The first full series of letters in the Epstein Archive have been catalogued and their records will appear on the archive catalogue on the website soon, which you can find here. This is a fascinating series of personal correspondence to Jacob Epstein and there are some very recognisable names in amongst the 30 to 40 letters that have survived. They are generally from the last years of Epstein’s life and, as you would probably expect, there are a lot gushing reviews of his work. Among the names that jump out are Somerset Maugham, John Cowper Powys, Basil Spence, John Gielgud, Rosalyn Tureck, Matthew Smith and T.S. Eliot.
The letters chart the incredible amount of works that Epstein undertook in the mid to late 1950s, such as Social Consciousness in Fairmount Park Philadelphia, Christ in Majesty at Llandaff Cathedral, St. Michael and the Devil at Coventry Cathedral, and the T.U.C. Memorial in London, along with a great many private portrait commissions.
My favourite letter, however, is from 1947 and sent by the Curator of the Central Museum Lahore. So keen was he to have an Epstein in his museum that he paid the not insignificant cost of transporting a sculpture to Lahore out of his own pocket, in the hope that he would be able to reclaim the costs from the museum’s budget in the next financial year. I wonder if he ever saw that £150 again.
Neal Rock and Gordon Cheung’s solo exhibitions close this Sunday (1 November) so catch them whilst you can! Both exhibitions feature specially commissioned new work and are accompanied by two very stylish and wonderfully illustrated publications. For one more week only, both books can be purchased at a special exhibition price: Gordon Cheung, £10 (RRP £15); Neal Rock, £12 (RRP £17.50). So, what are you waiting for? We look forward to seeing you before the week is out!
Lat night, Thursday 22 October, we hosted the first of the three events which are part of The Library of Secrets residency at The New Art Gallery Walsall. For those of you who missed it, it was a lovely evening with an interesting talk by the artist Serena Korda and book sniffer and journalist Murrough O’Brien followed by a book sniffing session!
The next free event is the Great Book Club Debate on Thurs 5 Nov at 6pm and is inspired by the controversial career of Jacob Epstein. The book club will discuss banned books and ideas of literary censorship. Chaired by Serena and journalist and broadcaster Helen Brown, the book to read is Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H Lawrence.
More than 1,600 people attended this year’s Wellbeing Festival and participated in a series of activities by local providers, organisations and artists.
These are Ron’s thoughts on the word ‘twilight’, offered him by another Walsall contributor to the Word Jar (come & pick a word if you’re near the gallery weekends in October & everyday during half-term):
Twilight – changing the clocks, autumn, apprehension, stews and hotpot, the stewjar of childhood, and when the evenings are dark, you make your own puddings.
What does twilight make you think of?
The Learning Revolution continues all through October.
Another fascinating find in the Epstein Archive this week; a small sculpture. What is striking about the figure is that its eyes are hollowed out, which make it both curious and slightly frightening. Upon further investigation, it would seem to be a bit of a mystery; it may have been a part of Epstein’s famous personal collection of non-European sculpture. It is also thought to be Mesopotamian, which would mean it was roughly five thousand years old. Then again, it may be none of these things and it could be a copy.
I found this little figure quite mysterious both in its appearance and its origins. It will be on display in the Archive Room of the Garman Ryan Collection for the next few weeks, so come along and if you know anything about it, please let us know!
I have been at The Frieze Art Fair all week. It’s a strange event. One can be forgiven for thinking that the art world is more about the enforcement of bizarre Hierarchies and adherence to crazy Etiquette rather self expression and curiosity. But among it all there are some wonderful things. The show stopper exhibition in London this week is, however, wholly unexpected.
It’s called the Museum of Everything. It’s a collection of American Folk Art crammed into an old night club in Primrose Hill. The show is the work of one man, James Brett. James has made a collection of American Folk art that in many ways is more impressive than the Museum of Folk Art in New York. The exhibition made me wonder about the collection of Jacob Epstein who had a massive personal collection of art from Egypt and Africa.
The Museum of Everything is an extraordinary ‘Pitt Rivers’. style exhibition where works of art are jammed into the space. It made me wonder about the house of Jacob Epstein crammed high with African sculpture. It must have looked great. I met Stephen Snoddy at the Fair and pointed him in the direction of the Museum of Everything. Any pictures of The Epstein House Neil?
Great to meet with the group on Wed night. I admire you’re enthusiasm and your longevity! Thank you for making me so welcome. I had a lovely time. I need one of you to remind me next week to send you the postcards you wrote to yourself.
Here’s a couple of the little poems we did.
Chocolate is dark and creamy.
Chocolate is best when shared in front of the TV.
Chocolate is mmm… lovely! ( F.M.)
Makes me want to go and eat some right now.
Better with two in. (A.A)
And here’s something I think we’d all agree with.
Smiling is the language that suits all people. (S.M.)
Pelsall Reading Group busy writing
Finally, here’s a picture of everyone writing away – very impressive. Don’t forget to come and say hello to me if and when you come into the gallery over half-term.
Thanks for making me welcome at the Vine last Thursday. Some solid writing. Heroes & Heroines for the National Poetry Day. Here are a couple – if you want to see the others they should be appearing in the foyer at The Vine in the not-too-distant.
There is a crab – he was a stalker.
And he was a sideways walker.
Litter picker by day, crab burglar by night,
Never scared to put up a fight.
Most wanted in Birmz,
He knows all the F.I.R.M.Z.
With Octopussies he’s chillin’
When he’s not killin’!
Hair dyer – Sunday cooker
Scissor Mistress – easy chatter
Money giver – complimenter
Tight hugger – hair cutter
Punches through crime,
Makes the baddies do the time,
He’s like a god who shines…
Stops the thieves from stealin’ cars,
All he does is spits bars,
Pops loads of weights,
Screams and stars.
Only one more week to apply for the Outside IN artist’s opportunity (deadline 19th October). Download the application details here and good luck!