Sunday, 11 November 2007

No Ordinary Love - the Lost Prince - Eddy's Letters and Sickert's Art

In keeping with his dispensation as from c 1990 for using regular artist- models as basic models to assist with painting someone from memory, Walter Sickert went on to paint Catharine Eddowes, our 'Kitty K' from several new perspectives, placing her in the context of the case history and the past... as seen fresh through the eyes of the young Stuart Prince, 'Jo' .

This sequence is particularly beautiful. Other related to the Casework are more beautiful still.

Walter Sickert chose a Music Hall singer, 'Chicken,' to model for him during the 1914-16 period which saw him painting the pianos he'd long kept at no.8, Fitzroy Street and the studio at Red Lion Square . She's a funny little bint, at best; Emily Powell, a young cockney who resided at the corner of the Street, at no. 26 Red Lion Square. Royal Academy members according to Baron and Shone (1992) were at a loss to figure out why Sickert would go out of his way to procure a model like her , suggesting to Miss Gosse's outraged indignation ' Chicken must quite clearly have adored her stout and would have rocked in drunken song in the alehouse on the jolliest behind.'

Below right: the 'Chicken' preliminary sketch., c 1914/16, private collection.

Notice that Walter Sickert's allowed us to see the full room as though we're looking in at them both, from the world of the mirror. He's depicted himself pulling out a mundane draw for material, and we get the impression he's about to begin a new work, a new story sequel. On the last occasion he allowed us to see him possibly pulling material from out of a drawer he was playing on some very precious piano keys. We can expect 'Chicken's modelling for him to help him structure telling scenes featuring
'KittyK' , our Catharine Eddowes.

Left: 'Chicken', c. 1914. Provenance Edward Le Bas, by descent. A family painting privately owned since Walter Sickert's day. First exhibited London, Eldar gallery, 1919 no. 35. Last shown reproduced in Bath, 1990.

A close look at 'Chicken' in this take on the introductory 'Mrs Barrett' clearly demonstrates that Walter Sickert's going to be using Chicken as a model to enable him to paint more of Catharine 'Kitty' Eddowes. It won't come as any surprise that he goes on the use her in various poses that assist him in conjuring up KittyK .

Sickert's perhaps deliberately caricatured the original in order to avoid detracting from the introductory 'Mrs.Barrett's beauty and mystery. He's given Chicken a wickedly capricious look. The Music Hall starlet's memory of Walter Sickert appears to chime with many other people of her age: "The fun we used to have! I loved him so much." ( Sutton 1977 pp 175., in Baron and Shone, 1992.) She's kept her giggles to herself while modelling Kitty K at the grand piano, below, where her vivacious glare has melted into something quite different. The contra-jour light seeps through the window onto her back and shoulders; the place is flooded with music and memories. Sickert's beautifully captured her levity and lightness of movement.

Note how the glossiness on the lovely old piano extends to the full picture. " Chicken has been playing Les Comptes de Hoffman whil I have been painting her reflection at the piano." Sickert wrote in a letter to Ethel Sands.

Below, the first version of 'Tipperary', 1914. 50.7 cm x 40.5 cm; bequeathed to the Tate Gallery by Lady Cavendish Bentnick in 1940, after Sickert's death.

Why 'Tipperary' then Mr Sickert?

Going through the 'Tipperary' title puzzle, art experts suggest that Sickert was possibly riding the wave of 'national patriotism', applying the ditties the soldiers sang in war time ( i.e. 'Tipperary' )as titles to 'musical paintings'. Yet there is nothing so unlike Sickert as that; he is always making a send up and a display of British patriotic attitudes, let alone nationalist. In his own words, you can him on 'plumbing and offending the King', which (with habitual blasé) he rolls into one artistic context, causing his lecture audience to giggle .

He remarked at a lecture' Drawing is not simply trying to get a thing correct and despising entirely the particular instrument you are using. After all you would not do such a thing if you were playing the violin or the piano. Those instruments dictate the use you are to make of them. If in drawing you ignore that and you vilify it by trying to 'tidy up' you take away from drawing exactly that particular quality which drawing is. A drawing may be 'alive' or it may be 'dead' or it may appear to be correct but you must not mess it about. Joe Elvin used to say on some occasion when someone was rude to him on the stage- it was a very fine reply- "don't mess old England about". There is a great deal to be said for it, and there certainly is, for not messing drawing about. Leave the traces- leave the footsteps which have lead you where you want to go'. ( Walter Sickert, Lecture 30th November 1934, "Black and White Illustration.")

Another painting also called 'Tipperary', linked to the painting 'Tipperary' above, bears out the puzzle a little better:

Right: 'Tipperary', the second painting of that title. Authenticated by Lord Henry Cavendish Bentnick's handwriting on the back, 'Tipperary.'

The song 'It's a Long way to Tipperary' written by Judge and Williams was an extremely popular London Music Hall ditty in 1912, when it was regularly performed. It contains no mention of the military or the war whatever, hence the critics' puzzlement.

According to many Sickert experts ' ... a British soldier is represented leaning out of the window while listening to 'her' playing'. She, then, by this analysis would be reflected in a mirror to the soldier boy's left while he leans out of the window, looking at the garden in the daylight. The soldier's face is a little suggestive of the 'Universal Soldier;' perhaps, as with all Britons 1914, the loss of so many soldiers was on Walter Sickert's mind.......

Sickert's placement of objects and perspectives deployed are intentional. The picture is intended to be interpreted both this perspective and from yet another.

We can see the soldier boy from another perspective entirely, if we assume that he looks in through the window onto the room and the piano player from another world, where the light is quite different. As if he stands in a partition marked out by contra-jour light, looking in through the window that filters the same beautiful light onto the pianist's back in the first painting of the title 'Tipperary' ( shown two paintings above). In this case, he looks through the window that we can see exists beyond the first painting of the reflection of the pianist, in at the past. The 'soldier boy' looks in at the distant past at a woman whose face now entirely resembles 'Kitty K', our Catharine Eddowes. Her face is completely hidden . The young soldier boy hears her play the tune 'Tipperary' .

Note that the oval looking glass depicted above the piano is redundant; its frame hangs loose. The woman exists in the Jacobite 'looking glass world', where of course there are none of our mirrors. The soldier boy, from whichever perspective, is now beyond the world of mirrors and paintings; in the secondary interpretation of the picture he looks in from another world, where he lives, aving passed on- where the light is beautiful. Yet something, for him, is beautiful about the world of the little room and the piano... enough to draw him to a window onto the past.

The window is beset with the contra-jour light Sickert loved, according to the witnesses to his life.

No art critic has ever been able to identify the soldier looking through.

The funny little nose on the soldier boy is telling of the little caricature of a 'Stuart nose' .....the nose that Walter Sickert gave Jo's father, Prince Eddy, who in Sickert's secret sketches appears walking alongside a matron, tenderly holding a baby in his arms.

On the little extract from the Standard personals column 5th October 1888, there appears a message from Mary Kelly, who appears to have gone to the Standard during the week after Catharine 'Kitty' Eddowes' death. 'Last saw you in a window in May', she writes -for 'Albert Edward', identifying herself without betraying her name. Clearly, she perceives that her lover's plans have been interfered with by people who've tracked down the lovers' 'informal courier arrangement' based at no. 21 Cleveland Street, and killed their courier, her friend, Catharine 'Kitty' Eddowes...: ' Beware of false ones', she writes; - 'but never doubt my love.' ...'Last saw you in a window in May..' ' I have received neither letter or parcel.'... ' If only we could have spoken. '

Below, the relevant extract from the Song 'Tipperary', of Music Hall artists Judge and Williams, c 1912
.(click) Readers are now privy to retained Special Operations information and the corresponding Sickert inferences, and can see what Walter Sickert intended by his reference to the song.
It's a long way to Tipperary,
It's a long way to go.
It's a long way to Tipperary
To the sweetest girl I know!
Goodbye Piccadilly,
Farewell Leicester Square!
It's a long long way to Tipperary,
But my heart's right there.
Paddy wrote a letter
To his Irish Molly-O,
Saying, "Should you not receive it
Write and let me know!"
"If I make mistakes in spelling,
Molly dear," said he,
"Remember, it's the pen that's bad,
Don't lay the blame on me!"
It's a long way to Tipperary...
Molly wrote a neat reply
To Irish Paddy-O
Saying Mike Maloney
Wants to marry me and so
Leave the Strand and Picadilly
Or you'll be to blame
For love has fairly drove me silly:
Hoping you're the same!
It's a long way to Tipperary...

'Jo', the lost Prince, was among the lost and forgotten soldiers, according to Walter Sickert's friend and student Marjorie Lilly...'he was lying in France, with a bullet through his brain....' ( This is of great concern. Special Branch more than knew about this prince. Do the military secret police just 'lose' a prince..)

We can see why the emergence of this song in wartime, when it was very popular, combined with the loss of Jo, inspired Walter Sickert to hire Chicken from the Music Halls and set to work on the Eddowes /Kitty/ Mrs. Barrett series again this time. ( By the labelling, he had last worked on the 'Mrs. Barrett' series in 1906..

Walter Sickert deployed the same 'light partition' that separates the soldier in the second 'Tipperary' painting from his past, in another picture in which he highlights the concept of the boy's idea of his father . He paints the illuminated interior of a familiar café, the 'Vernet's at Dieppe' as seen from the lovely Quai Henri IV, ( a favourite of his) . The painting's title, the Music Hall song 'O Nuit d'Amour' ( Oh Night of Love) is the recognisable link to the painting of the soldier boy 'Tipperary'. The song 'O Nuit d'Amour' belongs to Offenbach's famous bacharolle ' O Belle nuit, o' nuit d'amour' from the start of act II of 'Les Contes de Hoffman', which Sickert asked 'Chicken' to play on the piano while he painted her reflection.

Below: 'O Nuit D'Amour', c. 1922 ( dated 1922, possibly before) signed bottom right 'Sickert'. First Exhibited at the London Group, 1925, no. 71, London. Last Exhibited in 1975, at Eastborne and Guildford Galleries, no. 65. Prov .Miss E. M. Hewitt.

'O Nuit D'Amour'
, c 1925. ( see also description above.) The lovely café's been given an ethereal aspect, as if the spirits we can see inside its walls have come to pay a visit. The folk on the left gathered around the table evoke the mid eighteen hundreds in their mid seventeenth century flambouyant hats, (still in military England and France during Bonnie Prince Charlie's era, mid eighteenth century, and fashionable among the 'Order of the Rose', the pro-Stuart dandy group on the 1880's, of which Prince Eddie was a member). The violinist, to all appearances quiet as the night outside, plays the violin to a heightened pitch. The gentleman in the centre of the picture, seperated from the company by a partition of convaluted contre-jour light, seems to sit confined alone beneath the same strange chandelier that we find hanging inside the revealing little Sickert sketch of 21 Cleveland Street, 'Kelly's Library.' (shown again below.) Eddie.( Albert Victor Christian Edward.)

Prince Eddie's boy, young, alive and looking at the past might envisage his father in just such a way, sitting with the old Stuart Jacobites, separated from them by an era while the violin plays music from far beyond our ordinary world.

Walter Sickert had a penchant for renting studios once used by celebrated painters and writers he admired, and renting rooms close by these refuges, where he carried out his secret painting. It could be said to have given him a sense of security; he was creating a sense of place in a world that does not accommodate genuine artistic genius. He rented no. 15, Fitzroy Street from 1913 onwards as a private studio come living quarters, and close by, the studios at no. 8, Fitzroy Street, his old tutor James McNeil Whistler's old 1880's studios, which he deployed for teaching his students. ( Marjorie Lilly, 1971). .

Walter Sickert's lifestyle demonstrates a consistent habit of renting out rooms local to studios he rented and used for private study or teaching. 'A studio and a lifestyle' could almost have been his motto. He rented the artist Constable's one time studio at 76, Charlotte Street, a stone's throw from 21 Cleveland Street's tradesman's entrance (accessible via the back yard). He used 'Kelly's Library', the secret and informal postal service, as much as the other regulars, which, by his unpublished sketches, included James Whistler, Lord Arthur Somerset, Oscar Wilde, Montague Druitt, Prince George, Lord Heuston, Stuart and Irish Fenian confederates and rebels and many aristocrats among the 10th Hussars.... among many more.

In 1974, Walter Sickert's purported son 'Joseph Sickert' ( Né Joseph Gorman), (who, as shown, was in fact the artist Walter Sickert's grandson, via Annie Elizabeth Crook's daughter, Alice Margaret Crook..., Walter Sickert being the missing father on the birth certificate of Annie Crook..), claimed that Walter Sickert had told him that in 1888, he'd rented a room at 15, Cleveland Street, close by Hammond's club at number 19. As shown, no.19 was adjacent to the little tobacconists, 'Kelly's Library' , at no. 21. Whether or not rooms at no. 15 Cleveland Street were rented by Walter Sickert is a matter for research: it clearly isn't out of the question. Critics' insistance that W.S. never rented Constable's old Studios at Charlotte Street in his youth is refuted by the man himself, in a letter to the Times, written in his declining years. ( as seen in the posts below.)

Walter Sickert left us a sketch of Kelly' Library, 21 Cleveland Street (details of Special Branch evidence and its meaning here, click). His picture captures one of 21 Cleveland Street's visiting gents in the process of collecting his letter and the 'behind the counter' shop assistant Annie Crook, carefully overseeing the transaction. Click the picture to enlarge.

The piece above is titled 'The Laundry'. ( By Walter Sickert. All titles quoted are his.) It was probaby transferred to broadsheet canvas. This is how it appeared during the 'squaring up' process. The broadsheet canvas has not been recovered anywhere, but it might yet emerge from a private collection. This sketch allows us a glimpse into the mind of the genius secret storyteller (or ‘clue giver’). Notice the little upside down chandeleer, which he connects to the pictures 'O Nuit D'Amour.'

The sketch contains two merging scenes. A 'Tobacconist-confectionner's come informal Post Office arrangement', and a 'Laundry'.

Close ‘under the magnifying glass’ examination of the preparatory sketch (right) reveals a laundress etched in pencil beneath the point where the 'informal post office' gentleman visitor stands filing through the little cabinet, looking for his letter (see right). A laundress can be seen scrubbing a shirt on a scrubbing board she dips in soap-suds. Two situations combine: a 'Laundry', and an informal postal service/post office. ( Click the picture to enlarge.)

Were this picture transferred to broadsheet canvas, the complete painting would have two titles, in typical Sickert style.

Presumably, he considered it too risky to exhibit the sketch-picture, which clearly denotes a gentleman’s 'Informal Post Office' and a Cleveland Street shop front. Were it ever painted up and the final painting gallery exhibited, he might have had the first gallery painting title down as ‘Write me a letter'( after the music hall song), or suchlike-and the second title down as ‘The laundry.’

Kelly’s Library’ , the secret and informal post office arrangement at Cleveland Street, was a well kept secret that Walter Sickert couldn’t present to the art galleries atall. he never did. Clearly this little sketch wasn't going to be exhibited at the R.A. beside ' Blackbird of Paradise', the wonderful capricious picture of Mary Kelly , depicted as a Stuart, which the RA saved from destruction- for which gesture we owe them a lifelong debt. Or next to pictures of Kitty. He painted to keep the truth alive in the world, but, supervised by Special Branch throughout his life, he could never sit there demonstrating that this was what he was doing. He drew and painted for future generations, and he believed.

Right: the preliminary sketch for 'O Nuit' d'Amour' . ( Last at Sotheby's, 1982, lot. 69.)

Notice, just as though you were the curious independant child Mr Sickert would have you be, ( he has a particular disdain for state officiousness, policing, sententious art critics and ripper obsessives) that in the 'oil sketch' (right)there is a gilded mirror at the base of the steps. In such a mirror, the chandelier in Vernet's Café will appear 'upside down', taking the shape it takes in the revealing sketch of 'Kelly's Library', the secret postal service centre at no. 21 Cleveland Street, 1888. In 'O' Nuit d'Amour, Walter Sickert communicates the reason for the messages that passed through 'Kelly's library'. A Prince and his Stuart friends' love story.

In the exhibited Gallery picture ( see above) the mirror at the base of the steps has, needless to say, completely disappeared.

'Last saw you in a window in May', wrote the lovely Mary Kelly, 'Paddy's Irish Molly-O' to her Prince Eddie, in the little newspaper personal columns to which Walter Sickert refers. 'If only we could have spoken.'...

'Last saw you in a window in May.'

This is no ordinary love.

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