Richard Ford’s grave in Heavitree. Photograph by the author.
Tucked away under a tree in the churchyard of St Michael’s, Heavitreee, by the edge of a path I once walked on a near-daily basis, lies the resting place of Richard Ford (1796-1858), Hispanicist, writer, art collector and historian. After spending several long sojourns in Spain in the early 1830s he moved to Exeter to be near his brother James Ford (1797-1877), later a Canon of Exeter Cathedral. After Richard bought Heavitree House in the summer of 1834, he filled it with books, antiques and artwork that he had brought back from Spain, and laid the gardens out using Moorish designs and artefacts.
The house, sad to say, was demolished by the council after WWII and the site is now occupied by a housing estate. Photograph by the author.
In 1840 Richard Ford met the Scottish writer and art historian Sir William Stirling (later Stirling-Maxwell, and 9th Baronet of Pollok (1818-78), who had also travelled in Spain and shared Ford’s deep interest in Spanish art and artists. The two men began corresponding on the topic. Ford’s Handbook for Travellers in Spain (1845) proved highly popular, and was reprinted in 1847, the year before Sir William’s four volume Annals of the Artists of Spain was published. This was the first scholarly history of Spanish art in English, and was chiefly responsible for making known the works of El Greco, Goya, Velazquez, Ribera and Murillo. It was, moreover, the first book on art to be illustrated with photographs. The first three volumes featured texts by Stirling Maxwell, whilst the fourth was a supplement of illustrations printed in a limited edition of 50 copies for his circle of friends and family. Sir William had taken a camera lucida on his first trip to Spain and used this as a drawing aid, but it is possible that his inspiration for using the calotype process to illustrate his book came from seeing Talbot’s Sun Pictures of Scotland (1845) or the earlier Pencil of Nature (1844.) Hill & Adamson were also commissioned to produce calotype images for the volume, but – for various reasons – their work was not included.
One of the images from the fourth volume of ‘Annals of the Artists of Spain’ (London: John Ollivier, 1848)
There were 68 photographs in all, taken by Nicholas Henneman using Talbot’s calotype process. Henneman had entered Talbot’s service in 1826 but was later trained by him as a photographer and placed in charge of the printing establishment at Reading. Many of the Spanish photographs were made from the original paintings, which had to be photographed outdoors in the sunshine due to the long exposure times required. When this was impossible, existing engravings were used. Several artworks were borrowed from Richard Ford, who died of Bright’s Disease ten years later at Heavitree House on 31 August 1858.
Ford’s headstone, with the inscription ‘Rerum Hispaniae indagator acerrimus’ – Most keen investigator of all things Spanish. Photograph taken by author, in very bright sunshine!
A set of the Annals of the Artists of Spain was retained at Pollok House, Sir William’s mansion in Glasgow, and a place very familiar from my childhood: in addition to regular visits to the parkland surrounding the house, my parents often went to dinner dances there, and I got to see inside the house from time to time. I still have distinct memories of seeing prints by Goya and Piranesi around the walls. When I began working in the Special Collections Department of Glasgow University Library, the Stirling Maxwell collection of emblem books became a favourite haunt, second only to the early photographic collections. Sir William’s fascination with emblem literature led him to collaborate with Richard’s brother, Canon James Ford, on the book ‘Ut Pictura poesis,’ or An attempt to explain, in verse, the Emblemata Horatiana of Otho Vaenius (London, 1875.) The preface and epigrams were written by Ford, while Stirling-Maxwell provided bibliographical notes.
The Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid is currently running an exhibition about Sir William’s volume – but Copied by the Sun/Copiado por el sol: Talbotype Illustrations to the Annals of the Artists of Spain closes tomorrow, so you’ll need to hurry if you want to catch it! Otherwise, there’s a massive catalogue published to accompany the exhibition, and the following are also well worth reading if anyone wishes to learn more:
Hilary Macartney, ‘William Stirling and the Talbotype volume of the Annals of the Artists of Spain.‘ History of Photography 30:4 (2006) pp.291-308‘The Reproduction of Spanish Art: Hill and Adamson’s calotypes and Sir William Stirling-Maxwell’s Annals of the Artists of Spain.’ Studies in Photography (2005), pp. 16-23.Gilbert, E.W. ‘
Richard Ford and His Hand-Book for Travellers in Spain‘ The Geographical Journal Vol. 106, No. 3/4 (Sep-Oct 1945), pp. 144-15Radford, Cecily. ‘Richard Ford (1796-1858) and his Handbook for Travellers in Spain.’ Transactions of the Devonshire Association, Vol. 90, (1958) pp.146-166
It is 49 years now since the death of Anton Walbrook, which took place at Garatshausen on this day in 1967. I have written more about his death here and here, but this year I am sharing an image of his will, which was written just four weeks earlier, on the 10th July 1967:
It was my intention that my biography – which explains more about his relationship with Eugene Edwards – would be published next August to mark the 50th anniversary of Anton’s death, but this is looking increasingly unlikely now. Hopefully the delay won’t be too long. In the meantime, may he rest in peace.
Readers of this blog may be interested to see this short and somewhat terse letter from Laurence Olivier to theatrical bookseller Barry Duncan. which recently came into my possession.
Olivier was indeed ‘fully occupied’, as he was then playing the lead role in the Old Vic production of King Lear, which he was also directing. The play was being performed at the New Theatre because the Old Vic had been damaged by bombs during the Blitz and did not reopen until 1950. The New Theatre (now renamed the Noel Coward Theatre) was almost next door to Duncan’s bookshop, although the SW1 postcode on the envelope (below) indicates that the letter was posted from elsewhere – although not the home he shared with Vivien Leigh, as Durham Cottage is situated in Chelsea’s Christchurch Street, SW3.
Duncan is best known now as the author of The St. James’s Theatre: its Strange & Complete History 1835–1957 (London: Barrie & Rockliff, 1964) but at this time he ran a bookselling business specialising in theatrical material and old prints.
The actor would be knighted a few months later, in May 1947. I have written about Olivier, Vivien Leigh and Anton Walbrook here, but for those wishing to read more I can strongly recommend this website.
Henry Lehrmann with a folding camera (probably a Premo Pony) in ‘Making a Living’ (Lehrman, 1914), Charlie Chaplin’s first movie
On Sunday I travelled up to the historic village of Lacock to give a talk about the way photography has been depicted in the movies, discussing over 100 films from 1914 (above) to the present day. My talk was delivered in the village hall, just a few hundred yards from Lacock Abbey where William Henry Fox Talbot produced the earliest surviving photographic negative in the summer of 1835.
Lacock Village Hall, with the spire of St Cyriac’s peeking up behind
Sign above the door; unsure if my talk could be classed as entertainment, but hopefully the audience enjoyed it as much as I did
My talk looked at the way photography has been portrayed in the movies, focussing on three main areas : 1) hardware – trying to identify the cameras used, and discussing the accuracy of the models 2) processes – were the film-makers interested in the working methods of photographers, such as as how to hold and shoot a camera, or darkroom techniques? 3) the photographer as a personality – how do the movies portray photographers as people? are their characters generally positive or negative? has the pattern changed over the decades?
Rosina da Silva (Minnie Driver) solves one of the most problematic challenges faced by pioneer photographers such as Talbot – the fading of prints – in ‘The Governess’ (Goldbacher, 1998)
Danny Lean (James Cagney) swaps his gun for a Leica II in ‘The Picture Snatcher’ (Bacon, 1933) as former criminal tries to go straight.
The talk took a roughly chronological approach, but was arranged thematically too, with sections discussing different categories of photographer: the amateur (including spies and criminals), commercial worker (portrait studio, glamour), press – both paparazzi and investigative reporters – with a special slot for war journalism.
Alec Guiness as Henry D’Ascoyne in ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’ (Hamer, 1949), with his Sanger Shepherd
Dozens of film stills and clips were shown, and a handout listed over 140 movies, with details of the character, actor and camera. The list was by no means exhaustive – there are another thirty odd films in my notes still to be added, and two more films occurred to me while driving to Lacock!
Bob Hope as baby photographer Ronnie Jackson, operating a Zeiss Ikoflex in My Favourite Brunette (Nugent, 1947)
Although due space was given to iconic films such as ‘Rear Window’ and ‘Blow Up’, I really wanted to showcase as many lesser-known movies as possible.
The wonderfully-named Vesper Lynd (Ursula Andress), shooting Peter Sellers with a Hasselblad in the Bond spoof ‘Casino Royale’ (Hughes et al, 1967)
The sheer range of movies and variety of photographic activities made for a colourful presentation – although few of my photographers were dressed quite as colourfully as Ursula Andress here.
Carl Boehm as Mark Lewis in ‘Peeping Tom’ (Powell, 1960), one of several films I discussed that depict the dark side of photography
One of numerous anomalies highlighted in my talk: Ryuichi Sakamoto (Amakasu Masahiko) shooting with an Exakta VXIIa (or b) during a scene set in 1934 – many years before this particular camera was issued.
Like the camera above – from ‘Rear Window’ (Hitchcock, 1954) – all good things must come to an end, and I wound things to a close after speaking for over ninety minutes, far longer than intended.
Lil Dagover (1887-1980)
Starred with AW in Eine Frau die Weiss Was Sie Will (Victor Janson, 1934)
Lil Dagover was born Marie Antonia Siegelinde Martha Seubert on 30 September 1887 in Java, where her German father was working as a forester. She spent the first ten years of her life in the Dutch East Indies before being sent to be educated in Germany and Switzerland. She began acting in her late teens, and in 1917 married an actor named Fritz Daghofer. The marriage only lasted two years, but it brought her into contact with directors including Fritz Lang and Robert Wiene. She appeared in Lang’s Harakiri (1919) – a variation on Madame Butterfly – and in Wiene’s Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari played Jane, the dark-eyed girl who is kidnapped by Cesare (Connie Veidt), below:
Lil in ‘Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari’ (Wiene, 1920)
Her striking looks inspired Max Reinhardt to have her personify ‘Beauty’ at his new festival in Salzburg in 1925, a role she reprised for the next six years. Unlike many other silent actresses, she survived the transition to sound, and her acting skill probably benefited from her brief visit to Hollywood in 1931 to star in The Woman from Monte Carlo. She certainly appears more lively and natural in her performances after she returned to Germany, and this too is noticeable in her co-starring role with AW.
As it’s based on an operetta by Oscar Strauss, Eine Frau die weiss was sie will (Viktor Janson, 1934) has both a musical plot and plenty of musical numbers. Lil Dagover plays Mona Cavallini, an opera star who is much admired by the men, especially the debonair Axel Basse (AW, of course.) Unfortunately, he also has an admirer – the lovely young Karin (Maria Beling), daughter of stern industrialist Erik Mattisson (Anton Edthofer.) Entirely smitten with Anton (well, who wouldn’t be?), and frustrated at his infatuation with the opera singer, Karin asks her father to arrange for a meeting with Cavallini so that she can explain about her feelings. Her plan is successful – Cavallini spurns Axel’s advances and instead sends him in Karin’s direction, resulting in their marriage.
AW and Lil in ‘Eine Frau die weiß was Sie Will’ (Janson, 1934)
What Karin doesn’t know is that Cavallini is actually her mother, who left her husband and infant child many years earlier for a career in showbusiness and has been prevented by Mattisson from ever having contact with her daughter as a result. Matters become complicated when Karin learns that her husband has met Cavallini behind her back. Upset at the thought that he’s having an affair, she decides to get her revenge by having a fling with another man. Cavallini learns of her plan – but can she stop her daughter destroying her marriage? Will she reveal her identity to Karin? Things are resolved, as one would expect, with a great deal of light-hearted melodrama and singing.
A talented singer as well as actress, she did her own dubbing in foreign languages for multi-lingual releases, and worked with many of AW’s peers, such as Reinhold Schunzel for whom she played London fashion queen Jennifer Lawrence in Das Mädchen Irene (1936.) She was honoured as a Staatscchauspielerein (State Actress) by Goebbels for her role as the adultress Yelaina in Die Kreutzersonate (1937). and enjoyed a successful film career that continued throughout the post-war era and – like AW – led her onto German television in the 1960s.