Friday, 5 September 2014

Ship on the Blotter


When staying in Dulwich last weekend, H.I. and me visited the Dulwich Picture Gallery on Sunday morning - the world's first dedicated Art Gallery, brick-built in 1811 and designed by Sir John Soane.

As we exited the special exhibition of Ben and Winifred Nicholson, I was the one collared by the lady with the clipboard, to spend five minutes finding out if there was any way the gallery could have improved my experience by - for instance - making the typeface of the notices in larger print. I fell into the 56-65 bracket, so she was putting words in my eyes.

When asked what had struck me the most about the show, I branched out of the special exhibition and mentioned this portrait of Princess Victoria aged four, by Stephen Poyntz Denning, which was inappropriate for her survey, but I had to give it a mention.

We went around a corner to find it at eye-level, and I burst out laughing immediately. How disrespectful.

I see a portrait of Queen Victoria every single day - right outside our window here - and I was amazed to see that she had always been that shape and had always worn black - long before the death of her beloved Albert. The only difference is that she made damn sure she covered her ankles ever since a boy made a comment about them as she alighted from a steam train during her one and only visit to the city of Bath.

Reverting back to the special exhibition, I had to tell the truth about what had impressed me the most about it, and it wasn't the Nicholson paintings - it was the collection of Alfred Wallis sea-scapes with ships. If they had asked H.I. she would have said Winifred over Ben, because - as she always says - Winifred's are so much better. Charming pictures of children in party hats, etc.

Ben had a correspondence with Alfred Wallis down in St Ives, and Alfred would regularly send batches of his latest paintings on cardboard for Ben's appraisal, then Ben would buy a handful and send the rest back.

There is a 1938 postcard in pencil which says which ones he had selected, and their price. They ranged between 1/6 and 2/6 (that's shillings and sixpences) and one batch totalled 13/6. Not bad, considering they fetch six figures each these days.

Last year, I saw an Alfred Wallis picture of a ship, painted on an irregularly-shaped bit of cardboard, and marked 'in the manner of' by the cautious auction house. It was lovely, and I rushed home to look the subject up on the net.

It seems there is/was a brilliant faker of Wallis, and his work saturates some quite important collections and even galleries. They are almost impossible to tell from the real thing.

I decided I would put a bid on this 'Wallis', just because I liked it, and because of the slim chance it could be genuine. I didn't put enough on though, and it sold for a mere £70 or so.

This now rankles me every time I think of it. I should have put on what it was worth to me, which was probably five times as much as it sold for. I wish I could say I live and learn, but this is obviously not the case.


14 comments:

  1. I've always rather liked Wallis pictures. In fact I like most primitive painting. It must be the lack of 'pretension' that appeals.

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    1. Yes, now I eventually get around to thinking about it, I am sure you have a point.

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  2. Darling Tom,

    We declare ourselves to be in the Ben Nicholson camp if indeed sides are to be taken. However, it would be with the caveat that it is the works of his later period, not the Winifred years, which carry the greatest appeal for us.

    The 'taking up' of Alfred Wallis by the Nicholsons is most intriguing. We saw a large collection of works by Wallis exhibited at Tate St. Ives several years ago but have to say that it was the hospital drawings of Barbara Hepworth which stole the show in our view.

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    1. You two have gone right down in my estimation with this comment.

      I too saw that Wallis exhibition, and I have to say that Barbara Hepworth leaves me (and H.I.) stone cold.

      How anyone can favour Ben over Winifred is also beyond our comprehension.

      I am not sure - in the light of this - that I can lend you Harry after all.

      Please reassure me...

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  3. I like Wallis too and would certainly have loved to have this one whether it was by him or not. Maybe a couple of hundred would have secured it Tom.

    Sorry about the disembodied voice/music when you visit me - someone else says the same - but nobody else seems to have the problem. Can you give me any advice as to what to do about it please? And please don;t stop visiting me.

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    1. I'm sure a couple of hundred would have, Weave - this is why I kick myself to this day.

      Re the adverts on your posts, you need to get someone who knows what they are doing to rid you of the Trojan that you have unwittingly let into your system.

      This may mean simply taking the whole lot down and putting it up again, but - without knowing what you did to catch it in the first place - I cannot give you any useful advice, other than get someone in who can. Sorry.

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  4. She looks like Jeanette Krankie

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    1. I am sure you are right - even without knowing who Jeanette Krankie is.

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    2. Oh you soooooo know who she is

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    3. I fucking don't! I know who Widow Crankie is, and she looks exactly like you, especially around Christmas.

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  5. One wonders if you are using the whole Wallis versus Nicholson debate to disguise the real content of your post: German women have cankels! Oh, the horror.

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    1. 'Cankles' Wass? Did you mean 'ankles'? Schrecklich.

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  6. Cankle - Wiktionary:

    "Hey, all l’m saying is she’s got cankles, for God’s sake. What? Cankles! She’s got no ankles. It’s like the calf merged with the foot, cut out the middleman."

    Now that's a cankle! Where does the calf fat end and the ankle fat begin? Who knows, that's the fun!

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    1. I once knew a woman who had arsicals. You just could not work out where her thighs ended and her backside began. She had very trim ankles too.

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