Richard Warren

20thc British art and poetry (mainly), plus bits of my own – "Clearly I tap to you clearly along the plumbing of the world" (W S Graham)

Category Archives: Jessica Dismorr

‘I drag my body over yellow stones’: the Vorticist period writings of Jessie Dismorr

l'ingenueFollowing on from my page of images by Jessie (later Jessica) Dismorr, Vorticist painter, poet and flâneuse, a new bunch of drop-down pages is available among the tabs up above (or go here and find the links) on her writings from 1915 to 1922. Here are collected all her pieces from Blast 2 of 1915, from The Little Review of 1918-19, and from the manuscript poetry collection of 1918 given to John Storrs, with her piece on Russian art for The Tyro 2 of 1922, preceded by a general introduction. Maybe someone else has done this far better, or is about to, but I’m not aware of it, so here’s my best shot.

From the psychogeography of “June Night” to the dense and breathless metaphysics of the later poems, from aphorisms on aesthetics to feminist satires on the Pre-Raphaelite woman, there is much of interest here, not forgetting the savage attacks on Dismorr in The Little Review by Margaret Anderson and Yvor Winters that knocked the stuffing out of her literary self-confidence.

“To Strangers – all my curiosity and artlessness.
To my Lovers – an eternal regret.
To my Friends – more insistent demands, the last enigma of conduct, a few gifts.”

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George Barker by Mervyn Peake

My first page of fragments on George Barker updated with an image of him by Mervyn Peake, artist, illustrator and author of the Gormenghast trilogy. (When will the BBC get round to repeating the excellent TV adaptation of Ghormenghast broadcast in 2000?) The Jessica Dismorr image of Barker on the same page makes an interesting comparison to this charcoal drawing by Mervyn Peake published in the London Mercury for June 1937. There seems to have been no particular connection between Barker and Peake, though both were in London at the time, and Peake wrote to Barker in the same month, presumably in connection with this. Peake was an inspired illustrator, and this is a pleasing image and a good likeness in its way, though with Peake’s portraits one feels that living people are seen through a lense of authorship, somehow tending towards the condition of characters. In effect, everyone is slightly Gormenghastified. Here, Barker could almost be a benevolent and sensitive elder brother to Steerpike.

Dylan Thomas by Jessica Dismorr

My first page of bits and pieces about George Barker included a somewhat idealised portrait drawing of the poet as a young dreamer by Jessica Dismorr, abstract painter and ex-Vorticist, dated to 1935. Here (left below) is a companion piece by Dismorr (given as 1934/35) of Dylan Thomas as a cherubic twenty year old, marked “DT” and initialled(?) by Dismorr. The technique is equally slack, and the effect equally Hollywood, but this is maybe a better likeness than the Barker. One wonders how many other bright young poets she sketched, perhaps in a back room at David Archer’s Parton Street Bookshop – David Gascoyne? John Cornford?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dismorr’s portrait paintings get away with it by virtue of their painterliness and superb colour sense, qualities that are not there to save the drawings. Nice little biographical curiosities, though. The Dylan Thomas is available at Wilson Stephens Fine Art, and you’d still get a bit of change back from two grand.

A little gallery for Helen Saunders

Rounding off a recent preoccupation with Vorticism, here (or via the tab above) is a thumbnail gallery of all the Vorticist pieces I can find by the annoyingly under-rated Helen Saunders, mentioned in a couple of recent posts. We usually come across her work in two’s and three’s, but assembled in bulk (or at least as much bulk as I can manage) it certainly impresses, though surviving pieces can only be a fraction of what she actually produced.

A great colourist, and clearly (at that period) a woman for the Machine Age.

Images © Estate of Helen Saunders

Wyndham Lewis on ShagTree

Amazing what Google can throw up. And what some “entertainment” sites can generate. While trawling for references to Vorticist artist Helen Saunders (see previous post), I was delighted to find that Wyndham Lewis has his own page on ShagTree.com, a site (for people who need to get out more often) that documents “celebrity relationships and dating details” in six degrees of separation (though separation may be the wrong term here), with particular reference to drug habits and STD’s. Lewis’s page gives options for Helen Saunders (as shown below) whom he certainly was knocking off, Kate Lechmere (ditto), Beatrice Hastings (ditto) and Jessie Dismorr (not as far as I know). The list could be considerably extended over a longer time frame, I imagine.

The automatically selected small ads (“Want to meet mature singles?”, “shocking free horoscope”) seem apposite enough, though I’m not so sure about the offers of tree surgeons in Maidenhead, Luton or Stevenage. Well, Maidenhead maybe …

Also, they haven’t quite got Lewis’s age right for the time of this liaison.

Images of George Barker by Patrick Swift and Geoff Stevens

Bits on two portraits of George Barker added to the “more fragments” page – tab up the top, or go here, and scroll down.

George Barker: fragments

New page added with a couple of bits and pieces on the poetry of George Barker. Other bits may be added to it as we go along. This incorporates the June 12 post “An unpublished fragment by George Barker”, which I’ve taken down.  The new page includes an image of Barker by Jessica Dismorr. Tab to the new page up above or link here.