Nothing So Lovely as a Tree

September 22, 2011 at 12:45 pm (history, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I spent last evening reviewing photographs Charlotte Frost had taken of Fanny Seymour’s sketchbooks (held at the Bodleian Library, Oxford University). Today, I sit at my desk (I call it “sitting in a hall, staring at a wall’ – but you’d have to see my ‘office cubicle’ to appreciate the poetry….), the window is high above the section of wall, and looking up don’t I see some tall, thin, green, leafy TREE — just like so many Fanny sketched!

I was suddenly transported back in time (c1830) and place (England rather than the state of Vermont).

Studying these drawings — mainly architectural (some of the Smith homes: Tring Park and Mapledurham; some homes of relatives: Castle Ashby, Coolhurst, Purley Hall; some surroundings: gardens, walks, villages) — makes me cast a glance back on my own art studies in college.

I have only two specimens in my collection (guess I didn’t care enough about still life or models to keep those studies) and really don’t recall how long it look me to do the most intensive one: a “collage” of various items all spilling over across the paper, one “scene” segueing into the next. I’ve always been rather proud of it, though. Proved — to me! — that I had at least imitative talent.

I’m dating myself here, but think of the campaign, “Can You Draw This Girl? You Might Have a Career in Art.” This was a correspondence course type of ad. I’m sure I attempted the girl or the “Bambi” deer, but I never sent anything in.

An Aside: Guess they are still around!

 

  • Art Instruction Schools — since 1914.
  • a student has actually posted an interesting “review” of the Schools; but also a complaint.
  • in a hunt for the “Can You Draw This Girl?” I came across Wikipedia‘s entry for the School.

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Universities Big and Bigger

August 13, 2010 at 4:46 pm (books, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , )

A Bodleian staff member responded to my recent query about the SKETCH BOOKS OF FANNY (SMITH) SEYMOUR! The response is mainly ‘we’re moving; even if that were not the case, we don’t have staff nor time…’.

I was, however, encouraged (or I take it as encouragement…) to contact their Imaging Services. (I had asked about obtaining an image or two; I’m not in a position to pay for a lot of images, when there are diaries and letters I should be working with, instead of topographical drawings.)

I’m happy that my inquiry was not ignored. But, at the same time, would it take that much “time” to fetch one volume, flip through it, and describe it a bit? Size of book, number of drawings, that sort of think. I know; We are talking Oxford here, and the Bodleian is large.

I have had luck, in the past, to have gained the help of Prof. Jeremy Catto and Ariel College’s archivist Rob Petre in obtaining images of letters written by young Drummond Smith (Emma’s youngest brother), and copied out by one of the Smith sisters (I suspect Maria) [2013 Update: the handwriting is that of Fanny!]. Prof. Catto owns Drummond’s letter book, which was utilized in a history of Harrow — and that’s how I found out it existed. Talk about the ‘kindness of strangers’… I was and am grateful.*

So I will toss out this request: If anyone reading this post has ties to Oxford, lives nearby etc etc, can gain access to the library collection and has a half-hour to spare, please contact me (see Author page).

The main reason for this post, however, is to recognize someone who DID have time and take the time. She is Elizabeth Dunn, at Duke University, who responded to my initial query about Mary Gosling’s diary. I have remarked on this kindness elsewhere, but want to take the opportunity to reiterate how this project never would have gotten off the ground if I had been told ‘we have no time’. Instead, Elizabeth found the volume, found the entry I was most interested in (about the Ladies of Llangollen), described the diary and the other entries, and got the twenty or so pages xeroxed and sent to me. I met her in person some months later, when I traveled to Duke and transcribed the rest of the diary.

Months later, when I contacted Stanford University for information on holdings they have, my query got a response, but the proffered assistance was never actually acted upon (and I didn’t push it, having other avenues to pursue). Few realize just how important a drop of encouragement is to an “independent” scholar.

As my main hope had been to gain a view or two of Fanny’s books, if Imaging Services is willing and able, my curiosity might be assuaged. (To the tune of their minimum £15 charge!)

Drawing meant so much to Fanny, and (unlike many female amateur artists) she had an abiding desire to draw — even after her marriage. These sketches are dated c.1828-1838; Fanny married Richard in October 1834. Sophie du Pont, whose book I am just finishing, even Diana Sperling, pretty much gave up drawing after marriage.  Lucky Bodleian for having these souvenirs of Fanny.

*I am also lucky in my friendship with author Charlotte Frost, who photographed these three albums!

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