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21 September 2021
'War artists such as Arabella Dorman are part of a long tradition. A century after the First World War, we are still moved by John Singer Sargent’s haunting painting, Gassed, showing a line of blinded young soldiers. We shudder when we see Henry Moore’s Tube Shelter Perspective, imagining the terror of a Second World War air raid. Alfred Munnings’ paintings of horses in the war-ravaged landscapes of France in 1918 are deeply moving. In modern times the artist Jules George applied to be a war artist with the Ministry of Defence. He was invited to Afghanistan, joining the 11th Light Brigade in 2010 and created a large body of work. His paintings often show lines of soldiers in the distance, marching against a luminous desert backdrop. He lived on a base in Afghanistan and mainly travelled around in armoured vehicles or a helicopter, but he also experienced going on a foot patrol. What incredible bravery and commitment' (taken from a piece by Anna Behrmann here). This is Outbound 2010.
20 September 2021
A few weeks ago we featured Ardizzone's war paintings (he was in Europe for many, many months during World War Two) and wondered why artists aren't commissioned nowadays to paint in war zones. Well of course they are and a Persephone reader kindly wrote to correct us. So this week on the Post: modern day artists who are brave and calm and committed enough to paint war as it happens. We begin with Arabella Dorman, who started her career as a war artist in Iraq and Afghanistan, was in Homs and Aleppo in Syria in 2018 and Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2017. In her oil painting, Holding On, from Afghanistan, a fiercely protective father cradles his daughter. The father later told Dorman that his child believed her camera was a gun.
Here is Charlotte a few years ago, in a photograph taken for Tatler. This is how we shall remember her.
16 September 2021
In 2015 there was an exhibition at the Mall Galleries of Charlotte's work. Several of the paintings dated from her time in the Maudsley Hospital in 1974. This is a detail from one of them. There is a simplicity yet amazing strength to this painting of a wife and mother (the wedding ring is crucial) crying out for help. The closest parallel for us is Daddy's Gone A-Hunting.
15 September 2021
This is one of Charlotte Johnson's most famous paintings: The Subway NYC 1994. During the 1980s and 1990s she was married to the wonderful Nick Wahl, a professor at NYU. It was the greatest tragedy that he died in 1996 aged 68, obviously a tragedy for Charlotte but also he was a wonderfully sane, wise voice, greatly respected and admired by his step-children, and he would have made a difference to this country and the disaster that has overtaken it by helping Charlotte make wiser decisions about her relationship with her eldest son. Brexit might not have happened if Nick Wahl had lived.
14 September 2021
We are abandoning the book about women still-life painters, so aptly called This Dark Country (because what illustrations there are, are so dark that they are impossible to see) because Charlotte Johnson Wahl died yesterday and we want to pay tribute to her. She was a great friend to Persephone, reading our books and coming in to the shop in London occasionally after her visits to see her consultant round the corner at the National Hospital in Queen Square (she had Parkinson's for nearly forty years). Despite her eldest son, now the prime minister, about whom we cannot think without wanting to sob, she was a magnificent, warm, humane, funny and generally admirable person. (As was her father, the great Sir James Fawcett.) We were always sad that she did not disassociate herself from her son's actions and behaviour but hey ho mothers and sons... This is a very typical 'Charlotte' portrait, of a 1980s London family (with children from previous marriages happily part of the mix).
13 September 2021
There is a new book which we sell in the shop called This Dark Country: Women Artists, Still Life and Intimacy in the Early Twentieth Century by Rebecca Birrell. Tragically, it has no colour reproductions; it has this beautiful Carrington still life (Tulips in a Staffordshire Jug) on the cover but then pale almost unsee-able tiny black and white photographs. We shall remedy this on the Persephone Post this week. Because the book is good, it has just been very ill-served by its publisher.