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TSE  February 2013

TSE February 2013

Subject:

Wyndham Lewis' Portraits of TS Eliot

From:

"Rickard A. Parker" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Thu, 7 Feb 2013 09:56:47 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (270 lines)

On Wed, 6 Feb 2013 12:37:11 -0800, P <[log in to unmask]>
(Peter Montgomery) wrote (subject: Re: Patrick Heron:
Studies for a Portrait of TS Eliot):

> Photos look too much like the way a person tends to see
> him or herself, as opposed to how someone else sees the
> person. That's why Eliot was so shocked by that [Heron]
> portrait. I am saying I would like to see his reactions
> to other portraits of him, like Wyndham Lewis'.
> Obviously Heron was not intimidated by Eliot.
> Lewis' famous portrait was done before Eliot was a major
> force. -- Lewis was never intimidated anyway.


Peter's post got me going on completing something I started
working on months ago, notes on Wyndham Lewis' portraits of
Eliot. I'll break up my post into three parts: short
comments on Peter's post, a cut and paste from an article
about Eliot and Lewis and then a section in my (probably
despised by now) indented outline style that gives links to
portraits and sketches. Quotes given in the first section
will be lengthened and referenced in the following sections.

-------------------

> Photos look too much like the way a person tends to see
> him or herself, as opposed to how someone else sees the
> person.

Unless one is a great portrait photographer.

But, taking your side now, I take terrible people pictures
but the only pictures of me that I like are self-portraits.


> That's why Eliot was so shocked by that [Heron] portrait.

And not that it showed him two-faced? :-)

Below I have a quote that TSE "craned forward the eagle's
profile". That shows in the right side of the Heron
portrait (composed Picasso-like with a profile facing left
imposed upon the right side of his face (our view.) Or is
it a vulture's? (The head is compressed from the nose to
the back.)  A large image is at:
   http://images.npg.org.uk/800_800/6/6/mw02066.jpg


> I am saying I would like to see his reactions to other
> portraits of him, like Wyndham Lewis'.

Jeffrey Meyers article: "[The second 1938 Lewis portrait]
and much greater painting portrays Eliot, in waistcoat and
lounge suit, slouched in an armchair, with crossed
hands. ... Eliot greatly admired this portrait, which
captured the essence of his mind and art, and told Lewis
he was quite willing for posterity to know him by that
image (a photograph of 1954 ... shows Eliot pointing to
the portrait with smiling admiration)."

Time magazine: "I shall not turn in my grave if, after
I am settled in the cemetery this [1949 Lewis] portrait
is the image that will come into people's minds when my name is mentioned.

-------------------

Wyndham Lewis and T.S. Eliot: A Friendship
Jeffrey Meyers
Home > Issues > Summer 1980 > pp.455-469 > Essay
http://www.vqronline.org/articles/1980/summer/meyers-wyndham-lewis/

It was highly ironic that the eminently respectable Eliot became involved in
a stormy public controversy when Lewis painted his portrait in 1938, for the
poet had changed a great deal since the "Waste Land" days of 1920.

Lewis actually did two portraits of Eliot in 1938. The first (now in Eliot
House, Harvard) is a study for the second and depicts the poet's head and
torso against a blank background. The second and much greater painting
portrays Eliot, in waistcoat and lounge suit, slouched in an armchair, with
crossed hands. He stares slightly downwards and to the left with great
intensity, and the planes of his face are more contrasted, his bold features
more precisely delineated than in the study, A shadow from his head appears
on the pale green panel behind the deeply etched parting of his sleek hair.
The abstract designs on both sides of the panel suggest the power of his
imagination, while his solemn composure and fixed concentration convincingly
convey the strength of his intellect. Eliot greatly admired this portrait,
which captured the essence of his mind and art, and told Lewis he was quite
willing for posterity to know him by that image (a photograph of 1954,
reproduced in Lewis' Letters, shows Eliot pointing to the portrait with
smiling admiration).

Lewis submitted the portrait to the judges of the Royal Academy exhibition
in the spring of 1938. But Blast never got inside Burlington House, and the
painting was rejected on April 21. The refusal of the portrait caused a
furor in the British press, enabled Lewis to strike back at the citadel of
artistic orthodoxy, gain some useful publicity, and—ironically—attract the
attention of a wider public. The refusal of the Eliot portrait came at the
end of a long series of rejections suffered by Lewis in the 1930's. But the
controversy aroused interest in the painting (which was refused by the
Trustees of the Tate) and in 1939 T. J. Honeyman of the Lefevre Gallery sold
it for £250 to the Municipal Art Gallery in Durban, South Africa. This money
enabled Lewis to escape from England and travel to North America.

During the late forties, the final phase of his artistic career, Lewis'
painting seriously deteriorated because of his defective vision. The most
important work of his late period was his second portrait of Eliot, who in
1948 had won the $40,000 Nobel Prize for Literature. Lewis dined frequently
with Eliot, in Scott's on Mount Street or the Hyde Park Hotel Grill, where
he ate oysters and dessert—and skipped the main course. Eliot used to send
Lewis cases of champagne (he could drink nothing else at the end of his
life), and Lewis meticulously noticed that it was not vintage. Still ignored
and impoverished, he was inevitably jealous of Eliot's enormous success and
resentful about the poet in his letters. He told Pound, who had been charged
with treason, declared insane, and confined to St. Elizabeth's Hospital in
Washington: "You might almost have contrived this climax to your respective
careers: yours so Villonesque and Eliot's super-Tennyson." And he wrote to
his American friend, Felix Giovanelli: "Eliot is a solid mass of inherited
slyness. . . . Eliot is no great favourite of mine in later years. Lesser
poet than Pound, though not such an exasperating fool of a man. He has I
agree kicked up a nasty stink around himself of cult."

When Lewis painted his second, much more bland and conventional portrait
(which lacks the sharp incisive planes of the earlier work) of Eliot, in
March and April 1949, he was obliged to scrutinize him very closely. As he
wrote in "The Sea-Mists of the Winter": "When I started my second portrait
of T. S. Eliot, which now hangs in Magdalene College, Cambridge, in the
early summer of 1949, I had to draw up very close to the sitter to see
exactly how the hair sprouted out of the forehead, and how the curl of the
nostril wound up into the dark interior of the nose. There was no question
of my not succeeding, my sight was still adequate. But I had to move too
close to the forms I was studying. Some months later, when I started a
portrait of Stella Newton, I had to draw still closer and even then I could
not quite see. This was the turning-point, the date, December 1949." Another
minor problem, as Lewis told a St. Louis friend, was that Eliot (whom he had
described as "wriggling his lean bottom" in The Apes of God) became drowsy
and his bottom "went to sleep" when he was immobilized in one position.

The portrait was completed in time for Lewis' exhibition at the Redfern
Gallery in May, when both artist and subject were interviewed by Time
magazine. Lewis' description recalled his earliest impression of the poet,
haggard and apparently at his last gasp: "You will see in his mask, drained
of too hearty blood, a gazing strain, a patient contraction: the body is
slightly tilted. . . in resigned anticipation of the worst." Eliot suggested
that Lewis' intensity made him feel somewhat uneasy: "Wearing a look of
slightly quizzical inscrutability behind which one suspects his mental
muscles may be contracting for some unexpected pounce, he makes one feel
that it would be undesirable, though not actually dangerous, to fall asleep
in one's chair." When this portrait, like the earlier one of Eliot, was
refused by the Tate, Lewis blamed the malign influence of Kenneth Clark. But
it was eventually acquired by Magdalene College for £300, and hung on the
narrow staircase of the dining hall, poorly lighted and difficult to see.

-------------------

A collection of the portraits below, all on one page, has
been placed at:
    http://www.std.com/~raparker/temp/lewis-eliot.html


1934 photograph of T.S. Eliot by Ottoline Morrell
   (for comparison with 1938 portraits - hands folded and
   same suit?)
  
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/26/Thomas_Stearns_Eliot_by_Lady_Ottoline_Morrell_%281934%29.jpg


Lewis did two portraits of Eliot in 1938:

   First 1938 version at Eliot House at Harvard University:

      This "Poets at Harvard § Harvard Poetry Website"
      webpage contains a small copy:
        
http://poetry.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?keyword=k40344&panel=icb.pagecontent371334%3Ar%241%3Fname%3De.html&pageid=icb.page189797&pageContentId=icb.pagecontent371334&view=view.do&viewParam_name=eliot_ts.html

      or use this shorter link to the same webpage:
         http://tinyurl.com/bhbwjuj

      or to get the image of the Eliot portrait only:
        
http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic563112.files/Harvard%20Poet%20Images/eliot_ts.jpg

     This book notes Eliot House has first draft of
     portrait:
         The geography of the imagination: forty essays
         http://books.google.com/books?id=3NlHEbnP_AYC&pg=PA137
            Eliot drew up short before the portrait,
            held his lapels and craned forward the
            eagle's profile. "I seem," he said to me,
            "to have changed."

      This also has a note about the portrait at
      Eliot House:
        
http://osl.fas.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?keyword=k65178&pageid=icb.page299227

   Second 1938 version rejected for the Tate and now at
   Durban Art Gallery, South Africa:

      Wyndham Lewis -- "T. S. Eliot"
         Durban Art Gallery, South Africa
         http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/eliot/exhibit.htm

         Image only:
        
http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/eliot/exhibit/lewis-eliot.jpg

      Photograph of Wyndham Lewis with his rejected
      portrait of T.S. Eliot at the Royal Academy,
      London, 21 April 1938.
        
http://www.march.es/arte/ingles/madrid/exposiciones/wyndham/biografia.asp

         Image only:
        
http://www.march.es/arte/ingles/madrid/exposiciones/wyndham/img/elliot.jpg



The 1949 portrait (when Lewis was nearly blind) at Magdalene College, Cambridge:

   Picture of it hanging on the wall:
      http://twitter.com/sprichtdaskind/statuses/167372046530121728

      Image only:
      https://pbs.twimg.com/media/AlKf_VNCEAA6zQr.jpg

   With another image at National Portrait Gallery:
      http://www.npg.org.uk/wyndhamlewis/theseamists/index.html

      Image only:
     
http://www.npg.org.uk/wyndhamlewis/theseamists/theseamistspage/tseliot1.jpg

   Eliot bought the painting and donated it (see the
   following book):
      Some Sort Of Genius: A Life of Wyndham Lewis
      by Paul O'Keeffe
         http://books.google.com/books?id=-LNw6Q6DcHMC&pg=PT457&amp;lpg=PT457
      Book includes Eliot quoted in Time magazine:
         I shall not turn in my grave if, after I am
         settled in the cemetery this portrait is the
         image that will come into people's minds when
         my name is mentioned. It seems to me also a
         good picture, as well as a good portrait;
         and if it were the portrait not of myself,
         but of someone whose features I could
         contemplate with more tenderness, I think I
         could live with it.


Then there is a 1930s sketch that Lewis did of Eliot:

   Pen and ink, coloured washes and pencil at National
   Gallery of Victoria, Australia:
      http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/col/work/41070

      Image only:
     
http://content.ngv.vic.gov.au/retrieve.php?size=large&type=image&amp;vernonID=41070


   The Library of Congress has something that appears
   to be a cropped photographic version of the NGV
   version before it was colored:
      http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/94502545/

      Image only:
     
http://lcweb2.loc.gov/service/pnp/cph/3c10000/3c10000/3c10200/3c10251_150px.jpg

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