tales of the Kirkcudbright Artists by Haig Gordon, Galloway Publishing, Kirkcudbright, 2006; Glasgow Girls: Artists and Designers 18901930 by Liz Arthur, Kirkcudbright, 2010.

UPDATE 10 November 2015: Last Sunday’s Antiques Roadshow featured a necklace that I am 100% certain was designed by Jessie, although it was not identified as such. I grabbed a few screenshots and wrote a blog post on the necklace, with illustrations of other, similar design by Jessie.