Thursday, 20 June 2019

In The Rain



I'm identifying with this dog, sitting there and thinking, wow... I used to like writing my blog almost every day, now weeks seem to go by!  Is my life really getting that uneventful?  Oh, and it's raining.... 

The weather has been pretty bad so I've mainly been sitting indoors writing the Durrell stuff, babysitting, and that kind of thing. So it was great to go out the other day with T's cousin and her husband, who live in Bromley, a suburb in Southeast London, to visit a most fascinating house near where they live. It is the family home of the illustrator Charles Keeping. and his artist wife Renate. Both of them are now dead, but once you have seen their work it is hard to forget it

Their daughter Vicky lives in the house, with her brothers and their children nearby - they were a very close family. She is a trained artist too, so the interior is full of quirky and interesting objects - many of them small art works, family photos or strange souvenirs from travels in faraway places.  I took photos but it was difficult to convey the atmosphere, which was bright and spacious, colourful, welcoming, arty and rather glitzy too, with sparkly cushions and golden braid here and there.  And what a nice lady Vicky was - she even gave us tea and chocolate biscuits!



Charles was a printmaker, a master of black-and-white. And, although he was by all accounts a very happy and well loved family man, he also did some very sinister, ghostly pieces. As his daughter said when we were at the house, he must have bottled up all his bad feelings to release them in his work!

He was also one of the best horse painters I have ever encountered.  Here is one of the unpublished lithographs in the hallway. He came from a poor background, and as a small child had been fascinated by the huge dray horses stabled next door. His biggest treat was to be picked up and put on one of the horses. He never forgot the feel and the smell of them.  and remained obsessed by working horses all his life.  This large print shows one of the stables that used to exist in London, where the horses had to go to their first and second floor quarters up a ramp.   He captures so well the atmosphere of the London he grew up in, (and which I also partly remember), with its soot stained brick and faded advertisements painted on the walls. 


His wife came from a posh German Jewish background, and her art work is mainly stitched or else delicate watercolours. She did several major projects, including one on temptation: these cakes are all created from fabric.



Her piece de resistance is an entire room of incidents in her life, created in needlework, and based on styles of newspaper ephemera.  I found it almost more interesting than Charles' work, really. Although she did not have the same commercial success as he did, she was a true artist.  She has now passed away but there are some films of her here on the website if you are interested. 

And on Saturday we went out for a rainy walk on Hampstead Heath; it was very peaceful and beautiful.  Here is a little video.  The quiet music in the background came from what I think was a homeless man sitting on a bench not far away, with his dog. I thought it was wonderful. 


On another rainy day we cycled into London thinking the rain would stop later  (it didn't). We saw an exhibition in always-interesting Wellcome Collection, called "Smoke and Mirrors."  It is about the science behind magic. I always think people who put on exhibitions about magic have a bit of a problem since they're not supposed to give any secrets away, but here they managed very well by having psychologists explaining about misdirection, about building the audience's assumptions, and directing them to think in certain ways. (Which is a subject more than relevant in these political times, I think!)   Some tricks rely on physiological characteristics of the human brain - for instance, that there is usually a 1/10th of a second lag while our brains process what our eyes report. 

I must confess I was a sucker for most of the tricks they talked about, some of which were so obvious that I can't believe I didn't spot them.  There were numerous little films by real magicians doing versions of these tricks.   I once spent a few months doing articles about top professional magicians, and ended up having great respect for their skill.  But there is no doubt about it, they were all rather unusual people, many of them quite obsessed with their wish to baffle and amaze, and willing to practice many hours a day to perfect extremely difficult routines.       
   
I definitely fell for this charming man pictured below, an early 20th Century magician called William Marriott, who wrote a piece for "Pearson's Magazine" debunking the type of frauds used by spiritualist mediums. Here he is posing with some of his little fraudulent friends. 


and here he is with some not-so-disembodied hands!  The photo on the left shows how it would have appeared in the seance. 


So, even in the rain it is possible to have fun, but I do hope we get some weeks of summer soon!

31 comments:

  1. Hello Jenny, I love interiors in which I can visually poke around, investigating various interesting objects. And I also love those photos with the hands! I have been meaning to tell you that I recently read a book (What Mad Pursuits, by Donald Gallup) that has a chapter on collecting the letters and papers of Lawrence Durrell, brother of Gerald, for the Yale rare book library. I of course thought of you while reading that, and imagining that you must have some leads that the late Mr. Gallup could have used, or for that matter any curators of Durrell family material.
    --Jim

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very nice!
    Rained all day here. Its fun reading about your adventures.

    ReplyDelete
  3. When you mentioned Bromley, it reminded me of Ruby and Hanbury, Richard's aunt and uncle who lived near there! Also, have you seen the film, The Prestige? All about magicians, it was very well done. Goodness, it was from years ago, I am so old! Looking forward to you r book about Gerald Durrell.



    ReplyDelete
  4. I see the technique for the fabric art. Very fine work. As for the rain, we are so overwhelmed it is possible to walk only on a hard surface, and that, too, may be ankle deep.

    ReplyDelete
  5. That one picture of the house tells me exactly what you mean about how it would be impossible to convey it fully. It is crammed with personality.

    A good magician is a wonder to watch. If there was a way, i'd want them to magic you up some nice weather.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm glad you got out and about even in the rain. I've been trying to cut our grass and it's either raining, about to rain, or the grass is too wet to cut because of the rain. Now, it's sunny and dry and I can't cut it because I'm going to see my younger daughter. Oh well.

    ReplyDelete
  7. It's been a while since I have last visited an exhibition or a museum, but this type of activity is definitely very good for rainy days.
    In our regional group of the Association of Data Protection Officers we have a member who is also a magician. It is fascinating when he talks about his work outside his regular job.

    ReplyDelete
  8. It's been a while since I have last visited an exhibition or a museum, but this type of activity is definitely very good for rainy days.
    In our regional group of the Association of Data Protection Officers we have a member who is also a magician. It is fascinating when he talks about his work outside his regular job.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I hope we get some summer too!
    Fascinating and inspiring visits...but just think...when my mother was born in Bromley,it was Bromley, Kent...not just a suburb of London.

    ReplyDelete
  10. How wonderful to have a tour of the artists’ family home given by their daughter. I love to go to the homes of famous people but to be hosted by a relative of the former inhabitants is so very special.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow! You may feel constrained by the rainy weather but this is a beautiful post. I have never heard of Charles or Renata which reminds me of the fact that there are artists living everywhere who have created amazing and completely unrecognized works. Thank you for sharing that with us.

    ReplyDelete
  12. If one is deterred by rain one would never go out!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Yay! A post from Jenny to brighten the day! (Actually, today is the first bright day in I don't know how long. The sun is actually out and we might get into the 70s! Does wonders for one's mood.) But you've been having a grand time. I'm looking forward to visiting the Keeping website and learn more about them. I looked at the P-page and I recognize his style but I'm not sure if I recognize his work or just the style, if that makes sense. I suspect their life and work could be a story unto itself and much of it wrapped up in the home. Maybe post-Durrell?!!! I loved the eclectic things on the shelves in the first photo.

    Loved the video. Magic has always confounded me (I suppose that's the point) and made me uncomfortable but I'm trying to talk Rick into learning magic tricks. We'll see. The talk sounds really fascinating and as you mentioned, especially timely in today's political arena. I loved the fellow with his fraudulent friends photo!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hmmm I don't think your life is uneventful, it is just too full of Mr Durrell at the moment.
    When he has gone adventure will return.
    Such as this trip into the house and then the rain. Imagine thinking rain would stop!
    A good interesting day out.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Two very talented artists by the look of it. The cakes made of fabric look astonishingly real.

    I was always fascinated by magicians when I was a kid, and always trying to work out how they did their tricks. I used to try a few magic tricks on my sister and parents, but they usually went horribly wrong and left me cringing with embarrassment.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I love to take a walk in the rain holding an umbrella, too.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Great post, as always, Jenny.

    I don't know how people manage to post every day. I, for one, can't - and don't! :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. Your posts are always so varied and fun to read. I loved the photos too! I would not call your life uneventful at all, dear Jenny.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi Jenny, that kind of feeling can creep up sometimes can't it! However, there's always something we can do to swoosh it away and I was fascinated by this post as you describe your visit to this home.
    Not discounting Charles' work, but I was drawn straight to Renate's artwork... those fabric cakes are wonderful. Thanks for including the link to The Keeping Room, I really enjoyed seeing those displays.
    I too would have enjoyed the Smoke and Mirrors exhibition. Well done for all those great rainy day activities. Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  20. You can write as an observer or you can write as a participant. My writing has slowed down too and for exactly that reason. I'm participating. Living can keep you very busy but oh the fodder for writing you will discover. Participate on, Jenny.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I don’t dislike rainy days and don’t mind going out on a rainy day if it’s not raining cats and dogs. I like the sound of falling rain accompanied by occasional birds chirping and the ripples on the green pond surface like in your video. I wish you bright summer days sooner but hope you enjoy outing despite rain or even because of rain. To the latter, I like strolling around hydrangeas in the softly falling rain. This time of year is supposed to be in the middle of rainy season but not yet here in Nara and some other regions. May was like a real summer. I wish no more heat wave or disastrous torrential rain, which has been happening with increasing regularity.

    I’m aware our correspondence is stuck on my part for long, which I apologize from the bottom of my heart. I sometimes think of you and I really like to talk to you via comments. Have healthy, happy days ahead, Jenny. The same to T and your family.

    Yoko

    ReplyDelete
  22. Fascinating way to spend a rainy day! :)

    ReplyDelete
  23. No rain yesterday (Saturday), rain again this Sunday afternoon. I’ve just been chased in by a sudden, heavy shower, wheelbarrow and all. I have to admit that the rain mainly keeps me indoors, there is little to do here in the sticks and I do so love to have an excuse to read. Writing not so much but I think reading posts like yours which make writing an everyday part of life may get me back into the groove as well.

    London is a wonderful place, where even suburbs like Bromley have interesting spots to aim for. I had never heard of the artists you mention and I will probably have little chance of getting to know them (posthumously) or their work. Sad, really, isn’t it, that so much remains to explore and so little time and energy to attempt exploration. Ooops, I think the endless rain for what seems like weeks has made me melancholy.

    ReplyDelete
  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  25. It was really interesting to read of these charlatans, and to ponder the number of people who still put great stock in mediums, fortune tellers and seers of various kinds. It is perhaps sad that some people seem unable to accept death for the finality that it is, and want so fervently to reconnect with the dear departed that they can duped easily - and often seriously depleted financially in the process. Interesting article throughout, Jenny.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hi Jenny -- popping back to this one. I hope if you're getting rain it cools things off for you!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Interesting post, Jenny. I love your stories and photos, your video is realistic of the rainy day.
    I'm late with my comment because I'm ill now (heart) but I read your posts.
    Happy weekend!

    ReplyDelete
  28. first photo makes me smile dear Jenny ,of course one can enjoy even if it is raining :)

    your curious and fun and art loving nature always explores some unseen aspects of interesting people and things

    i am thankful for this acquaintance with late artist couple ,what beautiful people with sublime spirits !

    thank you sooo much fr sharing their unpublished art ,it is exceptional!

    loved the rain video ,how amazing that few week back my eldest son sent me exactly same video from germany downpour in the water :)

    ReplyDelete
  29. That exhibit looks really interesting. The first place, the cluttered room in the photo, would drive me nuts.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Our June was too hot and too dry...we finally have some regular rainfalls again that cool down the temperature. Sadly, they also increase the humidity.

    I love the video of the rain you posted. There is just something very soothing about listening to rain.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I can't say I ever heard of Charles Keeping but I'm very, very impressed. That one etching of Old London could easily be confused for a daguerreotype.

    ReplyDelete

Blog Archive