Erotic depictions of women in drawing, painting, sculpture and photography from the dawn of man to the present.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Model Venus: Ethel Warwick in Preparing for the Bath by John William Godward

Godward, Preparing for the Bath (1900)

This painting by classicist painter JW Godward also goes under the names The Toilet and The Toilette.  It is set in the tepidarium of a Roman bath and some of the fixtures seen in the painting, such as the arched porphyry carvings on the wall,  are copied from originals found in Pompeii.

Godward, Preparing for the Bath (study) (1900)

Some commentators have wondered if Godward originally intended the figure to be naked, as seen in this study for the painting, but Godward often added drapery to his naked figures afterwards.  It is arguable, too, that his draped figures were more successful than his nudes and this painting is one of his greatest masterpieces.

Draper, The Lament for Icarus (1898)

The splendidly proportioned model for this painting was Ethel Warwick, who took over as Godward's principal model from the Pettigrew sisters.  Warwick was born in Hardingstone, Northampstonshire in 1882 but was brought up in Hampstead, London and, unlike most of the the other models we have looked at here, was an art student herself.  She studied at the London Polytechnic and the Black School of Art in Camden and lived, like most of the other figures we have looked at in our previous posts, in West Kensington, where there was a large artistic community.  She started modelling to help pay for her studies and the first artist to use her extensively was Herbert Draper, whose paintings we have looked at in detail, here and here. Draper probably met her when she was modelling at the Lower School of the Royal Academy, where she started posing as a sixteen year old from early 1898, as he inevitably chose his models from there.   She can be seen in Draper's picture The Lament for Icarus, supporting the fallen Icarus' body.

Draper, Ethel

Draper regarded Ethel highly and, unusually, drew a portrait of her, something he did not habitually do of his models.  Like most artists of the time they often used different parts of different models' bodies to produce one finished figure, so to single out Ethel like this was a particular accolade.

Steer, Hydrangeas (1901)

Another artist who drew Ethel was Philip Wilson Steer, who, as we have seen, used Rose Pettigrew in a slightly earlier period, before the latter's marriage.  Ethel is the subject of Steer's Hydrangeas, where she is seen teasing Steer's cat with a string of pearls.  

Steer, Convalescent (1898)

Steer, Ethel Warwick (1901)

She had something of a teasing relationship with Steer too, writing him flirty little verses:

Oh poor old W.S.,
Your thoughts I'd like to guess,
You are so deep,
But ere you sleep,
You, like us, undress.

Steer caught her refined beauty in a number of portraits.  Probably referring to the fact that she was a sought after model she wrote in one of Steer's sketch books: "Chase me boys".

 Whistler, Ethel Warwick asleep on a sofa (1900)

Whistler, Ethel Warwick holding an apple (1900)

One who would, most probably, have been interested in chasing her was James McNeil Whistler who produced a couple of sensuous nudes of her.  Not averse to having flings with his models he was particularly upset when she got married.  Whistler was impressed enough with her painting to urge her to make a career as an artist.

Godward, Ethel Warwick (1898)

It was Godward who used her most as a model, however.  His first painting of her was a contemporary conventional portrait and her intelligent beauty shines from it. 

Godward, Study of a head in drapery, Miss Ethel Warwick (1898)

He soon had her dressed up as one of his classical maidens however, with this more typical portrait appearing the same year.  This painting sold this summer for £221,000.  

The Delphic Oracle (1899)

She featured in  a number of his classical paintings from 1898 to 1900, particularly when he discovered that she had no reservations about posing nude whatsoever.  In fact, at the turn of the century, the role of artist's model had lost a lot of its stigma.  Even middle class women were tempted by the money (the Royal Academy paying particularly well) and the social opportunities linked with the artists' life style.

Sambourne, Ethel Warwick at the Camera Club (1900)

As we have seen, cartoonist and photographer, Edward Linley Sambourne used some of the top artists' models of the time for his own studies and he photographed Ethel Warwick in 1900 and 1901.

Here Sambourne has photographed Warwick (right) with another young Royal Academy model, Mable Hall, who was seventeen (just a year younger than Warwick) when Sambourne took this photograph of them in July 1900.

Sambourne, Ethel Warwick

Sambourne being Sambourne, he got the still teenage Ethel to pose naked, capturing her statuesque figure for posterity.

Usually, at this point in their stories, our models disappear into obscurity or marriage.  Not surprisingly, marriage brought an end to the nude modelling careers of most women.  Ethel Warwick was a more ambitious woman, however.  Realising that, despite Whistler's encouragement, she couldn't earn a living as an artist she took up a friend's suggestion of studying acting.  She attended the drama school of well-known actor Henry Neville (1837-1910) in Oxford Street.  In 1900 she made her stage debut in The Corsican Brothers at the Grande Theatre, Fulham.  She was terrified, as she hadn't so much as had a walk on part before and she had dialogue from the start.  Neville, who was with her backstage, patted her on the back and just told her to remember her first line. As that line was "courage, courage!" she, indeed, plucked up her courage and was alright as soon as she stepped out onto the stage.

Ethel Warwick (1901)

Her career move was a success and her much reduced modelling work had to fit around her touring as an actress.  By 1901 The Sketch, underneath this fetching portrait, described her as "a clever young actress who has been playing and understudying at Her Majesty's Theatre".  She had got a two year engagement at Her Majesty's, on Haymarket, through Neville's contacts with Herbert Beerbohn Tree (1852-1917) (one of whose illegitimate children was film director Carol (The Third Man) Reed), the actor who had become the manager of Her Majesty's in 1887.  Tree offered to take her on because she "walked well".  In her first role at Her Majesty's in Herod, she only had one line but acted as understudy to lead actress Frances Dillon.  Three days into the part Dillon was taken ill and Warwick had to understudy, even though she hadn't read the part but had only watched Dillon on stage.  Tree was delighted with the way she handled the part and from then on got leading roles, including Shakespeare comedies.

In 1902 she appeared in the melodrama Heard at the Telephone at Wyndham's Theatre.  An artist's impression of the play by top illustrator Fred Pegram, appeared in the relatively new illustrated weekly The Sphere, a rival to The Illustrated London News.  She was now taking female lead roles after less than two years in the business.

Here she is in a magazine in May 1902, still just nineteen years old.  Of course her looks can't have exactly hindered her either.

With Arthur Wotner as Ben Hur (1902)

In 1902 she took over the role of Iras in the epic production of Ben-Hur, which had been taking in so much money that other theatres temporarily shut down until the production closed, as they couldn't compete.

She was always recognised for her beauty as well as her acting, with The Sketch in 1904 featuring her as a beauty of the stage and noting she was on tour in the provinces.

Here she is in 1905.  She toured doing a number of  mainly Shakespearean parts, which she said were her favourite, especially the role of Juliet.

Ethel in 1906

In 1906 she married a fellow actor, Edmund Waller.   Waller's father, who was born in Spain, was also an actor as well as a theatrical producer.  Waller's mother was also an actress and took Ethel on tour with her.

In 1907 she toured abroad for the first time, visiting South Africa with the actor William Haviland (1860-1917).  By this time she was well known enough to be featured on cigarette cards and collectable postcards. which were bought by her increasing number of fans.

In 1909 she posed for the photographer Lallie (Charlotte) Charles (1869-1919).  Irish born Charles had opened her Regent's Park studio in 1896 and in the first decade of the twentieth century she and her sister Rita were the most successful commercial portraitists in London.  By the time she took Ethel's photograph she had moved her studios from her home in Regent's Park to the swankier locale of Curzon Street in Mayfair.

Ethel in 1910

Holding it all in in  a pre-Great War corset

In 1910 she undertook a tour of Australia and enjoyed the space in the cities, complaining that London had got more and more built up and crowded.  She also enjoyed the weather and said that her weight had increased from nine stone four pounds to ten stone ten pounds while she was there, which she obviously thought was a good thing. 

On their return from Australia Ethel and her husband took over the management of the Queen's Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, which had only first opened three years previously.  Ethel was described as the youngest manageress in London.  She had a personal hit as manager and actress in 1912 in a revival of the play Zaza, about a prostitute who becomes a musical hall performer and the mistress of a married man.   Ethel was embraced by Sarah Bernhardt after one performance, so impressed was she with her characterisation.

In 1913 Ethel and her husband were back touring in Australia but things started to go wrong for the couple and by 1914, whilst still touring in Adelaide, Ethel had issued a petition for restitution of conjugal rights on her husband.  This was an action issued by someone on their spouse who had been living apart from them for no justifiable reason.  It enabled the establishment of judicial separation which, if coupled with the husband's adultery, enabled the wife to obtain an immediate divorce and this is what happened in 1915.

Ethel's career continued, however and in 1916 she appeared in her first motion picture, The Bigamist.  She went on to make another eight films, mostly in the early nineteen thirties.  The majority of her work was on the stage and particularly in Shakespeare.  In 1920 she played Lady Macbeth, as well as a number of other leading roles in Stratford-upon-Avon as part of what would become, in 1924, the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Here we have a glamorous shot of Ethel at the age of thirty-eight, by the Bassano photographic studio in 1924.

She lived a very glamorous life which she couldn't really afford and went bankrupt in 1923 but continued to act in Shakespeare at Stratford into the nineteen thirties.

She died in a nursing home in Bognor Regis in September 1951, just short of her sixty-ninth birthday.  An inspiration to some of the top late Victorian artists, a darling of postcard manufacturers and a painter, poet, actress and theatrical manager.  She was certainly the most successful of the Victorian models we have looked at in this short series and, we think, the most beautiful. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Venus in a hat: Seated nude: The black hat by Philip Wilson Steer (1860-1942)

Seated nude: The black hat (c1900)

We first mentioned English impressionist Philip Wilson Steer in our post on the Pettigrew sisters, of whom Rose was his favoured model.  This painting, dating to about 1900, is too late to be Rose who, having married in 1896 (and not to Steer, to her disappointment), had stopped modelling.

Steer, apart from his wonderful landscapes, always had an interest in paintings of the nude but this one was never exhibited in his lifetime.  He sold it, along with  a number of other works, to the Tate Gallery in 1941, a year before his death.  Eschewing the classicism of Alma-Tadema, Leighton, Godward and their peers, Steers nudes always inhabited contemporary spaces. Steer told the director of the Tate, Sir John Rothenstein, that his friends reckoned the hat spoiled the painting and that it was indecent that a nude should be portrayed wearing a hat, so he never exhibited it.  Of course, the hat completely makes the painting and transforms what would be a conventional studio view into something more charming.

Sleep 1898

Interestingly, the far more erotically charged Sleep was exhibited, shortly after it was painted.  It was later bought by Winston Churchill'c cousin, Lord Ivor Spencer-Churchill, who presented it to the Tate in 1927.  The light on the slightly spread legs drawing attention to the shadowed place between them, the model clutches her breast and looks as if she is dreamily contemplating something arousing.  This is certainly not a natural sleeping position and we wonder how Steer could think The black hat was unsuitable for public exhibition but this was. 

Steer couldn't get into the Royal Academy to study so went to Paris in 1882 where he came under the influence of Manet and Whistler.  When he returned to England in 1884 he had acquired an impressionist style.  In 1893 he was appointed as Professor of Art in the Slade School of Fine Art in London.  Steer taught and influenced such painters as Augustus John and William Orpen.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Seated Venus by Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911)

We continue our brief look at some of the artists and models living and working in West London during the eighteen nineties with this seated nude study by Edwin Austin Abbey, whose studio, at 54 Bedford Gardens, Edward Linley Sambourne used to photograph his nudes, so his wife wouldn't find out.  This is a very rare nude in Abbey's work and may have been either a technical exercise or a study for one of his typically grand works.  He is most famous these days for the murals he did called The Quest for the Holy Grail in the Boston Public Library and for those in the Pennsylvania State Capitol building in Harrisburg, although he died before they could be completed.

The Quest for the Holy Grail at the Boston Public Library

Like Sambourne, he was originally an illustrator for magazines and it was while researching material in London in 1878, for an illustrated book on the poet Robert Herrick, that he decided to move there permanently, which he did in 1883.  Even his murals for the Boston Public Library were done in his studios in Kensington and then shipped to America.  He became a full member of the Royal Academy in 1898, a fine achievement for a largely self taught artist with a background as an illustrator.  He was chosen to paint the official painting of the coronation of KindgEdward VII which is now in Buckingham Palace. It is said that he was offered a knighthood in 1907 but refused it.

Francis Davis Millet, An Autumn Idyll (1892)

Abbey shared his house and studio at 54 Bedford Gardens with two other artists: Alfred Parsons (1847-1920) and Francis Davis Millet (1848-1912).  Millet painted Alma-Tademaesque scenes of classical beauties in settings replete with marble.  Although he married (Mark Twain was his best man) and had three children it is strongly suspected he had a relationship with American travel writer Charles Warren Stoddard when they were both living in Rome. Millet drowned in April 1912 when taking passage to New York on board the RMS Titanic and was last seen helping women and children into lifeboats.  Unusually, his body was recovered and was returned to his home in Massachusetts for burial

Alfred Parsons, Ellen Willmott's Garden

Parsons specialised in botanical illustrations and delicate landscapes and he and Abbey  collaborated on some illustrated books.  Later he employed his botanical skills in designing gardens.

54 Bedford Gardens today

Sadly, unlike Sambourne's House, there are no period features left at 54 Bedford Gardens apart from the facade.  In 2010 the ten bedroom house and it's mews house at the rear of the back yard, were sold.  The new owners demolished the mews house, built over the intervening yard and created one gigantic home which sold in February of this year for £24 million.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Happy Christmas to all our readers!

I am working on lots of posts at present and have time off between Christmas and the New Year so hope to get some finished.  The heating has packed up in my study but fortunately it's the warmest December in the South of England ever.  All the daffodils are in flower!  Tonight, however its more suitable for penguins!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Venus in Black Stockings 13: Maud Easton by Edward Linley Sambourne (1844-1910)

Maud Easton, 20th August 1891 by Edward Linley Sambourne

Further to our previous post on the Pettigrew sisters, we thought we would post a few more photographs by the Punch illustrator and cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne.  This shot of a girl in just stockings and shoes is particularly effective.

Although many of Sambourne's photographs were done as studies for his illustrations (such as this one of Easton above) he also developed an interest in nude photography for its own sake.

The model in all of these pictures is one Maud Easton.  Sambourne noted down short, often dismissive, descriptions of his models' appearance and characteristics and observed that Easton was a "silly girl".  She was a model of Leslie Ward, the portraitist, best known for his caricatures of prominent people of the day done for Vanity Fair magazine under the pseudonym of Spy.

Edwin Austin Abbey by Leslie Ward ("Spy") (1898)

These pictures were all taken at the home of his friend, the American artist Edwin Austin Abbey, at 54 Bedford Gardens, about half a mile north of Sambourne's house.  Abbey was famous enough to have his picture painted by Ward in his Spy guise.

Sambourne, perhaps of necessity for someone whose collection of picture references and photographs numbered over 30,000 items, was a great cataloguer and diarist so we know that these two reclining nudes are from his very first session with her, shot in the morning of Saturday 1st August 1891.  It must have been a quite rapid session as he left home at 10.00 am for Abbey's studio at Bedford Gardens and was back by midday.  He was in a rush as he had to get to Waterloo Station to go down to Mudeford, near Christchurch in Dorset for some sailing with friends for a few days. Coincidentally, Triple P's family had a friend who lived in Christchurch and we often sailed from Mudeford when we were young.

Easton lived at 18 Auriol Road, West Kensington about half a mile from Sambourne's home at at 18 Stafford Terrace in Kensington.  Sambourne's house can be visited and is still pretty much as it was when he lived there; a remarkable time capsule of late Victorian times and often called the best preserved Victorian house in the world.  He photographed Easton again the Saturday after her first shoot.  Here she is flashing a glimpse of her thigh and looking louche with a glass of Champagne. 

It has been suggested that Easton, who was nineteen when she first modelled for Sambourne in 1891, may have had some sort of sexual relationship with Sambourne (and possibly a friend of his, Sir Kenneth Mackenzie) as his pictures of her were notably more sexually charged than those of his other models.

Sambourne liked to keep track of his female models and in 1901 Sir Kenneth Mackenzie told him that Easton had just got married.

 These pictures were taken in the afternoon of Wednesday, September 30th 1891.  Sambourne noted that the sitting had been hindered by workmen on the roof of Abbey's house. He describes this in his diary as a "folly" dress but it is also noted as a pulcinella costume and, perhaps in reference to his employers at Punch magazine, she clutches a Mr Punch figure.

Here, she is displaying her trim thighs (compared with the Pettigrew sisters, for example).   

In this final photograph Easton is wearing a mask but displaying a lot more of herself.  There cannot be any justification as regards source material for a drawing for publication for this pose, so either she or Sambourne were having some saucy fun.

Edward Linley Sambourne

Although Sambourne did shoot a few nudes at his home studio (which necessitated taking most of his drawing room furniture out into the garden) when his wife and children were visiting family in the country, he shot most of his nudes, as was the case for all of these, at 54 Bedford Gardens.  When he died his wife, Marion, was shocked to discover all these nude photographs but fortunately for posterity she did not destroy them and so we can still enjoy the silly but fetching Maud Easton nearly 125 years later.