Eyeballing Nature: The Paintings of Edward Stone

2_edward_stone__27_ 2_edward_stone__33_ 2_edward_stone__36_ 2_edward_stone__62_ 2_edward_stone__63_ 2_edward_stone__66_ 2_edward_stone__131_ edward_stone__2_ edward_stone__51_At first or casual glance the paintings of Edward Stone might seem to fit into the same category as the movement dating from the 1970s known as Photorealism. His images have that same almost uncanny sense of accuracy, a kind of frozen ‘realism’, (a word which Nabokov said should always be shown with inverted commas). The photorealist artists such as Robert Cottingham and Chuck Close achieved their effects through a meticulous process of copying and image transferrence. They treated the photograph with the same reverence as artists of previous centuries had treated nature. They would either take or select a photograph, sometimes at random, and then meticulously copy it in every detail through a process of projection and tracing. They accurately reproduced the surface effects of an already two dimensional image. The results were technically impressive in an almost cinematic sense. The images were often at a large museum scale. Their paintings also came as a shock to the system, almost a corrective during the first era of conceptualism and minimalism. Much ‘realist’ painting in the decades that followed have used the same method. It is often possible in the resulting paintings to spot which lens the original photograph was taken on.
A close study of Edward Stone’s paintings on the other hand will reveal that he achieves his version of ‘realism’ through what David Hockney describes as ‘eyeballing’. That is through looking and then patiently transcibing freehand in paint the scene in front of him.Through hand and eye he confronts the scene. Not with the eye of a single camera lens but with human eyes. Thus we have all the subtle little oddities of perception and perspective which arise from transcribing stereoscopic vision on to the flat surface of a canvas. The subtle distorting effects of looking both down and up and reconciling the various viewpoints into a single image. An act of prolonged and careful calculation and perception compared to the tracing of the flattened outlines of a photograph. In one of Stone’s several homages to the painter Chardin, this way of working produces almost vertiginous effects. A knife facing outwards balanced on the very edge of a white tablecloth. Its accompanying metal tray pushed just slightly too far over the edge beside it. Below the table a white enamel vessel holds wine bottles and this is seen in a shift of perspective from above. The table edge is seen from almost eye level. The two viewpoints are seamlessly blended.
The simple white cloth and scattered objects feature in several of Stone’s paintings. The tables might be laid laid with fish, upturned wine glasses, loaves of bread, (in one bravura passage the bread is wrapped in lovingly rendered transparent cellophane) scattered leaves, cheese fruit or vegetables, terracotta jugs also feature. These paintings act as a kind of homage to 17th c still life painting and especially to Chardin. There are however other ideas and expressions at play in these complex pictures than just a nostalgia for past art. There are occasional and playful juxtapositions. Incongrous objects, a tin toy monkey or a primitive leopard mask or African fetish might be added in among the more traditional still life subjects. These, along with the oddities of the hard won eyeball perspective, serve to undermine what might at first appear to be conventional still life groupings and compositions. These paintings are not just harking back. Far from it, the artist is recording what is around him, what enthuses him and the day to day passage of time. He is measuring out his hours.
Stone’s pictures can be roughly divided into three or four main areas: in the summer he paints landscapes, either in Dorset or of the Poitou in France. In winter he paints inside, Still lives and interiors, mainly of his cottage in Dorset and portraiture. The portraits are the rarer among his output and are often oblique. They are barely portraits at all, sometimes the glimpse of a face caught in a mirror at the very edge of an interior. That face may be turned away or absorbed in reading. The subject appears to take no interest in the viewer nor are they presented as subject to the viewer. The portrait subject is often seen from the other side of a room, distanced. Once again absorbed in some activity other than posing whether reading or using a laptop computer. The portraits are almost incidental to the larger subject which might appear to be the room itself. There are self portraits too. Equally oblique in most cases. The artist is caught in a mirror at the side of the image or in the act of painting itself. In a very few cases the artist confronts the viewer directly in a self portrait but these are rare. There is no vanity in these images just a desire to present a kind of unvarnished truth.
Edward Stone was born in 1940. The eldest son of Reynolds and Janet Stone. His father was a distinguished engraver. letter cutter, and water colour painter. His mother the last of the great Edwardian hostesses and a fine photographer. They lived at an 18th c Old Rectory in remote West Dorset. The house became a kind of literary and artistic salon and Stone grew up surrounded by a selection of mid 20th century cultural figures of many kinds. Ranging from Iris Murdoch and John Bayley to Kenneth Clark, and John and Myfanwy Piper. Thus he was exposed to enlightened discourse of many kinds. However he was also as a teenager inclined to be contrary. The writer Sylvia Townsend Warner lived nearby and took a keen interest in him she liked and admired his contrariness. In the 1950s Reynolds Stone took on an assistant cum apprentice Michael Harvey. He played Jazz records on a gramophone while working on lettering projects in the barn behind the main house. He introduced Stone to Jazz and developed his interest. Here was a cultural pursuit that was not shared with his parents, here was something of his own. His love and deep knowledge of jazz is evident in several of the paintings. An assembly on the familiar Stone cottage table top of jazz CD’s and various blue objects all arranged on a blue cloth acts as a tribute to the record label Blue Note. Other still lives include a saxophone a violin and in one or two cases photographs of another of his cultural heroes Charlie Parker.
There are many tributes and homages to Stone’s favourite painters scattered throughout his work, some overt and some oblique. The already noted Chardin often features, but there are also references to Daumier and to Corot in Stone’s French landscapes. Vermeer and Piero Della Francesca feature too. The references may be as straightforward as the inclusion of an art book displaying the particular artist spread out open on the table or perhaps postcards or larger reproductions pinned up on the painted wall behind.
Stone lives in a cottage close to his parents ex house and garden. This is the same landscape that sustained his father’s art and now often informs his own. Much of his dense and closely observed Dorset landscapes share the same intensity of vision as his father’s late watercolours and more especially of his wood engravings made from them. The same enclosed spaces. The same picture plane bounded by trees, branches and leaves. Stone lives alone and many of the pictures express this state. Two or three of the white tablecloth pictures for instance show an empty table stark white against the dark green background of the wall behind. In two instances the table is seen in close up detail and the flat surface of the white cloth is broken by nothing except a single streak of low light crossing the cloth perhaps from a near window. This sense of a reduction to basics is a new and powerful phase in Stone’s art.

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The Brighton & Hove Gramophone Orchestral Society


An autobiographical fragment


Full Frequency Recorded Sound
A Living Presence Recording

it is a warm afternoon in spring……
I began listening to classical music (classical is a catch all term for serious and composed music and not strictkly speaking accurate), so….. once again…. I began listening to mostly late 19th and 20th century composed music (would be a more accurate description of the repertoire) seriously and obsessively after I heard the last part of Tchaikovsky’s raucous 1812 overture on a Family Favourites wireless broadcast one Sunday lunchtime in the late 1950s.
Roast Beef / Bisto gravy /Batchelors tinned peas / roast potatoes / yorkshire pudding/
Followed by / CWS tinned cling peaches / or fruit salad cocktail / Nestles Evaporated milk.

All served in a cosy kitchen with the radio on and a budgerigar competing with the music.
I saved up and bought a budget label LP of the piece. I wasn’t able to afford the celebrated, if not infamous full price Mercury Living Presence stereo recording, conducted by Antal Dorati with various forces including The Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, civil war cannons and muskets and the like. In any case our Ferguson radiogram was only Mono, and I was happy enough with what I always supposed was my inferior recording (I wore the vinyl thin with constant play) it did well enough for me.
(I recently tracked this old recording down, it was Hermann Scherchen conducting the Vienna State Opera Orchestra on the Westminster label not really as inferior as I had always supposed)
My taste grew in leaps and bounds and Tscahikowsky’s cannons and carillons were soon overtaken by other sound worlds, Richard Strauss, Stravinsky and most essentially Debussy and Ravel. I bought a second hand copy of the Mercury Living Presence Paul Paray recording of Debussy’s La Mer (Mono version) and gave a show and tell talk on it at school.
Mercury were the leaders in the High Fidelity stereo sound world at that time with their Living Presence recordings closely followed by Decca with their Full Frequency Sound FFS series in both Mono and Stereo. The most treasured and lasting of the recordings I bought from this early teenage period, and the one that gave me the most pleasure, was a then new Decca recording of Ravel’s ballet Daphnis and Chloe, played by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Pierre Monteux.
The synopsis of the ballet was printed on the back of the sleeve and it began,
‘It is a warm afternoon in spring’…
That short sentence coupled with the music itself was enough to set me off on a long langorous and erotic inner journey while I listened. I listened a great deal, I wanted lots of warm afternoons in spring, and langorous and willing nymphs to share them with. There were to be nymphs….

but not just yet.
My earlier musical taste pre the French school had included an extended Richard Strauss period. The vivid complexities of his orchestral writing, the sheer noise bombast and dash of it all gave me fuel for many extended daydreaming sessions on the sofa.
In my inner cinema with the soundtrack provided by R Strauss and Sir Thomas Beecham I was always out to impress a girl. I was either on my bicycle doing the paper round which ended somehow with me rescuing a girl from danger, or I was impressing the particular object of my desire at the time ( she had been a very long running object too, from first seeing the film Polyanna at the Granada Cinema Hove onwards), Hayley Mills. In these waking dreams I often cast myself as a young conductor marshalling the forces of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. They in turn were thumping out the battle music from Ein Heldenleben which I had contrived to conduct solely to impress Hayley. ‘Who is that’? I imagined her enquiring with the obvious resolution. That is of course that she fell into my arms amazed at my abilities. What happened after that was at this stage still eagerly vague but nonetheless stirring.
It is important here to picture a juxtaposition. That of the contents of my buzzing adolescent head and the appearance and arrangement of my parent’s staid front room where that head rested. Here were islands of solid squared off furniture, a1930s three piece suite, and a round and tasselled leatherette pouffe, floating in a sea of tasteful green carpet unlined pale green self patterned, sylvan curtains in the bay window. The window faced due west allowing the filtered light of summer evenings to flood the thin fabric and the room. This same buttery light (or so it always seemed) reflected from the seemingly solid, but in reality thin walnut veneers of my father’s treasured Ferguson Radiogram while the exotic harmonies of whatever I was listening to at the time floated out from the woven fabric of the speaker grille.
Symphony concerts every Sunday, at 6.45 p.m. Over 150 symphonies & concertos in repertory. A balance is arranged between neglected music of the past, the standard works and the modern British school.
Section B orchestral, opera and ballet concerts arranged weekly on Wednesdays.
No charge for admission.
Particulars from Cyril Bourne Newton, Hon. Organiser,
10 Sackville Gardens, Hove 3, Sussex.
The above is an advertisment clipped from the Gramophone magazine in 1944. The society was still going strong in 1960 when I first visited it with my friend M W. We had been recruited at a Sunday afternoon symphony concert at the Dome in Brighton.
On our regular visits to the concert hall we had noticed an elegant middle aged man chatting to various of the younger concert goers. In summer he wore a cream linen jacket and carried an official looking clip board on which he wrote as he talked. He had long hair (for that pre Beatles time) swept back in Heseltine like wings over and behind his ears. We were very suspicious of him.
Only a few months before the truth about the disappearance of our school’s head teacher had been revealed. His trial had been reported in the local paper. He had been absent from the school for half the year. According to the deputy head he was, ‘unwell’. He was certainly that. He had been grooming boys, encouraging them to help him in garden work at the weekends and interfering with them sexually. None of us were sure how many boys were involved, none of our close friends in any case, they had probably been recruited from among the younger boys (we were thirteen or so at the time ) various names were bandied around, but we had no proof.
He had attempted to ‘groom’ me at one time when I was twelve. I had been caught talking in assembly. I was pointed out and told to report to his office. Once there he sent the secretary out and told me off. He wrote my name in the punishment book and then proceeded to talk to me about dirty photographs that he heard had been circulating in the school, (they had I had seen them) then he said that in India he had seen people copulating in the street, then he told me not to mention our conversation to anyone. Once I had left his office I told everybody of course and at once. Then a year or so later he disappeared from school, the final outcome may have been a shock but it was no surprise.
M W and I were therefore naturally suspicious of middle aged men approaching young people hiding behind the apparently official looking shield of a clipboard. So we were doubly on guard the afternoon that he approached the pair of us in the interval.
‘Good afternoon’, he said directly to me, ‘it is so comforting to see young people taking an interest in music. My name is Cyril Bourne –Newton and I run the Brighton and Hove Gramophone Orchestral Society’, he handed a card to me. ‘You might like to come to one of our concerts you would be very welcome. The address is on the card’.
I looked down, unsure what to say.
‘Oh yes’, I managed weakly.
‘Could I perhaps take your names and addresses’?
Reluctantly as if we were being recruited for the army we rattled off the facts, and Cyril duly noted them down on his clipboard.
‘Good’ he added briskly, ‘hope to see you both on Siunday next then’? he looked up eyebrows raised, smile fixed, ‘its our annual Garden party’.
We nodded.
We were convinced of the worst. We decided we would go, but only together, strength in numbers.
Sackville Gardens
We turned up on a hot Sunday afternoon to the address in Sackville Gardens a wide street leading due south to the seafront promenade. It was a big house at the sea end. It had a balcony on the first floor which would have had a sea view. An elaborate pattern of tiles led from the front gate and continued on the hall floor, and there was a sudden sense of coolness once inside.
‘Come through to the garden’, Cyril said.
We were introduced to his wife Audrey, ( a moment of relief, a wife, Cyril was perhaps not a Benge* then after all although of course our headmaster had been married) Audrey was an attractive dark haired woman. She was in the small back scullery near the garden door dealing with a tray of drinks. There was a tea urn and propped above it an imperial sheet of card with a long list of concert pieces written on it in a careful hand complete with dates. Overture, Concerto, Symphony or Symphonic Poem, the standard concert repertoire
(* Benge was our word for what would now be the admixture of both Gay and Paedo)
groupings. Here was the list of Gramophone concerts to come. In the garden were a group of people standing awkwardly around in little groups some were evidently regulars
This was the society’s annual garden party. We seemed to have lucked in as there were several young girls in summer dresses in the garden and all holding drinks.
‘These girls are students from the new Sussex University’, Cyril said. The girls smiled at us. I had no idea what to say to them and neither did M W. We were not used to making conversation with girls. We were kept segregated from the girls side of our school If anything MW, an only child, was a touch more awkward than me, at least I had two sisters, and he backed away from the girls in confusion and looked around at the border flowers. Double french windows were open into the house and he soon walked through them and vanished. I balanced my cup of tea and saucer.
‘Do you like music then’, I managed to say to the group in general?
‘I love Rachmaninov’, one of the girls said.
‘I, of course, sneered at once and pulled a face. ‘I prefer Stravinsky’, I said pompously.
‘Oh’, she said.
Cyril refreshed their drinks, ‘everything all right’?
‘Well this young man has just said that he hates Rachmaninov. He says he prefers Stravinsky, I think I have failed him’, the girl said.
‘I’m not much for the more modern school’, Cyril said brushing his hair back over his ears.
M W gestured to me from the doorway with an excited expression on his face. I left the group of girls with Cyril realising I had failed miserably, and followed M W back in to the house.
We were in what would usually have been a dining room. There was a desk in the corner and a knot of people talking together with Audrey in the middle of the room. I soon saw the reason for M W’s excitement. The four walls were shelved up to the high picture rail. And crammed into the shelves around the whole room were more LP’s than either of us had ever seen outside of a large record shop. There must have been thousands of them. M W pulled one out at random, Furtwangler conducting Wagner. Next to that more Furtwangler and so on. Everything we pulled out was deeply desirable to us as nascent collectors. It was either a conductor known to us or a composer or performer we admired and read about in the Gramophone magazine. They were all full price LP’s too, there was no sign of any Golden Guinea or Ace Of Clubs labels. These were all Decca full price FFSS’s or EMI ASD’s in their heavy card sleeves, many of them protected by polythene outer sleeves. There were American recordings too and all in S T E R E O, Mercury and RCA Victor and Audio Fidelity.
We stood in awe.
Audrey came over, ‘just admiring the collection’, she said?
‘Oh yes’, I said, and I pictured the humble little atomic style record rack at home standing awkwardly on its splayed wire legs and ball feet on the polished top of the radiogram. It was full of singles and EPs and below in the allotted space in the radiogram behind the sliding door where my two or three budget LPs were stored next to my Father’s Nat King Cole and George Greeley albums.
‘I’ll be bringing round the concert programmes on my bicycle once a season, I’ll post a copy through your letterbox if you think you would like to come again’?
The concerts were staged in the big front room of the house. There were neat rows of chairs, a mixture of dining room and kitchen pieces and some bentwood Thone style. They all faced the deep bay window. Some of the chairs had cushions on and down the southern side wall there was a large sofa, preumably for overspill.
The bay was hung with curtains which were already pulled closed against the bright evening sunlight. The curtains had a repeat pattern of Swiss chalet’s in front of vaguely defined mountains in a maroon and green colour scheme. Dead centre of the bay was a plinth and on the plinth was a large plaster bust of Beethoven who glowered back at the empty rows of chairs as if daring anyone to fill them. On either side of the plinth and strategically placed the requisite twelve or so feet apart and at just the right angle to the chairs were a pair of Quad Electrostatic Stereo speakers. They looked like freestanding copper fronted radiators. These speakers were legendary, we had never seen a pair before only read about them. On the left hand side was a tall dressing screen behind which were concealed, as if they might be in some way indecent, the ‘apparatus’, the turntable and amplifier.
M W and I sat at the front middle as close to the speakers and the sound image as we dared. The room gradually filled up behind us. Excepting the group of young students and ouselves everybody else was elderly, and all well into their sixties and seventies. They were mostly women in smart but old fashioned clothes, Edwardians I now realise, born in the late eighties or nineties of the previous century. The room was warm, close almost, the windows were closed and there was a distinct smell compounded of mothballs and Yardley lavender. There were just one or two older men apart from Cyril including a stroppy looking man with an Eagle profile who glowered around at everyone as fiercely as the Beethoven bust. While we waited for things to begin faint conversation and children’s laughter filtered in from the road beyond the drawn curtains and the closed windows. It was a fine summer evening and families were walking past the house on their way back from an afternoon on the beach.There was the sudden sense of an ordinary and robust life happening just out of reach.

Pictures show self at age 11, the house at Sackville Gardens Hove, A pair of Quad electrostatic speakers c 1958, and the same Beethoven bust that sat between the speakers





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Michael Embden The Times Obituary

For those who might have missed it here is the full unedited text of the obituary I wrote for Michael Embden which was actually in the paper on Saturday. I have added in a good selection of his marvellous paintings too.

Michael Embden

Michael Harvey Embden who died on August 21st was a landscape painter of an uncanny and astonishing virtuosity. He was born in Egham Surrey in 1948 and moved to Hove, Sussex in 1957, age 9, where he grew up. The local down land landscapes with their particular light were to prove a lasting inspiration for his later career.
He failed his eleven plus exam and was sent to the Knoll Secondary Modern School in Hove and there he was encouraged in his obvious facility at drawing and painting by an ex prisoner of war, a Latvian potter and Art Teacher Victor Priem, who along with the enlightened head teacher, Mr J K Turner, paved the way for Embden to attend Brighton College of Art full time in 1964 just as he had for one or two other pupils, a rare occurence from that particular school background.
The college of Art was at that time blessed with a very a strong team of both full and part time staff in the Graphic Design department under John R Biggs. Many of them were working illustrators, including John Lawrence, John Vernon Lord, Ferelith Eccles Williams, Peter Strausfeld and Raymond Briggs. Embden trained mainly as an illustrator in the vocational Graphics department. It was the era of the New Wave in French cinema and he went often to the Continentale Cinema close to the Art College campus in Kemp Town, and it was there in 1964 that he saw Francois Truffaut’s film, Jules et Jim which made a profound and lasting impression on him. Stylish and slight of stature he sported the Edwardian style of clothes featured in the film, jaunty striped blazers, high collared shirts, and white trousers which he was somehow able to marry up with the prevailing Mod ethos of the time. Perhaps the most lasting legacy of the film to him personally was the likeness of the actress Jeanne Moreau. Just as the lead characters in the film were affected by the enigmatic smile of a classical statue so Embden became fixated on Moreau. Then one night at a party he met Pamela Huck who was then still a schoolgirl and who closely resembled Jeanne Moreau, with the same mysterious smile, the same generous mouth, and he was smitten. That was it, he never had another girl friend, theirs was that most enviable thing, a life long and mutual love. They married in 1970 and had two children, Florence in 1977 and Oliver in 1979.
He worked successfully as an illustrator during the 1970s and 80s. He illustrated over one hundred book jackets in his characteristic and meticulously rendered style, mainly for fantasy and Sci Fi authors such as Roger Zelazny, Sidney J Van Scyoc, Gordon R Dickson, Poul Anderson, and Patricia Kenneally. This phase in his career culminated in a lavishly illustrated edition of H Rider Haggard’s Victorian adventure novel, She, which was published by Dragon’s Dream in1981 with illustration duties shared between Embden and Tim Gill. This was partly because Embden took so long over each of his full page watercolours that there was a danger the book would never be finished. At a later date the V&A bought one of the original paintings from the book.
Then in his own words, ‘During the 1990’s I gradually gave up illustration to concentrate on landscape painting. Landscape is my natural subject and has always been a major preoccupation in my work, driven by a passion for the natural world. Over the years I have developed a style which allows me to explore a strong personal sense of mood and atmosphere through the play of light. I am especially drawn to the quality of light that occurs at the beginning and end of the day; low sun and long shadows that can reveal forms in a poetic, dramatic or dreamlike way’.
His later pure landscape paintings demonstrate this passion along with all of his hard won technical prowess in that most intractable medium watercolour. His pictures are painted in pure washes with no intervention from mediums, gouache, or white body colour. They are painstakingly built up with layer after layer of fine transparent glazes with no resulting muddiness but rather a glow of light from the paper surface almost as if it were lit from within. He painted mainly the Sussex landscape of the South Downs, and his work with its luminous transparency is in many ways reminiscent of a latter day Charles Knight RWS, another down land painter who was himself vice principal at the Art College during Embden’s time there.
He more recently painted the Scottish mountains and Lochs and as ever his main subject was the subtle effects of light on landscape especially the fleeting moments at dawn and dusk which he was somehow able to capture on the paper. His landscape work proved increasingly popular and there was soon a waiting list of clients for each and any of his finished pictures which took upwards of 8 weeks to complete. He was able to offer fine quality giclee prints of his pictures at an affordable price. Embden exhibited his original paintings and prints at a variety of galleries and trade fairs, including The NEC Birmingham, and The House of Bruar Gallery in Perthshire. He also took part regularly in the popular Artist’s Open House scheme run by the Fiveways group of artists in Brighton close to where he lived, and where he built up a considerable following of eager collectors.
Music was a constant in his life providing inspiration as he worked. He enjoyed a wide range of music from classical composers such as Debussy, Mahler and Vaughan Williams to contemporary and classic Jazz, Miles Davis being a favourite.
He was diagnosed with bowel cancer that had spread to his liver and lungs in February 2009 and survived various interventions and procedures. His wife Pam was a great source of strength during his last years and was with him when he died peacefully at home.

Michael Harvey Embden Illustrator and Painter Born September 12th 1948 died August 21st 2012

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Michael Embden


Michael Embden who died on August 21st from liver cancer was a landscape painter in watercolour of an uncanny and astonishing virtuosity. We grew up together in Hove and met when we were both at cub scouts, the 7th Hove Cub group at Holy Cross Church Hall Tamworth Road close enough to Tammy’s Fish Bar to be able to cross the road and buy potato fritters after cubs on a cold evening, delicious doused with salt and vinegar. If unable to afford the fritter there was always the cheaper option of the little greasy bags full of hot batter scraps. He was younger than me by a year or so and I was his sixer in the cubs and was able to keep an eye on him when he too ended up at our rough and ready secondary modern school as an eleven plus failure. I like to think that I paved the way for him to follow me into Brighton Art School as I was the first from the school to go in 1963, he must have started in 1964. I can still see in my mind a large drawing he made in the school art room. It was a close up portrait of a spitfire pilot wearing his flying helmet goggles and mouthpiece framed in RAF roundels, all drawn in blue and brown coloured crayons and demonstrating the first glimmer of his later technical mastery. We went often to the Continentale Cinema in Kemp Town Brighton and it was there in 1964 that we saw Truffaut’s Jules et Jim which made such a profound and lasting impression on us both. We became obsessed with the Edwardian clothes, striped blazers, tight high collars, and white trousers which we were somehow able to marry up with our mod style obsession, we loved the music by Georges Delerue and sought out the OST EP of the score which featured the most lasting legacy of the film on its sleeve, Jeanne Moreau herself. We literally worshipped her, she was the one for us we were like Jules and Jim affected by the enigmatic smile on the statue. Then one night at either a party or a dance I am not sure which he met Pam who was then still a schoolgirl and who was for him Jeanne Moreau incarnate, same smile same mouth, and he was smitten. That was it, he never had another girl friend theirs was that most enviable thing a life long and mutual love.
I left Art School and I moved to London and after that I only saw him sporadically, not out of any antipathy it was jujst the way things turned out. I got busy and he got busy and that was that. I went to see Phil Silvers in A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to the Forum at the Theatre Royal Brighton and Michael was there like me because of his profound love of Sgt Bilko. I noted his work over the years from his extraordinary illustrations to She by H Rider Haggard to his later pure landscape paintings which saw his all his techical promise demonstrated so early on in the school art room and like me encouraged by the marvellous art teacher Victor Prejm brough to a stunning fulfilment. I last saw him when I visited his house a few years ago and we spent a very happy time listening to music on his state of the art stereo Hi Fi system( in the old proper sense) and played vinyl recordings of Mahler and Vaughan Williams. He moved and I lost touch and addresses which shifted more than once. I was in e mail contact fairly recently and he said he couldn’t reply at length he was too busy but would later. A few days later Pam contacted me to say that he was in fact now very ill and it was only a matter of weeks. I started drafting a letter, and then scrapped it, then tried again, and then again, never getting the tone right and then today I heard he had died. So in a way this is the letter, sadly too late. Here also is some of his work too. To see more visit the website http://www.michaelembden.com/

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This Running and Jumping Business by Gracie Greyhound

Most of my day is spent in a dreamy kind of lolling, snoozing and yawning. This befits a high born girl who ran 88 races at a provincial dog track (Hove in fact actually) and is now resting retired. So here I am lying comfortably on my dog bed provided by the Master, who sits close by tapping at his desk allowing me a full view of the garden. Now it must be said straight away that this garden is a suburban affair, nicely tended and long enough by local standards. I position myself so that I can see out of the open door of this work hut, referred to by Mr delusions of Russian grandeur as a Dacha, sigh, ( note this is west London not the Black Sea). My position enables me to keep an eye on things especially the top of the fence close the veranda of the ‘Dacha’ because occasionally a few times in a day something grey and furry runs along the top edge of the fence.
I mentioned the men in white warehouseman’s coats once before. Shifty looking geezers with roll ups glued to their lips and a purely mercenary attitude to us dogs. They used to walk us out to the traps at the stadium, there we were shivery and muzzled, locked away in a box wearing a jacket with a demeaning number like a prisoner in a Victorian jail. Then of a sudden the trap front was lifted and there before us was an electric replica of what trots up and down the fence now. That was when I ran. When I want to run I can run, and I can run really fast and I can jump too. I am afraid that he who fumbles daily with my collar and lead would have a very hard time catching me on the flat, or anywhere else. When I see a squirrel on the fence near the veranda it is as if the old trap front has been lifted, I can hear the crowd once again roaring and baying for their money, I can see the nod of satisfaction of the man in the white coat and flat cap, and I am off down the garden like a rocket. Now this upsets the Master who is sitting ‘quietly getting on with stuff’, that is if he isn’t on the phone talking interminable nonsense with his best friend about British Films of the 1950s, and he almost leaps to his feet and calls out, ‘No’, or ‘stop that now ssh’, as if his feeble entreaties will cut through my years of training by white coat fag in mouth man and all my instincts, once I’ve seen the red mist I’m off and that is that. Up and down I run and also manage some high jumping at the same time, it feels and I’m sure looks as if I am on springs, all four of my slender elegant but well muscled legs seem to leave the ground at the same time as I rise straight up in the air, no mean feat. Of course I do not bark, I will not bark however great the provocation, barking is so vulgar. I breathe heavily instead like a dodgy man in a grubby mackintosh using a public telephone in Soho in 1971, puff pant puff pant, a certain amount of tongue reveal, and then its gone, the squirrel that is, but I am in the zone now and can’t give up. A few further runs up and down, a few more plaintive cries of, ‘stop that’, or ‘come here at once,’ from him, nothing to worry about there. And then calm returns, the squirrel is too far and too high in any case I amble back to my soft dog bed and slump down one paw crossed over another as if nothing ever happened. I feel a lot better though, and my eyes are wide open, and attentive, well maybe just the one eye is attentive to any possible squirrel activity, meanwhile he is yelping on about how much he likes the sound of Geoffrey Keen’s voice, how comforting it is and so on, likes the sound of his own voice more like. Another bulletin as and when the mood takes me….. yawn……

Some of my lively ancestors on a night hunt.

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Edward Bawden from Signature July 1936

Some examples of graphic work by the great Edward Bawden as reproduced in Signature Magazine in July 1936. Added here as a tribute not only to Bawden but also to my friend Peter Sampson who died a few weeks ago and whose obituary was in The Times yesterday June 14th 2012.

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Elegy for a Cinema / The Granada Hove /

The Granada cinema in Hove was the first Cinema I ever went to. It would have been in about 1949 / 1950 when I was three years old. I was both excited and terrified. It was then a single screen auditorium with over a thousand seats and a balcony. My only memory of that first visit is of walking down the slope towards the screen in a vast room full of people and tobacco smoke in the projector beam and then during the film hiding, buried in my mother’s lap, and the sound of gunfire. We went every week sometimes twice a week. This of course was in the days before television. The programme changed midweek. I queued with my father outside for what seemed a long time to see The Crimson Pirate with Burt Lancaster. We queued down the long side wall on Portland Road and then had to occupy the standing room because the auditorium was so full. I went to Portland Road school, Infants and juniors, and the cinema frontage overlooked the playground. You can see the corner of the playground railings opposite the cinema entrance. Certain films were advertised with large cut outs which were hung from the overhang above the steps. I can vividly remember the cut out of Robbie the Robot holding Ann Francis in his arms which advertised Forbidden Planet, a film we were all too young to see alone and yet we had all seen the trailer the week before and it was a badge of honour to have seen the film itself in all its wide screen Metrocolour glory. So many films seen there, not least during the ABC Minor’s matinees on Saturday mornings. So many fears and dreams in that big shared space. A friend contacted me recently to say that the building itself had finally been demolished. It had been closed and rotting for a while, Buddelia grew from all the cracks on the facade and it was painted in hideous blue and white. Now it is no more, but the space lives on in my memory. I can see it clearly from my earlier visits plush and brown and all down the sides there were caryatids supporting the ceiling lights, they vanished during some early 1950s modernisation but I remember them, and the swirling fug of smoke rising in the projector beam, the blaring fanfare of Pathe News, the smart uniforms of the usherettes and the cavernous sound of the film heard from the lavatories at either side of the screen. I also remember fondly the girls a little older than myself who often took me to see films, Anne Muggeridge and Diane Ratley, where are you now? I thank you for bothering, and oh how we loved Doris Day in her buckskins. RIP Granada Hove.

I have stolen the pictures from various sites so apologies to all the owners of copyright that I have infringed.

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Janet Stone Photographs

Here are eight or so recent scans from my late Mother in Law Janet Stone’s extensive archive of negatives, transparencies etc. Her photographs were all taken from the 1940s through until the early 1980s, often of the various visitors to her and her husband Reynolds Stone’s house in west Dorset. The quality of the visitors speaks for itself. It is hoped that an exhibition of her photographs will be mounted later this year and I will of course be posting updates as well as establishing a separate blog for her images later on.

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Le Bois Des Moutiers at Varengeville Normandy

Seeing the piece in The Times last week about the possible threat to Lutyen’s wonderful Arts and Crafts house in Normandy, Le Bois Des Moutiers reminded me of my first visit there in 1982. The house is not far from Dieppe on the outskirts of the coastal village of Varengeville. Georges Braque spent time in the village and is buried in the local cemetery as is the composer Albert Roussel. Monet painted on the cliffs and the banking family the Mallets had Edwin Lutyens, then 29, build them their very English arts and crafts style house complete with a garden by Gertrude Jekyll, all inspired apparently by houses that the Mallet’s had seen at Ventnor on the Isle of Wight.
I visited the house with my friends Glynn Boyd Harte, and Jonathan Gili. We were on a weekend visit to Dieppe in emulation of a visit made and recorded by the illustrator Edward Ardizzone some years before. Jonathan wanted to publish an echo of that visit to be written and illustrated by Glynn at the same time as he published the Ardizzone account. The earlier visit had included the artist Barnett Freedman which is why I was there as kind of Barnett Freedman makeweight. Glynn had an introduction to Mme Mallet and a parcel to deliver to her from our friend Simon Rendall of the Cygnet press. We arrived late on a winter afternoon as the sun was setting. I had my camera and took some not very good photographs. Mme Mallet could not have been more charming. She made us tea and before showing us the beautiful music room insisted on putting some Chopin on the gramophone. There was a William Morris / Burne -Jones tapestry on the stairs and English children’s books (Walter Crane and Kate Greenaway) in the nursery along with copies of Country Life, almost the only authentically French thing in the whole house was Mme Mallet herself.
Some years later, 1998 came the centenary of the house and the Art Workers Guild wanted to celebrate it. Each member / Brother / would either draw, paint, sculpt or print in honour of the house. I wanted to publish a book, a short work of fiction which I would provide an illustrated frontispiece for. In the end the Ulysses Bookshop published it having persuaded Jeanette Winterson to write a story based on the house, which became The Dreaming House, each of the special copies being hand coloured by me, (see gallery).

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Barnett Freedman, MacDonald Gill, and Colne Valley Cloth

Some images from a book published by The Huddersfield and District Woollen Export Group in 1947. What could have been a dull concoction of facts figures and diagrams is turned into something special by the Curwen Press and their roster of artists. No job was too mundane that it could not be made into something beautiful and fun to make. The wrapper, book covers and end-papers are designed and hand lithographed by Barnett Freedman, the master of auto-lithography. There are several maps drawn and lettered by MacDonald Gill the lesser known brother of Eric Gill, including a fold out and spectacular coloured map too big and elaborate to scan. There are also a series of workmanlike but excellent line drawings illustrating the text by Harold Blackburn. All in all a stunning example of The Curwen press ethos.

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