Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Hitherto

Going through hundreds of old family photographs recently I found this one. It shows my grandfather, whose first name was Ebenezer.

Please don't imagine there's any seasonal connection with Ebenezer Scrooge. In the 1870s, when my grandfather was born, Ebenezer was an acceptable name in the strict Methodist family from which he came. Apparently it means 'hitherto the Lord has helped us'.

Anyway, never mind all that. Here he is on the right, with his pals Dave (extreme left) and Vicus (centre, nodding off), who call him 'Eb', 'Ebby' or even 'Uncle Eb'. What I'd really like to draw attention to is the painting above the mantelpiece. This was given to him and my grandmother Sarah as a wedding present in 1909 by a friend called Walter Hey, who bought it from a Leeds art gallery with which the late Victorian artist Atkinson Grimshaw was associated.

Like so many late Victorian artists Grimshaw was obsessed with evening, as though he and his colleagues knew their era was coming to a close. It's the same with this picture, Highland Sunset, painted by an artist called Clarence Roe. It probably dates from about 1880.

Eventually this painting came to me. For a long time I wondered where this scene was. The mountain appears to be Slioch in Wester Ross. The configuration of the church or castle (you can't really tell which) and the surrounding cottages with chimney smoke rising straight - there'll be a sharp frost as night falls - suggest Kilchurn in Argyll. In fact it isn't anywhere definite. It's a composite. An illusion, again.

It had never been cleaned, although it never suffered the smoke damage suffered by several of the paintings I've blogged about. I took it for cleaning a couple of months ago to Aude Ficini, a wonderfully gifted picture-restorer in Montpellier, whose magic touch has brightened it up so much, but not so far as to mask the deeper sense of the onset of night and the end of a glorious day. I collected it yesterday. Here she is with Highland Sunset in her studio.

Decorative arts on the left, wouldn't you agree?

23 comments:

Dave said...

Is she single?

I rather thought I might be the chap in cricket whites, in the picture to the right of the matlepiece.

Dave said...

I have no idea what a matlepiece is. I rather think I meant mantelpiece. I'm burnt-out. Time I stopped trying to type.

Christopher said...

I'm sure she's everything you could imagine her to be, Dave.

The chap to the right of the mantelpiece is Eb's son, my uncle, husband of that Evelyn Dunbar I blogged about some days ago. She painted this portrait, which now hangs in Manchester City Art Gallery. In fact he's wearing a pale blue shirt, easily mistaken for cricket whites in a b/w photo. He is portrayed surrounded by books and staring thoughtfully out of his study window. My uncle called this portrait 'The Cerebrant', so you can tell which family he belongs to.

Vicus Scurra said...

I am so pleased you did not recount the story of the day that Dave, Ebby and I hid in the laundry basket at Clarence House.

Does Mike Summerbee feature heavily in the Manchester City Art Gallery?

Sarah said...

Are you dying Christopher?

In my experience (one has aged parents),people get out old photo's only when they are convinced they will barely make it 'til supper time.

Stunning painting, even if I am really a 'Brit pack' admirer. Can also see why you might keep finding excuses to take grubby paintings to be cleaned.. ;0)

Christopher said...

Vicus: I wouldn't have the neck to bring that old story out. Like Bert Trautmann.

Sarah: 1) No

2) I threw most of them out. It isn't supper time for ages.

3) This is an insidious and saucy suggestion. Go and sit on the naughty step.

3) Yes, she's lovely.

3) Next thing, we'll find D*ve's bike parked outside.

Dave said...

I'm sure I've got something that she could restore.

I'll be round after Christmas. You did offer B&B didn't you?

Christopher said...

Dave: 1) Go and join Sarah on the naughty step.

2) With the greatest pleasure, but it's a 4-hour bike ride from here to Montpellier. You'd need some restoration after so long in the saddle.

Sarah said...

Hmmm ...on the naughty step wiv Dave, sounds...well, naughty

Christopher said...

...and there'd better be no giggling.

Rog said...

Super painting. We sold one recently very similar - market's on the up for these beauties.

UberGrumpy said...

She's missed a bit. I should take it back at once, or even twice

I, Like The View said...

so that painting's been in your family for one hundred years

how wonderful!

(there's nothing so old chez moi - my mother's family lost everything in the war and my father's family never owned enough to loose)

what would you like your descendant/s to be concerned about in a hundred years time? (besides the state of the planet)

anyhow, less trivia and more of the really important stuff: Dave seems to be having so much fun with Sarah on that step, that's he's forgotten to publish anything this morning

how much fun can one man have in a lifetime?

Christopher said...

Rog: I'm sure she and Lil could have interesting observations to make to each other about the condition of the British male.

UG: The thought had crossed my mind more than once. Well into double figures, in fact.

I,LTV: Not certain where to start! Another painting went with, a little seascape either of Whitby or Shoreham, no one's quite certain - maybe not even the artist, who spelled his name variously Thornley, Thornery, Thornberry and even Lawrence, so maybe he wasn't too certain about where he was either.

I would like my descendants to wonder how their ancestor can possibly have got everything so wrong.

Sad about Dave, but I'm sure it's for the best. He'll be back - and it's only 16 days to Boxing Day.

I hope he didn't catch cold on that step. I think it's unlikely, don't you?

I, Like The View said...

I'm fairly sure that Sarah would have warmed his heart, if not his cockles. . .

I, Like The View said...

and, just in case you're wondering:

Middle English cokel, from Old French coquille, "shell", from Vulgar Latin cochillia, from Latin conchyllium, from Greek konkhulion, diminutive of konkh, "mussel"

"cockle" - to gather something into small wrinkles or folds; 'she puckered her lips' pucker, rumple, crumple, knit,
draw, contract; 'the material drew after it was washed in hot water'; crease, crinkle, crisp, ruckle, scrunch up, wrinkle, scrunch - make wrinkles or creases on a smooth surface; make a pressed, folded or wrinkled line in; 'the dress wrinkled'; 'crease the paper like this to make a crane'

as Vicus would say, I hope this helps

Christopher said...

And he hers.

This is exactly what I understood. Thank you for preventing any possible misinterpretation by the less high-minded who frequent these columns...

...or indeed the naughty step.

Sarah said...

Ha....the cheek.

Though I admit a snigger and just a little chortle might have slipped as I imagined gathering something into wrinkles....oh dear you can ask me to leave if you like.

Christopher said...

Well! I can feel Dave blush from here. I'm afraid it's back to the naughty step - that or PROMISE to read tomorrow's post here about cricket.

Rog said...

Please sir I've got a note!

Christopher said...

Well, that's all right, then. Permission to innuendoise.

Dave said...

Did someone say something about cricket?

Christopher said...

Coming up, Dave. Flowing from my fingertips at this very moment. Watch this space...