Streetwise, a cultural history, street by street

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STR E ETW ISE art at heart of the city Streetscapes from Lorenzetti to Mondrian

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Armorica Editions 2015


Tramlines and slagheaps, pieces of machinery, That was, and still is, my ideal scenery. (W.H. Auden, 1936)

ARMORICA - this is the country were one little nameless but very famous village held out against the Romans. We believe that the printed book has a place in this world and that it is invincible. So we give the digital copy away for free. We hope you enjoy it and of course that you send a copy to all your friends. We hope indeed that you enjoy it that much that you order a paper copy. Just mail to and we will tell you how to pay for it. A softcover in black and white costs 35 euro, a hardover in full color 55 euro.


contents Preface 9 Introduction 11 Piazza del Campo (Siena) 27 Thames Street (London) 37 Piazza della Signoria (Florence) 43 Catherine Wheel Alley (London) 51 Totengässlein (Basel) 57 St Patrick’s Street (Cork) 65 Via Margutta (Rome) 75 Campo Vaccino (Rome) 83 Riva degli Schiavoni (Venice) 89 Paternoster Row (London) 99 Herengracht (Amsterdam) 107 Miodowa Street (Warsaw) 111 Fleischmarkt (Vienna) 117 The Shambles (York) 127 Rue de la Harpe (Paris) 135 Tyburn Road (London) 143 Via Appia (Rome) 149 Broad Quay (Bristol) 157 Basin Street (New Orleans) 167

Plaza Dorrego (Buenos Aires) 173 Quai du Marche-Neuf (Paris) 181 Canonbury Place (London) 191 Promenade des Anglais (Nice) 199 Jermyn Street (London) 209 Boulevard des Italiens (Paris) 215 Avenue & Rue Frochot (Paris) 221 The Highway (London) 229 High Street (Glasgow) 239 Locomotive Street (Darlington) 245 Bishopsgate (London) 255 Giltspur Street (London) 265 Woolwich Road (London) 273 Rue de la Mortellerie (Paris) 281 Kensington Gore (London) 291 Boulevard Haussmann (Paris) 299 Prins Hendrikkade (Amsterdam) 307 Rue Mosnier & Rue Montorgueil (Paris) 317 Rue de l’Épicerie (Rouen) 325 #Strandgade (Copenhagen) 335 Rue des Moulins (Paris) 343 Rua das Flores (Lisbon) 351 Potsdamer Platz (Berlin) 359 Columbus Avenue (Boston) 367 Heddon Street (London) 375 Vlaanderenstraat (Ostend) 385 Piazza San Carlo (Turin) 393 Spiegelgasse (Zürich) 399 Cleveland Street (London) 409 Boulevard du Temple (Paris) 415 Gerrard Street (London) 421

Grand Rue de PĂŠra (Istanbul) 437 Cable Street (London) 443 Prospect Street (Gloucester, Mass) 451 Lambeth Walk (London) 459 Porta Romana (Milan) 465 Place de Dublin (Paris) 473 Broadway (New York) 483


preface ‘Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner, / That I love London so; / Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner, / That I think of her wherever I go’ - every city likes to boast its unique and distinct character. When I grew up in Amsterdam in the 1950s Johnny Jordaan rose to fame with a song ‘Geef mij maar Amsterdam’ (I prefer Amsterdam), which praises the city above all others. Half a century later and having lived abroad for most of that time (Brighton, Florence, Lucca, London, Ely), the song still stirs nostalgic feelings within me. We are shaped by the city we grew up in. The physical beauty of the place is not a decisive factor in that process. New York, John Steinbeck once wrote, is an ugly city. Its climate is a scandal, its politics are awful, its traffic is madness, and its competition murderous. But there is one thing about it - once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough. So what makes the character of a city unique? Urban distinctiveness includes streetscapes, modern building, and historic preservation. It involves public spaces, universities, cultural events and amenities, soccer and rugby stadiums, restaurants and local delicacies. It stems from the musicality and expressiveness of our language, the collective memories we share, the hardships and tragedies we have suffered, the jokes we laugh at, and the hospitality we offer. Pride of place is based upon a combination of characteristics that are sensual, cultural, social, environmental, and gastronomical. Such qualities, more than economic opportunity or prosperity, create emotional bonds between people and their community and provide meaning to a location. Jaap Harskamp, Ely (Cambridgeshire), 2014



introduction A city is neither historic nor modern, but evolutionary. It is made up of buildings, streets, squares and other spaces that have been constructed, demolished and re-built over time. Nothing endures here but change. It is the only constant. In architecture everything gives way. Nothing is permanent or stays fixed. Great cities remain largely the same and are always changing. Streetscapes are continually remodelled. Every new generation is eager to tinker with the aesthetics of urban space and create its own city. Reflecting the breathless pace of change in modern society, impermanence is the main urban characteristic. Like an ageing Hollywood star the city is in need of frequent face-lifts. At the same time, the fabric of the European city has proved to be resilient. From a historical perspective, the city’s abitility to harness its own transformative power is one of the more remarkable aspects of urban development. Charles Lamb once expressed his enjoyment of the metropolis as an ‘accumulation of sights - endless sights’. He described London as a ‘pantomime and a masquerade’. By the early nineteenth century the city sketch had established itself as a genre and many publications of that nature carry the phrase ‘literary and pictorial sketches’ in title or sub-title. It is the author acting in the disguise of an artist. Over the years, various studies and essays have been produced that research an author’s perception of ‘his’ city: Proust’s Paris, Eça de Queiroz’s Lisbon, Flaubert’s Rouen, or Couperus’s The Hague. Such books have become part of the sophisticated tourist’s itinerary. London for example was of central importance to Dickens’s work. He


encoded his perceptions of city life as an ongoing and varied performance. As early as Sketches by Boz, he developed a format of reportage in which he aimed at striking a balance between the stylistic demands of the literary urban sketch and his social concerns. He called the city his ‘magic lantern’ and would spend hours pacing the streets, drawing inspiration from what he saw around him. London was his Muse, helping to spark his creativity, and provide ideas for some memorable characters, settings and plots. Irish writers in particular have been wedded to place. Their imagination seems spurred by the lure of specific territories. James Joyce had set a precedent by - although in literary exile - precisely referring to Dublin’s localities. This tradition was continued by Dublin-born Iris Murdoch in her first novel Under the Net (1954), a metaphor for the labyrinth that is London.The precision of geography is a striking feature of the story. The settings are given in detail and make it possible to trace the story step by step on an A to Z map. The confrontation of reality and imagination, of streetscape and mindscape, represents a major storyline of this study. The street is the actual location that stirred the creative mind and inspired a work of art, be it a painting, poem or novel. The narrative deals with real streets only. No attention will be paid to such fictional creations as Albert Square, Coronation Street, Hobbs End, Ramsay Street, or Sesame Street. Neither does Edgar Allan Poe appear in these pages. Poe had published his short story ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ in the 1841 edition of Graham’s Magazine. The story surrounds the baffling double murder of Madame L’Espanaye and her daughter in this fictional Parisian street. The tale has been recognized as the first detective story, although the word ‘detective’ itself did not exist at the time of publication. In the storyline of this study ample attention will be paid to literature (and printing), film, photography and music, but the painted streetscape is its major focus and leitmotif. Urban landscapes have occupied a substantial part of modern art, from the impressionist views of Paris by Camille Pissarro or Claude Monet to the realistic images of Madrid by Antonio Lòpez, through to photo-realistic scenes of New York by Richard Estes. However, the history of the cityscape, of which the streetscape is a subgenre, goes back much further and has been an


intriguing one. There is no academic consensus about the date the city emerged in European culture or when the first urban landscapes were produced in art. In 1997, a fresco was discovered in a buried gallery under the Roman Baths of Trajan on the southern side of the Oppian Hill which provides an aerial view of a coastal city that may be considered the first cityscape in the history of painting. During medieval times, representations of cities were produced as backgrounds in illuminated manuscripts without ever achieving a special place in the composition. During the late 1330s Siena’s city Council of Nine commissioned Ambrogio Lorenzetti to paint the ‘Allegory and Effects of Good and Bad Government’ series in the Sala dei Nove of the Palazzo Pubblico. The artist created a range of urban images that is exceptional within a medieval tradition. The vista includes an expanse of water with a town on its shoreline which has been identified as Talamone, the Tuscan port that was acquired by Siena in 1303. This ‘Veduta di città sul mare’ may well be the first named (both artist and place) cityscape in art. Lorenzetti heads this book’s street crawl through European cities. Bruges-born painter Jan van der Straet, better known as Stradanus, spent most of his career in Italy having left Flanders in 1545. After a stay of six months in Venice, he settled in Florence, where he was employed by Grand Duke Cosimo i de Medici and involved in the design of frescoes and tapestry cartoons for the Palazzo Vecchio, an activity he continued as an independent artist in the 1570s. Stradanus created some stunning views of Florence in the 1550s, images of the Via Larga, Ponte a Sante Trinita, Piazza del Mercato, Piazza de Duomo, or Piazza San Giovanni that reflect the tremendous pride Florentines took in the splendour of their city. In his work the streetscape was pushed towards an exciting new level. We cannot, however, speak of a continuous tradition of the cityscape in Italian painting until late Quattrocento (the period of the Early Renaissance). At that time, Venetian painters such as Vittore Carpaccio and Gentile Bellini inaugurated the first real era of city- and streetscape painting. These creators of urban sceneries were the so-called vedutisti. There was no early tradition of cityscape painting in northern Europe either, although many painters included city-images as a


background (at the time, the most remarkable experiments in urban landscapes were carried out by printers and engravers). In his detailed painting of ‘Madonna of Chancellor Rolin’ (around 1435) Jan van Eyck shows a stunning representation of a river city, most likely Lyon. But despite the quality of this view, the city is merely an addition to the picture. Sometime after 1475, Hieronymus Bosch created ‘Ecce Homo’, a painting of the episode in the Passion of Jesus. It shows the figure of Jesus wearing a crown of thorns, stripped, shackled, and brought before a mob of jeering people by members of the Roman council. The upper right quadrant of the composition presents a seemingly autonomous cityscape that represents Jerusalem under the familiar guise of a Dutch or Flemish town. Its empty open spaces and stylish architecture are in contrast to the packed jostle of caricatures that form the furious mob in the foreground of the image. The significance of these mini-cityscapes is their immateriality. They did not add to the storyline or moral message of the painting which allowed later generations of artists to admire them for their own sake, lift them as it were from the canvas, and develop these urban images into a genre of its own. Chronologically speaking, urban landscapes preceded ‘pure’ landscape paintings by some considerable time. Why would this have been the case? Buildings, streets and cities are man-made. They are manifestations of human effort and pride. An early inhabitant of Florence, Nuremberg or Antwerp would have been eager to boast the achievement of local builders, sculptors and artists who had contributed to the beauty of his city. More importantly, the artist attempting to depict the cityscape of his day was not burdened by the load of religious, classical or mythological baggage that the landscapist carried with him. He was not concerned with moral duty or religious high-mindedness. His eyes were focused on the here and now, on the beauty of buildings that surrounded him, on the energy that captivated him. Painting was an expression of civic pride. Two parallel developments enhanced the painter’s desire in putting cityscapes on the artistic map. Bernard von Breydenbach’s incunable Peregrinatio in terram sanctam is an early travel book that contains detailed illustrations of European and Middle Eastern cities. These images were produced


by Erhard Reuwich of Utrecht. His view of Venice is generally regarded as the first purely topographical vista of the city. It is significant that this image appeared in a medium that that was not weighed down by the standard traditions of narrative painting or the expectations of either patron or public. The image of ‘Duke Charles d’Orléans writing in the Tower’ (c. 1483) is considered the earliest-known topographically accurate depiction of London. It is found in a collection of the poems of Charles, Duke of Orléans (held in the British Library), and accompanies the verses of Des nouvelles d’Albyon. Charles had been captured at the Battle of Agincourt (1415), and spent the next twenty-five years in England, part of the time imprisoned in the Tower of London, where he composed these poems. The emergence of a generation of excellent cartographers was another vital factor in the development of the cityscape genre. The first volume of the Civitates orbis terrarum was published in Cologne in 1572. This city atlas, edited by Georg Braun, eventually contained 546 prospects and views of cities from all over the world. It provided a comprehensive image of city life at the turn of the sixteenth century. The Grand Tour gave a new impetus to the development of the genre. As the itinerary of the journey became standardized, vedute (vistas) of familiar scenes like the Roman Forum or the Grand Canal recalled aristocratic travellers of their youthful Italian ventures. The first vedute were created by Flemish and Dutch artists who worked in Italy. Paul Brill, for example, was a landscape painter who produced a number of Roman views and scenes in the shape of painted picture postcards that were bought by wealthy visitors to the city. The market dictated the style. Art historians tend to look at the 1660s as the decade in which the veduta came of age. It was a period in which the representation of city views became a more common theme, foremost in etching and engraving, but also in painting. Always keen to identify a ‘starting point’, some critics have placed Johannes Vermeer’s ‘Gezicht op Delft’ (Marcel Proust considered this view of the city the most beautiful picture in the world) at the beginning of what turned out to be a rich tradition of urban images. The Dutch ‘Golden Age’ expressed pride in its flourishing city


culture. It created a society that did not nurture an aristocratic hierarchy. Socioeconomic life was dominated by well-to-do burghers who lived and worked in cities. Equality of chance in economic life gave society a sharp competitive edge. It was an atmosphere in which the arts, including the art of printing, flourished. There have been unsubstantiated suggestions that in the seventeenth century more books were printed in the Netherlands than in the rest of Europe put together. One popular kind of publication was the description (‘beschrijving’) of cities like Amsterdam, Haarlem or Delft. These books were accompanied by images of architectural splendour and/or social activities. The subtle art of engraving ran parallel to the urban paintings of Pieter Saenredam in Haarlem or Jan van der Heyden in Amsterdam. In England, topographical prints became popular during the seventeenth century. Vast numbers of books were published containing views of country estates which their owners had illustrated on payment of a subscription fee. Numerous immigrant artists from the Low Countries were involved in the profitable business of architectural engraving. In 1686, Amsterdam-born topographical draughtsman and engraver Johannes Kip had arrived in England shortly after William of Orange’s usurpation of the English throne. A major part of his work consists of topographical prints and he is above all remembered for his engravings of country houses in the sumptuous Britannia illustrata (the first volume appeared in 1708). His work was continued by Amsterdam-born Henry Hulsbergh who had settled in London around 1709 and engraved many of the private plates made after drawings by leading architects for distribution among sponsors of various building projects. These included prints of All Souls College, Oxford, after Nicholas Hawksmoor, and King’s College, Cambridge, after James Gibbs. In Italy, Giuseppe Vasi was a supporter of the art of veduta esatta, i.e. an accurate depiction of the urban landscape aimed at showing the magnificence of both ancient (Campo Vaccino) and modern (Vatican City) Rome. In the course of the eighteenth century, however, idiosyncratic varieties of the genre evolved. Painter and architect Giovanni Paolo Pannini concentrated his attention on depicting Roman ruins. Some painters moved away from close observation and introduced


imaginary views known as vedute ideate or veduta di fantasia. The work of Giambattista Piranesi in particular is associated with this style. His topographical series of Vedute di Roma went through many printings. The Baroque works of Claude Lorrain or Salvatore Rosa also featured romanticized depictions of ruins. By the mid-eighteenth century, Venice was renowned as a centre of vedutisti and the genre’s greatest practitioners belonged to the Canal and Guardi families. Some of them left Venice and took on positions elsewhere in Europe, Canaletto in London, and his nephew Belotto in Dresden and Warsaw. They raised the genre to a new level of perfection. Romanticism offered a different perspective. Charles Baudelaire was a passionate admirer of the etchings of Charles Meryon. In his seminal essay ‘Le peintre de la vie moderne’, the poet had equated modernity with change, the principal characteristics of which are the transitory, the fugitive, and the contingent. Nowhere were signs of modernity and urban transformation more visible than in Paris, where demolition and renewal work took over the city for nearly two decades. The uncanniness of Meryon’s etchings stems from the combination of minute topographical accuracy with outlandish elements such as disturbing flights of birds to which he added weird creatures worthy of the imagination of Hieronymus Bosch. Transcribing the actual with cruel precision, his Poe-like imagination perceived terror lurking behind every door, the horror of enclosed spaces, and the fear of shadows. The cityscape as Baudelaire suggested may not have been a favourite genre among Romantic artists, but Meryon showed his contemporaries that it could be adapted to accommodate the Romantic temper. Baudelaire recognized and acknowledged that quality. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, personal impressions of the cityscape replaced the demand for topographical accuracy. Panoramic views were replaced by dramatic scenes in and on the street. By the end of the century urban land- and streetscapes were associated with Paris and the Impressionists. Napoleon iii had appointed Georges Hausmann to realize the ambitious project of turning the French capital into a functioning metropolis. Once this massive task was completed, Parisian avenues and boulevards became a favoured pictorial subject to


Realist and Impressionist painters. From Édouard Manet to Gustave Caillebotte, from Pierre Auguste Renoir to Camille Pissarro, the new Paris was a vital source of inspiration. Artists focused on the atmosphere and dynamics of everyday (night) street life. Railway stations and bridges were an integral part of the Impressionist iconography. Modernization at the time was defined in terms of changes in public space: the improvement of urban infrastructure, the construction of boulevards, the plans to facilitate traffic circulation, and the expansion of venues for leisure and entertainment. Paris set a precedent to be followed elsewhere. During the second half of the nineteenth century the idea of modernity runs parallel to the rebuilding and expansion of Europe’s major cities. They were the ground on which the concept of the ‘modern’ first bloomed. References to modernity increased sharply, spreading on to different levels, aesthetic, academic and journalistic. The term expresses the awareness of a metropolitan world transformed by technology. The nineteenth century added an urban imagery of ports, docks, smoke stacks, factories and shop fronts to the cityscape. The passion for modernization distinguished nineteenth century Europe from its past. Technological development was invoked as a measure of modernity. The city represents renewal, whereas the country stands for continuity - if not stagnation. Artistic innovation was propelled by this unleashing of urban energies. Baudelaire’s interpretation of the modern was sparked by the regeneration of Paris, Vienna’s explosion of artistic talent coincided with the obliteration of the old city, the revolution of Dutch poetry in the mid1880s ran parallel to the urban rejuvenation of Amsterdam, Italian futurists turned their backs to the beauty of the old cities in praise of the industrial prowess of Milan. Regeneration of the city gave rise to a cultural concept of modernity that was characterized by a demand for continuous innovation and the celebration of novelty for its own sake. City- and streetscape were exported from Paris to America by such talented painters as James McNeill Whistler and Childe Hassam. They paved the way for artists of the so-called Ashcan School who focused on depicting everyday life in early twentieth century New York City and the harsh realities of an urban


existence. These paintings are generally dark in tone, often portraying such subjects as prostitutes, drunks, overflowing tenements, boxing matches, etc. Their work preceded that of George Bellows and Edward Hopper. In Europe there had been a similar move away from a ‘superficial’ Impressionist delight in recording the buzz of the city. Futurism celebrated the technological era and the urban experience is crucial to all Futurist manifestos. The style of painting named ‘Pittura metafisica’ (metaphysical art: the term was introduced by Apollinaire) flourished in the second decade of the twentieth century in the works of Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà. The former produced a series of eerie cityscapes that added a new dimension to the genre. They are no longer the traditional observed views of streets and squares. His enigmatic piazzas and buildings are haunting images of urban desolation - painted images of Durkheim’s anomie. In his ‘Paris par la fenêtre’ (1913) Marc Chagall represents a mysterious city image in which nothing and nobody is really what they appear to be. This element of alienation was explored much further by German Expressionists in art and poetry, and in social science by Marx, Simmel and Freud. Expressionism therefore has little in common with the pleasing picture postcard streetscapes of the Impressionists. The haunting images of Piranesi or Charles Meryon were more relevant to their experience of urban life and strife. Streetscapes combine a feeling of unease with the suggestion of energy. Cityscapes employ abstract formal elements such as distortions of perspective and unnatural colour in order to convey the artist’s inner reaction to the metropolis. The treatment of urban subjects projects the vitality of the city, but also expresses fear of the effect of urbanization upon the individual. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s 1912 oil painting ‘Nollendorfplatz’ shows a busy junction with converging trams. The painting features a crowd of people, but the lack of individuation of these small figures (many of them are nothing more than a single brush stroke) brings out the anonymity of urban living. Kirchner’s city-dweller has lost his identity. In images created by George Grosz or Otto Dix, the geography of the city resembles the inferno of Hieronymus Bosch. Each individual is consigned to a particular torment and compelled to replicate mechanically a pointless task


in isolation from the swarming multitudes. In a work like ‘Metropolis’ (1916/7) Grosz ruthlessly depicts Berlin society, dazed and disoriented after the slaughter of warfare. Using Cubist and Futurist devices, combined with a rigid perspective and overlapping figures, he conveys an apocalyptic vision of the frenzied pace and destructive alienation of modern city life. Realist painters of the London Camden Town Group dispelled all elements of sympathy or dialogue from their painting. They were interested in the systems and structures of the city to the point of exclusion of human presence in their paintings. Their outlook was clinical but anxious. The cause of this crisis feeling was not war or economic depression, but the speed of change that took place within society. The treatment of urban subjects projects the vitality of the city as much as unease at the effects of massification. People are cut off from one another, isolated and lost. In poetry similar lines of development can be traced. In Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ the city is delineated as a habitat of chaos and corruption. Urban transformation had come at the expense of traditional wisdom and moral values. The pathway to abstract painting was laid by Piet Mondrian, a major contributor to the De Stijl art movement in the Netherlands. With the focus on abstract and conceptual art, the interest in cityscapes declined. Mondrian’s final painting ‘Broadway Boogie Woogie’ (1943) was inspired by the city grid of Manhattan, and the jazz music to which the artist loved to dance. The stylistic development of the city- and streetscape serves as a guideline in the following chapters, but the street’s social interaction is of equal importance. In this approach there is no divorce between art and life or art and work. The street inspires the creative act, while the power of imagination elevates the street into a work of art. The street level is crucial to the focus of this book. In our age, art has moved indoors. We have exiled the arts into museums, galleries, national libraries, academies, and auction houses. The kidnappers of our common heritage are academics, curators, critics, collectors, and speculators. The creation of the Museum of Modern Art (a contradiction in terms if ever there was one) has been harmful. A work of art is


institutionalized even before completion. As a consequence, art has no function, no purpose, and no context. The museum is both dumping ground and mausoleum. This critical argument goes back to the foundation of the Louvre when Napoleon, in an act of deranged national pride, ransacked Antwerp Cathedral to fill the walls of his beloved institution with paintings by Rubens. Museums are the creation of hoarders and vandals. Art lives in the street not in a gallery, and street art belongs to the public. Streetscapes are an essential component of the public realm which makes up the spaces where people interact and engage in social activities. As such they define the identity, cohesion and aesthetic quality of a community. Art is both individual exploration and public affair. It fulfils a need to pose, to put on a show, to have a gallery, to entertain an audience. The public wants theatre, display, spectacle. Let us move outside then, into the freshly polluted air, away from stuffy museums or fashionable galleries, and rediscover the true sources of creativity. Culture, Henry Miller wrote in a collection of short prose pieces entitled The Cosmological Eye (1939), is drugs, alcohol, engines of war, prostitution, machines, low wages, bad food, bad taste, prisons, reformatories, lunatic asylums, divorce, perversion, brutal sports, suicides, infanticide, cinema, quackery, demagogy, strikes, lockouts, revolutions, colonization, electric chairs, guillotines, sabotage, floods, famine, disease, gangsters, horse racing, fashion shows, poodle dogs, Siamese cats, condoms, syphilis, insanity, neuroses, etc. The street, in other words, is home to art and poetry. Hence attention in this narrative for a wide range of topics associated with street-life: celebrations in Piazza della Signoria; barricades in Rue de la Mortellerie; confrontation in Cable Street; prostitutes in Potsdamer Platz; tangodancing immigrants in Plaza Dorrego; hypocrites in Rua das Flores; drunken rituals in Via Margutta; butchery in The Shambles; cocaine in Gerrard Street; turtle soup in Bishopsgate; British invalids on Promenade des Anglais; politics and Dada in Spiegelgasse; horror in Boulevard du Temple; mass-psychology in Vlaanderenstraat; boogie on Broadway. A city is the characteristic physical and social unit of civilization. Cities have played a


vital role as catalysts of change. They have been the engines of industrialization and social differentiation, the cradles of new ideas and creative expression. They stood in the vanguard of modernity. The term ‘city’, according to Raymond Wiliams’s Keywords, appears in English during the thirteenth century, but its contemporary use indicating a large town as distinguished from the country dates from the sixteenth century when urban existence became widespread. The opposition of city versus country however corresponds to the rapid urban expansion during the Industrial Revolution. By the mid-nineteenth century the process of urbanization was in full swing. Metropolis means ‘mother city’ or ‘mother of cities’ and the term is based on the assumption that there is an original or prototypical city from which other cities emerge (like Athens in Antiquity). The use of the word in the context of this book is much more mundane, simply referring to a large and densely populated urban area. From its beginnings, the metropolis has aroused conflicting emotions, varying from curse to celebration, from love to loathing. There are two opposing interpretations of urban potential. One celebrates the metropolis as a workshop for citizenship, culture and innovation; the other condemns the city as a breeding ground of disruptive tendencies for crime, marginality and erosion of the moral order. English Romantic poets and a subsequent current of nineteenth-century artists, writers and reformers, pushed the view of the city as squalor, crime and vice. During the Romantic period the relationship between London and literature was an arduous one. Between 1790 and 1820 there is a general absence of literary representation of the metropolis. London as an environment, a society, an idea, received little written attention at a time when its printing industry was flourishing and expanding. The popular London essays of Lamb, De Quincey and Hazlitt brought somewhat of a renaissance, but the Romantics ignored the city. A fascination for rural England arose as a result of an increasing disenchantment with urban life. The Victorian elite adopted a pose of rural nostalgia - ‘our England is a garden’ - which is reflected in literature and art, with Thomas Hardy’s ‘country’ novels as leading examples. It created the persistent illusion that the Englishman is a thatched-cottage dweller or


a country squire who is an active member of the village green preservation society. Rural England is an idealized agrarian community, a refuge from the storm of modernity, a haven untouched by the evils of industrialized urban life. It is the pitturesque countryside of Constable and Turner. The city became scapegoat for the squalor of modern life, while at the same time the countryside was re-invented as a rural idyll. As a social phenomenon, the city is a focus of commerce and culture; a guarantor of change and freedom; and a patron of architecture and design. On the other side of the scale, metropolitan life has perverted human perceptions, spawned squalor, and encouraged powerful forms of social control. The city is a site where the battle is fought out between personal brilliance and mass movement, between herd-like conformity and capricious individuality. The city is man’s ambitious attempt to model the world he lives in after his own imagination. It is the environment he created and henceforth condemned to dwell in. Man made the metropolis and in doing so urban life remade the man. The city is both his pride and punishment. Honoré de Balzac’s 1833 novel Ferragus, chef des Dévorants (Ferragus, Chief of the Devorants), included in the Scènes de la vie parisienne section of La comédie humaine, is the first part of his trilogy Histoire des treize. The opening of the story describes Paris in the early 1820s as an assemblage of movements, machines and ideas, and a city of thousand different romances. In the city there are ‘streets which are in as much disrepute as any man branded with infamy can be. There are also noble streets; then there are just simply decent, and, so to speak, adolescent streets about whose morality the public has not yet formed an opinion. There are murderous streets; streets which are more aged than aged dowagers; respectable streets; streets which are always clean; streets which are always dirty; working-class, industrious, mercantile streets. In short, the streets of Paris have human qualities and such a physiognomy as leaves us with impressions against which we can put up no resistance’. Balzac’s streets encouraged the research for this book. The immediate inspiration


however has been the Latin text of an early chronicle which I consulted at the British Library (another copy is held at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge). The manuscript dates back to the 1190s and contains an account of the reign of Richard i by Richard of Devizes, a monk from Winchester. The context is a fictional speech made by a French Jew to a young orphan he had befriended. He suggests to the youngster to seek his fortune in England and recommends Winchester as a suitable place to settle. He warns him that London is a city of evil and wrong-doing and must be avoided at all cost. No-one lives in London without falling into some sort of crime. Every quarter of the metropolis abounds in grave obscenities. He issues this warning to the young man: ‘Do not associate with the crowds of pimps; do not mingle with the throngs in eating-houses; avoid dice and gambling, the theatre and the tavern. You will meet with many braggarts there; the number of parasites is infinite. Actors, jesters, smooth-skinned lads, Moors, flatterers, pretty boys, effeminates, pederasts, singing and dancing girls, quacks, belly-dancers, sorceresses, extortionists, night-wanderers, magicians, mimes, beggars, buffoons: all this tribe fill all the houses. Therefore, if you do not want to dwell with evil-doers, do not live in London’. If the young man possessed any artistic aspiration at all, if he held any creative ambition, he would have ignored this advice and travelled to the capital without delay. In art, a young person has to be rebellious towards established wisdom, not so much to ‘change’ the world, but at least to cause a stir. The spark of youth is vital to artistic renewal. Responsibility and prudence belong to middle age. What, to an impressionable mind, can be more adventurous than a city full of strangers and the introduction to alien customs, foreign food, spicy entertainment and dangerous excitement? Every street of the city contains a story, every passage a poem, every park a dirty secret. His mentor could not have given him a more tempting description of the metropolis. Art revels in the charms of urban sin. This, in summary, is the dual objective of this study: to track the development of the genre of street- and cityscape in Western painting (including the occasional biography of a building); and to identify a multitude of urban themes that have been developed over the years in art, literature, photo-



piazza del campo (siena) Or rather: not the Piazza del Campo ‌ The characteristic mode of portraying the city in early European painting was as a cluster of towers hidden behind an enclosing barrier, and seen in the background of a scene to which it not necessarily holds a narrative connection. The urban setting is more often than not separated from the storyline of the painting. The city is a decorative addition, a distant stage set. Towards the end of the fifteenth century Venetian civic pride began to manifest itself in art. Painters like Vittorio Carpaccio or Gentile Bellini started to pay closer attention to topographical accuracy as settings for their narratives. Urban backdrops, either observed or imagined, acquired a more dominant presence and detailed presentation within the composition of their work. A contributory factor to that development in Venice and elsewhere was the ground-breaking innovations that took place in printing and the graphic arts. Printing had arrived in Italy in 1464, hardly a decade after the invention of the printing press, when two clerics, Conrad Sweynheym from Mainz and Arnold Pannartz from Cologne, set up shop in the Benedictine monastery St Scholastica at Subiaco, in the Sabine mountains near Rome, where they lived as lay brothers. In 1465, they issued the edition princeps of De oratore by Cicero, the first book printed in Italy. Sweynheym and Pannartz printed just three books at the monastery before moving their press to the Palazzo Massimi at Campo dei Fiori in the centre of Rome. There, they printed twenty-eight volumes in editions of up to 300 copies


each. These included editions of, amongst others, Caesar, Livy, Virgil and Lucan. However, there was no viable market for such publications and they failed to sell their stock. Sweynheym dissolved the partnership in 1473 and returned to his former profession as an engraver, while Pannartz struggled on alone until his death in 1477. The output of these and other early printers was predominantly classical texts that appealed to the small community of Humanists, but not in the least to Roman ultramontanists who were concerned with legal affairs at the papal court. Ulrich Han another German printer in Rome produced classical texts from 1467 to 1471, by which time he was overstocked with Cicero, Livy and Plutarch. He then formed a partnership with merchant Simon Nicolai Chardella who instructed him to print books on Roman and Canon law and pamphlets pertaining to affairs at the court. This market-orientated attention meant that Han’s business began to prosper. Other best-selling publications at the time were guides to Rome’s sights and indulgences. Large numbers of German pilgrims journeyed to the city and few of them would have been able to read Latin. They were eager to purchase a travel guide, a Renaissance Baedeker in their native language. Adam Rot ran a printing press in Rome from 1471 to 1474. He was the first to publish books for visiting pilgrims, issuing several guides on the marvels of Rome. The venture proved a commercial success and the history of the guidebook was secured. The incunable Peregrinatio in terram sanctam by Bernard von Breydenbach is one of the earliest travel books containing detailed illustrations of European and Middle Eastern cities. The book was used as a preparatory guide for pilgrimages to the Holy Land. The author’s journey took place from April 1483 to January 1484. A reckless person as a youngster and seeking salvation, he and two companions set out from Oppenheim in Germany and reached Venice two weeks later. They spent three weeks in the city which allowed the book’s illustrator Erhard Reuwich of Utrecht ample time to make sketches of his urban impressions. His image of Venice is regarded as the first purely topographical view of the city. It is significant that it appeared in a medium that that was not weighed down by traditions of narrative painting or expectations of patron or public. The book was aimed at


distant readers who had never been to Venice, Jerusalem, or any of the other cities depicted and described. Reuwich created an observed vision of the city, not the background to an alternative storyline. The Peregrinatio was originally published in Mainz and became a contemporary ‘bestseller’. The splendid illustrations played a crucial part in the success of this book. Another spectacular image of Venice was published soon after. Jacopo de’ Barbari’s ‘View of Venice’ is one of the most stunning achievements of Renaissance printmaking. The aerial view was printed from large woodblocks on six sheets of paper which were then joined together to cover an area of nearly four square metres. Eleven copies are known to survive of the first state of the woodcut printed in 1500 (one of those is held at the British Museum). The original woodblocks are in the Correr Museum in Venice. The print took three years to produce and was based on careful surveys of the streets and buildings of Venice, almost every one of which can be seen clearly. It was later updated by others to reflect new building projects in a second state of the print. Publisher of the image was Anton Kolb, a merchant from Nuremberg in Germany who was resident in Venice. He recorded that no woodcut on such a size using such large blocks had ever been made before. Kolb was granted copyright on the design by the government of Venice and allowed to sell impressions for the high price of three ducats. Generally speaking, however, in artistic renderings the city remained subordinate to the representation of the religious or historical narrative. Neither painters nor patrons showed any particular interest in exploring the possibilities of producing townscapes for their own sake. The contents of the story remained fundamental to the creative effort. Closely associated to the emergence of travel books was the phenomenal progress made in the art of cartography. The biography of every great city is represented by the history of its maps and panoramas. In the chaos of urban growth the cartographer brings line and harmony (the map of the London Underground system is the most reassuring document the overwhelmed visitor to the metropolis can wish for). Maps and topographical drawings became a popular form of wall decoration. Monarchs, nobles and eminent citizens commissioned artists to adorn


their residences with panoramas of cities, either in single sheets or in series. The sixteenth century developed a passion for geography. The expansion of travel, the Spanish and Portuguese exploration of Africa, Asia and the New World, along with the rediscovery of Claudius Ptolemy’s Geography (the earliest printed edition with engraved maps was produced in Bologna in 1477), stimulated the demand for accurate maps. Political struggle and continuous warfare contributed to this demand. An army in action needed detailed locations of possible battlegrounds and accurate views of the cities that were to be besieged. The art of map-making demanded scientific precision (no more artistic sea-monsters or mermaids in the margin) which could only be obtained through training in the use of mathematical scales and instruments. Antwerp-born Antonius van den Wyngaerde was a prolific topographical artist who produced panoramic sketches and paintings of towns in the Low Countries, England, Italy and Spain. He is recorded as saying that among all the joys that the art of painting has to offer, ‘there is not one that I hold in higher esteem than the representation of cities’. His first known work was a vista of the Dutch city of Dordrecht (historically in English named Dort) from around 1544. On a visit to Italy, he created views of Rome, Genoa, Naples and Ancona. Between 1558 and 1559 he visited England, perhaps more than once, where he made views of Dover, London and the palaces of Greenwich, Hampton Court, Oatlands and Richmond. He is best known for many panoramas of cities in Spain that he drew while employed as court artist (‘pintor de cámera’) by Philip ii to whom he was known as Antonio de las Viñas. He was commissioned by the king to document all the main towns and produced at least sixty-two cityscapes (he also drew the first picture of Gibraltar). Always striving for accuracy, Van den Wyngaerde also depicted vivid town activities, but there is no trace of the squalor of street life that prevailed in all cities of that time. These images served to demonstrate the power of Philip’s Spain and give visual expression to the might of his rule. They depended on the artist’s direct observation and visual memory - but also on his imagination. Any suggestion of realism was illusory. This is clear from his view of Valencia.


The lay-out of the streets here is wide and straight as if the city had been formally planned. The squares are made larger and some of the towers moved to different positions. Despite many details, the picture is an idealized rather than an accurate representation. The same applied to his view of Granada where the size and height of churches are increased (without distorting the arrangement) in order to draw attention to the city as a ‘civitas christiana’. Shortly after the artist’s death, Philips sent the collection of views to the Plantin press in Antwerp for engraving. His likely ambition was to create a Spanish city atlas. Unfortunately, the project was never completed. Van den Wyngaerde’s views were dispersed to Vienna, Prague and London and it took until the late 1980s that the corpus of Spanish views was finally published. At the time of its creation, this record of Spanish city views was unique and without precedent. No other European ruler could boast to possess such a complete and accurate visual overview of his realms. The first volume of the Civitates orbis terrarum was published in Cologne in 1572. This city atlas, edited by Georg Braun and largely engraved by Franz Hogenberg, eventually contained 546 prospects and map views of cities from all over the world. It provided a comprehensive image of urban life at the turn of the sixteenth century. Braun, a cleric of Cologne, was the principal editor of the work, and was supported in his project by Abraham Ortelius whose Theatrum orbis terrarum of 1570 was, as a systematic collection of maps of uniform style, the first true atlas. The Civitates was intended as a companion for the Theatrum although it was more popular in approach, no doubt because the novelty of a collection of city views represented a more risky commercial undertaking than a world atlas for which there had been a number of successful precedents. A large number of Jacob van Deventer’s plans of towns of the Netherlands were copied, as were Stumpf ’s woodcuts from the Schweizer Chronik of 1548, and Sebastian Munster’s German views from the 1550 and 1572 editions of his Cosmographia. Another source was the work of Danish cartographer Heinrich van Rantzau, better known under his Latin name Rantzovius, who provided maps of Scandinavian cities. A significant contributor was Antwerp-born artist Joris Hoefnagel (with Antonius van Wyngaerde the most prolific topographical artist


of his day) who not only contributed most of the original material for the Spanish and Italian towns, but also re-worked and modified those of other contributors. Plantin’s printing house in Antwerp, famous for its Polyglot Bible of 1572, was active in the fields of science and cartography as well. By offering mapmakers a space where they could interact with explorers and by supplying the know-how of printing precise and detailed maps, Christoph Plantin became a driving force behind the creation of the modern atlas. Why were the northern regions particularly active in this field of knowledge gathering? The strong topographical tradition was partly due to political developments in Germany and the Low Countries. The more the Emperors Maximilian i and Charles v and the Spanish king Philips ii tried to expand the power of imperial institutions at the expense of local city autonomy, the more these developed and sophisticated cities resisted interference in their affairs. Shared adversity created unity. It promoted civic awareness of the city’s history, its traditions, its institutions, and its cultural output. The Aristotelian concept of the ‘communitas perfecta’, the idea of a fully autonomous body possessing all the means of securing its own welfare and pursuing its chosen goals, supported an outburst of local pride and found expression in a variety of topographical works. Book illustrators and map makers in particular pushed forward the development of topographical images and cityscapes. It makes the presence of Ambrogio Lorenzetti all the more remarkable. The latter was an Italian painter of the Sienese school who was active between approximately from 1317 to 1348 (the year that he died of the plague). Although few of his pieces have survived, he is considered one of the most inventive artists of the early fourteenth century. The Republic of Siena at the time was a powerful city-state where merchants and bankers had developed a strong commercial base with a range of international contacts. Politically, this was a turbulent age marred by a string of violent conflicts. Governments were overthrown and reinstated. During the late 1330s the Council of Nine (the city council) commissioned Lorenzetti to paint the ‘Allegory and Effects of Good and Bad Government’ series in the Sala dei Nove of Siena’s Palazzo Pubblico. The artist created an ensemble of urban images that is exceptional within the


medieval tradition. Unlike most contemporary paintings the subject matter is not religious but civic. The aim of the painting is to exalt the political creed of the government of the ‘Nove’, a clique of Guelphs who retained power in Siena until 1355. Lorenzetti’s frescoes promoted the morality of government. By showing comprehensive cause-and-effect situations of corrupt governing in comparison to those of virtuous leadership, these images were aimed at reminding members of the council to seek justice at all times. The murals occupy three of the four walls of the Council Room. On the eastern wall Lorenzetti shows the scenes of the ‘Effects of Good Government’, while on the western wall the ‘Effects of Bad Government’ are shown. Overlooking both these murals, the personifications of the allegorical depictions of the virtues of good government are found on the northern wall. In the foreground of the ‘Allegory of Good Government’ figures of contemporary Siena are represented. They act as symbolic representations of the various civic officers and magistrates. Behind them, on a stage, there are allegoric figures representing Good Government. Wisdom is seated upon a throne and holds an orb and sceptre, symbolizing temporal power. He is dressed in the colours of the ‘Balzana’, the black and white Sienese coat-of-arms. Around his head are the four letters CSCV (Commune Saenorum Civitatis Virginis) which explains his identity as the embodiment of the Siena Council. The virtues of good government are represented by the female figures of Peace, Fortitude and Prudence on the left, and Magnanimity, Temperance and Justice on the right. On the longer wall of the room is the fresco of the ‘Effects of Good Government in the City and in the Country’. Part of that image is ‘Peaceful City’ which provides the first panoramic view of Siena. The city is filled with palaces, markets, towers, churches, streets and walls. Busy shops indicate prosperity. The fresco then blends into the ‘Peaceful Country’. The transition is made by an entourage passing through the city gate. The scene shows a bird’s-eye view of the Tuscan countryside, with villas, castles, and farmers working the fields. The wall on which the fresco of the ‘Effects of Bad Government’ is depicted used to be an exterior wall, so has suffered damage in the past. The image shows Tyrammides (Tyranny) resting his feet upon a goat


(symbolic of luxury), his hand holding a dagger, while the figures of Cruelty, Deceit, Fraud, Fury, Division, and War flank him. Above him float those of Avarice, Pride, and Vanity. The city itself is in ruin. Houses are being smashed and the streets are deserted. Crime and disease are rampant. The countryside suffers from drought and shows two battle-ready armies advancing towards each other. The disaster of bad government served as a powerful reminder to members of the council. Lorenzetti supplied a painted view of a secular city in detail and inclusiveness. Commerce, trade and various social activities are visualized, while religious manifestations are almost entirely excluded. There are three identifiable churches, but they are marginal to the composition. Even the city’s impressive duomo has been squeezed into the background - no more than a tiny tower. Lorenzetti’s secular medieval city is not a faithful portrait of Siena, nor is it a true topographical representation. His ambition was to depict an ideal city, one that should be compared to Siena, but not be mistaken for it. The buildings are real structures, but the totality is imaginary. Topography is overruled by the artist’s message. His purpose was to portray the peaceful prosperity of a well-governed city. For the sake of the representation of various trades, social interaction, and communal celebrations, he re-designed the heart of the city and created a large open foreground which allowed him to display a variety of activities. That space in front of the new Palazzo Pubblico is not the Piazza del Campo, nor is it any other known open space in Siena. This large area behind the remarkably thin city-wall is a creation of the artist’s fancy. In other words, ‘Lorenzetti Square’ is an imaginary public place. The streetscape serves a particular purpose and is made subordinate to the moral message - Lorenzetti’s Siena nevertheless remains a remarkable portrait of a proud city.



thames street (london) Thames Street is a narrow river-side street in Vintry which, during the reign of Henry viii, contained the grand residences of many courtiers and merchants. Wool exporter and Lord Mayor of London John Lovekyn had a grand mansion in Thames Street overlooking the river. Sir William Walworth also lived here. The street represented money, authority and power. Historically, the area gained fame for the two greatest benefits to mankind, wine and printing - and for the unfortunate legacy of mob violence. These riots have gone down into history. They are represented in a remarkable set of early London cityscapes. Vintry is one of the twenty-five wards of the City of London and owes its name to its former status as a site for the wine merchants of Bordeaux who stored and sold their products there. The ‘Worshipful Company of Vintners’ is one of the Livery Companies which probably existed as early as the twelfth century. It received a Royal Charter in 1364. Chronologically, these merchants were preceded by cooks as has been recorded in Fitz-Stephen’s (who was clerk to Thomas à Beckett) lively Description of London of 1170. In this, the first general description of the metropolis, the author lists in great detail the cook shops on the banks of the River Thames which he thought the acme off civilization, ‘at any time of day or night, any number could be fed to suit all palates and all purses’. There is a theory that the word ‘Cockney’ is derived from the Latin ‘coquina’ (cookery) at the time that London was widely praised for its cook shops. Later in the thirteenth century the river banks


were taken over by vintners and their wine vaults. The cooks packed their pots and pans and moved elsewhere, to Eastcheap and Bread Street. Connected to all this is the name of Geoffrey Chaucer. He was born in the parish of St Martin Vintry into a prosperous Suffolk merchant family which had been engaged in the export of wool to the Low Countries and the import of wine. His great-grandfather Andrew of Dynyngton was also known as Andrew the Taverner, and most likely kept a tavern there. The move to London was made by Geoffrey’s grandfather Robert Dynyngton, known as Robert Malyn le Chaucer (that name, meaning ‘maker of shoes’, may well have been adopted by Robert on the death of his employer, the mercer John le Chaucer). Robert’s son John Chaucer became a prominent London wine merchant and an influential freeman of the city. Young Geoffrey Chaucer was much aware of the link between tavern and creativity. Before the fourteenth century, popular uprisings tended to operate on a local scale. This changed when downward pressures on the poor resulted in mass manifestations of resistance across Europe. In the 1320s, beginning as a series of scattered rural riots, the peasant insurrection in Flanders escalated into a fullscale rebellion that dominated public affairs for nearly five years. Between May and August 1381 England experienced a popular uproar of dramatic severity. Rioters rebelled against the landowning classes and the incompetent government of Richard ii. They murdered the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Treasurer of England, numerous lawyers and royal servants, and laid siege to the Tower of London. The spirit of rebellion lasted all summer and was recorded with horror by contemporaries, including Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower and the chroniclers Thomas Walsingham and Jean Froissart. That the rebels marched from country to capital was a new phenomenon. This was the first manifestation of urban mob violence in England. A specific target of the crowd was London’s immigrant population. The Peasant’s Revolt had begun in the Essex village of Fobbing in May of that year. It started with the arrival of a Royal commissioner, John Bampton, enquiring into tax evasion. Unrest spread quickly through the county and into Kent. In early June Wat Tyler joined the uprising in Maidstone and assumed


leadership of the Kentish rebels. He marched his men into London who left a trail of destruction behind them. They burned down the Palace of Savoy, home of the hated John of Gaunt. The latter was the fourth son of Edward iii and Philippa of Hainault and took his name from his godfather, John, Duke of Brabant, one of Edward’s allies in the Low Countries: Gaunt is a corrupted form of Ghent. The rebellion soon appeared to be out of control. A horde of drunken men went in search of immigrants. The massacre of Flemish citizens took place in the neighbourhood of St Martin’s Vintry. The area was a known haunt of Continental merchants and was located one block down Thames Street from the house of John Chaucer, father of the author. Dozens of Flemings were dragged from the sanctuary of the city churches, beheaded, and their bodies left to rot. Nobody was spared during that violent outburst, except those who could plainly pronounce ‘bread and cheese’, for if their speech sounded anything like ‘brot’ or ‘cawse’, off went their heads, as a sure mark they were Flemish. One of the victims was merchant and financier Richard Lyons. Most likely of Flemish descent, he was killed in Cheapside on 14 June 1381. At his death he held lands in Essex, Kent, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex, Middlesex, and Hertfordshire, as well as London property which included a large house in Thames Street. Lyons had been engaged in the exercise of the sweet wine monopoly. One of the leaders of the London riots, afterwards executed for his involvement, was Jack Straw. Geoffrey Chaucer refers to the massacre of Flemings by Straw and his gang in ‘The Nun’s Priest’s Tale’. Jean Froissart’s Chronicle is a crucial source for students of the first half of the Hundred Years’ War. The author originated from Valenciennes and had started his working life as a merchant. Having become a clerk, his skills were soon recognized and he was employed by Philippa of Hainault, Queen Consort of Edward iii of England, as court poet and historian. The Chronicle depicts the rebellion - Froissart describes Wat Tyler as a ‘tiler of houses, an ungracious patron’ - and illustrates the latter’s demise. Having been summoned to speak with King Richard ii at Smithfield on 15 June 1381, Tyler outlined the rebels’ demands, which included the abolition of serfdom. A fracas then ensued, allegedly because Tyler kept his head covered in the


King’s presence, leading the Mayor of London, William Walworth, to try to arrest him. In the struggle between the two men, Tyler was wounded. The other rebels quickly dispersed, having been granted a royal pardon. Tyler was dragged from the nearby hospital of St Bartholomew, and summarily executed at Smithfield. A lavishly illustrated edition of the Chronicles in four volumes was commissioned by Louis of Gruuthuuse, a nobleman and bibliophile from Bruges. The four volumes are now in the Bibliothèque Nationale and contain 112 miniatures of various sizes painted by some of the best Brugeois artists of the day including splendid images of the meeting between Richard ii and the rebels and the murder of Wat Tyler in the style of Flemish illuminator Loiset Liédet. The London cityscape figures splendidly in the background of both scenes. It may be coincidence or it may be a distant reminder of disturbances in the area, but towards the end of the fifteenth century Thames Street became a centre of legal printing and documentation. The very first book printed in London was Antonius Andreae’s Quaestiones super XII libros Metaphysicae Aristotelis. Dating from 1480, it is a Latin commentary on the metaphysics of Aristotle. Its publication was financed by the draper William Wilcock. The printer of this work went by the name of Johannes Lettou. He may be the same Johannes who worked in the previous years in Rome, mainly for the papal Curia. Apart from the colophons in his books, Lettou’s name is known from a register of aliens in which he is recorded as head of a household of German printers living in what is now Lower Thames Street. A member of this household was William de Machlinia [Maclyn], with whom Lettou formed a partnership in about 1481/2. Their first publication was the Abbreviamentum statutorum, a handbook for lawyers that contained summaries of the laws of the land, alphabetically arranged by subject. The partners published in the following years at least five books of common law. They include two editions of Sir Thomas Littleton, Tenores novelli, in 1482/3 and 1484. Their final joint publication was a full edition of the parliamentary statutes from the reign of Edward ii, Nova statuta, during the printing of which Lettou is thought to have died. William de Machlinia continued the business alone for another few years in


which he published an edition of the statutes promulgated by the only parliament of Richard iii in 1484/5 - one of the earliest examples of an official publication. In March 1486 De Machlinia printed the bull in which Pope Innocent iii granted dispensation for the marriage of Henry viii and Elizabeth of York. There was an old tradition for legal books, manuscript and print, to be richly decorated. Lettou and De Machlinia made a gesture for honouring this tradition, for many copies of their books are decorated with red and blue initials. The presence of printers in Thames Street was continued by the eminent Henry Bynneman who, using his familiar sign of the Mermaid, had premises here. Motto to the press was ‘Omnia tempus habent’, which is the opening phrase of a passage in Ecclesiastes iii and translates as ‘To every thing there is a season [and a time to every purpose under the heaven]’. Thames Street has certainly served a variety of aims and purposes over is long history. Elizabeth’s reign was a period of a great expansion of Italian culture in England in spite of Puritan suspicions. In the 1560s a number of Boccaccio’s vernacular works appeared in English translation and Bynneman’s press was active in publishing those. Giovanni Boccaccio was a sophisticated Florentine who performed various diplomatic services for the city government. He was above all a talented urban writer. The background for his Decameron is the Florentine plague epidemic of 1348 (in a sense this is the first urban disaster story). Throughout the narrative urban values of quick wit and intelligence are treasured, while stupidity and dullness are punished. This city orientation was an emerging feature of European fiction and Boccaccio strongly influenced its development. Geoffrey Chaucer was intrigued and inspired by Boccaccio’s work. His Canterbury Tales also uses the concept of a large story as the framework which includes all other tales allowing the author to explore a wide range of experiences, perspectives, themes and opinions. Fluent in French, conversant in Italian and widely read, he was open to assimilate the rich domain of Continental literature. Chaucer masterfully adapted Boccaccio’s urban passion. The city was about to take centre-stage in European literature.



piazza della signoria (florence) Piazza della Signoria is an L-shaped square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio (Florence’s town hall) which is located near Ponte Vecchio and Piazza del Duomo. It is the focal point of the origin of the Florentine Republic. The Signoria was the government of medieval and Renaissance Florence which consisted of nine members, the Priori, who were chosen from the ranks of the guilds of the city. The piazza was already a central square in the original Roman town Florentia, surrounded by a theatre, public baths and a workshop for dyeing textiles. The Piazza has been painted on numerous occasions. Canaletto’s and Bernardo Bellotto’s depictions are among the most famous ones. Art historians have associated cultural splendour with economic prosperity. Athens in its golden age from about 500 bc promoted architecture and art, and witnessed the birth of theatre, politics, and philosophy. What may have been the catalyst of such an explosion of creative energy? Athens was a cosmopolitan city, open to various outside influences. Military dominance enabled it to exact tributes from its colonies that funded programs of public art. Democracy gave a pride of freedom and diversity to its citizens. By 1460 Antwerp was one of the largest cities in Europe with a total population of some 100,000 citizens. Of all those inhabitants, just twenty were accounted for as professional painters. A century later, as many as 300 master painters in the city were registered as members of the Guild of St Luke who were running their independent work-shops and


instructing apprentices. What was the driving force behind this cultural eruption? In the course of the fourteenth century Antwerp had grown into Western Europe’s dominant trade and financial centre. In parallel to economic prosperity, a buoyant cultural activity developed within the walls of the city. By the sixteenth century art, weaving and printing had reached unparalleled levels of perfection. Enlightened humanism created a mental atmosphere that proved conducive to the pursuit of art and science. Antwerp became the most vibrant cultural city in Europe. If the arts were initially stimulated by assignments from Church authorities and gentry, increasingly works of art were created on spec, in other words, they were produced for the open market rather than on order or commission. The Guild of St Luke took a pragmatic approach to this commercialization of art, which itself was a direct result of the ever increasing demand for luxury goods. Artistic innovation has always been propelled by urban energies. Athens promoted intellectual endeavour, Antwerp stimulated printing and tapestryweaving, Florence revitalized the fine arts, and London flowered from Elizabethan times through drama and theatre. During the seventeenth century freethinking Amsterdam dominated all other cities in banking, industry and science, supporting (and exporting) a density of artists who were painting for wealthy burgher clients. After 1800, Vienna came to the fore in musical renewal first and subsequently witnessed an outburst of energy in avant-garde painting. Later, Paris ruled the arts. In the early twentieth century, Weimar Berlin led the way in cinema. What makes a particular city innovative in a specific field? And why does that creativity blaze for a short period and then die down? If such ‘golden’ ages are rare, by what alchemy do they occur? All cities mentioned above flourished economically which led historians like Robert Vaughan in The Age of Great Cities (1843) to conclude that ‘society becomes possessed of the beautiful in art, only as cities become prosperous and great’. John Maynard Keynes, in A Treatise on Money, boldly remarked that, as a nation, England was in an economic position ‘to afford Shakespeare at the moment when he presented himself ’. Great artists flourish in an urban atmosphere of buoyancy and freedom from economic restraints. They tend to work in cities


that are cosmopolitan, outward looking, and in the throes of social change. The theory has been repeated time and again. It would be naïve, however, to link artistic innovation exclusively to prosperity. Wealth in our age is everywhere, but creative talent is hard to find. Financial reward has little to do with artistic achievement ‘Muse and Mammon cannot be worshipped at the same altar’, as Martin Archer Shee observed in his Elements of Art (1808). What makes an innovative milieu is not affluence itself, but the concentration of talent that it may engender. A culture benefits from the presence of ambitious artists scrambling to eke out a living in a competitive environment. It is a principle the Medici dynasty fully understood when they assembled an array of competing talent to embellish the old city. Florence prospered through its booming textile industry, trade and banking. The Florentine gold florin was the standard coinage throughout Europe and Tuscan bankers established branches in such important cities as London, Geneva and Bruges. Florence was central to the Renaissance thanks to the funding provided by the Medici dynasty who wanted their city-state to be an awe-inspiring urban centre. Art was an expression of civic pride. Around a hundred palaces were built in Florence in the fifteenth century alone. In a city with a population of some 60,000 that is a staggering number. Talented artists and architects, painters and sculptors, were attracted to Florence and rewarded handsomely for their work. These individuals included geniuses like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Brunelleschi, making Florence the centre of gravity in the Italian Renaissance. Its military power boosted the image of being heir to the Roman Republic. Its cultural pride attracted intellectuals and artists from all over the peninsula and from abroad. Florence was a cosmopolitan place where foreigners shared in the pride of the city. One of those immigrants was Bruges-born painter Jan van der Straet, better known as Stradanus, who spent most of his career in Italy. Having joined Antwerp’s Guild of St Luke around 1545, he left for Italy via Lyons. After six months in Venice, Stradanus settled in Florence, designing tapestry-cartoons for Grand Duke Cosimo i de Medici. From 1550 to 1553, he was probably in Rome, first collaborating on the Belvedere gallery in the Vatican and later assisting Francesco


Salviati, whose style influenced him greatly. Back in Florence, Stradanus worked under Giorgio Vasari on frescoes and tapestry cartoons for the Palazzo Vecchio, an activity he continued as an independent artist in the 1570s. Stradanus’s themes and manner of representation became an inherent part of the decorative tradition of the Medici court. In Florence, he developed a descriptive style for the iconography of nobility connected to his Flemish roots in depicting animals, nature, and scenes of everyday life. Central to his activity as designer was his fine draughtsmanship. Cosimo i employed Stradanus to design tapestries with hunting scenes which turned out to be popular and inspired him to start producing prints of a similar nature. In collaboration with the renowned Antwerp printmakers, Hieronymus Cock and the Galle family, he produced a vast number of prints using the buoyant Antwerp art market as a base for the distribution of his work. He also contributed two paintings to Francesco i de Medici’s famous ‘Studiolo’ in the Palazzo Vecchio (which includes ‘The alchemist’s studio’), a small private room in which the eccentric Duke kept his private museum of paintings and a collection of precious objects. It was also a place where this strange man would find seclusion from his wife, family, and court. Not long after Francesco’s death, the Studiolo was dismantled (only to be partially reconstructed in the twentieth century as a Medici-oddity). Stradanus created some stunning views of Florence in the 1550s, images of the Via Larga, Ponte a Sante Trinita, Piazza del Mercato, Piazza de Duomo, or Piazza San Giovanni that reflect the tremendous pride Florentines took in the splendour of their city. Highlight is his 1598 fresco of ‘Firework at the Piazza della Signoria’. In their quest to stay close to the public, Renaissance rulers adopted the old trick of entertaining the masses. Impressive displays were part of various festivities. Even though the Chinese had invented fireworks, Europe surpassed them in pyrotechnic development in the fourteenth century, which coincides with the time the gun was invented. Shot and gunpowder for military use were made by skilled tradesmen who also produced fireworks for peace or victory celebrations. During the Renaissance, these became a true art form, when sculptors, craftsmen, and pyrotechnicists worked together to create miniature castles adorned with


fountains and wheels that would spray brilliant orange sparks, or spin so quickly that the viewer witnessed a spectacular ‘ring of fire’ during a night time display. Italians in particular were known for their elaborate exhibits. The link between the military and pyrotechnics was maintained for some considerable time. By the midseventeenth century fireworks were used for entertainment on an unprecedented scale in Europe, being popular at pleasure resorts and public gardens. In his Pyrotechnia, or a Discourse of Artificiall Fire-Works for Pleasure (1635), the first treatise in English to deal exclusively with the subject of display fireworks, John Babington, Master of his Majesties Ordnance for Charles i, provided directions for making rockets, stars, wheels, and ground-wheels that were more explicit than any offered by previous writers. He was at his best when describing the complex devices and intricate displays in which his age delighted. When beauty becomes dislodged from functionality, when urban splendour is celebrated for its own sake without consideration of purpose, when wealth and material interests overshadow spiritual concerns, then preachers of doom never fail to turn up, pointing out that every metropolis is destined to become a necropolis. In Florence it was Dominican priest Girolamo Savonarola who raised his voice and finger to warn his fellow citizens of imminent ruin. Having ousted the Medicis from the city, he installed a reign of religious tyranny. He packed out Brunelleschi‘s Santa Maria del Fiore, famous for its massive dome, where he delivered rousing sermons against the extravagance of Florentines. He protested against the wealth of the church and preached against the accumulation of worldly possessions. Savonarola declared that the syphilis epidemic sweeping Italy was God’s punishment upon transgressors. He decreed that obesity was a sign of the deadly sin of gluttony. Obese people were set upon by his supporters with sticks and whips. Savonarola called for a ‘bonfire of vanities’ in which people were to burn ‘sinful’ paintings and luxuries (mirrors, cosmetics, musical instruments, manuscripts of secular songs, playing cards, books by Ovid, Petrarch, Boccaccio and others). A huge pyramid of ‘vanities’ was built in the middle of the Piazza della Signoria. The bonfire was lit on Shrove Tuesday (7 February). As the entire Signoria assembled from the balcony


of the Palazzo Vecchio, flames reached over sixty feet high with the crowds singing a Te Deum. After a while Florentines began to ridicule Savonarola’s puritanical edicts. His crusade against the abuses of the church would lead to his downfall. Pope Alexander vi restricted him from preaching and when he refused to do so, he was excommunicated. His reign would not come to an end until 1498 when he was accused of sedition and uttering false prophesies. He was jailed in the Bargello and tortured for several days, but never recanted his words. On 23 May 1498, in front of the fountain of Neptune, he was hanged from a huge cross together with two of his loyal disciples, Silvestro Maruffi and Domenico de Pescia, and burned until nothing but ashes remained. After the preacher’s execution Florence rapidly recovered from this traumatic passage of time and continued to thrive. Only a month after his death, on the festival of San Giovanni, the Florentines were entertained by the spectacular sight of a set piece of fireworks representing a giant, a pig, and some dogs. These were allegorical figures of Francesco Valori (the giant ‘gonfaloniere’ or leader of the Signoria) and the pig Savonarola. The dogs were the followers of the preacher. It must have been some party, an urban delight at its best.



catharine wheel alley (london) Medieval urban life held many hazards. There was no common law of the land. Regulations were set by the lord of the manor or by the mayor and his council in towns and cities. The streets of London were perilous and fraught with danger. Life was cheap and tempers were short. There were fights and assaults in the street, knifings in the tavern, and beatings in the home. Criminals received a quick trial and, if found guilty, they were dealt with immediately. In order to exercise some control, the town authorities imposed a curfew at night. After the bell had rung, it was expected that all townspeople were in their homes for the night. The city gates were locked. Anyone found outside their house would be challenged by a night watchman. Everyone in town had a duty to raise the alarm if they saw a crime being committed. The city offered protection and a limited degree of freedom to its citizens by imposing a strict system of compulsion and regimentation. Catherine Wheel Alley is a tiny street leading to the hurly burly of Bishopsgate and into the market environment of Middlesex Street in Spitalfields. Today we associate the Catherine wheel with a type of firework consisting of a powder-filled spiral tube, mounted with a pin through its centre. When ignited, it rotates quickly, producing a display of sparks and coloured flames. Fireworks are of ancient Chinese origin. They were used in crude form in medieval times in Europe to celebrate military victories or royal occasions. More refined kinds of fireworks, such as the Catherine wheel, are first recorded in the eighteenth century, and it was not until


the nineteenth century that new ingredients, such as magnesium and aluminium, could be added to the staple gunpowder base to achieve a colourful display. The name occurs in the history of printing as well. Thomas Creede was a London printer. In 1593 he opened his own printing house at the sign of the Catherine Wheel, near the Old Swan public house in Thames Street. At this establishment he produced a number of significant literary works, including the first quarto editions of Shakespeare’s Henry VI (1594) and Henry V (1600). In medieval days the Catherine (or breaking) wheel was a torture device used for capital punishment. A public execution at the time was a big public occasion and as such it was considered a triumph of the law. Every aspect of the process was carried out with military precision. Torture was not an act of blind savagery. It was a horror show, a play with a moral, and a strictly regulated practice. It was a skill, not an expression of rage. The pain to be inflicted was measured carefully. It ranged from the immediacy of decapitation to the slowly inflicted pain limits of quartering. The art of putting the hellish visions of Hieronymus Bosch into practice was experienced as a crowd-pleaser. Torture was a work of art. It was what Dostoevsky called ‘artistically cruel’, the penal system’s equivalent to Dante’s poetry. If the crowd gathered round the scaffold, it was not simply to witness the sufferings of a condemned man. This was real life drama. To hear someone curse the authorities was worth waiting for. Death-by-torture allowed the condemned person this sudden freedom where nothing was censored and all could be expressed. The ceremony of dismemberment was the climax of procedures which was eagerly awaited by the crowd. Even after the convict’s death, torture continued. Heads were put on spikes for public display, body parts stolen, corpses burnt, and ashes thrown in the wind. The festival of cruelty seemed never-ending. Capital punishment comprised many kinds of death. Some convicts were hanged. Those who had committed a more serious crime were condemned to be broken alive and to die on the wheel, after having their limbs broken. Some were to be broken until they died a natural death, others to be strangled and then broken. Another option was to be burnt alive which was sometimes preceded by strangulation, on other


occasions not. Some serious offenders were drawn by four horses, or had their head cut off. There were no barriers to savagery. It was mostly manual work, done by hand - the hand of the executioner. The office of professional hangman did not exist in the early Middle-Ages but dates back to the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries with the development of new judicial procedures and more elaborate corporal punishments that were to shape criminal justice through the early modern period. Prior to this time the court basically arbitrated a private settlement between the victim and the offender in which the former or his/her family received a compensation that corresponded to their social status. When executions did occur they were carried out by a variety of people, all of whom were amateurs: by the accuser himself, by a member of the family, sometimes by a juryman or by the beadle. In the course of time governmental authorities became more actively involved in criminal proceedings. Corporal punishments resulted increasingly from the attempt by public authorities to monopolize the legitimate use of violence in the hands of government. The creation of the office of the trained executioner was a consequence of these developments. His rise coincided with increased criminalization in society which concerned unfortunate groups such as beggars, vagrants, or prostitutes. The rapid expansion of the city made his role all the more powerful. He became a central figure in early urban crowd control and crime prevention. Where does the name Catherine wheel come from? At the age of eighteen, Catherine of Alexandria, known as Saint Catherine of the Wheel, paid a visit to Emperor Maximus ii. She hoped to persuade him to stop persecuting Christians. Whilst at the court, she succeeded in converting his wife. The Emperor was furious and Catherine was condemned to death on the breaking wheel. This torture instrument broke when she touched it, so she was beheaded instead. Her symbol became the spiked wheel, known as the Catherine wheel. In 1063, the Order of the Knights of St Catherine was formed with the aim of protecting pilgrims on their way to and from the Holy Sepulchre. These knights wore a white habit embroidered with a


Catherine wheel traversed with a sword, stained with blood. It seems unlikely, but the Catherine Wheel became popular as a tavern name. By using the saintly sign, the publican suggested that he would protect his customers from any unpleasantness in his inn, just as the knights of St Catherine protected pilgrims from highwaymen. The name lives on in Catherine Wheel Alley, East London, leading to Petticoat Lane Market. For over 300 years the galleried Catherine Wheel inn stood here until it was destroyed by fire in 1895. During the early part of the eighteenth century this public house was one of the secretive haunts of Dick Turpin. At some point in its long history the name of the pub was changed to the Cat and Wheel in order to pacify Puritans who objected to the name association with a saint. The accession of Elizabeth i put an end to years of Catholic restoration under Queen Mary. With the passing of the 1559 Act of Supremacy she declared herself Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The act included an Oath of Supremacy which required anyone taking public or church office to swear allegiance to the monarch as head of Church and state. Those who refused to take the oath could be charged with treason. During that same year Philip ii established the University of Douai with the purpose of preserving the purity of the Catholic faith from the errors of the Reformation. Soon there were English, Scottish and Irish colleges and the university became the chief centre for exiles, including many young men from Oxford and Cambridge who remained loyal to the old faith (to this very day there is an Irish College in Louvain). The purge of universities created a remarkable Catholic diaspora in the Southern Netherlands. Douai, located on the River Scarpe some twenty miles south of Lille, became the most important recusant centre on the European mainland. During the first decade of Elizabethan reign more than a hundred senior members of the University of Oxford alone left for Louvain and Douai. There is some irony in the fact that four Catholic activists were arrested in the Catherine Wheel tavern in Oxford, before being put through a horrendous ordeal. Thomas Belson had matriculated in 1580 at Oriel College but, like so many other


Catholics of his generation, never graduated in order to avoid taking the Oath of Supremacy. Instead, he continued his studies at the English College at the University of Douai, which had been founded by William Allen in 1568. The latter was a former Principal of St Mary Hall, Oxford, but had to resign his post in 1560 with the Elizabethan persecution of intellectuals. He became the spiritual leader of the English community in the Low Countries and was one of many exiled authors who produced a sheer endless list of recusant publications. Many British students were groomed in Douai to undertake missionary work at home with all the dangers that task involved. The authorities in England were highly suspicious of the activities of the refugee community. By the time Elizabeth died, 450 Douai priests had served on an English mission, and 110 of them had been executed. Little is known of Belson’s activities until June 1585 when he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He had been one of those who were involved in assisting the recently converted Philip Howard, 1st Earl of Arundel, in his attempt to leave for the Continent. On his release he continued liaising between exiled Catholics on the Continent and England. On 18 May 1589 Belson was arrested at the Catherine Wheel, together with two priests who had been with him at Douai, George Nichols and Richard Yaxley, and a servant at the inn, Humphrey Prichard. The four men were taken on horseback to London, where they were tortured and interrogated. After six weeks they were sent back to Oxford, tried, and found guilty. All four were executed on 5 July 1589, the two priests hanged, drawn, and quartered for treason, Belson and Prichard hanged as felons. The brutality of the executions shocked the local population and it took twenty years before another priest was executed in Oxford.



totengässlein (basel) Early urban culture and the invention of the printing press are intertwined. The diffusion of this technology encouraged activity in the city and stimulated commercial and intellectual pursuits. Printing was the catalyst. It made a huge impact on business skill and performance (bookkeeping and the calculation of exchange and interest rates for example) and allowed for the social ascent of new professional classes such as merchants, lawyers, officials, doctors, and teachers. The Arte dell’abbaco (known as the ‘Treviso arithmetic’), the earliest known printed book on mathematics, is a textbook in commercial arithmetic written in vernacular Venetian and published in Treviso in 1478. It is significant that early places of printing excellence were either commercial centres (Venice, Bruges), university towns (Mainz, Louvain), or both (Leiden). The early modern city was a meeting place of traders, bankers, printers and intellectuals. The city-state (civitas) of Rome has been the inspiration to our notions of civilization and ‘civility’ (literally, the way of life that belongs to the city). The Latin term ‘urbs’ implies a tradition of ‘urbanity’ in a sense of refined social intercourse. A history of Western civilization is largely a tale of urban development within Europe. Basel is one of those cities that take pride in a strong intellectual tradition. Scholars have always enjoyed considerable prestige here. John Foxe worked on his history of the persecutions suffered by the Reformers while in exile in Basel; Jacob Burckhardt, who was born in the city, became the celebrated historian of


the Italian Renaissance; Nietzsche taught Greek philology at Basel University and wrote some of his philosophical works there; Jung studied medicine at the University; and Theodor Herzl addressed the first Zionist Congress in the old Municipal Casino. At present, the city is home to a number of famous schools and museums and constitutes an international marketplace for art and antiquities. Totengässlein, located in the heart of historic Basel (the name translates as Little Lane of the Dead), houses the Pharmazie-Historisches Museum which was founded in 1925. Dedicated to pharmaceutical history, it holds one of the world’s largest collections on the subject that includes notable books such as Der Gart der Gesundheyt by Johann de Cuba (Augsburg, 1488) and New Kreüterbuch by Leonhart Fuchs (Basel, 1543). The museum is located in the historical house ‘Zum Vorderen Sessel’ which dates back to the thirteenth century. The building once housed an important printing press owned by Johann Amerbach who had arrived in Basel from Germany in 1475. In 1507 the property, consisting of several houses and a yard, was bought from him by his pupil Johann Froben. Here, in 1514, a meeting took place that would shape the course of Europe’s intellectual history. In 1499, Erasmus of Rotterdam paid his first visit to England as guest of William Blount, his former pupil in Paris and the future Lord Mountjoy, who encouraged the Dutch scholar to compile his Adagia. During his stay Erasmus met Thomas More and the two became lifelong friends. Apparently, their very first meeting took place at the Lord Mayor’s table. They were seated opposite each other. Their debate was lively. Each was so impressed by the other’s wit that Erasmus exclaimed, ‘Aut tu es Morus, aut nullus’ (Either you are More, or no one), and More replied, ‘Aut tu es Erasmus, aut diabolus’ (You are either Erasmus, or the devil). Whilst on a second visit in 1505, Erasmus was joined by Thomas More and together they worked on the translation of Lucian’s satires from Greek into Latin (published in Paris, 1506). In 1509 Erasmus visited England for a third time. During his stay he wrote Encomium Moriae (In Praise of Folly) which he dedicated to Thomas, jokingly including More’s name in the title. The meeting between Erasmus and Johannes Froben took place five years after the former’s 1509 visit to England. Froben was a printer in Basel who


established the greatest Swiss publishing firm of the early sixteenth century. A scholar himself, a master printer, and a successful businessman, he recognized the vitality of humanistic thinking. Froben had originally worked in Nuremberg, before moving to Basel in 1490. Three years later, he entered a partnership with Johannes Petri and the leading Basel printer of the preceding generation, Johannes Amerbach. A fine 1513 reprint of Aldus’s edition of Erasmus’s Adagia had drawn the humanist’s attention to the superb skills of the Basel printer. Moreover, Erasmus was intrigued by the work that was undertaken by Amerbach and Froben for an edition of the writings of Saint Jerome. Erasmus admired this early scholar and had been busy himself translating his epistles. His plan to restore the books of Jerome and add a commentary had been frustrated by a variety of problems. Basel offered the opportunity of joining a group of editors who were working on the same subject. In July 1514, he set out to meet Froben. He carried his notes on Jerome with him. After the death of his partners, Froben took full control of the press. In 1500 he married the daughter of the bookseller Wolfgang Lachner, who entered into a partnership with him. She ran the commercial side of the business, while Froben handled the authors and editors and the process of production. By 1510 his press had become the centre of a large circle of mostly German and Swiss humanist scholars. The inclusion of Erasmus meant a major turning point for the firm. From about 1515, Froben was the main publisher used by Erasmus. In 1521, the latter moved from the Netherlands to Basel. It was Froben’s fine printing and humanistic scholarship that made him decide to make the move. It turned out to be a happy meeting of minds and skills. The greatest period of Froben’s work as a printer coincided with the years of his friendship with the celebrated scholar, the ‘prince of humanists’. Erasmus himself was delighted with the new environment in which he had settled. In a letter to Joannes Sapidus, he described his stay in Basel as ‘living in some charming sanctuary of the Muses, where a multitude of learned persons, and learned in no common fashion, appears a thing of course’. The vibrant intellectual climate and captivating atmosphere of the city inspired his finest work. The wandering scholar had found his home.


Froben could teach contemporary publishers a lesson or two. He was alert enough to offer Erasmus a fixed annual income of 200 gulden for his services and a fair share in the profits of the books produced. The two men entered into a proper business partnership. Working closely together, this relationship turned into a close friendship. What did these services consist of? Printing ancient texts demanded expert assistance. Manuscripts had to be obtained in the first place. When acquired, they needed to be evaluated (manuscripts were often in a poor state and before the invention of printing editors had not been particular careful with their texts), collated, and emendated. This task demanded scholarship of the highest level. Erasmus became the most eminent of ‘learned correctors’ at Froben’s publishing house. We think of Erasmus first and foremost as an author. Where did he gain his editorial skills? Before moving to Basel, Erasmus had spent nine months in Venice with Aldus Manutius, the most famous printer in Europe. It was Aldus’s ambition to rescue from oblivion the work of the classical, especially Greek, writers. To this end he edited and printed those works for which workable manuscripts could be procured. His firm, named Ne-academia Nostra, employed many scholars who were involved with the deciphering of ancient manuscripts. Erasmus stayed with Aldus from January to September 1508. It was there that he learned the editorial trade by preparing an impressive number of texts, including editions of Plautus, Seneca, Terence, and Plutarch. In December 1516, Louvain-based printer Dirk Martens had published one of the lasting highlights of European literature. It was Thomas More’s Utopia. Whilst on a trade mission in the Low Countries in 1515, the author had entrusted the publication of his book to Erasmus and to Pieter Gillis (Petrus Aegidius in Latin or Peter Giles in English), a town councillor (‘griffier’) in Antwerp. The delightful introductory letter to the text itself is addressed to my ‘right heartily beloved friend Peter’ [Giles]. The book depicts the society of a fictional island and its religious, political and social customs. The quasi-Platonic debate in the first part of Utopia, in which a critique of a corrupt contemporary society is formulated, stands at the beginning of a long subsequent tradition of European socio-cultural criticism.


A Paris edition was published in 1517, embellished with supportive letters from leading humanists to whom Erasmus had sent copies of the manuscript. That same year painter Quinten Massys completed his famous portrait of Erasmus which was commissioned with a pendant portrait of Pieter Gillis, to be sent as a gift to Thomas More. In presenting themselves surrounded by their books, both men must have hoped these portraits would seal their bonds of intellect and friendship with a like-minded thinker. On 25 August 1517 Erasmus sent a letter from Louvain to Johannes Froben in Basel. In it, he recommended the publication of More’s Utopia in combination with the Prolusions (the works were published together in two 1518 - March and November - editions by Froben). If you think fit, Erasmus wrote, ‘let them go forth to the world and to posterity with the recommendation of being printed by you. For such is the reputation of your press that for a book to have been published by Froben, is a passport to the approbation of the learned’. Froben employed Hans Holbein to supply the woodcut borders to his edition. This border takes the form of a Renaissance niche flanked by columns in which putti play around a shield showing Froben’s printer’s mark with a bird perched on top. Holbein’s brother Ambrosius designed the alphabet letter within the text. The book proved to be an overwhelming success. By the middle of the century translations of the original Latin had appeared in German, Italian, French, and English. The first translation into Dutch entitled De Utopie van Thomas Morus, in zijn tijden Cancellier van Enghelant was printed by Hans de Laet in Antwerp in 1553. Within a time span of three decades the whole of Europe had taken notice of Thomas More’s masterpiece. Quality travels fast - even in those early days. The close personal relationship between Froben and Erasmus is perhaps unparalleled in the history of authors and their publishers, although it was surely in keeping with the climate and ideals of the time. It was Renaissance humanism in its most perfect form. With the death of Froben in 1527, Erasmus expressed his personal loss and sorrow. His grief for the death of his close friend was more


distressing than that which he had felt for the loss of his own brother. The world of ‘studia humanitatis’ was in mourning.



st patrick’s street (cork) Bricks and tiles have shaped the built environment for centuries. Generations of European architects, builders, bricklayers and tilers have used them to build our towns and cities. The regions of Northern Europe and the Baltics do not have natural rock resources. As a consequence, the use of bricks became widespread. With it developed a specific type of architecture. As the application of baked red brick in Northern Europe dates from the twelfth century, the oldest such buildings are stylistically classified as Brick Romanesque. The growing awareness of the aesthetic qualities of brick and the understanding of the versatility of clay building products allowed for their adaptation to various methods and styles of construction. God created the Dutch out of mud and clay. The Netherlands, as that cheerful Cromwell admirer Andrew Marvell wrote in his 1653 poem on ‘The Character of Holland’, is composed of ‘indigested vomit from the sea’. Out of this vomit the Dutch created bricks, one of the oldest and most lasting building materials. Fabricated of sun dried mud, they were first found in southern Turkey and around Jericho. Fired bricks proved to be resistant to harsh weather conditions, which made them more reliable for use in permanent buildings. Introducing mobile kilns, the Romans spread bricks throughout the Empire. That included the Netherlands where no natural stone is found suitable for construction purposes. However, as the Romans retreated, the technique of brick making disappeared with them


and most medieval buildings were constructed using perishable materials such as timber, loam and thatch. For more substantial buildings stone was imported which was costly and laborious. As a consequence, around the year 1200 brick reappeared in the building process. The use of bricks at the time was associated with the clergy and nobility (it is assumed that monastic orders reintroduced the skill of brick making to the country). As bricks were fire-resistant, their use was stimulated by local authorities. In a 1450 statute issued at Leiden the use of brick or stone was made compulsory for facades. Brick production around Leiden had started at an early date along the Oude Rijn, using clay from the old river bed. A brick kiln is known to have existed there as early as 1283. If the commitment to brick as the key building block of Dutch architecture is a matter of geological necessity, its persistent use, especially for street paving, seems to reflect some cultural traits. Respect for craft, design and frugality underlie many construction projects. The colour of bricks depends on the raw materials and firing process. Clay rich in chalk produces yellow bricks, whereas the presence of iron will result in red bricks. The old river clay cut from the bed of the Oude Rijn must have been rich in iron, since old bricks in Leiden are mostly red of which paintings by Vermeer or Pieter de Hooch bear witness. The yellow brick was a more common type. These ‘klinkers’ were produced in Gouda on the banks of the River IJssel since the fifteenth century and were known as Gouda bricks. Clay from the area is distinctive in the lack of iron oxide that accounts for the pale fired colour. Gouda bricks are typically dense, hard fired and were commonly used for paving and floors. The bricks were excellent for export and traded widely, from Scandinavia to the Channel Islands. They were imported through the eastern and southern ports of England, and they found their way to Ireland. St Patrick’s Street in Cork is the main shopping street running in a curve from Saint Patrick’s Quay to Daunt Square, where it meets Grand Parade. The street obtains its curved shape due to its location over an arm of the River Lee. During the late 1700s Cork was well represented by a series of elaborate paintings and maps. The most detailed of the paintings was John Butt’s ‘View of Cork’ (c.1750), a panorama of the city seen from an elevated position to


the north of the River Lee. The artist depicted a myriad of quays and canals in the city on what is now St Patrick’s Street. On either side of the canal, merchants built warehouses to hold their goods on the ground floor and their staff on the first floor. The painting is a reminder of a time that Cork played an important role in trade with the Dutch in the North Atlantic. The architecture of the buildings in Butt’s painting reflects a strong Dutch influence in their brickwork, a characteristic unique to Cork City. In the early 1700s, the first bricks were applied in buildings and many were Dutch imports. These were unmarked, yellowish in colour, very chalky in texture and generally used as ballast for ships. These imports were not in use for long as local manufacture soon commenced at Brickfield Slobs, north of the river. The architectural character of Cork changed considerably during the course of the nineteenth century, and few eighteenth century buildings survive in their original condition. The Dutch character of its narrow streets and quays effectively disappeared being replaced by the more severe look of a ‘modern’ city. The earliest brick-built structures in Britain - apart from those like St Alban’s Abbey that used recycled Roman brick - are to be found in the eastern counties where many people from the Low Countries had settled and where trade links with the Continent were strong. Lack of local stone and an increasing shortage of good timber in the thirteenth century led to the importation of brick from Holland. In 1278 a shipment of more than 200,000 Dutch brick arrived in London for use in the Tower. By the early fourteenth century brickmaking was happening in East Yorkshire and down England’s east coast, but the impetus, and some of the craftsmen, came from Holland. Not only the bricks, but the methods of laying them also show influence from the Low Countries. In the art of brick-laying (bonding), both the Flemish and Dutch bond proved popular with British builders. By the Tudor period the brick makers and brick layers had emerged as separate craftsmen well able to rival the masons. London’s Brick Lane is a reminder of the importance of the industry. Winding through fields, the street was formerly called Whitechapel Lane but derives its current name from former brick and tile manufacture that began in


the fifteenth century. Until the nineteenth century brick makers were held in high esteem. After that their reputation tumbled. The Black Boy was one of the most notorious taverns in the so-called ‘Potteries and Piggeries’, the area of Notting Dale (Notting Hill as it is now known) in West London. It was so named because the first people to move into the area were brick and pottery makers. Pottery Lane, then known as Cut-throat Lane, took its name from the brickfields at its northern end where high-quality clay was dug from about 1818. The resulting bricks and tiles were stored in sheds along the lane and fired in a kiln which is still standing in Walmer Road. London brick-makers were feared as notorious types known for wild and ‘riotous living’. Gouda bricks have been recovered in Maryland, Virginia, and other colonial parts. Washington Irving’s fictional narrator Dietrich Knickerbocker describes the houses of Rip Van Winkle’s pleasant village at the foot of New York’s Catskill Mountains dating from the time of Peter Stuyvesant (Governor of New Netherland) as ‘built of small yellow bricks brought from Holland’. L. Frank Baum’s Yellow Brick Road in his novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is another reminder of the American passion for Dutch bricks. In 1626 the Dutch had bought the island of ‘Manhattes’ from Native Americans. Though they only controlled New York for sixty years, their influence on the city’s architectural identity has been pervasive. New Amsterdam was built with an irregular street pattern, narrow winding streets, and a variety of houses with intricate brick facades and stepped gables. Recreating the architectural patterns of their homeland, settlers applied late-medieval Dutch forms such as roofs with terra-cotta tiles, wooden stoops and leaded-glass casement windows. Colonists initially imported yellow bricks from Holland, which imparted a Netherlandish character to the architecture of the city. The abundance of local clays soon made it unnecessary to import bricks from across the Atlantic. The word Haverstraw (originally pronounced ‘Haverstro’) is one of the oldest in the geography of North America. It is derived from the Dutch meaning ‘oat straw’, descriptive of the waving straw of grain and vegetable farmers who were the first to settle in Haverstraw. They shipped their products down the river to be sold in


the New York City Markets. Having discovered that the Hudson River shore in this area contained large deposits of yellow and blue clay, Jacob van Dyke began to produce bricks in 1771. The industry grew quickly and many brickyards appeared along the Hudson River. Schooners and barges were used to transport the bricks to New York City. By the 1880s there were over forty brickyards in the Haverstraw area furnishing building material that transformed the island of Manhattan into the sprawling metropolis that it is today. After the British took control of the colony in 1664, Dutch architecture continued to persevere for some considerable time. After 1750, English elements started to creep in. Wealthy colonists turned away from the medieval architecture of the Netherlands and imitate the fashionable Georgian style. In the nineteenth century, Dutch culture experienced a renaissance when Washington Irving revived awareness of America’s origins with his invented romantic folklore of the Hudson Valley. It led to a resurrection of Dutch-American architecture, a movement that sought to impose qualities of early building into a modern context. Remarkably, a similar development took place in England itself. In the 1870s and 1880s Sir Ernest George and his firm of architects in Kensington and Knightsbridge developed a style known as ‘Pont Street Dutch’ (Pont Street is located in Knightsbridge). The style is characterized by stepped and ornamented gables, rubbed and moulded red brickwork, and other elements derived from the Low Countries. For fifteen years such houses proliferated in the Chelsea, Kensington, and Earls Court districts of London. If historians refer to the ‘Dutch character’ of a city (or part thereof ) they point to architecture, streetscape, planning, etc. They rarely mention brick. The same applies to the tradition of city- and streetscape in Dutch painting. But it is brick that makes these paintings unique. As cities like Amsterdam, Delft, Haarlem or The Hague enjoyed a booming economy during the seventeenth century, they vied with one another for aesthetic as well as political pre-eminence. Jan van Goyen, Gerrit Berckheyde, Jan van der Heyden, Jacob van Ruisdael and other painters created vividly realistic, yet idyllic images that made their cities seem like parcels of heaven on earth. The dark end of the street is missing. None of the evils of


city life - crime, poverty, or injustice - are to be seen. Images of towns and cities had figured for centuries in European art, but mainly as background scenery in pictures devoted to religious, historical or mythological subjects. The painters of the golden age in Holland brought the city onto centre stage and made the cityscape a genre unto itself. Two parallel developments stimulated the painter and enhanced the desire in putting his city on the artistic map, one of which is the emergence of a refined level of cartography that was developed in Flanders and Holland which led to the publication of a number of sophisticated city atlases, and the other the clever (commercial) cultivation of the Italian ‘vedute’ in which artists from the Low Countries were actively involved. These included the towering figure of Lieven Cruyl who worked in Rome during the 1660s (his Prospectus locorum urbis Romae insignium - prospects of Rome’s significant places - was published in 1666 by Giovanni Battista de Rossi), and that of the attractive rogue Gaspar van Wittel he joined the notorious bohemian group of Dutch/Flemish ‘Bentvueghels’ in the eternal city - who created his work in the 1680s. Often called called Vanvitelli, Van Wittel influenced Venetian artist Luca Carlevarijs who in many ways paved the way for the master of the Italian cityscape, Canaletto. In England, topographical prints became popular during the seventeenth century. Vast numbers of books were published containing views of country estates which their owners could have illustrated on the payment of a subscription fee. Numerous immigrant artists from the Low Countries were involved in the profitable business of architectural engraving. In 1686, Amsterdam-born topographical draughtsman and engraver Johannes Kip had arrived in England shortly after William of Orange’s usurpation of the English throne. A major part of his work consists of topographical prints and he is above all remembered for his engravings of country houses in the sumptuous Britannia illustrata (the first volume appeared in 1708). Art historians tend to look at the 1660s as the decade in which the veduta came of age. It was a period in which the representation of city views and streetscapes became a more common theme, foremost in etching and engraving, but also in painting. In 2009, the National Gallery of Art inWashington celebrated the


400th anniversary of the Dutch exploration and settlement of the Hudson River Valley with an exhibition on the cityscape as it emerged in Holland during the seventeenth century. Fostered by the booming economy of the Dutch Republic and its affluent urbanites, images of towns and cities became expressions of enormous civic pride. The exhibition was suitably called ‘Pride of Place’. The Dutch ‘Golden Age’ expressed delight in its flourishing city culture. In a time when the notion of nationhood was almost non-existent, Holland was effectively made up of cities. This city-culture created a society that did not nurture the leading role of an aristocracy. Socio-economic life was dominated by well-to-do burghers who lived and worked in cities. Equality of chance gave society a sharp competitive edge. It was an atmosphere in which the arts flourished, including the art of printing. There have been unsubstantiated suggestions that in the seventeenth century more books were printed in the Netherlands than in the rest of Europe put together. One kind of publication that became much sought after in the course of the age was the description (‘beschrijving’) of cities like Amsterdam, Haarlem or Delft. The earliest description of Amsterdam, its history and institutions, was produced by Johannes Isaac Pontanus. His Rerum et urbis Amstelodamensium historia dates from 1611. The description of the city far exceeds the limits of previous townsketchess, incorporating the history of the voyages of exploration and commerce undertaken by Amsterdam citizens. The author also describes the activities on the Amsterdam stock and commodity markets, which were among the earliest of the world, and at the time the most important. Of special importance are the accounts of Dutch explorations in the East-Indies, including accounts of the two first voyages to the East Indies, and the text reports of the attempts to find a NorthEast Passage. Pontanus set a precedent for later publications of this nature which became increasingly lavish and expensive undertakings. These books were always accompanied by engravings of architectural splendours and/or social activities. The fine art of engraving runs parallel to the painted cityscapes of Pieter Saenredam in Haarlem or Jan van der Heyden in Amsterdam. Always keen to identify a ‘starting point’, some critics have placed Johannes


Vermeer’s meticulously composed townscape ‘Gezicht op Delft’ (View of Delft Marcel Proust considered this to be the most beautiful picture in the world) at the beginning of what turned out to be a rich tradition of urban images. The painting dates from 1660/1 and is widely acknowledged as a masterpiece. At the auction of the famous collection of Jacob Dissius on 6 May 1696 in Amsterdam (which included twenty-one canvases by Vermeer), it was the most expensive picture, fetching 200 guilders. In 1822 the picture was bought by the Mauritshuis in The Hague for the considerable price of 2,900 guilders, a purchase said to have been instigated by King Willem i. Despite the impression of accuracy, Vermeer did not make a precise representation of the view in order to produce a more harmonious composition. In depicting the streets of Delft he had a competitor in the talented Pieter de Hooch. The latter’s ‘Binnenplaats van een huis in Delft’ (Courtyard of a house) preceded Vermeer’s view by a couple of years. De Hooch and Vermeer have been instrumental in raising the street- and cityscape to a new level in painting. They have been praised for their detailed architectural images, for the intimacy of their subjects, depicting a world of domestic tranquillity where women, children and pets gather around in the neatness and safety of their homes. What makes their paintings unique however is this: De Hooch and Vermeer are the ‘Barons of Brick’. Their paintings reveal a catalogue of building materials which gave visual warmth to their exteriors. Delft moreover took enormous pride in its faience and tile fabrication which was central to the town’s prosperity. Delft blue was valued not only within the Dutch Republic, but also in other countries such as England where they were imported to decorate home interiors. Both Pieter de Hooch and Johannes Vermeer used various tiles, bricks and flagstones which they arranged in tessellated patterns on the surface of household flooring and walls. They were proud representatives of their city. It was through their influence that the cityscape in Dutch painting became a celebration of bricks. The intriguing fact concerning Pieter de Hooch is that he was the son of a Rotterdam stonemason and brick layer. He knew the crafts through exposure to his father’s trade. Pieter de Hooch is Holland’s most notable brickie.



via margutta (rome) Wandering through certain European streets is like turning the pages of a dictionary of art. Dating from the sixteenth century, the Via Margutta, a narrow lane near Piazza del Popolo, is one of those streets. The name of the street probably originates from the word ‘marisgutia’ (sea drop), a euphemistic name given to a dirty stream running down off the Pincian Hill. During the Middle-Ages an unknown artist opened a workshop there. Soon after, the finest Roman craftsmen produced paintings, cut marble or forged metal plates, giving birth to a flourishing industry which attracted an extraordinary range of foreign artists. These immigrants gradually replaced the original shacks with more solid workshops. In the street one encounters the Fontana delle Arti, designed by the now largely-forgotten architect Pietro Lombardi, which was installed in 1927. It is one of ten fountains built by the City of Rome in order to celebrate the capital’s neighbourhoods and crafts. The fountain, displaying easels and sculptor’s tools, is topped by a bucket of paint brushes - an appropriate reminder of the street’s lively artistic history. It was in this very street that, in 1821, portrait painter Thomas Lawrence founded the British Academy of Arts in Rome. On 19 February 1917 Pablo Picasso arrived in Rome for the first time. It was the beginning of a ten week visit that would redefine his art and life. From his room at the Grand Hotel de Russie on Via del Babuino, Picasso could see Villa Medici, home of the French Academy. Corot, Velázquez and Ingres - the painters Picasso admired most - were associated with this sixteenth-century villa of which the artist made sketches and watercolours. Just behind the Russie,


Picasso kept a studio at 53B Via Margutta where he produced a large number of designs for ‘Parade’, a ballet with music by Erik Satie and a one-act scenario by Jean Cocteau. The ballet was composed in 1916/7 for Diaghilev’s ‘Ballets Russes’ and Picasso designed the costumes and sets. In addition, he made several studies for his famous ‘L’Italienne’, a Cubist painting of a local woman gazing on a vermillion St Peter’s Basilica in the distance. He also met Olga Khokhlova here, the beginning of a long and unhappy relationship. During the early 1950s, nearly penniless novelist Truman Capote lived in Rome in an expensive penthouse on the Via Margutta. Willem de Kooning spent the winter of 1959/60 in Rome working in Afro Basaldella’s studio on the Via Margutta. At no. 110, close to Piazza del Popolo, is an apartment Federico Fellini shared with actress Giulietta Masina. The street became widely known from the 1953 movie ‘Roman Holiday’, a romantic comedy starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, which was set at no. 51 Via Margutta. The street is still very much alive. The annual festival ‘100 Pittori in Via Margutta’ takes place at the end of October with the aim of showing original works of art and promoting new talent. In the 1600s, Italy was universally acknowledged to be the home of art. Throughout the century, young Dutch and Flemish artists undertook the difficult journey to Italy, either over the Alps, or sometimes by sea. Most of them headed for Rome. Travel to Italy had become a rite of passage for young artists from the Low Countries after publication of Carel van Mander’s Schilder-Boeck (book of painters) in 1604. A poetical tribute to the city in the 1624 Amsterdam publication Delitiae urbis Romae hails Rome as the treasure of the world, the city of all cities and a cradle of creativity. From the beginning of the sixteenth century Dutch, Flemish and some German immigrant artists were referred to as ‘Fiamminghi’ in Italy. They had come there to study and copy the work of the great masters of antiquity - amongst them were such outstanding talents as Jan Gossaert, Jan van Scorel or Maarten van Heemskerck. Once there, they found that their own style of painting was admired by many Italian patrons and they were invited to paint background landscapes on frescoes in churches and estates. In the course of the century their numbers increased. In Venice alone, some 150 Dutch


artists lived and worked there during the sixteenth century. Some artist made notable careers. Jan van Scorel was employed by Pope Adrian vi (Utrecht-born Adriaan Florenszoon Boeyens, the last non-Italian Pope until John Paul ii, 455 years later); Bartholomeus Spranger worked for Cardinal Alessandro Farnese; Hendrick van den Broeck joined Giorgio Vasari in the decoration of the Sala Regia of the Vatican. Italy did not just attract painters. Many Flemish luthiers found employment here and their skills were sought after. In early seventeenth century Rome there was street named ‘Via dei Liutari’. In the early 1670s, Maastricht-born flower painter Carel de Vogelaer moved to Rome. Known as ‘Carlo dei Fiori’, he shared a house with fellow Dutch painter Anthonie Schoonjans in Via Margutta. Both became members of a notorious group of artists who had been active in Rome for half a century. The club of ‘Bentvueghels’ (Birds of a Feather) was formed in the early 1620s by Dutch and Flemish artists for mutual support and company. They grouped together in the parishes of Santa Maria del Popolo, Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, San Lorenzo in Lucina and Santa Lucia della Tinta - the so-called foreigners and artists quarter. The Bentvueghels terrorized Rome for nearly a century, from about 1620 to 1720. They are also known as the ‘Schildersbent’ (painters’ clique). The original members of the group are depicted in a series of drawings made around 1620 (which are held at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam). Among those appearing in the drawings are Van Poelenburch (bentname: Satyr), Bartholomeus Breenbergh (Het Fret), Van Baburen (Biervlieg), Paulus Bor (Orlando) en Cornelis Schut (Brootsaken). The group, which included painters, etchers, sculptors and poets, met for social and artistic reasons, but was notorious for its drunken rituals. The ‘baptism’ ceremonies were grand occasions. Paid for by the initiate, these involved a feast in honour of the new member who was given his bent name. These names often referred to classical gods and heroes, such as Bacchus, Cupid, Hector, Meleager, Cephalus, Pyramus, Orpheus, etc. Sometimes, the nicknames were witty or semi-obscene in keeping with the general activities of the society. Pieter van Laer for example was ‘Il bamboccio’ or ‘ugly puppet’ because of physical deformities.


The celebrations, sometimes lasting several days and nights, concluded with the group staggering to the church of Santa Costanza, nicknamed the Temple of Bacchus, on the Via Nomentana, just outside the walls of Rome, to continue their drinking orgies. This practice was finally banned by Pope Clement xi in a decree of 1720, but throughout the duration of the fraternity Bent artists fostered their addiction to wine, women and wild living in drawings and paintings depicting group meetings. A painting by Roeland van Laer depicts a tableau vivant in which the figures form a drunken pyramid, topped by a prostitute triumphantly balancing a wine jug atop her head as she stands on the shoulders of two men. Over two hundred artists claimed association with the group at one point or another, including many prominent names such as the Italianate landscapist Cornelis van Poelenburgh, Utrecht Caravaggist Dirck van Baburen and Rembrandt pupil Samuel van Hoogstraten. The earliest-known publication listing the members of the Schildersbent was produced by Arnold Houbraken, an artist and engraver who never travelled to Italy, but who used the Bentvueghels membership list as a source for his 1718 study De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen. The journey to Italy was time consuming. Urecht-born Jan van Bijlert (bentname: Aeneas) was a pupil of Abraham Bloemaert. He was first recorded as staying in Rome in 1621, when he was living in the Via Margutta with three other Dutch painters. He was a founding member of the ‘Schildersbent’. He had started his itinerary days much earlier, embarking on his travels around 1616. Often encompassing a difficult and in many cases dangerous journey, artists would literally spend years getting to Italy, using their artistic talents to pay their way. Houbraken mentions the example of Jan Philip Spalthof who made the journey from Haarlem to Rome on three different occasions travelling on foot. Many of these artistic pilgrims did not make it all the way to Italy, and others never attempted the trip back once they got there. What they had in common by the time they arrived in Rome, was a feeling of confidence in the ability to live by their own effort. During the long journey they had gained practical knowledge of selling their paintings and sketches directly to potential clients. Membership of


the Accademia di San Luca (Academy of St Luke) in Rome had little relevance to them. It was a hindrance rather than an encouragement. These immigrant artists ridiculed the current assumption that the artist should be a dignified person, and that art can be taught by following a standard set of rules. Initial disputes arose in the 1620s and 1630s when the Bent artists refused to pay voluntary alms (and later a mandatory levy) to the Accademia. Theoreticians such as Salvatore Rosa were disgusted at members of the Schildersbent not only for their behaviour, but especially for producing paintings called ‘bambocciades’ of crude every-day life occurrences and for the cues they took from Caravaggio’s realism which proved to be popular amongst Roman customers and sold for high sums of money, thus further undermining the dominance of religious and history painting as well as the authority of the Accademia. In his satire Pittura, Rosa blamed the Bamboccianti for the decline of art, scorning their vulgar images and immoral behaviour. The fact that aristocratic patrons continued to purchase works by these artists was bemoaned by both painters and religious leaders. The name of Bamboccianti was introduced to characterize the work of genre painters from the Low Countries - many of them were also members of the Bentvueghels. The name originates from Pieter van Laer’s bentname ‘Il bamboccio’. Artists from the Low Countries transposed their home tradition of depicting everyday images on small size cabinet paintings to the lower classes of Rome and its countryside. Typical subjects include food and beverage sellers, farmers and milkmaids at work, soldiers at rest, beggars and prostitutes. In contrast to the grand Italian baroque style, they introduced rogues, cheats, pickpockets, drunks, gluttons, and prostitutes. To hurt sensitive academic feelings even further, Amsterdam-born the Karel Dujardin liked to place his ‘sordid’ subjects in idealized settings of the Roman Campagna. Once returned to the Low Countries, artists used their experience to add an Italian flavour to their work. Italianate painting was fashionable and made good money on a booming Dutch art market. Italianate artists, such as Nicolaes Berchem, Jan Both, Albert Cuyp, Karel du Jardin, Jan Weenix, and others, were hugely popular in the seventeenth century - although,


even in the eyes of contemporaries, it must have looked somewhat strange to see Albert Cuyp’s Dutch cattle grazing in an Italian landscape under Mediterranean skies. It was an early expression of the ‘Mediterranean Passion’, a lasting and loving fascination of northerners with Southern Europe. What has been the contribution made by the Bamboccianti to the cityscape? Thomas Wijck was a Flemish painter who was trained in Haarlem. He journeyed to Rome, presumably by 1640, the year in which a ‘Tommaso fiammingo, pittore’ (Thomas the Fleming, painter) is documented as residing in the Via della Fontanella. In 1642 he was back in Haarlem (and moved to England at the time of the Restoration). In his work Wijck presented a backstreet view of Rome, bereft of the great Classical and Renaissance monuments. It is rarely possible to identify specific locations in his works, but despite of this, his views of the city seem more realistic than those created by the Italianate artists of the second half of the seventeenth century. He painted a city that is dilapidated and medieval - an overcrowded and unhealthy labyrinth of narrow lanes. He focused on the places where the poor lived and worked, on small piazzettas and courtyards where washing was hung out to dry and geraniums gave colour to the squalor. To some, the depiction of ‘minor Rome’ offered a more meaningful streetscape than the elegant topographical views produced by contemporaries. Others accused the Bamboccianti of debasing the art of painting by focusing on ‘low life’. It is an indisputable fact that artists from the Low Countries showed a sharp eye for the picturesque in Rome, an instinct for the telling tale and amusing detail. As a consequence, they were not always able to escape the danger of getting stuck in the anecdotal. At times, their streetscapes are closer to theatre than to real city life. The city was a stage set. All this may be true - the Bamboccianti nevertheless added an element of dynamic action (theatrical or not) to their depiction of the streetscape that would have a lasting impact on the genre and inspire later street artists.



campo vaccino (rome) In the seventeenth century the Forum Romanum, at the heart of Ancient Rome, was populated by cows, goats and cattle traders - hence the name Campo Vaccino, the ‘field of cows’. In his 1636 ‘Vue du Campo Vaccino’, Claude Lorrain painted the hustle and bustle as seen from Capitoline Hill, with the Colosseum in the distance on the left. This is Claude’s only topographically correct cityscape that has been recorded. French painter and engraver Claude Lorrain - born Claude Gellée, dit le Lorrain - is one of the great painters of the Baroque. Along with his friend Nicolas Poussin, he defined the classicizing tendencies of the era. Claude was born into a peasant family in the Duchy of Lorraine which, at the time, was an independent region. His childhood was marred by mounting hostilities with invading France. Jean and Anne Gellée owned a small plot of land and were unable to give their son the privilege of an academic education. His training was not in the art of painting. Young Claude was initially apprenticed to a pastry cook. Throughout his life, he experienced difficulty reading and writing. He left home in 1612 and travelled to Germany, before moving on to Rome where he became a studio assistant to landand seascapist Agostino Tassi. He visited Naples and returned to Nancy before settling permanently in Rome around 1628. Building on the foundation laid for him by northern European immigrant artists such as Titian, Elsheimer or Paul Bril, Claude became a leading seventeenth century landscapist. His paintings are points of reference in this particular genre. He was also an excellent draftsman.


His spontaneous sketches of nature are equally appreciated amongst critics and art lovers. Over 1,000 extant drawings have been attributed to him. Some of his most interesting drawings include those he executed for his Liber veritatis (Book of Truth), now in the British Museum. In 1635/6 he had started cataloguing his works, making tinted outline drawings of all his pictures on the back of which he made a note of the buyer’s name. It was a shrewd effort by this French farmer’s son to keep an increasing number of forgers of his work at bay. The Liber veritatis was the first document of its kind in the history of art. In Rome, it was not until the mid-seventeenth century that landscapes were deemed fit for serious painting. Northern Europeans working there had made such views pre-eminent in some of their paintings, but it was not until the efforts of Bologna-born Annibale Carracci that landscape became the focus of a major Italian artist. In ‘The Sacrifice of Abraham’ (c.1600) the subject that justifies the title occupies a minor place. The centrepiece is a tree growing at the edge of a precipitous bluff, whilst great attention is given to the mountains in the distance, and to the clouds floating over the horizon. The scene of Abraham about to bring down his dagger over the neck of the kneeling Isaac is lodged in the top left corner, almost as an addition. Carracci’s disciple Domenico Zampieri, known as Il Domenichino, reserved an even more modest space for ‘The Flight to Egypt’ (1621/3). A tiny Mary riding a donkey, followed by Joseph, appears in a corner at the bottom of the composition. Religion seems an excuse to a painter who is eager to depict nature as he sees it. Nevertheless, the stated themes of the paintings remain religious. Albrecht Dürer may have drawn some of the most superb landscapes of European art, but most painters rejected landscape as unclassical and secular. The former quality was not in line with Renaissance art which tried to emulate the work of the ancients. The second quality found little patronage in Counter-Reformation Rome, which - with papal interference demanded grand subjects worthy of ‘high painting’. Landscape for its own sake reflected an aesthetic approach regarded as lacking in moral seriousness. Rome, the theological centre of Italian and European art, fought to hold on to the


past. A hierarchy of subjects, which included classical, religious, mythological and allegorical themes, placed history painting above all other genres. Portraits, scenes of everyday life, still life, and landscapes were seen as inferior topics. Even when landscapes became accepted as subjects in the course of the seventeenth century, they were still often created as settings for biblical, mythological, or historical scenes. The narrative was of overriding importance. By the end of the sixteenth century different developments combined to give rise to a new profane genre. Crucial factors were the presence of a cosmopolitan community of artists in Rome; the emergence of ‘tourism’; the impact of printmaking on the circulation of images (with Antwerp as a centre of European distribution); and the growing commercial success of landscape painting. By the mid-seventeenth century, the genre had become a category in its own right. Claude Lorrain stood at the centre of these changes. His style of painting and the subjects he favoured are consistent throughout his oeuvre. His early paintings are steeped in the northern European landscape tradition, complete with a variety of picturesque details. Young Claude spent long days roaming the Roman countryside, making numerous sketches which formed the basis for oil paintings to be completed in his studio. As he matured his paintings became increasingly classical in tone and theme. Later works exude a more melancholic atmosphere than his bustling early pictures. He painted a pastoral world of fields and valleys not distant from castles and towns. If the ocean horizon is represented, it is from the setting of a busy port. Perhaps to feed the public’s desire for paintings with noble themes, his pictures include demi-gods, heroes and saints. Even though his sketchbooks prove that he was more interested in pure scenography, Claude cunningly met this fashion. His paintings flattered the culture of his clients by alluding to the Classics or Bible, while at the same time teeming with anachronisms in order to more closely resemble contemporary Roman landscapes for their nostalgic enjoyment. In ‘Paysage avec l’embarquement de Sainte Paule à Ostie’ (1639), for example, the port is filled with modern ships that sailed around the Italian coast. European painting is full of similar anachronisms in the


depiction of historical themes. As late as the early twentieth century Giorgio de Chirico introduced his deceptive ‘exploitations of tradition’ by inserting modern smoke stacks and trains into the background of seemingly ancient cityscapes. In the second quarter of the seventeenth century, European landscape painting took two opposite directions. Artists like Claude went in for ‘ideal’ views of an eternal Arcadia, while the Dutch masters of the genre (the word landscape is borrowed from the Dutch ‘landschap’) closely observed nature. The Netherlands was the first place in which landscape had become a popular subject for painting. The rising Protestant middle class sought secular art for their homes, creating the need for new subjects to meet their taste. Landscapes helped fill this demand. Claude Lorrain’s paintings on the other hand exemplify the genre labelled as ‘idealized’ landscape. They are rooted in a strong but idealized naturalism. A sense of nostalgia is evoked by the presence of ancient ruins and figures in togas. The palette is one of blues (using ultramarine, the most expensive pigment of his day made from lapis lazuli, a rare precious stone), greens and greys. Much like the later Impressionists, Claude was fascinated by the effects of light. His preference was for harmonious scenes of dawn or twilight, whilst never showing nature’s brute realities. He searched for perfection, an image of nature as it should be. He created ‘une mythologie douce’, an aesthetic that chooses the bucolic over the shocking, and escapist withdrawal over the torments of war. He desired the song of flutes rather than the military sound of drums. Landscape painting may have been perceived as a lesser genre in certain circles, but Claude Lorrain achieved enormous success in his lifetime. British travellers on the Grand Tour bought many of his works. As a consequence, Claude exerted considerable influence on English landscape artists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Turner was especially indebted to him, and - in a classic case of creative rivalry - tried to outdo Claude’s grand compositions. The ‘Turner Bequest’ is the gift of a large number of paintings and drawings which the artist made posthumously to the nation. Most of these works are now in Tate


Britain and some are hung in the National Gallery. In his will the artist specified that he wanted his ‘Dido building Carthage’ to be hung between Claude’s ‘L’embarquement de la Reine de Saba’ and ‘Le marriage d’Isaac et Rebecca’ works which formed the prime inspiration for his painting. The tribute was appropriate. The late development of ‘pure’ landscape painting justifies the conclusion that the genre was preceded by the cityscape. In retrospect, this is not surprising. Buildings, streets and cities are man-made, manifestations of human pride and hubris. An inhabitant of Florence, Antwerp or Bruges would be eager to boast the achievement of builders, sculptors and artists who had contributed to the beauty of his/her city. Mankind was on the move - for the first time the proud notion of progress entered our thinking. Moreover, the artist attempting to depict the elegant architecture and buzzing street life of his day was not burdened by this load of religious or mythological baggage that the landscapist carried with him. He was not concerned with moral seriousness or religious high-mindedness. His eyes were focused on the here and now, on the beauty that surrounded him, on the energy that captivated him. Painting was an expression of civic pride. Such urban pride was also reflected in a different type of cityscape. Between the mid-sixteenth and the early nineteenth century, many of the great cities of Europe applied the artistic tradition of the cityscape to their coins and medals - the most circulated art medium. These coins not only expressed urban pride and civic power, but also showcased exquisite skills of engraving. The images feature churches, citadels, fortifications, harbours, and civic buildings, emphasizing military or commercial power, and above all, divine protection and favour. Again, Antwerp stood at the centre of developments. The Roman Catholic Roettiers family of engravers, goldsmiths and medallists came to prominence with Philip Roettiers (born in 1596). He was a goldsmith by training and a medallist by specialty. Philip was the founder of a dynasty of engravers and medallists who for two centuries were of service in various capacities to the kings of England, Spain, and France. Their coinage left a distinct mark in the reproduction of architectural monuments in the history of numismatics.



riva degli schiavoni (venice) Cities prosper and cities decline. Sometimes they rise, at other times they sink. Prior to Napoleon’s invasion in 1797, Venice had long established an economically minded Republican government that encouraged business, art and culture. The Venetians installed their first Doge as the leader of the young autonomous state in 697. At its height the Republic of Venice, known as the Seranissima or ‘the most serene’, divided its power amongst members of the Inner Circle which included the Doge, six Ducal Councilors, and three Inquisitors who were responsible for law and order. After all, the city also produced one of the great ruffians in European history. It was here that Giacomo Casanova was born, arrested and sentenced to five years imprisonment in the east wing of the Doge’s Palace from where he managed to escape and flee to Paris. Wealth in Venice was amassed primarily from local industry, maritime trade and banking. Main industries included textiles and agriculture. Shipbuilding provided commercial vessels and a naval fleet that controlled the seaways. Venice rapidly became a centre for art and printing. From Titian to Tintoretto, the city was home to renowned Renaissance painters and laid claim to the celebrated architects Jacobo Sansovino and Andrea Palladio. Aldus Manutius was the founder of a veritable dynasty of great printer-publishers, and organizer of the famous Aldine Press producing the first printed editions of many of the Greek and Latin classics. Roughly fourteen to fifteen percent of all printing of the fifteenth century came from this city alone. Venice ruled the world. The city was visited by dignitaries and art lovers from far and wide, frequented by young


gentlemen making their Grand Tour, its monuments painted by the great masters, and its splendour praised by the European literary elite. The Riva degli Schiavoni is a promenade that sits on the waterfront at St Mark’s Basin between the Doge’s Palace and the Arsenale. It was originally built in the ninth century from dredged silt and was named for the Slavic men who brought cargo to Venice from across the Adriatic Sea. The market stalls that crowd the area probably had their start in the fifteenth century, when Slavs and Greeks would line the promenade to sell their meat and dried fish near the wharf. Situated along the Riva degli Schiavoni is the Church of Santa Maria della Visitazione, known to locals as La Pietà. It was the home church of Antonio Vivaldi, who composed and performed some of his best works here. A walk along the Riva degli Schiavoni provides views of the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, located to the south, strewn with Palladian architecture that dominates the skyline. The Canal family, whose Venice lineage is traceable from the mid-sixteenth century, were ‘cittadini originari’, a class immediately below the patrician. Its most famous son was Giovanni Antonio Canal, better known as Canaletto. His first dated work is a large ‘Capriccio of Classical Ruins and a Pyramid’ (1723), which already surpasses anything in this genre produced by his contemporaries. It shows an imaginary landscape (capriccio means ‘fancy’) with arched Roman ruins supported by Corinthian columns, through which a church with a campanile can be seen while small figures are digging around. Futher back a pyramid and Roman statue are depicted. From the start architecture and architectural elements played a dominant part in his paintings. Just like his predecessor Luca Carlevarijs, the first of the great Venetian view painters, Canaletto realized that the demand for views of Venice among foreign visitors to the city offered a great commercial potential. Throughout his career, however, in creating his urban panoramas he took the liberty of including distortions in order to ‘improve’ reality for pictorial effect. He also developed the additional skill of depicting ceremonial events and festivals. From the late 1720s to the early 1750s Canaletto’s fortunes were bound up with


the figure of Joseph Smith, British Consul in Venice. The latter was one of the foremost collectors in the city who, over three decades, acquired fifty paintings by the artist, which he housed in his palace on the Grand Canal. They were eventually sold en bloc to George iii in 1762, along with 142 of the artist’s superb drawings. By 1730, Smith was acting as an agent in the sale of Canaletto’s work to English collectors which resulted in a constant flow of commissions throughout the decade which marks the peak of Canaletto’s career. His masterpiece, however, ‘The Riva degli Schiavoni’ was painted for retired German diplomat Johann Matthias von der Schulenburg, a resident in Venice. With the constant demand for Canaletto’s work came a need to delegate various tasks to assistants. One of those, in the late 1730s and early 1740s, was his nephew Bernardo Bellotto, the only artist to rival him as the greatest Italian view painter of the eighteenth century. The outbreak of the War of the Austrian Succession in 1741 restricted travel to Venice. As a consequence, the number of commissions for paintings of Venetian views diminished. In May 1746 Canaletto moved to London. There he was to remain for ten years as a resident at no. 16 Silver Street (now: Beak Street). Although his English paintings vary in quality, he soon found himself as busy as he had been in the 1730s. Canaletto’s nephew Bernardo Bellotto was famous for his views of European cities such as Vienna, Turin, and Warsaw. From 1747 to 1758 he stayed in Dresden, following an invitation from King August iii of Poland where he created paintings of the city and its surroundings. His paintings of Dresden show the overall picture of the city, the Zwinger, the principal squares and the two most important churches, the Kreuzkirche and the Frauenkirche. Today these paintings preserve a memory of Dresden’s former urban beauty which was devastated by relentless bombing towards the end of World War ii. Francesco Guardi was, after Canaletto, the main painter of views of Venice in the eighteenthth century. He recorded both the architecture of the city and the celebrations of its inhabitants in interior and exterior scenes. Guardi soon developed his own style, taking pleasure in rendering the vibrant Venetian atmosphere. His ‘impressionistic’ approach also found expression in small-scale imaginary scenes or capricci of which he was particularly


fond. However, during the early 1760s Guardi turned from painting capricci or vedute ideate to producing vedute dai luoghi or vedute estate. What caused this change in focus? It was a classic case of creative rivalry. By the middle of the century the great Venetian masters had either died or left the city in pursuit of their fortune. Marieschi (one of Francesco’s teachers) had died at the beginning of 1744, Canaletto had been in England since 1746, and Bellotto had moved to Dresden in 1747. Francesco may have sensed instinctively that he no longer had to suffer the presence of great rivals, and that this popular Venetian subject-matter was there for him to continue and develop. In fact, he took the genre a step further. The criteria for producing a veduta esatta were entirely different from those applying to a capriccio, the very name of which carried a licence for imaginative treatment. His eventual success in merging the two genres and introducing an admixture of ‘capricious’ freedom into the depiction of specific localities was one of his great achievements and would have an impact on the future development of the cityscape. Venice’s days of glory did not last. In February 1789, Paolo Renier died and was succeeded by Lodovico Manin as Doge of Venice (number 118 in the sequence), the last person to hold this powerful office. A weak figure in a time of decline, the latter was unable to resist the threat of a French occupation and was forced to abdicate by Napoleon Bonaparte. The presence of the French lasted but a few months. The signing of the Treaty of Campo Formio on 17 October 1797 transferred Venice into Austrian hands. In the short time available to him, Napoleon - the Godfather of Art Robbery - confiscated many of the city’s art treasures from panel pieces by Veronese inside the Doge’s Palace to the infamous four bronze horses from antiquity that had crowned the Basilica of St Mark’s since the thirteenth century. By disassembling her remaining naval fleet, Napoleon left Venice in a defenseless position. In 1815 the Congress of Vienna decreed Venice to Austrian control, where she would remain until unification with the rest of the Italian peninsula. When Mark Twain visited Venice in 1867, he wrote about a city that once was ‘haughty, invincible, magnificent’, but had fallen into destitution. Her glory departed, she slumbered among her stagnant lagoons, forlorn and forgotten by the world.


Venice’s former reputation had quickly dissolved. Early photography preserved images of the old inner cities of Paris or Glasgow before many of those areas were flattened and modernized. In Venice’s more recent history photography has played a different role. It offered the city an opportunity to transform itself and regain some of her former attraction. Venice of course had a tradition of using cameras and lenses as tools for artistic production. Vedute painters such as Canaletto and Guardi used a camera obscura which allowed them to create ‘photographic drawings’ in assistance to their paintings. On 7 January 1839 Louis Daguerre introduced his daguerreotype in Paris. As the first machineproduced image that was comparable to functioning of the human eye this was a transformative moment for the arts. Its success was phenomenal. The first known daguerreotype taken in Venice was by the English philologist and mathematician Alexander John Ellis in 1841. At the age of twenty-six, Ellis decided to undertake an ambitious publishing proj­ect entitled Italy Daguerreotyped, for which he took a large quantity of landscapes and architectural views. His choice of subjects traded on associations with the Grand Tour and the Enlightenment concern with classical civilisation. The focus of the Ellis collection is on topographical views in the tradition of vedute, a repertoire of locations well-known from previous illustrations. Ellis undertook the proj­ect with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm. As well as Rome, he visited Pompeii, Pozzuoli, Paestum, Naples, Pisa, Florence and Venice (where he made sixteen daguerreotypes) between April and July 1841. Dur­ing this period he took 137 daguerreotypes but the book itself was never produced most likely because of the cost involved. The most famous collector and user of the daguerreotype in Venice was John Ruskin. His extensive study on Venetian art and architecture eventually led to the writing of The Stones of Venice. British interest in photographing Venice remained vibrant throughout the century. James Craig Annan was the son of the early documentary photographer Thomas Annan (who published his Photographs of the Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow in 1878). He apprenticed in his father’s photographic printing business. The firm specialized in the carbon process, and after James learned


photogravure directly from its Czech inventor Karel Klic in 1883, the firm became expert in that process as well. When his father died in 1887, Annan continued to run the family business. By about 1890 he began to follow his own creative interests in the medium which was particularly drawn to photography’s ability to render mood and atmosphere. His 1894 ‘Riva Schiavoni’ is an excellent example of his work. The dynamic disintegration of form verging on the abstract is reminiscent of the paintings of James MacNeill Whistler - one of Annan’s favourite artists. In the meantime, local exponents of photography in Venice had established their studios on the Riva degle Schiavoni and the Piazza San Marco. Carlo Ponti was the first to open a commercial business in Venice. Competition came from Carlo Naya, the most famous architectural photographer of the city. After the invention of the camera it was feared by artists that photography would push painting aside. It was interpreted as a ‘battle’ for supremacy. However, when it came to photographing imposing buildings such as the Doge’s Palace in Venice, compositional elements and formal devices were borrowed from traditional vedute painters. Facades for example were depicted at angles rather than from a frontal vantage point, therefore heightening the building’s monumentality. Many photographers included groups of figures to emphasize scale. Photography contributed to a renewed interest in the visual splendour of Venice. The intellectual passion for this and other Italian cities had a different cause. What Thomas Carlyle called the ‘Age of Machinery’ (1829) - later termed the ‘Industrial Revolution’ - had fundamentally changed the pace and purpose of European life. In a relatively short time, the social pattern of behaviour shown by countless generations went up in smoke. By the 1850s trains moved a mile a minute, gaslights illuminated the shops and streets, newspapers were printed on fast-production rotary presses spreading international news and local gossip. Soon after anaesthesia was employed in operating rooms, while epidemic diseases were controlled by inoculation. By the middle of the century, the industrial processes of coal mining, iron manufacturing and steam application had reached most of Western Europe. The continent was covered with railways which in turn increased


iron production and encouraged further industrialization. Europe became the workshop of the world. Practical invention and mass production were key to commercial success. They were set in the new social environment of the factory that employed thousands of workers performing specialized mechanical functions. Social critics held industrialism responsible for the perceived degradation and joylessness of life. The machine was considered a curse and a tyrant. In 1848, as revolutions swept continental Europe and a movement for social reform known as Chartism unsettled England, in a time of industrialism and urbanization, of newspapers and expanding means of communication, seven rebellious young artists formed a secret society which they named the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Disenchanted with contemporary academic painting, the Brotherhood were inspired by late medieval and early Renaissance art up to the time of Raphael. This art was characterized by minute description of detail and by subject matter of a noble, religious or moralizing nature. Late medieval ideals in mid-nineteenth century England - this is historicity at it most absurd, a total retreat into the past. To many artists and intellectuals of the nineteenth century the Middle Ages offered an asylum in which to hide from the rapidly and relentlessly changing present. Another symptom of European intellectual flight from the here and now during the late 1900s and early twentieth century was the cult of the Renaissance. The veneration of this period, and of Italy’ past in particular, by such thinkers as Gobineau, Nietzsche, Taine, Jacob Burckhardt, John Addington Symonds and others - a phenomenon for which Franz Ferdinand Baumgarten in 1917 coined the ugly word ‘Renaissancismus’ - was associated with an intense contempt for the present. While being swept headlong into an uncertain future, men sought escape and counterbalance in the past. Venice, Florence, Rome or Naples offered intervals of respite and relief. The railway was a product of the first industrial revolution which was built on iron, coal and steam. It was the iconic technology of the Victorian age. Modernity was a steam engine, modern man a railway buff. The Victorians identified economic expansion and social progress with achievements in engineering. The railway was


a penetrating expression of the triumph of technology. Mobility was used as an effective term for describing social relationships as well as geographical ones. By train and steamboat a massive voluntary migration took place, with millions of Europeans moving from countryside to city, or from country to country, either for work or pleasure. One of the consequences was that the tourist industry became increasingly democratized. Technological innovation allowed for cheaper and faster travel. In 1839, a first segment of Italian railroad was laid stretching the short distance from Naples to Portici. Seven years later the railway had reached Venice with the construction of the bridge that connects the island to the mainland. The paradox is that the critics of mechanization in Northern Europe escaped to the South by means of train or steamboat, the iconic symbols of industrial endeavour. The studios and photographers of Venice adhered to the demands of a growing tourist industry. Their city views were the modern version of the vedute that an earlier generation of painters had flocked to visitors. Advances in the photographic process provided a golden opportunity for renewed commercial success. Venice started to prosper again. Artists and authors joined the ever increasing number of tourists. Charles Dickens visited Venice in 1844 and published his Pictures of Italy. Novelists continued to write about the allure of the city during the second half of the century, notably Henry James in his Italian Hours and Mark Twain in Innocents Abroad. But Venice was above all a city for pencil and brush. Turner made several trips from 1819 to 1840, capturing the sublimity of the Venetian light. James Abbott McNeill Whistler worked in Venice and Maurice Prendergast created numerous watercolour paintings in which he has left us a sense of the staggering influx of tourists into the city’s squares and promenades. Born in Florence in 1856 of American parents, John Singer Sargent was a popular and sought-after society painter. But he led a double life. Throughout the years he was paid for producing portraits, he painted hundreds of landscapes and views that were not intended for public view. In Venice he found both a spiritual home and a challenge to his creative powers. Sargent first painted the city in the early 1880s. In this, his ‘first period’, the artist concentrated on street scenes and interiors, depicting Venetians


going about their daily business. Between 1898 and 1913, his ‘second period’, he visited the city almost every year. Artistically, his focus shifted to canal and architectural views. The artist had laboured hard at acquiring the delicate skill of depicting water by making extensive use of watercolour and applying techniques he had learned from the Impressionists. His ‘Riva degli Schiavoni’, dating from around 1904, is an excellent example of his later work. The influx of many foreign artists reawakened the traditional Venetian awareness of the commercial value of art .When the Venice Biennale was founded in 1895 one of its main goals was to establish a new market for contemporary art. Producing art and making money does not necessarily exclude one another. There is capital in culture.



paternoster row (london) Over time great cities remain largely the same and are always changing. Streetscapes are continually remodelled. In architecture everything gives way and nothing stays fixed. Every new generation is eager to tinker with the aesthetics of urban space and to create its own city. So much changes, so much remains the same. At times, however, major change is forced upon an urban community by unforeseen circumstances. Many cities have suffered calamities such as fires, epidemics, earthquakes, mudslides, tsunamis, riots, revolutions, explosions, industrial accidents, suicide bombers - not to mention the damage done by fashionable architects. Man-made or natural disasters have scarred the face of numerous places, be it the Great Fire of London, the Great Lisbon Earthquake, or the Florence Flooding. As the city dies, so the city is reborn. Some streets however have disappeared from the map altogether. Paternoster Row is one of those. An early claim to fame for the Row was Dolly’s Chop-house. It had Dolly the cook for its sign which was probably painted by Thomas Gainsborough who was a regular customer there. The original house was built on a site once owned by Elizabethan comic actor and innkeeper Richard Tarleton. Although details about his early life are scarce, it is certain that he arrived in London as a provincial immigrant. Dressed as a rustic clown in a russet suit and buttoned cap, he stamped his enduring image on the city. The role enabled him to speak for many uprooted countrymen who


had to come to terms with the urban environment in which they found themselves. Landlords of public houses cashed in on his popularity by using his portrait as a sign. The main feature of Dolly’s establishment which succeeded Tarleton’s tavern was the excellence of its beef-steaks. These were enjoyed in combination with gill ale (flavoured with ground ivy which has a balsamic smell and bitter taste) and were served fresh from the grill, a fact which is accentuated by the allusion which Scottish novelist Tobias Smollett makes in one of Jery Melford’s letters to Sir Watkin Phillips in Humphry Clinker (1771). The Chop House had a literary clientèle which included Swift, Defoe, Fielding, Pope, and Dryden. Händel’s enormous appetite was also catered for at Dolly’s. From 1784 to 1789 Thomas Jefferson, author of the ‘Declaration of Independence’, who would later be elected the third President of the United States, had been posted in France. During a visit to London he spent Saturday night 25 March 1786 in the company of two American friends at this steak house. In the early hours of Sunday morning, in high spirits no doubt, they produced a fragment of doggerel (fourteen lines) that begins as follows: ‘One among our many follies / Was calling in for steaks at Dolly’s’. A regular client at Dolly’s was Aberdeen-born physician George Fordyce, a noted epicurean of the eighteenth century. He dined daily there at four o’clock in the afternoon. For starters, he consumed a dish of chicken or fish. This was followed by a solid prime steak accompanied by strong ale drunk from his personal silver tankard, a quarter pint of brandy and a bottle of port. Having enjoyed the meal, he slowly stumbled to his house in Essex Street where he received his pupils and gave a six o’clock lecture on chemistry. Fordyce has been described as a coarse man, a poor lecturer, a lousy doctor, and an alcoholic. Cooking, religious practice and printing are traditionally interconnected, so it is hardly surprising that these particular activities dominated the streetscene of Paternoster Row. The clergy of the medieval St Paul’s Cathedral would walk here while chanting the Lord’s Prayer. The Row was ecclesiastical in character. Stationers and publishers sold religious books there, as well as alphabets, paternosters, aves, creeds, and graces. Paternoster Row, to the north of the cathedral, and Paternoster


Square to the west, became the literary heart of London. Its history was bound up with that of the great publishing firms and literary enterprises of that period. Here was issued, among a host of other well-known ventures, the London Magazine, the Annual Register, and the Encyclopaedia of Ephraim Chambers. Trübner & Co. was one of the publishing companies on Paternoster Row. Longmans had their immense offices there with its fourteen windows in front. The first Longman, born in Bristol in 1699, was the son of a soap and sugar merchant. Apprenticed in London, he purchased in the early 1720s the business of William Taylor, the publisher of Robinson Crusoe, and his first venture was the philosophical works of Robert Boyle. Later on Bristol bookseller Owen Rees was taken on as a partner. Before the close of the eighteenth century the house of Longman & Rees had become one of the largest in the City, both as publishers and book-merchants. The ‘lake poets’ proved a valuable acquisition. Wordsworth came first to them, then Coleridge, and lastly Southey. Next to Longmans were the premises of Whittaker & Co., extending half way down Ave Maria Lane which, since 1670, is home to the famous livery hall of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers. By the mid-nineteenth century London was the greatest market for books in the world. Some 15,000 persons were employed in the printing, binding and the sale of books. Paternoster Row boasted that an edition of a thousand copies in octavo required no more than ten or twelve hours for the binding. In spite of its pious past, the Row was devastated by aerial bombardment during the Blitz in the night raid of 29/30 December 1940. It was later characterized as the Second Great Fire of London. In a period of twelve hours, more than 24,000 high explosive bombs and 100,000 incendiary missiles were dropped. The raid and the subsequent fire destroyed many famous Livery Halls and gutted part of the medieval Guildhall. The area destroyed was greater than that of the 1666 Fire of London. Over 1,500 fires were started. A famous photograph ‘St Paul’s Survives’, taken by Herbert Mason from the roof of the former Daily Mail building, shows the dome of the Cathedral rising above clouds of black smoke. The editor of the paper cropped the photo to remove the destroyed houses from the foreground. During the war,


Frederick C.W. Cook held the official position of fireman-artist. The Imperial War Museum later purchased nine of his oil paintings for the nation, including an image of the devastation at ‘Paternoster Row’ (oil on canvas, 1944). With the destruction of the Row an estimated five million books were lost in the fire. Paternoster Row was indirectly connected with another, less catastrophic loss of books. Early in 1780, Irish-born chemist and mineralogist Richard Kirwan became resident at no. 11 Newman Street, near Oxford Street. He turned his home into a meeting place for prominent scientists and thinkers. From 1780, a philosophical society under his leadership started to meet regularly at the Chapter Coffee House in Paternoster Row. The Chapter Coffee House Society, officially nameless but called after its principal meeting place, met regularly for seven years. A set of rules of order established governance (chairman, secretary, dues, membership, and attendance), the appropriate topics of discussion (natural philosophy and technology), and the formal proceedings (members were not required to stand up on the entry of a fellow member no matter his social position). Participants chose topics of deliberation, papers were presented, and discussion followed. They brought to society meetings the fruits of correspondence and interactions with fellow philosophers and scientists, and they encouraged conversations about relevant news. Developments in the research of chemistry and pneumatics were regular subjects. Kirwan was somewhat of an awkward character. In later life he developed a morbid fear of catching a cold. Sidney, Lady Morgan (née Sydney Owenson), author of the popular epistolary novel The Wild Irish Girl (1806), described how, one fine spring evening, she was received by the scientist dressed in a cloak, shawl, and slouch hat. He was sitting on a sofa, shivering, and surrounded by a large screen, while a red hot fire blazed on the hearth. He died at his home on 1 June 1812. His library was bequeathed to the Royal Irish Academy - or at least what was left of his library. What had happened to a large number of volumes he once owned, reads like an Irish short story. Beverly, in Essex County, Massachusetts, is a rival of Marblehead for the title of


being the birthplace of the U.S. Navy. The place gained a reputation for the number of privateers it sent out to intercept enemy vessels during the last decades of the eighteenth century. A privateer is a person or vessel authorized by a government to attack foreign shipping in times of conflict. This authorization was made by a socalled ‘letter of marque’. For their lucrative efforts the crew was paid ‘prize money’. Cruising for prizes was considered a noble calling that combined patriotism and profit, in contrast to unlicensed piracy, which was universally reviled and severely punished. The advantage to the authorities was that they could mobilize armed ships and professional sailors without having to spend public money or commit naval officers. The goal of privateering was to capture ships rather than to destroy them. American privateers are thought to have seized up to three hundred British ships during the war. And many of them sailed from Beverly, including the Pilgrim. Hugh Hill was commissioned Commander of the ship in September 1778. Born at Carrickfergus in Ireland, he had emigrated to Massachusetts and settled in Marblehead. A huge and courageous man, not burdened by too many moral scruples, he was the stereotype privateer captain. He had numerous lucrative encounters with English vessels. On 24 March 1780 Hill was succeeded by Joseph Robinson, a resident of Salem. Under his command the Pilgrim was as effective a fighting ship as it had been under Hugh Hill. In October 1782 she was finally chased down by the English frigate Chatham and destroyed. The Pilgrim is remembered as the most profitable ship of all Revolutionary privateers, capturing a total of some fifty prizes. One of those prizes was the Duke of Gloucester. On 5 September 1781 the ship was captured in the Irish Channel by Robinson and his crew. Amongst its cargo they found Richard Kirwan’s personal collection of books. After his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society he had decided to relocate indefinitely from his family estate Castle Cregg in County Galway to London. His library of 116 volumes was loaded aboard ship to make the journey from Galway to the English capital. Once captured, the books were transferred to the Pilgrim and subsequently sold at auction in Salem on 12 April 1781. Reverend and academic Joseph Willard, pastor


of the First Congregational Church in Beverly (and later President of Harvard University), organized the purchase of the lot. The Salem Philosophical Library was founded that same year. An earlier library, known as Salem’s Social Library had been founded in 1760. By 1810, the two bodies were merged to create the Salem Athenaeum. With the foundation of the new institution, the relatively small town counted more libraries than mighty Boston. Salem represented the American Enlightenment and, at the same time, was haunted by the spectre of its past. Its history had been stained by the Salem witch trials, a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft that took place between June and September 1692. Nineteen men and women were convicted and carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft; dozens languished in jail for months without trial, until the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts subsided. The memory of these dark events motivated members of the Athenaeum to strive for the spread of learning and education. Nathaniel Hawthorne was one the most famous patrons of the institution. Today the Athenaeum’s core mission remains unchanged: to enrich the lives of the community by lending, preserving, and adding to its collection of books and documents. The survival of the Kirwan collection proves the argument that privateering was less harmful than other naval encounters. Privateers engaged in battle for prize and profit, they captured anything that could be sold or auctioned - the less destruction, the greater the prize. Even learned books were safe in their hands.



herengracht (amsterdam) In early modern Europe, prevention of large blazes engendered more municipal regulation than almost any other problem of urban habitation. Almost every major city has endured a ‘Great Fire’ at one time or another, starting with the Great Fire of Rome which took hold of the city on 19 July 64 AD for which Nero blamed and persecuted the Christians (it is not unusual to look for scapegoats after a disaster: Londoners blamed the Dutch and French for their Great Fire of 1666). Fires occurred for a variety of reasons, most commonly human error or carelessness. Records show that their social and economic impact was often devastating. Regular firefighting forces did not appear until the creation of voluntary societies in the nineteenth century. However, urban rebirth in the aftermath of great fires offered a chance to shape the future and rebuild the city. Residents and planners created sweeping changes in the methods of constructing buildings, planning city streets, engineering water distribution systems, and underwriting fire insurance. A key development in the modernization of firefighting in Europe occurred in seventeenth-century Amsterdam: the invention of the fire engine and fire hose. Multi-talented Dutch painter Jan van der Heyden executed a number of landscapes and still lifes, but was chiefly a painter of townscapes which stand out for their exceptionally detailed handling. Imaginary views, anticipating the capricci of eighteenth-century Venetian painters, are common among his works (in 1668


Cosimo ii de’ Medici acquired one of his Amsterdam townhall views). Van der Heyden was a native of Gorinchem, though his family had moved to Amsterdam by 1650 where he trained as a glass painter. When he married in 1661, the couple settled on the Herengracht. His splendid oil on canvas ‘Gezicht op de [view of the] Herengracht’ dates from circa 1670. Dug in the seventeenth century, this ‘Patricians Canal’ is the first of the three major canals in the city centre which form concentric belts around the city. It is named after the ‘Heren’ who governed the city at the time. As a skilled architectural draughtsman, Van der Heyden seldom turned his hand to the delineation of anything but brick houses or churches in streets and squares. A well-travelled artist he painted urban scenes in a variety of cities, Utrecht, Veere, Delft, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Brussels, and London. However, Van der Heyden was the Amsterdam painter par excellence. His views of the city with its churches and canals are numerous, the Herengracht, Keizersgracht, Martelaarsgracht, de Nieuwezijds and Oudezijds Voorburgwal, de Dam, de Westerkerk, the new town hall, etc. His reported inability to draw figures may have been tied to his lack of formal schooling. He painted in partnership with Adriaen van de Velde, who populated his architectural scenes with figures and landscape effects. His most important works were painted in the years between 1660 and 1670, most notably views of the Amsterdam town hall, the Amsterdam exchange, the London exchange, and views of Cologne. After Van de Velde’s death in 1672 he received assistance from Johannes Lingelbach and Eglon van der Neer. Van der Heyden was a contemporary of the landscape painters Hobbema and Jacob van Ruysdael. This was a time in which artists competed in a market where too many paintings were produced. Many artists starved or were forced to take on additional activities. Van der Heyden was a practical and versatile mind who combined painting with the study of mechanics. From the late 1660s onwards he was engaged in projects to improve street lighting and fire-fighting in Amsterdam. As a youngster, Van der Heyden had witnessed the fire in the old city townhall which made a deep impression on him. He later would describe or draw some eighty fires in almost any neighbourhood of Amsterdam. Together with his brother


Nicolaes, a hydraulic engineer, he improved the firehose in 1672. He modified manual fire engines and re- organized the volunteer fire brigade. He wrote and illustrated the first fire-fighting manual, Brandspuiten-boek (The Fire Engine Book), published in 1690. His comprehensive scheme for street lighting which lasted from 1669 until 1840 was adopted as a model by many other towns. Van der Heyden’s impact was felt in London. The psychological scars of the Great Fire were deep. Fire prevention was placed high on the political agenda. London desperately needed an organized and well-equipped fire brigade. Insurance companies were granted charters to provide fire assurances. It was in their interest to train professional fire fighters and make sure that the proper equipment was available to them. Assurance companies initially formed their own, often competing, fire brigades. It was not until 1833 that the London Fire Engine Establishment came into being. In 1689 a patent (no. 263) was granted to a Dutch merchant and manufacturer of engines named John Lofting for the sole making and selling of an ‘engine for quenching fire, the like never seen before in this Kingdom’. Lofting’s fire engine was the first in England to use a wired suction hose to throw water as high as 400 feet and force the water ‘in a continued Stream into Alleys, Yards, Back houses, Stair-Cases; and other obscure places, where other Engines are useless’, according to a contemporary observer in 1694. The engines were employed at several palaces and their usefulness was praised by Christopher Wren himself. Lofting later recorded that he had lived for seven years in Amsterdam with one of the masters of the fire engines there. The master was Jan van der Heyden.



miodowa street (warsaw) The medieval period, although often presented as a time of limited mobility and slow social change, in fact saw widespread movement of peoples. The Vikings raided all over Europe and settled in many places, creating early urban centres in the meantime. The Normans civilized the Saxon Kingdom of England. Iberia was invaded by Muslims, Arabs, Berbers and Moors bringing with them a wave of settlers from North Africa. Internal European migration sharply increased in the Early Modern period which was caused by religious persecution, including the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290 by Edward i and from Spain in 1492, mass migration of Protestants from the Spanish Netherlands to the Dutch Republic after the 1585 fall of Antwerp, and the expulsion of Huguenots after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The situation in Eastern Europe was similar. The Great Serb Migration, also known as the Great Exodus, refers to the mass movement from the Ottoman Empire to the Habsburg Monarchy. Persecution was a key motivation for people to flee their homelands. Hunger was another reason. Economics and poverty have always played a role in patterns of migration. The historical part of Warsaw’s Old Town (‘Stare Miasto’) dates back to the thirteenth century. Most of it was destroyed during the Second World War but later painstakingly reconstructed. Miodowa Street is located in the Old Town and links Feta Street with Krasinski Square. Miodowa literally means honey. In the sixteenth century the street was famous for its ginger bread shops - hence its name.


The street has a rather tasty cultural history too. Bernardo Bellotto was a Venetian urban landscape painter or vedutista, famous for his views of European cities such as Dresden, Vienna, or Turin. He was the pupil and nephew of Canaletto and sometimes used the latter’s name, signing himself as Bernardo Canaletto. Like many fellow artists, he was a well-travelled man. In 1764, he accepted an invitation from Poland’s newly elected king, Stanisław August Poniatowski, to become his court painter in Warsaw. Here he remained for the rest of his life, producing numerous delightful urban views. With meticulous detail he depicted the streets and architecture of the capital. In 1777, he painted a view of Miodowa Street with the hustle and bustle of the traffic and the architectural splendour of its Rococo palaces, mansions and churches. One of the buildings (the roof at least) which the artist included on the painting is the late seventeenth century church of the Capuchins, founded by King Jan iii Sobieski. The church was built by Tylman van Gameren, an architect and engineer who was born in Utrecht. At the age of twenty-eight he settled in Poland where he was employed by Maria Kazimiera, wife of Jan iii. Tylman was responsible for a number of buildings that are regarded as gems of Baroque architecture. In Poland, he is known as Tylman Gamerski. How did such a talented Dutch artist end up in Poland? In a time that the notion of nationhood was not a matter of concern, Holland was effectively made up of cities. This city-culture created a society that did not nurture the leading role of an aristocracy as was the case elsewhere in Europe. Socio-economic life was dominated by well-to-do ‘burghers’ who lived and worked in the cities. Equal opportunity in Dutch economic life gave society a competitive edge that was unrivalled. The Dutch Golden Age was an era of extraordinary vitality, be it in economic, scientific or artistic terms. With the growing prosperity of the Republic, the demand for works of art increased. Intense competition made art cheap. It meant that painters needed to supplement their income in order to keep their families afloat. Jan Steen ran a public house, Jan van de Capelle was a textile merchant, Willem Kalf an antique dealer, Jacob van Ruysdael was a surgeon, and most cruelly of all: Meindert Hobbema stopped painting altogether after marriage.


He found a more lucrative job in an Amsterdam tax office. The seventeenth century produced too many artists and not enough clients. The market was too small for such an overwhelming presence of talent. To young artists, the presence of so many painters proved inhibiting. For many there was but one solution: move - move elsewhere, anywhere. And move they did during the Golden Age. They moved in droves. They headed for England, Italy, Sweden, Germany, even for Russia. It is interesting to note that foreign ambassadors in the Netherlands functioned as ‘scouts’ who encouraged artists to move abroad with the promise of employment or commissions. William Temple for instance was known to persuade artists to cross the Channel and settle in England. The situation for a talented young architect was similar to that of other artists. Tylman was trained by Jacob van Campen whilst the latter was busy building the famous Amsterdam Stadhuis on the Dam. In 1650, Tylman left for Italy, the dream and ambition of any seventeenth century artist. While in Venice, he was praised as a skilled painter of battle scenes. By 1660, he was working in Leiden. There he met Prince Jerzy Sebastian Lubomirski, and accepted the tempting invitation to come to Poland as his architect and military engineer (to design fortifications). From 1670 onwards, he won fame as a court architect of palaces, gardens, country houses, monasteries and churches in and around Warsaw. In 1685 he was formally acknowledged as a Polish nobleman. Van Gameren left behind more than seventy grand buildings and a fine collection of some 1,000 architectural drawings. The most famous person to hang around Miodowa Street was young Chopin. Thanks to his extensive correspondence, much can be learned about the composer’s favourite places in Warsaw. One of them was the area on and around Miodowa Street where the entire social life of the Polish capital was concentrated. The street had a number of bookshops. One of the shops which sold books about musical composition was owned by Antoni Brzezina who, between 1822 and 1832, ran a firm that published mainly small piano compositions of Polish composers: Chopin, Elsner, Kurpinski, and Oginski. After 1832 Sennewald took over the publishing house. Young Chopin was a regular customer at Brzezina’s shop. The surrounding


area had numerous cafés where students and intellectuals debated for hours about art and politics. Apparently, Chopin could be found here almost every day. It was in this area that the composer’s early career took off. In January 1821 a new music society was established under the aegis of the Warsaw Merchant Club, located at that time at Miodowa Street. The merchants of the city were keen to promote art, culture and entertainment for the benefit of the educated classes in town and in support of various altruistic causes. The first confirmed Chopin performance at the club took place on 19 December 1829. Krasinski Square was the former home to the Polish National Theatre. It was the site where Chopin premiered his first piano concerto in March of 1830. In this period he also began writing his first ‘Études’. On 2 November 1830 he headed for Austria, intending to go on to Italy. Later that month, in Warsaw, the November Uprising broke out. Inspired by the French Revolution the Polish people wanted to break free from Russian rule. Chopin’s friend and travelling companion, the future art patron Tytus Woyciechowski, returned to Poland to enlist. Alone in Vienna, the composer was deeply afflicted by nostalgia. In September 1831 he learned, while travelling from Vienna to Paris, that the Polish uprising had been crushed by Russian troops. Tormented by events at home he created his ‘Revolutionary Étude’ (or the ‘Étude on the Bombardment of Warsaw’, Op. 10, No. 12 in C minor), a solo piano work dedicated to his friend Franz Liszt. Chopin remained in France and settled in Paris, never to return to Poland - one of the many refugees in what has been called the Great Emigration.



fleischmarkt (vienna) When it comes to architecture, Vienna is an open-air museum of styles. The Fleischmarkt, in the city’s central First District (original location of the medieval meat market), shows a stunning variety of building. The first block in this street is named Orendihof, also known as Residenzpalast, and dates from 1909/10. It was designed by Arthur Baron. Julius Meinl, a major retailer of coffee and gourmet foods, opened his first store at no. 7 Fleischmarkt in 1862. The facade of this building, dating from 1899 and designed by architect Max Conrad Kropf, depicts the story of the introduction of coffee into Europe, from harvesting the beans to enjoying a cup of Wiener Melange. Film director Billy Wilder once lived in one of the apartments at this address. At no. 24 is the famous Hotel Post which was built in 1901 and has a rich tradition. Much earlier the inn Zum weissen Ochsen stood on the site, and later the hotel Zur Stadt London. Amongst the guests who used to lodge at the establisment are the names of Mozart, Josef Haydn, Richard Wagner, and Friedrich Nietzsche. A plaque on the hotel commemorates the fact that Leoš Janácek lived there at the time of the first performance of his opera Jenufa at the Imperial Opera. At no. 18, the Toleranzhaus stands directly across from the Greek Church and next to the peaceful Mandalahof, a centre of Buddhism. The name of the building refers to Kaiser Franz Joseph ii’s 1782 declaration of the Edict of Tolerance (‘Toleranzpatent’) which was intended to bring about religious unity. It used to be a law school before the Greek merchant Christof Nako converted it into an apartment building in 1793. The inscription across the facade above the third


floor commemorates this occasion and reads: ‘Vergänglich ist dies Haus, doch Josephs Nachruhm nie. Er gab uns Toleranz, Unsterblichkeit gab sie’ (Perishable is this house, but Joseph’s posthumous fame is not. He gave us tolerance; it gave him immortality). Unfortunately, the message did not last. Medieval Vienna developed on the site of a Roman camp, at the point where the ancient Amber Road running from the Baltic to the Adriatic Sea, crossed the Danube and where German, Slav and Magyar cultures touched. There were close contacts between Austrians and Greeks as well. The foundation of the first Viennese coffeehouse is documented on 17 January 1685, when Johannes Deodat (either referred to as a Greek national or an Armenian) was granted the right to serve coffee at his house at Haarmarkt. During the eighteenth century Vienna became the centre of Greek diaspora where persons like Rigas Pheraios, Anthimos Gazis, Neophytos Doukas and the Ypsilanti family prepared the Greek Revolution. The Toleranzpatent not only allowed Viennese Greeks to create a community around their church, it also served as a beacon to expatriate Greeks from less tolerant countries. It consolidated their belief that efforts to plot an uprising in occupied Greece would not be stopped by Austro-Hungarian officials. Vienna is the place where Greeks developed an intellectual and cultural identity. It was here on the narrow winding Fleischmarkt, and the adjacent Griechengasse, that many Greeks settled in the nineteenthth century. At no. 13 one comes across the Griechenkirche zur heiligen Dreifaltigkeit (Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity). Situated in the heart of the Greek Quarter, this ornate church was built in the 1850s by Danish-Austrian architect Theophil Hansen, after a study of Byzantine art in Athens. The first Greek language newspaper Efimeris (Daily) was published in Vienna from 1790 to 1797. The Greek National School of Vienna at no. 13 Fleischmarkt is the oldest such educational institution in the world. Typographers Poulios and Georgios Markidis-Pouliou started publishing a paper in Greek, Serbian and German, after being granted a license from the Austrian authorities. Author Rigas Feraios, inspired by the French Revolution, published his ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen’ in this periodical. The


paper lasted until 1797 when the editor and a number of colleagues were arrested by Austrian officials in Trieste for trying to plot a Pan-Balkan uprising. In June 1798 they were handed over to the Ottoman authorities, strangled, and their bodies dumbed in the Danube. The most famous location in the Greek Quarter is a tavern named Griechenbeisl. First mentioned in a 1477 document as Zum Gelben Adler, and having gone through various name changes, the house has been visited by a string of legendary guests, including Mozart, Beethoven, Grillparzer, Wagner, Johann Strauss, Brahms and Mark Twain (it has been suggested that the author wrote his story ‘The Million Dollar Note’ in one of the rooms of the tavern). In 1850, painter Carl Rahl was appointed Professor at the Viennese Academy of Fine Arts, but for political reasons he was soon dismissed from the position. He then opened a private art school, which expanded quickly into a studio that produced monumental-scale paintings. He was commissioned by Vienna-born Greek diplomat and benefactor Simon Sinas to paint a number of works for the facade and vestibule of the Fleischmarkt Greek Church. In addition, Sinas commissioned four paintings depicting heroes of the Greek War of Independence, and a further four paintings to decorate his residence. All this indicate a large degree of Viennese toleration and open-mindedness. Traditionally, flourishing cities have been open to immigrants. Amsterdam welcomed Jews from Portugal, religious refugees from Flanders and France, and sailors and scholars from Northern Europe who were keen to serve in the East India Company. London assimilated wave after wave of refugees. Paris was overrun by European and American artists who gathered there to join the avant garde. The stimulating effect of the immigration of talent, skill or merely determination can be shown in Antwerp’s early history. This was a European rather than a Flemish city and, in the words of R.H. Tawney, a ‘home common to all nations’. Made famous as a centre of learning by Plantin’s press, it was both a metropolis of art where masters like Cranach, Dürer and Holbein made their pilgrimage of devotion (Carel van Mander portrayed the city as the ‘mother of all artists’), and an asylum which offered refugees a safe haven that was undisturbed by campaigns against


humanists, freethinkers or heretics. The thinker and the reformer, the writer and the printer, the trader and the banker, whatever language they spoke or whatever church they attended, they all gathered in this vibrant city to make Antwerp the base of their professional activity. Internationalism and the concept of an open society started on the River Scheldt. It was also a two-way process. The city both nurtured and exported talent. Flemish artists, printers, mapmakers, architects and scientists were welcomed wherever they moved to. Their reputation was such that they were invited to reside or teach at many European courts and universities. By 1600, however, Spanish religious repression, leading to a mass exodus of Protestant talent and intellect, had reduced Antwerp to a provincial town, inward looking, Catholic, intolerant, and stagnant. There are parallels to Vienna in that sense. Vienna is a paradox. Immigrants have from time immemorial made substantial contributions to the cultural richness of the city. Austria as a nation is the remainder of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, which was a multinational country consisting of many languages, and incorporating Czech, Slovakian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Polish, Hungarian, Slovenian and Jewish cultures. Vienna was a melting-pot. Its dialect differs from German standard language due to the large variety of words that immigrants brought along with them and were incorporated. Whether in music, architecture, literature, or in making coffee or cooking, without immigrants Vienna would have remained a provincial town on the Danube. The influx of foreigners at the turn of the century made the city into the fourth biggest metropolis in Europe. Since Austria did not have any overseas colonies, the nation was formed by inland migration. Members from a variety of ethnic and denominational groups from every part of the monarchy (particularly Czechs) settled in Vienna. During the second half of the nineteenth century, industrial expansion triggered mass migration and urbanization. Vienna experienced the largest immigration figures of all European capitals. The impact was felt in music in particular. Although Austria is the birthplace of the Viennese Waltz, the dance’s origins can be traced as far back as the twelfth and thirteenth centuries from Bavaria in Germany. The waltz started out as a folk dance in triple time. It was raised in status at the 1814 Vienna Congress


when the dance was introduced as part of the opening festivities to representatives from all over Europe. The first recorded use of the word ‘walzen’ goes back to the second act of a comedy written by Viennese author Johann Joseph Felix von Kurz entitled Bernardon auf der Gelseninsel (1750). However, the European passion for the waltz was ignited by the immense success of Goethe’s epistolary novel Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (1774). The hero and narrator of the novel dances a waltz and falls in love with Lotte, a young lady engaged to another man. The ecstatic experience of the dance and the pain of passionate but unfulfilled love is the cause of Werther’s sufferings. The theme of the novel gave rise to a heated debate on ‘Werther-walzer’ in which issues of morality, sensuality, and corruption were the main topics of contention. In his Reminiscences Irish composer and singer Michael Kelly looked back to a visit to Vienna in 1776. He critically describes the Viennese as ‘dancing mad’. Four decades later The Times in an editorial in of 16 July 1816 drew attention to the fact that the ‘indecent foreign dance called the Waltz’ had been introduced at the Court. The traditional reserve of the English female had been sacrificed. The obscenity of the dance was once confined to prostitutes and adulteresses. The editor therefore considers it his ‘duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion’. The real madness for dance in Vienna however had not even manifested itself in its full intensity. That occurred with the appearance of a Demon King and master fiddler named Johann Strauss the Elder. Known as The Moor for his olive skin, black hair and fierce temperament, Strauss set Vienna alight. His performances were described as ‘African’ and hot-blooded, his music as restless and passionate. He was the modern exorcist. Joseph Lanner was a composer and violinist who conducted his own orchestra with his bow. He composed a large number of waltzes, polkas and marches that appealed to a wide audience. These works were popular but remained within the confines of a Viennese musical tradition in which the composer was formed. With his melodic charm and poetical sentiment, this gentle son of a glovemaker represents the


Biedermeier-spirit of old Vienna. Lanner is for music, what Joseph von Alt - the quintessential vedutista of Viennese Biedermeier - was for painting. But the sociopolitical climate was changing. The new restless spirit that would eventually lead to the Revolution of 1848 was represented by Lanner’s rival Johann Strauss. Born and bred in Vienna (his father kept an inn), Strauss and his orchestra were from 1830 onwards tied to the city’s amusement palace of Zum Sperl in Leopoldstadt where he mesmerized a mixed audience with his fiddle playing. Contemporary reports speak of the local joie de vivre of which the passion for the waltz was an expression. Yet, critics observed that there was another and pathological side to this uninhibited enjoyment of music and dance reflecting the need to escape the increasingly harsh realities of daily life in the City of Dreams. There is an immigrant side to the intense response to Strauss’s music. The many thousands of newcomers having arrived from Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia and elsewhere, brought with them their own musical traditions and above all: an addiction to the violin. Strauss’s ebullience, his ‘divine madness’, swept them of their feet. On the other side of the scale of musical expression one encounters the tearful melancholy of ‘Schrammelmusik’. Deriving its name from prolific folk composers Johann and Josef Schrammel, this gloomy genre took form in the wine taverns of Vienna towards the end of the nineteenth century. It is a fusion of traditional Viennese music and that of Hungarian, Slovenian and Bavarian immigrants. Schrammelmusik absorbed sounds from all over Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans. The original instrumentation consisted of two violins, a contraguitar, Viennese accordion, and clarinet. From its humble beginnings, melodious Schrammelmusik rapidly gained a place in Viennese society. It more popular performers strove for a melancholic and ‘crying’ sound. Around 1880, more than half the inhabitants of the capital had not been born in Vienna. At the turn of the century, Vienna was also the third biggest Jewish city in Europe. In 1867 Jews received full citizenship rights, leading to an influx of religious immigrants from various parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They made an enormous contribution to Vienna’s cultural and scientific renaissance.


Jewish psychiatrists included Freud, Alfred Adler, and Wilhelm Reich. In the field of Zionist politics, Theodore Herzl and historian Max Nordau were dominant voices. The term ‘Zionism’ is attributed to journalist and activist Nathan Birnbaum who was born into an Eastern European Jewish family in Vienna. Martin Buber lived and worked in Vienna during this period. Fritz Lang, legendary film maker of Metropolis (1927), grew up in fin de siècle Vienna, during the Golden Autumn of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and he carried its intellectual and artistic heritage with him for the rest of his days. Those years around the turn of the century were the Viennese modern times - a period of unique blossoming of art, a time of coffee house literature and elegant salons (Alma Mahler has been called the last femme fatale of the twentieth century), a time of the establishment of the Vienna Secession and Union of Austrian Artists. Jews were particularly active in music and theatre, including Mahler, Schönberg, Max Reinhardt, and many others. Writers such as Arthur Schnitzler, Franz Kafka, Stefan Zweig and Felix Salten were in the forefront of European experimentalism. More than half of Austria’s physicians and dentists were Jews and so were more than sixty percent of the lawyers and a substantial number of university teachers. The Vienna Synagogue at Seitenstettengasse (built in the 1820s and designed by Josef Kornhausel) symbolized the city’s tolerant atmosphere. As a consequence, the Jewish population in Vienna grew substantially and, by 1938, peaked at 185,000 members. With the disappearance of the Habsburg Empire after World War 1, many Czechs and Hungarians returned to their ancestral countries, resulting in a decline in population of the capital. At the same time, the internationalist nature of the city was under threat by the cancerous growth of Fascist thinking. Cosmopolitanism was considered ‘rootless’. Anti-Semitic and anti-Slav resentment set the tone of public debate. Viennese cultural irrelevance was imminent and inevitable. There was considerable emigration between the two world wars, initially because of a depressed economic situation, and later for political reasons under the nation’s ‘Austro-Fascist’ regime. With the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938, the regulations on immigration, residence and emigration of both nationals and


non-nationals were replaced by German legislation. In the following three years some 128,000 Jews were forced to leave Austria, while up to 1945 at least 64,500 Austrian Jews were murdered. Post-war Austria has not been kind to immigrants. The nation does not want to feature as a country of immigration. Xenophobia has been stirred up by political parties which look for scapegoats in times of economic recession. Numerous restrictive laws have been drawn up to limit immigration. This is the most painful of all political paradoxes: Vienna, a multi-cultural capital with a tradition of cosmopolitanism also produced some of the most bigoted nationalists any political system has turned out so far, reducing the once great city to a state of cheerful mediocrity in which a gala-concert represents culture and creativity is a chocolate ball in Mozart-wrapper.



the shambles (york) We tend to associate the charm of cities with the character of streetscapes or the splendour of cathedrals, palaces, museums, monuments or bridges. Few of us would mention the beauty of an abattoir. We pay attention to the face rather than the function of architecture. And yet, the nineteenth-century city would be unthinkable without the introduction of the slaughterhouse. Early maps of London show numerous stockyards in the periphery of the city where slaughter occurred in the open air. Shambles is an obsolete term for such an open-air slaughterhouse and meat market. Without adequate sanitary facilities, guts, offal, and blood were thrown into a runnel down the middle of the street where the butchering was carried out. By extension, any scene of messy disorganisation is now referred to as ‘a shambles’. Several towns have preserved the street name Shambles. In York, the street was once known as The Great Flesh Shambles, derived from the AngloSaxon ‘Fleshammels’, a word used for the shelves on which butchers displayed their products. As recently as 1872 there were some twenty-five butcher shops in this well-preserved medieval cobbled street. Not a single one survives in what is now the most popular tourist destination of the city. A 1938 oil painting ‘York: The Shambles’ by Harry Tittensor provides a nostalgic image of a butcher standing outside his shop (with shelves) in conversation with two female customers. This was a type of escapist art aimed at those who see the past as a picture postcard. Although the butchers have vanished, some of the timber-framed shops still have meat-hooks hanging outside and, below them, shelves on which meat would have been displayed. Among the buildings of the Shambles is a shrine to Saint


Margaret Clitherow, known as the Pearl of York. Born Margaret Middleton, she married butcher John Clitherow in 1571 and converted to Catholicism at the age of eighteen in 1574. Her husband remained a Protestant. She assisted the local Catholic population and held Masses in her home. In 1586, Margaret was arrested and executed by being crushed to death on Good Friday. Meat was a British obsession, a symbol of status and a measure of living standards. London butchers were, socially and politically, a powerful lobby. The Worshipful Company of Butchers is one of the oldest Livery Companies of the City of London. Its Charter of Incorporation was granted by James i in 1605. The first hall was the parsonage house of the medieval church of St Nicholas Shambles on the corner of Butcher Hall Lane (now King Edward Street) which was destroyed in the Great Fire. By Shakespeare’s day, dining out had become relatively commonplace in London. In Westminster cook shops (places where cooked food was sold to those on the move), were beginning to serve restaurant style meals to the general public by the mid-1370s, but it was not until about 1460 that this practice spread to the inns and taverns of the City itself. During the mid-sixteenth century such establishments offered one dish a day at a fixed time and price, served at a common table. The meal was called the ordinary. By the late 1600s, the beef-loving reputation of the English became slowly established. In his Memoirs and Observations of Travels over England (1719) French traveller Henri Misson, while staying in London in 1698, notes that ‘it is common practice, even among People of Good Substance, to have a huge Piece of Roast-Beef on Sundays, of which they stuff until they can swallow no more, and eat the rest cold, without any other Victuals, the other six Days of the Week’. With the increased consumption of meat, the urban shambles of public slaughter became an issue of concern. From the 1830s to the turn of the century reformers campaigned to abolish private London slaughterhouses operated by independent butchers in favour of municipal abattoirs. They argued that the congestion created by livestock in the city streets, the dirt and smell of refuse in residential areas, and the health concerns about diseased meat, made stricter control over the trade a necessity. However, such was the continuing power and


muscle of the London butchers that they were able to defend their craft from any political or humanitarian interference. With the massive expansion of the capital, large volumes of livestock were handled in the heart of London. Much of the growth in business was accommodated by the railways. Euston became a major cattle handling terminal with Smithfield meat market some two miles away from the station. By the middle of the century more than 100,000 cattle were transported by train and hurded through the streets of inner London. No urban area had ever encountered such volume of animals that were prepared for slaughter in countless privately owned slaughterhouses. In Paris, the situation was different. Initially, animals were slaughtered in butcher shops all over the city which created an unacceptable mess and stench. Reformers demanded that slaughterhouses be relocated to the outskirts of town. Nothing happened during the Ancien Régime because the guild of butchers opposed any intervention into their business. The French Revolution abolished all guilds to promote freedom of commerce. As a consequence, meat was sold anywhere and slaughter took place without supervision or inspection. Napoleon took action and ordered that five municipal abattoirs be built in a ring around the city. Work began in 1810 but became caught up in the financial havoc caused by the war effort, but when they finally opened in 1818 these public abattoirs were the first of their kind in Europe. Operated by the municipality and located away from populated districts, they provided a model of slaughter that would be followed elsewhere. Public hygiene became a politically important issue. During the 1830s and 1840s, alongside prostitution, hospitals and sewers, abattoirs were a battleground in the struggle to improve the physical and moral hygiene of Paris. A major problem was the geographical separation of the livestock market and abattoir. Since they were located in different parts of the city, livestock herds continued to be a visible sight in the streets, adding to traffic congestion and street pollution. Rail transport offered a solution. In 1860 construction of a new slaughterhouse began combined with market and connection to the railroad. La Villette, located in the northeastern corner of the city, was completed in 1862 and the slaughterhouses opened


five years later during the Paris World Exposition. Le Marché & Les Abattoirs de La Villette completed the centralization of slaughter and its exclusion from the inner-city. The abattoir itself was an architectural monument of industrial design based upon the application of iron and glass. Today, the Parc de la Vilette houses a large concentration of cultural venues, including Europe’s largest science museum, three major concert venues and the prestigious Conservatoire de Paris. The situation in the United States differed fundamentally from Europe. Chicago grew faster than any other city in the nineteenth century. Up to the early 1860s a small number of livestock dealers were able to satisfy local demand. With the arrival of railroads the city developed into a hub connecting East and West. In December 1865, the foundation of the Union Stockyards and Transit Company centralized the market and initiated the development of an industrial model of large-scale meat packing. Three decades later Chicago was the main producer of meat in the United States. The Union Stockyards illustrate how the pull of markets initiated unprecedented mechanization. The two-story disassembly line consisted of an overhead rail system by which animals were hoisted and moved through thirteen compartmentalized workstations, where one man would slit the animal’s throat, another would tear off its hide, and a third split the carcass. It took less than twenty-four hours from the moment an animal arrived until it was slaughtered, dressed, and shipped off. Mechanization was possible because Chicago was not entrenched in the traditions of butchering which, in London or Paris, resisted any change in traditional habits. Chicago did not employ butchers, but a casual work force largely consisting of recent immigrants. By the turn of the century, the stockyards were surrounded by ethnic neighbourhoods that housed poor and underpaid workers and their families. Upton Sinclair captured their harsh existence in his 1906 novel The Jungle. The brutalizing effect of the slaughter of animals was communicated as early as Thomas More. The author of Utopia expressed his aversion from the cruelty of the shambles. The Utopians, he wrote, ‘feel that slaughtering our fellow creatures


gradually destroys the sense of compassion, which is the finest sentiment of which our human nature is capable’. Butchering and skinning animals were practices that civilized society found increasingly hard to endure. At the same time, abattoirs held great fascination. Visitors flocked to slaughterhouses in order to quench their thirst for thrills derived from horror. When the World Columbian Exposition was held in Chicago in 1893, more visitors went to the stockyards than to any of the Exposition’s own attractions. In turn-of-the-century Berlin a call at the slaughterhouse was on the tourist trail. German Expressionists introduced the abattoir into art. In 1892, Lovis Corinth painted a series of slaughterhouse scenes with provocative depictions of men labouring amongst animal flesh and blood. With brushwork of thick blops and smears of paint, blood and guts seem to drip from the painting onto the floor. In his autobiography My Life and Work (1922) Henry Ford revealed that his inspiration for assembly-line production of cars came from a visit he made as a young man to a Chicago slaughterhouse. In setting out their ideas on mechanization and the division of labour, both Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson warned of the potential dangers this system might have on workers. If labour was reduced to mechanical manipulation, the worker would become an extension of the machine. In Chicago these warnings were ignored. Machines were used to speed along the process of mass slaughter, leaving men detached, reducing them to mere accomplices forced to conform to the pace set by the assembly line. Killing was neutralized. To Theodor Adorno, it was but one step from the industrialized animal killing to Nazi assembly-line mass murder. Auschwitz was inspired by the slaughterhouse. In J. M. Coetzee’s novel The Lives of Animals, the protagonist Elizabeth Costello tells her audience that ‘it was from the Chicago stockyards that the Nazis learned how to process bodies’. There is a parallel connection in this barbaric context. The lethal chamber first emerged during the Victorian era as a humane means of killing stray dogs. Benjamin Ward Richardson was a distinguished medical specialist and reformer. In the 1884 issue of The Asclepiad (a quarterly book of original research and observation), he relates his proposal made in 1869 to the RSPCA to build a


lethal chamber for the ‘painless extinction’ of animals. He constructed a trial model in 1878. Richardson’s original blueprints show a large panelled chamber serviced by a tall slender tank for carbonic acid gas and a heating apparatus. The Battersea Dogs Home became the first institution to install the device. By the turn of the century a number of charitable animal institutions were using the chamber. This solution for unwanted pets was almost immediately contemplated as a ‘solution’ to rid society of criminals and social misfits. The concept of the ‘lethal chamber’ appeared in common vernacular by the turn of the century. When it comes to social engineering English eugenicists introduced some extreme ideas into the socio-cultural discourse, but even by that standard the notion of the lethal chamber is shocking. Where did the term originate from? There is a clear link to fiction in this case. Novels and plays of the period, such as Shaw’s Man and Superman (1905) or H.G. Wells’s The New Machiavellian (1911), are suffused with the language of de-vitalization and regeneration. In 1914 Richard Austin Freeman published his novel A Silent Witness of which chapter five is entitled ‘A lethal chamber’. In 1921, the novelist took part in the degeneration discussion with the publication of his Social Decay and Regeneration. There is however an earlier literary source. The King in Yellow is a collection of loosely related fin-de-siècle horror stories by Robert Chambers, written in 1895. They have the common setting of an imagined future in America and Paris during the 1920s. Yellow is a colour indicative of the decadent and aesthetic attitudes fashionable at the end of the nineteenth century. Yellow also suggests quarantine, decay and (mental) illness. The most representative story in the collection is ‘The Repairer of Reputations’ which is set in a militaristic New York City, circa 1925, where immigration is controlled and suicide legalized with the introduction of ‘Government Lethal Chambers’. The juxtaposition of the degeneration theme with a regime of regeneration made considerable impact at the time. The lethal chamber was a metaphor used in connection with Anglo-American eugenicist thinking, long before the gas chamber became the most horrific symbol of the Nazi holocaust.



rue de la harpe (paris) A particular aspect of urban psychological history is a continuous fascination with crime. City dwellers are obsessed with acts of violence. Every age has expressed worries about escalating evil. The issue of law and order has always been a concern. Politicians make a career out of such anxieties. And yet, at the same time, we devour crime stories, real or fictional, in whatever form these are presented. Crime is a neverceasing attraction to the public at large. It dominates television programming, ‘good stories’ sell newspapers, and the thriller remains the most popular literary genre. From early civilization onwards acts of cruelty have been recorded in the annals of mankind, be it the Celtic sacrificial ritual of head-hunting or the medieval visions of hell. Death in early history was violent - not a blissful transition from life to heaven, but an event of pain and horror, either through some form of epidemic disease or through the continuous evils of war and armed conflict. Murder and theft were rampant. Punishment was brutal, but did not stop villainy. Paradoxically, out of this mixture of fear and fascination a new figure arose - that of the criminal folk legend. Robin Hood is the best known outlaw in English folklore and the first criminal to be acclaimed a hero by poets and artists. Stories about crime during the seventeenth century seemed to address the insecurities of the age. Printed ballads, periodicals, reports of crimes, pamphlets taking the side of defendants or prosecutors, last dying speeches, accounts of executions, all became popular literature. By the early eighteenth century, these genres had contributed to the development of criminal biographies, the novel and satirical print. The market for criminal accounts was buoyant. It was


not unusual for a condemned person to sell his biography to the highest-bidding prospective author. The expansion of detailed information about cases of wrongdoing meant that more sensationalist accounts became increasingly implausible as readers could compare these tales with more explicit reports in newspapers and elsewhere. Changing standards of morality led to a toning down of the more lurid sexual details found in early publications and by the 1770s some of the more racy publications were in decline. Even so, throughout the nineteenth century terror continued to be an audience-puller. However, there was crime and there was the myth of crime and the two are often difficult to separate. ‘The history of the world, my sweet - is who gets eaten and who get to eat’, is an often quoted line from Sweeney Todd in discussion with Mrs Lovett. Anxiety of crime was a dominant aspect of metropolitan life during the nineteenth century, but the red spectre of revolution was an almost obsessive fear. During the 1790s cannibal and eating imagery became part of the English artistic and literary iconography in response to the French Revolution. In Europe it was widely alleged that the Jacobins and the Terrors of the 1790s had plunged Europe into collective savagery. Rejecting Rousseau’s theory of natural man, critics declared that primitive man is a ferocious brute. The aim of civilization, contrary to all revolutionary beliefs, was not a return to the state of nature but to escape from it. The Jacobins had destroyed all social restraints and transformed society into a barbarian horde. After the massacres of September 1792, James Gillray portrayed a family of Paris ‘sansculottes’ feasting upon dismembered bodies. Radical Tory journalists associated with Fraser’s Magazine adopted this set of images and gave it new social meaning during the restless 1830s and 1840s. Thomas Carlyle was closely connected to the magazine. He made its imagery his own. Thomas Malthus had introduced the unnerving notion of food scarcity into contemporary thinking, but he did not project the spectre of cannibalism when he outlined imminent struggles for survival. In Sartor Resartus (1831) Carlyle introduces a character named Heuschrecke, an apostle of Malthus, who suggests the prospect of cannibalism. Carlyle depicts a world ‘by its too dense inhabitants, famished into delirium, universally eating one another’.


The Rue de la Harpe is a quiet cobblestoned and residential street in the Latin Quarter of Paris, running in a south-easterly direction between the Rue de la Huchette and the Rue Saint-Séverin. Only a few buildings that date from before the Haussmann era have survived. During the nineteenth century the name of the street send shivers down people’s spine. It was associated with crime and cannibalism. In 1800, Minister of Police Joseph Fouché supposedly documented a series of murders undertaken in the street by a local barber and baker. The two are cited as the first serial killers. Becque would murder his victims for the contents of their pockets and Mornay disposed of the bodies by mincing and cooking them in his meat pies that were renowned throughout Paris for their flavour. The men were tried and found guilty at the Palais de Justice in 1801. In a punishment seen to fit the crime, they were torn to pieces on the rack rather than executed by guillotine. Their fate influenced the tale of barber Sweeney Todd of Fleet Street and his baker accomplice Mrs Lovett. In 1825, Tell-Tale Magazine published ‘A Terrible Story of the Rue de la Harpe’. In this tale, the barber murders a country gentleman and steals a string of pearls before delivering the corpse to his mistress, a chef renowned for her delicious ‘pâtés en croûte’. The duo are discovered when the victim’s dog leads the police to a cellar heaped with the skeletal remains of three hundred people. On 21 November 1846 The People’s Periodical and Family Library began serializing Edward Lloyd’s eight-part story entitled ‘The String of Pearls’ which was set in 1785 and concerned Sweeney Todd, a barber in Fleet Street who murdered wealthy clients for their valuables by throwing them through a trapdoor into a cellar. His neighbour Mrs Lovett cut up the bodies and turned them into tasty pies. Todd apparently tried to murder Mark Ingestre for a string of pearls, but the latter survived and Sweeney Todd confessed his crimes. Before the serial had ended, a stage version of the story dramatized by the playwright George Dibdin Pitt began a long run at the Britannia Theatre, Hoxton. In that version Todd gained his stage catchphrase: ‘I’ve polished him off ’.The phrase has entered the English language. In 1850, Edward Lloyd published an enlarged The String of Pearls as a stand-alone ‘penny-blood’ serial. Both the preface to the 1850 edition and the bills for Pitt’s play insisted that the Todd story was based on fact. A


further serial was published by Charles Fox in 1878, by which time Todd had become the ‘Demon Barber of Fleet Street’. The legend gained further embellishments. No. 186 Fleet Street became established as Todd’s residence, an identification encouraged by the discovery of human bones under the cellar during building work in the late nineteenth century, supposedly those of Todd’s victims. Todd remained part of popular culture in the twentieth century and was the subject of several films. By the 1930s ‘The Sweeney’ had become Cockney rhyming slang for the Metropolitan Police’s flying squad, and in the 1970s it provided the name for a famous television drama series. The original French story, however, smacks of being an urban myth and the supposed book by Fouché is impossible to trace. Rue de la Harpe has made its presence felt in the history of the Revolution, or more precisely: in the annals of the revolutionary press. Paris bookseller AntoineFrançois Momoro was thirty-three years old when the Revolution began. He had arrived in Paris from his native Besançon in 1780. He was one of many small Parisian book dealers with little hope of advancement under the restrictive Old Regime. With the declaration of the freedom of the press in August 1789, however, his prospects looked a lot brighter. Embracing the revolutionary movement, he opened a printing shop at no. 171 Rue de la Harpe and declared himself the ‘First Printer of National Liberty’. In 1793, he composed and published a treatise on printing, the Traité élémentaire de l’imprimerie, which was intended to put the practical knowledge of printing within the reach of a broad audience. To this day, it remains the most complete source of eighteenth-century printing shop slang. Momoro used his press to launch a career in radical revolutionary politics, soon becoming the official ‘Printer for the Cordeliers Club’. When he was arrested in February 1794, the police made an inventory of his stock which consisted exclusively of pamphlets, handbills and posters. His business was totally devoted to the printed ephemera that sustained the Revolution. Economically, he made a good living out of his activities. The Revolutionary Tribunal heard repeated depictions of Momoro as a greedy opportunist who was notorious for shady dealings. In the first four years of the Revolution his business in printing revolutionary propaganda expanded


perhaps as much as twofold. His career, however, was not untypical. In 1789 Parisian printing exploded. The Revolution triggered an unprecedented political discourse throughout the country which was reflected in a substantial increase in published materials. During the first few years of the Revolution the industry was overrun by a new generation of little printers, most of them former printing-shop workers or small book dealers, amounting to something like a fourfold increase in the number of printers and a tripling of the number of booksellers and/or publishers. They seized the cultural space opened by the declaration of freedom of the press, and through the production of political ephemera took part in recording and shaping revolutionary events. Paris suddenly became the world’s largest centre of newspaper production. The Revolution was also a revolution of the press. Printing became an essential part in the struggle over public opinion which contributed to the formation of a new democratic political culture. Just as the press served as more than just a chronicle of events, the position of the journalist was transformed as well. He took up the role of critic, denouncer, and commentator. He was an engaged participant, actor, and witness, fuelling the course of events. The link between Revolution and the development towards democratization of the printed word is further emphasized by the career of typographer and encyclopaedist Pierre Leroux, who was the inventor of the term ‘socialism’. Born in 1797, Leroux attended the École Polytechnique, before joining a printshop and start a career in publishing. He founded the Globe newspaper in 1824 and, with George Sand, the Revue Indépendante in 1841. Moving to Boussac, he set up his own publishing house and attracted a small community of disciples and readers. He was elected to the Constituent Assembly in 1848, and formally honoured by the Commune upon his death in 1871. To combat ignorance was one of the main aspirations of nineteenth century socialism to which general access to printing and publishing was of crucial importance. Socialism was born with a printers’ tag around its neck. Momoro had used his press as a call to arms and an instrument for the expression of subversive criticism. Pierre Leroux, using print as his medium, spoke words of liberation and spread ideas of democracy and social justice. Newspapers and


pamphlets to him were a source for political education and instruction. John Baskerville came from a different angle, a non-conformist and atheist he was above all interested in the presentation of the text, the quality of the letter, and the layout of the page. Ironically, it was the French Revolution that safeguarded his legacy. He settled in Birmingham in 1726. Having made his fortune in the lucrative ‘japanning’ business (an early form of enamelling), he secured a lease on eight acres ground to the north-east of the city which he named Easy Hill, and built himself the house in which he lived for the rest of his life. At some point before 1757, he was joined there by Sarah Eaves (née Ruston), a married woman with a son and two daughters whose husband Richard had fled the country because of fraud. About 1750 Baskerville began his career as a printer and type-founder. Influenced by the work of Italian Renaissance printers, his guiding principles were simplicity and clarity. His page layouts were minimalist, they tended to be completely typographic, allowing his letterforms to stand on their own. Baskerville died at his house at Easy Hill in January 1775. Sarah Eaves was a resourceful character in her own right. For a number of years she managed the type-foundry herself. In December 1779 she concluded a sale of the printing firm with the cosmopolitan figure of Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, a principal participant in the Société Typographique et Littéraire which was established in order to produce the complete works of Voltaire at a printing office set up for this purpose at Kehl, a German town located on the right bank of the Rhine directly opposite the city of Strasbourg. To the edition of Voltaire in eighty-five volumes (issued in 1784/89) was added one of the works of Rousseau. The news that Baskerville’s types were being used at Kehl attracted the attention of Piedmont dramatist Vittorio Alfieri, the ‘founder’ of Italian tragedy. Alfieri, like Lord Byron, was both an aristocrat and a revolutionary. A friend of Beaumarchais, he was in many ways typical of the eighteenth century enlightened cosmopolitan European. His plays communicate an intense hatred of tyranny and despotism. Inevitably, he became a proponent of the French Revolution and enthusiastically embraced the American cause for independence. Baskerville would have been delighted to learn that Alfieri ordered from Beaumarchais the printing of several of his works.


Charles-Joseph Panckoucke was one of the most successful newspaper editors and publishers of his age; among his authors were such distinguished figures as Voltaire, Rousseau, and Buffon. At the outbreak of the Revolution, Panckoucke’s newspapers were virtually the only ones with the privilege of publishing political news. On 24 November 1789, he founded the Gazette Nationale ou Le Moniteur Universal, a daily newspaper which became the official journal of the French Revolution. Baskerville’s association with Enlightenment radicalism is emphasized by the fact that his types were used to print the Moniteur. For some years the journal’s imprint read, ‘imprimé … avec les caractères de Baskerville’. From his base in Birmingham, Baskerville provided the Revolution with a letter of liberation.



tyburn road (london) The name of Tyburn Road does no longer exist in London. At one time, Tyburn was a village close to the current location of Marble Arch. It took its name from a tributary of the Thames which is now completely covered over between its source and outfall into the river. Tyburn is recorded in the Domesday Book. The predecessors of Oxford Street and Park Lane were roads leading to the village, then called Tyburn Road and Tyburn Lane respectively. Until 1783 Tyburn served as London’s primary place of execution. Public displays of executions were a vital part of the criminal justice system which relied upon fear of retribution. On hanging day, the condemned were brought to the site from Newgate prison, which included a two mile procession through London along Holborn, St Giles and Tyburn Road to the Tyburn Tree (triangular gallows purposely built for multiple executions introduced in 1571). Prisoners were transported on open carts, be they criminals, traitors, or religious martyrs. There are probably more historic prints and drawings of Tyburn than of any other London location. The Bloody Code is a term used to refer to the English system of laws and punishments that was in use from 1400 to 1850. By the early nineteenth century there were more than 200 offences carrying the death penalty. Crimes that were punishable by execution included stealing anything worth more than five shillings, stealing horses or sheep, right through to arson, treason and murder. Public hangings were a fair day. A rowdy and drunken mob followed the procession


through the streets, pelting the condemned with rotten vegetables and stones. The procession to Tyburn and the executions served according to Henry Fielding in An Enquiry into the Causes of the Late Increase of Robbers (1751) ‘to add the Punishment of Shame to that of Death; in order to make the Example an Object of greater Terror’. Having reached Tyburn the condemned person was allowed to make a ‘gallows speech’. Then a prison chaplain would urge the criminal to repent in a final prayer. As soon as the hangman appeared the noose was adjusted and a bag drawn over the criminal’s head. The horse would be lashed to move the cart and leave the criminal hanging in the air. Such executions drew large number of spectators. Men, women and children enjoyed the carefree atmosphere. It was a great day for vendors, pickpockets, whores, pimps and broadside sellers. There were literally hundreds of gallows songs in circulation telling the stories of murderers, pirates, traitors and other felons. The first readily available accounts of crimes and criminals in England were broadsheets and chapbooks. A broadsheet is a single sheet of paper with typically four pages printed on each side in such a way that the buyer could fold, stitch and cut it to form a booklet. A chapbook is one of these sold ready made up. Many of these were execution reports. The first so-called ‘Newgate Calendars’ were collections of these accounts and, as the eighteenth century progressed, more and more crimes were added. The various collections plagiarized their predecessors shamelessly. Some of them added morals to the stories. It was because of this didactic message that they were considered uplifting reading. Crime was also a frequent subject matter of contemporary engravings and prints. There was a flourishing market in these works, particularly in London. On first view many of such prints were morality tales, but the rich details in some, notably those of William Hogarth (in particular ‘Industry and Idleness’, 1747), contained different levels of meaning. Although many prints celebrated the virtues of English law, there were frequent criticisms of lawyers, watchmen and the police, thus providing a running commentary on crime and punishment in the metropolis.


The criminal biography became a popular genre after the publication of The History of the Lives of the Most Noted Highwaymen by Captain Alexander Smith in 1714. Ostensibly such books were meant to teach moral lessons by illustrating that crime does not pay. The wealth of titillating details however made them highly entertaining. Publishers who were seeking material frequently visited Newgate prison looking for notorious criminals willing to sell their stories. These publications purported to be autobiographies. Although heavily edited by publishers, the ‘authenticity’ of the tale was an important selling point. It was crucial that the voice of the criminal could be heard in these accounts. Changing standards of morality led to a toning down of the more lurid sexual details found in early publications. Even so, throughout the nineteenth century crime continued to be an audience-puller for authors ranging from George W.M. Reynolds with his long-running serial novel The Mysteries of London to the better remembered novels and stories of Wilkie Collins, Dickens and Trollope. Truman Capote’s novel In Cold Blood (1966) had in its documentation of a true murder case been preceded by a long history of English semi-fictionalized crime reporting. Late October 1783 John Austin attacked John Spicer, robbed him and left him near to death in a field outside Bethnal Green. He was arrested, identified as a repeat offender and condemned to hang. On Friday morning 7 November 1783 he embarked upon his final journey through the streets of London from Newgate prison to the site of execution. He was the last man to be hanged at Tyburn. Making his gallows speech, Austin showed the repent the authorities demanded of a condemned man. He acknowledged the justice of his sentence and warned his audience to stay clear of crime. It was a perfect but boring moral tale. Spectators expected bravado from a condemned person. They wanted him to show contempt for the judge, to be fearless and face death with indifference. The crowd became restless. Death came slowly for Austin. The noose of the halter having slipped to the back part of his neck, it took ten minutes before he was dead. Whereas conventional practice allowed the body of felons executed for crimes other than murder to be turned over to their family for burial, a disorderly element in the


attending crowd gained possession of Austin’s mortal remains, carried them back to Newgate, and dropped them there to be buried. The unruly scene deepened unease with the rowdy atmosphere of execution days. Pressure increased to close procedures at Tyburn. Suburban development in the immediate vicinity of the place of execution had been fast and furious during the later part of the eighteenth century. Residents objected to the Tyburn carnival. Austin’s execution was the last to involve a procession through London and the hanging at Tyburn. Proceedings from then on were to be conducted at the newly erected gallows immediately outside Newgate prison. The death penalty was once and for all removed from the raucous public entertainment of an urban execution. It was the first step towards a ‘private’ process of mechanized and sanitized executions that are out of sight and out of mind and does not disturb modern sensibilities.



via appia (rome) Terror as subject-matter is common in both art and literature. Art tells its own story of horrors. Fran Giovanni Battista Piranesi, a stonemason and builder’s son, was the outstanding printmaker of his age. Trained in Venice as an architect, his work occupies an intriguing place in the development of the cityscape. He arrived in Rome in 1740 as part of the entourage of Marco Foscarini, the Venetian ambassador to the new pope, Benedict xiv. As early as 1741 he was producing small Roman views for inclusion in popular guide books and almost immediately he seemed to be searching for a new and more personal mode of urban representation. Meanwhile, his career as an architect went nowhere. The lack of commissions was a bitter blow and made him unsure about the direction to take, that of the architect or that of the artist/engraver. The ambivalence can be traced throughout his career. Having settled permanently in Rome in 1745, he created about 2,000 plates in his lifetime and there are two distinct aspects to his work. First there is the series of etchings of imaginary prisons, and secondly there are his famous views of Rome. His collection of Vedute di Roma (Views of Rome) features 135 perspectives on the ruins of the Eternal City in all its decayed glory. Piranesi captured an imaginary cityscape based on real architectural elements assembled in fantastical ways. Eighteenth-century European writers and philosophers routinely compared the social order to a prison. During the eighteenth century penal institutions such as London’s Newgate Prison and the Bastille in Paris were imposing structures that developed into powerful symbols of oppression. Rome’s most famous prison


was the underground Carcere Mamertino (Mamertine prison; the medieval name is most likely a reference to a nearby temple of Mars), known in antiquity as Tullanium, located on the northeastern slope of the Capitoline Hill. It consisted of a vast network of dungeons under the city’s main sewer system connected to the surface via a grand entranceway. Corridors and chambers descended downward, and were marked by the symbol of an upside-down cross. These vaults of horror would have been an inspiration to young Piranesi’s wild and macabre imagination. From 1745 onwards he produced fourteen of his most disturbing prints, the Carceri d’invenzione or ‘Imaginary Prisons’ which show the interior of vast prisons, littered with arches, stairways, pulleys, ropes and various relics of classical antiquity. The spaces of the Carceri, simultaneously vast and claustrophobic, are clearly based on the vaults of antiquity, but the parts have been jumbled: stairs and drawbridges go nowhere, arches pile up to form an inescapable labyrinth. Using his theatrical set experience and knowledge of architecture, these images are well ordered yet menacingly chaotic, realistic and dreamlike. Supposedly based on a malarial fever-dream, the Carceri suggest a descent into the subconscious, an extraordinarily detailed nightmare. The particulars are drawn from the vocabulary of ancient Rome. The emotional atmosphere speaks to universal anxieties. Ten years later Piranesi radically reworked the same plates and added two new ones. He made the architectural forms more elaborate, and introduced new sequence of vaults, arches and stairs that recede indefinitely. The imagery speaks of a grey world of stone and ritual in which the human factor is utterly insignificant. Tiny figures struggle in these huge interiors, including, according to Thomas de Quincey in Confessions of an English Opium Eater Piranesi himself: ‘Creeping along the sides of the walls, you perceived a staircase; and upon it, groping his way upwards, was Piranesi himself: follow the stairs a little further, and you perceive it come to a sudden abrupt termination, without any balustrade, and allowing no step onwards to him’. The immensity of the architecture seems to embody the workings of an evil supernatural power. The machinery of cables and levers suggests awful horrors. Piranesi’s etchings of imaginary prisons held a


hypnotic fascination for later Romantic writers such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Edgar Allan Poe (his story ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ is a transcription of the world of Piranesi’s prisons) and artists such as Charles Meryon in his haunting visions of Paris. They had a huge influence on the development of the Gothic novel and the creation of the Gothicscape. Reacting against the Enlightenment idea that society is founded upon rational thinking, the Romantics injected the drug of dreams and nightmares instead. Piranesi’s prisons not only recall Rome’s Mamertine, but also medieval ways of physical punishment. Grates, hooks and pulleys create a morbid mechanism in which the prisoner is subjected to various instruments of torture. In literary terms such images date back to medieval vision literature. The stories describe experiences of people who allegedly had been taken to hell. A famous example is the ‘Vision of Tundale’, an Irish knight who had been in a coma for three days from which he returned to urge others to repent. The tale dates from the middle of the twelfth century (over 150 years before Dante’s Inferno) and was written in Latin by a Benedictine monk. His experiences are divided into ten Passus or ’paces’ (a division of parts in medieval narrative) which are a neatly arranged as a catalogue of sins in which every crime has a ‘fitting’ punishment. The worst the sin, the more severe is the pain. Piranesi offers an elaborate and corresponding set of torture instruments in his images. A wheel with spikes around its circumference; a post with more spikes; a kind of chandelier suspended from a beam ringed with meathooks, etc. The act of torture does not take place in these prints, but Piranesi is a master of suggestion. There are just glimpses of the damned, a couple of men digging a grave in the middle of the prison, a person being pulled on a rack, or naked figures chained to posts. While prisoners undergo mysterious torments, luckier souls pass by on parapets or bridges that in the context of the image have no logic or necessity. Piranesi seems less interested in the plight of the prisoners than in an unsettling fantasy of space. His prison is a place without limits, the interiors have no outer walls, and each vista is cut off only by the frame of the image itself. They may not even be interiors because they are integrated into a cityscape where - even


if certain settings are recognizable - interior and exterior are no longer definable. Although these prison scenes were produced in Rome, they belong to a Venetian tradition. The capriccio was developed as an art form in early eighteenth-century Venice. Influenced by Italian theatre, the genre grew as a result of the Grand Tour when capricci were offered as an addition or alternative to the townscape. Piranesi built on the work of two other Venetians, on Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s playful Capricci and on the set designs of Ferdinando Galli Bibiena, a master of Baroque scenography and founder of a dynasty of stage designers. In painting, capricci are a playful mixture of architectural and sculptural elements - both real and fictional - in which tombs and urns, pillars and pyramids, are decorated with inscriptions. Locations are rearranged and peopled by mythological beings and symbolic animals. Such scenographic presentation perfectly suited the theatrical character of Rome’s public spaces, but Piranesi’s series of etchings of imaginary prisons remain Venetian in spirit. He could never free himself from his native city’s air of decline. In the haunting visions of a doomed city one recognizes the source of his gloomy inspiration. He produced a cityscape in which Kafka seems to embrace Escher. In the early fifteenth century, Flavio Biondo had created a guide to the ruins of ancient Rome for which he has been called an early founder of archaeology. However, it was only during the eighteenth century that the systematic study of the past through its physical remains began to be carried out. The excavations of Pompeï and Herculaneum during the late 1730s and 1740s made an impact throughout Europe. By the time Piranesi arrived in Rome nevertheless, many of the city’s ancient temples and arches were used as cheap sources of raw materials. Over a period of time the Colosseum had been stripped of usable stone. Maffeo Barberini, who reigned as Pope Urban viii, had carted off the bronze of the Pantheon. Rome was either plundered or neglected - the Roman Forum was known as the Campo Vaccino (the cow field). Piranesi, the Venetian, found his calling in Rome’s ruins. He was outraged by the city’s decay. Regretting that the ancient buildings were gradually reduced by vandalists who used ancient rubble to built


modern houses, he decided to preserve their memory in art. While ancient Roman urban planners had introduced the rational grid to cities across the Empire, the city of Rome itself remained topographically a chaotic assemblage of spaces that were shaped haphazardly against the background of its seven hills. The Via Appia was the ‘Queen of long roads’, joining Rome with Brindisi at the Adriatic coast. It was named after Appius Claudius Caecus, the Roman censor who completed its first section during the Samnite War. In a frontispiece of Le antichità Romane (1756), Piranesi’s vision of the intersection of the Via Appia and the Via Ardeatina is piled high with mausoleums, gravestones, marble busts, and a stone she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus. His image of the Via Appia typifies his Roman views that became as much a tourist attraction as the city’s sights themselves. The artist took delight in the city’s irrationality. In the Vedute di Roma and Antichità he captured the ruins in all their decrepit glory. Piranesi the antiquarian was shocked by the state of ancient Rome. Piranesi the salesman explored and exploited the potential of a newly discovered art market. Few works can match his Vedute for artistic influence, commercial success and political impact. He was also a polemicist who claimed Roman sovereignty in ancient architecture. In works such as Della magnificenzo ed archetettura de’ Romani (1761) he opposed fashionable Grecophilia that was inspired by Winckelmann’s aesthetic theories. Piranesi’s powerful prints were produced in large quantities and, just like Canaletto’s paintings, conceived as souvenirs. This mass distribution inspired the ‘ruin lust’ that gripped European art and literature in the eighteenth century and reached its height in the Romantic period. Piranesi’s business enterprise also included dealing in antiquities and publishing ‘pattern books’ such as Vasi, candelabri, cippi, sarcophagi (1778), an artifact catalogue, and Diverse maniere d’adornare i cammini (1769), decorative schemes based on pastiches of antique styles. In Diverse maniere Piranesi gave prominence to the design (sixty-one in total) for chimneypieces. This form of interior feature did not have a precedent in antiquity. He applied the ancient Roman approach to design to contemporary demands which allowed his flamboyant fantasy to run free. Egyptian and Etruscan elements merge with the


myths of antiquity and the Renaissance. These works had widespread influence on eighteenth-century design. Not in the least on Scottish architect and decorator Robert Adam who spent five years in Rome studying with him. The latter went on to become a principal exponent of British and European Neoclassicism. John Sloane, an extremely successful neoclassical architect, was also an admirer of Piranesi, acquiring fifteen drawings of the Italian master which are now part of the collection of Sir John Sloane’s Museum in London. What was the specific appeal of his work? From a stylistic and technical point of view his engravings were highly original. Piranesi created images by etching with a stylus on a waxed copper plate after which this plate was set in an acid bath where the sharp lines would be etched away. This method gives his prints a hand-drawn look. He worked exclusively in black-and-white, but he was a master of re-creating the effects of shadow, sunlight, and the movement of clouds. Just as important was the psychological effect of his images. Piranesi’s work is a reaction to the soft elegance and sugary optimism of popular Rococo art. Instead of images of ideal forms, he shed light on the debris of a doomed metropolis. Ruins register both the termination and the survival of matter. These shattered fragments of an urban past symbolize transience and durability, dissolution and survival. Piranesi produced etchings of Roman ruins and deliberately enlarged them suggesting both the might of ancient civilization and the inevitable fate of human hubris in the face of a remorseless cosmos. The Roman views of Giovanni Battista Piranesi have lost none of their power over the centuries. Because he was depicting Rome before proper excavations were undertaken, his cityscape was genuinely ancient. His craftsmanship made his images transcend their immediate circumstances to become evocative expressions of the grandeur that once was Rome.



broad quay (bristol) The architectural splendour of cities such as Liverpool in Britain or Middelburg in the Netherlands bears witness to the financial rewards of the slave trade, the largest forced migration in global history. The main slaving nations were European powers with coasts on the Atlantic Ocean or North Sea. They were the dominant colonial states of the early modern period: Spain, Portugal, England, France, and the Netherlands. However, the organisation of the slave trade was concentrated in relatively few places. In the two decades preceding abolition, Liverpool was responsible for 75% of all slaving voyages across Europe. In France, Nantes sent 45% of all the ships in the slave trade. In Spain, initially Seville and later Cadiz were central to slaving initiatives. In Holland, after the monopoly of the West Indies Company was lifted, the ports of Flushing and Middleburg accounted for 78% of all Dutch voyages. Most of those harbour cities had trading links with the Americas before they became involved in slaving. The specialist slave trade necessitated a comprehensive infrastructure in which shipbuilders, ship-owners and suppliers were all involved. The lucrative voyages were generally financed on credit by consortia of several merchants. The entire mercantile community was involved, and the whole region profited from it. There are similarities between the ports. Slaving merchants built impressive town houses and apartments. Liverpool’s Town Hall is known for its frieze including African heads, elephants and crocodiles. Similar decorations are found on buildings in Nantes and Bordeaux. Street names reflect not only the names of slave traders such as Earle, Tarleton,


or Cunliffe in Liverpool, but also in names like Goree (the slave island off Dakar which name is derived from the Dutch Goeree at the time when it was ruled by the Netherlands from 1588 to 1664) and Jamaica Street, and in Bristol again Jamaica Street, Guinea Street and Black Boy Hill. Penny Lane is a Liverpool street in the neighbourhood where young Paul McCartney and John Lennon grew up. They would meet at Penny Lane junction to catch a bus into the centre of the city. In 1967, The Beatles released a song written primarily by McCartney with the title ‘Penny Lane’. Recorded during the Sergeant Pepper sessions, the song was released as a double A-sided single, along with ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. Penny Lane is named after James Penny, an eighteenth century merchant and slave trader who was known for his knowledge of the African coast. When, in 1788, the British government launched an inquiry into the slave trade, Penny was chosen to defend the practice in Parliament. He argued that abolition of slavery would destroy the city’s economy. Although Africans were transported to the Americas where their labour was needed, some people of African descent were brought back to Europe. All slave ports had black populations to varying degrees. Lisbon is estimated to have had 10,000 black slaves in 1620. Bristol has its famous tombstone to Scipio Africanus in Henbury churchyard. Nantes, too, had a significant black population. At the beginning of the Revolution the city was able to raise a black battalion known as ‘les hussards de Saint-Domingue’. By the end of the eighteenth century London also had a large black population, probably numbering between 5,000 and 15,000. The Black Boy is a sign with a long history in Britain. Printer and bookseller Henry Bynneman worked with Reginald Wolfe whose devices, ornaments and initials he acquired after the latter’s death in 1573. He printed first in London’s Paternoster Row at the sign of the Black Boy, but by 1567 had adopted his familiar sign of the Mermaid. Initially, the Black Boy was the sign of a tobacconist. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the sign was quite common for taverns and coffee houses. During that period to employ a dressed-up African servant became a status symbol. Negro page-boys were fashionable. They were flamboyant figures


in the streets of London, dressed in brightly striped uniforms from which they were given the name of ‘tigers’. Samuel Pepys employed a ‘blackmore’ cook and Royal Academy sculptor Joseph Nollekens kept a female servant nicknamed ‘Miss Bronze’ or ‘Black Bet’. In coffee houses, black children were offered for sale as if they were pets. Their blackness helped to highlight the beauty of the owner’s pale complexion which, at the time, was considered a sign of purity. The Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery holds a painting dating from around 1785 which is called ‘Broad Quay, Bristol’. The work is attributed to Dutch immigrant Philip Vandyke who had settled in the city and classified as an example of ‘naïve’ art. The label is supposed to imply such qualities as naturalness, innocence and ‘artlessness’. This is a misnomer. The unfortunate term also carries with it associations of the primitive, amateur, and non-academic (i.e. lacking formal education). This is a value statement, underlining the inadequacies of our critical jargon. There is no such species as naïve art. Art history, more than any other academic discipline, suffers from the snobbery of its subject and the pomposity of its practitioners. There is probably more waffle in art criticism than there is in psychoanalysis (and that takes some doing). The study of European art has been suffocated by the overwhelming riches of its heritage. Ever since the Grand Tour, which was an education at best and an expression of sophisticated boredom at worst, fine art has become the realm of snobs and scholars who have thrown up barriers of taste that persist to this day. However, when it comes to the genre of town- and streetscape, ‘naïve’ painting has made a substantial contribution to its development, influencing artists such as John Atkinson Grimshaw and culminating in the work of L.S. Lowry. They continued a tradition that preceded the cult of originality that dates back to Romanticism. The ‘naïve’ artist used whatever was available to him, freely lifting details or compositional aspects from various sources, either painted or printed. Technique and virtuosity always remained subordinate to subject matter. In order to supply as many details as possible in his townscape, the artist would be totally unconcerned to distort perspective and optical facts in order to enhance the effect upon the mind’s eye.


We have inherited our critical jargon largely from the nineteenth century. In Britain, John Ruskin was the pre-eminent art critic of his time. He provided the impetus that gained respectability for the Pre-Raphaelites. In 1870, he was appointed the first Slade Professor of Art at Oxford and then, removing to the Lake District, he helped to start the Environmental Movement out of concern for the deformation of the landscape caused by the cancerous expansion of industry. Ruskin’s linking of art and social reform struck a chord at the time. The tension between two interpretations of art persisted throughout his day. On the one hand there is the theory that claims that creative activity is an end in itself. Art should be independent of all claptrap (in the words of Ruskin’s great opponent James McNeill Whistler); it should stand alone, and appeal to the artistic sense of eye and ear, without confounding this with emotions such as devotion, pity or patriotism. This stance is opposed by those who regard the creative act as a means, a vehicle for carrying a religious conviction, a social program, or a moral message. Art must be channelled in some direct use, it should serve society. A work of art is like a barricade. Ruskin’s belief in the power of art to mitigate the dehumanizing effects of the Industrial Revolution led him inexorably into the political arena. The ambition to link aesthetics to public commitment was based on the presumption that a just social order would inspire new depths of artistic expression, and that a flourishing of creativity in turn would deepen the desire for a more ‘beautiful’ society. In this clash of ideas between grand aesthetic ambitions there was no place for the practitioner of naïve art. His work was side-lined, hidden in the dusty attic of amateurism, banned from the glossy magazines of artistic fineries. As an artist, he was doomed to remain an outsider. And yet, there is plenty of aesthetic pleasure and factual information to be gained from the contemplation of such works of art. What these paintings may lack in composition, they gain in observation. There is delight in detail, love for signs and lettering, a keen eye for human enterprise and activity. Many of the urban images are snapshots of the here and now. They do not pay tribute to some grand aesthetic theory or academically defined ideal of


beauty. The education of such artists differed fundamentally from what was taught at academies. Harp Alley, Shoe Lane, formerly called Harper Alley, was for many years the centre for sign painting and sign-irons (the carved grapes or gilded sugarloaves that served as pendants). Hogarth loved to visit the sign painting shops in Harp Alley for the purpose of introducing some of their original and unorthodox subjects into his pictures. Sign and coach painting offered aspiring artists an effective training in their art and craft. The importance of being educated in the vernacular language of art is exemplified in the careers of a number of academic artists. Royal academician Charles Carton was in early life a coach and sign painter and Robert Smirke, also a member of the Royal Academy of Arts, served his time under a herald painter of the name of Bromley. John Baker, another Royal academician, was well known for decorating coach panels with borders and wreaths of flowers. George Morland also painted signs. He is credited with sign for the Goat in Boots, an alehouse on the Fulham Road; one for the White Lion at Paddington; and for the sign of the Cricketers near Chelsea Bridge. For Morland painting signs was a way of settling his outstanding bills. In one instance he charged a fee of ‘unlimited gin’. In contrast to this sort of empirical training, art academies focused on correct ways of drawing and theoretical issues of aesthetics. Until the Industrial Revolution urban skylines were punctuated by their churches in towns and by their cathedrals in cities. Vandyke’s view shows the town centre of Bristol with the towers of St Mark’s on the left and those of St Michael’s in the distance. Ships were once able to sail right into the heart of the city on a section of the River Frome (which is now surfaced). The shipping in the river reflects the large amount of trade into and out of the docks. Workers are unloading a ship using the dockside crane, and merchants stand discussing business amongst the workmen. The depiction of a sled being used for carrying merchandise was peculiar to Bristol: wheeled vehicles were not allowed in the streets of the old city, because their weight could cause damage to the storage cellars just beneath the roads and pavements. Sleds ‘to carry all things about’ are already mentioned by Celia Fiennes in the journal notes of her visit to Bristol in 1698. The daughter of a


Colonel in Cromwell’s army, she had been travelling England’s roads for more than a decade before she set off on her ‘Great Journey to Newcastle and Cornwall’. She worked up her notes into a travel memoir which she never published, intending it for family reading only (an issue for feminists to comment upon). Robert Southey published extracts in 1812, and the first complete edition appeared in 1888 under the title Through England on a Side Saddle (a scholarly edition titled The Journeys of Celia Fiennes was produced by Christopher Morris in 1947). Fiennes describes commerce, industry, bustling cities, and emerging fashionable spa towns such as Bath. She showed a lively interest in the ‘productions and manufactures of each place’ she visited. Her curiosity in urban economic activity anticipates the claims with which Daniel Defoe would advertise his travelogue A Tour through the Whole Islands of Great Britain (1724/6). Fiennes was a dispassionate observer, but Defoe turned travel writing into a professional enterprise, a formal survey and accounting of the national stock. His book founded the modern genre of ‘economic tourism’. Breaking with the antiquarian tradition established with the 1586 publication of William Camden’s topographical survey Britannia, Defoe highlighted trade and industry as the foundation of the nation’s wealth. He looks to the future, whilst Camden contemplated the past. Patriotic commitment to progress and reform was a staple of this approach. The Industrial Revolution forever changed the face of the city. Expansion in trade and manufacture required centralized places of production, distribution, exchange, and credit, as well as a system of communication and transport. All these demands led to a vast increase in urbanization. In 1801 about a fifth of the British population lived in towns and cities of 10,000 or more inhabitants. By the year of Queen Victoria’s death in 1901, the census recorded three-quarters of the population as urban. In the course of a single century a largely rural society had become an urban one. The Industrial Revolution changed every aspect of human lifestyle. The application of coal fundamentally altered social and environmental history. It produced more goods for consumption, but in the production process natural resources were ruthlessly exploited, industrial waste polluted both street


and soil, and fumes darkened the sky. Factories, warehouses and chimneys blocked out most natural light in cities and towns. Steam was used to power the factory machines and the burning coal produced an ‘ink-sea of vapour, black, thick, and multifarious as Spartan broth’ (Thomas Carlyle). The streets of the industrial cities were covered with greasy dirt. A rise in urban population exacerbated the effects of pollution. Increased consumption in turn led to new levels of waste. City life became unbearable. Industrialized Britain produced a new cityscape, one that was broken by smoking factory chimneys. It took some time for artists to incorporate the grim reality of urban living into their art. Vandyke’s ‘naïve’ view of Bristol, like Fiennes’s travelogue, is an attempt at social documentary. In documenting the development towards urbanization he and other painters occupied a largely unexplored territory. They had to express new spectacles of city life and urban activity in an idiom without clear precedent. In those days preceding photography, the artist strove for topographical completeness - which is not entirely the same as accuracy - as if creating a document of record. This attempt is illustrated by a telling detail in Vandyke’s painting. From the late 1300s to the mid-eighteenth century, Bristol’s main income was related to seaborne trade, and ship owners were always looking for lucrative new routes and additional business opportunities. By the eighteenth century Bristol was England’s second port, and as a result of growing prosperity a building and investment boom took place in the city. Local merchants lobbied King William iii to be allowed to participate in the African trade which was a crown monopoly granted to the Royal African Company. They were given the right to trade in slaves in 1698. From this year to the end of British slave trade in 1807, just over 2,100 Bristol ships set sail on slaving voyages, amounting to around 500,000 Africans who were forced into slavery on the British-owned islands in the Caribbean where they were put to work on the plantations. Bristol’s involvement in the slave trade peaked between 1730 and 1745 with the city becoming the leading slaving port. Only a few Africans ended up in Bristol while the trade was active, mostly as servants or as crew on board ships. Vandyke’s painting includes a black figure in a frock coat and wig at the quayside


which suggests that these black Bristolians were accepted into the local working class community. The fate of black people in London and elsewhere deteriorated after the arrival of a substantial number of slave soldiers who had fought on the side of the British in the American Revolutionary War (Black Loyalists). These former soldiers were deprived of pensions and forced into beggary due to a lack of work and racial discrimination. The high visibility of deprived black people in London is evidenced by William Hogarth’s 1738 engraving ‘Four Times a Day: Noon’. Hogarth also seems to suggest a degree of ‘integration’ of blacks into the society of white poor. So much so that in 1768 magistrate John Fielding complained that black slaves who had run away from their owners were difficult to recapture since they gained the protection of London’s ‘mob’. In 1786, botanist Henry Smeathman proposed a plan to ‘remove the burthen of the Blacks from the public forever’. The government adopted his Sierra Leone Scheme in which black people were encouraged to sign a ‘repatriation’ agreement. On 9 April 1787 three vessels left London with 350 black passengers on board. During the voyage itself thirty-five of them died, many others succumbed in the grim and hostile surroundings of their ‘new’ home. By 1791, there were only sixty survivors. Repatriation is the process of returning a person back to his/her place of origin or citizenship which, in the era of decolonization, happened regularly. At present, clandestine immigrants are sent back as a matter of government policy. There is a racist tradition in Western society advocating large scale immigrant repatriation. The destination is irrelevant, anywhere will do. The Sierra Leone disaster set a precedent. Repatriation is a metaphor for forcefully deporting foreigners and ‘undesirables’ from the street- and cityscape.



basin street (new orleans) Jazz has its traditional roots in the city. New Orleans, Chicago, New York, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Detroit have at various times been major incubators for improvisational music. Jazz was tied to urban nightlife, to prohibition, red light districts, dance halls, and concert stages. Its history coincides with the urbanization of African Americans, starting in the South, and spreading northwards around the beginning of World War i when new job opportunities in industry opened up for them. They brought their music with them. During the 1660s explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, led a series of expeditions that traced the Mississippi as far as the Gulf of Mexico, and claimed all land between the Alleghenies and Rockies for Louis xiv. La Salle was assassinated before he could direct the building of a settlement in ‘Louisiane’. In 1718 Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, established a new base which was named for the Duc d’Orléans, who was governing France during Louis xv’s childhood. Nouvelle-Orléans was located on relatively high ground along the flood-prone banks of the lower Mississippi, adjacent to the ancient trading route and portage between the Mississippi and Lake Pontchartrain. The French introduced African slavery to the territory of Louisiana. The practice developed in the South because of an increasing demand for labour on tobacco, rice and indigo plantations. By the early 1800s, most Northern states had passed laws in favour of (gradual) abolition, but in the South slavery became an ingrained economic and legal institution. Slaves


and their progeny were the property of an owner. They could be bought and sold; their owners controlled their lives and those of their children. The institution was maintained during Spanish rule and adopted by the United States following the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Pierre-Francois-Xavier Charlevoix, a Jesuit traveller and the first historian of New France, described Nouvelle-Orléans in 1721 as a place of a malarious hovels infested by serpents and alligators. Under threat of a revolt over atrocious living conditions, the French authorities sent about ninety women from Paris jails to the colony, a degenerate bunch chaperoned by Ursuline nuns. Later attempts were made to bring some respectability to the settlement, but by then the ribald side of New Orleans’s lifestyle had been established. The city’s governors complained regularly about the riffraff sent as soldiers to the colony. In spite of that, in 1722 Nouvelle-Orléans was made the capital of French Louisiana. Basin Street lies close to the French Quarter. The name refers to the turning basin of the Carondelet Canal (also known as the Old Basin Canal) which was constructed in 1794 and remained in use until 1938. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries railroad tracks ran parallel to the Canal and then turned on to Basin Street to one of the city’s main railroad depots on Canal Street. The industrialization of the area in the late nineteenth century turned what had been a fine residential street into a row of brothels. From 1897 through World War i, Basin Street formed the front to Storyville’s red light district. The name of the area was coined in reference to city alderman Sidney Story, who wrote the legislation creating the district. The ambition was to limit prostitution to one part of town where authorities could monitor and regulate the practice. In the late 1890s, the New Orleans city government studied the legalized red light districts in German and Dutch ports and set up Storyville based on such models. For a young girl growing up in the district there were few opportunities for employment. These were restricted to either whoring or work in factory or field. Young prostitutes started working in cheap ‘cribs’, tiny rooms which they rented


from landlords who doubled as pimp. Their clients were mostly sailors who had a go for a dollar or less which they usually paid in loose change or ‘crib-nickels’. The most desirable girls made their way to the higher class bordellos of Basin Street that catered for men with money who desired more than a quick in-and-out. These wellheeled clients desired class, a fine touch and music before lowering their trousers. With a main railway station nearby, business boomed in the district. Between 1895 and 1915 so-called ‘Blue Books’ were published. These were tintillating catalogues and shopping lists aimed at visitors to the district’s erotic services. They included such details as prices, entertainment, particular services and specialities, and the ‘stock’ each house had to offer. The books were inscribed with the motto: ‘Order of the Garter: Honi soit qui mal y pense’ (Shamed be he who thinks evil of this). It was any girl’s ambition in Basin Street to win a Blue Book listing which was intended to inflame the coldest and deprave the purest of visiting clients to the district. Storyville was closed down in 1917 after campaigns by moral crusaders and an intolerant attitude by the army. Soldiers were forbidden to enter the district. Soon after 1917 separate black and white underground dens of prostitution emerged around the city. The district continued in a more subdued state as an entertainment centre through the 1920s, with various dance halls, gambling dens, cabarets and restaurants. Brothels were also regularly found in the area despite repeated police raids. Almost all the buildings in the former district were demolished in the 1930s. While much of the area contained tired and decayed buildings, the old mansions along Basin Street, some of the finest structures in the city, were also levelled. The city government wished to blot the notorious district from memory. The history of Storyville has been recorded in haunting photographs of John Ernest Joseph Bellocq. Born in a wealthy white Creole family in the French Quarter of the city, he made a living by taking photographic records for local companies. More interestingly, he took personal photographs of the hidden and shady sides of local life, of opium dens in Chinatown and of whores of Basin Street. Some of these women are nude, some dressed, and others posed as if acting some exotic narrative. Many of the negatives that have survived were damaged, in part deliberately.


Whether this was done by someone else has never been established. The mystique about the photographer inspired Louis Malle’s controversial 1978 film Pretty Baby. At the background of it all was the emergence of jazz. Early musicians said that ‘to jazz’ meant to fornicate. Jazzing meant effing (fucking). A jazzbo was a lover of ladies and a jazz baby was an ‘easy’ woman. In 2009 Louis Maistros published his extraordinary novel The Sound of Building Coffins. Set in a meticulously researched Storyville, he paints a fictional account of life in 1890s New Orleans. The book’s title provides a gripping metaphor of the sound of hammers boarding up for the kind of deadly storm that keeps haunting the city. The story is filled with the music (the sound of the horn) in a period that jazz was judged an ‘outlawed’ art form. ‘Basin Street Blues’ is a song written by Spencer Williams, a jazz musician and singer from New Orleans. Published in 1926, it was performed by many Dixieland bands. Hundreds of recordings have been made since its creation, including a version by Miles Davis in 1963. New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz. Immigrants to the city in the late nineteenth century brought their traditions of brass bands with them: marching in parades, providing music for funerals, performing at community events. Most of those bands were all-white, however, and others were limited within specific ethnic communities (Sicilians, Croatians, Germans, etc.). Black musicians had fewer outlets through which to express themselves, so they took to the streets, experimented with the sounds of brass bands, and began to improvise. Since they were not bound by European tradition or style, the end result was something new that shaped the history of the city. African influence on local music is reflected by legendary Congo Square where on Sundays black slaves gathered in the ‘Place de Nègres’. There they set up a market, played music and danced. During the early nineteenth century, in the aftermath of the Haitian Revolution, New Orleans absorbed another wave of immigration. Newly arrived Africans and Creoles reinforced urban traditions in music and dance. As harsher United States practices of slavery replaced the more lenient French colonial style, the slave gatherings declined, but in the late nineteenth century Congo Square again became a musical venue, this time for a series of brass band concerts by Creole orchestras.


Storyville played a crucial role in the history of dixieland and jazz. The city’s notorious red-light district created a new demand for musicians. Fashionable brothels started introduced a solo piano player. One of the finest pianists in the district was Ferdinand Joseph La Mothe, better known as Jelly Roll Morton. At the age of fourteen, he began working as a piano player in a brothel (or as it was referred to then, a sporting house). He was a pivotal figure in the development of early jazz. His composition ‘Jelly Roll Blues’ was the first published jazz composition, appearing in 1915. Bands soon replaced solo performances, a trumpet and trombone were added to the piano, then a stringed instrument, a drummer, a tuba or double bass. The mix of black African and white European music, the hothouse atmosphere of brothels and bars, and an intensity of urban life experiences that demanded new forms of expression shaped the music of New Orleans. Jazz had arrived and would soon take possession of European capitals as well. Here, as in America, it expressed the nervous energy of metropolitan life.



plaza dorrego (buenos aires) A metropolis without immigrants would be unthinkable. Nostalgia has a history fraught with ambiguity and literary connotation. A mechanism that counteracts isolation, it functions as a coping strategy in the migration condition. Immigrants remember the details of their homelands in various ways. Mementos can evoke the smells of their childhood kitchen or the sounds of everyday street life from their native cities. Nostalgic reminiscences about food enjoyed in one’s youth have frequently found creative expression. There are the wrinkled French prunes for Tolstoy’s Ivan Il’ich or the famous ‘petites madeleines’ for Marcel Proust’s Swann that recapture the memory of the childhood years. When Mark Twain toured Europe in 1878 he expressed his dislike for local ways of serving a beefsteak. In A Tramp Abroad (1880) he imagined himself a man exiled from his beloved national cuisine. The author suffered from an attack of gustatory nostalgia. Medically, this condition had been recorded some two centuries previously when nostalgia was thought to be symptom of a disease that shook the patient’s mind and body. The term itself was coined in 1688 by Johannes Hofer in his Basel medical dissertation. He recognized the condition as ‘mal du pays’ or ‘mal du Suisse’ in Swiss mercenaries fighting in France and Italy. They were pining for their native mountain landscapes. The word itself is a combination of the Greek ‘nostos’ (return home) and the Latin ‘algia’ (longing). Swiss researchers found that gastronomic and auditory stimulus were particularly prone to produce attacks of nostalgia after they fed young soldiers stationed abroad with soup and milk from home, or made others listen to songs of


the Alpine valleys. Nostalgia is now no longer considered a medical condition, but interpreted as a bittersweet recollection of past joys and sorrows, as the memory of an earlier self. To the immigrant nostalgia is both poison and remedy; it is both pain and solace. Music plays a crucial role in the process of cultural adjustment, be it in Schrammelmusik, a fusion of traditional Viennese music and that of EastEuropean immigrants in which performers strove for a tearful sound, or in the immigrant repertoire of wistful Hebrew songs. Plaza Dorrego is a square in the heart of San Telmo, the oldest barrio (district) of the city. It is named after statesman and soldier Manuel Dorrego who, in the 1820s, twice acted as Governor of Buenos Aires. In the nineteenth century, it was the main residential area of the city and Plaza Dorrego was its focal point. Located at the intersection of Humberto Primero and Defensa streets, its surroundings are full of bars where musicians and dancers perform tango exhibitions. Both the 1997 drama film The Tango Lesson by British director Sally Potter, and the 2002 crime film Assassination Tango produced and directed by Robert Duvall, were shot in the locality. The sensual plasticity of the tango has inspired numerous contemporary painters. Brazilian-born Juarez Machado settled in Rio de Janeiro in 1966. In a number of paintings he has been able to grasp the grace and embrace of the dance. One of the strongest painted images is Mariano Otero’s ‘Tango de Passion’. Born in Madrid but living in France, the tango is a recurring theme in his works. Apparently, he is unable to dance the tango himself, but he has captured its essence with a fine touch of understanding. The intimacy of the dance is reflected in an idiomatic expression. It takes two to tango suggests that certain activities cannot be performed alone, make love, fight a duel, or play ping pong (the 1952 song ‘Takes Two to Tango’ was written by Al Hoffman and Dick Manning). In Australia, during the 1930s, the phrase was used to indicate premarital sex. Tango and eroticism are inextricably linked. Argentine people of European descent belong to communities that trace their origins to various migrations which have contributed to the country’s cultural and


demographic diversity. They are the descendants of Iberian colonists during the period that started when in 1516 Spanish conquistador Juan Diaz de Solis explored the Rio de la Plata. During the later decades of the nineteenth century Argentinian authorities encouraged immigration from Europe. Major contributors included Italy and Spain, but significant numbers of immigrants include those from France, Germany, Eastern Europe, England, Scotland, Ireland, and elsewhere. Tango is the manifestation of this immigrant culture. It is impossible to reconstruct its history, because there are no written sources. Its roots are multiple. Both tango music and dance have indirect African, Cuban, and Andalusian influences, added to regional music and popular lyrics. The word itself is of African origin, meaning drums or dance. The Argentine Tango developed between 1860 and 1890 in Buenos Aires. It emerged out of the cosmopolitan culture of Argentina’s dockside slums, on the shores of the Riachuelo River, and in clubs and brothels of southern Buenos Aires. The social class in which it developed was a mixture of regional people and European immigrants made up by sailors, craftsmen and workers. They frequented the establishments to escape the daily pressures of life and loneliness. Tango was danced by pairs of men. Its steps are aggressive, the music permeated with longing and despair. Buenos Aires society considered tango a ‘reptile from the brothels’, an indecent entertainment associated with violence and illicit sex. Clubs where the tango was danced were raided by police. But its progress was unstoppable. The first tango bands were trios, which included a flute, violin and guitar players. Towards the end of 1890 the bandoneon (a German import) was added to the lineup, sometimes replacing the flute. Bands changed constantly and they were formed by whoever showed up on the day of performance. The first tangos lacked lyrics and musicians improvized them on the spot. The words were more often than not obscene. Tango was a song of the streets. Some time later arrived at places like the Café Tarana, known as Café Hansen, and other more upmarket resorts. It was only then that women started to participate in the dance. In 1904, the legendary Casimiro Ain (son of a Basque immigrant) appeared at the Opera Theatre in Buenos Aires as a dancer of tango joined by his wife. The dance


had gained some respectability at last - but it would take some time for the tango to lose its familiar associations with brawls and brothels. French-born immigrant Carlos (Charles) Gardel is a prominent figure in the history of the tango. He was born in December 1890 out of wedlock. His mother left Toulouse not long after in order to escape the social stigma of an unmarried slut. She and baby arrived in Buenos Aires on 11 March 1893. Carlos grew up and spent most of his life in the Abasto area of the city where a statue honours his career and legacy (the local underground station carries his name as well). During his lifetime he was known as ‘El Morocho del Abasto’ (the dark-haired guy from Abasto). Together with lyricist and long-time collaborator Alfredo Le Pera, Gardel wrote many classic tangos. His baritone voice and dramatic phrasing made an enormous impact on his (female) audience. With more than 800 records to his name he was the soul of tango who made the dance Argentina’s national treasure. Gardel died in an airplane crash at the height of his career. Millions of his fans went into mourning. The popularity of the tango hit Europe just before World War One. Its introduction into France, England and elsewhere sparked a kind of controversy that had been at the heart of European musical appreciation throughout the ages. Boethius’s De institutione musica was one of the first musical works to be printed in Venice in 1491/2. It was written toward the beginning of the sixth century and shaped the philosophy of music for several centuries. In the first chapter of the book, the author stresses that music can both establish and destroy morality. The ears are a direct path to the soul for the formation of moral awareness. When rhythms and modes have penetrated the soul, they affect the psyche with their own character. For that reason, socio-cultural observers have treated music and dance with suspicion. An effective means for disrupting civilized society is through a music that inordinately stimulates the passions. The Christian Church has been a persistent critic of song and dance. Early penance books more often than not contain admonishments against such forms of entertainment. Associating dance with promiscuity, Protestant reformers viewed it with a mixture of fear and resentment. Shoes were made for walking, not dancing. Dance cannot be enjoyed


without ‘evil communications’. Hence, music was the work of the devil, and its demoniac power had caught many - especially women - by means of a disturbing sensual power. The nineteenth century novel presents the reader with a procession of women who are seduced into adultery under the influence of music (Wagner’s music in particular). Many cultural critics paid tribute to Plato who had banished music from his commonwealth. The history of dance is a controversial one. With its introduction into European capitals, jazz was regularly identified with the ‘spirit of the times’. Jazz as an expression of the age formed the essence of many articles and essays during the 1920s. Precisely the same had happened earlier with the introduction of other styles of dance music such as the waltz, polka or tango. Music was seen as reflecting the acceleration of life, the intensity of urban existence, and the sexualization of society. Composers established the link between creative activity and the demands of modernity. In 1869, C. Apitius created a waltz (opus 37) which he called ‘Der Zeitgeist’. The 1909 catalogue of copyright entries in the Library of Congress makes mention of a ‘Zeitgeist Walzer’ by G. Marschal-Loepke. The nineteenth-century passion for music and dance was symptomatic of a craving for excitement. Critics pointed to the danger of a culture that elevates sound over sense. Linguists argued that the word ‘ball’ is a corruption of brawl: during the Renaissance the French court dance, the ‘branle’, was known in England as the brawl or brawle. Time and again, dance ignited social controversy. Puritans had related dance to the devil, later social observers were shocked by the wickedness of the waltz, the wildness of the polka, or the lustfulness of the Charleston. Dancing broke all sexual taboos. When in the summer of 1816 the waltz was introduced at a ball given by the Prince Regent, an editorial in The Times protested that this intoxicating import from the Continent was an ‘obscene display ... confined to prostitutes and adulteresses’. In 1913, a new fashion swept over Europe. It had all started in Buenos Aires, took America by storm, before arriving in Paris. Tangomania grabbed the Continent: 1913 was the Year of the Tango. One of the Parisian musicians responsible for the rage


was Casimiro Ain. That year he had left Buenos Aires with three other musicians on board the steamship ‘Sierra Ventana’ and sailed to France. They travelled to Paris, entered the first Montmartre cabaret club they came across, and were invited to perform. They were lucky. The club was ‘La Princesse’ which would later become the famous ‘El Garròn’, run by Argentinian musician Manuel Pizzarro and his brothers. Young Parisians went mad with enthusiasm; the critics red with outrage. The issue of the Mercure de France of 16 February 1914 called the tango ‘la danse des filles publiques’. The Argentinian ambassador in Paris, Enrique Rodriguez Laretta, was furious: ‘In Buenos Aires tango is found only in whorehouse and filthy taverns. It is never danced in the respectable lounges, nor between civilized men and women for tango is crude to the ear of any Argentinian worthy of his nation’. King Ludwig of Bavaria forbade his officers to dance the tango, while the Duchess of Norfolk pronounced it to be contrary to English character and manners. The Vatican issued a circular warning the faithful that the tango was ‘offensive to the purity of every right-minded person’. Pope Pius x barred what he called ‘this barbarian dance’. He had his moral instincts in a twist. Shortly after the ban, war broke out. Europe was about to witness levels of barbarity it had never seen before and suffer a material devastation from which many cityscapes would never recover.



quai du marche-neuf (paris) The Freudian concept of ‘das Unheimliche’ relates to an instance where something can be familiar, yet foreign and unsettling at the same time. Freud described the uncanny (the common English translation for the concept) as a sense of ‘not feeling at home’ in the world. His understanding of the phenomenon resonates with theories of alienation as a social product that were advanced by Karl Marx and Simmel. Georg Simmel’s 1903 essay Die Grossstadt und das Geistesleben (The metropolis and mental life) analyzes the effects of a modern urban existence on the mind of the individual. The functional extension beyond its physical boundaries is the main characteristic of the metropolis. A major city consists of the totality of effects that extend beyond its immediate confines. The sphere of small town life is self-contained and autarchic. The metropolis on the other hand is the seat of cosmopolitanism. The significance of a town the size of Weimar was hinged upon individual personalities. It died with them. The metropolis is independent even from its most eminent individual personalities. Inter-human contacts are brief and scarce as compared with the intensity of small town social intercourse. It reduces life to bullet points. The price the individual pays for urban independence is a feeling of disconnect at best and one of isolation at worst. What Simmel expressed in sociological terms had already been explored by Romantic artists. The uncanny and the inexplicable were staple topics of their art. It gave their depictions of urban life a different character from that of their predecessors. The metropolis became metaphor. William Blake was a Londoner and an urban poet. Born and raised


in the capital, he witnessed the disastrous impact of the Industrial Revolution on the social coherence of the city. Throughout his work, he utilizes the city as a symbol of apocalypse and millennium. Blake condemns industrial London as a location of corruption and oppression on the one hand, but also allows for a positive conception of Golgonooza, the New Jerusalem, which possesses the power to evoke the millennium within individual hearts and minds. Blake’s holy city of Art and Imagination is located in the streets of what he calls ‘Spiritual Fourfold London’. To the poet, real London and visionary London are one and the same. He was of course familiar with the rhetoric of contemporary apocalyptic and millenarian ideologies. The urban poor absorbed the message of belief systems that not only envisioned the destruction of injustice, but also projected a heavenly city in the millennium in which power and authority would be abolished. The city in that interpretation is not just an unmitigated evil, but also a symbol of hope. Urbanization and millenarianism are joined together here - Blake’s nightmare of despair is succeeded by a vision of hope. Charles Meryon was a solitary talent of great creative power. He could have stood as a model for Paul Verlaine’s construct of the ‘poète maudit’. Meryon represents our image of the suffering artist, mentally tormented, starving in a garret, dying young and insane, ignored by his contemporaries. He was a genius of peculiar introspective temperament whose instinct for design and detail was tinged with an uncanny vision which became increasingly disturbed as the years progressed. He used etching as his medium to depict the medieval architecture of Paris. To Meryon the streets of the capital were haunted places, smeared with blood and tears. Their atmosphere was infected with crime, misery and sin. His historic perceptions were accompanied by explanatory poems. Because of the mysterious nature of his work he became known as the ‘Piranesi of France’. The illegitimate child of an English physician and a dancer at the Opéra, Charles only first assumed the surname of Meryon when he discovered the true circumstances of his birth upon joining the Naval School at Brest in 1837. The revelation of his illegitimacy produced a shock which cast over his life the shadow of a wounded imagination. Whilst serving with


the Navy, Charles Meryon sailed as far afield as Australasia and the South Seas, and he recorded his voyages in many sketches, aspects of which are included in his etchings of later years. During one of his journeys his mother died of mental illness. Upon his return to France at the age of twenty-five, he resigned his naval post to pursue a career as a professional artist. He began painting lessons in Paris, but soon discovered that he suffered from an inherited defect in the perception of red and green, known as Daltonism. The visible world for him existed as a contrapuntal network of lines, silhouettes, contours, or dark masses. Colour blindness ended his brief career as a painter. It was as a graphic artist that Meryon was to excel. The work of a seventeenth century Dutch artist influenced his development. Reinier Nooms, known as Zeeman (Dutch for ‘sailor’), was born and bred in Amsterdam. He started painting and drawing in his later years, following a rough life as a drunken sailor. It is not known how he acquired his skill as an artist. Ships, battles at sea, and foreign locations are depicted with great accuracy. Nooms travelled widely, visiting Paris and Venice, and probably accompanied Admiral Michiel de Ruyter on his mission to the Barbary Coast from 1661 to 1663, during which he produced a number of brilliantly drawn city views. His handling of the etching needle displays a stylistic freedom that was unequalled in his time. His views of Amsterdam and Paris are acclaimed for their fine combination of topographical detail and artistic skill. Although Charles Meryon would develop a technique that was different from the Dutch master, Nooms’s cityscapes inspired him to create his own urban images. In 1849 he conceived the idea of a series of etchings devoted to Paris. Between 1851 and 1854 appeared the twenty or so plates of the Eaux-fortes sur Paris (Etchings of Paris) some of which are dedicated to Nooms. Although unappreciated by the public during his lifetime, these plates placed Meryon amongst the greatest masters of original etching. Francis Seymour Haden, the leading figure of the British Etching Revival, described him as ‘one of the greatest artists on copper that the world has produced’. Meryon was among the first artists in France to rediscover the traditional skill of etching. In competition with the emerging medium of photography, the status of printmaking became


an issue of considerable debate. He and his young admirer Félix Bracquemond inspired renewed interest in a technique that, eventually, would lead to an academic and public revival of the medium. The collection of ‘Eaux-fortes sur Paris’ is a landmark in the history of French printmaking and stands as a testament to the medieval character of Paris. In Meryan’s cityscapes the streets and buildings of Paris are faithfully reproduced in a time that the city - after Haussmann had set to work in 1859 - was to be pockmarked with ruins and rubble. They represent the death mask of old Paris. Before the twelve views were printed off in their third state (the first two editions are extremely rare), Meryon numbered the plates in the following order: The Stryge, the Petit Pont, the Arche du Pont, the Galérie, the Tour, the Tourelle, the St Étienne, the Pompe, the Pont Neuf, the Pont au Change, the Morgue, and the Abside de Notre-Dame. Then there were also eleven minor views-among them the Rue des Mauvais Garçons (this ‘street of naughty boys’ was Baudelaire’s favourite image), showing the dark alley leading to a brothel. The famous image of ‘Le stryge’ (The vampire), printed in oval format within rectangular plate by Auguste Delâtre in dark brown ink on pale blue-green paper, shows a horned and winged gargoyle on a parapet of the north tower of the Notre Dame, overlooking Paris and Tour Saint Jacques. The image typifies the artist’s work. A flock of ravens - symbols of evil and darkness - circle menacingly above the metropolis. Two lines of verse in Gothic characters beneath: ‘Insatiable vampire l’éternelle luxure / Sur la grande cité convoite sa pâture’ (‘Insatiable vampire, eternal lust / Forever coveting its food in the great city’. The image was inspired by Victor Hugo’s evocation of the medieval city in Notre-Dame de Paris (1831), in which the writer describes a bird’s eye view from the cathedral towers. As an artist, Meryon was captivated and horrified by the metropolis. Dark human dramas, rendered insignificant by the scale of emptiness surrounding them, unfold almost unnoticed on his streets and alleyways. And yet nothing escaped his piercing eye. As if creating a horror vacui and meticulously filling empty space, he caught


every arch, window and tower of every building he recorded and brought out the ancient face of Paris without abandoning a single cobblestone. This compulsive attention to detail is reflected in his ways of working. He based his etchings upon sectional sketches of given buildings - having decided upon his point of view he would sketch day after day at the same time in incredible detail. He subsequently constructed a comprehensive image from multiple sketches, and, following the same method as the builder, he devised the buildings from its foundations upwards. A work of art for him was forever unfinished. He kept altering his prints. ‘Le Pontau-Change’, for instance, centres on a bridge in the heart of Paris, between the Île de la Cité and the Right Bank of the Seine. In the background, precisely etched houses make up the tightly packed, maze-like neighbourhoods of the medieval city. He shows Paris as it had looked for centuries. But historical fact is just one element of the image. Meryon interweaves varying levels of reality, thus creating an impending sense of dread and anxiety. The image was printed in several states, each altered to include invented elements. In earlier versions a balloon floats through the sky. In progressive states, more sinister elements enter the scene, including the flocks of dark birds. A drowning man in the water adds to the feeling of foreboding. Charles Baudelaire was a passionate admirer of Meryon. The two men had - in terms of Walter Benjamin - an elective affinity to one another. They were born in the same year, and their deaths were only months apart. Both died lonely and disturbed - Meryon as a demented person at an asylum, Baudelaire speechless in a private clinic. Both were late in achieving fame. Baudelaire was one of the few admirers who championed the artist in his lifetime. Meryon’s etchings show a collision of the ancient and contemporary that Baudelaire had pursued in his attempts to define modernism in art. In his description of the Salon of 1859 the poet regrets the poor state of a genre that he describes as ‘the landscape of great cities’. That in itself was remarkable. Nowhere were signs of modernity and urban transformation more visible than in Paris where demolition and renewal work took over the city for nearly two decades. Meryon however, with great poetic power, had - according to Baudelaire – succeeded in depicting the natural solemnity of


the metropolis: ‘the majesty of the piles of stone; those spires pointing their fingers to the sky; the obelisks of industry vomiting legion of smoke against the heavens’. The uncanniness of Meryon’s etchings stems from the combination of minute topographical accuracy with outlandish elements such as disturbing flights of birds (Hitchcock-like) to which he added weird creatures worthy of Hieronymus Bosch. Transcribing the actual with cruel precision, his Poe-like imagination perceived terror lurking behind the door, the horror of enclosed spaces, and the mystic fear of shadows. The cityscape as Baudelaire suggested may not have been a favourite genre among Romantic artists, but Meryon showed his contemporaries that it could be adapted to accommodate the Romantic temper. The poet recognized that quality in the artist. Today, it seems a monumental lost opportunity that publisher Auguste Delâtre’s ambition to issue Meryon’s series with texts by Baudelaire never materialized. That these texts were not written was the fault of the etcher himself. Because of his intensely suspicious nature he was incapable of conceiving of Baudelaire’s task as anything else than an inventory of the houses and streets depicted by him. Meryon’s etching of the old Paris morgue, printed in brown-black ink on oriental paper, offers a view across the Seine on the Île de la Cité with men carrying a dead body away from water’s edge at left who are instructed by a gendarme towards the mortuary. The gruesome scene, the first veduta on such a theme, is watched by group of figures from a wall above. A chimney on the morgue belches black smoke into the air - the crematorium no doubt. The topographical accuracy only increases the discomfort of the spectacle. The morgue was formerly a slaughter house, a fact that may have coloured Meryon’s impression of the building. The Seine was long known as the ‘River of Suicides’. The term morgue is Old French for face or visage. Eighteenth-century prisons had a special room reserved for new inmates to be scrutinized by guards. In this way they made themselves familiar with their appearances. Over time the word morgue was applied to the space where bodies found dead awaited identification. At the end of the nineteenth century, the Paris morgue was located on the Quai du Marche-Neuf on the northwest corner of


the Pont Saint-Michel, just behind Notre Dame and on the edge of the Île de la Cité. Two-thirds of the corpses that entered the morgue would have been retrieved from the Seine, being suicides, drownings or murders. The morgue’s assistants methodically noted down the particulars of each corpse - its sex, its age, the hair colouring, the bodily wounds and scars. If the body was found clothed, then a full description of the cut, colour and condition of the clothing was added, including the contents of the pockets. Then the naked bodies - except for a leather apron to cover the groin - would be displayed for three days on twelve brass-lined stone slabs propped up in the morgue window for the public view and possible recognition. This macabre showcase became a popular piece of entertainment in Paris. Locals and tourists peered in at the departed souls. People of all ages, including children, would visit the famous windows of death. Some bodies were in a horrible state of decay, others brutally killed and butchered. Émile Zola describes the Paris morgue in chapter thirteen of his 1867 novel Thérèse Raquin. The chapter is short, only six pages, but powerful. In print one smells the morgue’s damp air whilst walking past the corpses, laid out on slabs, in patches of colour, green and yellow, white and red. Visitors joke, whistle, and weep. Workers eat their lunch in there. Schoolboys come in hopeful to find young female suicides. The visitors jostle each other and indulge in cheap thrills, shudder with horror, crack jokes, applaud or whistle just as they would at the theatre, and finally go away satisfied, declaring ‘that the Morgue has been a good show today’. As both an object of macabre fascination and a theme of the new literary vogue for sensationalism, the Paris mortuary bewitched the English Victorian imagination. Thomas Carlyle, Frances Trollope, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Charles Dickens, Walter Pater, Arthur Grifiths all visited and left accounts of their experience. When living in Paris in 1855/6, a visit to the morgue inspired Browning’s dramatic monologue ‘Apparent Failure’, a moralistic poem about suicide. Zola was not interested in principled or virtuous statements. His chapter derives its strength from his unsentimental and non-judgemental description of human behaviour.


Meryon lived a wretched livelihood with little or no means, few friends, and in suspicion of the whole world. His condition turned increasingly deplorable. Charles Meryon became evermore unsociable and mentally unstable. By the spring of 1858 he worked only intermittently. He started digging up his garden to find dead bodies he believed to be buried there. He kept to his bed, flourishing a pistol whenever anyone entered. His condition bordered on delirium. On 12 May 1858 he was removed to the asylum at Charenton St Maurice where he was described as suffering from ‘melancholy madness, complicated by delusion’. After fifteen months he was discharged and in the following years his talent was gradually acknowledged. Art critic and collector Philippe Burty, who published a descriptive catalogue of Meryon’s etchings in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts of 1863, was the first to proclaim to the world his peculiar genius. Physician Paul Gachet, most famous for treating Vincent van Gogh during his last weeks in Auvers-sur-Oise, admired Meryon’s work and spent much time with the artist after his committal to Charenton. Francis Seymour Haden paid a visit and purchased a set of his Paris etchings, but the disturbed Meryon followed him through the streets, seizing back his etchings and accusing Haden of usurping the work of other artists. Charles Baudelaire and Théophile Gautier added their words of praise and the etching of ‘Galerie NotreDame’ evoked Victor Hugo’s enthusiasm. Félix Bracquemond, by twelve years his junior in age but his contemporary in the practice and mastery of etching, tried to support him. In 1853 /4 the young artist (born in 1833) produced two portraits of Meryon. The original etched plate of the 1853 portrait was damaged after only ten impressions had been printed. He re-created the portrait as a heliogravure on laid paper (an image transferred to a copperplate photographically and then etched in the traditional manner) which was published in the 1884 edition of the Gazette des Beaux-Arts. The 1854 attempt was a portrait of Meryon in profile. Braquemond remained a faithful friend and designed Meryon’s tomb in the cemetery of the asylum where he died. Although there was a small circle of collectors who saw the merit of his work from the first, on the whole his reception remained unenthusiastic. French academic


opinion at the time was not favourable to original etching. He was paid pitiful sums for proofs of his etchings and his talent was largely ignored. His ‘Galérie Notre-Dame’ was refused by the Salon in 1853. Public collections did not acquire his works. Meryon’s behaviour in the meantime became increasingly erratic and after a brief return to the asylum at Charenton in late 1866, he was released to visit the Universal Exhibition of 1867 where several of his etchings were shown - tragically, a violent storm broke out and finally shattered his reason. He starved himself to death at the age of forty-six after being re-committed to the asylum at Charenton in a state of mental derangement. It was not till 1910 that the first collective exhibition of Meryon’s etched work was held at the Galérie Devambez in Paris. In England, Meryon’s reputation grew more rapidly, at least after his death. Some French private collections of his etchings crossed the Channel, including Philippe Burty’s magnificent collection that was sold in two parts at Sotheby in April 1876 (915 prints; see: Lugt on Line 36476) and June 1878 (539 prints; see: Lugt 38530). In 1879, eleven years after Meryon’s death, two different English catalogues of his work were published. The same year saw the opening of a fine exhibition of his etchings and drawings at the Burlington Fine Arts Club. The British Museum owes to the foresight of a former Keeper of Prints the early formation of an extensive collection of Meryon’s work. The cityscape of medieval Paris is well preserved in the heart of London.



canonbury place (london) Aristotle regarded leisure as a state of being in which activity is performed for its own sake. It was contrasted with work, involving instead such pursuits as art, philosophical discussion, and learning in general. Leisure represented an ideal state of freedom and the opportunity for intellectual enlightenment. A common Greek word for work is ‘ascholia’, meaning the absence of leisure. Etymologically, the English world leisure is derived from the Latin ‘licere’, in the meaning of to be permitted or to be free. From it came the French ‘loisir’ (free time), and such English words as license (originally: immunity from public obligation) and liberty. The words are all related in their suggestion of free choice and the absence of compulsion. There was a time that processes of mechanization seemed to offer mankind the prospect of being liberated from the drudgery of work. Benjamin Franklin was one of the first visionaries to project a world in which ample spare time would be available to all. The Age of Leisure was imminent. Authors from Victor Hugo to Bertrand Russell reflected upon the possibility of time at hand that could be used for study, aesthetic enjoyment and self-improvement. Leisure was to give a renewed meaning to life. Man would restore contact with his inner nature, listen to the sounds of silence, and express his overflowing feelings in poetry, opening up an existence that moves slowly and sympathetically. The traditional implication was that time should be enjoyed in a calm, contemplative and unhurried manner - as is suggested by the word leisurely.


Urban leisure society turned out to be different. With increasing numbers of city dwellers and growing prosperity in certain circles, the demand for pleasure facilities and amusement arcades rose dramatically. Mass entertainment was born. George Eliot recognized the interdependence of leisure and economics. In Adam Bede (1858) she regrets the loss of ‘Old Leisure’ and rejects the idea that steam-engines would bring beneficial spare time to mankind. These machines simply create a vacuum in society to be filled by an eagerness for amusement and entertainment. During the latter part of the nineteenth century leisure became an economic factor. Technology increased the consumption of pulp fiction, newspapers and magazines. The publication of popular songs became big business and music halls grew in splendour. New acts were widely advertised. Leisure was interpreted as ‘being entertained’ rather than ‘to entertain one-self ’. Showbiz took off with a bang and the entertainer became a central figure in Western culture. With the help of the press and media, the concept of the star was born. Charles Chaplin and Gracie Fields were early examples. The cinema took central stage. Between 1905 and 1910 Montagu A. Pyke built his ‘London circuit’ which consisted of sixteen cinemas making him a wealthy man. He was known as ‘Lucky Pyke’. In 1910 he published his memoires entitled Focusing the Universe. There he argued that the cinema brought delight to the minds and souls of many thousands of Londoners, ‘some of whom look upon it as the one oasis in the desert of their dull and sordid lives’. The general trend of leisure was away from active participation towards passive spectatorship. London during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was known for a considerable number of pleasure gardens (with a variety of ‘pleasures’ on offer). Vauxhall Gardens at Kennington was a famous and in many ways typical example of those venues offering pleasure and repose to city dwellers. It stood on the Surrey side of the Thames, a short distance east of Vauxhall Bridge, and was a popular place of public resort from the reign of Charles ii almost to the end of the nineteenth century. The gardens were laid out circa 1661 and originally called ‘New Spring Gardens’ to distinguish them from the Old Spring Gardens at Charing Cross. Admission was free and, until Westminster Bridge was built in 1750, the


Gardens could only be reached by water via a sixpenny boat ride. Vauxhall was transformed into a fashionable resort when Jonathan Tyers assumed management of the Gardens, remodelling and reopening them on 7 June 1732, an occasion at which Frederick, Prince of Wales, who had come down on his barge from Kew, was present. Two thirds of the company arrived in masks, dominoes or legal robes. It was rumoured that the idea for the entertainment had been put forward by William Hogarth. Tyers was a man of wide cultural interests and he brought these to bear in the development of Spring Gardens, employing a circle of acquaintances to contribute to the visual arts and music. He commissioned French-born sculptor Louis François Roubiliac to create a statue of Händel for the entrance to the Gardens, whilst Hogarth executed several pictures for the rooms. He installed a music room with a Gothic orchestra boasting fifty musicians. Vocal music was introduced in 1745, with some of the greatest singers of the day performing at the Gardens. In 1749 a rehearsal of Händel’s ‘Music for the Royal Fireworks’ attracted an audience of 12,000. In the Grove, the square enclosed by the principal walks and the western wall of the Garden, temples and pavilions were built and a colonnade for use during bad weather. Under this were constructed over one hundred supper boxes, each with a mural by Francis Hayman. The Gardens opened for the last time on the night of Monday 25 July 1859. Vauxhall pleasure gardens had entertained Londoners for some two hundred years. Tyers introduced large scale catering to his venue and installed spectacular outdoor lighting. He was a pioneer of London’s mass entertainment who mastered the logistics of running a complex business venture. London had known earlier, be it less grandiose pleasure gardens. By the late thirteenth century, the Lord Prior of the Knights Hospitallers had a country lodging built called Highbury Manor. During the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 the Manor was attacked and destroyed by Jack Straw and his mob, but the grange and barn survived. Known as Highbury Barn, by 1740 it was turned into a tavern and cake house where Londoners came on summer afternoons to eat custards, cakes and cream. In the course of time, business at Highbury Barn was gradually


enlarged with the addition of a bowling green, a trap ball-ground, a hop-garden and a brewery. The barn became a popular location for the organisation of charity and club dinners. It could accommodate nearly 2,000 persons at once, and 800 people have been reported dining together, with seventy geese roasting for them at one fire. In 1808, the ‘Ancient Freemasons’ sat down, five hundred in number, to dinner. Later the barn was bought by John Hinton, owner of the Ayre Arms public house in St John’s Wood. He further developed the site into a ‘North London Cremorne’ - a reference to the once fashionable Cremorne Gardens in Chelsea. It began a new career in 1854 when his son Archibald Hinton converted the Barn into a concert hall. In 1858 he added the so-called ‘Leviathan’, a massive open-air platform for dancing. It was lit by impressive gas globes and became a popular venue with Londoners on Sunday evenings. The site was subsequently acquired by the former clown Edward Giovanelli. He expanded the place by adding a large supper room and splendid illuminations. For the 1861 season he engaged French gymnast and trapeze artist Jules Leotard who had caused a sensation at the Alhambra in Leicester Square on his first appearance in London. As the popular song goes: ‘He’d fly through the air with the greatest of ease, / That daring young man on the flying trapeze’. He invented a skin-tight one-piece garment with long sleeves, which he called a ‘maillot’, and wore it for his performances. It was designed to allow him unrestricted movement, and to display his powerful muscles. This garment made its way from the circus into ballet studios. It is now known as a ‘leotard’ (the first recorded use of the term in English dates from 1886). In 1865, Giovanelli constructed the new Alexandra Theatre and Highbury Barn on the site. One of the star attractions was Leotard’s rival and countryman, Blondin [real name: Jean François Gravelet], who had become instantly famous in 1859 when he crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope. There was a sensation when one of his female co-performers fell from the high wire. Pauline Violante [real name: Selina Young] was trained as an acrobat and performed in 1853 at Bury with Samuel Wild’s Company as ‘the first tightrope dancer in the world’. In 1858 she became the first artist to cross a high wire at the Crystal Palace. In 1861 she was renamed


the ‘Female Blondin’ and contracted to walk a tightrope across the Thames from Battersea Bridge to the Cremorne Gardens. She made her first attempt on 12 August 1861, watched by 20,000 spectators. A dodgy wire forced her to abandon the crossing, but she succeeded in a second effort the following Monday. Young crossed the high rope in various dangerous ways, dressed in a suit of armour, for example, or in a sack, and pushing a wheelbarrow. Her career came to a violent conclusion on 14 August 1862 at Highbury Barn. As she crossed the wire amid a spectacular firework display, she stumbled and fell, fracturing her leg and shoulder. The money raised by an appeal allowed her to set up as a shopkeeper. She later ran an inn in Surrey. Selina Young died in obscurity. The Barn however became a victim of its own success. Locals complained about its riotous and noisy clientele. The residents of Highbury disliked the many petty criminals, pickpockets and prostitutes who mingled among the crowds. In 1870 a performance of French dancing was given by Mlle Colonna (real name: Amelia Newman) and her ‘Parisian Troupe’ in the Barn. The Can-Can show created outrage. Seeing a dancer kick her leg over her head while facing the audience was unacceptable to a British audience. Another transgression was Colonna’s appearance as a man in knickers. Led by the Vicar of nearby Christ Church, the residents of the quickly growing well-to-do suburb petitioned the magistrates. Giovanelli lost his licence and the pleasure gardens were eventually built over. One of the famous visitors to the ‘old’ barn was Anglo-Irish novelist and poet Oliver Goldsmith. Not far removed from the barn stood a Tudor building known as Canonbury Tower (the building is since 1985 in the care of a Charitable Trust). A 1942 oil painting of this tower by the relatively obscure artist W. Floyd Nash (held at the Islington Local Museum) gives a good idea of how much this building dominates the street scene. Once a country residence for the Prior of St Bartholomew, it was in the time of Queen Elizabeth transformed into a mansion by John Spenser. From 1609 to 1625 the building was leased to Francis Bacon. It was at this tower that author Oliver Goldsmith found a hiding place from his creditors. The hideout was offered to him by his publisher. Addicted to drinking


and gambling, the author had lived a precarious existence. Life was a tightrope walk between survival and starvation, between literary fame and financial shame. If, in certain circles, a creative person is seen as unreliable and ‘Weltfremd’ (not of this planet), then Irish-born Goldsmith did make every effort to promote this image. Once, during a period of depression and creative bloc, he decided to leave for America. He arrived too late on the quayside and missed the boat. It was a fortunate delay. At the Tower, Goldsmith created The Vicar of Wakefield and The Traveller. To escape from isolation, he would take a walk to Highbury and have a fairly priced dinner at the Barn where he shared the company of literary characters and locals. After his arrival in London, John Newbery had established a publishing house first at the Bible and Crown near Devereux Court and then at the Bible and Sun at St Paul’s Churchyard. The first work he published there was a children’ book, entitled A Little Pretty Pocket-Book (1743). Newbery focused on the creation of books for children and, in doing so, opened up a new market for the industry. He also ran numerous newspapers in London and the provinces which offered publication opportunities to a number of writers. He engaged several prominent authors, including Christopher Smart and Samuel Johnson, at times supporting them, but always keeping track of the cash advances he made. Goldsmith met Newberry in 1759. When the author was arrested for debt in 1762 he purchased a third share in the uncompleted Vicar of Wakefield and paid for Goldsmith’s accommodation at Canonbury Tower. He also advanced him money for a two-volume History of England for children and for The Traveller. Goldsmith owed him a large amount of money. Newbery remains a controversial figure. Some critics describe him as a publisher with heart and consideration. Others have called him a ruthless exploiter of vulnerable writers. As such, Newbery exemplifies the transformation of the role of the publisher/bookseller that took place between the early and mid-eighteenth century. In the process of the capitalization of the trade, the publisher turned from


the author’s servant to being his master. The unfortunate author who had to make a living from his pen became hopelessly dependent on the publisher and had to dance to his tune. Whatever the truth may be of the real relationship between author and publisher, Newbery certainly was a wheeler dealer. In 1746 he acquired the patent for Dr Robert James’s fever powder and lost no opportunity to market it. He died a rich man three decades later. Most of his money had come not from publishing books, but from the sale of pills and patent cures, including Dr Hooper’s Female Pills, Anderson’s Scots Pills, Friar’s Balsam, Squire’s Grand Elixir, Hypo Drops, Golden Cephalick Drops, and many others. As a publisher he put his name to few memorable books. His major legacy was that he identified the market for children’s literature (the Newbery medal for children’s literature has been awarded in the United States each year since 1922).



promenade des anglais (nice) The Promenade des Anglais is a famous walkway along the Mediterranean at Nice. It has been one of the more popular pictorial subjects in the entire history of the streetscape. The coastline’s visual splendour and beneficial air attracted many painters. Neo-impressionist painter and chronic arthritic Henri-Edmond Cross, like Eugène Boudin, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Louis Valtat, were vanguard artists of the late nineteenth-century who travelled to the Mediterranean for health reasons. Henri Matisse lived and worked in the city from 1917 to 1954. Nice now houses the Musée Matisse. The Musée National Marc Chagall takes pride in the largest public collection of of the Russian-born artist’s paintings of Old Testament scenes. The artist himself is buried in St Paul de Vence, a town not far from Nice. In 1880 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec created an elegant image of the promenade and Edvard Munch painted his ‘Promenade des Anglais’ in 1892. Raoul Dufy lived for many years in Nice. His representation of the promenade dates from around 1928. Max Beckmann’s ‘Promenade des Anglais in Nizza’ (1947: Nice was once an Italian possession) looks down from the height of the Colline du Château onto the Bay of Angels below with the dome of the Negresco hotel clearly visible. Among other artists who painted the Promenade were Pierre Eugène Montézin, Emmanuel Costa, Gaston de Vel, and Rose Calvino. ‘La Promenade des Anglais’ is also a song produced by Bernard Lavilliers that features on the 1979 album ‘Pouvoirs’. Why did the Niçois chose this name for its famous promenade - is it an example of ‘entente cordial’, a fine expression of Anglo-French understanding, or are there other reasons?


Eighteenth century British physicians sent their ailing patients to Montpellier, a city renowned for its medical school and the curative properties of its clear air. Montpellier was considered synonymous with recuperation, and it was to this town that Scottish surgeon-turned-author Tobias Smollett was sent by his doctor when it was found that his asthma and purulent expectorations indicated tuberculosis. Montpellier was not to the author’s liking and he decided to travel further south to the shores of the Côte d’Azur. He found the climate of Nice agreeable for indulging in his habit of sea bathing. It eased his respiratory problems. At the time, the town was a mazelike place of winding streets and passageways that today is known as the Vieille Ville. In fact, few Europeans knew the city. Nice did not feature in the Grand Tour. Tourists travelled to the ancient Italian cities, the preferred routes to which were over the Alps or by sea. A detour to the little Italian port of Nizza was not on the itinary. Smollett settled in Nice where he stayed from 1763 to 1765. His Lettres sur Nice (1763) and Travels through France and Italy (1766) are acknowledged as the beginning of the coastline’s metamorphosis from a largely unknown stretch of sand into a cosmopolitan tourist destination. On his return to England his ailment recurred. After a period of convalescence in Bath he headed back to the Mediterranean. This time he travelled to the coastal hillside of Montenero near Leghorn (Livorono) where, in September 1771, he died aged only fifty. Three quarters of a century later, Charles Dickens made a diversion from his own Grand Tour to visit his mentor’s grave at the English Cemetery at Livorno. The city of Nice in the meantime did not forget its illustrious visitor. Parallel to the Promenade des Anglais runs the Rue Smollett. Before urbanization, the Niçois coastline was a deserted band of beach. The first houses were located on higher ground and built well away from the sea. Starting in the second half of the eighteenth century, the English took to spending the winter in Nice, enjoying the panorama along the coast. In 1821, at the beginning of winter Reverend Lewis Way collected funds from the British community with the goal of providing employment to numerous beggars in the city. They helped to construct a two metre wide footpath along the sea. The so-called English Path bordered


properties occupied for the most part by British nationals. It was extended by the municipality in the early 1840s. The path was first called the Camin deis Anglés (the English Way) by the locals in their native Niçard dialect. After the 1860 French annexation of Nice it was re-named La Promenade des Anglais. Nowadays, it is lined by luxury hotels and fine buildings from the Belle Époque, such as the Palais de la Mediterranée and the Negresco. The Promenade provides a splendid view of the Baie des Anges (named after the sharks - squatina angelus - that up to the nineteenth century populated these waters) which stretches from Cape of Nice to Fort Carré of Antibes. What attracted the British to come to Nice in the first place? The overriding reasons for them to flock together at the Mediterranean were therapeutic treatment and climatic recuperation. Nineteenth century physicians believed that the body was imprinted by the environment it inhabited. The concept that human beings carry with them the imprint of climate implies that local populations are the physical manifestations of that environment. Medical geographers studied localized health patterns in search for indications of the site’s suitability to treat disease. Climatotherapists argued that if climate were responsible for the physical development of humans living there, it could transform the external and internal structure of the visiting body, thus enabling physicians to utilize climate in a therapeutic context. The invalid’s body was understood as more receptive to the influence of a new climate than were healthy bodies. Throughout the nineteenth century this was a fundamental principle underlying the international use of climatotherapy. It gave rise to a plethora of medico-tourist literature about the Côte d’Azur as an appropriate site for cure and recuperation. Physicians advised the chronically ill to visit the region every winter. Hell is a city much like London, Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote in 1819. The Industrial Revolution had for ever changed the face of the city. It spurned a massive growth in manufacturing which required centralized places of production and distribution as well as a system of communication and transport. These demands dramatically altered every aspect of urban lifestyle, from physical development and health to social conditions. Large scale industrialization led to environmental degradation.


In the process, small towns turned into cities. Ports like Bristol and Liverpool expanded rapidly, while London remained the country’s greatest trading magnet. The population of the capital doubled during the eighteenth century to reach one million. By the end of the Georgian era it was the largest city in the world. Rampant urban growth produced new hardships. Housing stock and sanitary facilities could not keep pace. The change of scale in building was extraordinary. Vast structures were erected almost overnight. It was a period of ad hoc planning and urban ‘improvisation’. Almost every European city showed the archetypal characteristics of Dickens’ smoke-laden Coketown in Hard Times. Houses were built cheaply and large parts of cities turned into slums. Most of the new towns were dirty and unhealthy, breeding grounds for disease. Industrialization brought the pollution of water and air, not to mention a sharp increase in harmful waste. Smoke blocked out most of the light. A layer of dirt produced by factories that used coal-generated steam to power their machines covered the streets like a black blanket. Improvements (sewers, drains, etc.) were made only gradually and it would take a long time before slums were properly cleared. Life in British industrialized cities was unpleasant and dangerous. The contamination of water was linked to the incidence of many diseases. The name of the John Snow public house at no. 39 Broadwick Street, Soho, is a tribute to a physician who is considered one of the fathers of epidemiology. In 1836, Snow moved to London and enrolled as a student at the Hunterian School of Medicine in Great Windmill Street. As general practitioner he specialized in the study of cholera. After the Soho epidemic of 1854, he identified the source of the outbreak as the public well pump on Broad Street (now Broadwick Street). Although Snow’s examination of a sample of the water was inconclusive to prove its danger, his studies of the pattern of the disease persuaded the local council to disable the pump by removing its handle. It was later found that the well was dug next to an old cesspit that leaked fecal bacteria. It was just one of the many hazards of living in the metropolis. The term suburb was in first instance used to refer to outward and inferior urban areas. From the early sixteenth century, there had been a tendency for


domestic workers to settle in the suburbs, where apprenticeship regulations were laxer and where it was possible to escape the powers and penalties of the Livery Companies. The large population of young apprentices gave such areas an often unruly character. In addition, the immunities of the suburbs attracted immigrant craftsmen and traders who were unable to work in the City, not having served an apprenticeship. There was a gradual shift in the interpretation of the term. Though suburbs (in the contemporary understanding of the word) started to appear on the outskirts of many western cities in the early 1800s, it was only after the implementation of electric railways that such districts began to grow extensively. Cheap and quick transportation made it practical to travel from home to work on a daily basis. The suburbs attracted prosperous residents, while the inner city (a relative new term applied in contrast to suburbia) was left to rot. Suburbia was a dream made possible, the aspiration of escaping from the noise of the city, the soot of the workplace, the poverty of surrounding areas, and the violence in the street. It was an opportunity to move to litterfree streets, spaceous dwellings and serene surroundings - medical migration in other words. Health tourism has a long history. Early physicians made numerous comments about weather and health, but without the suggestion that meteorological events caused illness. They attributed disease to divine displeasure. The Greeks introduced an empirical approach towards the theory and practice of medicine. Hippocrates in his study On Airs, Waters and Places laid the groundwork for the study of climate by emphasizing that due consideration must be given by physicians to both the internal and external environments of the body. The elite of the Roman Empire enjoyed medical tourism to the full escaping Rome’s unhealthy conditions by moving south to their seaside villas in Campania or their country dwellings in the nearby Apennines. In medieval Europe the Hippocratic tradition of medicine fell under the sway of religious dogma. Cures were sought by miraculous intervention associated with saints and relics rather than through clinical treatment. The regular recurrence of summer epidemics in towns and cities however brought a renewed interest in the relation between environmental factors


and health conditions. Seasonal migration became prevalent among the wealthy classes of cities such as Rome, Venice, Florence, Avignon, and Seville. In England, the sick and suffering headed for spa resorts. In 1672, Charles Clermont published an oversight On the Airs, Waters and Places of England. Spas were identified for the particular ailments that their waters remedied and patrons started to discriminate as to the appropriate season in which to visit them. At the same time, attention was paid to the curative attributes of the sea. By the late 1700s, the old Roman sea voyage therapy became common for the cure of tuberculosis. Many British patients sailed to Lisbon, Madeira and Mediterranean destinations. Some were even urged to cross the Atlantic to the West Indies. Thalassotherapy gave an early reputation to Brighton as a resort. In the 1750s, Richard Russell asserted that its waters and fine air were a cure-all, from torpid livers to a sore throat. He encouraged the bathing in and drinking of seawater to his patients. The study of the therapeutic influence of marine environments became a topic of medical interest. Sir James Clark, physician to Queen Victoria, listed in his Influence of Climate in the Prevention and Cure of Chronic Diseases (1829) the ‘best places of resort for invalids’. By the second half century of the eighteenth century Brighton had grown into a fashionable seaside spa. Bathing increased in popularity despite the fact that few Englishmen or women actually knew how to swim. Indoor bathing was promoted as well to cure a range of maladies. George iv added a significant element of social prestige to Brighton. From his first visit in 1782/3 onward, George’s almost unbridled expenditures focused attention on the resort. It offered George release from London’s social and moral restrictions. Over the years, he remodelled a rented house into the sumptuous ‘Eastern luxury’ of the Brighton Pavilion. While chinoiserie had long been fashionable, a new amalgamation of Indian themes made the Pavilion a striking expression of England’s rapidly expanding eastern Empire. When British soldiers moved into the wealthy province of Bengal their arrival was witnessed by a boy named Dean Mahomet who, in 1759, was born in Patna into a Shi‘i Muslim family. The youngster entered the military when he joined Captain Godfrey Baker of the Bengal Army’s 3rd European regiment. When Baker


resigned his Captain’s commission in July 1782, Mahomet decided to follow him to Cork where the Bakers were known as pillars of the Protestant community. The Travels of Dean Mahomet (1794) is Dean’s representation of himself as an Indian immigrant in Ireland. Around 1808 he moved to London. From small town Cork, he now entered the imperial metropolis and lived close to Portman Square, one of the new centres of London high society, where he was employed by Scottish nobleman Basil Cochrane who in 1805 had returned from the East. The latter claimed to have learned sophisticated medical skills while in India and in early 1808 he set out to improve the wellbeing of Londoners by establishing a therapeutic vapour bath at his home. His book An Improvement on the Mode of Administering the Vapour Bath (1809) epitomized the self-promotional literature of that era. Dean Mahomet introduced the new technique of ‘shampooing’ for health. The phrase quickly entered medical jargon and numerous bathhouses included shampooing among their advertized therapies. Having received little encouragement from Cochrane for his new techniques, Dean resigned and decided upon a new venture: representing Indian cuisine to the English. Late 1809, Dean Mahomet opened his Hindostanee Coffee House, on the corner of George and Charles Street. His ambition was to serve ‘Indianized’ British food that would appeal to Indians and Brits alike. Wealthy Indians, however, would not come out to eat in the restaurant because they had chefs at home cooking more authentic food. Neither was Mahomet able to attract a loyal English base of customers. He was declared bankrupt in 1812. Having moved to Brighton, he once again found employment in a vapour bathhouse and set himself up as a ‘shampooing surgeon’. By December 1815 he had opened his own ‘Indian Vapour Baths and Shampooing Establishment’. In a local paper he described the treatment as the ‘Indian Medicated Vapour Bath (type of Turkish bath), a cure to many diseases and giving full relief when every thing fails’. In 1822, he published a book on Shampooing, or Benefits Resulting from the Use of the Indian Medicated Vapour Bath in which he argued that shampooing aidsed the cure of rheumatism, asthma, affection of the lungs, spinal complaints, sprained ankle, lameness from debility,


sciatica, palpitation, scrofula, paralytic affection, paralysis, loss of voice, etc. The book reached a third edition in 1838. Dean Mahomet had many patients from among the nobility, but his highest achievement was to be appointed ‘Shampooing Surgeon’ to George iv. He died in Brighton at the age of 102. Robert Burton in The Anatomy of Melancholy had made the argument that there is ‘no better Physick for a melancholy man than change of air and variety of places, to travel abroad and see fashions’. Physicians stressed the relation between climate and health and some chronically ill patients began to seek relief through lengthy travels. Towards the middle of the eighteenth century the English started to make their way to the cities of the Loire Valley. The development of the Côte d’Azur had been arrested by the turmoil of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Once the nation returned to peace, increasing numbers of English families travelled to the shores of the Mediterranean. The extension of the railways brought about a dramatic rise in the number of tourists. At the same time, the decrease in travelling time alarmed physicians who warned that an invalid could pay a severe penalty for rushing to quickly from one climate to another. Nice became the most popular destination. Queen Victoria was a regular visitor. The British contingent in Nice grew rapidly and started to overflow into adjacent places. Soon cities like Cannes, Menton or Hyres (where Count Leo Tolstoy settled hoping that his brother Nicholas might have a chance of being cured of tuberculosis) were overrun by both healthy and sickly tourists from Europe and America. Nineteenth-century medico-tourist guides perpetuated a myth of the Côte d’Azur as the privileged site of beauty and health, especially to its visiting invalids who sought in the climate a natural cure. Poetic descriptions of the landscape’s regenerative potential pervade these works which were couched in a medical rhetoric. The topographic highlights were understood as both beautiful and healing. In his 1859 guide Cannes et ses environs travel writer J. B. Girard characterized the Mediterranean as a meeting point of the aesthetic and therapeutic. The appeal of its coastal towns for both artist and invalid was not in its ballrooms or casinos, but rather in its natural grandeur. This observation reflects the lasting belief in the transformative powers


of this coastline on the bodies and minds of artists and invalids. When in 1887 the poet Stéphen Liégeard named the region the Côte d’Azur, he did so using a well-established aesthetic framework. This was a pittoresque landscape with an azure-coloured coastline. Commercial tourism, art and medicine are intertwined in perceptions of this landscape. To this very day, the tourist trade - regardless of medical opinion - emphasizes its medical roots. For many city dwellers, the choice of travel destination is still linked to climatic wellbeing.



jermyn street (london) Fashion has always been made by the city. It demands a constantly shifting environment providing both the economic conditions and social impetus for expressing new perceptions of the body and the display of spending power. Our understanding of fashion as a particular set of cultural parameters which are subject to constant alteration requires the spatial and conceptual set-up of the metropolis. Georg Simmel, the first sociologist of fashion, started his 1903 essay ‘Die Grossstädte und das Geistesleben’ by summarizing the psychological conditions the city creates. Man is a differentiating creature. His mind is stimulated by the difference between a momentary impression and the one which preceded it. Lasting impressions which are formed gradually use up less consciousness than does the crowding of changing and onrushing images. He also postulated the death of fashion at the very moment it becomes socially accepted: when a large number of consumers start to follow a trend, its capricious and commercial impetus shifts the mode away to another manifestation. Jermyn Street runs parallel and adjacent to Piccadilly. The street was created around 1664 by and named after Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St Albans, as part of his development of the St James’s area. It quickly became a desirable place to live. A number of artists settled in and around Jermyn Street. Flemish portrait painter Jacob Huysmans had moved to England shortly before the Restoration, and quickly became one of the leading portrait painters at Charles ii’s court. On


26 August 1664 Pepys made the first of three visits to the painter’s studio and was full of praise for the artist. Huysmans worked as principal portrait painter to the Roman Catholic Queen Catherine and his work can be placed in a Continental Catholic baroque tradition. Huysmans died in 1696, possibly in Jermyn Street, and was buried in St James’s, Piccadilly. Dublin-born painter and writer Martin Archer Shee lived in Jermyn Street during the early 1790s. Later in his career he became president of the Royal Academy. Ten years earlier a fellow Dubliner, flower painter Edward Hodgson, lived and worked at no. 123 Jermyn Street. Between 1818 and 1821 legendary cabinet-maker and designer Thomas Chippendale lived at no. 42. Isaac Newton was one of the many famous citizens who stayed there during the time he was employed as Master of the Royal Mint (at no. 88, from 1696-1700 and then moving next door to no. 86, from 1700 to 1710). Jermyn Street was to become associated with fashion in London. It was known as a place where the shops were almost exclusively aimed at the gentlemen’s clothing market and famous for its resident shirt-makers. Male dress and fashion links Jermyn Street with nearby Piccadilly which runs from Hyde Park Corner in the west to Piccadilly Circus in the east. Until the seventeenth century it was known as Portugal Street. The name Piccadilly is associated with a tailor named Robert Baker, who owned a shop on the Strand in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century. He amassed a large fortune by making and selling fasionable piccadills (stiff collars) which enabled him to purchase the land to build a mansion that soon became known as Piccadilly Hall. Though he never lived there, on 5 November 2002 a statue of Beau Brummell was unveiled on Jermyn Street at its junction with Piccadilly Arcade. At its base is the following inscription: ‘To be truly elegant one should not be noticed’. The origin of the word dandy is uncertain. Eccentricity, defined as taking characteristics such as dress and appearance to extremes, began to be applied in the 1770s; similarly, the word dandy first appears in the late eighteenth century. A dandy is a man who places particular importance upon physical appearance, refined language, and cultivated wit. In most cases of middle-class background, he strove


to imitate an aristocratic lifestyle. Dandyism is the study of personal aesthetic and refinement - refinement in dress, conversation, motion, and taste. A dandy seeks the perfection of his person. He regards himself as a blank page on which to sketch his ideal being. A good deal of his time is spent in front of the mirror. His desired characteristics are elegance, independence to the point of aloofness, self-mastery, wit, sophistication, reserve, taste and a blasé demeanour. The dandy has been present in European culture for over two centuries. Sometimes as a bohemian and rebel, sometimes as an exclusive, he has held a place in society and influenced aspects of literary history up to the twentieth century. George Bryan ‘Beau’ Brummell was in his early days an undergraduate student at Oriel College, Oxford, and later an associate of the Prince Regent. The new development in fashion he started off was one of perfect plainness. To a world in which dress was dictated by wealth and display, Brummel brought a new ethic of restraint. The outrageous macaroni style was rejected. Diamond buttons, gold chains, buckles, and lace flounces were removed from his attire; the wigs, perfumes and powders thrown out. He had his hair cut in the Roman fashion, ‘à la Brutus’. The best known image of Brummell is a watercolour by Richard Dighton, a prolific London portrait artist, who produced an extensive series of City and West End characters. Brummel re-introduced masculine essentials, a blue jacket with brass buttons, waistcoat, breeches, shirt and neck-cloth. Today, we recognize it as the prototype of modern male dress. He also brought a sense of cleanliness and freshness to interpersonal relationships. His washing and toilette took hours out of the day allowing him to eschew fragrances. Brummel’s snobbery was one of style and fashion. His understated elegance, his refinement, his cleanliness and insistence on fresh linen set the standard in masculine dress. The linkage of clothing with politics was a particularly English characteristic during the eighteenth century. At best, dandyism can be seen as a protestation against the rise of egalitarian principles, often including a nostalgic adherence to feudal or pre-industrial values, and a yearning for more colourful and


heroic times. More often than not, however, dandyism was little more than an affectation. In Regency England, it became a fashionable pose to imitate Brummell without having either his stylish originality or temperament. Brummel’s mode of masculine dress reflected the neo-classical ideals in art and architecture of the day. It was based upon his interpretation of Greek masculine beauty. Like Jacques-Louis David’s paintings in France, Brummel distilled men’s fashion into an abstract ideal, a strict mode of thought. Rebellion to such narrow idealism in art and dress was inevitable. The tone was set by Lord Byron. Although Byron considered Brummel the most influential character of the nineteenth century after Napoleon, Romanticism created a different image of the dandy. The romantic pose was always to appear casual and loose, but it was a casualness that was as painstakingly cultivated as the outward perfection of the dandy. The romantics wore their collars unbuttoned to show their pale chests. Broad brimmed and soft hats kept their white complexions away from the sun. Byron, in order to conceal his club-foot, wore loose trousers, an innovation that would become a ‘must’ among his followers soon after. In France, from the 1750s onwards, the English were much admired in certain (aristocratic) circles. The number of French visitors to England increased substantially and many travellers published an account of their journey. English novels were popular in translation. Voltaire had paid tribute to the English political system; the French admired the horse racing culture in England; the aristocracy drank ‘ponche’, and dined on ‘rosbif ’ and ‘pouding’. A whole set of new words were introduced into the language, such as fashion, fashionable, spencer, dandy, jockey-club, etc. After the defeat of Napoleon, both English dandyism and Romanticism struck Paris like lightning. The French adopted the figure of the dandy and made him their own. In 1816 Brummell suffered bankruptcy and fled his creditors to France where, in 1840, he died in a lunatic asylum in Caen, aged almost sixty-two. He became a fashion icon in mid-century France, but the circumstances surrounding his death gave rise to a moralistic crusade against dandyism in post-Regency Britain. Writers


such as Thackeray and Thomas Carlyle, through leading periodicals such as Fraser’s Magazine, waged war against effeminacy and anything that was deemed to be unmanly. Utilitarianism grew out of the Victorian rejection of Regency ideals. The Industrial Revolution left no room for elitism or refinement. Black became the colour of the age. Men’s dress grew drabber and more serious. The instinct for making colours and forms symbolical seemed lost forever, and with it the sense that colour might be applied, as it was used in heraldry or in religious vestments, to express something. Or, as Wilkie Collins wrote in The Law and the Lady (1875), ‘men have always worn precious stuffs and beautiful colours as well as women. A hundred years ago, a gentleman in pink silk was a gentleman properly dressed’ - the material nineteenth century broke with that tradition. The loss of colour differentiation in male dress is identified by Johan Huizinga in Homo Ludens as a significant symptom of the declining play factor within modern society French dandyism took on a different direction. The Bourgeois Revolution of 1830 had an effect of idealizing practicality, economy and efficiency. In rebellion, Parisian artists and poets adopted dandiacal dress and haughty manners. They created a bohemian ‘aristocracy’ rejecting and mocking bourgeois society. Barbey d’Aurevilly, who wrote a biography of Brummel, intellectualized the dandy and identified dandyism with the battle against vulgarity. Writers such as Théophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire and J.K. Huysmans enhanced the status of the dandy by giving him a spiritual mission. Dandyism was defined as the outward manifestation of inner perfection. Algernon Swinburne, Walter Pater, James McNeill Whistler and other enthusiasts of French art and letters, brought to England ‘the art for art’s sake’ doctrine of bohemian Paris. The aesthetic movement evolved out of a synthesis of French and English thought. Its pivotal character and prophet was Oscar Wilde. Like his French predecessors Wilde dressed to shock. He wore rolled-down ‘Byronesque’ collars, pillbox hats and knee breeches with silk stockings. He also cultivated the long hair and the pose of the artist and the dandy. Wilde became a master manipulator in the art of self-promotion. His downfall coincided with the end of aestheticism in art and the emergence of an age of political brutality.



boulevard des italiens (paris) In the late seventh and eighteenth centuries, London coffeehouses became popular meeting places for artists, writers and socialites and were the centre for much political and commercial activity. Addison and Steele mingled there with wits, scribblers, politicians, and other members of the growing bourgeoisie (financiers, bankers, lawyers) where information was exchanged contributing to the formation of the so-called public sphere. Conversation, political and cultural, was the focus of attention. We tend to associate the French Enlightenment with individual thinkers such as Montesquieu, Rousseau and Voltaire, but the cultural transformation they brought about should also be understood in the context of public sphere and popular press. Alongside the brilliance of individual thinkers there was a host of pamphleteers, journalists and popular novelists at work struggling to make a living. Printing stood at the forefront of developments. The 1789 Revolution triggered an unprecedented political discourse which was reflected in a substantial increase in published materials. Printing was a heavy weapon in the struggle over public opinion which contributed to the formation of a new political culture. Printers, in a variation upon Shelley, are the unacknowledged reformers of the world. Collectively, they robbed the monarchy of its claim to sacred authority and diminished ecclesiastical power by advancing a critique of despotism that would serve as the impetus for the Revolution. The public sphere was well established in various locations including coffeehouses and salons, areas of society where various people could gather and discuss matters that concerned them. In Paris, until the end


of the nineteenth century, the École des Beaux Arts was in control of all aspects of artistic life. As the sole academy and only means of public exhibition, the Academy was a stifling presence. The institution came under attack at the same time that Haussmann changed the face of the metropolis. The effects of reconstruction went far beyond the physical appearance of the street- and cityscape. There were major changes in the lifestyles of bourgeoisie and working classes. The psychological impact culminated in the awakening consciousness of modernity. In the artistic break from the Academy, the Parisian café became a social institution and a symbol of modern life. The Café Guerbois and La Nouvelle Athènes played a major role in the birth of Impressionism. The institution of the café had a lasting impact on the emergence of modern art. The Boulevard des Italiens is one of the four grand avenues in Paris (the others are Boulevard de la Madeleine, Boulevard des Capucines and Boulevard Montmartre). Originally the term boulevard referred to a bulwark or rampart of a fortified town; hence, a street occupying the site of demolished fortifications. The word was derived from the Middle Dutch ‘bolwerk’ (bulwark or bastion). The name of this boulevard points to the Théâtre des Italiens which was built there in 1783, shortly before the French Revolution (now replaced by the Opéra-Comique). Under the second Bourbon Restoration it was known as the Boulevard de Gand in memory of Louis xviii’s exile in Ghent during the Hundred Days War. Throughout the nineteenth century and up to World War i the boulevard was a meeting place for the elegant elite of Paris. The streets of Paris underwent remarkable changes in the 1820s. The existing cobblestones were covered with bitumen pavements to make them more pleasant to walk and easier to maintain, and to prevent rebels from using the cobblestones to make blockades. Extensive illumination was part of the reordering of the city in which air pollution, lack of lighting, overcrowded buildings, and dense urban spaces were ameliorated by illuminated streets, rationally planned thoroughfares, and the use of lighter and ligh-reflecting materials such as glass, clearer vistas


and cleaner air. All this would enhance safety, surveillance, control and facilitate movement and traffic. The urban nightscape was radically transformed. Gas lights were installed which created a new and exciting atmosphere, that of ‘la ville lumière’ in the making. They lined the streets, illuminating them throughout the night. Cafés and restaurants were brightly lit. Their large plate-glass windows seem to open up the inner city. The terraces were full of relaxed clients watching the world go by. The light of the gas lamps enabled them to socialize late at night. In 1842, such an image was captured by Eugène Lami in his painting ‘Le Boulevard des Italiens, la nuit, à l’angle de la Rue Lafitte’. Showing the intersection of the Boulevard des Italiens and the Rue Lafitte, it depicts affluent Parisians out on the streets during the evening. Not long afterwards Lami’s popular view was made into a colour litho by E. Radclyffe. The ‘great white ways’ of electricity started an evolution towards the ‘twenty-four hour city’. Boulevards lined with bright streetlamps, illuminated shop windows, restaurants and cafés, and private residences with blazing window lights, drew people outside. Young and old flooded into the street in search of entertainment, spectacle and sociability. Many artists were inspired by the lively atmosphere of the Boulevard. In 1880, Gustave Caillebotte created an ‘aerial’ view of ‘Le Boulevard des Italiens’. Édouard Léon Cortès, a post-impressionist artist of French and Spanish ancestry, was known as ‘Le Poète Parisien de la Peinture’ because of his beautiful cityscapes in a variety of weather and night settings. His first exhibition in 1901 brought him immediate recognition. He depicted the Boulevard des Italiens in a number of atmospheric paintings. In 1897, Camille Pissarro painted the Boulevard in the morning sunlight and called the work ‘Boulevard des Italiens, matin, soleil’. After the July Revolution of 1850 the cityscape of Paris began to express its bourgeois prosperity. The archetypal denizen of the modern boulevard was a ‘flâneur’, a man of sophistication and elegance who scanned the activity around him with detachment. The boulevards were filled with aristocrats, diplomats, dandies and artists, who gathered in fashionable establishments such as the Café de Paris, the Café


Anglais, Maison Dorée, and above all at Tortoni’s. Founded in 1798 by a Neapolitan immigrant named Velloni as a café-pâtisserie and extended by Giuseppe Tortoni, the Café Tortoni became the establishment where the elite of Parisian society would meet in the nineteenth century. In the morning, stockbrokers breakfasted there; late in the afternoon, artists sipped absinthe; and at night ‘tout le monde’ went to Tortoni’s for his famous ice creams. Some of its artistically refined clients soon came to be referred to as ‘dandies’ or more locally as ‘tortonistes’. Composer Offenbach, poet Alfred de Musset, novelists Alexandre Dumas and Eugène Sue, the Goncourt Brothers, Lord Henry Seymour, and Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly, author of Du dandysme et de George Brummell, were all regular visitors to the café. Balzac often mentions Tortoni in his novels; the café is described by Alfred de Musset; the famous billiard room on the second floor appears in Stendhal’s Le rouge et le noir; and Proust points on several occasions to Tortoni’s in À la recherché du temps perdu. Sénécal, in Flaubert’s L’éducation sentimentale (1869), kills Dussardier on the steps of Café Tortoni. There are several depictions of the café, all confirming its reputation as a fashionable establishment. In his from his 1856 series of lithographs entitled Physionomies de Paris Eugène Charles François Guérard, an artist of whom few biographical details are known, shows an image of ‘Le Boulevard des Italiens, devant Tortoni à quatre heures du soir’. The scene is outside the café where patrons crowd the sidewalk. Men in top hats and frock coats dominate the crowd. An image of the café itself was provided in an oil painting by Jean Béraud, another artist who specialized in the depiction of daily Parisian life, which he titled ‘Le Boulevard devant le Café Tortoni’. Édouard Manet felt particularly at home in this café where he frequently lunched. He was more dandy than bohemian. His top hat and waistcoat blended in splendidly with the patrons of Tortoni’s. In 1878/80 he created a painting of a jaunty gentleman in a top hat in the act of writing (a letter or a novel?) which he gave the title of ‘Chez Tortoni’. Tortoni’s closed in 1893. The famous name however was not lost. In 1858 a French immigrant in Buenos Aires named Touan opened a coffeehouse at no. 825 Avenida de Mayo. He called the establishment Café Tortoni.


Nostalgia no doubt. The café recreated the atmosphere of the Parisian fin de siècle coffeehouse.



avenue & rue frochot (paris) Cities, Robert Vaughan wrote in 1843 in The Age of Great Cities, are the natural centres of association. Men live there in the nearest neighbourhood. Their faculties, in place of becoming dull from inaction, are constantly sharpened by collision. They have their prejudices, but all are liable to be assailed. Manufactures, commerce, politics, religion, all become subjects of discussion. Vaughan spoke from direct observation. London salons in the 1830s and 1840s were hothouses of political and cultural mixed-gender conversation. These gatherings stood in the tradition of the long-established French salon sociability. Near Place Pigalle is a leafy cul-de-sac, closed by a wrought iron secured gate, which is called Avenue Frochot. Developed in the 1830s, the avenue has an enticing artistic history. Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo lived here at one time; Toulouse-Lautrec had a studio at no. 15 which at the entrance shows a fine example of Art Deco stain glass; Théodore Chassériau, residing at no. 26, was a neighbour to Gustave Moreau. Later film director Jean Renoir and gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt settled in the avenue. Composer Victor Masse died at number no. 1. The property, partly visible from outside the gates, is supposed to be a haunted house because of an unresolved murder and various unexplained deaths. Pablo Picasso with his partner and model Fernande Olivier (real name: Amélie Lang - Picasso painted some sixty portraits of her) had started their stay in Paris at a Bateau Lavoir apartment. The Bateau was a gloomy mass of dirty premises


made of beams and planks where between 1904 and 1914 a number of artists and poets would settle. In September 1909 however the couple moved from there into a furnished place on the Boulevard de Clichy with two windows overlooking the gardens of Avenue Frochot. There he painted ‘L’avenue Frochot, vu de l’atelier de Picasso’. Nearby Rue Frochot is less exclusive, but certainly more lively. For a start, the street has a place in the history of the artist’s portrayal of onstage performers and performances. In 1886, twenty-two-year-old Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec entered the Dihau apartment at no. 6 Rue Frochot. He had come there to meet his cousins, and to gaze at a painting that had been given to the Dihau family fifteen years earlier by its creator Edgar Degas. The painting was ‘L’orchestre de l’Opéra’. Its central subject was bassoonist Désiré Hippolyte Dihau. Toulouse-Lautrec was inspired by the canvas. Within the decade, he would try his own hand at three portraits of the musician. Both Degas and Lautrec portrayed Dihau playing his bassoon. Both subsequently turned from music to stage and dance - ballet and cabaret - for subjects in their creative work. At one time, no. 4 Rue Frochot was the location of one of the most famous salons in Paris. A salon was a gathering of people who were invited by an inspiring hostess. Such social meetings were held for the refinement of taste through conversation and exchange of ideas. The salon was an Italian invention of the sixteenth century. The word ‘salon’ first appeared in France in 1664 (from the Italian word salone which itself is derived from sala or reception hall). Before the end of the seventeenth century, such gatherings were often held in the bedroom of the lady of the house. Reclining on her luxurious bed, she invited close friends who would gather around her. The salon flourished in Paris throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and served as a meeting ground for political, social, and cultural discussion. And there was plenty to discuss between 1770 through 1830, years in which France experienced a plethora of change, politically, socially, and culturally. The arrival and departure of the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and the Restoration, each left their marks on the Parisian salon. The presence of a beautiful and educated patroness gave additional charm to the concept. Aristocratic and rich


upper bourgeoisie women known as ‘salonnières’ organized fashionable gatherings from their homes. The first renowned salon in France was the Hôtel de Rambouillet (formerly the Hôtel de Pisani), close to the Louvre, where from 1607 until her death Romeborn Catherine de Vivonne, marquise de Rambouillet, entertained her guests. She received her visitors in a salon painted in blue, the ‘chambre bleue’. Aristocrats and literary figures including Corneille, Malherbe, Jean de La Fontaine, Madame de Sévigné, Paul Scarron, and many other prominent figures in social and cultural life frequented her salon. The gatherings at the Hôtel de Rambouillet established the salon’s rules of etiquette which resembled the earlier codes of Italian chivalry. Molière’s satire Précieuses ridicules was levelled at the numerous coteries which in the course of years had sprung up in imitation of Rambouillet. The idea of the salon and the role of the ‘salonnière’ were from the beginning controversial. Some argued that the salon offered women an education and a way out from the shadows of a pre-determined place in society. It granted her independence. To others, like JeanJacques Rousseau, these ladies represented the corruption, idleness and emptiness of aristocratic life. The controversy lingers on in contemporary historical debate. The salon persisted into the nineteenth century, not just in Paris but in most European capitals (Berlin, Vienna, and elsewhere), and became woven into the fabric of cultural and political life. The role of salonnière however was increasingly taken over by a different type of lady. By the late nineteenth century courtesans - the ‘grandes horizontales’ - had reached a level of social acceptance in many circles and settings. As a figure, the courtisan appeared widely in a fictional context. Honoré de Balzac wrote about the Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes; Alexandre Dumas fils published La dame aux camélias which centres around the courtesan Marguerite Gautier (Verdi changed her name to Violetta Valéry in his opera version of the novel - ‘La Traviata’ translates as the Wayward One); Émile Zola introduced Nana into fiction; and Marcel Proust gave immortality to Odette Swann. In real life a number of courtesans started hosting a salon. Esther Lachmann, later Mme Villoing, later


Mme la Marquise de Païva, later Countess Henckel von Donnersmarck, a lady of Polish Jewish descent born in a Moscow ghetto where her father worked as a weaver, was the most successful of nineteenth century courtesans. While sharing an appartment and bed with the celebrated pianist Henri Herz in Paris, she invited various guests to attend her salon - these included Richard Wagner, Hans von Bülow, Théophile Gautier and Émile de Giradin. At a Baden spa she met Portuguese marquis Albino Francesco de Païva-Araujo. She married him on 5 June 1851, acquiring a fortune, a title, and her nickname ‘La Païva’. She left him the next day. Her final conquest was Prussian Count Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck (who gave her the famous yellow Donnersmarck diamonds). With his money, she erected the elegant Hôtel de Païva at the Champs-Élysées (designed by Pierre Manguin), a mansion notorious for lush parties that became symbolic for the decadent taste of the Second Empire. Adolphe Monticelli’s painting ‘Une soireé chez La Païva’ gives an indication of the sumptuous surroundings in which these gatherings took place. Apollonie Sabatier, nicknamed ‘La Présidente’ by Edmond de Goncourt, was a bohémienne and courtesan who during the 1850s hosted a splendid salon at no. 4 Rue Frochot, a spacious apartment consisting of seven rooms built in 1838. There she met and entertained the élite of French art at the time, from Gérard de Nerval to Gustave Flaubert, Maxime Du Camp, Alfred de Musset, Hector Berlioz, Victor Hugo, Sainte-Beuve, Jules de Barbey d’Aurevilly, and Édouard Manet. Between 1852 and 1854 Charles Baudelaire addressed a number of poems to Apollonie, celebrating her as his Madonna and Muse (later collected in Les fleurs du mal). Gustave Flaubert and Théophile Gautier dedicated articles to her, fashionable Vincent Vidal painted her portrait, and in 1847 Auguste Clésinger sculpted her figure in marble as ‘Femme piquée par un serpent’ (woman bitten by a snake) which created a scandal at the Salon of that year. Belgian aristocrat and industrialist Alfred Mosselman who had made a fortune in civil engineering paid her bills (this eventually caused his bankruptcy which forced him to auction his famous art collection in the early 1860s). Gustave Courbet portrayed the pair in his


famous painting ‘L’atelier du peintre’. After Mosselman’s death, Sabatier became mistress to art collector Sir Richard Wallace. Over the years she had developed an exquisite feeling for aesthetics. The name Frochot holds an honourable place in the annals of Parisian history. In the Middle-Ages, one of the Eastern hills near the capital was named ‘Champl’Evêque’ because it belonged to the Bishop of Paris. In 1626 the Jesuits acquired the land and property which they turned into a convalescence home. François d’Aix, Seigneur de La Chaise, also known as the Père Lachaise, spent most of his time in the Jesuits’ house and contributed to its beauty by creating idyllic gardens. The Jesuits left in 1762. The domain was acquired by Count Nicolas Frochot who, at the time, was prefect of Paris (in 1806 his portrait was painted by Andrea Appiani the Elder). He decided to use it as a burial ground. The cemetery was designed by leading architect Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart. Originally simply known as ‘cimétìère de l’Est’, it became soon known as the ‘Père Lachaise’, in loving memory of the confessor of Louis xiv. The cemetery was styled in the shape of an English garden and its broad avenues were decorated with lime and chestnut trees. When it opened for business on 21 May 1804, it was meant for Parisians living in one of the four districts of the Right Bank. However, affluent people did not want to be buried in what was considered a poor district. Many traditional superstitions concerning interment remained unchanged. Christians refused to have their graves dug in a place that had not been blessed by the Church. The opening of a new graveyard posed a particular challenge. No one would volunteer one of their deceased relatives to be the first to be interred, because of the widespread belief that the Devil would claim the soul of that particular corpse for himself. The seventeen hectares of the cemetery remained empty until, in 1817, Frochot decided to take the initiative of transferring the ashes of Héloïse and Abélard there, as well as those of Jean de La Fontaine and Molière. The latter had died from pulmonary tuberculosis, possibly contracted when he was imprisoned for debt as a young man. His death had become a legendary tale: on 17 February 1617 he collapsed on stage in a fit of coughing and haemorrhaging while performing in his last play, which ironically

was entitled Le malade imaginaire. He insisted on completing his performance. Afterwards he collapsed again before being taken home, where he died a few hours later, without receiving the last rites because two priests refused to visit an actor while a third arrived too late. The superstition that yellow brings bad luck to actors may originate from the colour of the clothing Molière was wearing at the time of his demise (in medieval religious plays yellow was the colour worn by the actor playing the devil). The Church refused to bury actors on consecrated ground, just like heretics, sorcerers or usurers. The stage was considered suspicious. Molière’s widow asked Louis xiv if her spouse could be granted a ‘normal’ funeral at night. The king quietly agreed. Molière was most probably buried in a dark corner of Saint Joseph Cemetery which had been reserved for those who had committed suicide or those who had not been baptized. To remove Molière from St Joseph to Père Lachaise therefore presented the authorities with a particular problem: which one was his corpse? It has been suggested that the commissioners in charge simply dug up a random skeleton from the plot and introduced him as Molière. The same was done for De La Fontaine (despite the fact that the poet had been buried in a different cemetery). Molière’s sarcophagus in Père Lachaise bears his name but does not contain his body. The alleged tooth, jawbone, and vertebra of the playwright, which had once been honoured as relics, probably were taken from the ‘false’ Molière as well. Nicholas Frochot’s plan worked out well. In the years 1820 to 1830, the cemetery became fashionable amongst the Parisian upper middle class. Everyone wanted to be seen dead in Père Lachaise. Among the famous residents stand the tombs of Honoré de Balzac, Guillaume Apollinaire, Frédéric Chopin, Jim Morrison, Alfred de Musset, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, Marcel Proust and, of course, Frochot himself. Apollonie Sabatier is buried in the old cemetery of Neuilly-sur-Seine, but many of the celebreties who frequented her salon on Rue Frochot were later buried at Père Lachaise. If life is indeed a preparation for death, then Sabatier assisted her guests in a delicate and refined manner for their departure and final meeting with Frochot/Lachaise.


the highway (london) Historians such as Antonio Gramsci have described the city as an oasis of civilization in a desert of intellectual darkness. Others have judged it a pestilent jungle of licentiousness. Eighteenth century writers had already referred to the ‘savage’ environment of the inner city. They frequently compared London to an African jungle - ‘a land of barbarians, a colony of Hottentots’. In 1829 Robert Southey spoke in terms of London’s wilderness. The city in that assessment is hostile domain and wilderness becomes the underlying image of urban experience. The violence of urban life recalls tribal warfare. Hostile competition replicates conditions where survival is based on a struggle of one against all others. The stink of garbage resembles the odour of tropical decay. Finding one’s way through dense human crowds suggests the experience of cutting through thick growth. The ‘law of the jungle’ is a variant expression for the survival of the fittest. The expression was used by Rudyard Kipling in The Jungle Book (1894) as a law code used by wolves in the jungles of India. The law of the jungle implies such notions as ruthless competition motivated by self-interest, social inequality, and the struggle between ‘superior’ and ‘inferior’ races. Upton Sinclair used the metaphor in that sense and gave the title of The Jungle (1906) to his novel about the life of mercilessly exploited immigrant workers at the Chicago Stockyards. The phrase was popularized during the era of social-Darwinistic thinking and coincided with the imperialist push into Africa. In his In Darkest England and the Way Out (1890) William Booth made the connection in a set of questions: ‘As there is a darkest Africa is there not also a


darkest England? Civilization, which can breed its own barbarians, does it not also breed its own pygmies? May we not find a parallel at our own doors, and discover within a stone’s throw of our cathedrals and palaces similar horrors to those which Stanley has found existing in the great Equatorial forest?’ The metropolis is metaphorically a jungle populated by predatory beings that act not on reason but on instinct. The nineteenth century search for understanding the hidden world of urban poverty ran parallel to the quest for insight in the nature of primitive life in the South Pacific or in Africa. Henry Mayhew’s view and exploration of the London slums has been called a ‘Cockney Polynesia’. The expression ‘concrete jungle’ for the hardcore and crimed-ridden metropolis emerged later (especially in relation to New York City). The phrase was made more current by Bob Marley’s song of that title. The jungle metaphor was applied to the East End of London in particular. In The People of the Abyss (1903) Jack London describes the condition of people living in this deprived part of the metropolis. As valley and mountain ‘are to the natural savage, street and building are valley and mountain to them. The slum is their jungle, and they live and prey in the jungle’. Dickens’s Oliver Twist has given us a lasting impression of what the streets of London were like at the beginning of Victorian era, with dens of thieves in the East End turning boys like Oliver into ‘fogle-hunters’, housebreakers like Bill Sikes setting off to practice their skills in the leafy suburbs, and loose women like Nancy being battered to death in dingy rooms or down dark alleys. Later in the century, novels like George Gissing’s The Nether World (1889) were painting a lurid picture of East End slums whose denizens were as ‘vile’ as their surroundings. As the title suggests, it shows the ‘other side’ of life, the drab London underworld of grinding poverty, starvation, degradation, disease, and injustice. His personal experience of the lowest stratum of working class life and the social problems that afflicted his society during the late nineteenth century supplied him with raw materials for his slum novels. Gissing was convinced that the law of the jungle can alone be of meaning in this disgusting world of slums. Life’s battles are more deadly in the nether world.


The Highway, formerly known as Radcliffe Highway, is an old Roman road that runs from the eastern edge of the City of London to Limehouse. The name refers to the red sandstone cliffs which descended from the plateau on which the road was situated down to the low-lying tidal Wapping Marshes. The Highway and surrounding area can boast a colourful and dubious history, one that includes exotic animals, sailors, criminals and prostitutes. In the late 1800s, German immigrant Charles Jamrach opened his Animal Emporium on The Highway. He literally brought the jungle to the streets of London. The store became the largest pet store in the world as seafarers moored at the Port of London sold any exotic animals they had brought with them to Jamrach, who in turn supplied zoos, menageries and private collectors. At the north entrance to nearby Tobacco Dock nowadays stands a bronze sculpture of a boy standing in front of a tiger, commemorating an incident where a fully-grown Bengal specimen escaped from Jamrach’s shop into the street and carried off the curious lad who had approached the animal. He escaped unhurt after the proprietor prised open the animal’s jaw with his bare hands. Accidents were not unusual. In 1814, Jamrach’s rival Edward Cross had become proprietor of the ‘Exeter Change Menagerie’ in the Strand. His animals were mostly big cats and birds, but there were also ungulates and reptiles. Concern about the conditions in which the animals were kept was expressed by Cross’s critics. These became particularly vocal after the bloody destruction of Chunee, an Indian bull elephant who had been brought to Regency London in 1809/10. He was originally ‘employed’ at Covent Garden Theatre, appearing on stage with the famous Edmund Kean (in Blue Beard for example). He was later bought by Cross (Lord Byron visited the menagerie on 14 November 1814 and was impressed by Chunee’s behaviour). However, the animal became violent towards the end of his life. On 26 February 1826, while on his regular Sunday walk along the Strand he ran amok, killing one of his keepers. It was decided that he was too dangerous to keep. It took more than an hour and some 180 musket shots by soldiers from Somerset House to kill the elephant. Hundreds of people paid an entrance fee to


see his carcass butchered, and then dissected by doctors and medical students from the Royal College of Surgeons. In the course of the nineteenth century Radcliffe Highway gained a notorious reputation for vice and crime. One of the three central roads leaving London, it was a dangerous and run-down area, full of seedy businesses, dark alleys, and dilapidated tenements. It was here that the so-called Ratcliffe Highway murders took place, two vicious attacks on separate families that resulted in multiple fatalities. They occurred during a twelve day interval in December 1811, in homes half a mile apart. The gruesome story created public panic and general anxiety about rising crime and violence in the metropolis. John Williams, a sailor lodging at the Pear Tree tavern, emerged as the prime suspect. He was accused of the murders, but never went to trial. On 28 December, three days after Christmas, he used his scarf to hang himself from an iron bar in his cell. The court declared Williams to be guilty of the crimes. His suicide was considered to be a statement of guilt. The Home Secretary hoped to end public disquiet by parading Williams’s body through Wapping and Shadwell. Residents could see for themselves that he was no longer a menace. Some 18,000 people followed the body through the streets. The procession stopped in front of the Kings Arms tavern, where the coachman whipped the dead man three times across the face. Finally, the remains of Williams were tumbled out of the cart and dumped into a hole at a crossroads, after someone had hammered a stake through his heart. Traditional prejudices persisted. Suicides, vampires and criminals were buried at crossroads in the belief that, should they arise from the grave, their vengeful ghosts would not know which of the roads led back home. The stake was intended to keep the restless soul from wandering. The pit was covered over with quicklime. In August 1886, a gas company excavated a trench in the area where Williams had been buried. They unearthed a skeleton, buried upside down and with the remains of the wooden stake through its torso. The landlord of the Crown and Dolphin tavern, at the corner of Cannon Street Road, retained the skull as a souvenir. With the demolition of the public house the skull has been lost for posterity.


During the seventeenth century Ratcliffe Highway was already associated with prostitution. Lying to the north of the Wapping waterfront, sailors from ships moored in the Pool of London flocked to the area. Most were single men with cash to spare after long voyages looking for drink and women. The taverns and brothels along the length of the street provided for their every need. Roy Palmer’s Oxford Book of Sea Songs includes a traditional ditty entitled ‘Ratcliff Highway’ in which two ‘flash girls’ attempt to rob a sailor of his money. The Highway attracted prostitutes of various nationalities. There was an influx of Flemish women who enjoyed a long-standing reputation (one that was recognized by Chaucer) for their sexual expertise, and expensive Venetian courtesans who were patronized by aristocrats and courtiers. It was on Ratcliffe Highway that Damaris Page had several houses built out of the money she had earned from prostitution. She had made her fortune as an East End harlot. Samuel Pepys described her as ‘the great bawd of the seamen’ (and he should know!). Little is recorded of her early life. She was born in Stepney and worked through her teenage years as a prostitute known under the surname Page, though it is not known how she acquired the name. She became rich during the boom years of economic development of the East End, first offering services as a prostitute, and later through running brothels. She drew many of her staff from the cohort of women whose husbands had been killed in battle at sea, leaving their wives without any means of support. She was well known during the 1650s, but the restored monarchy’s massive expansion of the Navy in the mid-1660s brought further business success and association with government officials. The naval high command was desperate to enlist sailors, and she proved adept at recruiting them through her trade. The connection proved to be unpopular amongst local people. During the 1668 upheaval her brothel was the first to be targeted in the riots that swept across the capital. However, the violence did not interrupt business for long and her bawdy house was soon resurrected. Barely a year later, in June 1669, the Duke of York, the Lord High Admiral, was no doubt delighted to learn that Sir Edward Spragge, who was about to set sail to the Mediterranean to chase Algerian pirate ships who inflicted considerable damage on the British commercial fleet, spent a day in Damaris Page’s company on which


occasion she furnished him with some forty sailors to man his flagship the Revenge. Madam Elizabeth Creswell made a similar career. She began work as a prostitute in London during the 1650s. In the early 1660s she was well established as the owner of brothels in Camberwell, Clerkenwell and Moorfields. By the seventeenth century Clerkenwell, immediately north of the City of London, began to lose its aristocrat residents and some streets became notorious as the haunts of prostitutes. The fact that travellers from abroad and all parts of the kingdom passed through the area was beneficial to business. Madam Creswell was shielded from prosecution through the complicity of clients who sat on the boards of City companies and who filled the offices of local government in the capital. However, her role in the vice trade and immunity from the law did not go down well with the apprentices of London. These youths were bound by strict articles of agreement and unable to marry by the terms of their employments. Their behaviour was aggressive and riotous. They fought foreigners, attacked immigrants, and beat up prostitutes. Unable to afford the high prices paid for the services of the Cresswell girls, they took out their frustration upon her establishment in Moorfields. During the May Day celebrations of 1668 they broke into the house, attacked the ‘Poxed and Painted’ whores, stole a quantity of plate, and tore down the building. This incident inspired a bogus document which is known as the ‘Poor Whores’ Petition’. In it, Madam Cresswell in association with Damaris Page beg the ‘most Splendid, Illustrious and Eminent Lady of Pleasure’, i.e. the notorious Barbara Palmer, Countess of Castlemaine, the King’s mistress, to recoup on behalf of their ‘sisters’ damages from the taxpayer and to form a guard of ‘French, Irish and English Hectors’ to protect brothels from further violence. The face of Elizabeth Creswell is known through the work of a Dutch artist. Around 1660, Marcellus Laroon had made the move from his native The Hague to Yorkshire. Having married Elizabeth Keene, the daughter of a rich builder in 1679, he settled in Covent Garden. Laroon served as an assistant to Godfrey Kneller and in 1684 painted a large portrait of Charles ii for Christ’s Hospital.


Today he is remembered for his ‘London Cries’. Pictures of street hawkers with their shouts or trade recorded in captions of poetry or prose are known as ‘Cries’. They first appeared in Paris around 1500. The creation of such an iconography of the sixteenth century included socially marginal people and outcasts, vagabonds, beggars, prostitutes and others. Fifty years later, they were established as a genre across Europe, featuring the hawkers of major cities. London Cries survive in three formats: as broadsheet panels of engravings, as ensembles of individual prints, and as illustrated books (it is no surprise that both Samuel Pepys and Daniel Defoe owned copies). Cries ranged in price from a halfpenny a sheet to half a guinea for a set of fine prints which reflected the interest in the subject matter. The first ensembles appeared at the beginning of the 1600s. The appeal of the genre is not in the least surprising. Their publication followed a period of unrest and instability in England. Between 1520 and 1600 the number of vagabonds and beggars had increased sharply. The dissolution of monasteries and the disbanding of armies returning from recent wars contributed to the multiplication of the homeless. Around 1570, nearly 15% of London’s population consisted of vagrants. London life was lived in the streets and on the numerous markets. Men, women and children competed with each other to make a living, trying to sell whatever they could lay their hands on. The Cries are an expression of this London. Crafts predominate (brushes, glasses, shoes, etc.), but the array of merchandise offered by the vendors is enormous. Prostitution is but one of the many services on offer. After the death of Cromwell and the restoration of Charles ii, London came to life again. The end of the Interregnum marked the beginning of an explosion of energy in the capital. Print and ballad sellers, fiddlers, beggars, whores, acrobats, actors and actresses, they all returned to their former trades. They were joined by a large number of hawkers flocking to London to supply the population with food and other needs. The calamity of the Great Fire had robbed the city of hundreds of its shops and half of its public markets. Soon after the Restoration the buzzing London streets were mirrored in prints and drawings. The interest in works of art during the reign of Charles ii reached almost unparalleled levels. This renewed


fascination for the pictorial arts resulted in the production of a large number of Cries that started in the 1670s and lasted well into the nineteenth century. Marcellus Laroon’s The Cryes of the City of London Drawne after the Life was originally published in 1687 by Pierce Tempest, and reprinted by him in 1688, 1689 and 1709. The 74 plates depict the cries and costumes (a grammar of costume that is of considerable value to the social historian) of the street-vendors of London. Below the frame, the hawker’s cry appears in English, French, and Italian. The publisher was obviously aware of the commercial value of these prints. Laroon’s ensemble of images is far more sophisticated than any of its precursors and would forever change the way in which street vendors were pictured in British art. The early depictions of hawkers were type characters, representing their trade and nothing more than that. Laroon’s London vendors are individuals, a class of people with their own energy and sparkle. They were drawn after life and many of the figures depict actual persons who were known to Londoners. Living in Covent Garden, the artist was able to look closely at his subjects as they passed his house on their way to London’s fruit and vegetable market. It was an extremely lively area and during the first decades of the eighteenth century Covent Garden became the capital’s hedonistic heart. Artists, writers, poets, pimps, whores, criminals, entertainers, they were all drawn to an area of town where life was turned into a carnival. Its main establishments were the Shakespeare’s Head tavern and the Bedford Coffee House where at some time or another Samuel Johnson, David Garrick, Joshua Reynolds, Samuel Foote, Tobias Smollett or Henry Fielding would enjoy a drink or two and meet fellow artists. Covent Garden was an inspiration to them, an incubator of creativity. Laroon showed his characters exactly as he had seen them (including their deformities), simpletons, charlatans, religious fanatics, industrious workers, shrewd blokes, shameless women, and drunken drifters. The peddlers in The Cryes of London are observed without sentimentality, none of them are idealized or caricatured. Plate 52 then presents us with an image of Madame Creswell (Une Maquerelle, Vecchia rufiana). She is about fifty years old and, as age overtakes us all, the artist shows her age in the lines creasing her melancholy face. She had once been


a stunning beauty of bewitching charm. As a courtesan she entertained politicians, courtiers and celebrities. Amassing a fortune she lived in grand style. However, in a word by George Orwell, at fifty everyone has the face he or she deserves. When she got older and less attractive to young males, she tempted young beauties to London who she corrupted so successfully that she was regarded unrivalled in her craft. In the later stages of her life she regretted her sins, dressed soberly, found religion and attended prayer meetings. When she died, she left the grand sum of £10 for a funeral oration on condition that a clergyman speak well of her. The Anglican minister ended his speech with the well-chosen phrase: ‘She was born well, she lived well, and she died well; for she was born with the name of Creswell, she lived in Clerkenwell and Camberwell, and she died in Bridewell’. The images of plate 51 (the London courtesan) and plate 52 (Madam Creswell at middle age) are linked. They seem to tell a moral tale about harlotry, the young woman, attractive, spirited and well dressed as opposed to the aged bawd, melancholic, wrinkled and tired of a wasted and sinful life. The message is an eternal one. Youth is a fistful of chances and challenges, old age the regret for not having grasped the opportunities.



high street (glasgow) The metropolis is a centre of scandal and slander - it lives by rumour, gossip and speculation. Street literature flourished from the early sixteenth century until the mid-nineteenth century as a form of news dissemination. Historically, print, press and sensationalism were inseparable. Early ballads were narrative songs derived from folk culture that predated printing. Originally perpetuated by word of mouth, many ballads survive because they were recorded on broadsides. Broadside ballads were objects of commerce. There were hundreds of such songs in circulation telling the stories of murderers, pirates, traitors and other felons. Musical notation was rarely printed as tunes were usually established favourites. The term ‘ballad’ applied broadly to any kind of topical or popular verse. In London, the Seven Dials area was the major centre for broadside production in the nineteenth century. Being part of the rookery of St Giles, it was one of the more notorious slums described by Charles Dickens in his collection Sketches by Boz. It was still associated with extreme urban poverty when Agatha Christie set The Seven Dials Mystery (1929) there. James ‘Jemmie’ Catnach was the best known among the printers of broadsides and pamphlets which circulated through the streets of the capital. His main business was the production of song-sheets costing a penny or less for sale by street-vendors with a speciality in the ‘last dying confessions’ of murderers and other sensational material. In a city eager for information the singing of catchy ballads was an effective way of communicating the latest news.


Glasgow High Street is the city’s oldest and historically most significant street that formed a direct north-south artery between the Cathedral of St Mungo (patron saint of the city - later: Glasgow Cathedral) in the north, to Glasgow Cross (location of the Tolbooth Steeple where the public hangings in the city took place) and the banks of the River Clyde. East of the Cathedral is the Necropolis, one of Britain’s largest Victorian cemeteries - some 3,500 monuments - which one enters by crossing the Bridge of Sighs (named after its Venetian predecessor). Built at the time (1831) that Glasgow was the second city of the Empire, it is a memorial to the merchant patriarchs of the city and contains the remnants of almost every eminent Glaswegian of its day. Predating the cemetery by a handful of years is the statue of John Knox who, sitting on a column on top of the hill, keeps a Presbyterian eye over the Cathedral and High Street. From 1460 to 1864, the original buildings of the University of Glasgow (established on 4 January 1450 with a Bull granted to Bishop William Turnbull by Pope Nicholas) were located at the junction of High Street and Duke Street, before moving to the West End. The old college buildings and grounds were sold to the City Union Railway Company and the proceedings used for new premises at Gilmorehill. The remains of the old gateway and the gilded arms of Charles ii are incorporated into the gatehouse of the new university campus. With industrialization and the massive expansion of the city, the importance of High Street and the medieval heart of Old Glasgow diminished as the administrative functions of the city moved westward into what is now known as the Merchant City area. The old town soon fell into neglect. After the city passed an act through Parliament to demolish the run-down districts of central Glasgow in 1866, Fifeborn photographer Thomas Annan was asked to record the buildings that were coming down. The area had become one of the worst urban slums in Britain and Annan worked in dark and dank conditions as bad for photography as they were for human beings. Between 1868 and 1871 he produced thirty-five photographs of the closes and wynds (Scots word for a narrow path) of old Glasgow. The series is the first record of slum housing in the history of photography. Most of the images


show dark passages between dirty buildings in overpopulated and deprived areas. Annan initially printed his wet-plate collodion negatives onto albumen and carbon paper, but in 1900 issued them as photogravures (a technique to make prints that would not fade, by creating photographic images on plates that could then be etched and printed using a traditional press) in The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow on which his posthumous reputation rests. Through his dispassionate attention to visual detail, Annan initiated what later came to be known as the documentary tradition. He recorded various shots of the old High Street. Saltmarket in Glasgow was an equivalent of London’ Seven Dials. It had long been a centre of the cheap print trade, whether for chapbooks, speeches, religious tracts, garlands or broadside ballads. At the end of the eighteenth-century chapbooks seem to have been the most popular production, but by the middle of the nineteenth century broadsides (known as ‘slips’) had taken over in public demand. Broadside printers were in the wholesale market. A number of people were involved in the trade: the poet who composed the ballad, the wood-engraver who illustrated it, and the printer. The retail side was handled by the pedlars who bought ballads in the Saltmarket to sing in the Trongate and Gallowgate, or to carry to markets and fairs in the other Scottish towns. Pedlars usually travelled on foot, carrying their wares. Ballad singers, almanac vendors and street patterers would compete with one another for a suitable pitch to sell their single sheets on sensational crimes or juicy murders. To sell a ballad one had to create an audience. Successful pedlars were adept at street theatre. They were orators and comedians, selling themselves as much as their products. They were often rag-pickers as well. Rags were collected for the making of paper used in the production of cheap print. Pedlars were early advocates of recycling. One crime in particular produced a series of Scottish broadsides. William Burke was an Irish navvy who came to Scotland with his partner William Hare to work on the Union Canal. They turned to a more lucrative occupation, obtaining bodies for Dr Robert Knox, an anatomist based in Edinburgh University’s Medical School.


Initially the pair concentrated on digging up freshly buried corpses, but they quickly resorted to murder, luring victims to their lodging house in Tanner’s Close. During that period the verb ‘burking’ was introduced into the English language for the way the criminals killed their targets. They did so through smothering the victim, i.e. by covering the mouth and nose while pressing on the chest. The National Library of Scotland’s collection includes many broadsides relating to Burke and Hare, including one published in Edinburgh in or around 1829 and signed by the name of John Logan. Illustrated with a woodcut of William Hare, the writer of this ballad spares no details in describing to his audience the crimes perpetrated by the pair. As highlighted in the small report underneath the ballad, the Edinburgh populace considered Dr Knox to be as guilty as the murderers. His house was stoned by a furious mob. After their arrest, the trial of Burke and Hare took place in late December 1828. Burke was sentenced to death and hanged on 28 January 1829. A vast number of spectators turned out, among them Sir Walter Scott. Hare was given immunity for his evidence. In his judgment Lord Boyle expressed regret that Burke’s body could not be gibbeted, and decreed that he was to be publicly dissected and the skeleton preserved. The dissection was carried out by Knox’s rival Sir Alexander Monro and the body viewed by 30,000 people. A wallet made from his tanned skin is preserved in the Anatomy Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, along with his death-mask. Of all the nineteenth-century Glaswegian pedlars the most famous was William Cameron, better known by his nickname ‘Hawkie’. He was born near Saint Ninians, Stirlingshire, around 1790. Despite his decrepit appearance (as caught on a 1913 tipped-in halftone print of Hawkie), he became a well-known character on the streets of Glasgow and in the High Street in particular. Cameron began to sell ‘speeches’ and other cheap print after his arrival in Glasgow in 1818. Hawkie either bought ready-made stock at Saltmarket printers or wrote his own pieces. It was from one of the latter, a satirical response to the prophecy of the destruction of Glasgow made by a tailor called Ross, that he earned his nickname. It was written in the character of ‘Hawkie, a twa-year-auld quey [cow] frae Aberdour’


who prophesied the destruction of the Briggate area of Glasgow under a tide of whisky. The name ‘Hawkie’ stuck to the author ever after. He travelled to sell his wares in other towns of Scotland such as Paisley and Edinburgh, but his home patch was Glasgow High Street and the Trongate. He clearly made a success of this trade, largely through his talents as a showman. Examples of his wit and street ‘patter’ feature in many memoirs of the city, including Glasgow Characters (1875) by the editor of the Reformer’s Gazette, Peter Mackenzie (known as ‘Loyal Peter’). In the 1840s Hawkie spent increasing amounts of time in prison or hospital, both occasioned by his chronic alcoholism. He died in Glasgow City Poorhouse in September 1851. A lively insight into Hawkie’s life is supplied by his own autobiography. Although he wrote the story of his life at the request of David Robertson, a Glasgow bookseller, while he was a winter inmate of the Glasgow Town’s Hospital between 1840 and 1850, the text did not reach the general public till 1888 after editorial intervention by John Strathesk (real name: John Tod). This meant that the manuscript underwent numerous linguistic changes. Nevertheless, the Autobiography of a Gangrel is both a source of information on the production and selling of street literature and a detailed guide of how to survive in a condition of extreme urban poverty.



locomotive street (darlington) Traditionally, many streets were named for the type of commerce or industry that was along them. They echo an area’s industrial heritage or achievements. Examples include London’s Haymarket, Saddlemakers Lane in Woodbridge, or Barcelona’s Carrer de Moles (Millstone Street) where stonecutters ran their shops. Electric Avenue is a street in London’s Brixton. Built in the 1880s, it was the first market street to be lit by electricity. Locomotive Street indicates Darlington’s role in the spread of the railways in Britain. From the earliest times of which we have record, John Maynard Keynes wrote in 1930, down to the beginning of the eighteenth century, there was no great change in the standard of life of the average man living in the civilized centres of the earth. As industrialization and urbanization spread, the nineteenth century brought a whole range of new inventions that sharply increased the speed of transport, travel and communications. The clock became the operating system of modern capitalism, especially after the acceptance of Greenwich as the prime meridian (by 1911 global standard time had become a fact). The Age of Rage was around the corner - announced by Coleridge in 1824: Keep moving! Steam, or Gas, or Stage, Hold cabin, steerage, hencoop’s cage – …


For move you must! ‘Tis now the rage, The law and fashion of the Age. The Regency period marked the beginning of the great age of coaching. From around 1810 to the 1830s coaches ruled the newly sealed roads and reached speeds of twelve miles per hour. The flow of traffic around city and country increased substantially. Early travellers in Britain had no choice but to ride on horseback or walk because with the passing of the Roman era the roads were not maintained. It was not until the close of the sixteenth century that the wagon became used as a public conveyance. England ran behind the Continent when it came to transport. In 1564, Dutchman Guilliam Boonen introduced coaches into England and, subsequently, became Queen Elizabeth’s coachman. Antwerp at that time had already hundreds of coaches. A telling reference is made by John Taylor, called the Water Poet. In his pamphlet The World Runs on Wheels he refers to Boonen by name and continues: ‘for indeede a Coach was a strange monster in those days, and the sight of them put both horse and man into amazement’. Travel by coach was an instant success: ‘Coach-making became a substantiall Trade: So that now all the world may see, they are as common as whores’. In 1636, it was calculated that there were 6,000 coaches in London alone. Flemish mares, Friesland geldings, and grey coach horses from Holland were in demand to pull the carts and coaches. Inn keepers became a vital part of the coaching tradition. They fed travellers, changed horses, provided rooms, and linked the coaching system throughout the country. Preceding the introduction and rapid extension of the railways, attempts had been made to design free-running steam carriages. The so-called London Steam Carriage, the world’s first steam-powered passenger-carrying vehicle constructed by Richard Threvithick hit the road in 1803. Early British railroad companies used their political influence to preclude competition from such coaches. Speed became a crucial issue. Urban traffic chaos and pollution problems were imminent. A dominant characteristic of the modern city is its diversity. This heterogeneous aspect of social life is visible in the nineteenth-century new industrial cities that came


into being as a result of mass migration from rural to urban areas. In an industrial city the factory replaces the church in regulating the life of most inhabitants. From the rise of the city emerged the industrial novel, a genre that flourished in England in the 1840s and 1850s and was created mostly by educated authors for their middle class readers. Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South (1855) is an outstanding example. The title suggests a fundamental contrast between both communities, the traditional South versus the industrialized North. Darlington is a market town in County Durham in the North East of England. It lies on the small River Skerne, a tributary of the River Tees. In the seventeenth century this city became a popular place of residence for Quakers who, by the 1800s, formed an influential community of industrialists and philanthropists in town. The best known member of this fraternity was Edward Pease. He was responsible for Darlington’s fame as the ‘Cradle of the Railways’. Pease resisted an early nineteenth century plan by local businessmen to build a canal for the shipment of coal from south Durham to the harbour at the mouth of the Tees. He suggested that steam locomotives be used instead. Providing much of the funding, Pease employed George Stephenson to design the locomotives and develop the railway. On 27 September 1825 the Stockton and Darlington Railway was opened. As well as carrying coal, the train included six hundred passengers, most travelling in wagons but some in a specially designed carriage called ‘The Experiment’. The Stockton and Darlington Railway was the world’s first public railway. In 1863, the Darlington Railway Works was opened in the town. Darlington and railways became synonymous. The Stockton and Darlington sparked a feverish boom in railway building. By 1854 every English town of any size was connected by rail. The age of the coach was over. All over Europe, the ability to travel at speed was greeted with enthusiasm. The railways were celebrated in music. In June 1846, Hector Berlioz composed a ‘Chant des chemins de fer’ for tenor solo, chorus and orchestra on a text produced by Jules Janin. It was commissioned by the city of Lille for the inauguration of its railway station which was a major staging point on the new line between Paris and Brussels. The social spirit of the cantata reflects the ideas of Saint-Simon. In


literature, the train became regularly used as a plot-generating device. In general, the fictional role of the railways was to highlight how they had transformed the nation, reshaping the landscape, blurring the line between rural and urban, and facilitating the growth of cities. The speed of the train fundamentally changed the traditional rhythm of life and annihilated older perceptions of time and space. The railway was both agent and icon of the acceleration of the pace of everyday life. Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford, for instance, is set against the social upheaval caused by the impending arrival of the railway in a small Cheshire town. John Ruskin wrote of how life would no longer be able to proceed at a slow pace, that all would descend into infernal noise and hurry. Contemplative life would be obliterated. In the novels of Thomas Hardy the railway is instrumental in the environmental destruction of Old Wessex. In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot Ganya poses the question ‘Do you believe the railways to be cursed, that they will destroy mankind, that they are the pestilence descended upon earth to sully the springs of life?’ Eça de Queiroz in The Crime of Father Amaro describes a small circle of lady-friends of the priest who are discussing the issue if railways are the work of the Devil. The howls, the flames and the noise seem to suggest that they have a satanic touch about them. Where did such anxieties stem from? The railway was a product of the first industrial revolution built on iron, coal and steam. It was the iconic technology of the Victorian age when economic expansion and social progress were identified with achievements in engineering. The railway was a penetrating expression of the triumph of technology. It also introduced new concepts of disaster. Train accidents embodied many of the apprehensions about mechanization and modernity. They constituted a painful demonstration of the sacrifice that speed demanded - destruction, death and trauma. The number of fatal crashes mounted. The panic about such accidents symbolizes early apprehensions about mechanization. Just as the railway was an expression of triumphant technology, so the railway crash constituted a demonstration of the high price paid for this achievement. A society that ran on rails felt vulnerable to the power it had itself generated. Accidents in the past were explained as individualized occasions.


The modern world seemed to move towards large scale and public accidents which could involve anyone. Safety had been surrendered to the mighty machine. Critics accepted that technological advance was inevitable and irreversible. In a world where everything could be done by machinery, everything would be done by machinery. Fearing that Europeans might turn out to be the sorcerer’s apprentices, they kept searching for ways to regain control over the machine. Turner’s 1844 masterpiece ‘Rain, Steam and Speed: The Great Western Railway’ is an expression of his personal thrill in the speed of the new coal train. Yet, the painting is not without a sense of threat. It seems to raise a question: would man be able to keep control over the monstrous power he had created? ‘We do not ride on the railroad; it rides upon us’, Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden in 1854. The Faustian legend had reappeared in European consciousness. From the outset, the powerful image of the locomotive proved a challenge to the artist. Darlington-born John Dobbin painted the ‘Opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway’. The image shows a crowd of onlookers watching a train on the bridge over the River Skerne. John was ten years old at the time, and possibly attended the historic opening, but it was only fifty years later that the picture was painted, either from memory or from a sketch by his father. In 1883, R. Wake painted the Stockton and Darlington Railway Locomotive No.1, ‘Locomotion’. Yorkshire-born William Powell Frith’s monumental canvas ‘The Railway Station’ went on show at a gallery in the Haymarket in April 1862. As he had done with the creation of his painting ‘Derby Day’, Frith employed the services of a photographer to take pictures of the interior of the Great Western Station. He based the engine on a photograph of the ‘Sultan’ locomotive of the ‘Iron Duke’ class. In addition, the architectural draughtsman, William Scott Morton was employed to paint the structural details such as pillars, arches, girders of Paddington Station which occupy almost the entire upper half of the canvas. But it was the drama of the lower part of the canvas that people flocked to see. Nearly a hundred separate figures can be counted including, at the extreme right of the picture, Haydon and Brett, two famous Scotland Yard detectives, arresting a fugitive from justice. The


painting is typical of Frith’s dense narrative content told within panoramic views and was inspired by his self-confessed interest in the urban crowd, its physiognomy and expression. His aptitude for dramatic groupings, his eye for the anecdotal, and his inclination towards sentimentality, are enhanced by precise technical control. In depicting Victorian characters and behaviour, Frith captured in ‘The Railway Station’ and other urban panoramas what he himself described as the ‘kaleidoscopic aspect of the crowd’. The industrial and demographic revolutions of the nineteenth century had a profound impact on European art and literature. Impressionists and PostImpressionists discovered poetry in the ceaseless movement of the modern city, of which the railway was an integral part. The Impressionists were known as the school of the Place de l’Europe. The name was inspired by Manet’s interest in the area. Manet’s ‘Gare Saint-Lazare’ caused a sensation when it was first exhibited at the Salon of 1874. Critics found its subject baffling, its composition incoherent, and its execution sketchy. Few of them recognized the symbol of modernity that it has become today. Begun in 1872 the painting was created at a significant moment in Manet’s career. The artist had just moved to a new studio near to the station. The view is from the backyard of a friend’s apartment at the Rue de Rome, looking across the railway cutting and tracks to the Rue de Saint-Pétersbourg on the other side. The Gare Saint-Lazare and the nearby Pont de l’Europe road-bridge became the focus of many Impressionist paintings as a number of artists had studios in this area of Paris. Their interest in capturing the fleeting effects of light and atmosphere led them to paint the station and its surroundings animated by steam and smoke. They were also attracted by the engineering of the bridge. Many painters expressed a confidence in the progress of civilization through the development of science and industry which had been barely imaginable two or three decades previously. Railways connected Paris with suburban and nearby country areas such as Argenteuil, where Monet lived. He used the train to travel to Paris and in 1875 Monet painted a splendid image of a ‘Train dans la neige’. The artist became so fascinated with the railways that in January 1877 he took an apartment on the Rue


Moncey, just a few blocks away from Gare St Lazare. It allowed him to study and sketch the station in different lights and weather conditions. By late March he had finished twelve views in the first of his ‘series’ paintings. Trains created suburbia. It connected rural communities and picturesque towns with the city. This was an attraction to artists, especially to the ‘hard core’ Impressionists. Life could be lived economically, accommodation was cheap, there was an abundance of topics to be treated, and life was much safer than in politically restless Paris, yet they were only a train ride away from the museums of the metropolis, its art markets, dealers, galleries and clients. The Impressionist artist was the first painter-commuter. Although their exhibitions took place in Paris, most of the ‘core members’ of the group spent the 1870s living and working in smaller towns surrounding the capital. In December 1871 Monet moved to Argenteuil, a small agricultural town located about eight miles north-west of Paris, and stayed there for six years. During this critical period of Impressionism his house was an ‘open’ place for fellow artists. Louveciennes, is a commune located in the western suburbs of Paris. The small town was frequented by many impressionist painters. Over 120 paintings by Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley, and Monet have been recorded depicting Louveciennes. Marcel Proust and Guy de Maupassant came to this town to escape Paris regularly and Camille Saint-Saëns lived in Louveciennes from 1865 to 1870. These places were suburbs in transition before they were swallowed up by the ever-expanding city. It did not take long before the suburbs were turned into the lifeless outskirts which they are today. With it emerged the suburban mentality of conformity and boredom which was scorned by Betjeman, Lewis Mumford and others in the 1930s. Camille Pissarro and his family arrived in England in December 1870 fleeing the Franco-Prussian War which was entering its final phase in the Siege of Paris. They settled in the South East London suburb of Norwood. Nestled between city and


country, the area appealed to Pissarro for the same reason as did Louveciennes on the outskirts of Paris. The artist created thirteen oil paintings during his seven or eight months in London, all portraying views close to where he lived, including ‘Lord Lane Station’ (1871). Lordship Lane in East Dulwich is an ancient thoroughfare that predates nineteenth-century developments. The rural area was transformed into Victorian suburbs during the second half of the century. The railway station of that name was built in 1865 by the London Chatham and Dover Railway. At the painting’s centre is a small soot-blackened locomotive leaving the station and releasing a plume of smoke. The train is not in any way a threatening or heroic presence in the landscape. It looks perfectly ‘natural’ amidst the suburban houses on London’s outskirts. Pissarro’s images are intriguing for the fact that the railways have been rendered harmless. They convey the taming of the train - it no longer represents Ruskin’s demon-destroyer of the environment, but is an integral part of the landscape. The Age of Steam was here to stay. The predicted apocalypse had not happened. In the rural image the train has taken the place of cattle. Pissarro’s very English painting - green, damp and slightly melancholic - is a masterpiece of ordinaress. It has a feeling of drabness about it, of suburban greyness, of a commuter’s daily journey into the City. The painting pictures urbanization in progress - that is the ‘modern’ aspect of Pissarro’s image. Over time, his attitude towards the railway became more ambivalent. The element of ‘connection’ in ‘Lord Lane Station’ is pushed aside in his later railway paintings. In fact, the train becomes a vehicle of separation. The diagonal railway line and distant train in ‘Le chemin de fer de Dieppe, Eragny’ (1886) does not connect the small community, but isolates it as merely part of the view seen from the windows of a passing train. In the hurry towards the capital every other community beside the line is irrelevant and pushed into obscurity. Without a station there is no life, no movement - just oblivion. The great social effect of the Revolution according to the brothers De Goncourt in their diary (12 July 1861) had been the start of a process towards cultural centralization. Choosing a deliberate railway metaphor they argue that ‘Paris est devenu, comme on dit en argot de chemin de fer, tête


de ligne de toutes les fortunes faites en province’. Railway lines were the skeletal spine behind the Industrial Revolution. Its infrastructure and efficient mode of transport allowed Europe’s industrial economy to develop and gave rise to the new architecture of railway stations by making use of iron as the key material. Obeying none of the traditional rules of masonry construction, it allowed for the use of wide spans and large areas of glass. Railway stations were the cathedrals of modern life. In the 1890s, Pissarro concentrated on the station as a point of arrival into the metropolis. In these paintings, the railway station functions as the nineteenth century’s equivalent of the medieval city gate.



bishopsgate (london) The nineteenth century was an age in which religion was replaced by economics. To the artistic history of streetscapes it added the dimension of industrial and commercial activity. This opened up an urban imagery of ports, docks, industrial sites, smoke stacks, factories and shop fronts in painting and literature. Leedsborn John Atkinson Grimshaw is a Victorian artist who worked in an almost photographic manner, poetically recording the rain and smoky fog of industrial England. Whereas social critics complained about urban grease and pollution, Grimshaw turned the city scene into poetry. His townscapes depict the contemporary world, but eschewed the dirty and depressing aspects of industry. His ‘Shipping on the Clyde’ (1881), a depiction of Glaswegian docks, is a lyrical evocation of the industrial era. Grimshaw transcribed the fog so accurately as to capture the chill in the damp air, and the moisture penetrating the clothes of the few figures awake in the misty early morning. His 1881 oil painting ‘Boar Lane by Lamplight’ is one of his most lovingly painted street scenes, not only in the suggestion of the night-time atmosphere in Leeds, but also in the manner the electric light from the windows is reflected on the wet pavement and cobbles. London is a city of signs. The history of trade signs constitutes a minor part of English art history: ‘Old London’s signs did creek, creek, creek, / For every gust of wind did make them speake’. In 1393, Richard iii compelled the landlords of inns and taverns to erect signs outside their premises. The legislation stated the


following: ‘Whosoever shall brew ale in the town with intention of selling it must hang out a sign, otherwise he shall forfeit his ale’. This measure was taken for the benefit of inspectors who checked the quality of the ale publicans provided. Water at the time was not fit for drinking and ale was the usual replacement. Moreover, a large percentage of the population would have been illiterate. Signs were more effective than words as a means of identifying a public house. There was no reason to name an establishment. Inns and taverns opened without a formal written name - the name being derived later from the illustration on the public house’s sign. The oldest sign was the Bush, usually consisting of a bunch of ivy or vine leaves fixed to a long pole (known as the ale stake or bush). This custom was derived from the Romans and survived right through the Anglo-Saxon conflict up to the days of the Crusades. A landlord with a good cellar quickly enjoyed a reputation for a fine drop. Drinkers would find his place blindly without needing a sign. Hence the old saying ‘Good wine needs no bush’. Early inns were associated to the church. God chose the stable of an inn for the birthplace of His only begotten son, and the Christian church, like an inn, has ever since been an open public house. Both are resting places in a pilgrimage which have stood together through the ages: one to minister the souls of mankind, the other to their bodies. One can almost trace the history of the church through old inn signs. The harmony of the relationship between church and inn is expressed in a large number of signs and is a reminder that the inn was originally a shelter for pilgrims. The Angel, Mitre, Cross Keys, the Three Kings, the Lamb, are but a few names that point to the close affinity between church and inn. Especially in the days before the Reformation, pilgrims flocked in their thousands to visit famous shrines such as Canterbury, Glastonbury, St Albans and York, in the hope of curing their bodies from ailments. Before Henry viii finally suppressed most of the monasteries, these numbers were so considerable that monastic communities, towns and cities were forced to build large inns such as the Pilgrim’s Rest in Glastonbury in order to cope with the influx of religious visitors.


During the reign of Edward iii a group of artists formed themselves into a fraternity, but were not incorporated. The work they carried out consisted of the painting or staining of glass, illuminating missals, painting altars and portraits. In the year 1575, they were regularly attacked in their occupations by plasterers and unskilful persons attempting to bring their art into disrepute. Determined to preserve their craft from the intrusion of pretenders, the painters applied to Queen Elizabeth for protection. She incorporated them in the year 1582 by the name of ‘The Master, Wardens and Commonalty of the Freemen of the Art and Mystery of Painting, called Painter Stainers within the City of London’. There were four sorts of painting which were properly acknowledged as trades, namely house, ship, sign and coach painting. For many years sign painting remained the roughest of work, but the skills involved became gradually more refined. Harp Alley, running from Shoe Lane to Farringdon Street, was for many years the centre for the production of signs and sign-irons (the carved grapes or gilded sugar-loaves that served as pendants). In a time when every shop in the streets of London had its sign, a Dutchman named Van der Trout opened a manufactory of these pictorial advertisements in Harp Alley. He had left Holland with William iii and apparently was the first artist who settled in the area from where eventually the majority of the Fleet Street signs would be executed. It used to be one of the principal amusements of William Hogarth to visit the sign-painters shops in Harp Alley for the purpose of introducing some of those original subjects into his pictures. Sign and coach painting offered aspiring artists an effective practical training in their craft as well as an education in their art. There was a revival of the skill of sign making during the industrial era. Advertising hoarding was an innovation of the age. Orlando Parry, the painter of an extraordinary London Street Scene (1835) shows posters as a new visual extravaganza to be taken into account. In his urban image St Paul’s Cathedral is literally shut out by this modern spectacle, the cornucopia of typefaces offering their own fascinating insight into the emerging culture of advertising. The artist has paid great attention to the details of these curious objects - their typefaces accurately reflecting what would


have been available to printers in the mid-1830s. In 1855, James Dawson Burn’s book The Language of the Walls argued that reading posters could be revelatory: the mass of announcements on London’s walls display the roots of a new kind of language, that which underpinned the developing commodity culture of Victorian London. The urban wall became a means of communication and outdoor commercial advertising the official art of early modern capitalist society. There were protests. Leigh Hunt called for a ban on advertisements while Thomas Carlyle complained in Past and Present about this ‘all-deafening blast of Puffery’. Bishopsgate derives its name from an ancient gate in the city walls which is attributed to Erkenwald, elected Bishop of London in 675. Throughout its history this has been one of the City’s main commercial areas. Walter Riddle may not be a household name in the annals of English painting, but the Guildhall Art Gallery holds a few interesting canvases by him. One of these paintings is entitled ‘Bishopsgate in 1871’. The image shows a busy commercial street with in the centre the warehouse of Moore & Moore, pianoforte manufacturers. The firm had started production in London in 1837 and is part of the lively history of producing musical instruments in the capital. Industrial production, in turn, had a stimulating effect on the creation and performing of music in the capital. It is an inspiring history in which immigrants have played a central role. Having arrived from Switzerland in 1718 as a simple journeyman joiner, Burkhat Shudi set up his own workshop as a harpsichord maker in 1728. It was the foundation of the famous business now known as John Broadwood & Sons. At some time in the 1720s the young immigrant became apprenticed to Hermann Tabel, a Fleming who had learned the art of harpsichord making in Antwerp at the Ruckers house of instrument makers. He brought his expertise to London. Another London pupil of Tabel was German immigrant Jacob Kirkman, who set up a rival workshop producing harpsichords of equal quality to those of Shudi. Later, Broadwood and Kirkman became leading manufacturers of pianos (between 1771 and 1851 no fewer than 103,750 pianos were produced by Broadwood, one of


the main London employers at the time). The piano was first demonstrated in London by composer and singer Charles Dibdin. On 16 May 1767, between the acts of a performance of ‘The Beggar’s Opera’ at Covent Garden, he accompanied Miss Bricklet on the ‘new pianoforte’. Dibdin lived in Arlington Road, Camden Town, and it was there that the piano industry blossomed. Camden was a suitable centre for its manufacture. Transport conditions by water and rail were ideal. By the middle of the century, London had over two hundred piano making firms, three quarters of them north of the river. Collard & Collard produced instruments on a mass production system in their striking circular factory in Oval Road. Others were merely small assembly shops. Besides manufacturers there were part producers, such as key makers; hammer coverers; truss carvers; gilders; veneer and ivory suppliers; stool makers; tuners, and others. All these professional workers made their living in and around Bishopsgate. The production of musical instruments was accompanied by a live scene of musical performance. The London Tavern was once situated at the western side of Bishopsgate Street. The house was destroyed during a blaze that took place on 7 November 1765. The fire broke out at a nearby peruque-maker’s shop. The flames were carried by a high wind across the street. Fifty houses and buildings were destroyed or damaged. The new London Tavern was designed by architect Richard Jupp and re-opened in September 1768. It holds a niche in the history of English late eighteenth century music. The size of the new tavern was phenomenal. The dining room, known as the ‘Pillar Room’ for its Corinthian columns, was decorated with medallions and garlands. At the top of the building there was a ballroom that extended over the full length of the structure which, if laid out as a banqueting area, offered room to hundreds of people. The walls were covered with paintings. The cellars occupied the whole basement of the building. They were filled with barrels of porter, pipes of port, and butts of sherry. At any time some 1,200 bottles of champagne were kept in store, in addition to six or seven hundred bottles of claret and ‘floods’ of other wines. The original purpose of the tavern was not so much to create a venue for feasting, but to offer space for public meetings. In 1817, Robert Owen was determined to publicize


his conversion from philanthropic cotton prince to socialist campaigner. He spent much of his time in London organizing public meetings. On 14 August he made his most notable address before an audience of hundreds of politicians and followers at the London Tavern. The new religion of terrestrial paradise was promised in this tavern. In 1848, the London Chest Hospital was founded here at a meeting held by a group of nineteen City merchants and philanthropic bankers (which, at that time, was not a contradiction in terms), thirteen of whom were Quakers. Tuberculosis or consumption was then the major endemic killing disease, accounting for twenty per cent of all fatal illnesses. Charles Dickens presided here at the 1851 annual dinner for the General Theatrical Fund. Especially during the spring season meetings were numerous and these often concluded with a sumptuous dinner. The tavern employed an army of sixty to seventy servants at any time. The majority of City companies held there banquets there; there were large numbers of annual balls; Masonic Lodges met in the London Tavern, etc. Business was booming. Dublin-born John Field was the eldest son of violinist Robert Field. He studied first with his father and his grandfather, John Field, a church organist. In 1793, the family moved to London where John Field entered an apprenticeship for seven years with Muzio Clementi, the Italian pianist, composer and publisher who, having left his native Rome, had settled in the capital. John’s first public appearance in England took place at the London Tavern on 12 December 1793, when he played a ‘Lesson on the new Grand Piano Forte’ at a benefit concert under the patronage of the Prince of Wales. In return for professional instruction, Field had to work as a salesman-demonstrator in Clementi’s piano warehouse (the latter had entered into a successful association with the Collard family under the name of Clementi & Company; Munzio retired in 1815 after which the firm was named Collard & Collard). Field’s early talent as a composer was put to good use by Clementi who published several of young John’s piano pieces anonymously. His career proper was launched on 7 February 1799 with the performance of his ‘Piano Concerto No. 1’ at the King’s Theatre. After the expiry of his apprenticeship he was in great demand as a concert pianist. Field’s creation of the ‘Nocturne’ as a genre is his substantial


contribution to music. Having experimented with titles such as Pastorale, Serenade, and Romance, he settled on the name when ‘Nocturne No. 1’ was published in 1812. In conception and style, Field anticipated Chopin by nearly two decades. Liszt, Mendelssohn, and other composers were influenced by the Nocturnes. They were the first ‘songs without words’. These pieces strengthened the Romantic belief that music is a language of emotion that begins where words fail. Celestial music for piano found its first expression in the London Tavern. A successful undertaking such as the London Tavern depended heavily on the mastery of chefs and cooks. And management hired the best. John Farley is a figure about whom little is known apart from his best-selling book The London Art of Cookery published in 1783 (it went into twelve editions by 1811). His claim to fame rests on this publication, although ninety per cent of the text was compiled or ‘stolen’ from two culinary best-sellers of the eighteenth century, Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1747) and Elizabeth Raffald’s The Experienced English Housekeeper (1769). In 1792 Farley was listed as being cook at the London Tavern. What kind of food was on offer at the tavern? The house was sought after for its turtle soup. There were a number of London outlets where turtle was presented as a speciality (the Ship and Turtle in Leadenhall Street for example), but the London Tavern enjoyed a supreme reputation amongst them. For a long time turtle had been considered synonymous with filth. The word tortoise Tartarus - means an infernal region, or resident of hell. Turtle was not considered fit for consumption, but its shell was used for medicinal purposes and promoted as an aphrodisiac. There is also a musical connotation. The chelys (the Greek word for tortoise) is the original lyre. The fourth of the Homeric Hymns describes how the god Hermes invented the lyre, constructing it from the materials near to hand and making the body from a tortoise shell by scraping it out and drilling holes in it. During the seventeenth century, out of necessity, the edibility of the giant sea turtle had been exploited by mariners and whalers. Turtles were stored on deck and would remain alive for up to a year without feeding, thus providing fresh meat for long sea voyages. By the nineteenth century turtle meat had developed into a


delicacy wreaking havoc on the species from which it has never fully recovered. Soup was made from the green cartilage that lines the shell of the turtle. These reptiles were kept in massive tanks. Gastronomical wisdom dictated that turtles will live well in cellars for three months as long as they were kept in the same water in which they had been transported. Changing the water would lessen the weight of the turtle and negatively affect its flavour. An estimated 15,000 turtles were imported to London yearly. When, as a consequence, the turtle became rarer as a species, soup prices shot up dramatically to a level of imported luxuries like truffles or caviar today. The image of affluent urban society during the Victorian Age is one of an alldevouring and gluttonous monster. Nourishment became a topic of concern. How to feed the city of the future? There were moral and scientific sides to the argument. The first issue in the Bible is related to food and biblical literature displays ambivalence towards alcoholic drinks. All this, according to commentators, is a warning against over-indulgence and excess. They liked to quote Edmund Spenser who, in The Faerie Queen (book 1, canto 4, stanza 21), wrote fulsomely about gluttony, describing it as a ‘Deformed Creature, on a filthy Swine, / His Belly was up-blown with Luxury, / And eke with Fatness swollen were his eyne’. With London’s fast growing population during the nineteenth century, the demand for food always exceeded what could be supplied by markets and shops. Even the spread of railways could not ensure an adequate supply of fresh food. Preservation in this pre-refrigeration era was difficult. The capital’s three wholesale markets, Smithfield (meat), Billingsgate (fish) and Covent Garden (fruit and vegetables) were longstanding suppliers of retailers, but several local food markets were cleared away and replaced by public buildings, railway stations or commercial premises, leaving city dwellers to buy food from street traders who were not covered by legislation. It put food safety into danger from contamination or adulteration. Fear of shortages led to the experimentation with food and the introduction of alternative foods. Zoophagy, or the experimental process of eating animals or animal matter, has had some zealous British practitioners. One of those was William Buckland, a


geologist and Fellow of Corpus Christi (later Dean of Westminster). He claimed to have eaten his way through the animal kingdom. Panther, crocodile, mice on toast, or earwigs, were among the other dishes reported by guests. Frank Buckland shared such gastronomic interests with his father. As a naturalist, he was given delicacies from London Zoo, an elephant trunk which he made into a soup or rhinoceros which he baked into a pie. There were serious considerations behind these eccentricities. In 1860, Buckland initiated the Acclimatization Society to further the search for new food stuffs. During the later decades of the nineteenth century, acclimatization was considered the paradigmatic colonial science that might solve anticipated urban food shortages. Physicians looked for ways to survive in hostile environments, while naturalists exchanged data on edible flora and fauna. One of the new experimental foods introduced by the early 1800s was mock turtle soup, a consommé with a calf ’s head, hooves or tail, and root vegetables like turnips and carrots. The non-muscular meat was used to ressemble that of the turtle. This is why the John Tenniel’s illustration of ‘Alice with the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon’ in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is depicted as a collection of creatures that make up the ingredients of mock turtle soup. The illustration shows the Mock Turtle with the body of a turtle, and the head, hooves, and tail of a calf. ‘Mockturtlesuppe’ is also a traditional meal in the German region of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen). In 1714 the House of Hanover had succeeded the House of Stuart as monarchs of Great Britain and Ireland. Up to 1837 the Kingdom of Hanover and Britain were joined in a personal union, thus sharing the same person as their respective head of state. The union was ended when different succession laws resulted in Queen Victoria ascending the British throne and her uncle Ernest Augustus that of Hanover. During that period of close contact both the recipe and the name for the dish were exported from England to the northern part of Germany.



giltspur street (london) Large towns were desperately unhealthy during the nineteenth century. Epidemics were stalking the cities - cholera and typhoid were carried by polluted water, typhus was spread by lice, and ‘summer diarrhoea’ was caused by swarms of flies feeding on horse manure and human waste. Little was invested in improving the urban environment, in sewers, street paving and cleansing, or in pure water and decent housing. Death was everywhere, people died young and the risk of dying before adulthood was high. Disease spread quickly, living conditions were unsanitary, and there were no effective cures for infections or epidemics of flu and diphtheria. The paradox is that the Victorians embraced the subject of death in an utterly sentimental manner. Holding strong convictions about the eternal soul and the resurrection of the body, they built splendid tombs and mausoleums and spent time at the grave of their beloved as if it was an experience to be relished. The cemetery became pleasure ground. But not all was as peaceful as it seemed at first glance. Urban architecture varies from the beautiful to the bizarre. In some cases, it is difficult to guess what the function or purpose of a certain building may have been. Giltspur Street, Smithfield, runs north-south from the junction of Newgate Street, Holborn Viaduct, and the Old Bailey up to West Smithfield, and it is bounded to the east by St Bartholomew’s Hospital. In this street is located St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, the largest parish church in the City. Named after the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem its twelve bells are ‘The Bells of Old Bailey’ in the nursery rhyme. Although the Great Fire left the building a shell, the church


was quickly rebuilt on its original foundations and some of the medieval masonry survives. In 1791, a watch house was erected overlooking its churchyard. Why did the dead need protection? The construction of this building is part and parcel of the history of anatomy. The earliest recorded medieval anatomies were carried out on animals. The first dissection of a human body was performed around 1315 by Mondino de Liuzzi in Bologna. In other countries dissections took place much later. Physician David Edwardes was educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he was made a fellow in 1524. A year later he was in Venice where he helped to complete the Aldine version of Galen’s works in Greek. It is probable that he spent some time studying in Padua, then a centre of medical excellence. In 1528 he moved to Cambridge. He is credited with being responsible for the first recorded dissection of a human body in England which took place in 1531. Anatomy teaching which included the dissection of a human corpse however did not become standard practice until the middle years of the sixteenth century. Corpses used were those of criminals or heretics. Medical schools in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries found it difficult to teach anatomy because the supply of bodies for dissection was limited. Battles between families and the authorities over the remains of the condemned had started to occur since the introduction of the 1752 Murder Act, which allowed for public dissection of criminals following their execution. In the early nineteenth century, the demand for legally obtained cadavers for the study and teaching of anatomy in medical schools greatly exceeded the supply. The shortage gave an opportunity to criminals who were willing to obtain specimens by any means. The disinterment of bodies in churchyards became a much feared practice. The activities of body snatchers - known as resurrectionists - gave rise to public revulsion. New graves were often closely guarded for a sustained period after burial. In Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities Jerry Cruncher is employed as a poorly paid porter for Tellson’s Bank of London. He earns extra money as a resurrection man offering stolen bodies to medical schools and students. The authorities turned


a blind eye to grave robbing because it was agreed that surgeons and students were working to advance medical knowledge and public health. They tried to keep factual news surrounding grave robbing to a minimum in order to avoid public outrage. Continuous shortage of bodies meant that academics themselves often had to improvise. In some cases professors carved up the bodies of members of their family. Rondeler of the Montpellier Medical School dissected his own child before his students. William Harvey used the bodies of his father and sister. Ordinary people were terrified of the activities of body snatchers. Drawings by Thomas Rowlandson such as ‘The Dissection Room’ or ‘Insurrection Men’ give a strong indication about the intense unease felt in the community about anatomical procedures that were closely linked to criminal practices. Tom Hood’s early nineteenth century ballad ‘Mary’s Ghost’ expresses the haunting fear and anxiety that many recently bereaved families would have felt: Don’t go to weep upon my grave, And think that there I be; They haven’t left an atom there Of my anatomie. People were determined to protect the graves of their deceased relatives. One method to thwart the robbers was to employ wrought-iron coffins. The rich could afford heavy table tombstones, vaults, and iron cages around graves. The poor began to place flowers and pebbles on graves to detect disturbances. Graves were watched through the hours of darkness. Cemetery watch houses like the one in Giltspur Street were erected in various cities and towns, but graves were still violated. The business was profitable to a bunch of determined criminals. Near to Smithfield watch house, on the junction of Giltspur Street and Cock Lane, stood a public house named Fortune of War (pulled down in 1910). This was the place where the ‘London Burkers’ used to meet in the early 1830s, a group of body snatchers who modelled their activities on the example of William Burke


and William Hare who had been responsible for the West Port murders in Edinburgh in 1827/8 and sold the corpses of their seventeen victims to Robert Knox at the Edinburgh Medical College for dissection. John Bishop, together with Thomas Williams, Michael Shields, a Covent Garden porter, and James May, an unemployed butcher, formed a notorious gang of Resurrection men. Once arrested, they confessed to stealing between 500 and 1,000 bodies over a period of twelve years. These corpses had been sold to anatomists working at various hospitals, including Bart’s, St Thomas’ Hospital and King’s College. In July 1830, John Bishop and Thomas Williams had rented no. 3 Nova Scotia Garden, the area of a former brick field, north-east of St Leonard’s, Shoreditch. The clay being exhausted there, the fields were filled in with waste. On 5 November 1831 a suspiciously fresh corpse of a fourteen year old boy was delivered by Bishop and May to King’s College School of Anatomy in the Strand. Scientists there suspected that the body had not been buried. They alerted the police. The Resurrection men were arrested, and remanded in custody. Three days later, a coroners’ jury expressed their conviction that Bishop, Williams and May had been involved in the crime. When the premises in Nova Scotia Gardens were searched items were recovered that suggested multiple murders. It was soon established that the young victim had been a Lincolnshire cattle driver on his way to Smithfield who was lured from the Bell Inn in Smithfield with the false promise of lodging at Nova Scotia Gardens. On arrival he was drugged with rum and laudanum and killed. During the trial the accused admitted to a number of other killings. At the Old Bailey trial two of the three men were convicted of murder. The windows were opened to allow the public hear the Recorder pronounce the death sentence. Bishop and Williams were hanged at Newgate on 5 December 1831 before a crowd of thirty thousand. In the case of May, it was accepted that he had no knowledge of the murders. The bodies were removed the same night for the purpose of dissection. Bishop was brought to King’s College, and Williams to the Theatre of Anatomy in Windmill Street, Haymarket. Large crowds came to view their remains. These and other notorious murders would


eventually lead to the passing of the Anatomy Act of 1832 which finally provided for a legitimate supply of corpses for medical schools. The practice of body snatching still persists in many countries across the world. There are no binding agreements among countries that focus on illegal flow of human body parts. Individual national laws may ban the trade, but they are seldom vigorously enforced. In advanced industrialized countries transplant surgery for those who are waiting to receive an organ can be a painful process. A combination of poverty and greed in developing countries has created the supply base of organs for those able to pay. Organs and other body parts do not necessarily have be donated or sold. They can be stolen. There have been a number of cases in Britain, Germany and the United States that have appalled public opinion where, without permission for autopsy, body parts of the deceased have been plundered. At the age of ninety-five, following advice from his doctors, Alistair Cooke announced his retirement from his ‘Letter from America’. Having lasted fiftyeight years, it was the longest-running speech radio show in the world. Alistair Cooke died at midnight on 30 March 2004 at his home in New York City of lung cancer which had spread to the bones. He was cremated and his ashes were (clandestinely) scattered in Central Park. In February 2008 at New York’s Brooklyn Supreme Court, former dentist Michael Mastromarino was found guilty of running a company which paid funeral directors up to a thousand dollars per corpse in order to remove body parts that were then sold to tissue banks for use in hospitals. Lee Cruceta, the ‘lead cutter’, told the court that he had removed body parts from 244 cadavers and helped forge paperwork, whilst concealing case records of Aids and cancer, and lowering the recorded ages of the deceased, to make the sale more attractive. Several New York funeral directors pleaded guilty to being complicit in the plot. The activities of latter-day body snatchers made headlines when Mastromarino was accused of illicitly dissecting corpses, including the remains of Alistair Cooke. As the deceased broadcaster laid in a mortuary in Upper East Side Manhattan, his arm and leg bones were cut out and allegedly


sold on. Cooke’s pelvis and other tissues were also ‘harvested’. Ironically, NHS patients were implanted with potentially contaminated pieces of bone stolen in and imported from America, including the remains of Alistair Cooke. His homecoming had not been a happy occasion.



woolwich road (london) Historically, cities have competed with each other by adapting legal and financial institutions to the evolving needs of business. Dominant cities of commerce feared being displaced by challengers while lesser cities sought to catch up by cultivating nonrestrictive policies that favoured trade. The flourishing of cities like Florence, Antwerp or Amsterdam confirms that commerce can act as a social force that stimulates cultural expression. There are both commercial and artistic aspects to urban competition. The arrival of Guillaume, Duc de Normandie, on the Sussex coast on 28 September 1066 heralded the start of 900 years of Anglo-French rivalry which has found expression in the competition between the two capital cities. The eighteenth century amplified this rivalry as the two powers fought for economic and colonial influence around the globe, and sought to maintain the balance of power in Europe. Paris and London competed in every aspect of civilized life, from the splendour of its architecture to the foundation of the Louvre and National Gallery. Politics was fought out in the kitchen as well. The cuisine of high culture was French, and English hostility to French food was a staple of humorous comment in plays, novels and prints. The year 2004 was a poor one for Anglo-French relations. First there were the differences over Iraq, then the usual disagreements over agricultural subsidies, and last but not least the intense battle between Paris and London for the 2012 Olympics. Cross-Channel relations turned even chillier after the then French


president, Jacques Chirac, launched an attack on Britain’s contribution to European cuisine and agriculture. Chirac thought he was off-microphone when he delivered his forthright assessment of Britain’s food and farming methods. Talking to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin and the German chancellor Gerhard Schröder at a meeting in Russia, he was heard saying: ‘You can’t trust people who cook as badly as that. After Finland, it’s the country with the worst food’. To which he added: ‘The only thing they [the English] have ever done for European agriculture is mad cow’. Chirac’s poor joke may have swung the Olympics away from Paris. The two Finnish members of the IOC voted for London. If they had not done so, the score would have been 52-52 with the deciding vote to be cast by the International Olympic Committee’s president. The argument reflects a long-standing antagonism and rivalry between the two capitals in which the gastronomical argument has played a dominant part. Research carried out amongst Roman London rubbish dumps, has shown that Britons acquired their first taste of roast beef from the Roman military. By Shakespeare’s day, dining out had become relatively commonplace in London. In Westminster cook shops (places where cooked food was sold to those on the move) were beginning to serve restaurant style meals to the general public by the mid-1370s, but it was not until about 1460 that this practice spread to the inns and taverns of the City itself. During the mid-sixteenth century such establishments offered one dish a day at a fixed time and price, served at a common table. The meal was called the ordinary and the eating places themselves began to be called ordinaries. Many taverns and chop-houses had their own special dishes. There was calipash and calipee (a green gelatinous substance lying beneath the upper shell of a turtle) at the King’s Arms; behind St Clement’s Church there was a house famed for its mutton chops; and several taverns specialized in beef steaks. By the late 1600s, the beef-loving reputation of the English became slowly established. In his 1698 Mémoires et observations faites … en Angleterre (translated in 1719 as Memoirs and Observations of Travels over England) French traveller Henri Misson, while staying in London in 1698, notes that ‘it is common practice, even among People of Good


Substance, to have a huge Piece of Roast-Beef on Sundays, of which they stuff until they can swallow no more, and eat the rest cold, without any other Victuals, the other six Days of the Week’. The seventeenth century showed an increase in the consumption of beef, but it was not until a century later that beef and Englishness became associated. Early in his career Henry Fielding wrote The Grub Street Opera (1731), a five act satirical ballad-opera in which he ridiculed Walpole and the Royal Court. It is not surprising that the work was never performed. However, one song survived and was integrated in another satirical ballad-opera entitled Don Quixote in England which was performed in 1734. Its title was ‘The Roast Beef of Old England’. The song became a massive success thanks to the intervention of a well-known musician. At the corner of Tavistock Court, Covent Garden, there once was a pub located with the name of the Salutation. The original sign dated from around 1707 and consisted of two gentlemen dressed in flowing wigs and coats with square pockets, saluting each other. This house was kept by London-born singer and composer Richard Leveridge who was the leading bass at Lincoln’s Inn Fields and then at Covent Garden. He composed over 150 songs. Once the latter had added a few new stanzas to ‘The Roast Beef of Old England’ and given it a catchier tune, it became one of the most popular ballads ever sung in the country. It gained the status of a national anthem and shows competitive nature calling for ‘Britons, from all nice dainties refrain, / Which effeminate Italy, France, and Spain / And might roast beef shall command on the main’. Streetscapes by William Hogarth are a stage on which the tumultuous lives of local people are played out. Whilst taking great liberties with London’s topography, the artist presents a theatre of actors from all walks of life in which aristocrats compete with beggars, freemasons with prostitutes, and upright citizens with street performers for pictorial prominence. Hogarth depicts scenes of turmoil in which the individual vices of London’s inhabitants are exposed in a manner fraught with moral instruction. In 1748, he painted ‘The Gate of Calais’, better known since


as ‘The Roast Beef of Old England’, after Fielding’s song. The picture shows a huge rib of beef being delivered to Madam Grandsire’s, an English hotel in Calais. Surrounding the meat-carrying porter are some poverty struck French characters, fishwives clutching a skate, a pair of miserable-looking soldiers, a fat friar, two cooks holding a large bowl, and a tramp dressed in an old Jacobite uniform biting in an onion. Their poor presence is in striking contrast to the anticipated plenty represented by the weighty hunk of English meat at the centre of the scene. The propagandist symbolism is clear. Native means wholesome, foreign indicates weakness, effeminacy and snobbery. Tradition in food is set against foreign fashion, simplicity against affectation, Old England against foppish France. The true patriot, like the old Tory-squire Western in Fielding’s novel Tom Jones, is a person who eats quantities of roast meat and gravy, hearty puddings and pies, and drinks fortified wine, ale, beer and porter. The national virtues are courage, clout and gout. In 1735 ‘The Sublime Society of Steaks’ was established by the manager Covent Garden Theatre. John Rich entertained many of the eminent men of his time there. The place was famous for its hot steaks dressed by Rich himself and served punctually at two o’clock, accompanied by bottles of old port. Apparently, Charles Mordaunt, 4th Earl of Peterborough, supping one night with Rich in his private room, was so delighted with the steak the latter grilled him that he suggested a repetition of the meal the week after. From this suggestion started the Club, the members of which were delighted to call themselves ‘The Steaks’. Membership of the Society was limited to a number of twenty-four brethren. The early core of the society was made up of actors and artists. They were soon joined by noblemen, royalty, statesmen and soldiers. Dining on Saturdays, from November to June, each brother was allowed to bring but one guest. Brethren wore blue coats with brass buttons impressed with the Society’s gridiron badge and motto ‘Beef and Liberty’. When a fire in 1808 completely destroyed the Theatre in Covent Garden, the club moved first to the Bedford Coffee House, and subsequently to the Old Lyceum Theatre. In 1785 the Prince of Wales joined as member number twentyfive, joined later by his brothers the Dukes of Clarence and Sussex. Every meeting


opened with the Club’s theme song entitled ‘Happy in Beef and Liberty’. Retired pugilist Ned Heardson acted as chef. The bill of fare was restricted to beefsteak, port and punch. The Society died in 1869. It belonged to a bygone era by then. The railways and the industrial revolution had changed life beyond recognition. The insomnia of the world had begun. Time dedicated to companionship was seen as waste. Club life and with it the notorious eighteenth century habits of eating, drinking and gambling were rejected as socially unacceptable. On 7 April 1869, the Society’s effects were publicly sold at the London auction house of Christie, Manson and Woods. A catalogue of priceless portraits, prints, silverware and brethrens’ personalized chairs were dispersed into oblivion. The sale included fiftysix paintings. The name of John Bull is a national personification of Britain created by Dr John Arbuthnot in 1712. It was popularized first by British print makers and then overseas by illustrators and writers such as German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast and Irish writer George Bernard Shaw, author of John Bull’s Other Island. Arbuthnot provided John Bull with a sister named Peg (Scotland), and a traditional adversary in Louis Baboon (the House of Bourbon in France). Peg continued in pictorial art beyond the eighteenth century, but the other figures associated with the original tableau dropped away. John Bull is usually portrayed as a stout man in a tailcoat with breeches and a Union Jack waistcoat (echoing the fashions of the Regency period). He wears a low topper on his head and is accompanied by a bulldog. As a literary figure, John Bull is well-intentioned, full of common sense, and entirely of native country stock. Unlike Uncle Sam later, he is not a figure of authority but rather a yeoman who likes his beer and domestic peace. John Bull’s diet is an expression of his class identity. By eating quantities of beef, he showed his contempt for the foppish kickshaws that appear on the tables of the aristocracy (the word kickshaw is a corruption of ‘quelque chose’, meaning dishes using eggs and cream with which French dinners were interspersed). Central to the national diet, beef lent itself to simple forms of cookery. It did not need a foreign chef. It had an honest, independent, ‘Protestant’ character, contrasting vividly with the ragouts,


fricassees (poultry stewed and served in a dry vermouth cream sauce), patés and jellies of the decadent French ‘charcutier’. In spite of continuous Anglo-French hostilities, the vogue for Gallic cuisine had been advancing rapidly in fashionable London society. Pontack’s was an establishment notable for fine wines and luxurious dinners. It became a gathering place for the socio-political elite of post-Restoration London. Amongst its clients there was a desire for the refinement of table manners. Little had changed since Henri Misson made the critical observation that ‘belching at Table, and in all Companies whatsoever, is a thing which the English no more scruple than they do Coughing and Sneezing’. Little is known about Pontack himself. The house was established at no.16/7 Lombard Street, near the Royal Exchange, shortly after the Great Fire of 1666. A decade later, the owner moved his tavern to the east side of Abchurch Lane and his old premises were soon occupied by Edward Lloyd, founder of Lloyd’s Coffee House. After its relocation, Pontack’s became the most fashionable eating-house in London. The Royal Society held its annual dinners there until 1746, when these grand events were moved to the Devil tavern at Temple Bar. The status of the customers at the tavern, the high cost of the meals and a lack of competitors, gave the establishment its reputation. In his Journal to Stella (16 August 1711) Jonathan Swift refers to a visit there in company of his friend Francis Stratford, once a fellow pupil at Kilkenny College. Daniel Defoe boasted in 1722 that the best Bordeaux claret of the house was named after him. In Puritan circles, Pontack’s was attacked as hosting the Francophile taste of the social elite. In the preface to her play Love’s Contrivance (1703), dramatist Susanna Centlivre ridiculed such modish dishes as ‘famed ragouts’, and ‘new invented sallad’ ordered by the ‘nice beaus’ at the tavern. Woolwich is located in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Built on the south bank of the River Thames, the area has a long military and industrial history and still retains an army base at the Royal Artillery Barracks. The Antigallican at no. 428 Woolwich Road may now be a puzzling name for a public house, but the sign


was fairly common during the second half of the eighteenth century. The word, an expression of English boastfulness at the time, was coined in the 1750s to mean ‘one who is opposed to everything French’. All this indicated, in popular terms, the hatred of ‘John the Toad’. There was an Antigallican tavern in Tooley Street, Southwark, and another one in Darkhouse Lane (recorded in 1815). In that same year, mention is made of a public house with that name in Threadneedle Street, next door to the New England Coffee House. There was an Antigallican Passage on the north side of Fleet Street, by Temple Bar and Great Shire Lane. The Antigallican Monitor published articles and essays of an anti-French nature. The Antigallican Society was founded in 1757 with the explicit aim of promoting ‘British manufactures, extend the commerce of England, and discourage the introduction of French modes and the importation of French commodities’. The headquarters of the Society were at Lebeck’s Head at the Strand, at the corner of Half Moon Street. Le Beck had been one of the most noted tavern keepers of his day. His portrait was painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller, wearing a linen cap and holding a glass. Le Beck’s tavern was once in Chandos Street. The owner distinguished himself by providing the best food and the most delicate wines for which his clientele were prepared to pay extravagant prices. Le Beck’s place was a temple of Epicureanism. There is some irony in the fact that the anti-French society met in a tavern named after a great French restaurateur.



rue de la mortellerie (paris) The city is an explicit index of power relationships. Walls, squares, streets and buildings are not only meant to support the functioning of the city, but they also form an extensive governmental instrument of power and authority. Over time, urban renewal has been an economic engine, a mechanism of reform, and a tool of control in the hands of urban authorities. Growth and overcrowding are permanent conditions of the metropolis. Sledgehammers never sleep in our cities, but some decades have seen more destruction of ancient topography than others. Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte had been elected president of France following the democratic revolution of 1848. He seized absolute power in a coup d’état in December 1851. On proclaiming himself Emperor, he took the name Napoleon iii. His aim was to place France at the forefront of Europe, both economically and politically. At the same time, he tried to win French hearts and minds by actively promoting cultural politics that sponsored public spectacle and grandeur. These long term plans converged in a grand project for the modernization of Paris, implemented during the 1850s and 1860s by his prefect Georges Hausmann. He allowed this Protestant engineer from Alsace (who had no training as an architect) almost dictatorial powers and limitless funds. Earlier, Napoleon Bonaparte had made a start in transforming the old city into an Imperial capital. He initiated the planning for thoroughfares such as the Rue de Rivoli, open spaces such as the Place Vendôme and the Place


Saint-Sulpice, public buildings such as the Bourse, and new bridges such as the Pont Saint-Louis, the Pont d’Austerlitz, and the famous Pont des Arts, a cast-iron footbridge that was the first of its kind in Paris. Napoleon iii made it his duty to continue the grand scheme, although even without his visions of glory, sanitary conditions and traffic congestion had seriously deteriorated the social fabric of the metropolis. Urban renewal was long overdue. The inner city was densely packed with medieval buildings. Like the old East End of London, Paris was a chaotic warren of unhealthy habitations that bred disease and crime. Haussmann saw himself as an ‘artist in demolition’. He extended the Rue de Rivoli and built new boulevards; he created public parks such as the Bois de Boulogne, the Bois de Vincennes, and the Parc Monceau. He endowed the city with sewers, gas lighting, and municipal buildings, including the Halles Centrales built on Victor Baltard’s 1847 design. The new cast-iron and glass style of architecture, used heretofore in utilitarian buildings such as railway stations only, was celebrated in the exhibition halls erected for the Universal Exposition of 1855. The most famous of Paris’s modern buildings was the new Opéra, designed by Charles Garnier in 1861, though not completed until 1874. Expansion was another notable element of the changing cityscape. In 1860 Paris annexed its surrounding suburbs so that neighbourhoods such as Les Batignolles (site of Manet’s studio) and Montmartre (site of Renoir’s studio) became a part of the city’s urban reach. Perched atop a hill to the north of the city centre, Montmartre was initially a rural village dotted with vineyards and windmills. The views of the metropolis below had long been popular with artists, such as the landscape painter Georges Michel (known as Michel de Montmartre), who captured its rustic beauty around 1820 in ‘Le moulin de la Galette’. Forty years later, the area was officially annexed into Paris’s rapidly expanding city limits and urbanized. It was a pattern that was repeated all over the Continent in the late nineteenth century. Europe was turned into a series of massive excavation sites. Significantly, the term excavation has a medical connotation as well.


The medical metaphor dominated urban planning throughout Europe at the time. Irish immigrants have formed a part of the London population from at least the early seventeenth century, becoming particularly associated with seasonal labour and street selling in the areas around St Giles in the Fields. As a result of the military adventurism of the eighteenth century large numbers of Irish soldiers were discharged on to the unwelcoming streets of London at the conclusions of Britain’s innumerable wars. Religious and racial bigotry largely excluded the Irish from the better-paid sectors of the London economy. Poverty and social insecurity were exacerbated in the early nineteenth century when large numbers of rural Irish men and women immigrated to London in response to agricultural depression. The ‘mob’ of St Giles was feared as a threat to social order and security. The area was described as a ‘sore’ or ‘abscess’ that might poison the whole body politic. Authorities expressed the urgent need to purge or cauterise St Giles and during the 1840s large parts of the area were demolished to make place for New Oxford Street. Hausmann’s way of describing his urban mission is also revealing. His task was to initiate a series of ‘percements’ (piercings) in order to open up the cramped medieval city to a rational network of wide avenues. In his Mémoires he wrote that he had ripped open the belly of old Paris, the districts of revolt and barricades, and cut a large opening through the impenetrable maze of alleys. His idea of ‘constructive destruction’ was formulated in medical metaphors. He viewed the old city as a sick organism. Paris was the diseased body, Haussmann the surgeon who cut out infected areas and opened up the clogged arteries. The terminology was echoed in literature. In 1865, physiologist Claude Bernard had published his influential introduction to the study of experimental medicine in which he outlined the core of the scientific experimental method as it could be applied in medicine. Émile Zola reprised this work in Le roman experimental (1880) setting out to prove that Bernard’s methodology should be applied to literature in order to elevate the novel into the domain of science. Medicine is in the forefront of his mind: ‘Le plus souvent, il me suffira de remplacer le mot médecin par le mot romancier pour


rendre ma pensée claire et lui apporter la rigueur d’une vérité scientifique’ [Often it will be sufficient for me to replace the word surgeon with novelist to make my thinking clear and give it the rigidity of a scientific truth]. Writing to him was surgery on human kind, and his pen was used as scalpel. Critics of Zola despised his ‘lavatorial’ literature, accusing him of taking on sacred topics such as church, royalty, matrimony, or money, and after having brutally dissected them he then displays the wounded bodies as if they are corpses in an anatomy class. The rapidly changing cityscape of Paris was communicated to a wide audience by the increasingly sophisticated skills and equipment of the photographer. Professionals such as Hyacinthe-César Delmaet and Louis-Emile Durandelle documented the many phases of the construction of the Opéra, as well as that of other public buildings. Author Prosper Mérimée served as France’s Inspector General of Historical Monuments. Since 1837 he had been working on the project to classify, protect and restore the architectural heritage. In 1851 he established the Missions héliographiques to support him in that undertaking. Henri Jean-Louis Le Secq was one of five photographers selected to carry out a survey of landmarks known as Commission des Monuments Historiques. Their task was to photograph various monuments around France so that architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc could eventually restore them (or - one could argue - further vandalize them). Le Secq also recorded aspects of the demolition of old Paris. His 1853 photograph ‘Démolitions, Rue Saint-Martin’, included in his Album Berger (1853) which is held at the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris (BHVP) is a eulogy to the passing of Paris - created years before the grand scale demolition was actually set in process. His work is a lament. Filled with demolitions, destructions, ruins, the album is an elegy to a loss that, in historical terms, was in the process of happening. The Impressionists on the other hand are famous for their celebration of postHaussmann Paris. Rarely have artists expressed such delight in the views an urban environment has to offer. Young artists took pleasure in painting the renovated city, applying new stylistic


means to depict its boulevards, grand buildings and public gardens in rain, snow or sunshine. Others concentrated on urban life itself, the city’s inhabitants, and the mixing of social classes in crowded centres. Degas and Caillebotte focused on working people, including singers and dancers. Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt were intrigued by the privileged classes. Leisure became a new topic of artistic interest, including theatrical entertainment, horse racing, cafés, popular concerts, and national celebrations. One particular focus of the new urbanism was the railway station. The Gare Saint-Lazare area, where the first railroad in Paris had been located in 1835, was drastically changed by the addition of new tracks and the construction of a larger station. In the 1860s a massive star-shaped iron bridge, the Pont de l’Europe, was built to connect six avenues over the railway cutting. Development in the area continued through the 1870s with the construction of new apartment houses along the adjacent streets. The novelty of the bridge, with its unique view of the train tracks below, made it a favourite promenade for Parisians of all social classes and an attractive subject for artists. Émile Zola’s La bête humaine (1889/90), a novel on the theme of the railway, opens with a description of the Gare Saint-Lazare as it appeared in the 1870s. Whilst photographers recorded the loss of old Paris, painters took pleasure in the new and modern. Interestingly, there are few paintings that show the intermediate stages, those of demolition and reconstruction. When Amsterdam expanded in a similar fashion in the 1890s, its most famous painter George Hendrik Breitner took it upon him to photograph and subsequently paint a number of excavation sites in town. Some twenty years earlier Dutch artist Johan Barthold Jongkind was living in Paris where he witnessed the radical building programme carried out in which hundreds of narrow streets and historical buildings were destroyed. In ‘La démolition de la Rue des Francs-Bourgeois’ (in the Marais district) Jongkind recorded an image he had witnessed from close distance, even inscribing the painting with the actual date of 17 April 1868. The scenes of devastation throughout Paris were phenomenal. Some observers argued that the continuous destruction of physical Paris led to a shattering of social Paris as well. In the process of Haussmannization


over 50,000 working men and women were forced out of their homes, the value of land in central Paris increased enormously, rents were raised by large amounts, and most poor people were pushed out of their local neighbourhoods to the outskirts of town. Street sellers, artisans, and stall holders were moved from the street into restricted and specialized locations. The open central markets of Les Halles, at one time largely run by women, were re-designed as covered structures. Louis Veuillot spoke of Paris as a city of ‘deracinated multitudes’, a mobile ‘mass of human dust’. This is the paradox: Haussmann opened up the city with the creation of large boulevards and public spaces; at the same time, he was responsible for the interiorization of Paris in a sense that old-fashioned street life - commercial activities and festivities - were designated to enclosed and private areas. It was a period of disconnect in which social coherence was lost and citizens became detached from one another. Artistically, in Parisian painting, this phase appears to have been one of a medically induced coma. French urban Impressionism is in many ways the joyous expression of the patient’s recovery. Later, amid the wonders of the new Paris, writer Maxime du Camp remembered the old Rue de la Mortellerie of the time of the 1848 February revolution. How could so vain a race as the Parisians have walked such a horrible labyrinth of loathsome alleys? How could they have lived in such a pestilent den as was the Rue de la Mortellerie where the cholera had been bred and spread? How could they have passed through the muddy by-ways which lay between the Palais Royal and the Tuileries, or entered the dangerous lanes of the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève? The past was quickly forgotten. Paris was alive again, full of drive and energy. Modernity became the keyword in art and life - not an empty slogan, but a vital concept. There had been many arguments to undertake the reconstruction of Paris, functional, strategic, and aesthetic. From an economic point of view, it was vital to clear congestion in the city. The project encompassed all aspects of urban planning: streets and boulevards; regulations governing the facades of buildings; public parks, sewers and water works. Considerations of hygiene, social welfare, and improving


the life of the Parisian poor and paupers played a secondary role. There was a strategic dimension to the planning. The winding streets of old Paris were paved with cobblestones which were used during disturbances to construct barricades. Haussmann declared war on cobblestones and introduced modern pavements making it that much harder to dig them up. It was - to maintain Haussmann’s imagery - essential to the authorities to lance festering abscesses such as the Buttes-Chaumont that had traditionally been the lairs of criminals and rogues. This particular district was annexed in 1860 and turned into a park. It was opened as part of the festivities of the Universal Exhibition in 1867. More importantly, the grand plan was motivated by the fear of riot and revolution. Napoleon iii’s regime after all had followed a series of uprisings, from the revolt of July 1830 to the February 1848 revolution that put an end to the monarchy. As the project was driven by the need to maintain public order in the capital, the new boulevards and avenues facilitated the movement of troops and prevent the blocking of streets with barricades by the ‘dangerous classes’. Their very straightness gave immediate access to the artillery to deal with rioting crowds. Napoleon’s instruction to Haussmann would have been to make the city revolution-proof and barricade-free. With the barricade, there is no discoverable moment of origination, nor any specifiable inventor. The French word is derived from ‘barrique’ and refers to any structure that creates an obstacle to block the passage of traffic. It has a connotation of urban conflict and unrest. The ‘Journée des Barricades’ (Day of the Barricades), 12 May 1588, was an uprising that set in motion the downfall of the Valois dynasty in France. Parisians rebelling against Henri iii forced him to leave the capital, leaving it in the hands of the Duke of Guise and his Catholic League. Wagons, timbers and hogsheads (‘barriques’) were chained together to impede the movements of the Swiss Guards and other forces loyal to the king. The idea originated from Spanish ambassador Bernardino de Mendoza, who gave the rebels an insight into tactics the Spanish had gained from years of street fighting in the Low Countries. Barricades featured heavily in various French revolutions. In spite of Haussmann’s best efforts, Paris did not become barricade-proof. For two


months, the communards of 1871 barricaded themselves in Montmartre and other ‘un-Haussmannized’ pockets of resistance all over the working class districts of the metropolis, before they were winkled out and shot. May 1968 and the actions of the ‘soixante-huitards’ revitalized the idea of the barricade. Obstacles were built across the Boulevards St Germain and St Michel with the paving stones set in place by Haussmann’s road crews, using them as both bricks and projectiles. So deeply entrenched are barricades in the Parisian mentality that they have taken on a strongly symbolic meaning that has acquired a much wider resonance. Such phrases as ‘go to the barricades’ or ‘standing at the barricades’ are used in various languages as metaphors for civil disobedience. In the battle of ideas the cobblestone has been a potent weapon. French art raised a number of barricades, often at specified locations. Parisian painter Jean Adam created a lithograph of the ‘Barricade de la Rue Dauphine, le 29 juillet 1830, au soir’. This, the final day on the barricades during the July Revolution was also captured by Hippolyte Lecomte in his ‘Combat de la Rue de Rohan, le 29 juillet 1830’. The best-known images of course is Delacroix’s ‘La liberté guidant le peuple’ in which a woman personifying liberty leads the people forward over the bodies of the fallen, holding the French tricolore in one hand and brandishing a bayonet with the other. Horace Vernet painted the barricades assembled during the battle at Rue Soufflot on 24 June 1848. By that time photography started to play a role. A splendid daguerreotype image (taken by an amateur photographer named Thibault) survives of the barricades at the Rue Saint-Maur-Popincourt after the attack by General Lamoricière’s troops on Monday 26 June 1848. André Devambez painted an image in memory of the events of May 1871 which he called ‘La barricade ou l’attente’, but the artist’s more striking work dates from 1902. Entitled ‘La charge’ this painting depicts in almost cinematic detail a demonstration (anarchists, Dreyfusards?) on the Boulevard Montmartre. However, the most gripping image of ‘barricade-painting’ is Ernest Meissonier’s ‘La barricade, Rue de la Mortellerie’ which depicts the moment after a barricade was taken by the National Guard during the workers’ riots in June 1848. Enrolled as a Captain in the Artillerie de

la Garde Nationale, the artist had first-hand experience of the fateful days that the troops of General Louis-Eugène Cavaignac decimated the rioters. The final battle raged from 23 June to the morning of 26 June. It was the bloodiest battle ever seen in the streets of Paris, and the military did not hesitate to inflict the severest punishment on the rebels. The painter, himself a Captain in the National Guard who was sympathetic to the government, painted the scene that lay before him after a barricade had been taken near to the town hall. Meissonier created this picture after a watercolour made at the scene on 25 June 1848 during the riots. In contrast to Delacroix’s celebrated image of the 1830 revolution, there is no pretension to allegory here. It is a painting without pomp or rhetoric. This gripping image is like a piece of reportage with the realism of a daguerreotype. Meissonier painted every part of the canvas, rioters, corpses and cobblestones, with great attention to detail. This, the most powerful image to emerge from the events of 1848, portrays a scene observed without implicit comment or message. Paris is in pain. In the words of Delacroix, the artist captured the horror of truth in paint.



kensington gore (london) Human geography studies the world, its people, communities and cultures with an emphasis on relations across space and place. Architecture is a vital part of that discipline. If the street is a novel, then every building tells a story. A building is a window into the past telling tales of tradition, power, faith, progress, decline and local or global connections. The buildings of a city are like a person’s wearing apparel in showing prosperity, judgment, taste and time-bound peculiarities. The biography of a specific house shows who lived where, with whom and what they did for a living. Gore House played an extraordinary role in British and world history: the walls of the property relate a story of slavery, aristocratic intrigue, French cooking, bohemian conduct and commercial adventurism. A gore is a narrow triangular piece of land. Kensington Gore is the name of two parallel thoroughfares on the south side of Hyde Park. The streets connect the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal College of Art, the Royal Geographical Society and in Kensington Gardens the Albert Memorial. The area is named after the Gore estate which occupied the site until it was developed by Victorian planners in the mid-nineteenth century. Gore House was a Georgian mansion of three stories built in the 1750s for Robert Michell of Hatton Garden on the road that is now called Kensington Gore. In its original design, the house had a centrally placed porch with a balcony above on its street front, and two flanking bays to its garden front. It was decorated by Robert Adam, the Scottish-born neoclassical


architect and designer whose ‘Adam style’ became the rage of the age. It stood on the present north-east circumference of the Royal Albert Hall. In 1808 the house, then in some state of neglect, was taken by social reformer William Wilberforce and his family. During his occupancy, which lasted until 1821, Wilberforce used to receive politicians here. Pitt and Lord Auckland were regular visitors. Here too he met fellow philanthropists such abolitionist Zachary Macaulay and legal reformer Samuel Romilly to discuss the issues of the day. Action to abolish West Indian slavery was commenced in the library of Gore House. Barbara Wilberforce ran a school for poor girls in the mansion. During the later 1830s the house became famous for its lively salons. By then it was the home of the Countess of Blessington and Count D’Orsay, one of the celebrated dandies of his time. The couple had moved there in 1836. They decided to have an additional wing built on to the west end of the house which destroyed its original symmetry. The library created by Lady Blessington was the most impressive room of all. It extended through the full depth of the mansion to the west of the entrance with windows on the north and south fronts. Designed as the social focus of the house, it was here that Gore House was made famous. Irish-born author Marguerite, Countess of Blessington [née Margaret Power] was a woman of beauty and extravagance. Her image has been masterly recorded by Thomas Lawrence in his 1822 Portrait of Marguerite, Countess of Blessingon. Whilst staying in Genoa she met Lord Byron on a number of occasions, meetings that gave her ample material for her most famous work Conversations with Lord Byron. She remained on the Continent until Lord Blessington’s death in May 1829. Some time previously the couple had been joined by Paris-born artist Alfred Guillaume Gabriel, Count D’Orsay, who in 1827 had married Lady Harriet Gardiner, Lord Blessington’s only daughter by a former wife. She was only fifteen at the time and, inevitably, this marriage soon ended up in a separation. D’Orsay accompanied ‘gorgeous’ Lady Blessington to England and lived with her until her death. Their home at Gore House became a centre of attraction to all those distinguished in literature, learning, art, science and fashion. To Gore House came novelists,


dramatists, poets, actors, statesmen, and refugees. Count d’Orsay had been from his youth a zealous Bonapartist, and one of the most frequent guests at Gore House was Prince Louis Napoleon (the future Emperor Napoleon iii). In August 1840, Louis Napoleon attempted an abortive coup from Boulogne. He was arrested on the beach and subsequently imprisoned. Before setting out on his wild enterprise he had dined at Gore House. The Count’s charming manner and artistic faculty endeared him to many associates. The character of Count Alcibiades de Mirabel in Disraeli’s novel Henrietta Temple was modelled on D’Orsay, to whom the book was dedicated. His skill as a painter and sculptor was shown in numerous portraits representing his friends. His statuettes of Napoleon and Wellington were popular, as were engravings of many of his portraits, including those of Queen Victoria, Dwarkanath Tagore, and Lord Lyndhurst. More than 125 profile sketches of his contemporaries were published by Mitchell of Bond Street of which nearly all of the sitters were artistic, literary, and fashionable celebrities of the time. Over sixty of his pencil and chalk portraits are in the National Portrait Gallery, as are the 1845 portrait of Wellington and a self-portrait in marble. Gambling was D’Orsay’s weakness and downfall. As the debts mounted, he could no longer avoid his creditors. In 1849 he fled to France, just like the previous ‘prince of dandies’ Beau Brummell had done before him. The furniture and decorations of the house were sold in a spectacular public auction successfully discharging Lady Blessington’s debts. The sale of their effects by Phillips auction house, which was held from 7 to 22 May 1849 at Gore House itself, attracted an estimated 20,000 visitors to the mansion. The catalogue consisted of 109 pages and included 85 paintings, 100 drawings, 74 miniatures, 107 prints, over 700 books, and some 1150 objets d’art. Lady Blessington herself had joined the D’Orsay in Paris, where she died in June 1849. The next tenant was no less flamboyant. In December 1850 Alexis Soyer took a lease of Gore House. He would become the most famous chef in Victorian London. Soyer was raised in Meaux-en-Brie on the Marne, known for its famous cheese, and


later moved to Paris. He was working in the kitchen of the Foreign Office in the capital when the 1830 Revolution broke out. The building was attacked by angry insurgents. Members of staff were driven from the palace. Trying to escape, two of Soyer’s kitchen colleagues were shot before his eyes. He himself only escaped through his presence of mind. Loudly singing ‘La Marseillaise’ and ‘La Parisienne’ he was cheered by the bloodthirsty mob. He subsequently made his way to England. Having worked for various British notables, Soyer became in 1837 ‘chef de cuisine’ at the Reform Club, a gentlemen’s club on the south side of Pall Mall (no. 104) which served as a bastion of progressive liberal thought. Its library contained some 75,000 books, mostly political history and biography. Radicals however do not live on ideas alone and proper nourishment was very much appreciated. Soyer instituted many innovations in his Reform kitchens. These became so famous that they were opened for conducted tours. When Queen Victoria was crowned on 28 June 1838, he prepared a breakfast for 2,000 people in the Club. Across the nineteenth century, both at home and abroad, French chefs achieved unprecedented prestige. However, they were rarely depicted as cooks. Rather, the various portraits and frontispieces constructing their public image show them as literary men. They are presented in a reflective pose, surrounded with paraphernalia of the writer: pen, paper, books and desk. Under the Ancien Régime, chefs were no more than itinerant domestic servants. They were seen as subservient figures. This image survived into the post-Revolutionary period. In order to be seen as artists in their own right, chefs like Carême and Auguste Escoffier would style themselves as men of letters. It was a matter of ‘cooking the books’ maybe. Soyer also considered himself an artist. He cultivated a Byron-like eccentric style. A wit, raconteur and singer, his first ambition had been to become a comic actor. Throughout his life, he dressed as a Romantic dandy. Even in the kitchen he eschewed the conventional chef ’s outfit. He appreciated colourful embroidery and would not wear a single garment with horizontal or perpendicular lines. His coats had to be cut on the cross. His visiting card was a parallelogram as was his cigar-case, and even the handle of his cane slanted obliquely. He made every effort to keep himself in the


public eye. He was a regular correspondent to London newspapers; he wrote a number of books on food and cookery; and he extensively marketed his products, notably ‘Soyer’s Sauce’. All this made him a favourite target of popular satire. He figured more often in the pages of Punch than many a Cabinet Minister. Soyer’s books were widely distributed and offered an opportunity for selfpresentation. He published his first book in 1845 entitled Délassements culinaires, which features a ballet (!), ‘La Fille de l’Orage’, dedicated to his beloved dancer Fanny Cerrito. The slim volume also includes gastronomic essays - like the recipe for ‘La Crème de la Grande Bretagne’, which can be read as an attempt to flatter British society ladies. Oddly enough, the part of the Délassements most suggestive of the future public course of Soyer’s career is the eye-catching frontispiece portrait of the author. Like other prominent nineteenth century figures such as Napoleon (the most outstanding self-publicist), Byron, Victor Hugo or Sarah Bernhardt, the chef sensed the importance of images within the period’s emerging fame culture. The ‘Age of Publicity’ was about to start and Soyer was one of the first to sense its commercial value. On the other hand, writing did not come natural to Soyer. Like many chefs of his generation, he had enjoyed little formal education. He could read and write French, though his spelling was shaky, but he never learned to write English and was forced to rely upon secretaries. Yet, Soyer and many of his colleagues thought it imperative to put the pen to paper in order to combat what they felt were prejudices against cooks. For their creative abilities to be acknowledged, they had to appear in print. Alternatively, novelists liked to compare their trade and skills to those of the chef. They stressed the similarity of creative endeavour in writing and cooking. Thackeray and Soyer had esteemed each other since meeting at the Reform Club in 1837. In the opening paragraph of chapter nineteen of Vanity Fair (1848) Thackeray included the following striking lines: ‘Who was the blundering idiot who said that ‘fine words butter no parsnips’? Half the parsnips of society are served and rendered palatable with no other sauce. As the immortal Alexis Soyer can make more delicious soup for a half-penny than an ignorant cook can concoct with pounds of vegetables and meat, so a skilful


artist will make a few simple and pleasing phrases go farther than ever so much substantial benefit-stock in the hands of a mere bungler’. Thackeray’s interest in both the work and person of Soyer found further expression in his novel Pendennis (1849). There the reader is introduced to the eccentric chef Alcide Mirobolant (the surname means ‘dazzling’ in French), a figure very much based on Soyer. In spite of his eccentricity and his flirtation with the upper classes, there is another side to Soyer’s complicated personality. His close call during the July Revolution was a psychological point of departure for his later career. He appears to be a man of the people and a servant of the elite at the same time. Amid the social and intellectual ferment over the problem of poverty, in the years surrounding the Revolution of 1848, he put his skills to humanitarian and egalitarian use. During the Irish Potato famine in April 1847, Soyer invented a soup kitchen and was asked by the Government to go to Ireland to implement his idea. This kitchen was opened in Dublin and his ‘famine soup’ was served to thousands of the poor for free. Whilst in Ireland he wrote Soyer’s Charitable Cookery and gave the proceeds of the book to various charities. During the Crimean War, Soyer joined the troops to advice on army cooking. Dismayed by newspaper accounts of starving British troops, Soyer volunteered his expertise. He designed a superior field stove a variant of which, still called the Soyer stove, was used by the British army through the first Gulf War. He subsequently travelled to the Crimea where during a twoyear stay he reformed the British Army’s kitchens as well as its inefficient ways of provisioning them. There he met Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole. Together with Florence Nightingale he reorganized the provisioning of the army hospitals. When Soyer returned to London, he published an account of his adventures in the Crimea, entitled Soyer’s Culinary Campaign (1857). Reviewers ridiculed the decisive contribution the French chef accorded himself in these historical events. Soyer resigned from the Reform Club in May 1850. The next year, he opened his Gastronomic Symposium of All Nations at Gore House to cater for visitors of the Great Exhibition. The organizers had approached Soyer as a possible contractor

for the catering arrangements at the Crystal Palace. However, there were so many restrictions imposed upon the consumption of food and drink inside the Hall, that Soyer withdrew his participation. Instead, he tried to profit from the excitement of the event himself. The Symposium turned out to be the most flamboyant restaurant ever seen in London. Each room was decked to some extravaganza theme such as the ‘Grotte des Neiges Éternelles’ and the ‘Chambre Ardante d’Apollo’. In the grounds he had a large marquee called ‘Baronial Banqueting Hall’. An enormous outdoor table on an Italian-style veranda, the Banqueting Bridge of Doge’s Terrace, was created for those who liked dining al fresco. Soyer’s Symposium, with its diverse attractions, strolling entertainers, fortune tellers, hot-air balloons, fireworks, and other visual effects, was both restaurant and theme park. His creation was typical of mid nineteenth century eclecticism. It was a compilation rather than a design, a carnival of styles from all centuries and all nations. The antique was mingled with modern technology, the medieval combined with scientific ‘spectacles’, grottos were lit up by dazzling gas lighting, etc. The formal beauty of Gore House and its gardens was transformed into a restaurant-circus. For some critics, the bad taste of decorations and the flashy entertainment were unacceptable. Populist curiosity and Soyer’s attempt to attract a mass audience led Punch to a satirical naming of the restaurant as ‘a grand Baked Potato Can of All Nations, or Eel Pie and Kidney Pudding Symposium’. Soyer hoped to entertain and feed 5,000 people daily, with different priced menus for different classes of people - but the dream did not succeed. After three months he closed Gore House down having lost a substantial amount of money. The final years in the life of Gore House were sober. After being purchased by the Commissioners for the Exhibition of 1851, it was used for occasional exhibitions, until its demolition in 1857. In 1871, the Royal Albert Hall was completed on the site of the former house.



boulevard haussmann (paris) The Boulevard Haussmann runs for more than two and a half kilometres from the eighth to the ninth arrondissement. It is one of the wide tree-lined Parisian boulevards created by Baron Haussmann during the renovation of Paris inspired by Napoleon iii. Gustave Caillebotte, a lawyer by training, was a wealthy young man. His father had made a fortune supplying Napoleon’s army with uniforms, bedding and other textiles. Gustave inherited part of that fortune at the age twenty-six. He took on painting as a hobby. His first submissions to the official Salon being rejected, he turned to the Impressionists, and in 1876 he was invited to submit work to their second Impressionist Exhibition. Not having to make a living from his work, the five hundred or so paintings he created stayed in his family. He was also a great patron of the arts. He purchased about sixty-four paintings from Monet, Renoir, Sisley, and others, which he left to the French State. His collection is now the crux of the Impressionist holdings at the Musée d’Orsay. Caillebotte lived just down the Boulevard Haussmann, and painted the avenue in many different lights as the days and seasons changed. Most Impressionist paintings of Haussmann’s Paris depict a sunny city of socialites at leisure, dancing, shopping, boating or drinking. For Caillebotte, the modern metropolis was a darker and lonelier place. In his paintings, men leaning on new bridges seem engulfed by steel girders. Others stand on balconies, looking down at the Boulevard Haussmann - above yet dwarfed by the street (‘Un balcon: Boulevard Haussmann’, 1880). His perspectives and panoramic


views seem to shade the images with loneliness and a sense of alienation. His best pictures pose a question. How does the modernization of a metropolis affect its inhabitants? The answer seems to be that the city is a large community where people are lonesome together. The Musée Jacquemart-André is located at no. 158 Boulevard Haussmann. Édouard André, descendant of a banking family, devoted his considerable fortune to buying works of art. He married Nélie Jacquemart, a well-known society painter. The couple amassed one of the finest collections of Italian art in France. When André died, his wife completed the decoration of the Italian Museum. Faithful to the plan agreed with her husband, she bequeathed the magnificent collections to the Institut de France. The museum was opened to the public in 1913. The museum has been largely responsible for the re-discovery of the work of the Caillebotte brothers. Whilst Gustave chose art from the outset, his brother Martial was a pianist and composer who later took to photography. They spent much time together, and the themes Gustave painted - street scenes, family life, bridges and trains, sailing and canoeing - Martial photographed. In 2011 an exhibition entitled ‘The Private World of the Caillebotte Brothers’ showed some thirty-five paintings and 150 family photos offering a window on their personal views of Paris in a time of change. Gustave’s large paintings were displayed in tandem with Martial’s small sepia-toned snapshots. Art and photography - no longer considered as rival arts, but exhibited in a juxtaposition of perfect harmony. The impact of Haussmann’s work was felt far and wide. Until his death in 1848, Muhammed Ali Pasha instituted a number of social and economic reforms that earned him the title of founder of modern Egypt. He undertook the construction of a number of public buildings in the city, but these reforms had little effect on Cairo’s ancient cityscape. Real modernization of the city happened under the rule of his grandson, Ismail Pasha (‘the Magnificent’). Inspired by the example that Paris had set to the world, he transformed Cairo into a modern Western city. The cost was phenomenal. The resulting debt was immense and provided a pretext


for tight European control, which culminated with the 1882 British invasion. The economic heart of the city moved away from historic Muslim Cairo toward the newly built contemporary areas. Europeans accounted for five percent of Cairo’s population at the end of the nineteenth century, by which point they held most top governmental and commercial positions. The Haussmannization of Cairo of 1867 was exemplified by the Esbekieh area. It was once a network of walkways with huge sycamores, a stagnant canal, and a fringe of rundown native houses. Haussmann turned the place into a gardened plaza with imposing stone buildings for public and commercial purposes. The nineteenth century’s ‘lure of the East’, the cult of Cairo amongst painters and poets, pre-dates that period. These artists were obsessed with the unhurried serenity of the old city that seems free from all the disquiets of Western civilization. Since the publication of Edward Said’s seminal study on Orientalism the term has been applied to denote the imitation or depiction of East Asian and Middle Eastern cultures by European writers, designers and artists. The queste for sexual liberation played a strong part in this orientation. Richard Burton introduced his friend Algernon Charles Swinburne to the notorious Cannibal Club. Its membership included eminent anthropologists, lawyers and writers. Their interests lay mainly in eroticized forms of domination and submission, from flaggelation to erotic anthropology. Burton combined his sexual obsession with an interest in the Orient. Excited by Eastern erotica, he translated and printed the Kama Sutra and The Perfumed Garden, and published a splendid edition of the Arabian Nights which still stands unchallenged. There are a large number of paintings and drawings that try to communicate the exotic charm of the place rather than give any indication of topography. It was the atmosphere, the ambience, and the local colour that attracted European artists to the Orient where - in the excitable male imagination - at every step one stumbles on a harem set amongst sycamores, smelling of roses, which is as far removed as possible from all the urban distractions. Such works - in the words of Said - express a ‘subtle and persistent Eurocentric prejudice against Arabo-Islamic peoples and their culture’.


occupied a central place; his father’s velvet armchair was facing his bed; a worktable in front of two revolving bookcases blocked one of the double doors; there was, furthermore, a mirrored wardrobe; a rosewood chest with a marble top and mirror; a Chinese cabinet; a free standing clock; and an oak desk that was never used save for piling up papers and books. Proust’s writing place was his brass bed placed at the corner of the bedroom to enable the novelist to monitor the room. Warmed by woolly jumpers and hot water bottles, he wrote using his knees as a desk. Living in one of Paris’s most modern streets, Proust blocked all aspects of contemporary life from his apartment. Driven by technology the cityscape had changed dramatically, leaping forwards to a brave new future. In the midst of all modernity stood this single soul who looked inwards and backwards in the nostalgic search for times lost. It was this startling contradiction that must have inspired Alan Bennett. His short film 102 Boulevard Haussmann is set in 1916 and based upon an episode in Marcel Proust’s life. After 1907 Proust (played by Alan Bates) was an asthmatic invalid, writing and thinking in bed, and being looked after by his maid Céleste (played by Janet McTeer). Their cloistered relationship is the essence of the storyline. Proust’s continuous demands deny Céleste’s husband, on short leave from the trenches, private time with his wife. He knowingly interrupts their love-making. She, in turn, intervenes to ‘protect’ Proust from his homosexual attraction towards a young viola player whom he lures to his apartment to perform César Franck’s beautiful phrase which recurs in À la recherche. She created the environment which enabled Proust to write. The ‘fictional reality’ of the film is very much Bennett territory. In a static world of repressed intimacy the incidental and seemingly insignificant become meaningful. It was the author’s intent to communicate the nature of artistic genius and the creative process at work.


Antoine-George-Prosper Marilhat’s painting ‘Ruines de la mosque de Calife Hakam au Cairo’ was exhibited at the Salon of 1840. It made an impression on public and critics alike. In an age of speed and hurry, the timelessness of the image struck a chord. Art critic, poet and novelist Théophile Gautier was moved by Marilhat’s paintings. In the cult of beauty he professed, the Orient played a significant part. Five years after his death, two volumes edited by Charpentier bearing the title L’Orient, voyages et voyageurs (1877) relate Gautier’s account of his travels to the East. The Orient to him meant first and foremost Ancient Egypt. The extraordinary fact is that Gautier created all his works of fiction revolving around Egypt before he ever set foot in that country. In his creative work, the Orient is above all an exotic ideal with aesthetic and emotional significance. It served him as an alternative to European culture, as a protest against the goose-cackle about progress, a rejection of the ‘Americanization’ of society, and by implication a nostalgic memory of what old Paris used to be. Gautier expressed this sense of loss and dislocation in his preface to Édouard Fournier’s book on Paris démoli (1855). Amidst the demolition of each building a ‘morceau du passé tombe avec chacune de ses pierres’. This melancholic feeling towards the changing city was shared by Charles Bauldelaire and most powerfully expressed in the first stanza, part 2, of that superb poem ‘Le cygne’ (The swan): Paris change! mais rien dans ma mélancolie N’a bougé! palais neufs, échafaudages, blocs, Vieux faubourgs, tout pour moi devient allégorie Et mes chers souvenirs sont plus lourds que des rocs. [Paris is changing. But nothing in my melancholy Has shifted! New mansions, scaffoldings, blocks of stone, Old suburbs, everything becomes allegory for me, And my fond memories weigh heavier than rocks.] Baudelaire’s reputation as the inspirer of modern urban poetry is largely based on


the eighteen poems of his ‘Tableaux Parisiens’ which are collected as the second section of Les fleurs du mal and describe the streets of the capital in gritty and uncomfortable detail. Most of these poems were written during the Haussmann period of re-building Paris. In this section they act as a twenty-four hour cycle of life in the metropolis dealing with feelings of anonymity and estrangement from a ruthlessly modernized city. Illumination initiated a new regime of urban ordering in which less desirable aspects of the cityscape were left in the dark. Slums were covered in darkness by night and day, and this gloom was conceived as a sign of depravity. It symbolized the physical decay and moral disorder that had to be eradicated in order to create a clean city of responsible and rational citizens. Light determined urban differentiation. The brighter the light in the centre, the more starkly the dark outlines of less affluent regions stood out. Such geographical inequality in the distribution of illumination created a new ‘map’ of the city that marked brightly lit centres of power in sharp contrast to darkened margins of urban exclusion. Baudelaire is critical of the broad geometric streets that alienate ordinary Parisians and streetwalkers alike. They victimize the worker, beggar, prostitute and outcast, and transform the metropolis into an anthill of bourgeois clones. From 1906 to 1919, novelist Marcel Proust lived at no. 102 Boulevard Haussmann. There, he wrote the major part of À la recherche du temps perdu. Suffering from bronchial asthma and severe allergies since childhood, he created a space that sheltered him from dust, smells, noises and drafts. Sound and light were barred from his bedroom where velvet curtains created a semi-dark interior. All of the room’s apertures were shielded. The two sets of double doors were permanently shut or heavily curtained; a five-panelled Chinese screen stood behind the head of his bed; the single door leading to his dressing room was strictly regulated; the two windows shuttered. In order to create a barrier against noise from outside, Proust had lined the walls and ceiling with cork. Only by closing himself off could he live within the expanding domain of his novel. In the room the past was present everywhere. It was cluttered with unattractive furniture. His mother’s grand piano



prins hendrikkade (amsterdam) The term cosmopolitan, which derives from the Greek word ‘kosmopolitês’ (citizen of the world), has been used to describe a variety of views in moral and sociopolitical philosophy. The common denominator is the conviction that human beings belong to a single community. This view is a relatively recent one. In Classical culture, a man identified himself as a citizen of a specific polis or city. Even during the humanist era cosmopolitanism remained the exception. The word does appear in the sixteenth century. The scholar Guillaume Postel visited the East on the orders of François i to collect manuscripts for the Royal collection. In De la république des Turcs (1560) he gave a sympathetic account of Turkish culture. The book itself was signed by Guillaume Postel Cosmopolite (to later historians he became known as ‘le Gaulois cosmopolite’). One finds the word on occasion during the seventeenth century. It was not until the Enlightenment that intellectuals came to regard themselves as members of a trans-national ‘Republic of Letters’. Writers and philosophers in particular adopted a cosmopolitan perspective. The 1789 Declaration of Human Rights was the result of cosmopolitan modes of thinking. In the eighteenth century, cosmopolitanism indicated an attitude of open-mindedness. A cosmopolitan was not a follower of a particular religious or political authority, but an independent mind and a citizen of the world, a person who was at home in all European capitals. French cultural history of the nineteenth century is typified by persistent tensions


between the adherents of patriotism and those of cosmopolitanism. Romanticism was a truly European movement. Artists in Paris keenly followed developments in Germany and England, be it in drama, poetry or (and especially) music. Opponents resisted cultural imports from damp and misty northern skies. Tension turned into confrontation during the decades following the French humiliation of 1870. The ideological clash can be highlighted in one of a number of contrasting events. On 4 July 1892 Maurice Barrès published an article in the Figaro entitled ‘La querelle des nationalistes et des cosmopolites’ in which he proudly introduced the neologism ‘nationalisme’ into French political jargon. Four years later, Joseph Texte, author of a study on Jean-Jacques Rousseau and cultural cosmopolitanism, was appointed Professor in the newly created discipline of Comparative Literature. In post-1870 French soul-searching the controversial presence of Richard Wagner in cultural life became a central issue of discussion. In 1885 Édouard Dujardin published the first issue of his Revue wagnérien with the ambition to raise the profile of Wagner in France. The same year an emotional quarrel erupted around Léon Carvalho’s failed attempt to stage Lohengrin in the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris. Dujardin dedicated a complete issue of his journal (March 1886) to the issue of what he called ‘La question Lohengrin’. Germanophobes and revanchards took issue with Wagnerists. Eight of the latter (including Chabrier and Vincent d’Indy) are depicted in Fantin-Latour’s 1885 painting entitled ‘Autour du piano’ which was exhibited that year at the Salon where it was known as ‘The Wagnerists’, as the person sitting in the centre is Camille Saint-Saëns who was amongst the first French followers of Wagner. Wagnerists, in order to celebrate the genius of their revered German master, defended the internationalism of art and the doctrine of art for art’s sake. On 3 May 1887 Charles Lamoureux, in cooperation with Vincent d’Indy and at his own expense, finally succeeded in staging a complete performance of the opera (in French translation). For Wagnerists the event was a height of aesthetic delight, but riots in the street and fierce protests from revanchards forced Lamoureux to refrain from further performances. The Franco-Prussian war was a specific event that gave rise to a confrontation


between the cosmopolitan and nationalist stance in art and politics. It was a conflict of principle which was fought out by opposing factions on the boulevards of the French capital itself. For others, however, as was the case with Claude Monet, internationalism came almost by coincidence. Having enlisted in the French army in 1861 and sent for a prolonged spell to Algeria, Monet returned to Le Havre in 1862 on sick leave having contracted typhoid. His family bought him out of his remaining service on condition that he would take up studies in an artist’s studio. He met Johan Barthold Jongkind, a Dutch landscape painter who, along with outdoor landscapist Eugène Boudin, was the most formative influence on his artistic career (in a 1900 interview Monet credited Jongkind with the ‘definitive education of my eye’). In 1870 Monet married Camille Doncieux. After the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war on 19 July 1870, the couple took refuge in England. Monet stayed in London for nine months, during which time he painted both Green Park and Hyde Park and the Thames from several different sites. Camille Pissarro was also exiled in London at the time, and the two artists exhibited their work at The International Fine Arts Exhibition in Kensington. Monet developed a keen interest in the work of Constable and Turner. It was also probably in London that he consolidated his love of Japanese prints, in which he remained interested throughout his life. In the spring of 1871, the Royal Academy Exhibition turned down three of his paintings, the canvases of Hyde Park, Green Park and the Thames at Westminster. Shortly afterwards, in May 1871, he left London to live in Zaandam, just north of Amsterdam, where he made twenty-five paintings. On 22 June 1871 Monet, in company of fellow painter Henry Michel-Lévy, and Parisian merchant Henry Havard, visited the Trippenhuis in Amsterdam to view the collection of paintings held there. This included Rembrandt’s ‘Nachtwacht’ (Nightwatch) which hung in the building until 1885 when it was moved to the newly-built Rijksmuseum. The police kept a close eye on French visitors at the time. Since the fall of the Paris Commune, European authorities looked with suspicion at communards such as Havard who had fled the French capital. The


fear of revolution was deep-seated. After his return to France, the family settled in Argenteuil, which became a hotbed of Impressionist activity for that decade. Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro, Manet and Caillebotte all followed his example once Monet started producing his images of the Seine and the town. Three years later, in 1874, Monet was once again in Holland. Little is known about these visits. During the nineteenth century French interest in the Netherlands was intense. Up until the early twentieth century, artists travelled to the land of the old masters and studied their achievements. Novelists also identified their writings with Dutch painting. From Balzac to Marcel Proust, art from the Low Countries provided a solution to the challenge of combining details of ordinary life with the high aspirations of art. Contemporary travel guides indicate the attractions of the Netherlands. Visitors were drawn both to the museums where seventeenth century paintings could be seen, and to the windmills, bulb fields and picturesque villages such as Broek in Waterland and Zaandam. Monet was aware of this market interest: he painted such subjects as the Zaandam windmills; in Amsterdam in 1874 he recorded more than twelve impressions; during his final visit in 1886 he enthusiastically tackled the bulb fields around Leiden and Haarlem. Excited by contemporary developments in colour theory inspired by Eugène Chevreul’s scientific research, Impressionists sought to capture the effect of atmospheric conditions on the land- and cityscape. Impressionism is a weather forecast in paint. In order to create fleeting light effects artists had to work quickly. They applied their paint in small brightly coloured strokes. As a consequence of the increased pace of creation, painters had to sacrifice some of the traditional qualities of outline and detail of their subject. This technique put them at odds with the conservative Académie of the French artistic establishment. Amongst Monet’s paintings of Amsterdam is a view of Prins Hendrikkade (then called Kamperhoofd) which he created in 1874. This famous quayside is closely associated with the annals of Dutch shipping. Several buildings are reminders of that history. D’Oude Werf are the oldest remaining four warehouses of the


Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (Dutch East India Company). The VOC was established in 1602, when the States-General granted the organisation a monopoly to carry out colonial activities in Asia as the world’s first multinational corporation to issue stock. It possessed quasi-governmental powers, including the ability to wage war, negotiate treaties, coin money, and establish colonies. Monet’s painting of Prins Hendrikkade was acquired by the Amsterdam Van Gogh Museum in 2001. To the left of the image is the Kromme Waal with the Waalseilandsgracht where boats could moor. Monet used small dabs of paint to represent the rippling water in which the sky, the quay and the boats are reflected. The houses on the Kromme Waal form a grey skyline in the background. Monet depicted the buildings on the Kamperhoofd in greater detail. However, this rapidly painted scene is not a realistic rendering of the location, but an impression of light and atmosphere which is enhanced by the artist’s loose brushstrokes and use of pale colours. Monet painted this study during his second visit to the Netherlands. He probably stayed in the Dutch capital for a few months in early 1874. The artist produced all his Amsterdam studies in the vicinity of the IJ with its harbours, docks and quaysides. It is interesting that the places which Monet depicted correspond almost exactly with those on contemporary ‘souvenir cards’: etchings, lithographs or photos of well-known locations such as the Groenburgwal with the Zuiderkerk, the Oude Schans with the Montelbaanstoren and the Binnen-Amstel with the Munt. Commercial considerations almost certainly played a role in Monet’s choice of subject. Many Dutch artists of the later nineteenth century had travelled to or lived in France to study the masterpieces of their Barbizon and Impressionist colleagues, amongst them Jongkind, Isaac Israëls, Breitner, Vincent van Gogh, and others. The Paris avant garde set the tone, the rest of the European artistic army followed their trail. The innovative ideas about painting of the French impressionists were introduced into the Netherlands by the artists of the Haagse School (Hague School). This new style of painting was also adopted in Amsterdam by the young generation of artists of the late nineteenth century. The paintings range in style


and subject matter from the muted palette of the Hague School interiors and landscapes to the bright coloured urban images of the Amsterdam representatives. Like their French colleagues, these Amsterdam painters (Verster, Isaac Israëls, Jan Toorop and others) put their impressions onto canvas with rapid, visible strokes of the brush. They focused on depicting the everyday life of the city. Willem Witsen was a painter and photographer belonging to the group of Amsterdam Impressionists. He specialized in urban landscapes and created portraits and photographs of prominent figures of the Amsterdam art world. He was one of the outstanding figures that stimulated the revival of Dutch culture in the late 1880s and 1890s. Witsen’s works are more melancholic, dark and austere than those of his Impressionist colleagues. In 1891 he painted ‘Prins Hendrikkade te Amsterdam’. Impressionism in the capital, however, is above all associated with the figure of George Hendrik Breitner, the undisputed Dutch master of the the city- and streetscape. He painted countless streets in Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam and his images of the expansion of Amsterdam are notable examples in the history of the cityscape. He was a painter and photographer of the city in flux, the artist who best captured the spirit and soul of Amsterdam. His paintings are full of life, movement, and stormy skies. One can almost physically feel the atmospheric conditions. Visiting a Breitner exhibition one should be encouraged to bring an umbrella. Breitner’s career proper started in the early 1880s when working in The Hague. In 1882 he joined up with Vincent van Gogh. Together they went sketching in the deprived areas of the city. By 1886 he had settled in Amsterdam. He preferred associating with working-class models, labourers, servant girls and people from the lower class districts. Interest in the lot of the common people was nurtured by a strong social conscience which he recognized and acknowledged in the novels of French Naturalist writers. He saw himself as ‘le peintre du peuple’. Breitner introduced French-inspired social realism to the Netherlands. He was a painter of city views and urban scenes, the momentous expansion of the city, demolition work and construction sites in the old centre, horse trams on the Dam, or canals in the rain. With his nervous brush


strokes, he captured the turbulence of street life in the city, at the Dam, Leidseplein, Lauriergracht, Rokin, and elsewhere. Breitner was also a talented photographer of street life in the city. Sometimes he made various pictures of the same subject, from different perspectives or in different weather conditions. He used photography for general reference, to capture an atmosphere, a light effect or the weather in the city at a particular moment. He captured the massive make-over of Amsterdam itself. Like so many other European cities at the time, Amsterdam looked like a massive building site. Breitner recorded the various phases of this transformation. He was particularly interested in expressing movement, illumination, and heavy Dutch skies, both in painting and photography. It may well be that his preference for cloudy weather conditions and a greyish and brownish palette resulted from the limitations he felt photography imposed upon him. Breitner also painted a view of the Prins Hendrikkade with Schreierstoren (date unknown). The particular tower, originally part of the medieval Amsterdam city wall, was built in the fifteenth century as a defence tower and has a historical connotation of cosmopolitanism. This was the location from which Henry Hudson set sail on his journey that would lead to the discovery of the island of Manhattan among others. The old name was ‘Schreyhoeckstoren’ indicating the sharp angle of the tower with the once connected city walls. Later that name was simplified to Schreierstoren. The myth that it was the place where sailor’s wives were weeping when their men set sail is a credible but romantic falsification (the English translation ‘Tower of Tears’ is incorrect). There are a number of prints (Reinier Nooms, 1652; Willem Writs, 1770, and others) that have captured the famous view of this Amsterdam hallmark. Claude Monet was impressed by the clouds and grey light he witnessed in the Netherlands (and by the Dutch masters who had captured these effects with such dramatic accuracy). He was however far from happy with his own attempts to ‘catch’ the Dutch light and atmosphere. His Amsterdam paintings remain the least well-known of his impressive oeuvre. Compare Breitner’s Prins Hendrikkade to


Monet’s depiction and the difference is immediately apparent - it is the contrast between the achievement of the city-dweller and that of a visitor. Breitner has, in sporting terms, a distinct home-advantage. Art may be cosmopolitan, but it finds in each country its special manifestations, according with the national character and genius. True artistic expression is the harmonious coming together of the local and the cosmopolitan, the fusion of internationalist open-mindedness and the intuitive understanding of one’s roots. One cannot acquire a cosmopolitan outlook without a strong sense of local identity. On the other hand, one will never fully appreciate one’s background without the richness of international experience and a generosity of comparative understanding.



rues mosnier & montorgueil (paris) Like Canaletto’s images of London the traditional cityscape tends to be an ordered urban panorama, with its street life classically controlled or, more often, almost invisible. Streetscapes are a genre within the genre of the cityscape that emerged later. The artist stepped as it were from outside into the heart of the city recording the drama of street life. There are two distinct approaches within the genre. Artists of Dutch or Flemish descent focused on action and drama. They are painters of urban hustle and bustle. The ‘Schildersbent’ in Rome typified this approach. These ‘art hooligans’ were not interested in the static impact of aesthetically pleasing images. They knew the passion and vitality of Rome’s street probably better than the Romans did themselves. Their lively rendering of street scenes would greatly influence the future development of the genre. In contrast to this attitude is the William Hogarth-like approach. The street is a location of corruption, centre of vice and luxury. Hogarth’s urban prints are recognizably placed, yet he was not reluctant to take liberties with topography, subordinating it - in the old tradition - to allegorical or moral loading. When the streetscape became a favourite genre of nineteenth-century French painting a similar contrast emerged in opposing interpretations of the term modernism. The Exposition Universelle or third World Exhibition took place from 1 May through to 10 November 1878 in Paris. This exposition was on a far larger scale than any previously held anywhere in the world. The exhibition of fine arts and


new machinery was comprehensive and the long Avenue des Nations was devoted to examples of worldwide architecture. Among the many inventions on display was Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. Over thirteen million people visited the exposition. World exhibitions were not just a celebration of commercialism. Concurrent with the 1878 exposition, a number of conferences were held to gain consensus on issues of international concern. Victor Hugo led the Congress for the Protection of Literary Property, which led to the eventual formulation of copyright laws. The International Congress for the Amelioration of the Condition of Blind People led to the worldwide adoption of the Braille devised system of touchreading. To commemorate the exhibition, the French government declared 30 June 1878 a national holiday. Called Fête de la Paix, this celebration of peace marked the nation’s recovery from the disastrous Franco-Prussian War of 1870/1 (Germany was not invited to take part in the exhibition) and the divisive Paris Commune that followed. As well as demonstrating nationalist unity, the celebrations of the day were seen as an opportunity to strengthen the position of the Republican regime, still fragile after the major political confrontations of 1876/7. Two years later, July 14 was designated the French National Day. Some painters celebrated the city’s momentary and superficial pleasures of street scenes, crowds, parties and flags. Others aimed to show not only the transformation and growth of the Industrial Age but how it also affected society. The emotional festivities of 30 June 1878 were captured in paint by both Édouard Manet and Claude Monet. From the second-floor window of his studio at no. 4 Rue de Saint-Pétersbourg, Édouard Manet could see the Pont de l’Europe to the left. Straight ahead was the new Rue Mosnier (today, Rue de Berne), which he painted on various occasions. From there, he captured the holiday afternoon with his precise staccato brushwork in a patriotic harmony of the reds, whites, and blues waving from windows. His 1878 oil painting ‘La Rue Mosnier aux drapeaux’ is a vivid evocation of Paris in the 1870s: the construction site on the left, where the street overlooks the railway cutting, records the transformation of the city. Claude Monet ‘La Rue Montorgueil’ depicts the same festival that had inspired Manet.


Like its twin painting ‘Rue Saint-Denis’, it was painted on 30 June 1878. The Rue

Montorgueil is a fashionable street in the Châtelet-Les Halles district lined with famous restaurants (including L’Escargot at no. 38, opened in 1875), cafés, bakeries (including La Maison Stohrer at no. 51, founded in 1730), fish stores, cheese, wine, and flower shops. Traditionally, it is one of the most vibrant streets in the heart of Paris. The painting produced by Monet supplies a more festive and upbeat image than Manet’s depiction of the ‘Rue Mosnier’. The painters approached their subject in a similar manner. Monet did not mix with the crowd either. Both images propose a distanced vision observed from above (Monet painted his view from a balcony, whilst Manet was seated at his window). Monet applied Impressionist techniques to the full. Its multitude of small strokes of colour, suggests the animation of the crowd and the wavering of flags in a sea of red, white and blue colours. There is, however, a difference in depth. Monet is happy recording the joyful nature of the impression, a colourful outdoor scene, sketched quickly and spontaneously in order to capture the enthusiasm of initial perception. The artist functions as reporter. Monet’s painting is vibrant and energetic. His view point from above captures a bustling and festive scene. There is a sense of vitality and ‘joie de vivre’ produced by bright colours and a light palette. The repeated use of the French tricolore causes an undulating pattern of waving flags emphasizing the joy of the occasion. The painting communicates hope - the future looks bright it seems to say, the future is red, white and blue. The ‘Rue Montorgueil’ is a perfect example of Impressionist ‘forgetfulness’ in art. Radicalism is an aesthetic criterion, not a political one. The underlying attitude is best summarized by a phrase used by Walter Pater in 1874 to describe the poetical action of Wordsworth and his friends: ‘Their work is, not to teach lessons, or enforce rules, or even to stimulate us to noble ends; but to withdraw the thoughts for a little while from the mere machinery of life’. Manet’s ‘Rue Mosnier’ on the other hand is a balanced reminder of past and present. The mood is reflective and in stark in contrast to Monet’s exuberance. The colours are cooler, the street is almost empty, no one is shown waving flags. The artist observed both elegant passengers in hansom cabs and, in


the foreground, a worker carrying a ladder. The hunched amputee on crutches, who passes by fenced-in debris left from the construction of a new train track, is most likely a victim of the war. His presence is a painful memory of recent events. Manet’s sensitivity to the sacrifices made during those troubled years tempered his optimism in regard to national pride and new-found prosperity. His stance was a political one. Monet versus Manet means ‘forgetful’ versus ‘political’ art. The one approach emphasized that modernism merely meant a revolution in style and technique; the other is a reminder that the idea of avant-garde had its origins in the socio-political ideas of Saint-Simon who regarded the creative act as a means for effecting social change. Art in that interpretation serves society. The artist spearheads the attack on outdated institutions and reveals the possibilities of future human life. His role is that of giving socio-cultural guidance. It is for artistic genius to lead and for society to follow. The artist, constituting the vanguard of change, relies on instinct and inspiration for his sense of the direction in which society should move. He is a prophet. This is the metaphorical use Saint-Simon gave to the tactical military term of avant garde. Monet, like many Impressionists, may have veered away from the political side of the vanguard towards a more commercial approach, but Manet’s outlook as expressed in the ‘Rue Mosnier’ stands very much in that radical tradition. One celebration, two streets, two faces of modernism. During the 1870s Monet had developed his technique for rendering atmospheric outdoor light, using broken and rhythmic brushwork. Initially, he received abuse from public and critics alike, who complained that the paintings were formless and unfinished, and he suffered abject poverty. When, by the 1880s his paintings started selling Pissarro and others accused him of commercialism. Amongst avant-garde poets and painters towards the end of the nineteenth century anti-commercialism was considered a necessity. This is the paradox: the avant-garde thrived on the commercial appeal of anti-commercialism at the turn of the century. Art was going world wide, publishing houses established a firm power base, the art dealer became


a significant figure, and the gallery was essential in attracting public attention to the work of an artist. Modernism had commercial potential, but it sought legitimacy by claiming to be non-commercial. The place of art in a material world was never an easy one and the relationship between creativity and commerce has always been vexed. Over the past century the art world has grown exponentially. The buying and selling, like the production of art, is a global enterprise. Museums, auction houses and educational institutions are all part of an unwieldy system sustained by creative individuals. Some critics suggest that art as commerce took off when Andy Warhol hit the art galleries of New York City. Historians seem to have a short memory at times. The issue of art and commerce came very much to the fore with the introduction of the world exhibition. During the second half of the nineteenth century, these exhibitions added a cosmopolitan dimension to the modernist movement. The 1889 exhibition for example was a learning experience for Claude Debussy, a young composer just beginning to get his compositions published. At the Exposition ethnic groups from around the world displayed their art, music and culture. Javanese gamelan music created a sensation. Here was a well-developed, powerful and beautiful music that was completely outside the western idea of what music could or should be. Debussy and other European musicians spent hours listening to and transcribing melodies, while examining the instruments and their tunings. The same exhibition made an impact on the development of the cityscape, albeit for different reasons. When Gustave Eiffel was commissioned to execute his plans for the construction of a wrought iron tower to celebrate the occasion, feelings of dismay were expressed in many circles. It motivated a group of artists to publish a protest in Le Temps of 14 February 1889. In spite of the furore, work continued. After completion, ‘Eiffelomania’ swept France and Europe. Seurat in 1889 and Douanier Rousseau in 1890 were the first to paint the tower. In spite of that, opponents demanded that the eyesore be demolished as soon as the Exhibition had come to an end. Ironically, the Eiffel Tower was ‘adopted’ by many artists and photographers after Robert Delaunay made his iconic picture of the ‘red’ tower in 1909. For the Futurists, the


Tower reflected their enthusiasm for speed, metal and the shining surfaces of heavy machinery. English modernism started with the so-called Eiffel Tower group, a number of young authors (Hulme, Flint, Ezra Pound, Richard Aldington and others) who discussed modernist poetry in the Eiffel Tower restaurant in Soho. The Iron Lady of Paris was there to stay. She has come to serve as a symbol of the metropolis and may well be the most popular architectural achievement in the cityscape of the Western world.



rue de l’épicerie (rouen) The Enlightenment, with its emphasis on rationality and inquiry, and its belief in human ‘perfectibility’, disturbed the religious and cultural underpinning of the European socio-political order. Voltaire and Diderot in France, like David Hume and Jeremy Bentham in Britain, explored the human and secural bases of governmental power. These thinkers prepared the ground for the emergence of democracy as a viable system of government. Others rejected universal suffrage as a first step towards fragmentation. Awareness of disintegration in the workplace was raised when Adam Smith introduced the term and concept of division of labour in The Wealth of Nations (1776). Adam Ferguson warned of the dangers implicit in the system. While Smith feared the effect of specialization on the individual, Ferguson argued that excessive division of labour would strain the social ties that bind society together. Progress would deteriorate into a process of atomization. Specialization also affected science and the arts. Already in his day, Goethe complained that the sciences were pigeon-holed. Universities created a multitude of disciplines without offering an integrated world-view. Too many specialisms caused the part to obscure the whole, and information to replace wisdom. Once divorced from architecture, the arts that were traditionally tied to building (sculpture, painting, and even music) developed into independent branches of creative endeavour. This particularization divorced them from their social purpose. The demand of originality dealt a final blow to stylistic unity or continuity within the creative domain that splintered into a plenitude of aggresively combative groups or -isms


succeeding each other at an ever accelerating rate. Time and again critics applied phrases such as ‘cultural anarchy’ or ‘decadence’ to describe the perceived state of fragmentation into which the creative domain had fallen. Subjectivity was seen as the hallmark of disintegration. These observations were made at the same time that an unstoppable process of centralization took place in Europe. All roads and railways led from the provinces to the capital. Napoleon was a key figure in pushing the development towards a single authority of law- and policymaking forward. The French Revolution had swept away most remaining medieval and feudal laws. A truly national law code was established. Paris is the cause of the destruction of all the old bounds of provinces and jurisdictions, ecclesiastical and secular, Edmund Burke observed in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). The ‘strength of Paris thus formed, will appear a system of general weakness’. Critics such as Mme de Staël or Alphonse de Lamartine claimed that centralization would be disastrous from a cultural perpective. They hailed the vibrancy of Italian or German cities competing to emulate and outdo each other in artistic achievements, or, as Hippolyte Taine put it in 1866, in Renaissance Italy,‘[une] cité était une élite, et non, comme chez nous, une multitude’. It was widely feared that individual regions would forfeit their cultural traditions and the consequent loss of regional identities would undermine the nation’s strength as a whole. That is why George Eliot insisted in Middlemarch (1871/2) that an intelligent provincial man with a grain of public spirit, should do what he can ‘to resist the rush of everything that is a little better than common towards London. Any valid professional aims may often find a freer, if not a richer field, in the provinces’. Cities may be centres of innovation and knowledge transfer, but over-centralization or the coming together of all cultural facilities in one place, carries the dangers of homogenizing art (and language) and killing off diversity. Many of our standard handbooks of literature and art seem to suggest that outside the metropolis cultural life is stagnant or non-existent. The attitude is summarized by the figure of Sir Ernold in François de Neufchâteau’s comedy Pamela, ou La vertue recompense (1795): ‘Hors de Paris, vraiment, le goût n’existe pas’. That, of course, is an outrageous statement.


Like it was the case for a number of other European cities, Rouen’s modern history has been a painful one. During the nineteenth century its main industry was textile and cotton. Manufacturies were established in the Cailly and Robec valleys as well as on the left bank of the Seine. Endless rows of brick houses were built to lodge the influx of migrant workers. The poor living conditions of the working classes caused social unrest. In April 1848 the city was full of barricades although the insurrection was quickly and brutally put down. During the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, Rouen was occupied by the Prussians. During the First World War the city was a support base for the front line and saw the arrival of many refugees from Northern France and Belgium, before the landing and stationing of British troops. World War ii brought serious suffering to the city. The Germans entered Rouen on the 9 June 1940. The area of the city most affected by combat was located between the cathedral and the river which burned for a week as the Germans refused to allow the fire service access. Rouen was to remain under Nazi control for four long years during which time the city was bombed regularly and recklessly. The worst Allied attack took place during the week from 30 May to 5 June 1944 when 400 bombs hit Rouen killing 1,500 people, damaging the Cathedral, Saint-Maclou and the Palais de Justice and completely destroying a large part of the left bank. When the Canadians liberated Rouen on the 30 August 1944 they entered a devastated city. Cityscapes and photographs now serve as a memory of old Rouen. One of the streets obliterated by bombing during the war was Rue de l’Épicerie, literally: street of grocery stores, a bustling market street near to the cathedral. French artist Marcel Augis (pseudonym of Henri Dupont) was one a number of First World War French and Belgian artists that trod the Western Front during the Great War. They recorded the devastation of the battlefields and the areas that contained Allied troops. Many of these etchings/aquatints would have been sold to soldiers returning home after the War or subsequently purchased on battlefield remembrance tours that took place in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1916/7 Augis produced five or six scenes of Rouen. The etching of ‘La Rue de l’Épicerie,


Rouen’ dates from 1917 shows a street full of grocery speciality shops of spices from the Far East with the cathedral is in the background. The city is associated with three major artistic movements, namely Realism in literature and Romanticism and Impressionism in painting. From a literary point of view, Rouen is first and foremost associated with novelist Gustave Flaubert. The author was born in the city on 12 December 1821 and educated at the Lycée Pierre Corneille (the dramatist was also born in Rouen). In 1840 he went to Paris to study law, but hated the legal profession and found the city distasteful. From 1846 to 1854, Flaubert had a relationship with the poet Louise Colet. After leaving Paris, he returned to Croisset, near the Seine and close to Rouen, and lived with his mother in their home for the rest of his life. He never married. The affair with Louise was his only serious relationship. His 1856 novel Madame Bovary is set in the sleepy town of Tostes (now Tôtes), near Rouen, and focuses on a doctor’s wife, Emma Bovary, who has adulterous affairs and lives beyond her means in order to escape the emptiness of provincial life. Trapped in a banal marriage to Charles Bovary, a man without drive or ambition, and living in provincial surroundings, infidelity and Rouen are her only means of escape. To her, Paris represents the culmination of all dreams. Her reality however is life in a dull town, an existence of bitterness and discontent. The town of Tôtes also figures in another classic of French literature, Guy de Maupassant’s Boule de Suif. Set during the Franco-Prussian War, the story tells the cowardly betrayal of prostitute Elisabeth Rousset by a group of upright citizens from Rouen in order to save their own skins. De Maupassant himself was educated at a boarding school in the city. Nestling in a meander of the river, the capital of Normandy has always held a fascination for artists. A number of English painters found inspiration in the old town. Richard Parkes Bonington, an Anglo-French painter of coastal scenes with a fine handling of light and atmosphere, painted the famous Rue du Gros-Horloge. Critics consider this work a masterpiece of Romantic lithography. Turner created a well-known watercolour of Rouen Cathedral and, like Pissarro would do many


years later, he compared the city to Venice. Paul Huet painted his splendid ‘Vue générale de Rouen, prise du Mont-aux-Malades’ in 1831. During three trips to Normandy in 1829, 1830 and 1833, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot produced various views of and landscapes around the Seine as seen from Rouen. Théodore Géricault was born and educated in Rouen before settling in Paris. From a historical perspective, a dramatic moment in the turn from Neoclassicism to Romanticism was the exhibition of one of Géricault’s paintings at the Salon of 1819 in Paris. In June 1816, the French frigate ‘Méduse’ had departed from Rochefort bound for Senegal. The ship drifted off course and ran aground on a sandbank off the West African coast. Passengers and crew tried to travel the sixty miles to the African coast in the frigate’s six boats. Although she was carrying 400 people, there was space for just about 250 of them in the boats. The others were piled onto a hastily-built raft. For sustenance the crew had no more than a bag of ship’s biscuits and two casks of water. The journey carried the survivors to the edge of human experience. Crazed and starved, they slaughtered mutineers, ate their dead companions, and killed the weakest amongst them. After thirteen days at sea, the raft was rescued. Fifteen men were still alive. The others had been thrown overboard, died of starvation, or drowned themselves in despair. The disaster inspired Théodore Géricault to create ‘Le radeau de la Méduse’. The painting depicts the moment that survivors view a ship approaching from a distance. The artist was obsessed by the subject-matter. He undertook extensive research, interviewed survivors, and constructed a scale model of the raft. His efforts took him to morgues and hospitals where he could view the dying and dead. He was said to be spellbound with the stiffness of corpses. He brought severed limbs back to his studio to investigate their decay, and stored a severed head borrowed from a lunatic asylum on his studio roof. Despite their drudging reputation, fixed routines are an indispensable tool to artists of all kinds. The creative process demands discipline. Géricault drove this awareness to the extreme. During the eight months of creation, the painter lived a monastic existence, working in methodical fashion and complete silence. The painting established the artist’s international reputation


and the disturbing image became an icon of French Romanticism. Johan Barthold Jongkind visited Paris in 1860 where his Dutch watercolours of land- and seascapes enjoyed enormous successs. He decided to stay and paintings such as a ‘Vue de Rouen’ or ‘La Seine près de Rouen’ (both paintings date from 1865) which record the mood and atmospherics of the moment became influential in the push towards new aesthetic ideals. The Impressionists were regular visitors to Rouen. In fact, it was in Normandy that Claude Monet in 1872 painted his famous ‘Impression, soleil levant’, a painting that gave the movement its name. It would, however, be another twenty years before the artist turned his attention to Rouen’s Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame. Painted from the first floor of a ladies’ lingerie shop, he worked on up to fourteen canvases at a time, determined to capture each and every atmospheric detail. The final result consists of twenty-eight views of the impressive facade which includes ‘La Rue de l’Épicerie à Rouen’ (1892). Monet finished the works in his studio at Giverny, carefully adjusting the pictures both independently and in relation to each other. In 1895, he successfully exhibited twenty of his cathedral pictures at Durand-Ruel’s gallery in Paris. In the autumn of 1883, Paul Gauguin moved his family from Paris to Rouen. In desperate financial trouble, he combined painting with selling life insurances and other part-time jobs in order to survive before moving to Copenhagen where his Danish wife Mette tried to keep the family afloat by teaching French to Danish students. During his short spell in Rouen, Gauguin painted a number of streetand city-scenes which includes ‘Rue Jouvenet à Rouen’ (Rouen-born Jean Jouvenet was appointed to the post of Director of the Royal Acadamy in 1705). LéonJules Lemaître produced some stunning paintings of the area. In his oil painting ‘Palais de Justice de Rouen’ Lemaître masterly captures the atmosphere of the Law Courts’ Renaissance courtyard. His 1890 painting of the Rouen’s Gros Horloge, one of Europe’s oldest working medieval clocks, is an outstanding example of his interest in the cityscape. Lemaître is one of a handful of a group of artists that became known as the ‘École de Rouen’. The term was coined in 1902 by the French


critic Arsène Alexandre and refers to a group of post-Impressionist artists who followed in the footsteps of Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and Alfred Sisley. The members of the School of Rouen were drawn to the city as an escape from the strict academic attitudes found in the salons and galleries of Paris at the time. Their efforts culminated in two legendary exhibitions: the first, held in 1907, brought together works by Fauvist artists such as Dufy, Matisse and Braque; the second, organised on the Ile Lacroix in 1912, was addressed by Apollinaire who gave a lecture on ‘Orphic Cubism’. Pissarro was famous for his portrayal of Rouen, a city he once described ‘as beautiful as Venice’. He first worked there in 1883. An admirer of Monet’s Rouen Cathedral series, he painted several views of the quays along the Seine. He tended to work at the spot to capture the atmosphere and activity there and then. In 1893, following treatment on an eye, his doctor warned him not to expose himself to dusty conditions. He returned to Rouen in 1896 and in 1898 for three extended painting campaigns. By working from an elevated position, Pissarro found a perfect solution to the problem of capturing the hustle and bustle of the city, its linear and aerial perspectives, without the impracticalities of installing himself in the street. From the third floor of his room at the Hôtel de Paris which overlooked the Seine, he painted different views of the Pont Boïeldieu, at sunset, on an overcast day, in the fog. The bridge joined the old Gothic city in the north with the new southern industrial areas of Sainte-Sever. On the far bank we see boats docking and unloading cargo, with the urban landscape in the distance. It is this juxtaposition of mist and smoke, of the industrial and the historical, that gives his cityscapes its intriguing character. An exhibition of his work at Paul Durand-Ruel’s gallery in Paris in April/May 1896 included eleven Rouen paintings which were critically appreciated and found buyers giving him financial security at last. It allowed him to return to Rouen in September 1896. This time he stayed at the Hôtel d’Angleterre on the other side of the bridge, where his fifth-floor room offered panoramas of the city’s three bridges. In 1898 he travelled to Rouen for a fourth time, painting more views of the bridges, as well as of the Gare d’Orléans and the Quai de la Bourse.

On 19 August 1898, Pissarro wrote to his son Lucien that he had found an excellent place from which to paint the Rue de l’Épicerie and the Friday market in the Place de la Haute-Vieille-Tour. He made various paintings of the street under different atmospheric conditions, be it in bright sunshine or on a grey morning. Like fellow Impressionists he liked to experiment with the effects of light. Depicting light and the play of shadow has always been a challenge to painters. The Impressionists abolished the traditional use of neutral tones and black and grays for creating shadow by applying purples and yellows instead to suggest coloured shadows and reflected light. Pissarro’s paintings of the old street are a reminder of the cruel damage World War ii had inflicted on Europe’s heritage. His views of Rouen total a number of forty-seven. They vastly exceed the numbers of any other series he created. Cityscapes dominate his oeuvre. Rouen’s rich artistic history in the meantime shows that there is life outside the capital after all.



strandgade (copenhagen) The flourishing of Scandinavian art is associated with the plays of Ibsen and Strindberg or the music of Grieg and Sibelius.With the exception of Edvard Munch, the work of Scandinavian painters at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century is far less appreciated than that of their French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist counterparts. Stockholm-born Eugène Fredrik Jansson is famed for his nocturnal cityscapes dominated by shades of blue (he was called the ‘blue-painter’). Suffering from deafness and socially isolated, he spent his life at Södermalm, a district of central Stockholm. There, from his workshop at the heights of Mariaberget, he commanded a view over the entire central city with its islands and stretches of water. In paintings such as ‘Hornsgatan at night’ (1902), in which the gaslights create swirls along the empty street, a real location is transformed into a landscape of the soul. In ‘Riddarfjärden in Stockholm’ (1898) or ‘Nocturne’ (1901) the nature of these night views, although topographically correct, is visionary and dream-like. The symbolic character of Jansson’s paintings during his ‘blue period’ was partly a result of the influence of Edvard Munch, whose works had been exhibited in Stockholm in 1894. His ‘Rosenlundsgatan’ (1895), where the rhythmical stylization is especially strong, clearly shows Munch’s impact. Music was another source of inspiration. It is not incidental that he called several of his blue panoramas ‘nocturne’. They were inspired by Chopin, his favourite composer.


There is a misconception that painters from the Nordic countries simply adopted the innovations of the Parisian avant garde after they had spent extended spells of working and exhibiting in France. What in fact happened was that Scandinavian artists on their return home adapted artistic developments they had witnessed to their own painterly concerns and cultural heritage. That is certainly the case for Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershøi. Over the years from 1830 to 1850, a new pictorial sensitivity emerged in Denmark, brushing aside old academic conventions. Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, considered by critics as the father of the Danish Guldalder (Golden Age), rejected neoclassical austerity by prioritizing a naturalist approach and outdoor painting, but former agricultural student Theodor Philipsen is regarded as the innovator of late nineteenth century Danish art. His encounter with Impressionists dates back to his first period in Paris from 1874 to 1876, where he probably visited the second Impressionist exhibition in 1876, but he was particularly impressed by the achievements of the Barbizon painters. In the years 1882 to 1884 he spent a prolonged sojourn abroad. In Paris he visited the seventh Impressionist exhibition at the Galerie Durand-Ruel. From there he travelled to Andalusia and Tunis, before returning home via Rome. During this period he created a number of pictures that have been described as protoImpressionist. Having experienced the bleaching light and scorched hues of the landscape prompted Philipsen to boost the intensity of colour in his pictures. In Copenhagen he met up with Gauguin who, in 1884/5, spent two unhappy years in the Danish capital. Fluent in French, he supported the latter in his struggle to survive whilst Gauguin discussed with his Danish friend the colouristic theories behind Impressionism. Philipsen cemented his links with Impressionism in 1889 with his participation in the exhibition of ‘Nordic and French Impressionists’ in Copenhagen at the initiative of painter and art historian Karl Madsen. In terms of technique and renditions of light and shadows he shared a kinship with his French colleagues showing a similar obsession with atmospheric conditions. His originality resides in his ability to adapt the Impressionist palette in accordance with the much gloomier Danish countryside and weather.


During the 1870s, several artists sought fresh sources of inspiration by locking their studios and move into the country, just like French artists had wandered off to Barbizon or Brittany. The northern fishing village of Skagen inspired a group of artists to depict local scenes and activities with rapid brushstrokes and dabs of colour. Although influenced by French Impressionism, Scandinavian artists retained much of their originality. From the golden age of Danish art to the Impressionist school of Skagen, from the Swedish and Norwegian masters of the time period to the Finnish quest for finding a national identity, these painters always reckoned that they stood apart. After the initial thrill of traversing Europe in the nineteenth century, encountering the light and art of Italy, and recording the emergence of Realism and Impressionism in France, most of them withdrew to their own countries whilst turning their attention to native landscapes (ice, snow, mountains, meadows and forests) and folk traditions. This aesthetic orientation would nurture Symbolist artists who painted frozen bleak landscapes pierced by the northern lights as mirrors of their souls. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century this awareness of regional identity persisted. Simultaneously, there was a development towards a more ‘interior’ art. In his treatise De vera religione (On true religion) St Augustine expounded his view of the relation between faith and reason, to the advantage of the former: ‘Noli foras ire, in te ipsum redi. In interiore homine habitat veritas’ [Do not wish to go outside, return to your inner self. Truth dwells in the inner man]. Augustine invented the concept of the self as a private inner space into which one can enter and find God. In philosophical terms, we tend to oppose an ‘outer’ to an ‘inner’ world. There is the external domain of space and time, which is equated with the objective, physical world of material things; and there is the subjective, mental domain of moral sentiments and personal attitudes, which stands for the private world of inner experience. Such a dichotomy is by necessity a theoretical one. It ignores a number of contrasts that in practice cut along different lines. Inwardness nevertheless is a psychological concept with cultural connotations that concern Northern Europe in particular. Danish painters such as Vilhelm Hammershøi, Carl Holsoe and


Peter Ilsted focused on creating an art out of the everyday spaces (including the streetscape) that would draw the viewer into these worlds whilst suggesting deeper layers of significance. Some of these works reflect an intense psychological and spiritual dimension that continues to this day in Scandinavian filmmaking. Strandgade (Beach Street) in Copenhagen runs along the full length of the neighbourhood, following the harbourfront, from Christian’s Church in the south-west to Grønlandske Handels Plads in the north. The east side of the oldest section of the street is still completely dominated by historic townhouses. By the time of the coronation of Christian iv in 1596, Copenhagen was becoming an increasingly powerful presence in the region. It was the new king’s ambition to make the town the economic, military and cultural centre of the Nordic world. He established trading companies, restricted imports, and encouraged manufacturers to produce luxury goods for home consumption. Christian expanded the city by adding two new districts: Nyboder was built to house large numbers of navy personnel and Christianshavn, modelled after Amsterdam (complete with canals and warehouses built in the Dutch style with the gables facing the quay), to serve the needs of local and foreign merchants. In 1616, Christian invited Frisian town planner Johan Semp to design this new district. The latter reclaimed land and laid out streets, squares and plots for merchant’s houses, thus giving the quarter its ‘Dutch’ character. A modern fortification with earthworks and bastions was built to surround the whole of the city. Christian commissioned Dutch architects and German craftsmen to construct grand and prestigious edifices which, to this day, mark the cityscape of Copenhagen. By the time of his death in 1648, Copenhagen had become Denmark’s principal naval port and a centre of trade giving access to the whole of Northern Europe. Strandgade, one of Copenhagen’s most beautiful streets, still shows how the original merchant’s houses were built of brick and decorated with fine sandstone details. Copenhagen-born Vilhelm Hammershøi was a painter of solitude and light. His land- and streetscapes and minimalist interiors were inspired by the Dutch


school of painting evoke feelings of peacefulness, mystery, radiance and subtly dosed simplicity. His oeuvre is a self-conscious celebration of local traditions and represents the last flourishing of the Danish ‘Golden Age’ in which intellectual production in philosophy, literature and the arts had bloomed. He was recognized by his peers as the premier Danish painter and critics often included him among the French Impressionists. He worked mainly in his native city, painting portraits and architecture, but the artist is most celebrated for his interiors, many of which he painted at no. 30 Strandgade (where he lived with his wife from 1898 to 1909) and no. 25 Strandgade (where they stayed from 1913 to 1916). The house at Strandgade was to play a critical role in the development of Hammershøi’s singular aesthetic. His arrangement and rearrangement of the distinctive, sparsely furnished space, bare wooden floorboard, perpendicular wall mouldings, sentinel stoves and painted white doors quickly became the central motif of his work once he had established himself in the premises. The metropolis is addicted to megadecibels of noise. The roar of machines and motors and the beat of music are tokens of the city’s energy and dynamism. It is an aspect of urban life that captivated the French Impressionists. They relished the rush and rage of the street and loved the fashion and frolics of the boulevard. They were the painters of outdoor life. Scandinavian artists stepped back inside. Contemplation replaced exuberance. Hammershøi’s interiors of minimalist elegance impose a sense of quietude that invites the viewer to reflect on the essentials of being. These are intriguing paintings. The interiors are quiet, their emptiness disturbed only occasionally by the presence of a solitary figure, often his wife. Painted within a small tonal range of implied greys, these sparsely furnished rooms exude an almost hypnotic quietude and sense of melancholic introspection. Some critics refer to the artist as the ‘Danish Vermeer’. Music was one of the more popular themes in Dutch and in Vermeer’s painting in particular, and carried many diverse associations. In portraits, a musical instrument or songbook might suggest the education or social position of the sitter; in scenes of everyday life, it might act as a metaphor for harmony, or a symbol of transience. Hammershøi responded to that tradition. A


classic example of his work is the 1901 oil on canvas ‘Interior with Woman at Piano, Strandgade 30’. The same year he produced ‘Interior in Strandgade, Sunlight on the Floor’. Like many fellow artists of his generation, he showed keen interest in photography. The photographs in Hammershøi’s collection include several images of Copenhagen streets and backyards that appear to be closely linked to his paintings. His striving for an accurate topographic representation of his native city is a reminder of the impact made by those seventeenth century Dutch artists who had been preoccupied with depicting the city- and streetscape. Gerrit Adriaensz Berckheyde painted numerous views of Amsterdam and his native Haarlem which bear a close relationship to the great tradition of topographical drawing in the Netherlands. He was a master of perspective and the contrasting use of light and shadow in his paintings. One of the more extraordinary pictures in his oeuvre is ‘De Gouden Bocht in de Herengracht’ (The Golden Bend on Herengracht) dating from 1671/2. The golden bend is the most prestigious part of this canal ever since the wealthiest traders and shipbuilders in Amsterdam began building their homes there in the 1660s. These were ‘city-palaces’ with classicist facades, stuccoed ceilings and fine gardens. Berckheyde’s painting however does not celebrate Amsterdam’s prosperity. The artist presents the Herengracht in accurate and ‘photographic’ perspective. The painting shows a row of fine houses with sparsely populated and treeless sidewalks along a mirror-like canal. The image seems a premonition of doom, a warning that wealth may lead to pride and arrogance. It evokes an empty feeling that an artist like De Chirico would have appreciated. American critics may apply the term ‘Hopperesque’ to indicate the singular environment of this strangely beautiful work. Hammershøi was a private, sensitive and withdrawn personality. Yet he travelled across Europe, was admired by the likes of Sergei Diaghilev, Théodore Duret and Rainer Maria Rilke, and in 1911 was one of five artists to win a grand prix at the International Exhibition in Rome. To him, London was particularly compelling in providing locations for his understated style of painting, suffused as it was with a foggy and coal smoke polluted atmosphere. He liked the deserted streets of


the metropolis on a misty winter morning. His paintings are muted in tone. He refrained from employing bright colours, opting for a limited palette consisting of greys, yellows, greens, and other dark hues. His figures are turned away from the viewer and as such project an air of tension and mystery. His exteriors of grand buildings in Copenhagen and in London are devoid of people, a quality they share with his landscapes. Staying at Great Russell Street, he was close to the British Museum which he painted twice (in 1905 and 1906). He did not look for the main entrance of the building with its pompous colonnade, but painted the building from its most unattractive side in Montague Street. The Museum in the empty street resembles a secretive Soviet government building during the Cold War, grey and threatening - it looks like a culture-bunker. There was English interest in Hammershøi’s work as well, partly and appropriately through Dutch intervention. The Elbert van Wisselingh firm of art dealers in Amsterdam had opened a branch in London in 1905 under the name of the Dutch Gallery. They specialized in the work of the Barbizon and Hague school painters, but also exhibited work of contemporary British artists, including William Rothenstein and Walter Sickert. The name of the branch was changed to E. J. Van Wisselingh’s Gallery in 1906. In June 1907 the firm organized an exhibition of ‘Oil Paintings by the Danish Artist Vilhelm Hammershøi’, where the exquisite painting ‘Det Gamle Klaver, Strandgade 30’ (The old piano) was acquired by John James Cowan of Murrayfield, Edinburgh. The painting re-appeared at Christie’s (sale 7506, lot 70) on 26 June 2007 and was sold for over half a million pound. The precise geometry of the painting, the even surface of the canvas and the shifting tones of white, green, grey, blue and brown make this painting a fine example of Hammershøi’s interiors. The old piano reinforces the stillness of the image - the sound of silence.


rue des moulins (paris) The streets of Paris according to Balzac have every human quality and impress us by their physiognomy. Certain streets are degraded. Others are noble or respectable. There are cut-throat streets, streets older than the age of the oldest dowagers, estimable streets, working and mercantile streets. The Rue des Moulins in these terms is a rough old street. Dating back to 1624 it is located in the first arrondissement of the city. Two windmills once stood on the hill - hence Rue des Moulins and nearby Rue Saint-Honoré which is dedicated to the patron saint (Honorius of Amiens) of millers, bakers, pastry chefs, and confectioners. One of the windmills, the Moulin Radet was dismantled and rebuilt at the junction of Rue Lepic and Rue Girardon in Monmartre. The notoriety of the street was established during the last decade of the nineteenth century. That was largely due to the work of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, a post-Impressionist painter and illustrator whose immersion in the theatrical life of Paris yielded a series of provocative images of the extravagant 1890s life-style of the capital. Prostitution is central to his oeuvre. Prostitutes play a central role in the European novel of the nineteenth-century century. There are Defoe’s Moll Flanders, Dickens’s Nancy, Collins’s Mercy Merrick, Gaskell’s Ruth, Hugo’s Fantine, Dumas’s Marguerite Gautier, De Maupassant’s Elisabeth Rousset, Zola’s Nana, Fontane’s Effi Briest, Wedekind’s Lulu, to mention but a few of the ‘fallen women’ that appear in realistic and naturalistic novels of


the age. Prostitutes inspired many negative stereotypes. However, as victims of a culture that marginalized her, the prostitute offered a perfect vehicle for writers to criticize bourgeois hypocrisy. The interest in the world of brothels and courtisanes extends well into the twentieth century and is not limited to literature. Hungarian photographer and filmmaker George Brassaï (real name: Gyula Halász) published photographs of brothels in his 1935 book Voluptés de Paris. In 1952, Robert Miquet (using the pseudonym Romi) published a voluminous illustrated work on Maisons closes: l’histoire, l’art, la littérature, les moeurs. Released in 2002, the Parisian Musée de l’Érotisme exhibits Polissons et galipettes (Rascals and somersaults), Michel Reilhac’s compilation of film clips from silent pornographic films made between 1905 and 1930 in France that were intended to be shown in brothels. Ever since the works of Titian and Giorgione, paintings of brothels and prostitutes appear frequently over the centuries. In many cases the bond between artist and sitter was a close one. Margaret Lemans was of Flemish descent and had settled in London some time in 1629. Little is known of her life, even the spelling of her name is in doubt - but her image will last. She was probably still in her teens and working as a prostitute when Anthony van Dyck made Margaret his mistress allowing her to preside over his grand properties in Blackfriars and Eltham where he entertained Charles i and many noble patrons. Van Dyck has been the most successful immigrant artist ever to arrive on British soil. The English were so overwhelmed by his talent that they were willing to forgive his Catholicism. In fact, most of his clients were Puritans and nobody more so than Philip, Lord Wharton, who bought no less than twenty paintings of the master. While noble women were queuing up to have their portrait painted by Van Dyck, the master himself was completely taken in by an ordinary Flemish girl who had been forced to make a living out of prostitution. He painted her image over and again. Twelve of the paintings for which she posed survive, five of which are portraits. It is not the subject matter that is relevant in this context, but the intimacy between artist and model. It appears that such a caring relationship is in no way exceptional. Artists identify with prostitutes because the creative mind tends to be abused by society


in a similarly exploitative and disposable fashion. There is an element of mutual recognition, the artist realizing that ‘Anch’io sono [una] puttana’. Toulouse-Lautrec was born in 1864 into the provincial interbred aristocracy of Albi, in south-western France. At the age of thirteen, he broke his left femur, and a year later, he broke his right, after which his legs stopped growing (possibly a consequence of pyknodysostosis, a genetic disease of the bone, related to his family’s consanguineous marriages). During his long convalescence, he spent much of his time drawing and painting. He persuaded his parents to allow him to go to Paris. In 1882 he entered the atelier of Léon Bonnat, transferring later to Fernand Cormon’s studio where he met his lifelong friends Louis Anquetin, Émile Bernard and Vincent van Gogh. His first illustrations were published in 1886 in the Montmartrois journals Le Courrier français and Le Mirliton. His subsequent work is intimately connected to this lively Parisian district where he focused on the life of the dance halls, cafés and concert halls. He created his first lithograph, the famous poster ‘La Goulue’, for the Moulin Rouge in December 1891 and went on to design a further twenty-nine posters as well as hundreds of prints, drawings and paintings. Catalan-born bookmaker Joseph Oller (inventor of ‘Parimutuel’ betting which spread across race tracks around the world) lived in Paris for most of his life. From 1876 onwards, he focused his attention on the entertainment industry. He opened various venues such as Fantaisies Oller, La Bombonnière, Théâtre des Nouveautés, Nouveau Cirque, Montagnes Russes, and Olympia (the first music-hall in Paris). In 1889 he inaugurated the famous Moulin Rouge. He also managed Le Jardin de Paris, a café-concert on the Champs Élysées, which was the summer outpost of the Moulin Rouge. Both establishments are associated with Jane Avril and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The latter portrayed Jane’s debut at the Jardin. A beautiful and extremely thin girl with pale skin and tresses of red gold hair, Jane Avril soon became infamous for performing the cancan at the Jardin. Lautrec had been employed to produce an advertising illustration. The couple, in spite of their


different backgrounds, soon became close friends. Jane (originally named Jeanne) was said to be the daughter of a courtesan, with an absent father rumoured to have been a foreign aristocrat. Her youth was an unhappy and abusive one. She left home when she was thirteen years old, soon afterwards ending up in the care of the Salpêtrière psychiatric hospital in Paris, a desperate place where many ‘bad’ women were imprisoned without trial or sent by their families. Throughout her life she suffered from nervous disorders. These however did not interrupt a glittering career. Lautrec painted her time and again, and in various moods and poses, glamorous, graceful, melancholic, tired, or nervous. It is doubtful that the two ever became lovers. Lautrec had his own inhibitions and insecurities. In 1899, suffering from the effects of alcoholism and syphilis, he was institutionalized for several months at an asylum near Paris but he returned to drinking soon after his release. On 9 September 1901, he suffered a stroke and died at his mother’s estate, the Château de Malromé, aged thirty-six. For a period Lautrec resided at no. 24 Rue des Moulins. This was the address of a luxurious brothel, a ‘grande tolérance’ consisting of ornate rooms including a Chinese salon, a Gothic chamber, and a domed Moorish Hall. It was a well-run business, operated to strict rules of conduct, and proper schedules. Despite his aristocratic upbringing, Toulouse-Lautrec found a way to accept and feel accepted by the entertainment industry. Sex workers were his friends, and he treated them as equals. He produced more than forty paintings and drawings of the inhabitants of Rue des Moulins. He made it the most famous brothel in the world. By the end of the nineteenth century, there were some 34,000 professional ‘filles à numéro’ (prostitutes) registered in Paris. The brothels were licensed and monitored by the police, while sex workers were subject to routine medical inspections by the ‘dispensaire de salubrité’. The majority of women were forced into prostitution in order to look after themselves and/or family. Job prospects were scarce. Alexandre Parent-Duchatlet noted in his famous 1836 study De la prostitution dans la ville de Paris that few professions were open to women. For many, prostitution was sheer survivalism. It was a profitable trade by which women improved their


circumstances, helped to educate siblings and often saved enough to open a shop or lodging house. At one time, a job as a seamstress was a respected position. Honour was an important draw as it could help to better marriage prospects. More often than not, seamstresses worked out of their own homes, choosing which assignments to take or leave. The down sides to becoming a seamstress were poor pay and a two year apprenticeship. Many families who needed their daughters to work could not afford two years of lost wages. Hence, the job of a seamstress was reserved to the relatively well-to-do. All that changed after the (belated) industrialization of France. Mechanization and foreign competition led to the demise of the skilled artisans who were previously employed in those trades. This change occurred first and most dramatically in the textile industry in centres such as Normandy and Rouen. The skilled and gentle seamstress of former days now became a low class factory worker often with questionable morals. For many decades, the seamstress had been romanticized as a paragon of female virtue. The idealized image would soon be shattered. Hardship took its toll. Prostitution offered a far more profitable trade which took considerable moral strength to resist. The figure of the whore hovered behind the poverty-stricken seamstress, and they ultimately represented two halves of the same whole. The connection is highlighted by Guy de Maupassant in La Maison Tellier (1881). The brothel is located in the small town of Fécamp, Normandy. Madame herself came of a respectable peasant family. The town accepts her business without moral condemnation. Locals simply say: ‘It is a paying profession’. The irony of the story is located in the interplay between the notion of ‘a good job’ and the conventional accusation of immorality. The revealing remark is that Madame had accepted her position as a bordello-keeper without prejudice or moral concern. The association of the profession with prostitution is also suggested by Jean Béraud in his delightful (undated) Impressionist image of ‘La modiste sur Les Champs Élysées’. Toulouse Lautrec’s painting ‘L’inspection médicale, Rue des Moulins’ dates from


1894. He created this scene from personal observation. In a room richly decorated with autumnal colours and Chinese patterns, two women stand in line. One is blonde and more mature than her smaller red-haired colleague. Both have lifted their chemises above their knee-length stockings to reveal naked buttocks and thighs. With her dress gathered in front to preserve what remains of her dignity, the blonde looks tired and resigned. The younger woman is more assertive. With bright red hair and rouged cheeks she approaches her assignation without inhibition. A third woman in a turquoise kimono walks away from them towards a group of people below a large window through which can be seen a clock tower (perhaps the nearby Bibliothèque Nationale!). Lautrec paints these women without moralism, sentimentality, or contempt. Despite his personal carnal pursuits as a paying client in the house, there is no erotic exploitation, no sensationalism. He simply records the medical routine to which these women were submitted. Physical examinations served to protect upright citizens from the physical and mental ravages of syphilis, one of the blessings Columbus had brought back to Europe from the New World (the first written record of an outbreak of syphilis dates from 1494/5 in the aftermath of the French invasion of Naples; during the Renaissance syphilis was generally known as the ‘French disease’ and a major cause of death). In the nineteenth century syphilis was allured to as an artist’s disease. A whole alphabet of outstanding creators suffered or died from the affliction, including Baudelaire, Beau Brummell, Delius, Donizetti, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Heine, Keats, Manet, De Maupassant, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Schubert, Smetana, Tolstoy, Vrubel, Wilde, Wolf, and many others. Toulouse-Lautrec painted this diseased world. It prompted Edgar Degas to make the crude observation that some of the former’s female portraits ‘stank of syphilis’. It was not until 1905 that the causative organism was first identified which led to more effective forms of treatment. Until the advent of penicillin in 1943, ‘cures’ for syphilis were based on the use of heavy metals such as mercury or, as the saying goes, ‘a night in the arms of Venus leads to a lifetime on Mercury’.


rua das flores (lisbon) Lisbon is the oldest city in Western Europe, predating London, Paris or Rome by hundreds of years. During the eighteenth century diamonds and gold from Brazil made Portugal a prosperous country and a big player in world trade. About ten percent of the nation’s three million inhabitants lived in the capital. The Great Lisbon Earthquake happened on the morning of Saturday 1 November 1755. In combination with subsequent fires and a tsunami the quake destroyed a large part of the city and adjoining areas. There have been plenty geographical disasters in early history, but Lisbon’s earthquake has been called the first modern disaster. It became part of the debate over modernity and a topic in the intellectual exchanges about tradition and progress. It was an era in which religious authority was challenged by demands for intellectual freedom and scientific enquiry. These political and institutional shifts found expression in the meanings that were assigned to the Lisbon earthquake. The disaster transformed Enlightenment thinking and led to the famous exchange between Voltaire and Rousseau. Fifty years before the earthquake, Leibniz had asserted that despite human suffering ours was the ‘best of all possible worlds’. After the earthquake, Voltaire pointed out that a more powerful refutation to Leibniz’s argument could not have been imagined. The argument offended Rousseau. He did not intend to defend Leibniz’s thinking, but emphasized that the deaths of so many in Lisbon had as much to do with human presumption as divine negligence, impotence or cruelty. It was human hybris that brought together twenty-thousand houses of six or seven stories, he argued. If the


residents of the city had been more evenly dispersed and less densely housed, loss of life would have been minimal. How many unfortunates perished in this disaster through the desire to fetch their clothing, papers, or money? Jean-Jacques used the earthquake as an argument against city-life and in favour of more naturalistic ways of being. The Marquis of Pombal in the meantime was assigned the task of rebuilding the devastated city. He imposed strict conditions and guidelines on the re-construction in order to transform the organic and chaotic streetscape that characterized the city before the earthquake into its current grid pattern. While the earthquake caused considerable damage throughout the capital, much of the old city (Bairro alto) survived with little damage, thanks to its compact labyrinth of narrow streets and small squares. In 1703 England and Portugal signed the Methuen Treaty. At the start of the War of the Spanish Succession the Portuguese allied with France because the French had guaranteed them naval protection. However, in 1702 the British Navy sailed close to Lisbon on the way to and from Cadiz, proving to the Portuguese authorities that the French could not keep their promise. Talks with the Grand Alliance about switching sides began soon after. The resulting treaty was negotiated by John Methuen, the British Ambassador to Portugal. It established closer trading relations between the two nations, allowing English woolen cloth to be admitted into Portugal free of duty and, in return, Portuguese wines imported into England would be subject to a third less taxation than those brought in from elsewhere. Port was about to hit Britain. The real impact was felt during and after the Napoleonic Wars when French products were virtually unobtainable. Soon British wine merchants migrated to Portugal and established the famous port houses of Cockburn, Croft, Dow, Graham, Osborne, Sandeman, Taylor and Warre. The British aristocracy became addicted to port and afflicted by gout, whilst English poets fell in love with Portugal - and with Sintra in particular. The name Sintra evokes a series of cultural memories. In 1825, Almeida Garret published his poem ‘Camões’. It signalled the beginning of the Romantic obsession


with the village of Sintra in Estremadura, near Lisbon. Sintra had long been part of the itinerary of English Grand Tourists. William Beckford, a wealthy aristocrat, art collector, and author of the Gothic (spiced up with Oriental elements) novel Vathek, landed in Lisbon in 1787. Having spent time at Sintra he praised the area as a ‘vast temple of nature’. The following decade he rented the estate that would later be known as the Palace of Montserrate (having been expelled from Britain for sodomy). Robert Southey spent some years in Portugal. In his 1808 Letters Written during a Journey in Spain and a Short Residence in Portugal he describes Sintra as ‘the most blessed spot on the whole inhabitable globe’. Lord Byron visited Sintra in 1809. In a letter of 16 July he refers to the village as ‘the most beautiful perhaps in the world’. He subsequently immortalized the place in ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’ as a paradise on earth (‘Cintra’s glorious Eden’). What makes the place so special and atmospheric? The sudden eruption of Sintra’s steep hills in an otherwise flat landscape has an effect on its climate. The mellow mists that shroud it through much of the summer have attracted rich Lisboans for centuries as an escape from heat in the city. Mistiness lends its ruins their special charm. The medieval Capucin monastery with cork-lined walls (known as the Cork Convent) is hardly ever exposed to sun light. The gardens of Montserrate offer vegetation in rainforest humidity. Even now, many of art shops in town sell engravings by English artist William Burnett who, in the 1830s, captured the splendour of the area. Few Portuguese artists on the other hand were attracted to settling in Britain with one notable exception. Novelist José Maria Eça de Queiróz was a master of realism. Many contemporary authors admired his work. Émile Zola rated his fiction higher than that of Gustave Flaubert. Others compared the novelist to Dickens, Balzac or Tolstoy. Born an illegitimate child in 1845, he was officially recorded as the son of José Maria de Almeida Teixeira de Queiróz, a Brazilian judge and an unknown mother. He studied law at the University of Coimbra, the oldest academic institution in Portugal and one of the earliest universities in Europe. Eça’s first known work was a series of prose poems, published in the Gazeta de Portugal, which eventually appeared in a posthumous collection edited by Batalha


Reis entitled Prosas bárbaras. In 1869/70, Eça travelled to Egypt where he was present at the opening of the Suez Canal. The experience left a mark on several of his works, most notably the murder mystery O Mistério da Estrada de Sintra (The Mystery of the Sintra Road, 1870), written in collaboration with Ramalho Ortigão. The novel was turned into a film in 2007. When he took up a post in Leiria to work as a municipal administrator, Eça de Queiróz wrote his first realist novel O Crime do Padre Amore (The Sin of Father Amaro), which is set in the city and first appeared in 1875. In his fiction the author regularly attacked Christianity and was highly critical of the role of the Catholic Church plays in society. Eça made his way up in the Portuguese consular service and spent two years in Havana before being posted in England. For five years, between 1874 and 1879, he was stationed at no. 53 Grey Street in Newcastle upon Tyne from where he dispatched his diplomatic reports on British affairs and industrial conditions. In spite of a dislike of country and climate, his long stay proved to be productive from an artistic point of view. His output included a series of ‘Cartas de Londres’ (London Letters) which were printed in the Lisbon daily newspaper Diário de Notícias and afterwards appeared in book form as Cartas de Inglaterra. As early as 1878 he had given name to his masterpiece Os Maias (The Maias), though this novel was largely written during his later residence in Bristol and published a decade later. All in all, Eça stayed in England for some fifteen years, suffering the damp weather and the ‘indecent manner of cooking vegetables’, which nevertheless stimulated a considerable creative output. Whilst in Manchester, Friedrich Engels formulated his social criticism by observing the excesses of capitalism and its disastrous effects on the working population. Accordingly, Eça found a cutting edge to his fictional social realism by reporting on the appalling industrial conditions in the NorthEast of the country. In 1888, he finally moved to his beloved France becoming Portuguese Consul-General in Paris where he died in 1900. Rua das Flores is a narrow steep street in the old town of Lisbon. Two monuments stand close together at the southern end of the Bairro Alto, the statue of Luis de


Camões, the celebrated poet, and, a few steps down Rua do Alecrim, that of Eça de Queiróz, the national novelist, looking serenely over the female figure of Truth. Ever since Bernini created his famous sculpture (kept at the Borghese Palace in Rome) truth has been personified as a naked woman. De Queiróz’s fictional output tends to suggest that the naked body may well be the moment of truth, but the naked truth itself is something we prefer to ignore. The unmasking of hypocrisy in bourgeois society was one of his main motivations for putting pen to paper. Written between 1877 and 1878, the manuscript of A tragédia da Rua das Flores (The Tragedy of the Street of Flowers) was discovered amongst the author’s papers after his death. For more than a hundred years it remained in the possession of Eça’s family who judged the narrative to be morally shocking and refused its publication. It was only in 1980, when the author’s estate was handed to the Biblioteca Nacional, that (two) editions of the embryonic novel were published in quick succession. The first English translation was timed to coincide with the centenary of Eça’s death. One night at the theatre, Vitor da Silva, a young law graduate, sees a strikingly beautiful woman: Genoveva de Molineux. She claims to be of Madeiran descent and to have lived in Paris for many years. The truth about her past gradually begins to surface, as does the dark secret that lies behind the deep mutual attraction between her and Vitor. Rua das Flores is not mentioned until the second half of the novel, at the time that Genoveva’s sugar daddy Dâmasio sets her up in a third floor apartment on the corner of the street. Whilst the house was fitted out for her the couple - much to the anger of Vitor - spent some time away at Sintra’s famous Lawrence hotel. The tragic event in the story is Genoveva’s suicide (one of numerous cases of female suicide in late nineteenth century fiction). Having learned the awful truth about the real relationship between herself and Vitor, she jumps from her balcony. Tragedy never precludes humour and caricature in Eça’s writing. The author masterly dissects a world in which only surface counts by providing a gripping portrayal of a class consumed by hypocrisy and greed, drawing such characters as the fat pleasure-seeking libertine; the love-sick and gin-drinking middle-aged


English governess; the maid of many lovers; the aspirant painter who changes his aesthetic theories more often than his pants; the poetically inclined lawyer whose literary masterpiece is published in a cheep women’s magazine, and the classy concubine who is short of cash but full of aristocratic mannerisms. Within a framework of precise topography and geographical location (one can literally follow Vitor’s footsteps) Eça’s Lisbon society is a colourful mosaic of vanity, selfdelusion and sexual intrigue. His fiction is characterized by a mixture of great narrative fluency, a sharp eye for detail, and ruthless satire. Life is dominated by sordid affairs, corruption and a cheap moralism. The theme that dominates both The Maias (his most acclaimed novel) and The Tragedy of the Street of Flowers is incest. The dynamic of both novels derives from the inevitability of a relationship between lovers who in first instance are unaware of their blood ties. In Oedipus Rex Sophocles had turned a tale from Greek mythology into a play in which the title character unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother. Freud introduced the concept into his psycho-analytical framework. De Queiroz’s plot to his novel can be read as reiteration of the catastrophe enshrined by Sophocles. While the dramatist presented only the fact of the unnatural crime, De Queiroz describes all its allure and physicality. In The Maias, the protagonists are brother and sister; in The Tragedy of the Street of Flowers, they are mother and son. Incest appears regularly in the nineteenth century novel, although rarely in such explicit terms. It nearly always remains a suggestion, a whisper, or an undertone. In William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel Pendennis (1848/50) however the theme of incest is blatantly evident. Helen Pendennis, mother of the main character Arthur, seems to lust after her son. A lonely but sexually alluring widow, she is aware that the object of her desire is her own boy. She broods over his affairs, even throwing one young lady into the street because of her flirting with him. She sabotages any opportunity Arthur might have at an affair. In line with other Thackeray’s works, Pendennis offers a satiric picture of both human character and aristocratic society. Both tone and subject-matter of his writing would have been appreciated by Eça de Queiróz. It is most likely that he read this novel during his stay as a diplomat in England.



potsdamer platz (berlin) Potsdamer Platz is a major square in the centre of Berlin, lying about one kilometre south of the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag. It marks the point where the old road from Potsdam passed through the city wall at the Potsdam Gate. After developing from an intersection of rural thoroughfares into a busy traffic junction, it was heavily bombed during World War ii, and left to rot during the Cold War era when the Berlin Wall bisected its former location. An observation platform had been erected, primarily for military personnel and police, but used in increasing numbers by the public. It became a ‘must’ for politicians to gaze over the Wall at the ‘jungle’ beyond. Among the authorities who came to have a look were Robert Kennedy, Harold Wilson, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Jimmy Carter, and George Bush. Some scenes of Wim Wenders’s 1987 movie Der Himmel über Berlin were filmed on the almost entirely void Potsdamer Platz before the Wall fell. It is an eerie reminder of political failure and foolishness. Since German reunification, the square has been redeveloped. Paris may have been the capital of nineteenth century modernity, but it was Berlin that gave birth to the artistic expression of urban chaos - and nobody more so than George Grosz. After serving during World War i, George Grosz settled in Berlin and joined the Dada movement. Far more political than their counterparts in Zürich or Paris, the Berlin Dadaists turned their art against local figures and institutions of authority. To Grosz the metropolis is a hellish place populated by


swinish capitalists, brutish soldiers, degraded workers, prostitutes and rich hags. Although he had broken with the Dadaists by 1923, Grosz continued to depict his fellow citizens as automatons animated by greed, cruelty and lust. By the mid-1920s George Grosz (who had anglicized his first name in 1916 in protest at German nationalism) had reached the height of his powers as a ‘portraitist’ of modern urban life. His satires on the hypocrisy and venality of Berlin life were biting and often savage and he saw himself in the tradition of relentless social commentary that descended from William Hogarth and Honoré Daumier. In 1924 Carl Reissner published a major collection of Grosz’s drawings as Der Spiesserspiegel (The Philistine’s Mirror), a group of satires of bourgeois life. In his 1931 oil painting ‘Berlin Street’ a number of well-dressed city dwellers is shown against the backdrop of a restaurant whose patrons can be glimpsed through the red velvet curtain of the window display. A beggar, one of the two million crippled and unemployed war veterans who roamed the streets, sits on the lower left holding up his hat. The streetscape was a recurrent theme in German literature, visual art and silent cinema. New techniques of speed and montage eliminated the passivity of the spectator by placing him/her directly into the frenzy of the crowded street. The metropolis was in motion and on the move. New perceptions demanded different modes of expression. Berlin was associated with Expressionism in art and literature. In an era of growing sexual awareness, there was one theme that gripped Berlin artists and authors alike - prostitution. During the first decades of the twentieth century the number of sex workers in Berlin was high. Most streetwalkers were to be found in the Friedrichstrasse, the Potsdamer Platz, or the Nollendorfplatz. These places have all been recorded by the Expressionists. Curt Corrinth, for example, published his erotic novel Potsdamer Platz oder die Nächte des neuen Messias in 1919, illustrated with ten lithographs by Paul Klee (the only attempt the artist made at book-illustration). In 1905, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Fritz Bleyl and two students named Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Erich Heckel founded the avant garde group Die Brücke in Dresden. Subjective to the extreme, their official motto was ‘Arm- und Lebensfreiheit.’ The main aesthetic condition


was authenticity. Members of Die Brücke left for Berlin three years later, wanting to achieve a measure of renown. Circumstances proved otherwise. Encouragement from the influential journal Der Sturm waned when publisher Herwarth Walden began favouring Der Blaue Reiter, a Munich-based group devoted to abstraction. A couple of exhibitions gained notice, but not as much as Die Brücke artists had hoped. A school established by Kirchner and Pechstein closed after one year. In 1913, the former wrote Chronik der Brücke, which led to the ending of the group. Thereafter, his relationship with the former members was strained and he rejected any links with Die Brücke. After the group’s dissolution Kirchner went through a period of ‘agonizing restlessness’, seeking escape and inspiration in Berlin’s streets and squares. Street life was captured in paintings that exude the vitality, erotic decadence, and mood of imminent danger that characterized the city on the eve of World War i. From 1913 to 1915 he produced his series of fourteen street scenes (‘Strassenbilder’). They represent a new picture type in which the meeting of cocottes and their clients in the anonymous bustle of the city street is invested with erotic tension. Friedrichstrasse is a major business and shopping street in central Berlin, forming the core of the Friedrichstadt neighbourhood. The most northern section of the street was a lively bar and club district. It was the ‘Metropolis of Vice’, a Babylon of cabarets and clubs that served up erotic fantasies without much censorship or interference from the authorities. Almost every second building housed some sort of entertainment venue, including numerous brothels. Paul Boldt’s poem ‘Friedrichstrassendirnen’ dates from 1913/4 and deals with the street walkers of the notorious street. Some have called the street Berlin’s own Champs-Elysées. The history of its railway station dates back to 1878. It was built adjacent to the point where the street crosses the Spree River. In Mr Norris Changes Trains, novelist Christopher Isherwood has William Bradshaw eating ham and eggs with Arthur Norris at the first class restaurant of the station. The atmosphere inside the station was captured by Georg Grosz in his 1912 ‘Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse, Berlin’ (pen and ink on paper). The city was buzzing at the time and the national


economy booming. By the beginning of World War i, industry was responsible for more than half of the nation’s gross national product and its industrial sector was powerful. The speed of modernization and urbanization caused feelings of anxiety that were expressed in art and literature. The nature of this crisis feeling was not due to war or catastrophe or economic depression, but to the rapidity of change that took place within society. One prominent target of this reaction to modernity was urbanization. A mood of anxiety and images of cities are frequently paired in Expressionist art. Street scenes combine a feeling of unease with a suggestion of energy. This ambivalence is characteristic of Expressionism. For Kirchner, the street was an abstraction, a breathless blur of anonymity. There are hints of architecture, but in general the streets are mere runways for prostitutes and their clients. In his painting ‘Friedrichstrasse’ the two women depicted pose with chilly hauteur whilst an ‘endless chain’ of mechanically moving men descend diagonally in their direction. These women are not the gross characters of George Grosz or Otto Dix. They are glamorous and aloof. Eroticism and fashion go hand in hand. Within his staccato style of painting, Kirchner details plumed hats, colourful scarves, fashionable jackets, transparent blouses, and slit skirts. In his work, women are - as it were - on display. In the midst of growing prosperity, Berlin had developed a passion for luxury. During the early decades of the twentieth century, art, fashion, consumerism and the increasing sexualization of everyday life, were hotly debated issues. Moralists feared an excess of lust and luxury. The young had to be protected from immorality. Cultural critics called for legal action and increased censorship in order to combat an explosion of eroticism in art and advertising. The commercial aspect is intriguing. The focus of attention was on the ‘liberties’ taken by the display windows of the big stores in Berlin’s main streets - and on the appearance of mannequins in particular. In March 1913 a new fashion house named Kersten & Tuteur had opened its doors to the public in Leipziger Strasse (near to Potsdamer Platz). The house took particular pride in their display windows as luxury at its lyrical best. The erotic element was pushed to a new limit by showing mannequins dressed in corsets or


revealing negligees that attracted a whole new form of voyeurism. Other shops quickly followed suit in order to share in the enormous curiosity these windows attracted. The more suggestive the ‘tableaux’ on display, the more clients would enter the store. Kirchner was fully aware of this new development in consumer behaviour. Many of his images seem to refer directly to the current debate on corset and corruption, on commercial display and depravity, on fashion and frivolity. It made his paintings more controversial (he had his fair share of difficulties with the censor) and topical. Kirchner’s ‘Grossstadtbilder’ (urban images) are intensely psychological. He communicated the alienation of urban life in sexual terms. Within this environment, he drew the tension between figures and architectural backdrop, which was further emphasized by startling contrasts in colouring. There is an explosive quality to the composition of these works which is inherent in the powerful brushstrokes. These are an immediate expression of his wandering the streets of the inner city at night, a physical manifestation in paint of what must have been a dark sense of foreboding. The paintings reveal a feeling of perversion to which a string of moralistic messages can be attached, such as alienation and sexual violence, the degeneration of love, the plight of women, or the rapaciousness of men. The miracle of these paintings however is not so much the message, but the painter’s ability to translate sensations of outer estrangement and inner repugnance into a work of high aesthetic standards. In the week following the outbreak of war in August 1914, Kirchner completed his oil on canvas ‘Potsdamer Platz’, the largest and most important street scene from his time in Berlin. In this nocturnal image, the background is dominated by the brick building of the Potsdamer Bahnhof (railway station). On the left, the southwest side of the Platz, is Café Piccadilly (opened in 1913), a huge pleasure palace that was re-named Haus Vaterland on the outbreak of war. On the right, on the corner between Potsdamer Strasse and the Bahnhof, part of the Pschorr-Haus (a beer palace built in 1910, formerly known as Bierhaus Siechen) can be seen. The real focus of interest however are the two almost life-size prostitutes standing on a traffic island (these islands of safety in the


midst of a stream of traffic were the latest phenomena in big cities). In spite of the numerous figures depicted (Kirchner’s models for the prostitutes were his partner Erna and her sister Gerda Schilling), the overriding sense in ‘Potsdamer Platz’ is one of loneliness and isolation. This feeling is accentuated by the woman on the left who wears a colourful dress and a widow’s veil from the brim of a feathered hat. However, this is not a woman in mourning. The dark veil was a ruse used by older streetwalkers to obscure their age and the death of youth. The younger of the two, dressed in Prussian blue, seems to turn away from her companion, contrasting youth with maturity, promise with decline. The two figures themselves are not menacing, but their distortions create a feeling of unease. The ladies are approached by a number of shady men in black suits and hats suggesting a depersonalized scene of desire and distance, of lust and loneliness, of sex without satisfaction. Using stark contrasts of colour and darkness in this city in motion, Kirchner imposes an uncomfortable feeling of anxiety and anonymity upon the eye of the viewer, one that he must have experienced himself during his solitary night walks through the heart of the city. Kirchner’s city-dweller has lost his identity. This temper of Expressionist painting was continued by post-war German filmmakers. Films such as ‘Nosferatu’ (F.W. Murnau, 1922) or ‘Metropolis’ (Fritz Lang, 1927) are typified by stylized visuals, asymmetrical camera angles, and harsh contrasts of dark and light. The story lines are sombre and feature characters from a corrupt underworld of crime. German Expressionism in film reflected the grim reality of daily urban life. Sex, murder, depression, veterans and victims traumatized by the war, and a rejection of the past characterize the psychological mood of the Weimar period. Contemporary paintings and films capture the cry of a broken nation.



columbus avenue (boston) The term ‘New World’ originates from the late fifteenth century and refers to the Americas which were new to the Europeans who previously thought of the world as consisting of Europe, Asia and Africa (the ‘Old World’). Peter Martyr d’Anghiera, an Italian-born historian of Spain, wrote the first accounts of explorations in Central and South America in a series of letters and reports. His De Orbe Novo (1530) describes the first contacts of Europeans and Americans. From the beginning to this very day ‘old’ versus ‘new’ were not simply descriptive terms, but in many ways value statements - the ‘old’ either superior to the ‘new’ or visa versa. In 1896, American physician John Harvey Gardner published an essay in The North American Review in which he complained about ‘The Plague of City Noises’ and the effect thereof on the mental balance of city dwellers. Five years later he went further and published a book with the remarkable title of Newyorkitis, a condition he identified as affecting a large percentage of the inhabitants of Manhattan Island. The city dweller suffered from a nervous and mostly psychosomatic condition that resulted in migraine and the inability of physical action. Newyorkitis is defined as an urban disease in which the mind, soul and body have departed more or less from the normal. It breeds moral and physical degeneration. European sociocultural observers expressed fears that a similar epidemic would take hold of the Old Continent. Critics feared that Europe would be invaded by American


business practices, work ethic, mass culture and popular values. Americanization became somewhat of an obsession, and the A-word was enough to make critics shiver. There was certainly an undertone of cultural superiority in this particular anxiety. An increasing sense of European crisis found expression in an ambiguous attitude towards the emerging might of the United States. Europe suffered from an ‘America problem’ which, in turn, had a damaging effect on its own sense of identity. Were the States a viable alternative to exhausted Europe? Was there life for the offshoot while the old European vine shrivelled and died? Would the grapes of achievement be pressed in California rather than in the venerable vineyards of Europe? Many felt that Europe’s pride and identity were damaged, that within the continent the parts were tearing the whole apart and that, compared to emerging America, the Old World seemed stale and stagnant - a museum at best, not an active and forward-looking entity. Alternatively, America suffered from its European heritage. The conflict between inherited forms and present experience has been a dominant element, consciously or unconsciously, in the work of every creative artist who has tried to deal with the American environment. It figures strongly in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s writing. He sensed the necessity for new artistic forms suited to the realities of a rapidly developing democratic and industrial social system. As Europe became more accessible to American artists after the Civil War, many young painters desired to experience the art and culture of the Old World. They made the journey across the Atlantic in hope of acquiring new skills and techniques. They returned home familiar with the latest European art movements and with an ambition of forging a uniquely American style. John White Alexander, Mary Cassatt, William Merritt Chase, Thomas Eakins, George Inness, Charles Sprague Pearce, John Singer Sargent, and James Abbott McNeil Whistler were amongst the painters who experimented with the different movements they had encountered in Paris, London, or Munich. As a consequence, historians have tended to view the development of American art in terms of a ‘transit of civilization’ and as an extension of European culture. Marsden Hartley was influenced by Cézanne,


Picasso and the Cubists, while Theodore Robinson was in tune with Renoir. New approaches to landscape painting were studied in German academies by Albert Bierstadt and Henry Raschen, who used the newly acquired techniques to depict the undaunted spirit of the American West. ‘I never feel or have felt so downright New England as I do at this very moment’, Hartley wrote to a friend in 1929 while painting in Aix-en-Provence. Milton Avery was, much to his dislike, designated as the American Matisse by contemporary critics. Although Continental trends can be traced in American art, there is nevertheless a quality in the sum of creative output that is distinct from the European tradition. The idea that one is but a maimed offshoot of the other is untenable. Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries American artists in Europe were in the process of discovering themselves and searching for a collective identity. Columbus Avenue is part of Boston’s South End district. It was once called Lowell Street and later Pynchon Street (named after William Pynchon, the English colonist and founder of Springfield, Massachusetts). The avenue was originally laid out in the 1830s parallel to the Boston & Providence railroad tracks. The South End district boasts the largest area of Victorian brick row houses in the United States. Streets are filled with residences in varying revival styles, Italianate and French Second Empire, Renaissance, Greek, Egyptian, Gothic, or Queen Anne. The atmosphere is Continental. Columbus Boulevard has a Parisian flavour. Many of the homes cluster around small parks and squares. The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago was organized to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in the New World in 1492. The fair had a profound effect on Chicago’s self-image and brought with it an enhanced value of architecture and the arts. More than twenty-seven million people attended the exposition during its six-month run. Its scale far exceeded earlier world fairs. The occasion was seen as a symbol of America’s emerging pride and identity. The authorities in Boston decided to honour Columbus with a grand boulevard. The late nineteenth-century atmosphere of the area was caught in Childe Hassam’s 1885 painting ‘Columbus Avenue: Rainy Day’. His misty portrait of the avenue, with its background of


brick homes and mansard roofs, celebrates Boston’s fashionable and spacious cityscape. Hassam’s interest in showing the effects of weather and the subject of buzzing city life indicate that here, in his first major oil painting, he was trying out for an American audience the modern urban theme so embraced by the French Impressionists. Over the course of his career, Boston-born Frederick Childe Hassam produced over 3,000 paintings, watercolours, etchings and lithographs. He was an outstanding cityscape painter of Boston, Paris and New York. He had started his career in Boston as a draftsman working for wood engraver George Johnson producing designs for commercial engravings such as letterheads and newspapers. Around 1879, Hassam began creating oil paintings, but his preferred medium was watercolour, depicting Boston scenes through misty days or at dark nights while concentrating on the movement of pedestrians and carriages. In 1882, he established his first studio and started exhibiting. Dropping his first name, he became known as Childe Hassam. Having enjoyed little formal art training, Hassam undertook a study trip to Europe during the summer of 1883. He travelled to Britain, the Netherlands, France, Italy, and Spain in order to take note of the Old Masters, creating many watercolours on the way. He returned to Paris and settled near Place Pigalle. His first Parisian works were street and urban scenes and one of his cityscapes was exhibited at the Salon of 1887. He adored Paris and reveled in the works of the Impressionists. At this time, he would have seen works by Monet, Degas, Renoir, Pissarro, Seurat, Cézanne, Gauguin, although he did not mingle with or meet any of the artists. That seemed to have been a familiar pattern of visiting American artists in Paris. Mary Cassatt was the only American painter to become a close member of the French Impressionist circle. Her rapport with Degas was legendary. Hassam returned home in 1889 and settled in New York City, the American art capital, where he found a studio apartment at Fifth Avenue, a view he painted in one of his first New York oils, ‘Fifth Avenue in Winter’ which dates from around 1892. New York inspired his talent. The city’s swirl of motion and light stirred him


to create a veritable catalogue of the metropolis. Hassam became instrumental in promulgating Impressionism to American collectors, dealers and museums. He held his first solo exhibition at the American Art Galleries at Madison Square in 1896. A year later, Hassam and a few of his close associates formed a group known as The Ten (American Painters) in opposition to the National Academy of Design and the Society of American Artists which in their opinion had become too much part of the establishment. In 1910 Hassam returned to Paris, where in that year he produced his first ‘flag painting’, a distinctly Impressionist theme. Between 1916 and 1919, both to rally for war and then to celebrate its end, flags flew everywhere, in Paris, in London, and especially in New York. Hassam composed a set of about thirty paintings showing the flag-decorated streets of New York City during World War i. He took great pride in these paintings. Being an avid Francophile and passionately anti-German, Hassam backed the Allied cause and the protection of French culture at a time when Americans were predominantly isolationist. He began the series in 1916 with ‘Flags, Fifth Avenue’. The painting was inspired by a so-called ‘Preparedness Parade’. With the outbreak of war on the Continent, Americans began debating the idea of preparedness. Theodore Roosevelt advocated expanding the military in anticipation of the spreading conflict. President Woodrow Wilson however was determined that America’s position would be that of ‘armed neutrality’. Parades for and against military involvement were held around the nation. Hassam backed the idea of intervention. In fact, at one point he wanted to go to Europe and paint scenes from the battlefront, but the US government would not approve the trip. Many of the flag pictures were donated for the war effort. Hassam’s goal was for the entire series to be kept together and treated as a war memorial, but in the end the paintings were sold individually after several group exhibitions. Once the madness of the Great War was behind them, Parisians rebounded in a carnival of cosmopolitan hedonism known as ‘les années folles’. There was a new aspect to this particular orgy of pleasure: the influx of American writers who were sick of prohibition and puritanical small-mindedness back home. The first wave


of American artists in Europe was a group of painters who came to see and study the Old Masters. They undertook traditional training at the great art centres and academies. They were in awe, inquisitive and introvert. The experience to them was overwhelming. As a result, much of their early work mimics the methods and styles of the Old World. From it, however, emerged an awareness of individuality and identity, a desire among artists to create their own history, one that was not completely separated from Europe but one that could rival the achievements of the Continent. The second wave consisted mostly of writers and they arrived in Paris with a completely different mindset. They were self-exiles from the New World who had left a homeland they considered artistically, intellectually and sexually oppressive. These aspiring authors were drawn to Old World Paris by the vitality of its artistic scene, by its urge for innovation and experimentation, and by the freedom allowed the individual in his/her search for identity and voice. Some of these young men had plenty of dollars in their pockets taking advantage of the strong exchange rate, while others arrived with the sole ambition of making it as an artist. They were loud, abrasive and, most of the time, intoxicated. Paris was a party. Seventeen year old John Glassco belonged to that restless young generation longing to get away. In early February 1928 he and his friend Graeme Taylor left Montreal for Paris, crossing the Atlantic on a government cargo bound for Antwerp. The two settled in the Montparnasse district of Paris. Their three-year stay formed the basis of Glassco’s Memoirs of Montparnasse (1970), a description of expatriate life in Paris during the 1920s. As a poetically inclined young man, Glassco had but one ambition - to celebrate life in Paris and enjoy the ‘divine restlessness of youth’. Life after all is more important than literature, he suggested in the first chapter of these memoirs. Expatriate activity during that period was highest in the 1920s. Activity tapered off dramatically after the stock market crash of 1929, as the ensuing economic depression forced many expatriates to return home. The onset of a new European war in 1939 and the subsequent German occupation of Paris brought their presence to an abrupt end. During the twenty-one years from 1919 to 1940 the number of English-speaking authors who lived as expatriates in Paris included


some of the most important literary figures of the time. Among them were Sherwood Anderson, Djuna Barnes, Samuel Beckett, Kay Boyle, John Dos Passos, Lawrence Durrell, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ford Madox Ford, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein. One of those young ‘nomads’ who arrived in the French capital with a ‘fuck all’ mentality and an intense hatred of his Brooklyn German-immigrant background was Henry Miller. He enjoyed the city’s relaxed attitude towards erotic entertainment that was symbolized by the emergence of Josephine Baker. The Afro-American dancer had become an overnight sensation with her 1925 ‘Revue Nègre’. It was in this period that Paris acquired the reputation of a hothouse of naughtiness. To these young Americans life was a cabaret. Paris functioned as bar, as bedroom and as brothel. Miller caught the atmosphere in his novel Tropic of Cancer (the original working title had been ‘Crazy Cock’). The book was published in 1934 by Jack Kahane’s Obelisk Press in Paris and carried the explicit warning that it must ‘not be taken into Great Britain or USA’. The novel set a new standard for graphic sexual language and imagery that shook Anglo-American censorship to the core. It remained banned for a generation, by which time it had become part of post-war cultural folklore. Miller added a new epitaph to the conception of the artist’s role and place in society. He saw himself as one of the Renegade Apaches organizing his raids not from the borders of Mexico, but from the Parisian frontiers of seedy desperation - a renegade in pursuit of a new urban aesthetic.



heddon street (london) The cosmopolitan nature of the metropolis provides a rich source of imagery for artists. Themes of urban entertainment in European painting, more specifically cabaret and circus, had their roots in French nineteenth century art, beginning with Daumier and continuing via Manet, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Seurat, and the Fauvists. Theatre, ballet and café-concert also became part of a rich patchwork of urban life subjects. Approaches varied widely, ranging from Manet’s interest in the audience and spectators, to Degas’s contrasts between performance and the workings of back-stage life. In Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings, cabaret subjects crossed with the theme of outcasts such prostitutes, clowns and bohemians who provided a metaphor for the status of the modern artist as an outsider. By the 1920s, Berlin had become the cultural and entertainment capital of the world and mass culture played an important role in distracting a society traumatized by World War i. The metropolis also came to represent unprecedented personal and sexual freedom, and artists depicted scenes of leisure, entertainment and the city at night. George Grosz and Rudolf Schlichter portrayed Berlin’s seedy underbelly. Max Beckmann depicted elaborate scenes of outsiders, such as circus and carnival performers, which became metaphors for modern city life and its social corruption. The fin-de-siècle cabaret was the stage on which the Berlin wall between serious art and popular culture was broken down. The concept of cabaret is a Continental one. The first modern nightclub, the


Chat Noir, opened in Montmartre in 1881. The club presented itself as a ‘cabaret artistique’, a new kind of public meeting place for writers, poets and artists. It was here that Erik Satie learned his trade as a pianist and composer. In an obituary of its founder Louis Rodolphe Salis, the New York Times of 23 March 1897 specifically referred to the artistic clientele of the Chat Noir: ‘Here Alfred de Musset, Alphonse Daudet, and the frères de Goncourt assembled to write verses and eat their dinners, including wine, for twenty sous. Here Guy de Maupassant came nightly, brooding alone, at a table apart from the others. Paul Verlaine wrote verses here, seated at a marble table, with ink and a bottle of wine before him, and a quill pen in his hand’. The Chat Noir staged the integration of the artist as a social outcast, the ‘poète maudit’, into the gallery of criminals, revolutionaries, and libertines long associated with the shady underworld of pubs and clubs. This, the first modern nightclub, was both a place of adversarial culture and a shrewdly planned commercial venture. Almost as soon as the Chat Noir opened in 1881, Salis turned the club into a money making enterprise, in part to advance the careers of writers and artists associated with the club. The Chat Noir exploited the medium of print to disseminate its brand of bohemianism. The club published its own weekly journal in tabloid format, with a print run that grew from 300 to 20,000 copies per week in a matter of seven years. Other publications included the Chat Noir Guide, a brochure listing art works that were for sale at the club; the Album du Chat Noir, a portfolio of drawings to be sold by subscription; song sheets of lyrics recited or sung at the club, and collections of stories concerning the club. Bohemianism was good business, modernism a commercial venture. A significant aspect of the new nightclub was the design of its interior. Again, the Chat Noir set a precedent. Its rooms were decorated seemingly at random. In reality, the cabaret’s environment was carefully planned. It featured furniture and artifacts of the Louis xiii period, but arranged in such grotesque settings as to make them incongruous. Walls were covered with green paper or drapes. Panels were made with glazed doors of Louis xiii design. On all available wall space were hung paintings and prints created by the cabaret’s resident artists (the ‘artist-in-residence’ was also


a new concept). Pots, plants, plates, and antiques hung from the ceiling or were stacked in corners and niches. The deliberate attempt was to mix the ancient and the modern, to blend the rococo and the commonplace, to combine the luxurious and the obnoxious, to fuse style and kitsch. Many clubs adapted themselves to specific themes. One of the more outrageous attempts was made at the Cabaret du Ciel. Waiters were dressed as angels with wings and wigs. As guests sipped on the ‘ambrosia of the gods’, they were treated to ‘mystical illusions and celestial music’ while beholding burlesque religious rites (striptease in other words). Heaven was located on the second floor of the house. The 1903 Pleasure Guide to Paris describes the abode in the following terms: ‘It is a vast grotto, in which hang stalactites of a golden colour. Here Saint Peter is represented by a robust mulatto, armed with a long key, with which he opens the door for the elect … Gorgeous transformations now take place in a mysterious manner, so as to favour the illusion that it is no longer this sad earth of ours, but a region ethereal and serene where all the angels are represented by women’. At the Café du Néant visitors entered a dark chamber lit only by wax tapers suspended on a chandelier composed of human skulls and arms. Customers were welcomed by waiters dressed as undertakers and seated at tables made of coffins, from where they could ponder images of carnage and assassination that adorned the walls. After drinking ‘les microbes de la mort’, clients would be directed to the Hall of Incineration where they could enjoy a spectacle of death and decay. A chosen member from the audience was placed in an upright coffin. Using a projected image, glass and mirrors an illusion was cast to make it appear as if that person was slowly decomposing into a skeleton. In 1885, Aristide Bruant opened a club called Le Mirliton. Its famous owner the man in the red scarf and black cape featuring on Toulouse-Lautrec’s posters - composed and performed accusatory songs in Parisian slang about the fate of the poor and downtrodden, and about crime and violence in the city. His mix of song, satire and entertainment was popular with the affluent classes slumming in the Montmartre district. The ‘chanson réaliste’ made an instant impact and became part of the repertoire of most cabaret performers in European capitals.


This repertoire consisted of poems of loss and hopelessness. It listed songs that dealt with the struggle for life in poorest parts of the city, and with the thugs, pimps, and tarts that called them home. Its themes were poverty, abandonment, deprivation, combined with socio-political commentary. Novelists had been a major influence on the development of the genre which had been preceded by such literary movements as Realism and Naturalism. Later, the art form was performed mainly by female vocalists. It was brought to perfection by Édith Piaf. Many nightclubs cultivated a deliberately coarse and promiscuous atmosphere. In Berlin, these were known as ‘Tingeltangel’ clubs. The sleazy atmosphere of such establishments is captured in Josef von Sternberg’s 1930 film Der blaue Engel (based upon a novel by Heinrich Mann) with lusty Marlene Dietrich as the chanteuse Lola. The story line was inspired by clubs such as Zum hungrigen Pegasus (opened in Berlin in October 1901 by artist Max Karl Tilke), where one could enjoy performances by a poet named Dolorosa (real name: Maria Eichhorn) reciting erotic and sadomasochistic verses, or artists performing ‘niggersongs’. The identification of jazz with the ‘spirit of the times’ formed the essence of many articles and essays during the 1920s. Berlin went crazy for jazz. Ernst Krenek had incorporated jazz influences into his opera Jonny spielt auf (1926). Paul Hindemith and Kurt Weill were interested in the means of expression found in jazz. With an audience consisting of artists, scholars, writers, financiers, well-connected ladies, prostitutes, and criminals, the nightclub was a place where middle-class citizens could pretend to be bohemians and, for one night at least, release themselves of all shackles of respectability. These weekend bohemians introduced the recreational practice of ‘slumming’. Middleclass city dwellers visiting naughty clubs in marginal neighbourhoods became an ingredient in the allure of modern European urban nightlife. The Oxford English Dictionary dates the first use of the word ‘slumming’ to 1884. Once Oscar Wilde incorporated the theme of ‘slumming it’ in The Picture of Dorian Gray the idea became fashionable and held a fascination for authors and artists alike. Nocturnal club life added spice to the concept.


In some cases, the authorities looked with a degree of concern at the cult of cabaret. The presence of performer Hans Hyan, a character with a criminal record and owner of Zur Silbernen Punschterine (The Silver Punchbowl) which had opened in Berlin in November 1901, was closely watched by police. In 1891 he had been sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for aggravated burglary; ten years later he was (unsuccessfully) investigated for robbery. He was fined for libel and suspected of writing and publishing pornography. For a while, Hyan was the talk of the town. He was celebrated as Berlin’s counterpart to Aristide Bruant. Like his French model, he used local slang, sang songs about outcasts, and verbally insulted the curious audience that came to see his cabaret. To be treated rudely and abused aggressively was part of the fun of slumming. Hans Hyan was a master of this game. He had the skill to imitate the speech of various social groups in the locality, in particular the slang of the criminal fraternity. His command of Berlin’s dialect was masterful. Kurt Tucholsky himself praised Hyan for his capacity of capturing phonetically the ‘Berlin manner of thought, the Berlin soul’. Hans was Berlin, Berlin was Hyan. The relationship with the authorities worsened when Dolorosa started to perform regularly at the Punschterine. Her list of explicitly erotic and masochistic songs, of which ‘The Song of Songs of Pain and Torture’ was a particular favourite of the club’s clients, became morally intolerable to many respectable observers. Cabaret, according to critics, had become a celebration of immorality. The club was shut down in 1904. Frida Strindberg was a product of the European avant-garde of the early twentieth century. Daughter of the editor of the Wiener Zeitung, Frida Uhl worked as a writer and translator in Vienna. In 1893, at the tender age of twenty years, she met forty-three year old Swedish writer August Strindberg, who had achieved fame as the author of more than twenty plays, several novels, autobiographical works and collections of stories, poems and essays. He was a controversial figure whose sexually frank works had incurred the intervention of Swedish and German censors. Literary fame was not accompanied by income. At the time Strindberg proposed to Frida, the writer was heavily in debt and being pursued by his first


wife for child support payments. Friedrich Uhl opposed the marriage, doubting the author’s ability to support his daughter. Frida and August married soon after their first meeting in spite of her father’s disapproval. Strindberg’s reputation allowed her access to the bohemian circles he frequented, and make lasting contacts with some outstanding artists of her day. In marrying Strindberg, a morose misogynist if ever there was one, she sacrificed not only the relationship with her family but also her career as a writer and critic. Taking his financial affairs in hand, she at once tried to organize a production of his work in England. However, Strindberg did not approve of the active role Frida was assuming in his business affairs, and the marriage in which one daughter was born ended in divorce in 1895. It has been suggested that their stormy relationship inspired Strindberg’s tirades against women in general and against married women in particular. Frank Wedekind, the German playwright who in his dramas laid bare the shams of sexual morality in his time, was the father of Frida’s second child. She sent both her children away to be cared for by her parents. Fin de siècle Vienna was a major centre for arts and culture. It was the most exciting period in the capital’s cultural history. The literary and artistic movement known as ‘Jung Wien’ (Young Vienna) was composed of such remarkable artists as Gustav Mahler, Arthur Schnitzler, Gustav Klimt, Adolf Loos, and others. Frida was closely involved with several writers of the Young Vienna movement, such as the poet Peter Altenberg for whom she organized a subscription, and the journalist and outstanding satirist Karl Kraus whom she convinced to sponsor a reading of Wedekind’s Pandora’s Box. Her affair with the writer Werner von Oesteren was particularly problematic. She threatened him on two separate occasions with a revolver. Details of this relationship were made public in 1905 when she sued Werner for harassing a detective she had hired to follow him. In 1908, on New Year’s Day, she fired a gun in a Viennese hotel. This may have been an attempt to take her life. The event caused such publicity in her native town that she decided to move to London.


Heddon Street is a small side-street and alleyway off Regent Street, close to Piccadilly Circus. Yet, the Handbook Guide to Rock and Pop (1997) lists the street as a historic music site. The reason is David Bowie. His 1972 concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was based on the story of a fictional rock star. Ziggy is the human manifestation of a ‘space invader’. He is also the definitive rock star: sexually promiscuous, hooked on drugs, but with a message of peace and love. He is destroyed by his own excesses and by the fans he inspired. The cover of the album shows Bowie posing as Ziggie in front of no. 23 Heddon Street. Photographer Brian Ward created the photograph for the cover. Originally shot in black and white, Ward tinted the photographs to achieve the storybook style of the album sleeve. It was here, in 1912, that Frida opened the Cave of the Golden Calf (named after one of the rooms in the Parisian Chat Noir) at no. 9 Heddon Street, England’s first ‘Cabaret Club’ housed in a large basement below a warehouse. She intended her club to be a meeting place for writers and artists, an avant-garde rival to the nearby Café Royal where Oscar Wilde once was a regular. The club offered a cheap meal and reduced admission to young artists. The Cave served as a kind of avant-garde soup kitchen. For better-off clients there was lobster salad on the menu. The Continental inspiration for the club, apart from the Chat Noir, was the Kaberett Fledermaus in her native Vienna. In the ‘Preliminary Prospectus’ to the opening of the club, issued in April 1912, Frida proudly announced that the interior of the establishment would be ‘entirely and exclusively’ decorated by ‘leading young British artists’. The ‘Prospectus’ was illustrated with woodcuts by Wyndham Lewis. It claimed that the cabaret would do away with the necessity of crossing the Channel in order ‘to laugh freely and sit up after nursery hours’. As this comment suggests, the Cave of the Golden Calf looked to the Chat Noir for inspiration. Moreover, the Cave opened only three months after Marinetti’s notorious first visit to London, which gave an added Futurist impetus to Frida’s plans for her club. Among its ‘resident’ artists were Jacob Epstein, Eric Gill and Wyndham Lewis. Frida insisted that the club presented itself properly in print, from its ‘Preliminary Prospectus’


to programs, announcements and menus. Typography was essential. All printed materials were designed by Wyndham Lewis according to the latest Continental styles. Sculptor Jacob Epstein transformed the cellar’s structural columns into plaster female figures described by Ford Madox Ford in his 1923 novel The Marsden Case as ‘white caryatids with heads of hawks, cats, and camels picked out in red’. Opening night saw performances by Norwegian cabaret singer and founder of the Oslo Chat Noir Bokken Lasson, shadow plays by Wyndham Lewis, an actor reciting Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince, and, in true cabaret fashion, a young cockney shouting foul mouthed abuse at the audience. Ezra Pound admired Frida’s achievement. Other luminaries who frequented the establishment included Katherine Mansfield, Ford Madox Ford and, of course, the ever-present Augustus John. The Cave attracted London’s bohemian set, the mad, bad and decadent. It contributed to the erosion of class identities in the capital. Within its walls guests could enjoy the full cabaret repertoire, plays and poetry, jazz and ragtime music, song and dance, with champagne served until dawn. The Cave went bankrupt in 1914, but not before Strindberg herself had become disappointed by its failure as an artistic experiment. It proved nevertheless to be an influential venture and became the model for a number of nightclubs of the 1920s. The Cave of the Golden Calf certainly made a contribution in advancing modernism in Britain. The club had served as the after-hours headquarters for what would become the vanguard movement of Vorticism. London’s first avant-garde movement was born in Frida Strindberg’s nightclub. After closure of her club, Frida left for the United States, where she secured a job with Fox Film.



vlaanderenstraat (ostend) The development of a mass culture in Europe instigated the formation of a group of critics who feared that vulnerable (urban) masses were losing their capacity of individual and critical thought. John Stuart Mill for one was horrified by the deterioration of personalities, taste and style, by the inanity of men’s interests and their absence of vigour. Everything, he argued, was becoming shallow, commonplace, shoddy, trite, and banal. There is a general tendency, he argued in his study On Liberty, ‘to maim by compression, like a Chinese lady’s foot, every part of human nature which stands out prominently, and tends to make the person markedly dissimilar in outline to commonplace humanity’. Fear of the crowd and disgust with ‘mass hysteria’ became dominant aspects of European socio-cultural criticism of the late nineteenth and first decades of the twentieth century. Anxieties about the behaviour of an unpredictable crowd have a long history and intensified with urbanization. Horace’s phrase ‘bellua multorum es capitum’ (the people are a many-headed beast) can be traced in the work of Philip Sidney and William Shakespeare. During the Elizabethan and early Stuart period there was intense concern about law and order. Religious strife, the dread of a Spanish invasion, the anxiety about immigration from the Continent and the Low Countries in particular, and on top of that a growing number of unemployed workers, were all contributing to a growing sense of insecurity in rapidly growing urban centres. The authorities felt that the threat of mob violence had to be repressed. On the


Continent, Flanders experienced serious social unrest. The Peasant Revolt of 1323 began as a series of scattered rural riots, but escalated into a full-scale rebellion (in city and country) that dominated public affairs for nearly five bloody years. The uprising was caused by excessive taxations levied by Louis i. The revolt was led by Nicolaas Zannekin until he was finally defeated by the French royal army in the Battle of Cassel. Fear of the unruly and unpredictable masses reappeared during the eighteenth century. The term rabble, according to Charles Pigott in A Political Dictionary Explaining the True Meaning of Words (1795) refers to an ‘assembly of lowbred, vulgar, and riotous people; otherwise the Swinish Multitude, so called by St Edmund, because they dare to grunt their grievances even at the foot of the throne. The English rabble, when once roused, are very saucy and unmanageable, but they have the remarkable quality of the most passive forbearance, as it is not a little will disturb their slumbers’. Lord Chesterfield may have been responsible for the word mob in the English language (1751). The word ‘mob’ is derived from the Latin phrase mobile vulgus (the fickle crowd). It had its origin at the period of the Exclusion Crisis when the nation became divided into party and faction, Whig versus Tory. Elections for parliament, and other public meetings, resulted inevitably in riots, fights and other disturbances. Initially the word ‘the mobile’ circulated. It was soon shortened to ‘mob’. The term gradually entered the language Londoners used to describe disorder over the next few decades. Many objected to the influx of slang abbreviations but most of such words took root relatively quickly. The protests of those who like Swift objected to the neologism and insisted on the older word ‘rabble’ were ignored. Justices of the peace did not use the term to refer to riots in their Court of Quarter Sessions records until the first decade of the eighteenth century. The violence of the 1780 Gordon Riots was the first expression of the public turning against the authorities. During the nineteenth century, the word ‘mob’ became an increasingly loaded term encapsulating the growing fear of social upheaval. Irratibility and mood swings were identified as characteristics of urban mob behaviour. Tempers flare suddenly and unpredictably.


The obsession with crowd behaviour led towards the end of the nineteenth century to Gustave Le Bon establishing mob psychology as a discipline of research for social scientists. In art, William Powell Frith was considered the greatest British painter of the social scene since William Hogarth. His panoramas of nineteenth-century life broke new ground in their depiction of the diverse London crowd. When ‘The Derby Day’ was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1858, it proved so popular that a rail had to be put up to keep back the curious crowds. Frith, having employed the services of a photographer for the composition of his painting, was a firm believer in the spurious sciences of phrenology and social type, which considered people’s characters and social origins were visible in their physical features. Each character in Frith’s picture is depicted to conform to these stereotypes, notably in the range of infamous and criminal characters present. During the 1790s the imagery concerning the masses became more surreal. In response to the French Revolution English journalistic and literary iconography introduced a new image - that of cannibalism. After the massacres of September 1792, James Gillray portrayed a family of Paris ‘sansculottes’ feasting upon dismembered bodies. A year later, he depicted exiled revolutionary leader Charles Dumouriez about to consume the severed head of William Pitt. Radical Tory journalists associated with Fraser’s Magazine adopted this set of images and gave it new social resonance in the restless 1830s and 1840s. Social disturbance, it was feared, would give rise to a new generation of bloodthirsty barbarians. Fraser’s pointed time and again to Paris in 1792/3 to warn its readers of the dangers at home. Thomas Carlyle was closely connected to this magazine in the 1830s. He made the cannibal and eating imagery his own. The myth of a self-consuming revolution was passed on virtually ready-made from Carlyle to Dickens, who incorporated it as the historical backdrop for A Tale of Two Cities. The fantasy of a cannibal-like insurrection persisted over the entire Victorian period: Carlyle’s ruthless Jacobins from the 1830s merely turned into H.G. Wells’s bloodthirsty Beast Folk and Morlocks from the 1890s. Yet, there is an interesting shift in application. By the end of the nineteenth century the fear of revolution had receded. The cannibal in


society is given a different shape. It is no longer the revolutionary mob that drinks the blood of innocence, but the new industrial order is threatening to devour its workers. Capitalism and mechanism turn civilized man back towards a savage state of being. Wells’s oeuvre is catalogue of modern day barbarism, a never ending parade of urban cannibals fighting to consume one another. Fear and caricature are never far remote from each other in these and similar writings. In painting, it was James Ensor who exploited the themes of panic and agoraphobia from the safety of his studio on the coast of Flanders. Vlaanderenstraat is a street in the Flemish coastal town of Ostend (Oostende). Originally a small fishing village, the town acquired something of a reputation in 1834, when King Leopold i made his summer residence there, and went on to become a fashionable seaside resort in the following decades. It was in Ostend that Englishman James Frederic Ensor met local girl Marie Catherine Haegheman. He was probably an alcoholic and a bankrupt. The couple’s main income came from the shop owned by Marie’s family, an antiques and souvenirs emporium selling china, taxidermic specimens and grotesque carnival masks. James Ensor was born in 1860 and the future painter grew up in this setting of ‘shells, lace, rare stuffed fish, old books, engravings, weapons, Chinese porcelain, an inextricable jumble of miscellaneous objects’ (letter to Louis Delattre, 4 August 1898). Ensor himself lacked interest in academic study and left school at the age of fifteen to begin his art training with two local painters. From 1877 to 1880, he attended the Académy Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, where Fernard Khnopff, Theo Van Rysselberghe, Willy Finch, and other future members of L’Essor and Les Vingt were among his fellow students. In Brussels, he met poet and art critic Théo Hannon who introduced him to the liberal circle of Ernest Rousseau, professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, and his younger spouse Mariette. The home of the Rousseau couple was a meeting place for the artistic, literary and scientific elite of the time. Here young James rubbed shoulders with Félicien Rops, Eugène Demolder and others who stimulated his artistic and intellectual development.


In 1880 Ensor installed a studio in the attic of his parental home. Although he lived in Ostend until his death, he regularly stayed in Brussels and participated in the artistic life of the capital. With the exception of a few excursions to London, Holland and Paris, Ensor scarcely travelled. He was a loner who despised most cultural representatives and was convinced they hated him. He was both an aggrieved traditionalist and a sophisticated artist who helped shape early Modernism, not from a Paris studio but from an Ostend novelty shop. His self-portraits tell their own story. Within the span of five years in the late 1880s he depicted himself as a cross-dressed dandy, a rotting corpse, a bug, a fish, Albrecht Dürer and a crucified Jesus. Between 1885 and 1888, Ensor’s attention went chiefly to drawing and etching. Under the influence of Brueghel, Rembrandt, Redon, Goya, and Japanese woodcuts, Ensor developed a highly personal iconography and design. He rejected French Impressionism and Symbolism and lent himself to the expressive qualities of line, colour and grotesque motifs which he rendered in massive tableaux. While his early works depict realistic scenes in a sombre style, his palette subsequently brightened and he favoured an increasingly bizarre subject matter. Paintings such as ‘Les masques scandalisés’ (The Scandalized Masks) and ‘Squelettes se disputant un pendu’ (Skeletons Fighting over a Hanged Man) feature freakish figures. Masks recall the strange atmosphere of the family shop as well as a local carnival tradition. They conceal a reality that the painter found unbearably cruel, while skeletons point to the vanity of the world. Ensor’s cityscapes of Brussels and Ostend offer a derisive view of contemporary urban renewal and the social transformations it enforced. His work is socio-cultural criticism in colour. From his studio in the attic on the fourth floor of the house on the corner of Vlaanderenstraat and Van Iseghemlaan, Ensor had a splendid view over the rooftops of his hometown. There are several paintings and drawings on this topic, including the oil paintings ‘La Rue de Flandre dans le neige’ (1880/1) and ‘Boulevard Van Iseghem’ (1893). More relevant in the context of his oeuvre is the 1890 oil painting ‘Musique Rue de Flandre’ or ‘Muziek in de Vlaanderenstraat’ (he also made an engraving of the scene) in which, from a bird perspective, the


festive passage has been recorded of a military band in the street, followed by a mass of people, approaching the observer and marching in the direction of the sea. The picture reflects Ensor’s intense preoccupation with the masses. In this case, the image is light-hearted rather than fearful. It is as if Ensor had painted the street and houses first and waited till later to add a seemingly endless stream of people. The marching musicians and their followers are all identical characters. Ensor seems to suggest that within a crowd all individuality dissolves. The single individual is unable to have a meaning other than as a function of something in which he ceases to have a personality. By contrast, the buildings in the street are presented in an accurate manner, one of those being the Hôtel de Flandres (now Albert II) which, at the time, was one of the most important hotels in Ostend and had a central gate leading to a courtyard and stables. In the history of the cityscape, Piranesi had created a mixture of architectural and sculptural elements of tombs and urns, pillars and pyramids that were either real or fictional. Human beings play a secondary role in these images. Especially in his prison series it is the overbearing power of imaginary architecture that haunts the viewer. Ensor’s approach is a different one. Topographical precision serves as a background, forcing the eye of the observer to concentrate on the herd of grotesque people marching forward. Nearly all of Ensor’s illustrations of city life evoke his horror of the modern metropolis. This is particularly evident in his masterpiece. In 1888, Ensor tackled the monumental ‘L’Entrée du Christ à Bruxelles en 1889’ (Christ’s Entry into Brussels) which elaborates an earlier theme treated in his 1885 drawing ‘Les Auréoles du Christ’, a vast masked carnival mob advancing towards the onlooker. Ensor gave his own features to Christ entering Brussels, as if sacrificing his life and his peace of mind to painting. He is a martyr for his art. Ensor’s society is a mob represented by an ugly and dehumanized sea of clowns and caricatures. Public, historical, and allegorical figures along with the artist’s family and friends make up this mob. The haloed Christ at the centre of the turbulence is an isolated visionary amidst the herd-like masses of modern society. After rejection by Les Vingt, the association of artists that Ensor had helped to found, the painting was


not exhibited in public until 1929. The timing in this case seemed appropriate. The spirit of the age was marked by the bleak reality of the economic depression and the emergence of extreme political factions who fought each other in street battles. Dictatorship was looming. This was an age of anxiety which was grounded in the modern mind’s loss of a spiritual centre which could provide answers to questions concerning the meaning of life. Man was free to choose without reference to God or an ideal world of essences - he stood utterly alone. Freedom was a curse to him, and the source of his suffering. He sought shelter in mass movements, wearing a uniform, saluting Leadership. James Ensor’s painted society is a mob that threatens to trample the viewer, a crude and chaotic sea of masks, clowns and caricatures. The impact of ‘Christ’s Entry’ was immediate. Ensor literally became a monument in 1930 when a bronze bust of the painter was unveiled in his home town.



piazza san carlo (turin) Founded by the Romans in 26 BC as Augusta Taurinorum - meaning ‘bull’ (depicted in the urban coat of arms) - Turin is a Baroque city in the far northwest of Italy, located mainly on the left bank of the Po River, with wide avenues, elegant porticoes, and a view of the Alps. Formerly it was the capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia. After unification in 1861 it became the national capital. The impressive brick building of the Palazzo Carignano was the seat of the first Italian parliament. Nowadays, Turin is the capital of Piedmont. It was Friedrich Nietzsche’s preferred city. He loved its elegance, including the local cuisine. He lived for a while at no. 6 Piazza Carlo Alberto on the third floor where he wrote Ecce homo in which he relates the quality of nutrition directly to intellect, while blaming poor cookery for the mental sloppiness of his countrymen. Soup before a meal (known as ‘alla tedesca’ in early Venetian cooking books); meat boiled to threats; vegetables cooked in fat and flower; pastries turned into paperweights; bestial drinking habits - all that, Nietzsche argues, caused the fact that Germanic thinking originates in disordered intestines. To him, the most refined kitchen is that of Piedmont, an area famously known for its delightful ‘risotto al tartufo’, its fine cheeses and excellent wines such as Barbera and Barolo. It was in Turin, however, that on 3 January 1889 Nietzsche suffered a final mental collapse. Two policemen approached him after he had seemingly caused a public disturbance. What really happened remains unknown, but an often repeated tale states that Nietzsche witnessed the flogging of a horse at the other end of the Piazza Carlo


Alberto, intervened and threw his arms up around its neck to protect the animal, and then collapsed to the ground. The style of painting named ‘Pittura metafisica’ (metaphysical art: the term was introduced by Apollinaire) flourished in the second decade of the twentieth century in the works of Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà. A perfect example of the style is De Chirico’s ‘Misterio e malincolia di una strada’ (1914 - Mystery and melancholy of a street). The street is presented as an empty stage where some dramatic event is about to happen or has just occurred. Its spacial distortion creates an ominous sense of unreality. The facade of a dark building dominates the foreground. An extended white wall on the left gives the illusion of depth. The shadow of a hidden statue draws towards it the isolated figure of a girl. Even though we are not privy to the scene, it seems that from all sides eyes are staring into the empty space. This typifies the style of metaphysical art. The streetscape is both sinister and disturbingly beautiful. The iconography is recognizable but deliberately subverted. The mysterious street scenes often shown in Giorgio de Chirico’s paintings are suggestive of a foreboding that is further increased by the shadowed calm that conveys both a sense of the familiar and the unknown. This is partly the case because De Chirico’s Turin is a construct of several cities including Florence, Paris, Berlin and Munich. The artist created deep city squares bordered by receding arcades and brick walls; or claustrophobic interiors with steeply rising floors. The modification of perspective is always accompanied by the depiction of mundane objects. Within these spaces classical statues and metaphysical mannequins (derived from tailors’ dummies) provide an expressionless human presence, thus creating seemingly everyday images that haunt the imagination. This confrontation of classical and modern elements plays a dominant part in De Chirico’s imagery. It was an issue that had preoccupied Nietzsche’s thinking from the very beginning. Giorgio de Chirico developed this style while working in Milan. Maybe he wanted to escape the noise and upheaval made there by Futurist artists, for it was in the


serene surroundings of Florence that he created his strange squares that evoke a sense of dislocation between past and present, between the individual subject and the space he/she inhabits. De Chirico produced a series of eerie cityscapes that added a new dimension to the genre. They are no longer the traditional observed views of streets and squares. De Chirico’s streetscapes play the traditional role of a recognizable narrative and suggest an experience of the unknown, an enigma that remains unresolved. The imagery presents a seemingly concrete world that simultaneously dislocates our perceptions through the fusion of observed and manipulated reality. His piazzas and buildings are haunting images of urban desolation - painted images of Durkheim’s anomie. De Chirico’s background is a mixed one and his psychological make-up is one of fragmented identities. He was born in 1888 in Volos, Greece, to a Genovese mother and a Sicilian father (the Italian North-South divide in one family). After studying art in Athens and Florence, he moved to Munich in 1906 where he entered the Akademie der Bildenden Künste. Having grown up among the classical ruins of ancient Greece, he arrived as a young student in the pompous and extravagant surroundings of the Bavarian capital. The image-contrast could not be starker. The Munich settings were richly evocative to the young artist and they coincided at the same time with his discovery of Nietzsche’s writings. In 1911, De Chirico paid a brief visit to Turin to pay homage to the philosopher. It was the start of an aesthetic obsession with the city’s stark symmetry, its long shadows and geometric repetition. The Piazza San Carlo is the main square of Turin. It has preserved the seventeenth century look of harmonious uniformity given to it by royal architect Carlo di Castellamonte. The Piazza with its rows of austere arches and Carlo Marocchetti’s emblematic equestrian statue of Emanuele Filiberto, Prince of Venice and Piedmont (1838), appears in dozens of De Chirico’s surrealist works. Time and again, images of Turin re-appear in his paintings. He appreciated not just the city’s classical architecture, but also its ‘mood’ (as described in his memoirs). It was at


this time that Nietzsche and Turin became intertwined in the artist’s mind. He always acknowledged his intellectual debt to the philosopher, saying he wanted to paint subjects that expressed feelings aroused by the reading of Nietzsche. His experience of Munich is woven together with the iconography of Turin to form an internalized and invented city (in which it is possible to trace specific Bavarian buildings and monuments). The device liberated his imagery and enabled him to create an enigmatic setting for his artistic vision. He mythologized Turin for creative purposes. Turin and Munich were central to De Chirico’s imagery but he mixed the cities of his preference with those of his experience, and in doing so constructed an inner landscape with references beyond the actual or geographical. De Chirico turned streetscape into mindscape.



spiegelgasse (zürich) Zürich’s revolutionary associations are first and foremost of a religious nature. The Romanesque Grossmünster (Great Minster) near the banks of the River Limmat was briefly the epicentre of the Protestant Reformation. From his first sermon here on 1 January 1519, Huldrych Zwingli railed against ecclesiastical corruption, preaching individual liberty and the sole authority of the word of God. In 1523, he took part in a series of debates presided over by the magistrate which ultimately led local civil authorities to sanction the severance of the church from the papacy. James Joyce, the author at the centre of the Modernist revolution, lived in Zürich as a refugee from Trieste where he had stayed since leaving Ireland in 1904. The Joyces lived in Paris in the interwar period, but returned to Zürich when the German army marched on Paris. James died there at the Red Cross Hospital on 13 January 1941. He lies buried in the city. The Spiegelgasse, a narrow street in the Old Town on the right bank of the river, has been home to a number of fascinating figures - most of them immigrants. Switzerland is probably the last country one would associate with political radicalism, but this street proves differently. ‘Die Revolution muss aufhören, und die Republik muss anfangen’ (The revolution must cease and the Republic must begin), is a famous sentence taken from the first act of Georg Büchner’s 1835 political play Dantons Tod. Büchner, a young German doctor and dramatist with revolutionary sentiments who had made a spectacular appearance on the literary scene, is often viewed as a sort of proto-Marxist. His


writings are filled with premonitions of class struggle. Late 1836, the author was appointed as a lecturer in anatomy at the University of Zürich. He settled at no. 12 Spiegelgasse where he spent his final months writing and teaching until, in 1837, he died of typhus aged just twenty-four. In 1916/17 the house next door (no. 14, second floor) was home to Vladimir Iljitsch Uljanow, better known as Lenin. The authorities were not particularly concerned about the Russian refugee and allowed him to read, write, and speak (in good German) unhindered. They did not consider him a threat. In 1901, economist John A. Hobson - an outspoken critic of Western imperial policies - published his study The Psychology of Jingoism. Trying to define the phenomenon, he wrote that jingoism is the ‘passion of the spectator, the inciter, the backer, not the fighter; it is a collective or mob passion which, in as far as it prevails, makes the individual mind subject to a control that joins him irresistibly to his fellows’. The expression ‘by Jingo’ is a minced oath (a pseudo-profanity such as fricking instead of fucking) that appeared rarely in print, but which may be traced as far back as to the seventeenth century in a euphemism for ‘by Jesus’. The OED attests the first appearance in 1794, in an English edition of the works of François Rabelais as a translation for the French ‘par Dieu’. The form ‘by Jingo!’ is recorded in the eighteenth century as used by Goldsmith. The term ‘jingoism’ came in circulation after a popular music-hall song by G.W. Hunt, which appeared at the time of the Russo-Turkish War (1877/8) when anti-Russian feeling ran high and Disraeli ordered the Mediterranean fleet to Constantinople: ‘We don’t want to fight, / But by Jingo if we do, / We’ve got the ships, / We’ve got the men, / And got the money too’. The Russophobes became known as Jingoes, and any belligerent patriotism has been labelled jingoïsm ever since. In London, printers Francis Meynell and Stanley Morison established the Guild of the Pope’s Peace in 1916. Pius x had died in 1914 and was succeeded by Benedict xv. The latter was appalled by the war and condemned the continuation of the slaughter. The Guild was set up to print and distribute Benedict’s political


appeals and his attempts to end the bloodshed. The world, including the Catholic world, did not listen. People preferred to lend their ear to the jingoïsm of Lloyd George Kitchener or the Kaiser. The situation was symptomatic for the rest of Europe. Sensitive minds tried to escape from the collective madness. Zürich was a gathering place for European refugees, a haven where people came to find peace and stability. It was also a relatively permissive environment that enjoyed a history of allowing the expression of revolutionary ideas by Europe’s disillusioned intellectuals. Artists, activists, intellectuals and other refugees swarmed to Zürich and met in bars and cafés, discussing the precarious future of Europe, and planning political or artistic revolutions. Romanian Jews escaping ultra-nationalist and antiSemitic tendencies, German and French citizens escaping conscription, they all gathered in neutral Switzerland. Pacifist poets such as Schickele, Leonhard Frank, and Franz Werfel lived in the city. Among the refugees were German poets Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings, Romanian poet Tristan Tzara and painter Marcel Janco and the Alsiatian painter Jean Arp. Repelled by the utter madness with which the young were rushed to trenches of senseless slaughter, these artists had lost their faith in European bourgeois culture. The copying of external reality in order to create a self-contained work of beauty no longer made sense to them. They were united by a conviction that the horrors around them were rooted in outdated morals and values. Throwing overboard all conventions and traditional sentimentalities, they sought an alternative unity of art and life by establishing - in the words of Hugo Ball - a ‘playground of crazy emotions’. With that ambition in mind, Hugo Ball contacted Jan Ephraim, an elderly Dutch sailor and patron of the Holländische Meierei (Dutch dairy inn) who made a backroom available for a cabaret with singing, theatrics, music, visual art exhibitions, and all sorts of other performances that would disturb bourgeois feelings. On 15 February 1916 Cabaret Voltaire opened its doors at no. 1 Spiegelgasse. The press release - dated 2 February 1916 - which announced the opening of the nightclub is rather tame. It reads: ‘Cabaret Voltaire. Under this name a group of young artists and writers has formed with the object of becoming


a centre for artistic entertainment. In principle, the Cabaret will be run by artists, permanent guests, who, following their daily reunions, will give musical or literary performances. Young Zürich artists, of all tendencies, are invited to join us with suggestions and proposals’. Ball took as his model the cabaret tradition of Paris and Berlin before the war. Voltaire, the philosopher who in his time was at war with the ‘spirit of the age’, was chosen as the godfather for the new movement. Refugee artists from all over Europe quickly besieged the new establishment. Emmy Hennings, Hugo Ball’s partner, sang her own songs as well as many from the repertoires of cabaret legends such as Aristide Bruant, Erich Mühsam, and Frank Wedekind. A spirit of mockery soon took over. Each evening at the Cabaret included a succession of spectacles, dance, song, plays, a balalaika orchestra, etc. The French or Russian evenings were occasions for readings of poems by Max Jacob and Jules Laforgue, of extracts of Ubu Roi, as well as texts by Ivan Turgenev and Anton Chekhov. This was the age of manifestos - at times some twenty people read out declarations of various sorts simultaneously. All visitors were welcome to take part in the performances which were presented to a noisy, mainly young audience. On 15 June 1916, with a print run of 500 copies, the only edition of the magazine Cabaret Voltaire appeared, edited both in French and German. In thirty-two pages, it included a poem by Guillaume Apollinaire, texts by Kandinsky, ‘Parole in libertà’ by Marinetti, the reproduction of a poster by Marcel Janco and a drawing by Arp (on the cover). Ball and Tzara took the opportunity to announce the future publication of a magazine entitled Dada. Thus the word Dada appeared here for the very first time in print. The Cabaret closed in June 1916, but Dadaïsm was just beginning. The Dadaists rented a room for one night at a guildhall named Zunfthaus zur Waag where they held their celebrated 14 July Dada Soirée which officially launched the movement with Ball’s now famous manifesto. In French, he explained, dada means hobby horse. What the poet did not mention is the fact that the word dada appears in a bawdy French song performed on various occasions by Eça de Queiroz’s


marvellous creation of the shameless concubine Genoveva in his novel A tragédia da Rua das Flores (The Tragedy of the Street of Flowers; written between 1877 and 1878, but published many years after the author’s death). All three nouns here are synonyms, although dada in this context would be best translated as stud-horse or stallion: ‘Chaque femme a sa toquade, / Sa marotte et son dada’. In German dada means good-bye, be seeing you sometime. In Romanian: yes indeed, you are right. With that declaration Hugo Ball launched Dadaïsm. The legend goes that the name was adopted by randomly sticking a knife into a dictionary and finding under the blade the noun dada. That night, Tzara read aloud his own first manifesto, Richard Huelsenbeck performed a phonetic poem, there were absurdist literary readings, works of art on display, and general chaos. Every gesture and every move was calculated to shock the audience with the aim of destroying traditional understandings of art and aesthetics. Dada was anti-art, and these performances were meant to be as hideous as were the horrors of war. That same year, Tristan Tzara’s La première aventure céleste de M. Antipyrine, with coloured wood-cuts by Marcel Janco, was published in the ‘Collection Dada’. By 1917 the excitement generated by the Cabaret Voltaire had fizzled out and artists moved on to other places in Zürich such as the Galerie Dada at no. 19 Bahnhofstrasse (an initiative by Tzara), then later to Paris and Berlin. Politically, many of the personalities involved, and Ball in particular, were admirers of Russian radical Mikhail Bakunin who, in 1843, had also spent time in Zürich. Bakunin’s anarchism, to Hugo Ball, was ‘Dada in political disguise’. But it was another Russian political thinker who, in physical terms at least, found himself much nearer to the Cabaret Voltaire. When Lenin arrived in Switzerland in 1914, he informed the authorities that he was neither an army deserter nor a coward, but a political exile. He had little difficulty gaining entry to the country. With his wife Nadia Krupskaya, he settled in bourgeois Bern. Politically, he did not win over any friends or comrades. In February 1916 he was granted permission to move to Zürich where he had access to the central library. The couple rented a two-room flat at no. 14 Spiegelgasse. It was here that he finished his work Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism - in


spite of bad smells. Nadia wrote in her memoirs that the yard was filled with the stink of a nearby sausage factory. Did Lenin visit the Cabaret? Hugo Ball does not mention Lenin amongst the people attending the performances, but Huelsenbeck claims to have encountered Lenin in Zürich (ironically, the local police were more suspicious of the Dadaïsts than of the revolutionary thinker). Marcel Janco circulated stories according to which the shows were attended by Lenin and by another famous inhabitant of the city, Carl Jung. Self-promotion has always been one of the stronger aspects of the movement. In his Lénine Dada (1989) French writer Dominique Noguez imagined Lenin as a member of the Dada group and suggests how the meeting of minds influenced and transformed his vision of society. Leninism is a product of Dada. Noguez based his book on this intriguing question: could Lenin have been Dada incarnate? In 1917, with the help of Swiss representatives of the political left, Lenin received permission to return to St Petersburg. In April of that year he left the Spiegelgasse for good. Six months later, following the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks seized control. This then is the remarkable chain of events. In February 1916 Lenin and his wife settled at no. 14 Spiegelgasse. Cabaret Voltaire opened its doors at no. 1 Spiegelgasse on 15 February of that same year. In Tom Stoppard’s Travesties (1974) Lenin and Tzara stand opposed. The name of Spiegelgasse (the German ‘Spiegel’ means mirror) functions as structural and thematic base for the play which opposes two revolutionary characters, one who transformed the political, the other the artistic status quo. The mirror image postulates sameness and difference. One can look at this mirror image from a different angle. In one street, in the same month of the same year, two contrasting personifications of the idea of ‘avant-garde’, Tristan Tzara and Vladimir Lenin, stand shoulder to shoulder, staying virtually next door to one another, the one representing the artistic, the other the political interpretation of this controversial concept. Henri de Saint-Simon was a leading social theorist in the post-Revolutionary period. In his vision of society, scientists play a dominant role. It was in this context


that Saint-Simon introduced the notion of avant-garde. In a Mémoire sur la science de l’homme (1813), the author encourages contemporary scientists of rendering their services to the elevation of mankind, thus functioning as a ‘scientific avant-garde’. From the outset, Saint-Simon regarded the arts as a crucial part of his social system. Writers had to develop the poetic part of his new social system and influence public opinion. The anonymously published Opinions littéraires, philosophiques et industrielles (1825) concludes with a dialogue between an artist and a scientist in which the former pledges that ‘we, artists, will serve you as your avant-garde’. The political use of the military metaphor preceded the artistic one which can be traced back to the 1790s. The word was adopted in left-wing utopian ideology. In the progression from Saint-Simonian to French socialist thinking, avant-garde became solely related to the historic task of ‘working class parties’. A number of newspapers adopted the word in their title. Lenin applied the word avant-garde in his account of What Is to Be Done? (1902). Napoleon exercised an enormous influence on the arts. Balzac was dazzled by Bonaparte and so was Charles Augustine Sainte-Beuve, the greatest French critic of his age. What makes Sainte-Beuve’s jargon intriguing is his intimate knowledge of military matters. In a letter to Hugo (5 May 1845), he compared the early Romantics to the officers of the ‘Corps of Engineers who are sent ahead to clear the way, to lay a road for the army following behind’. Sainte-Beuve, biographer of Napoleon’s strategist Antoine-Henri Jomini (published in 1869), was well-read into military textbooks. His 1854 Stendhal essay reads like a lecture on military tactics, describing the author as some hussar in the vanguard who gallops up to the enemy’s position, but who also, no sooner has he got back to his own lines, needles the other troops to speed up their advance. When the critic refers to Stendhal as a ‘cheveau-léger d’avant-garde’, he used the metaphor in a well-considered manner. The cultural meaning of the term avant-garde originates in Sainte-Beuve’s critical imagery. In aesthetics, the military metaphor of avant-garde gradually came to overshadow earlier metaphors of poetic exploration or artistic gamesmanship. The shift from explorer or athlete to soldier underlines the changing conditions


under which the artist committed himself to his task. The first metaphors are part of Classicist thinking, as much as the latter constitutes an integral aspect of modernist attitudes. Contemporary critics have interpreted avant-garde in terms of a breach between artist and public, as a ‘tradition’ of heterodoxy and resistance. During the 1970s historians tended to confuse the political with the artistic use of the term. Avant-garde in art was judged to be left-wing, disruptive and anarchic. In the final analysis, the avant-gardist, like the colonist or athlete, metaphorically represents the mobility of the creative mind. The metaphor of avant-garde has been fertile in a sense that both urban artists and political utopians found a way of integrating the term in their belief-systems. One root, different branches. Two apartments, same city, same street.



cleveland street (london) Some urban areas have it all: avant garde in art, radicalism in politics, and perversity in sexual relationships. Cleveland Street runs north to south from Euston Road to the junction of Mortimer Street and Goodge Street. In 1889, the property at no. 19 Cleveland Street (now demolished) became London’s most notorious address. The Cleveland Street Scandal shocked the nation because it involved the upper echelons of Victorian Society, including Prince Albert Victor. Known as ‘Eddy’ to his nearest and dearest, he was the eldest son of the Prince of Wales and secondin-line to the British throne. Eddy was engaged to Princess Mary of Teck, who went on to marry his younger brother, later George v. The scandal exploded when, on July 6, Detective Inspector Frederick Abberline busted the house at no. 19 in a routine investigation of theft at the General Post Office (GPO). Under questioning, one of its clerks confessed that he also moonlighted as a rent boy at a brothel in Cleveland Street which was run by Charles Hammond. It soon emerged that the GPO was a recruiting ground for clerks who were willing to earn something extra outside of working hours. There were plenty of brothels, gay or straight, in the Victorian era. What made this story different was the alleged clientele of the Cleveland Street establishment. The Duke of Somerset and Henry FitzRoy, Earl of Euston, were the only aristocrats actually named, but gossip was rife that there was a closing of ranks among the Establishment. The government was accused of covering up the scandal to protect the names of any titled patrons. The rumour persisted that Albert Victor was a visitor of the brothel. Evidence


however remained circumstantial, often based on Eddy’s rather peculiar appearance and personality. In the aftermath of the affair, newspaper coverage reinforced negative attitudes about male homosexuality as an aristocratic vice, presenting the telegraph boys as corrupted and exploited by members of the upper class. It was an antipathetic focus for which Oscar Wilde would pay the penalty. The author had alluded to the scandal in his 1890 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Among many hostile reviews of the novel, one reviewer called it suitable for none but ‘outlawed noblemen and perverted telegraph boys’. The scandal put Fitzrovia on the map as an area of outrageous behaviour. From the time it was built in the mid-1790s, Fitzrovia was a centre for London radicals. Its position, just across the border from Westminster, and a part of the Middlesex constituency, meant it became a haven for some of London’s democrats. The area was associated with landreformer and radical Thomas Spence, author of The Rights of Man (1783). His Restorer of Society to its Natural State (1801) was printed by Seale and Bates of Fitzroy Place. Spence explored his political and social concepts in a series of books about the fictional Utopian state of Spensonia. These writings are significant in that he was the first to apply Enlightenment ideas about democracy and majority rule to the fictional genre. He provided the literary model for future utopias. Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man (1791) was published during his residence at no. 154 New Cavendish Street in reply to Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, who lived nearby at no. 18 Charlotte Street. Chartist meetings were hosted in the area, some attended by Karl Marx who is known to have been to venues at Charlotte Street, Tottenham Street and Rathbone Place. The area became central to Chartist activities after the Reform Act of 1832 and was host to a number of working men’s clubs. By the nineteenth century Fitzrovia was destination of choice for political exiles from France. There were two main waves of migration separated by a generation. The first were supporters of the French revolution of February 1848 when the Second Republic was founded by Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte. The second group


of about 3,000 came in the 1870s after the defeat of the Paris Commune in 1871 and included large numbers of anarchists. Many of these ‘Compagnons’ remained in London until an amnesty in 1895 allowed some to return to France. The French residents of Fitzrovia were politically active. Charlotte Street and Goodge Street were the main axis of anarchism in the 1870s. French political refugee and author Charles Malato described the area as a small anarchist republic. In 1885 they formed the anarchist Autonomie Club which, a year later, moved to no. 32 Charlotte Street. The Club was subjected to repeated police raids and speculation about an international anarchist conspiracy was rife in the popular press. It later moved to no. 6 Windmill Street where it was raided in 1894 by Chief Inspector Melville of the Special Branch soon after the Greenwich Park explosion caused by Martial Bourdin and featured in Joseph Conrad’s novel, The Secret Agent. Police spies, known as Les Mouchards, were regularly patrolling the streets of Fitzrovia and visible day and night outside Amand Lapie’s bookshop at no. 30 Goodge Street from where the owner provided support for new arrivals. During the early twentieth century Fitzrovia acquired the reputation for its lively literary and artistic scene. Born in Munich in 1860, Walter Richard Sickert’s father was of Danish-German origin and his mother the illegitimate daughter of astronomer Richard Sheepshanks. He is supposed to have had a studio at no. 15 Cleveland Street although there is no firm evidence of this. Walter worked as assistant to James McNeill Whistler and later went to Paris where he met Edgar Degas who strongly influenced the young artist. Sickert’s earliest works were portrayals of scenes in music halls. He returned to London in 1905. In the spring 1907 Sickert and seven of his colleagues jointly rented the first floor of no. 19 Fitzroy Street. There, the eight founder members of what came to be known as the ‘Fitzroy Street Group’ developed a set of themes in their work that was inspired by Sickert, such as nudes at their toilet, portraits set in shabby bedsitter interiors, mantelpiece still-lifes of cluttered bric-à-brac, landscapes of commonplace London streets, etc. During that same year, Sickert had become interested in the ‘Camden Town Murder’, the killing of a local prostitute. He painted four provocative versions of


a scene in which a heavy-set man sits in a despairing pose by a bed, while a plump naked woman lies on it. He was also intrigued by Jack the Ripper, believing that he had lodged in the room used by the serial killer, having been told this by his landlady. He painted the room, entitling it ‘Jack the Ripper’s bedroom’, portraying it as a dark and threatening space. Since the 1976 publication of Stephen Knight’s Jack the Ripper: the Final Solution a rather boring discussion took place contending that Sickert had either been an accomplice of the Ripper or the actual killer himself. Both Ripper experts and Sickert admirers reject the idea as nonsense. The district itself remained unnamed until the 1930s when, in the light of the area’s burgeoning reputation as the home of bohemian and literary London (George Bernard Shaw and Virginia Woolf lived at different times in the same house in Fitzroy Square), it adopted the name of its most renowned public house and literary salon, the Fitzroy Tavern at no. 16 Charlotte Street. The building was constructed in 1883 as the Fitzroy Coffee House and four years later converted to a pub called the Hundred Marks, a memory of the many German immigrants living in the area. When Judah Morris Kleinfeld, a tailor and naturalized British citizen originally from Polish Russia, became the licensee of the Fitzroy he turned the house into a centre of artistic interest. It was the personality of Judah ‘Pop’ Kleinfeld that made the place. The history of the pub is described in The Fitzroy: the Autobiography of a London Tavern by Sally Fiber, the grand-daughter of Pop Kleinfeld. The book recalls an atmosphere in which writers, poets and artists boozed, debated, gossiped and scrapped alongside local characters such as Albert Pierrepoint, the last public hangman, racing tipster prince Monolulu and the black magician Alaistair Crowley. Dylan Thomas and Augustus John were regulars and rivals (Thomas married John’s young ‘protégé’ Caitlin Macnamara). Another frequent visitor was the poet Anna Wickham (real name: Edith Harper). At the Fitzroy she befriended Malcolm Lowry, who was about to publish his first novel, Ultramarine (1933). After the death of her husband in 1929, she took in lodgers in her house on Parliament Hill, including Lawrence Durrell, John Davenport and Dylan Thomas. The latter wrote part of Adventures in the Skin Trade (1955) in her bathroom which he describes

as being filled with birds in cages. Anna Wickham wrote The Little Old House (1921) and Thirty Six New Poems (1936), charting her struggle to be a poet (to which her husband had always objected) and to fulfil herself as a wife and mother. She hanged herself in April 1947. The most remarkable customer of the tavern, however, the absolute queen of the Fitzroy, was the artist-mistress-muse-model Nina Hamnett who claimed to have been everywhere and known everyone. Welsh-born Nina Hamnett was an artist, writer and expert on sailors’ chanteys who became known as the ‘Queen of Bohemia’. In 1914 she settled in the Montparnasse Quarter in Paris. She moved in the circle of Pablo Picasso, Sergei Diaghilev and Jean Cocteau. Openly bisexual, Nina Hamnett drank heavily and kept numerous lovers and close associations within the artistic community. During her forty year career, she also worked with Roger Fry assisting him with the avant-garde productions of fabrics, clothes, murals, furniture, rugs, and the like. In 1932 she published Laughing Torso, a tale of her bohemian life, which became a bestseller. Alcoholism would overtake her many talents and a tragic Queen of Bohemia spent a good part of the last few decades of her life at the bar telling stories everybody had heard many times before. Nina Hamnett died on Sunday 16 December 1956, after falling out her apartment window and being impaled on the fence forty feet below. Was it suicide or merely a drunken accident? We will never know. Hamnett was a typical twentieth-century urbanist who throughout her life had cultivated an intense metropolitan lifestyle. Once the energy was burned up there was nothing left to live for. The city had taken another victim.



boulevard du temple (paris) The Boulevard du Temple runs from the Place de la République to the Place Pasdeloup. The name refers to the nearby temple of the Knights Templars where they established their Paris priory. The street follows the path of the city wall that was constructed by Charles v and demolished during the reign of Louis xiv. Louis Daguerre’s 1838 image of the ‘Boulevard du Temple’ is a landmark in the history of photography. It is the earliest known picture that contains a human being. The image shows the length of the boulevard, but because of the lengthy exposure time (over ten minutes) the moving traffic does not appear. At the lower left of the photograph, however, the figure of a person having his boots polished by a young bootblack were motionless enough for their images to be captured. They are the first two nameless heroes of photography. Ever since the reign of Louis xiv, the Boulevard du Temple was a fashionable place (from 1856 to 1869 Gustave Flaubert lived at no. 42), known especially for its number of local theatres. In the nineteenth century the boulevard was given the nickname ‘Boulevard du Crime’ because of the many wicked dramas that were performed in its playhouses. It had been the scene of shocking real crime as well. On this very boulevard, on 28 July 1835, Corsica-born Giuseppe Fieschi made an attempt on the life of Louis-Philippe and his three sons with a home-made ‘super gun’. The attempt failed, but the shooting resulted in eighteen dead and many injured. The Boulevard du Temple was eventually destroyed during Haussmann’s


renovation scheme. With the exception of the Folies-Mayer, all theatres were flattened to make way for the new Place de la République. However, memories of the sensation dramas performed at the Boulevard du Crime lingered on and were rekindled by Oscar Méténier. An admirer of Émile Zola, the dramatist made his name with Naturalist plays set among vagrants, criminals, and prostitutes. The dialogue was expressed in the language of the street. Méténier was a frequent target of the censor for depicting a milieu that had never appeared on stage previously. In 1897, he bought a theatre at the end of the Impasse Chaptal, a cul-de-sac in the Pigalle district, to present his controversial plays. This, the smallest playhouse in Paris, was the Théâtre du Grand-Guignol. It had been a chapel originally and contained less than three hundred seats - the theatre quickly acquired the nickname of ‘Chapelle de Gore & la Psychose’ (Chapel of Gore & Psychosis). Two large angels hung above the orchestra and the boxes, with their iron railings, looked like confessionals. Even the choice of the name was provoking. It refers to a popular French puppet character whose original incarnation was that of a social commentator and spokesperson for the silk workers of Lyon (known as ‘canuts’ - on account of extremely poor working conditions, they staged a number of uprisings, known as the Canut Revolts). Early Guignol puppet shows were frequently censored by Napoleon iii’s secret police. One of the Grand-Guignol’s first plays, Méténier’s adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s short story Mademoiselle Fifi, was temporarily shut down by police censors. It presented the first ever prostitute on the French stage. His subsequent play Lui! brought together a whore and a criminal in the enclosed space of a hotel room. The formula of the Grand-Guignol play was thus established: a broad combination of eroticism and violence. The Théâtre du Grand-Guignol was an immediate success. In 1898, Max Maurey took over as director and turned the theatre into a house of horror which became notorious for its gruesome scenes of violence. Night after night, people would gather and watch in fascination as screaming heroines were lowered into acid vats, as eyeballs were bisected by long silver blades, or as bodies were torn limb from limb spraying blood in all


directions. With the help of ingenious special effects and gallons of fake blood, the shocked audience was led to believe that torture was actually taking place in front of their eyes. Maurey measured the success of a play by the number of people who fainted during its performance and, in order to attract a maximum of publicity, he employed a house doctor to treat fainthearted spectators. Maurey discovered the work of André de Latour, Comte de Lorde who, in the 1920s, became known as the ‘Prince de la Terreur’. Between 1901 and 1926 he wrote some 150 plays devoted to the exploitation of terror. During the day he worked as a librarian in the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal where, a century earlier, Charles Nodier had been one of his predecessors. Among the rich holdings of the library are the archives of the Bastille which comprise many prisoner dossiers, including those of the Marquis de Sade. The dramatist could not have wished for a better employer. Under the influence of De Lorde insanity became the most popular theme of the theatre’s repertoire. At a time when this mental condition was just beginning to be scientifically explored, the Grand-Guignol staged countless manias and ‘special tastes’. There is necrophilia in L’homme de nuit which was based upon the case of Sergeant Bertrand, a man sentenced in 1849 for violating tombs and mutilating corpses; L’horrible passion depicts a nanny who cruelly strangled the children in her care. De Lorde’s work was a regular target of the censor, especially in England where scheduled touring productions of two of his plays were cancelled by the Lord Chamberlain’s censors. Fear of ‘the other’ appears in countless dramatic variations: fear of the proletariat, fear of the unknown, fear of the foreign, fear of contagion, etc. Disease is rife. Leprosy and syphilis were but two of the maladies that were introduced to the stage. Maurey also showed a keen interest in the change in states of consciousness through drugs or hypnosis. The passage from one state to another was the crux of the genre. Plays dealing with such themes were repeatedly included in the repertoire. Inevitably, the guillotine was erected on stage. The last convulsions played out on the decapitated face were closely scrutinized. From 1914 to 1930, Camille Choisy directed the theatre. He was a master of


special effects in both lighting and sound. Staging overtook text. He introduced the actress Paula Maxa, the ‘Sarah Bernhardt of the Impasse Chaptal’ and the most ‘assassinated woman in the world’. She was exposed to a range of tortures unique in theatrical history. In a carnival of terror, she was shot, scalped, whipped, disemboweled, raped, guillotined, hanged, quartered, burned, cut into eighty-three pieces by an invisible Spanish dagger, stung by a scorpion, poisoned with arsenic, devoured by a puma, and strangled by a pearl necklace. With the arrival of Jack Jouvin, who was in charge of the theatre from 1930 to 1937, the repertoire shifted from gore to psychological drama. However, Jouvin’s lack of vision triggered the eventual downfall of the Grand-Guignol. The abundance of terrifying elements in the later plays made them no longer believable, and the genre was now taken over by filmmakers. The first horror films owe much of their narrative style to the stories played out by the Grand Guignol Theatre Company. They draw upon the folklore and legends of Europe, and render monsters into physical form. Since the brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière produced their 1895 dancing skeleton in Le squelette joyeux, audiences acquired a taste for the macabre. Early horror films were referred to at the time as ‘spook tales’ and the term ‘horror’ was not used to describe a film genre until the 1930s. In 1896, ‘cinemagician’ or master of special effects Georges Méliès created the first horror (and vampire) film on record. Although Le manoir du diable (The House of the Devil) has a running time of some three minutes, this supernatural story still manages to pack in the genre paradigms: bats, devils, witches, cauldrons, ghosts, trolls, all appearing and disappearing in puffs of smoke. World War ii meant the final death blow to the theatre. Reality overtook drama. In an interview conducted immediately after the closure of Grand-Guignol in 1962, Charles Nonon, its last director, explained that is was not possible to compete with Buchenwald. Before the war, everyone believed that what happened on stage was purely imaginary. The war proved Nietzsche’s observation that man is the cruellest animal. The human penchant for cruelty is persistent and limitless.



gerrard street (london) The eighteenth century dared to demand bliss on earth. Whereas previously people had considered suffering their natural condition, the Enlightenment boldly stated that happiness was a natural right. It was God’s intent that man would take delight in the world. Pleasure became morally acceptable and an end in itself. Traditional religious notions that consigned life in this world to misery and sin were rejected. The world was no longer considered a place of exile or a vale of tears. Happiness was ours for the taking. Life had become safer, poverty was declining, epidemics were rare, and the struggle to survive was less severe - all this made the prospect of moving forward and upward feasible. The age spoke in terms of perfectibility, progress and pleasure. Throughout the eighteenth century however a stubborn undertone persisted of angst and anxiety, of unease and spleen. Behind expressions of faith in the future and belief in human ability to shape man’s destiny, there was an emotional unbalance. The relentless pursuit of contentment itself was the cause of much human misery. Thomas Carlyle argued that the doctrine of happiness had raised expectations to a level that could never be fulfilled. It had made us slaves of desire. Raise living standards, make life more comfortable, improve our technical means, enrich our pleasures, extend our leisure - it will not make human beings any happier than they were previously. Restlessness is the way of the world. A corporeal depiction of society was accentuated by the medieval image of the ‘body politic’ whereby the king was the literal and metaphorical head of state and


his subjects the various limbs. In literature, the trope of the city as body emerged prominently in the work of Honoré de Balzac, Victor Hugo, Theodore Dreiser and many other novelists. The Naturalists added the notion of the city as diseased body. But how were mental metaphors applied? Is there such a thing as the ‘mood’ of a city? Ever since Plato’s city-soul analogy in The Republic, metaphors of urban psychology have crept into historical narratives. Historians speak in terms of mood and temper of the metropolis. At present happiness has become a political issue. Since 1977, on New Year’s Eve, the WIN/Gallup International Association publishes its annual Global Barometer of Hope and Happiness in which it measures people’s opinion on economic prospects, as well as their personal levels of happiness, in all parts of the world. Individual cities have installed their own happiness scales. The 2008 project ‘Stimmungsgasometer’ (mood-measurer) was a giant face that changed with the mood of Berlin citizens. When they were collectively happy the light smiled, and when not, it put on a sad face. Input was recorded from a strategically placed camera loaded with facial recognition software. In 2012, the authorities in Vilnius installed a so-called Happy Barometer, a system that quizzes the city’s inhabitants about their mood and displays the average score on a giant digital screen. If all this may be little more than a (costly) gimmick, there can be no doubt that the places we inhabit affect our thoughts, feelings and interactions. Environmental psychology, the study of human relations and behaviours within the context of the built and natural environments, has taught us that first impressions are both rapid and unerring when we enter a house or room for the first time. The sensual attraction of a building is allimportant here. Architects pay attention to the tactile aspect of their constructions because colour, light, the sound and even smell of the materials used, appeal directly to our senses. Building materials and their stylistic use have an impact on urban psychology. Dutch brick, Italian marble, Aberdeen’s granite, Lisbon’s granite and marble, New York’s concrete affects the psychological make-up of its inhabitants. Architecture influences mind and mood. Portland’s Jurassic limestone is the principal building stone of London’s monumental constructions. More modest Stuart and Georgian buildings were built in red or


yellow brick. Portland is a durable stone, but long-term weathering depends on good maintenance to prevent rainwater ingress. Neglect causes serious masonry defects to develop. Soft London stock bricks were used for the majority of building work until they were replaced by machine-made ones in the early twentieth century. They blackened quickly. John Betjeman once referred to the ‘red brick gloom’ of Parliament Hill Mansions in Lissenden Gardens where he was born in 1906. London was the City of Darkness, literally and psychologically. The darkness of the medieval city caused hazards for those venturing out after nightfall. Overhanging timbers, swinging signs, and piles of waste and excrement, meant that finding one’s way was fraught with risk. Night offered cover for criminals and highwaymen providing further reason to stay indoors. Householders locked themselves in by bolting doors and windows, and placing cudgels next to their beds in case of burglary. Inside the house, candles provided small and flickering patches of light amid the blackness. Most towns and cities, with their defensive external walls, locked the gates once sundown approached, prohibiting entry to those who arrived too late. Watchmen wandered the streets surveilling the activities of nocturnal wanderers. There was a psychological aspect to this fear of the dark as well. Christian associations of light with the making of the world (out of darkness and chaos) are deeply embedded in European thought. In times of religious superstition, darkness was associated with witchcraft, devilry, heresy, temptation and terror. Night was the domain of Satan. Nyctophobia was all pervasive and would find eloquent expression in Gothic fiction. The real and imaginary perils of the dark, and the restrictions these brought on urban life, underscore the benefits of artificial lighting. It fundamentally changed life in the city. Running parallel with industrialization, artificial illumination opened up a new landscape of urban modernity. The expansion of lighting however was slow and uneven. During most of the nineteenth century, the poor still used tallow candles and rushlights, whereas the rich had the benefit of beeswax candles. Later, whale oil was introduced, followed by lamps fuelled by paraffin and kerosene. These were succeeded by the introduction of gaslight to illuminate houses and streets and, subsequently, by the incandescent electric bulb in the 1880s.


London’s low level of light that muted the shades of brick and stone enhanced the gloomy character of the city. Literary presentations of Victorian London paint the city as perpetually dark, gloomy, and poverty-stricken. The metropolis smells of rotting wood and decaying brick. Fog, this ‘London particular’, was everywhere. By the end of the nineteenth century urban sketches had already made the melancholy gloom a cliché. In his 1877 essay ‘London at Midsummer’ Henry James gives an account of a boat journey from Westminster Bridge to Greenwich. Few cities - he wrote - have a finer river than the Thames, but none certainly has expended more ingenuity in producing an ugly river-front. For miles and miles you see nothing but the sooty backs of warehouses. They stand massed together on the banks of the wide stream, which is fortunately of too opaque a quality to reflect the dismal image. A damp-looking, dirty blackness is the universal tone. The river is almost black, and is covered with black barges. Nothing can be more cheerless, Robert Southey wrote in Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (1829), than a ‘common November day in that huge overgrown city; the streets covered with that sort of thick greasy dirt, on which you are in danger of slipping at every step, and the sky concealed from sight by a dense, damp, oppressive, dusky atmosphere, composed of Essex fog and London smoke’. Brick and stone were covered in black filth. The reiterated blackness of such scenes echo the observations made by countless visiting writers and artists who described the capital in terms of spleen and melancholy. Russian poet Nikolay Karamzin noted in his observations of a journey through England in September 1790 that anyone who ‘believes that happiness consists in riches and luxuries ought to be shown the many Croesuses here who, surrounded by every means of enjoyment, have lost the taste for all enjoyment, and whose souls die long before they themselves do. This is the English spleen!’ In his opening column for The London Magazine on 1 December 1777 James Boswell, using the penname the Hypochondriack, that ‘the malady known by the denomination of melancholy, hypochondria, spleen, or vapours, has been long


supposed almost universal’. Four decades earlier, in 1733, George Cheyne had published The English Malady; or, A Treatise of Nervous Diseases of All Kinds. Symptoms of the ‘English disease’ were anxiety, insomnia and agitation which were caused by an urban life and immoderately luxurious lifestyle. The intensity and pace of life jarred the nervous system and left the body at risk of breakdown. By calling his syndrome the English malady, Cheyne was in fact flattering his readers. He saw the syndrome as arising from English wealth and refinement. The eighteenth century elite believed themselves susceptible to nervous disorders and dietary complaints. Scottish physician William Cullen published his Synopsis nosologiae methodicae in 1769, in which he developed a widely employed classification of diseases based on clinical symptoms and signs. There he introduced the term neurosis. The later nineteenth century became obsessed by such disorders. Early studies in this field tend to equate the psychological with the physical. The body is the site where social deformations and dislocations can be most easily observed. Nervousness and fatigue were not just physical ailments. They were perceived as moral disorders and signs of weakness. Cultural critics began to link the epidemic to the stresses they thought unique to city life. Neurasthenia was the typical metaphor for the delicate condition of the national psyche. It expressed a deepening anxiety of decline and social disintegration in urbanized society. English socio-cultural critics, and visiting writers such as Flora Tristan, Heinrich Heine or Dostoevski, described London as breathless and overworked. They measured the psychological temper of the capital as being sombre, serious and splenetic. London’s gloom was a mixture of atmospheric conditions, industrial pollution, slum building, and poor maintenance of construction materials. It was also a state of mind. Various observers pointed at the Protestant work ethic, the increasing seriousness of life, and the habit to dress in black, as sociopsychological aspects of the city’s dark temper. In painting, it had an effect on colour-discrimination. Dark and sober tones were preferred to bright colours. Both Pre-Raphaelite and Impressionist painters were reviled by the bourgeoisie because their pure colours were thought ‘unnatural’ and ‘inartistic’.


By the 1920s, the mood of the metropolis had swung to another extreme. Youth culture took front stage. The decade was defined by young men and women. Postwar euphoria spread like an infection. The lifting of war time restrictions was a signal to start a massive party. West End entrepreneurs opened clubs, restaurants and dance halls to cater for the new crazes of jazz and dancing. The capital began to feel less traditional and more modern. Since the first radio broadcast of the BBC in 1922 from premises in the Strand, wireless radio was the technological marvel of the decade. With sound and colour being introduced into film, movie celebrities became ‘real’. The modern day star was born and worshipped. In line with the reckless social attitude of the age (P.G. Wodehouse published his novel Jill the Reckless in October 1920), the reigning economic philosophy of the Roaring Twenties was ‘laissez-faire’. Much of the fun was concentrated in cosmopolitan Soho. Historically, the pattern of migration in Europe can be grouped in three main categories: religious and political refugee migration, labour migration, and colonial migration. In the London geography of migration Soho played a central part. Its population has always been remarkably heterogeneous. Originally an undisturbed area of quiet rural grassland and fields, once urbanized Soho has at various times attracted waves of immigrants who tended to congregate together with their compatriots in ethnic enclaves. They settled together forging close-knit communities. Greek Street is just one reminder of the many people (escaping Ottoman persecution) who were forced to make London their new home. The ‘Frenchness’ of Soho since the arrival of large numbers of Huguenot refugees has been well documented and lasts to this very day. It was also an area where Swiss immigrants came together. In 1762 the ‘Eglise Helvétique’ was established by a group of expatriates most of whom had arrived from Geneva, Vaud and Neuchâtel which were not yet part of the Swiss Confederation. Soho attracted both streams of artists and immigrants. Mozart, Karl Marx, and Joseph Nollekens all lived in Dean Street at some time or another. The immigrant community was formed by craftsmen such as furniture makers, tailors and silversmiths. Wardour Street for


example was associated with the antique and mock-antique furniture trade. The ‘mock’ side of the business entered the critical jargon. The expression ‘Wardour Street English’ was used by critics to point at the affected pseudo-archaic diction of historical novels. The building of Gerrard Street appears to have been spread over the period 1677 to 1685. A number of the early inhabitants were prominent in political affairs, although the population was mixed, attracting tavern-keepers and tradesmen. Gerrard Street also has a rich literary history. John Dryden once lived in the street and in 1764 Samuel Johnson and Joshua Reynolds established The Club (a dining club for fellow artists) in The Turk’s Head Tavern at no. 9. Soho established its rowdy reputation during the 1890s. On 11 July 1892 and following days an auction took place at Phillips, Sons & Neale (catalogue number 7617) at which the estate of the bankrupt Pelican Club at nos. 32-35 Gerrard Street was sold on the premises. The list of contents (373 in total) was considerable, 291 pieces of furniture and furnishings, 38 paintings and engravings, 30 pieces of silverwork, 11 items of porcelain, and 3 musical instruments. The Soho gentlemen’s club must have been a smart one. It had opened in 1887, and quickly attracted the rich and notorious. Two or three times weekly, and generally on Sunday nights, the club provided noisy concerts which lasted until the early hours of the morning. The unwritten rule was that the bar stayed open until the last drinker had left. The club also promoted boxing (associated with heavy gambling), often with American ‘coloured gentlemen’ matching fists with local talent. On 27 June 1890 for instance, the crowd watched Canadian-born George ‘Little Chocolate’ Dixon beat Nunc Wallace and win the world bantamweight title. The fight started at 11.20pm and lasted over one hundred minutes. Dixon won the substantial sum of £500. The Pelican was forced to close its doors in 1892 after Soho residents, upset by the all-hours antics at the club, filed a complaint asking that the house be closed as a public nuisance. The club lives on in P.G. Wodehouse’s creation of Sir Galahad Threepwood, a prominent member of the Pelican - A Pelican at Blandings was published in 1969 as the tenth and final full-length novel of the ‘Blandings Castle’ saga.


Soho and avant-garde go hand in hand. T.E. Hulme was a champion of the preFirst World War vanguard in the arts and philosophy. He was also a sexual libertine with a compulsive need to defy social conventions. At the same time, he was a proud reactionary who despised the Idolatry of Progress and cultivated a belief in Original Sin. Liberalism, pacifism, romanticism and feminism were his ‘bêtes noires’. Intellectual women were ‘just misplaced whores’. He was instrumental in introducing Ezra Pound to English literary society, but his career as a poet was short-lived and by 1907 he had turned to philosophy. He was also almost solely responsible for introducing the philosophical works of Henri Bergson and Georges Sorel to the English-speaking world through his translations from the French. Between 1911 and 1914, Hulme held literary evenings on a Tuesday night at no. 67 Frith Street, a magnificent house that had once been the Venetian embassy. These gatherings were hosted by his wealthy friend Ethel Kibblewhite (she descended from a family of celebrated glass manufacturers). Hulme had a talent of mixing with many different artists, intellectuals and politicians. Ford Madox Ford, Richard Aldington, Wyndham Lewis, Stanley Spencer, Aldous Huxley and Middleton Murry all enjoyed his hospitality, and Hulme was tireless in promoting the modernist sculptures of Gaudier-Brzeska and Jacob Epstein. When the First World War broke out, he joined up immediately. Intellectually, his experiences in the trenches had a sobering effect, but he was convinced that the battle had to be fought. Sent back to England to recover from an injury, he wrote a series of articles which criticised the General Staff while attacking Bertrand Russell’s pacifism. He returned to the front, where he was killed by a shell in September 1917, just thirtyfour years old. Soho played a part in the history of English modernist typography as well. The Shenval Press, located at no. 58 Frith Street, was one of the more important protagonists of quality typography and design during the mid-twentieth century and printers of a number of influential journals of the day, notably Typography. The Press was fighting to bring the revolution in New Typography to England and get involved in the battle between ‘Art and Trade’ in the typesetting industry.


The publisher’s manifesto for the journal read: ‘The sponsors of TYPOGRAPHY believe that fine book production is not the only means of typographical expression or excitement. We believe, in fact, that a bill-head can be as aesthetically pleasing as a Bible, that a newspaper can be as typographically arresting as a Nonesuch’. Editor of the journal was a young man called Robert Harling who would become a key figure in English graphic design. A multi-talented character who resisted being typecast, he also was a novelist. Based on his own experiences in journalism, his 1951 novel The Paper Palace has been become a Fleet Street classic. When Typography first appeared in 1936, the journal broke new ground in its coverage of the European avant garde - including the first serious article on Jan Tschichold’s work to be published in Britain. It was very different from earlier typographic magazines in its zest for letters of all kinds, not just fine book printing. Issue one contained an article on Kardomah tea labels; issue two an analysis of tram ticket typography. Eric Gill was a notable contributor to the journal. Harling was entranced by Gill’s esoteric lifestyle, becoming a regular visitor at Pigotts, Gill’s craft community and printing press near High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire. His study of The Letter Forms and Type Designs of Eric Gill appeared in 1976. The twenties were a decade of excess and an overflow of creative energy. Novels by Ernest Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald captured the mood. Jazz took the world by storm and silent movies dominated the big screen. The era changed London’s West End by transforming its nightlife. By the end of the decade, generally referred to as the Jazz Age, over fifty licensed night clubs were operating in and around London, many patronized by upper class socialites. This post-war generation, themselves too young to have experienced the nightmare of the trenches, was an eclectic set of young people with more money than sense. Known as the Bright Young People, these aristocrats, middle class money makers, and bohemian artists lived a hedonistic and alcoholic life, furnishing the press with a flow of scandalous snippets of a so-called youth culture. Their parties were renowned and attracted interest and indignation from the side of press and public. Gossip columns flourished as never before in papers and periodicals, foreshadowing the celebrity


culture of today. Some members of that crowd, Anthony Powell, Nancy Mitford, Cecil Beaton, John Betjeman and others, later became household names. The quest for pleasure came at a price. Like elsewhere in Europe, despair about the Old Continent’s political and economic future was hidden behind a facade of fast living, frivolous partying, and ‘stylized’ debauchery. This was a tormented and aimless generation struggling with the anxiety of meaningless. Their progress through the painful 1930s, when times were hard and another war hung over the horizon, often led to drink, drugs and alienation. The atmosphere was captured in 1929 by Evelyn Waugh’s fictional account of the 1920s in Vile Bodies. Photographer Cecil Beaton has left a visual history of this social phenomenon. Having learned the professional craft of photography at the fashionable London studio of Paul Tanqueray, he was employed by Vogue in 1927 and subsequently set up his own studio. One of his first clients was Stephen Tennant. This young aristocrat and lover of the poet Siegfried Sassoon whose brother had been killed in the war, enjoyed a notorious reputation for his decadent lifestyle (he claimed to have spent most of his life in bed). Beaton’s photographs of Tennant and his circle are considered some of the best representations of the (not so) Bright Young People of the later twenties. One of the significant aspects of the 1920s in London was the explosion of unlicensed clubs that operated on the fringes of the criminal underworld. However determined the police were to crack down on out-of-hours drinking, youngsters were determined to get round the law. This was achieved through so-called bottle parties which were organized by a ‘host’ and held on private premises. The host was expected to provide live music, an elegant dance floor (the Charleston was the craze of the age), impeccable waiters and sophisticated surroundings. The venues rarely opened before midnight and closed in the early morning. Queen of the bottle party was ‘Ma Meyrick’, an Irish immigrant who became a celebrity for her ingenuity in evading the licensing laws. Kate Evelyn Nason was born in August 1875 at no. 24 Cambridge Terrace, Dun Laoghaire (then: Kingstown), a privileged seaside suburb of Dublin. Her father, a prosperous Protestant medic, died shortly after her birth. Her mother re-married a Lancashire clergy man. At


the age of seven her mother died as well. Kate returned to Ireland as an orphan and lived with her grandmother in a house called Fairyland, where she was educated by governesses. About 1890 she attended Alexandra College, South Dublin, which is a prestigious private school established in 1866 educating girls in a ‘Church of Ireland ethos’. From an early age, Kate set out to prove her independent mind. She claimed to have been the first woman to ride a bicycle in Dublin. In December 1899, she married Ferdinand Richard Holmes Merrick, a Dublin physician and specialist in nerve diseases. They adopted the gentrified name-spelling of Meyrick. After moving to England, Ferdinand practised medicine at Southsea before moving to Basingstoke. By 1909 Kate Meyrick was ten years married, mother of three daughters and three sons, and bored with respectability and family life. About 1912, she left with her children, drifting for a year from one seaside town to another before returning to her husband. During the war she took lessons in hypnotism and practised suggestive therapeutics on shell-shocked patients who had been sent back from the battlefields. At the end of the Great War however the marriage finally collapsed. In 1919 Kate moved to London where she managed and part-owned Dalton’s Club in Leicester Square. The club had the dubious reputation of a pick-up place for the lost and louche. London was full of desperate young men who had recently returned from the battle fields. It was a disillusioned generation of soldiers, haunted by memories of death and destruction, unable to find work and rebuild their shattered lives, and searching for whatever form of escape they could find from the burdens of isolated life in the urban wilderness. For the price of a couple of quid Kate’s girls would offer them sympathy, shelter and sex. Under the licensing laws of this period, closing-up time was at ten, but Ma Meyrick disregarded such prudish austerities with Irish bravado. Accordingly the police raided her place. When she appeared in court on vice charges, she insisted that the West End was a hotbed of lawlessness and that her girls were bringing comfort to the ‘terribly disfigured boys’ who had returned from the war. In spite of her social mission, Kate was fined for keeping disorderly premises, and the club closed shortly afterwards.


In 1921, she opened her own night club, named the 43, at no. 43 Gerrard Street, the house where John Dryden had lived since 1687 and died in 1700. It became a fashionable jazz night club. Amongst its members in the mid-1920s were artists like Augustus John and Jacob Epstein and writers such as Joseph Conrad and J.B. Priestley. In 1922 American violinist and bandleader Paul Specht formed a ‘Sweet Music’ band with Charlie Kunz as leader, and succeeded in obtaining a sixteen week booking at the Trocadero in Piccadilly. Although influenced by musical giants from Duke Ellington to Louis Armstrong, the sound of the sweet band was in many ways an outgrowth from the big city society orchestra of the 1910s. The early sweet bands paved the way for the Glenn Miller Orchestra. When the engagement ended, Charlie Kunz stayed on and formed his first British band which debuted with providing musical accompaniment for the diners at the sumptuous Lyons Popular Café, Piccadilly, which offered seating for 2,000 customers. His success was such that Kate booked the band to perform in the 43 where he experienced, in his own words, ‘some exciting times’. It was the beginning of a splendid career in Britain. In 1933, he started a one year residency at Casani’s Club, run by former dance champion Santos Casani. It was while appearing at this club that Charlie started his BBC broadcasts, bringing him fame with a much larger audience. A newcomer, Vera Lynn, was his vocalist at the club. She made her very first record and broadcast with Charlie. Eventually, Kunz became a popular piano soloist and Vera won the war for Britain. Initially Kate Meyrick kept within the law, but then began supplying alcohol in defiance of the Licensing Act of 1921 which limited opening hours to eight hours a day with afternoon closing, and just five hours on a Sunday. Alcohol was not the only problem to the authorities. Outrageous Atlanta-born actress and bonne vivante Tallulah Bankhead, a legend in her own time, often performed in London during the 1920s and frequented the 43 Club. She and Kate were one of a kind. Possessed of a relentless energy, Tallulah smoked over one hundred cigarettes per day, drank gin and bourbon like water, and carried with her a suitcase full of drugs to either help her sleep or keep her awake. It was rumoured that she was


engaged in numerous affairs with both men and women. Her salty language and outrageous behaviour were considered shocking by many of her contemporaries. She was addicted to cocaine. Club 43 was said to be the centre of drug dealing in London’s West End. The venue was raided on numerous occasions, but dealers were relatively safe because of a hidden escape route leading into nearby Newport Place. The first raid on the premises took place in February 1922. In 1924 Conservative Home Secretary William Joynson-Hicks (known as Jix) set out to suppress London night clubs with puritanical zeal. The authorities distrusted the clubs’ undermining of social barriers. Regulars of the 43 included politicians, officers of distinguished regiments, members of the peerage, and rich young City snobs. They mingled not only with dancers, prostitutes, and dodgy businessmen, but also with criminals and delinquents. The upper classes had to be protected from their own weaknesses. The 43, which Evelyn Waugh depicted as the ‘Old Hundredth’ (also the name of a well known hymn tune) in his 1934 novel A Handful of Dust, was raided by the police in July and once again in November 1924. Ma Meyrick was sentenced to six months for selling liquor without a licence. Her clients, including the King of Romania and the Crown Prince of Sweden, protested against her imprisonment. In addition to the 43, Kate owned other clubs, notably the Silver Slipper in Regent Street, a venue where the walls were painted with Italian scenes and the dancefloor was made from glass (raided on Christmas Eve 1927), and the Manhattan in Denman Street (raided in May 1928), together with an interest in the Folies Bergères in Newman Street. In 1926 her celebrity was enhanced when her second daughter, Dorothy Evelyn, married Edward Russell, 26th Baron de Clifford. The latter was an enthusiastic follower of Oswald Mosley being described by Time magazine as an ‘ardent British Fascist’. He had frequently spoken in the House urging that driving laws be tightened and more strictly upheld (his father had been killed in a road accident). In 1935, in a notorious case, he was acquitted for the manslaughter of Douglas George Hopkins caused by driving his Lancia sports car on the wrong side of the road. This was to be the last trial held in the House of Lords, since the right of peers to be tried by their peers for felonies was abolished in 1948.


After that, Russell made no more speeches in the House of Lords for nearly forty years. Two years later, another Meyrick daughter, Mary Ethel Isobel, was married to George Harley Hay-Drummond, 14th Earl of Kinnoull in the Scottish peerage. Success was sweet to Ma Meyrick, but bliss did not last. Kate Meyrick’s nemesis was Sergeant George Goddard of the Metropolitan Police. He had led the first raid on the 43 in February 1922. In November 1928 Goddard was found to have accrued over £12,000 which was a substantial sum of money considering a policeman’s wage. He had been taking £100 a week from Ma Meyrick in protection money, with other perks on the side. This time she was hit with fifteen months imprisonment for bribery and corruption. Financially, the raids had a disastrous effect and the value of her holdings plummeted. Once released from prison, she resumed business, but the Metropolitan Police by now were far more efficient and ruthless in throttling London night life. Kate was back inside for six months in late 1930 and again in mid-1931. Poor conditions at Holloway prison weakened her health and she died in 1933 of broncho-pneumonia. Shortly before her death she composed her memoirs entitled Secrets of the 43 (1933). The book was banned. Maybe the title was too suggestive. Although her story is innocuous by contemporary standards, it shows a number of then prominent people in a very poor light. Censorship was a means of protecting members of one’s own class. On Black Tuesday, 29 October 1929, stock prices on Wall Street collapsed. The subsequent slump in Europe was rooted in the economic consequences of World War i, the most devastating war in terms of human losses and material damage ever fought. This destruction was further magnified by the insistence of London and Paris on crippling reparations to be paid by a defeated and humiliated Germany - in spite of Keynes’s warnings about the dangers of such policy. European economic stagnation proved catastrophic. Kate Meyrick’s dramatic career in many ways encapsulates this dark episode of European history. She was the product of her age, a feminist who rejected traditional concepts of the family and became an intrepid entrepreneur challenging the cosy status quo of a male dominated


London bureaucracy by flouting all the rules imposed upon her. Her phenomenal success as a businesswoman and club owner coincided with the excesses of the 1920s. ‘Cocktails and laughter - but what comes after?’ Noel Coward had asked in On with the Dance (1925). The social spectacle could and did not continue. By 1931, England was in deep financial crisis. Kate was in prison, ill, and approaching the end of her life. She died at the early age of fifty-seven. By then, the bright lights of London had dimmed and darkened. The Blitz would follow.



grand rue de péra (istanbul) If the whole world were a single country, Istanbul would be its capital. The words are attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte. This exotic city is full of contradictions. Within a relatively small geographical area the East meets West. Here, the traditional world of mosques and modesty collides with the modern obsession for frill and fashion. Over time, Istanbul made a transition that most cities have not - staying true to its history while evolving into a modern city. The Grand Rue de Péra, now known as Istikal Caddesi (Independence Street), is an elegant pedestrian avenue surrounded by late Ottoman era buildings that were designed in an array of European styles. It starts from the Medieval Genoese district around Galata Tower and leads up to Taksim Square. European travellers during the nineteenth century referred to the Grande Rue as the Paris of the East. The name of the avenue was changed on 29 October 1923 after the triumph at the Turkish War of Independence. Constantinople was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine in 330. The city is basically divided into three sections, Stambul and Pera on the European side of the Bosporus, and Scutari on the Asian side. Historically the European side of the city was split by the Golden Horn, an inlet of the Bosphorus, into a Moslem and non-Moslem section. The European section was variously known as Galata, Pera or Beyoglu. Constantinople’s geographic position, at the doorway between Europe and Asia, makes this a truly cosmopolitan city. Today, ships dock here from Black Sea and Mediterranean ports; from America; from India, China and


Japan. Railways connect the city with Europe, Damascus and other trade centres of Asia. This proximity made a cultural impact on Europe. Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign in 1798, the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, together with Britain and France’s policy in the Middle East, advanced the spread of Orientalism in the West. Political circumstances and artistic curiosity made the East a focus of interest for European artists and scientists. Close to 160 painters visited Istanbul in the nineteenth century, some of whom remained in the city for long periods of time. Photography became a means to present the Orient in a more realistic way. Just as painters had done, a number of European photographers travelled to Ottoman territories. Istanbul at the time was one of the most photographed cities around. A picture taken around 1912 and published by the New York City firm of Underwood & Underwood (the brothers Elmer and Bert Elias) which is entitled ‘Grand Rue de Péra, Constantinople’ captures the fashionable atmosphere of the grand avenue. Talent was not just imported from European capitals. Born in 1823 in Istanbul to a Christian family, Sébah was a leading photographer of his time. In 1857 he opened a studio which he called ‘El Chark’ next to the Russian Embassy on the Grande Rue de Péra. He sold photographs of the city, of ancient ruins in the surrounding area, portraits, and shots of local people in traditional costumes excelling at capturing images that intrigued European tourists and nurtured their Oriental fantasies. His ‘Dame turque voilée’, an albumen photograph taken in the 1880s, is a classic example of his skills. Sébah’s career was further enhanced through his collaboration with the artist Osman Hamdi Bey. In 1873, the latter was appointed to direct the Ottoman exhibition in Vienna and he commissioned Sébah to produce large photographs of models wearing costumes for the sumptuous album of Les costumes populaires de la Turquie. The 1867 Universal Exhibition in Paris had set an example that would influence European Orientalism in general. Ottoman and Egyptian quarters were placed adjacent to each other and, despite their independent designs, they formed an ensemble. Both quarters were deliberately made irregular to reflect the chaotic streets of Islamic cities. This urban fabric represented one of the dilemmas to the authorities of Istanbul and Cairo and their European advisors. Even though in both


cities attempts were undertaken during the 1860s to regularize the network of streets, to create avenues and vistas, and to establish urban squares and public places in the style of Haussmann, the French exposition planners turned to the past, to an image that the West associated with Islam. Arthur Symons was a British poet and editor prominent in fin-de-siècle London and one of the foremost literary critics of the 1890s. He was also a restless traveller and prolific travel writer. In the dedication to Cities (1903), his first travel book, he explained that for him ‘cities are like people, with souls and temperaments of their own, and it has always been one of my chief pleasures to associate with the souls and temperaments congenial to me among cities’. Travel was less a matter of broadening the mind than satisfying the senses. He published his impression of Constantinople in 1903. He visited the Grande Rue de Péra first late at night and his description is not flattering. There were few people about in the dirty street, ‘refuse lay in the gutters, dogs nosed into the refuse, dogs lay asleep in all the holes and jags of the pavement. As I passed, a strange dog was being led in leash through their midst, and a howling began which was caught up and continued along the street; dog after dog got up slowly and began to bark; there was a dense, uninterrupted noise, which I soon came to know as the unresting, inarticulate voice of the city.’ Early descriptions of the city, time and again, refer to the dogs of Constantinople. These scavengers roamed the streets in packs where they bred and died. At night they howled and barked - the characteristic music of the city. Martiros Saryan was a painter of Armenian origin. The appeal to the East became clear during his journeys to the Turkey (Constantinople, 1910), Egypt (1911), Persia (1913). Having lived in Constantinople fort two months, his biggest interests were crowds in the streets, and the dogs that used to live in extended packs. His 1910 Expressionist painting on white cardboard, entitled ‘Dogs of Constantinople’, is a colourful reminder of those howling times. In 1928, Agatha Christie made her first trip to Constantinople travelling by train on the Orient Express. Fascinated by stories she had heard about the archaeological excavations in Mesopotamia (largely modern day Iraq), she travelled on to Baghdad


and the city of Ur. On that first visit she stayed in Hotel Tokatlian which was demolished in the fifties. It is there that Hercule Poirot has dinner before catching the train in Murder on the Orient Express. The novelist published this, her most famous detective novel (featuring Belgian detective Hercule Poirot), in 1934. Two years previously, Graham Greene had written a novel set on the Orient Express entitled Stamboul Train (renamed Orient Express when published in the United States). The novel focuses on the lives of individuals aboard the train as it makes a trip from Ostend to Istanbul. The Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits which runs the Orient Express had been founded by Liège-born Georges Nagelmackers. In 1894, a subsidiary was created in the form of the Compagnie Internationale des Grands Hotels which listed the Hotel de la Plage in Ostend and the Péra Palace in Istanbul. Agathie Christie also stayed at the Péra where Room 411 was reserved for her as she passed through the city on her visits to excavations in Iraq with her archaeologist husband Max Mallowan. Nowadays, a painted sedan chair stands in the hall as a reminder of the early years when guests were transported in this way from Sirkeci station, terminus of the Orient Express. Designed by FrenchTurkish architect Alexandre Vallaury, the facade of the building is in the same vein as the Paris Ritz, with its blend of art nouveau and neo-classic decor. It was the first hotel to have electricity, hot running water in all the rooms and an electric elevator. The hotel became a hangout for many celebrities including Sarah Bernhardt, King Edward viii, and later Greta Garbo, Ernest Hemingway, Knut Hamsun, and Alfred Hitchcock. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of modern-day Turkey, stayed here for the first time in 1917. Room 101 is now the Atatürk Museum Room. In nineteenth-century thinking the tendency to outward Empire-building was seen as a manifestation of vitality. Being inward looking or self-contained was considered a sign of decadence. Imperialism is a mindset that goes well beyond the acts of creating colonies of socio-political control. It is an appropriative attitude towards other nations and cultures. Thomas Babington Macaulay’s famous ‘Minute on Indian Education’, which formed the basis of the English Education Act of 1835, was blatantly clear in its objectives, stating that the aim was ‘to form a class who


may be interpreters between us and the million whom we govern: a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect’. This attitude heralded a policy of assimilation. Britain was to stamp her image upon India. The physical, linguistic and mental distances between East and West were to be bridged by scientific development, by commercial intercourse, and by imposing English law and education. Increasingly, racial and cultural superiority was defined in terms of technology. Imperialism is replacing indigenous medical practices with ‘superior’ Western medicines. It is forcing farmers to grow alien products or make temple dancers play cricket and drink Indian pale ale (Britain had large numbers of troops and civilians to supply with beer, but the three to five month journey proved an impossible passage for the traditional sweet dark ales. It was George Hodgson of London’s Bow Brewery who developed India Pale Ale which he began shipping during the 1790s). The Orient, a vast region spreading across a myriad of cultures which includes most of Asia as well as the Middle East, was depicted as a cohesive whole being culturally backward and unchanging. The first European Orientalists were nineteenth century artists who inspired scholars to translate the writings of the ‘Orient’ into English, an activity based on the assumption that effective colonial rule requires knowledge of the conquered peoples. By knowing the Orient, the West came to own it. The Orient was passive; the West was active. Metaphors applied are of a sexual nature expressing power and domination. The feminine Orient awaits the muscle and authority of the West. Weak and defenceless, it submits to its Western counterpart. Britain’s spectacular overseas expansion stimulated Roman comparisons. In 1876 Disraeli introduced the Royal Titles Act which raised the status of the English Queen to ‘Regina et Imperatrix’. Imperialist thinkers were keen to draw comparisons with Imperial Rome to inspire their contemporaries. It was an appealing analogy: Rome had been a civilizing force in barbaric times and Britain’s mission was to play a similar role in the modern world. But it was also an ample warning: the decadence and degeneration of the eternal city should function as a continuous reminder to rulers and administrators.



cable street (london) Cities enable the rapid spread of ideas and inventions. This accelerates the flow of technology, increases the rate of enterprise, and invites cultural expression. The same mechanisms that unleash our creative energies make cities cauldrons in which political activism is pressurized and, at times, brought to the boil. The Paris Commune was one of the greatest revolutionary episodes in modern urban history. It was wrought in part out of nostalgia for the urban city that Haussmann had destroyed and the desire by those involved to take back their city on the part of those who were dispossessed by his works. At the same time, the Commune articulated conflicting socialist visions of a centralized hierarchical regime versus anarchist dreams of popular control. In the midst of recriminations over who was at fault for the failure of the Commune, the antagonism led to the final political break between Marxists and anarchists that would for decades to come fragment French leftwing politics. Similarly, the October Revolution in St Petersburg, the demolition of the Berlin Wall, and Cairo’s recent Tahrir Square revolt were urban events. The war of words was fought out between graffiti revolutionaries - the wall became the prime form of communication replacing the role the pamphlet had played in earlier periods of political instability. The metropolis connects agitators, stirs revolutions, and inspires street artists. The dictionary defines graffiti as ‘verses, sayings, or pictures drawn, scribbled, or scratched on a public surface such as a wall or fence’. To some, graffiti colours our


brick walls with bright patterns and writing as it has done throughout history. To others, it ruins the beauty of fine buildings with slogans and obscenities. Some consider it an illegal form of expression. Others view it as a justified means of political protest or rebellion. Some see (and sell) it as art. Graffers rule our cities. The word itself is derived from the Italian ‘graffiato’ and was coined in the 1850s to describe scrawls scratched on the walls of ancient Pompeii. Until recently, the dominant conversation in Rome about graffiti was how to get rid of it. Volunteers teamed up with municipal workers to paint over or erase the tags that defaced many of the city’s walls and sidewalks. Graffiti in the classical world however had different connotations than it carries at present. Ancient graffiti displayed phrases of love and devotion, political rhetoric, and simple words of thought compared to today’s social and political phraseology. The eruption of the Vesuvius preserved the famous graffiti of Pompeii which includes curses, magic spells, declarations of love, taboo words and obscenities, thus providing the historian with an illuminating insight into ancient Roman street life and literacy. In its contemporary form, graffiti was originally a Western art of political protest. The student uprising and general strike of May 1968 saw Paris bedecked in revolutionary and anarchistic slogans. Graffiti moved into the political domain. It set a precedent to the rest of the world. With the unrest following the so-called Arab Spring, political graffiti has become a crucial form of communication linking the rebellious movements in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, and elsewhere. The struggles are reflected in an explosion of graffiti on the walls of cities such as Cairo as people use their newfound freedoms to express different views. The history of London riots dates back hundreds of years and encompasses a wide range of political and social grievances. Rioting had become a regular facet of London life in the early eighteenth century. Londoners were accostumed to ‘licensed’ disorder in the metropolis. Traditionally, the legal system relied on (groups of ) private citizens for the arrest of suspected criminals. At their own initiative, individuals could arrest anyone whom they suspected of having committed a felony and bring the suspect before a constable or a justice of the


peace. The public also participated in punishments meted out by the courts. When convicted criminals were sentenced to stand in the pillory, the court intended to expose the criminal to the abuse of spectators. From apprehending criminals it was but a short step for crowds to determine their guilt and punish them themselves. Such punishments were especially likely when it was believed that the culprit would not be convicted in court. The intensity of party politics also resulted in a growing number of street protests in which citizens were invited to take part. The declining power of the ecclesiastical courts in the late seventeenth century left Londoners without an effective means of enforcing sexual morality. Some participated in the Societies for the Reformation of Manners which prosecuted cases of ‘lewd and disorderly’ conduct, brothels, Sabbath breaking, profanity, etc. Others took to the streets. In short, Londoners were acquainted with street protest through the survival of traditional forms of licensed disorder. Initially, these riots were largely under control of the authorities. The scale of the riots was relatively small, varying from a few to a few dozen people. In the course of the age however the element of control weakened with the introduction of political issues and the number of (violent) participants increased. London has suffered inner-city unrest ever since. The history of civil disorder is a long one. The 1780 Gordon Riots resulted in the burning down of Newgate Prison and the army was deployed. The riots accelerated the decision to create the Metropolitan Police. The backdrop of a deprived urban landscape, and the escalation of a protest against the authorities into looting and violence, are to this very day familiar features of London rioting. In 1958 an opening performance took place of Arnold Wesker’s play Chicken Soup with Barley, the first in a trilogy that includes Roots and I’m Talking about Jerusalem. The kettle boils in 1936 as the fascists are marching. Tea is brewed in 1946, with disillusion in the air at the end of the war. Twenty years on, in 1956, as rumours spread of Hungarian revolution, the cup is empty. Sarah Kahn, an East End Jewish mother, is a feisty political fighter and a staunch communist. Battling against the State and her shirking husband she desperately tries to keep her family together. The play dramatically captures the collapse of an ideology alongside the disintegration


of a family. The first play in the sequence deals with the so-called Battle of Cable Street. Running between the edge of the City of London and Limehouse, close to Wapping to the south, Tower Hill to the west, and Whitechapel to the north, Cable Street is located in Borough of Tower Hamlets. The area has a long history of immigration, firstly of Huguenots in the seventeenth century, followed by the Irish, Ashkenazi Jews and, most recently, Bangladeshis. Social unrest and conflict has been an almost continuous part of its history. After the Great War, Britain like the rest of Europe, faced the twin spectres of mass unemployment and economic depression. The social turmoil gave rise to ideological conflicts in the streets of many cities where communists and socialists were facing fascists. In East London the Jewish community quickly became a target of far-right activists. Jews were blamed for the economic and political crisis despite the fact that the majority of them lived in often abject poverty in the East End. In 1932, after a visit to Mussolini in Italy, Oswald Mosley spent the summer of that year writing a fascist programme entitled ‘The Greater Britain’. The document served as a manifesto for the British Union of Fascists (BUF) which he had founded in October of that year. Initial recruitment for the new party was brisk, with Lord Rothermere, proprietor of the Daily Mail, loud in support. Following the urban tactics of the Nazi brownshirts, British blackshirts soon took to the streets. On 4 October 1936 they decided to march through the heart of the Jewish community in Cable Street to mark the fourth anniversary of the party’s formation. There a crowd of over 100,000 people, consisting of Jewish, socialist, communist and anarchist groups, assembled in and around Shadwell and Whitechapel to stop the march. They were united by a common call, echoing that of anti-fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War ‘No Pasarán’ - They Shall Not Pass! It became a trial of strength between two ideological currents fanatically opposed to each other. The threat of bloodshed was real and the Home Secretary instructed the Metropolitan Police to cancel the fascist march. This did not stop running street battles between opposing factions and the 10,000 police, some on horseback, who were deployed to defuse tension and violence.


A key figure in the rise of British Fascism was Johannesburg-born author and journalist Arthur Kenneth Chesterton, second cousin to novelist G.K. Chesterton. Having served with the Second City of London regiment during the First World War, earning the Military Cross for his involvement in an attack on the Hindenburg line in September 1918, he became a prominent figure in the BUF during the interbellum. Leading figures in the movement were largely drawn from a generation of aimless former colonial public-school boys who had returned from active service during the World War i. Oswald Mosley supplied a purpose and direction to them. Chesterton joined the party in 1933 and over the next four years he worked as a full-time officer for the blackshirts. Apart from being a powerful orator, he also published a large number of pamphlets and wrote a biographical account of the founder of British Facism entitled Oswald Mosley: Portrait of a Leader (1937). By then the movement, having grown to a peak of 40,000 members in 1934, was forced into retreat. The disastrous mishandling of the rally at Olympia on 7 June 1934, when stewards violently attacked peaceful protesters showed the real face of Fascism. Cable Street proved to be a turning point. Firstly, the Public Order Act 1936 was rushed through Parliament to oblige future march organisers to seek permission from the police. Furthermore, a ban was placed on activists marching in uniform. With an increasing number of private and municipal proprietors refusing to let Mosley their halls for his rallies, his main propaganda outlets dried up. The Battle of Cable Street still holds a proud place in anti-fascist memory, although it could be argued that the event further boosted domestic fascism and antisemitism and made life far more unpleasant for its Jewish victims. The Battle of Cable Street is remembered in a local mural painting. Throughout the world, city authorities have tried to combat the contemporary graffiti outpouring by making a distinction between the work of the graffer and that of the muralist. The argument is put forward that murals are sanctioned by the property owner and/or the appropriate governing body while graffiti is unsanctioned. It is in other words vandalism. Such a distinction is untenable. Apart from the scale of the effort, the work of muralist and graffiti artist is far from dissimilar. In fact, many of their


ambitions and ideals run parallel. Contemporary graffiti is a populist form of mural art. They share a political dimension. The wall is canvass to both moral and graffiti artists. The history of mural painting is varied, from prehistoric cave drawings to the ceremonial murals of ancient Egypt, Greece, and India. Political painting as a tradition of the people was set by Mexican muralists such as Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros or José Clemente Orozco. Mural art and political propaganda go hand in hand. Propaganda is a specific type of message presentation directly aimed at influencing the opinions of people. Initially, propaganda was a learned term referring to the spreading of information about a religious cause. In Latin, the word had a biological frame of reference and meant ‘things to be propagated’. In 1622, Pope Gregory xv founded the ‘Congregatio de Propaganda Fide’ (Congregation for Propagating the Faith), a committee of Cardinals with the duty of overseeing the propagation of Christianity by missionaries sent to non-Catholic countries. The earliest recorded English use of the word dates back to 1718. It appears in John Ozell’s translation of Tournefort’s Relation d’un voyage du Levant. The religious application of the term persisted through the eighteenth century. During the nineteenth century the use widened and the term acquired a political and military context. In art, the idea of propaganda was defended by Diego Rivera in 1932 stating that ‘all painters have been propagandist or else they have not been painters, I want to be a propagandist of Communism. I want to use my art as a weapon’. More recently, the mural has dominated the cityscape of Belfast, Derry, and other cities in Northern Ireland. Some 2,000 murals have appeared on the walls of the Province since 1969. Until recently, most have been sectarian. The unionist tradition of mural painting dates back to the early twentieth century when orange images of William iii (‘King Billy’) were used to mark Protestant areas in Belfast. The largest category of post-1969 murals however was of a Republican nature. Many memorialized people killed by the British army or paid tribute to the 1981 hunger strikers. In the early 1980s, a large mural image was painted on the side of St George’s Town


Hall in Cable Street, close to Shadwell underground station. Its design was started in 1976 by Dave Binnington and aimed at presenting a storyline of events, picturing anti-fascist protesters carrying banners; punches being thrown; a barricade manned by residents of various ages and ethnic backgrounds; a chamber pot being emptied from a first floor window onto BUF members below; marbles being thrown under the hooves of horses ridden by baton-wielding police. Finally, the work to actually paint the mural on the wall of the Town Hall, using 150 gallons of paint, began in late 1979. Three years later, neo-Nazis vandalized the mural in progress, daubing it with racist graffiti. These attacks caused Binnington to resign from the project. In July of that year work on the mural was resumed by three artists, Paul Butler, Ray Walker and Desmond Rochfort. Work was finally completed in March 1983. Graffiti, more than mural art, represents a counterpublic taking of space. Graffiti is evidence of a popular need to acquire power and voice and as such it is an enduring act of protest that occupies the space of walls, streets and railways. A tag is a political statement against what we consider public property with its restrictive laws and regulations. Graffiti may often be rejected as vandalism, but for many observers every speck of paint on the wall gives expression to the passion of the people’s voice. Embodying a rebellious subculture, messages often are of an antiwar, anarchist, and anti-consumerist nature. Whether elaborate message or basic tag, graffiti demands space from an over-regulated society. It remains a poignant product of city culture and dominates many of our streetscapes.



prospect street (gloucester) In 1934 Edward Hopper created his oil painting ‘Sun on Prospect Street’. Its subject is a suburban street in an ordinary American seaside town. The geometric image showing a row of houses and three parked cars is completely devoid of people. The architecture on Prospect Street is recorded with detailed precision. The artist has removed all superfluous elements of the scene, inviting the viewer to add the narrative to an image that is both familiar and strangely foreign. The painting typifies Hopper’s style. Trained by William Merritt Chase, an impressionist; Kenneth Hayes Miller, an urban realist; and Robert Henri, the inspiration behind the work of Ashcan realists, Hopper is often defined as an American scene painter in line with his predecessors who depicted aspects of everyday city life. Hopper’s intensely personal art, however, does not fit well into this category. His contemplative and introspective figures appear to be alienated from life and society. They occupy a world devoid of interaction and communication, provoking questions about human relationships, the social roles people play, and about the meaning of life itself. Born on 22 July 1882 in Nyack, New York, Hopper was a loner who experienced acute discomfort in interpersonal relationships. From the outset, his work permeates isolation. He enrolled at the New York School of Art (Chase School), and between 1906 and 1910 made three trips to Europe where he admired the work of Gustave Courbet and Edgar Degas. He was especially drawn to artists


whose work included scenes of people in ordinary or mundane situations. In 1924 Hopper married Josephine Nivison. The couple honeymooned in Gloucester, Massachusetts, a landscape that would become a favourite subject for the painter. They made Greenwich Village their home, sharing time between city and country. During the 1920s Hopper’s career started to take shape. Hooked on travel, he frequently treated themes related to transience such as lodging rooms, restaurants, and trains. His interest in the hotel lobby, a temporary space where strangers briefly congregate but rarely communicate, was sparked by films and novels, especially the detective-story depiction of this area as a meeting place for the protagonists. In 1941 the second version of The Maltese Falcon appeared on screen. Starring Humphrey Bogart, it is a mystery thriller in which the private-eye confronts the gangster in a hotel lobby. Hopper was attracted to this style of filming with its shadowy settings, eerie lighting, and complex plots. All these elements came together in the 1943 painting ‘Hotel Lobby’, one of his more intriguing works. The emphasis on a dysfunctional relationship in this painting is not unusual for Hopper. The theme of discontented couples returns regularly in his work. Alternatively, the detailed architectural qualities of Hopper’s painting influenced film makers. His ‘House by the Railroad’ (1925), an ugly dwelling in an uninspiring setting, inspired Hitchcock’s choice of location for Psycho. The painting’s grey mansion is a melancholic reminder of the damage inflicted on the countryside by the demands of progress. At the time railroad tracks were associated with the rapid and noisy change of modern life, but this scene is curiously silent. It is as if the maelstrom of industrialization has passed it by. Hopper, working in the period between two world wars, feared that urbanization would wipe out the pastoral character of the New World. In the picture, the railway track has been given the colour of earth as if taking the place of the pleasant stream that once formed the background of the American landscape. The painting expresses a tone of regret that reminds one of John Ruskin’s famous outbursts against the industrial pollution of the English countryside. By the end of the nineteenth century streetscapes had become associated with Paris and the Impressionists. Napoleon iii had appointed Georges Hausmann to realize


the ambitious project of turning the French capital into a modern metropolis. Once this massive task was completed, the revitalized city turned into one of the favourite pictorial subjects. From Édouard Manet to Gustave Caillebotte, from Pierre Auguste Renoir to Camille Pissarro, Parisian boulevards were considered the ultimate source of inspiration by many outstanding painters of the era.They grasped the atmosphere and dynamics of everyday life on the newly created boulevards and avenues. The cityscape was exported from Paris to America by such talented painters as James McNeill Whistler and Childe Hassam. As American society became increasingly urbanized, art took a grittier and less romantic direction. Ashcan artists focused on depicting everyday life in Manhattan and the bustling streets of early twentiethcentury New York. Leading figures such as Robert Henri, John Sloane, Everett Shin, and George Bellows, insisted that artists should face urban realities to find their subject matter. They urged young painters to step aside from sterile academic orthodoxy and develop a harsh style reflecting the essence of metropolitan life, but the Ashcan School was not an organized movement that issued manifestos or spelled out either artistic or political intenions. The unity of its members consisted of a desire to grasp the realities of urban life that had been ignored by the suffocating influence of the Genteel Tradition in the visual arts. Earlier paintings of New York were characterized by distance, being either impressionistic blurs or bird’s-eye views of the city. By contrast, Ashcan artists looked for street level realism. Their gaze was directed at the perspectives of the street itself, their ambition to communicate the ‘theatre’ of the street. In the commemoration of ordinary lives, the Ashcanners put New York on the artistic map as the city that defines metropolitanism. In their images the crowd effectively becomes the city itself and serves as its primary imagery. The best of these paintings are evocative observations of day to day experiences presented in such a manner that the viewer can emphasize with the ordinariness of the subject matter. The anonymity of city life may be stressed, but the image invites the viewer to participate, to become involved, and to enter into a dialogue. These urban snapshots are dramatized stories of the struggle for survival in a jungle made of stone and brick. As such, critics tend to


consider the Ashcan creative output as a visual equivalent of Walt Whitman’s poetry. George Bellows was a student of Robert Henri at the New York School of Art. When he died in 1925, aged only forty-two, Bellows was hailed as one of the greatest artists America had yet produced. His paintings and drawings of tenement children and New York street scenes are iconic images of the modern city. These were produced during an extraordinary period of creativity that began shortly after he left his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, for New York in 1904. He selected contemporary subjects that challenged prevailing standards of taste, depicting the city’s impoverished immigrant population in ‘River Rats’ (1906) and other paintings. Bellows’s New York scenes portrayed the crudity of deprived neighbourhoods. Fascinated with the full spectrum of life of the urban working classes, he chronicled a variety of subjects and applied an array of palettes and painting techniques. From 1907 through 1915, he executed a series of paintings depicting New York City under snowfall. To the artist, these paintings were a testing ground in which he developed a strong sense of light and visual texture. However, his signature contributions to art history are the paintings recording brutal boxing bouts. To circumvent a state ban on public boxing, fights were illegally organized by private clubs in New York at that time. In three acclaimed masterpieces, ‘Club Night (1907), ‘Stag at Sharkey’s’ (1909), and ‘Both Members of This Club’ (1909), Bellows’s slashing brushwork matches the violent action of the fight itself, and relates the aggressive participation of a grim-faced and chainsmoking audience. These pictures are powerful and disturbing - raw reflections on life in the metropolis. They have become iconic depictions of the American inner-city struggle. The spirit of tough desperation these paintings evoke has been maintained by Paul Simon in his celebrated 1968 song ‘The Boxer’ (first recorded by Simon & Garfunkel). European Impressionists (and their American followers) created a model of visuality that has been associated with the figure of the disinterested flâneur, the prototypical urban spectator celebrated artistically by Charles Baudelaire or


Louis Couperus and critically by Walter Benjamin. He was a gentleman-dandy whose independent means allowed him to cultivate the arts and rise above the crowd. He would stroll about town without particular direction, purpose, or destination, infiltrating society to see up close and yet maintaining his distance. For Baudelaire, this detached but inquisitive gaze embodied the urban human condition. It originated in the need to protect individual integrity against the threat of metropolitan anonymity. Ashcan painters by contrast focused on the city’s inhabitants for their diagnosis of the nature of modern life. They were part of a wider group of urban observers such as Walt Whitman or Stephen Crane who felt involved with the people they depicted. Art was engaged and a statement of social commitment. However, viewing the street as theatre carries with it the dangers of artistic license and misrepresentation. Both sentimentalism and sensationalism are part and parcel of the process. Scenes of poverty, crime, and immigrant life were often described as picturesque scenes and ‘entertaining’ sights. Slumming became a pastime for a number of curious New Yorkers. The New York Ashcanners were contemporaries of the Camden Town Group in London. Yet there are telling differences between the two traditions. Camden realists were keen to dispel all elements of sympathy or dialogue from their painting. They were interested in the systems and structures of the city to the point of exclusion of the human presence in their paintings. Their outlook was harsher, more clinical, and at the same time more anxious. The cause of this crisis feeling was not war or economic depression, but the speed of change that took place within urbanized society. Anxiety and city images are frequently paired in Camden art. The treatment of urban subjects projects the vitality of the city, but also expresses unease at the effect of massification. People are cut off from one another, isolated, alienated. The city-dweller has lost his identity. Hopper went a step further. His most intriguing works are his interiors (which links him to the Camden realists). Composed like stage sets, these paintings depict everyday scenes populated with introspective figures that seem oblivious to their surroundings. They suggest a sense of abandonment and uncomfortable repose. The urban rat


race has stopped. Thrown into the isolation of the night people sit back, alone, seemingly questioning the meaning of it all. Stillness pervades - the paralysis of despair. In 1900, young Hopper had made a pen and ink drawing of a ‘Dutch Girl’ in traditional costume with hat and wooden shoes. She personifies the innocence of childhood, yet she is an isolated observer, surveying a scene in which she does not participate. The image indicates that as a student Hopper was already preoccupied with Dutch art (he may have been of Dutch descent himself ). The young girl has a prim demeanour - very much like the maidens Vermeer portrayed. In his famous streetscapes, through an extraordinary economy of means, Vermeer succeeded in creating an atmosphere of stillness and puritanical dignity. In painting the street he protects its dwellers - facades of a house show the viewer nothing but the outside of its intimate existence. The artist keeps his distance as if not to interrupt the locals in their daily routine. It is a technique that Hopper applies in a similar manner. Vermeer casts his endearing images in a beautifully warm light. Hopper by contrast presents his isolated characters in a glare of electricity that exposes a brutal urban milieu. The scenes created by Vermeer are tranquil and harmonious, those painted by Hopper ominous and threatening. Hopper is the Vermeer of the modern streetscape.



lambeth walk (london) A gang is a group of (mostly young) individuals with an identifiable leadership and internal organization that claims violent control over an urban territory in a community. The word stems from the Old English ‘gang’ = a going, journey, or passage; and the Old Norse ‘gangr’ = a group of men, or a set. The sense evolution is probably via meaning a ‘set of articles that usually are taken together in going’, especially a set of tools used on the same job. By 1620s this had been extended in nautical speech to mean a ‘company of workmen’, and by 1630s the word was being used, with disapproving overtones, for ‘any band of persons traveling together’. Gang violence refers to illegal and non-political acts of aggression perpetrated by groups against innocent people or property. Nearly every major city has been ravaged by gang violence at some point in its history. At present, most of our major cities have to deal with the interconnected problems of gang violence, gun and knife crime, and drug addiction. London has a historical gang culture. Seventeenth century saw the metropolis terrorized by a series of organized gangs such as the Mims, Hectors, Bugles, or the Dead Boys. The members of various competing gangs dressed with coloured ribbons to distinguish the different factions. Orphans in Victorian London survived - like Oliver Twist did - by joining pick-pocketing gangs that were controlled by adult ‘gang masters’ or criminals. At present, gang has become a catch-all word. Without a proper definition, it refers vaguely to a group of teenagers involved in petty crime, selling drugs, stealing phones, and stabbing opposing gang members from rival postcodes. Gang violence may well be


a permanent condition of urban life, not an epidemic but a pest that is part of the youth culture associated with an inner-city lifestyle. It is a pest with a long historyand that is certainly the case in Lambeth. Lambeth Walk is a walk, a song, a dance, two films, a photograph, a market and a street in North Lambeth, between Kennington Cross and the river. Before the war this working-class street was lined with shops and market stalls. German bombs and post-war urban planners devastated the area. Streets of slums were redeveloped into concrete housing blocks, pedestrianized shopping centres, and high-level walkways. In this brave new world of slums of the future, little was left of the original atmosphere that inspired the songs of that name which was written for the 1937 musical ‘Me and My Girl’. The hero of the story is Bill Snibson, the black sheep in an aristocratic household who inherits the family fortune, but almost loses his Lambeth girlfriend. The musical’s choreography inspired a popular walking dance, done in a jaunty strutting style. The song reached the United States in 1938 and was popularized by Joseph ( Joe) Rines, Russ Morgan, and Duke Ellington, among others. The following year the story was turned into film ‘The Lambeth Walk’ which starred Hackney-born actor Lupino Lane. The craze for the Lambeth Walk also conquered Berlin. In 1939, the Nazis attacked the dance as being ‘Jewish mischief and animalistic hopping’. In 1942, Charles A. Ridley of the British Ministry of Information made a short propaganda film entitled ‘Lambeth Walk - Nazi Style’, which manipulated existing newsreel footage of Hitler and his goose-stepping troops to make it appear they were marching to ‘The Lambeth Walk’. The propaganda clip was distributed to newsreel companies, who would supply their own narration. The film enraged Joseph Goebbels and his officials. Franz Reizenstein, a Jewish composer who had left his native Germany in 1934 to settle in Britain, wrote a set of ‘Variations on the Lambeth Walk’ with each variation being a pastiche of the style of a major classical composer, Chopin, Verdi, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Wagner and Liszt. Born in Hamburg in 1904, Bill Brandt is generally described as one of British best


photographers. His mother was German and his father was a British citizen. His family was relatively wealthy and when he was fifteen, his parents sent him to a boarding school in Prussia. The war had recently ended and many Germans were resentful. Brandt’s British citizenship became an issue. Even though he had never set foot in England, he was bullied and treated as an outcast. The painful memory would affect him for the rest of his life. Having settled in Britain, he went to great lengths to deny his German heritage. He soon was acclaimed the photographer of London. In 1936 he published his first collection in The English at Home (1936). His fame rests upon his work during the Second World War. His photojournalism of London during the blackout and the Blitz made him famous. The images he made during this period are nowadays valued as crucial historical documents. His picture of a girl ‘Dancing the Lambeth Walk’ remains his most iconic shot. It was published in 1943 in the photo-journalistic magazine Picture Post. This photograph is one of the finest records of East London between the wars, both in a visual and emotional sense. There is a delightful combination of innocence and awareness in its subject matter. At the same time, the photo is imbued with a deep sense of time and place. One is struck by the contradiction between the joyful strut and the bleak setting. This is Cockney pain and pride in one, captured in black and white. Traditionally, there had been a lively music-hall tradition in Lambeth and Kennington. Music-halls developed out of musical entertainments given in the upper or back rooms of pubs in the 1850s. They became very popular. The music rooms developed into more ambitious halls attached to pubs and ultimately as theatres in their own right. Initially the drinking element was maintained even there. The seating was arranged in the form of benches and tables (like a contemporary beer festival) so that the audience could be served while they watched and listened. The long bars of the auditorium had a glass screen giving a full view of the stage. Music-hall artists themselves were great frequenters of pubs. Their main drinking ground was Kennington and Lambeth where they often lived and attended the agents’ offices in and around Waterloo. Having finished their performances they gathered in public houses such as the Horns with its enormous concert room, the


White Hart, the Tankard, the Three Stages or the Hercules where the saloon bar was lined with framed portraits of music-hall stars. It was outside the White Hart that Charlie Chaplin first discovered the joy of music. He grew up in the Kennington area. One of his schools was in Sancroft Street and one of his (many) homes at no. 287 Kennington Road. The Queen’s Head pub on Black Prince Road was run by his uncle Spencer. There he observed a local tramp named ‘Rummy’ Binks from whom he claims to have copied his funny walk. Considering the area’s proud history, John Cleese’s Ministry of Silly Walks should have been located in Lambeth. The junction of Lambeth Road and Kennington Road was the location of Three Stags tavern. It was there that Charlie Chaplin’s estranged father, a minor music-hall star, drank himself to death at the bar, thirty-seven years old, sending his son to the poorhouse. Lambeth Walk has another, less pleasant claim to fame. We use the word ‘hooligan’ to describe a (young) person who takes part in destructive and anti-social behaviour. The origins of the word remain unclear. A popular theory is that the term dates from the nineteenth century and refers to an Irish immigrant family called Hooligan that terrorized the East End of London. Baptist minister F.B. (Frederick Brotherton) Meyer was active at Christ Church, Westminster Bridge Road in Lambeth. He built up a large evening congregation there. His weekly Sunday afternoon ‘brotherhood’ meeting attracted 800 working-class men, and he created a network of societies serving the needs of the area. Campaigning on behalf of the ‘social purity’ movement he fought for the closure of brothels and established a youth centre for gymnastics and carpentry. It is claimed that the term ‘hooligan’ was derived from a family of that name encountered by Meyer’s staff. Whatever the truth of the matter, it is an established fact that the term began to circulate in the 1890s. London newspapers in April and May 1894 carried reports of a case at Southwark Police Court in South London where it was said that Charles Clarke, aged nineteen, charged with assault on police, was the leader of a gang of youths known as the ‘Hooligan Boys’. The gang had attended a music hall and created a disturbance which resulted in the police being called. The next month, two other


youths were brought before Lambeth Police Court for threatening behaviour. They were also described as members of the Hooligan Boys. The problem of gangs of youths in the Lambeth area appears to have been a major issue of concern. In October 1894 the Illustrated Police News reported that local tradesmen were organizing a deputation to send to the Home Secretary as police needed support in their efforts to combat the ‘hooligan’ gangs of roughs. In April 1898 Henry Mappin was murdered in Lambeth. There was considerable publicity concerning this case and newspapers switched from using their normal phrase ‘gang of ruffians’ to the more sensational ‘gang of hooligans’. One defence sollicitor representing his client in Lambeth Court on an assault charge was reported to say that everybody who ‘got into a row in that district was now called a Hooligan’. Lambeth became associated with hooliganism. It did not take long for the word to become fixed in the English language in reference to destructive criminal behaviour. The term ‘football hooliganism’ is now used to describe the disorderly and often racist behaviour of supporters before, during and after matches. It involves conflict between gangs (known as football firms: the term derives from the slang for a criminal gang), formed for the specific purpose of intimidating and physically attacking supporters of other teams. There are close similarities. Traditional urban street gangs are primarily turf-oriented. Football hooligans are a variation on this type of gang. Within the city geography, the football stadium is to many a place of pride that creates a sense of togetherness. It is a local territory that has to be defended against visiting away fans, a sacred place where only true believers are welcome. Football is a surrogate religion with the stadium as its cathedral and the chants as its liturgy. Hooliganism is the fundamentalist wing of this urban religion.



porta romana (milan) Visionary architecture is the name given to buildings that exist only on paper or that possess visionary qualities. The term visionary suggests both idealism and imagination. It contrasts the unrealistic and impossible with the human ability to deal creatively with an unseen reality. Artistically, Milan is forever associated with the first aesthetic movement to accept and praise the potential of the modern metropolis. Futurists were inspired by the spectacle of urbanism and industrialism. To them, progress was a machine. They hoped to wrench Italy from her retrospective dream of an antique past into the dynamic realities of the industrial present. The Future began on 20 February 1909 when Filippo Tommaso Marinetti published his ‘Manifesto of Futurism’ on the front page (!) of Le Figaro. Marinetti celebrated the mechanical changes that shaped a brave new world. In this, his first manifesto, he declared the ambition of replacing the old traditions of an ‘anachronistic society’ with an alternative reality founded on the ethic of speed and mechanization: ‘We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind … we will sing of the vibrant nightly fervour of arsenals and shipyards blazing with violent electric moons; greedy railway stations that devour smoke-plumed serpents; factories hung on clouds by the crooked lines of their smoke’. The literal and metaphorical meanings of the term ‘enlightenment’ have been aligned with a belief in the necessity of banishing darkness. Marinetti insisted that Futurists should aim to ‘kill the moonlight’ in the onward surge


towards a dynamic future of technological advancement and efficiency. Moonlight was synonymous with superstition and Romantic myth and must be erased by the fierce glare of man-made light bulbs. Following in his bootsteps, Futurists embraced the new concepts of mass production and electricity, celebrating the impact of the modern in a series of challenging manifestos. They advocated radical reformation of both culture and society. It was their intention to transform the aesthetics of painting, sculpture, architecture, typography, photography, literature, dance, film, theatre, fashion, and even cooking, as well as contemporary notions of morals, manners and politics. Marinetti, who became known as the ‘caffeine of Europe’, was a master in attracting attention and stirring up trouble. Launching a series of publicity campaigns, he travelled back and forth across the Continent, giving interviews, arranging meetings and dinners where he mocked ‘passéist’ artists (his attack on John Ruskin during his visit to London was a notorious example). In Italian cities vermilion Futurist posters were plastered on factory walls, in dance venues, cafés, and other public places. Halls and theatres were retained for Futurist evenings on which music blared away, manifestos were read, poetry recited, and paintings shown. The art of creating noisy scenes was promoted by Luigi Russolo in ‘L’arte dei rumori’ (1913). There he describes Futurist orchestrations inspired by the crashing down of shop blinds, the slamming of doors, the clatter from railways, spinning wheels, printing works, power stations and underground trains. The first Futurist evening was held on 12 January 1910 in the tense political atmosphere of the Austrianoccupied city of Trieste. It ended in pandemonium. Many of such subsequent evenings resulted in a brawl and demanded intervention by police to restore order. Futurists and members of the audience would exchange ideas, insults and blows during the gathering. Angry shouts, rotten tomatoes and rancid spaghetti would be slung towards the stage as the Futurists announced their extravagant ideals. Marinetti loved this kind of commotion. It attracted the publicity he desired. Champion of the grand tradition of ‘being booed’, he welcomed hostile reactions to his movement, viewing those as symptoms of its artistic vitality. The hectic


atmosphere was grasped by Umberto Boccioni’s delightful pen and ink ‘Vignetta di una serata futurista’ (1911) which shows a stage act involving Marinetti, Russolo, Carrà, Pratella, and the artist himself. Futurists were streetfighters and their appetite for physical disruption extended to their artistic opponents. Irritated by criticisms expressed in 1911 in the Florentine journal La Voce, they travelled from Milan to the despised city of Florence. Finding the Voce authors (Prezzolini, Papini, Soffici, and others) gathered at their favourite Caffè Giubbe Rosse (Red Shirts - in honour of Garibaldi) in Piazza della Repubblica, the Futurists attacked them with bare fists, canes and bottles. Later the ‘Vociani’ staged a counter-attack at the train station when the Futurists tried to return to Milan. After this violence, the bruised Futurists and Vociani settled down to discuss their differences, discovering that their aesthetic and social ideas were not fundamentally dissimilar after all. The two groups parted almost as friends and in 1913 Soffici and Papini briefly joined the Futurist movement. Marinetti’s outrageous performances and his manifestos on every subject ranging from education to aphrodisiacs (a cocktail of pineapple juice, cocoa, red peppers, nutmeg, caviar, cloves, eggs) proved a perfect mixture for European-wide publicity. In 1909 Marinetti had proclaimed that his manifesto ‘of ruinous and incendiary violence’ would deliver Italy from its gangrene of professors, archaeologists, tourist guides and antiquaries. From its very foundation Futurism was associated with violence. In the aftermath of the First World War Italy witnessed widespread civil unrest and political strife. Fascists and communists fought on the streets during this period as the two factions competed to gain power. It escalated into major civil unrest when on 15 April 1919 fascists attacked the offices of the Avanti socialist newspaper. Futurist painters had already shown an interest in urban conflict as an artistic subject matter. Boccioni’s ‘Rissa in Galleria’ (1910) shows an uproar erupting in the fashionable centre of Milan which is Italy’s oldest shopping arcade, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele ii. Civic unrest is also depicted in Carlo Carrà’s ‘Il funerali dell’anarchico Galli’ (1910). Angelo


Galli was killed by police in 1904 during disturbances connected with a general strike in Milan. Soon after publication of Marinetti’s manifesto, a small group of anarchist Divisionist painters who had studied with Giacomo Balla joined the movement. Futurist artists put the Milanese cityscape on canvas. In contrast to the staleness of such venerable cities as Venice, Florence or Rome, Milan - according to Marinetti - was a place inhabited by ‘the divine’. The urban experience is crucial to all Futurist manifestos. City life, it was argued, confronts man with modernity. This confrontation compels him to adept intellectually and emotionally. Balla’s depictions of the dynamic nature of motion encapsulated Futurist ideals and his 1909 oil painting ‘Street light’ is one of the iconic images associated with the movement. Balla taught many of the younger Futurists, including Umberto Boccioni. The latter had started his career as a sign painter. In 1902 he moved to Paris and his early work shows the influence of French Impressionism. Born in Reggio Calabria, Boccioni would make his career in Milan where he had settled in 1908. He soon joined the Futurist bandwagon. The theory that speeding cars and steaming trains represent the motion of modern life was widely accepted. Initially, Futurist painting lacked a suitable contemporary language to articulate the new subject matter. Boccioni was aware of this failure and searched for a dynamic style that would reflect the urban environment. In ‘La città che sale’ (The city rises, 1910), he went out his way to grasp the vitality of the metropolis. Against the Milanese background of smoking chimneys and scaffolding, he painted a streetcar and a locomotive, as well as some enormous horses tugging at their harnesses. Yet the pictorial means of realizing this veneration of steam and activity are as anachronistic as the prominent role given to horse power in this context. Boccioni still applied the established Impressionist techniques. The formation of the Futurist painters’ group in 1910 was followed by a major touring exhibition which started at the Berheim Jeune gallery in Paris in February 1912 and then, after its London showing in March, moved on to Berlin, Brussels and other European cities. Whilst in London, the exhibition was shown at the


Sackville Gallery and included thirty-four works by Boccioni, Carrà, Russolo and Severini. It aroused considerable interest and received extensive press coverage. Marinetti also gave a lecture at the Bechstein Hall (now Wigmore Hall) which, according to The Times reviewer, was read in French with such an impassioned torrent of words that some of his audience ‘begged for mercy’. Boccioni himself had visited Paris in late 1911 in order to become acquainted with the work of the French avant-garde and to make preparations for the Futurist exhibition. This visit proved to be crucial from a stylistic point of view. The impact of Cubism on the Futurists was immediate as is evident in Boccioni’s scene of railroad-station farewells, the first in his 1911 series entitled ‘States of Mind’ that plunge the spectator into a grinding turmoil of machines and people. In his 1911 oil on canvas ‘La strada entra nella casa’ (The street enters the house) Boccioni further developed the technique of depicting the urban bustle with broken brushwork and heightened colour. The image shows a woman dressed in blue and white on a balcony overlooking a crowded street, with the sounds of the activity below portrayed as a riot of shapes, angles and colours. Workers lift poles to form the walls of a new building, a pile of bricks surrounding them. On every side of this construction, white and blue houses lean into the street. This is the here and now of industrial Milan, an image of controlled chaos - not a city like Florence inviolate in its past glory. In earlier work the artist had already shown an interest in industrial development. Porta Romana is an old access gate into Milan dating back to the Roman walls of the city. The name refers to the gate proper and to the surrounding historic district, located south-east of the city centre. It is an exclusive area of embassies and celebrities. Boccioni’s ‘Officine a Porta Romana’ (1909) depicts an image of Milan’s industrial expansion. The painting represents the artist’s Impressionist phase. Its subject however anticipates the Futurist obsession with mechanical power and the might of the machine. The painting of the Porta stands at the gateway to revolutionary developments in Italian art that would have a significant impact upon European aesthetic thinking of the early twentieth century. For the painter himself the Future ended in 1916. Mobilized in the declaration of war, he

was assigned to an artillery regiment at Sorte, near Verona. On 17 August 1916, the artist was thrown from his horse and trampled. He died the following day, age thirty-three - one of the many Futurists who did not survive a war-effort they had fervently promoted in their manifestos and propaganda. In 1913 Marinetti famously exclaimed that ‘we have all the arts but not architecture’. Despite all ambitions, architecture was a construct that remained unrealized. There could be no true Futurist representation of the city until a talented candidate emerged to portray it. It was Milanese architect Antonio Sant’Elia whose name became synonymous with Futurist planning. His mechanized vision portrayed cities not as individual structures, but as integrated entities condensed around the central presence of a power station, the ‘cathedral of the electric religion’. In 1914, he exhibited a series of visionary drawings for the ‘New City’ in Milan and published his ‘Manifesto of Architecture’ in which he envisaged a city that would be like an‘immense and tumultuous shipyard, agile, mobile and dynamic in every detail’. He envisaged the Futurist house to be like a gigantic machine and defined architecture as a vehicle of change, an instrument whose instability creates the need for continuous invention and renewal. Impermanence and transience are the fundamental characteristics of Futurist architecture. Every generation must build its own city, because nothing can endure. The splendid drawings that accompanied Sant’Elia’s manifesto predated many later avant-garde designs. They project a vertical city, one that is composed of towers and stacked layers of streets and squares. Deliberately devoid of decoration, these visionary drawings portray an urban environment in which the street no longer lies ‘like a doormat at ground level’, but plunges many storeys down into the earth, embracing the metropolitan traffic, trams and trains. Sant’Elia imagined a modern metropolis with multiple levels, external mechanical lifts and illuminated advertisements; where elements of the city, buildings, and traffic were organized by function and technology rather than geography or tradition. Sant’Elia died at the age of twenty-eight, killed in a war he had so enthusiastically embraced, thus leaving his vision of the future for others to explore. His visionary architecture inspired Mattè Trucco who designed the utilitarian Fiat Lingotto


factory in Turin. Constructed between 1916 and 1923, it was hailed by Le Corbusier as a ‘guideline’ for urban planning and remains one of the few Futurist building ever constructed.


place de dublin (paris) Architecture is the art of settlement. It is a public art, not a personality cult. Building and dwelling are part of the same process. The speed with which industrialism conquered Europe posed problems for urban architects and planners. The age demanded urban structures for new functions and associations. Adapting to rapidly changing conditions, and building a coherent city that would accommodate a multitude of different utilities, facilities and services, proved impossible. None of the emerging demands could be satisfied by old architectural forms. The Roman column or Gothic vault did not fulfil the needs of modern society. Architects were at a loss. They persisted in resurrecting old symbols and revoking styles of the past. They turned into eclectics who were willing to combine elements from different historical styles in both design and decoration. It is therefore not surprising that architecture became a major theme of contemporary cultural criticism. Eclecticism never amounted to a movement or constituted a specific style. To many critics, this was one of the fundamental problems of nineteenth century culture. Architecture had lost its leading position in the traditional hierarchy of the arts and no longer reflected the needs of the age and its culture. Thomas Leverton Donaldson, the first professor of architecture at the London University College wrote in 1842 that ‘there is no fixed style now prevalent; we are wandering in a labyrinth of experiments’. Formlessness characterizes the epoch. In the metropolis, the appearance of the streets lost all coherence and consistency and became a jumble of competing influences, individual eccentricities and a ‘carnival of styles’.


The Art Nouveau movement attempted to create a new awareness of style in European art and architecture. It was developed by an energetic generation of artists and designers who aimed at creating a total work of art in building, furniture, textile and jewelry, all conforming to the principles of Art Nouveau. It was as much an ideology as a style. The ideal of harmony and continuity caused them to to pay close attention to the interior design and decoration of buildings as well. The outside streetscape was to be reflected indoors. The term Art Nouveau was taken from the name of an art and design shop ran by Siegfried Bing ‘Maison de l’Art Nouveau’. A highpoint in the evolution of the style was the 1900 Exposition Universelle. Many of the constructions for the imposing fair were built in the new architectural style. The exhibition was visited by an artistically gifted young lady who, in company of her mother, had travelled from Dublin to Paris to see the wonders of the fair. Her name was Eileen Gray. The quaint Place de Dublin is situated in the fashionable Eighth Arrondissement in the heart of the so-called Europe district which was developed in the middle of the nineteenth century. The damage caused by the Siege of Paris during the FrancoPrussian War demanded extensive reconstruction. One particular focus of the new urbanism was the railway stations. The Gare Saint-Lazare area, where the first railroad in Paris had been located in 1835, was drastically changed by the addition of new tracks and the construction of a larger station. The streets surrounding the station were named for a European capital. Haussmann created a series of broad boulevards linking the main railroad stations and intersections. The grand boulevards broke up the urban lower class whose streets were destroyed, their houses demolished and replaced by blocks of apartments. The workers were driven out and the bourgeoisie moved in. The transformation of Parisian architecture and the creation of sites like the Place de Dublin in the heart of ultramodern developments facilitated the bourgeois takeover of central Paris. In 1877 Gustave Caillebotte depicted Rue de Dublin in his monumentally large painting ‘Jour de pluie à Paris, au croisement des Rue de Turin et Rue de Moscou’. It was shown that year at the Third Impressionist Exhibition and is problably his best known cityscape. Some


critics have interpreted the painting as a statement of cultural criticism. In this rain-soaked painting architecture symbolizes bourgeois conformity. Identically dressed people walking along identical streets lined with identical buildings. Is the painting a socio-critical statement (as Marxist interpretations have suggested) or a factual representation? In view of Caillebotte’s wealthy background and his aesthetic principles the latter is surely the case here. Ireland is well represented in the Parisian range of streetnames, including Place de Dublin, Rue des Irlandais, and Allée Samuel Beckett. Irish links with Paris have a long history. Throughout the medieval period ecclesiastical and intellectual connections were maintained and a small number of Irish students attended the University of Paris. With the Reformation, an increasing number of students sought out centres of Catholic education on the Continent in university towns like Salamanca, Douai, Louvain or Rome. Irish Colleges initially sprang up in Spain and Flanders. By the middle of the seventeenth century a complex network of more than forty colleges existed stretching from Prague to Lisbon. Over time, the Irish College (Collège des Irlandais: now the Irish Cultural Centre) in Paris, founded by Waterford priest John Lee in 1578, would become the most important. The original Irish College was a few hundred metres away in the Rue des Carmes. Although the royal blazon over the front door was hacked away by revolutionary mobs, the church was used by the Irish until the eighteenth century and the building itself has survived to this day. The aim was to educate young Irishmen for the Roman Catholic priesthood. It operated until the beginning of World War ii, providing Ireland with an array of churchmen. The twentieth century exodus from Ireland to Paris was not religiously motivated, far from it. Paris was the mecca of modernism and young Irish artists wanted to participate in the excitement of experimentation. Ireland in Paris stretches from Bible to Bibendum. Initially, Paris attracted a large number of Irish modernist authors. First of all, there was the tragic case of Oscar Wilde. Released from prison on 19 May 1897, he wrote ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’ either in Dieppe or in Berneval. The poem was


published by Leonard Smithers 1898 under the name C.3.3. (block C, landing 3, cell 3) that ensured that Wilde’s name did not appear on the poem’s front cover. The author settled in Paris under the assumed name of Sebastian Melmoth. Haunted by poverty, he corrected and published An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest, but he refused to write anything else having ‘lost the joy of writing’. He spent much time wandering the streets and spent what little money he had on alcohol. His final address was at the dingy Hôtel d’Alsace located on a quiet street on the edge of the lively Saint-Germain-des-Prés area (at one time Jorge Luis Borges lived there for a while too). He died in his hotel room on 30 November 1900 after a long struggle with cerebral meningitis. The room depressed him and he noted his deep distaste for the décor: ‘My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One of us has got to go’. He lost the battle. His funeral mass was held at the nearby church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in the presence of some fifty people, and he was originally given a pauper’s burial at Bagneux cemetery outside Paris. In 1909 his remains were disinterred and transferred to Père Lachaise. His tomb was designed by Sir Jacob Epstein. The modernist angel depicted as a relief on the tomb was originally complete with male genitalia which have since been vandalised. In 2000, Leon Johnson, a multimedia artist, installed a silver prosthesis to replace them. James Joyce occupied nineteen different addresses during the twenty years he stayed in Paris. When the Joyces arrived in the capital in July 1920 they settled in the hotel Lenox on Rue de l’Université. Remarkably, Joyce’s Paris represents a series of respectable apartments. They were havens of a sort, but invaded - literally - by shadows. He had at least ten eye operations and at times could barely see to write, let alone to correct proofs. The finest place he stayed at in Paris was Valéry Larbaud’s apartment at no. 73 Rue Cardinal Lemoine (Ernest Hemingway stayed at no. 74). Larbaud was a crucial link in the chain of patrons who supported the novelist. Ezra Pound had brought Joyce to Paris and introduced him to booksellers Adrienne Monnier and Sylvia Beach. The first ran the French-language bookshop La Maison des Amis des Livres. To the writers who gathered there, including Paul


Valéry, André Gide, and Valéry Larbaud, her establishment on the Left Bank was the heart of literary Paris. She also supported American-born Sylvia Beach who ran the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore at no. 8 Rue Dupuytren (before moving to larger premises at no. 12 Rue de l’Odéon in 1922) which became a meeting place for expat writers such as Pound, Ernest Hemingway, Ford Maddox Ford, and others. Beach initially published Ulysses in 1922 which was banned in the United States and in Britain. Subsequent editions of Ulysses were published under the Shakespeare and Company imprint in later years. Monnier introduced Joyce to Larbaud, whose weight in French letters was such that when he declared the manuscript of Ulysses to be a masterpiece, Joyce’s reputation was confirmed. In 1922, two years after he arrived from Zürich, he immersed himself in the elusive dream that took him sixteen years to finish the elaborate word painting of Finnegans Wake. Approaching middle age and near-blindness, he appreciated Paris for the congenial atmosphere it offered him as a modernist writer. Brendan Behan’s Paris adventures stretch over several stays of varying length, the first one in 1948. Before coming to France, Behan had spent time at Stangeways prison, Manchester, for his part in an IRA plot. Unable to settle back in Ireland and barred from setting foot in Britain, Paris seemed the nearest alternative. He arrived in there in August 1948 as guest of composer John Beckett, cousin of Samuel Beckett’s. Within a couple of weeks Beckett turned Behan out because of the latter’s drunkenness and bad behaviour. He spent seven months as a house painter in the French capital. Much of the stories concerning his Parisian adventures belong to the domain of legends which he often spun himself. What are we to make of Behan’s claim that he was a pimp at Harry’s Bar procuring French girls for rich Americans on commission? In 1950, Behan undertook another trip through France, including a stop in Paris, in the company of Anthony Cronin. They made it as far as Briançon in the French Alps before Behan turned back for Paris, where he fortuitously met up with Cronin again. They went to the Irish Embassy for repatriation money, which they swiftly drunk, and slept at the Hôtel d’Alsace in the Rue des Beaux-Arts (the hotel where Oscar Wilde had died in


1900) because of its ‘reputation at being liberal with its credit’. Behan travelled again to Paris on a number of occasions in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He saw The Hostage triumph at the Théâtre de l’Odéon in 1959, where it won first prize at the Festival du Théâtre des Nations. Nobel-prize-winning poet and playwright Samuel Beckett wrote most of his work in French, and translated it himself into English. After his language studies at Trinity College, the young Dubliner lived on the Continent. In the pre-war year of 1937 he travelled extensively in Germany and then moved to France. On 22 October 1928 Beckett, aged twenty-two, arrived in Paris for a job as a lecturer at the prestigious Ecole Normale Supérieure. He was lodged in a room on the first floor overlooking the street. During his time he was introduced to James Joyce and assisted him in his research on Finnegans Wake. Beckett left Paris in September 1930. In 1935 he published a book of his poetry Echo’s Bones and Other Precipitates and worked on his novel Murphy. He finished the book in 1936 and departed for extensive travel around Germany. He returned to Ireland briefly in 1937 to oversee the publication of Murphy (1938), which he translated into French the following year. During that period he fell out with his mother, which contributed to his decision to settle in Paris where he stayed at the Hotel Libéria at no. 9 Rue de la Grande Chaumière. Beckett’s second novel was not published until 1953 (two years after the publication of Molloy). Their publishing history reflects the importance of Paris to British modernism. Novelist Jack Kahane was born in Manchester in 1887, the son of Rumanian Jewish immigrants. In 1929, he established the Obelisk Press and moved to Paris in order to escape British prudence and censorship. He became a publisher of pornography to make a living and, at the same time, sponsor the publication of serious novels that were considered too risky by other houses, including Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, the work of James Joyce, Anais Nin, Frank Harris, and Lawrence Durrell. His son, using the pseudonym Maurice Girodias, continued the business - but without his


father’s good luck. The press went bankrupt and, in 1950, was sold to a rival firm. Three years later Maurice established the Olympia Press. He stuck to the example his father had set, publishing both erotic fiction and avant-garde classics by such authors as Vladimir Nabokov, Henry Miller, William Burroughs, Samuel Beckett, and Lawrence Durrell. Pornographic titles were bound in distinctive green soft covers, numbered, and issued as the Traveller’s Companion Series. The firm’s list included titles such as The Ordeals of the Rod by R. Bernhard Burns, The Whipping Club by Angela Pearson and Book of Bawdy Ballads by Count Palmiro Vicarion. The Ophelia Press line of erotica was far larger, using the same design, but pink covers instead of green. Girodias turned the Olympia into one of the most sensational presses of its time. Its philosophy was simple: the printing of filth paid for the publication of quality, including Lolita by Nabokov (which led to a long dispute between author and publisher about the rights of the book), Molloy and Watt by Beckett, and several works by Jean Genet. Word painting and literary experiment however were not the only Irish contributions to the modernist movement. Architect and designer Kathleen Eileen Moray Smith was born on 9 August 1878, the youngest of five children in a wealthy Scottish-Irish family, near Enniscorthy, County Wexford, a small market town in the south-east of Ireland. She would become a pioneer of the Modern Movement. She is now regarded as one of the outstanding furniture designers and architects of the early twentieth century and the most influential woman in those fields. Gray came across some lacquer work in a Soho repair shop that intrigued her. By the time she moved back to Paris in 1906 - settling at no. 21 Rue Bonaparte - she made contact with a lacquer artist, the Japanese immigrant in the capital named Seizo Sugawara. He came from Jahoji, a village in northern Japan famous for its lacquer work and agreed to teach her. She developed her own skills in the technique, but it was not until 1913 that she felt confident enough to exhibit her work by showing some decorative panels at the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs. When was broke out in 1914 she left Paris for London, taking Sugawara with her. Her lacquer work was noticed in the August 1917 issue of Vogue and praised for its unique and expressive style. The


stress on her uniqueness is revealing. As a woman, Eileen Gray was denied access to the supportive networks from which her male contemporaries benefited and neither did she share a trajectory with other designers, either by studying at the same schools such as the De Stijl in the Netherlands or Bauhaus in Germany, or as an apprentice in a studio like Le Corbusier’s in Paris. Instead, her gender and privileged background left her isolated - and proudly independent. In the male dominated world of modernist art she stood alone, refusing to associate herself with any movement or -ism. She developed her own distinctive and luxuriant style. At the end of the war Gray and Sugawara returned to Paris where she was commissioned to decorate an apartment on Rue de Lota. She decorated the moulded walls with lacquered panels to create a dramatic backdrop for the tribal art with which she furnished the apartment including a canoe-shaped bed in brown laquer and silver leaf which attracted widespread comment. The furniture included the innovative Bibendum chair consisting of two semi-circular, padded tubes encased in soft leather. The name originates from the character (one of the oldest trademarks commonly known as ‘Michelin Man’ who was introduced at the Lyon Exhibition of 1894) created by Michelin to sell tyres. The chair was designed for Madame Mathieu Lévy who was a successful boutique owner which sold stylish hats. She commissioned Gray to re-design her apartment. The process took from 1917 to 1921, a time in which Eileen created the interior walls, furnishings, rugs and lamps. Her aim was to create an apartment that suited Lévy’s lifestyle. Buoyed by the attention for her work at Rue de Lota, Gray opened a gallery at no. 217 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré to exhibit and sell her work. It also offered an opportunity for her to collaborate with friends such as weaver Evelyn Wyld, who made rugs and carpets from a studio on nearby Rue Visconti. Increasingly, Gray concentrated on architecture encouraged by the Romanian-born Jean Badovici. In 1924 they began work on the construction of house E-1027 on a steep cliff overlooking the Mediterranean at Roquebrune near Monaco (the codename stands for the names of the couple: E for Eileen, 10 for Jean (tenth letter of the alphabet), 2 for Badovici and 7 for Gray). L-shaped and flat-roofed with floor-to-ceiling windows facing the


sea and a spiral stairway to the guest room, E-1027 was both open and compact. Gray designed the furniture as well as working with Badovici on its structure. Her circular glass table and rotund Bibendum armchair were inspired by the recent tubular steel experiments of Marcel Breuer at the Bauhaus. Le Corbusier was impressed by the house, and built a summer dwelling nearby. After completing work on E-1027 in 1929, Gray built a small house for herself at Tempe à Pailla, outside Menton. This place is another icon of modernist architecture, a space (‘machine’) designed for her to live and work which could be constantly changed with multi-purpose furniture. In 1937 she accepted an invitation from Le Corbusier to participate in the creation of his Esprit Nouveau pavilion at the Paris Exposition. By then Gray was leading an almost invisible and reclusive life and did not turn up for the opening of the pavilion. She remained at Tempe à Pailla for the first year of the war, but was as all other foreigners were - forced to move inland. By the end of the war, her flat in Saint-Tropez where she had stored her possessions had been blown up by the retreating Germans. Tempe à Pailla had been looted. She returned to Paris and retreated to Rue Bonaparte where she led quiet a life until her death at the age of ninety-eight. Soon, her work was forgotten by the impatient design and architecture establishment while her one-time peers Le Corbusier and MalletStevens were hailed as visionaries. It was not until 1968 that her reputation was restored when critic Joseph Rykwert published an appreciation of her career in Domus magazine. Israeli immigrant Zeev Aram’s London-based furniture factory (with a retail showroom in the King’s Road) put some of Gray’s designs back into production. They were soon to become modern furniture classics. Her leather and tubular steel Bibendum Chair and clinically chic E-1027 glass are now as familiar as icons of the International Style as Charlotte Perriand’s classic Grand Confort club chairs which she created at Le Corbusier’s architectural studio in the late 1920s and 1930s. Following the purchase of her archive in 2002, Dublin’s National Museum of Ireland paid a fitting tribute by opening a permanent exhibition of her work.



broadway (new york) The twin approach to this study was to track the development of the street- and cityscape through the history of Western painting and identify as many urban themes in art, literature, photography and film as could be managed within the structure of this undertaking. As is clear from the sequence of previous chapters, the cosmopolitan nature of the metropolis provided a wide variety of images for artists. Themes of urban entertainment for example were rooted in French nineteenth century art. Circus, theatre, ballet, cabaret and café-concert became part of a rich patchwork of subjects ranging from Manet’s interest in the audience and spectators to Toulouse-Lautrec’s obsession with outcasts such prostitutes, clowns and bohemians. By the 1920s, Berlin had become the entertainment capital of the world and mass culture played an important role in distracting a society traumatized by war and humiliation. Artists depicted scenes of leisure, entertainment and city life at night. By portraying the city’s seedy underbelly, they broke down the wall between serious art and popular culture. Cityscape and urban entertainment are beautifully fused in the final picture to be discussed in this wideranging overview. Broadway equals showbiz. The avenue runs through almost the entire length of Manhattan Island and continues northward through the Bronx. It is the oldest north-south thoroughfare in the city. Broadway was originally the Wickquasgeck Trail which, mapped out by Native Americans, snaked through swamps and rocks.


Upon the arrival of the Dutch, the trail soon became the main road through the island from ‘Nieuw Amsterdam’ at its southern tip. The name Broadway is a literal translation of ‘Breede Weg’. Today, a stretch of Broadway is known worldwide as the heart of the theatre industry. The name of the avenue appears in an endless number of poems and songs. Born in the Dutch provincial town of Amersfoort in 1872, Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan grew up in a strict Protestant household. His father often neglected his family in favour of service to the church. His mother was sickly, and it fell to Mondrian’s elder sister to take charge of her four brothers. His miserable childhood and unstable life at home made the future artist introspective and bitter. Art became for Mondrian a way to escape day-to-day reality and immerse himself in the world of his imagination. Young Mondriaan (between 1905 and 1907 he changed the spelling of his name into Mondrian) painted traditional subjects in an increasingly non-representational style. In 1911, he attended a Georges Braque exhibition. The work of the Cubist painter impressed him greatly, as it paralleled much of what he had been experimenting with on his own. Fascinated by the artistic innovations being introduced in Paris, he decided to pay a visit to the French capital. However, arriving there in the winter of the same year, the artist made no attempt to contact any of the local modernists. Though he followed the development of their art and theory, he had no wish to enter their circles. Instead, Mondrian rented a small studio and went on with his experimentation in private. He was and remained an outsider. Socially, Mondrian tended to distance himself from other people and he enjoyed few lasting relationships. He did make one attempt to settle down. In 1914, he became engaged to Greet Heybroek and the two married soon afterwards. The relationship lasted only three years. Mondrian was not made for marriage. The Dutch review De Stijl was founded in 1917 by Theo van Doesburg, and the name has come to represent the common aims and utopian vision of a loose affiliation of Dutch and international artists and architects. Mondrian soon became one of the central figures of De Stijl. The idea underlying De


Stijl’s utopian program was the creation of a universal aesthetic language based in part on a rejection of the decorative excesses of Art Nouveau in favour of a style that emphasized construction and function, one that would be appropriate for every aspect of modern life. It was posited on the fundamental principle of the geometry of the straight line, the square, and the rectangle, combined with a strong asymmetricality; the predominant use of pure primary colours with black and white; and the relationship between positive and negative elements in an arrangement of non-objective forms and lines. Mondrian adopted a totally abstract motif, employing an irregular checkerboard drawn with black lines, and with the spaces paints mostly white or sometimes in the primary colours of blue, red and yellow. Between 1917 and 1944 he created some 250 abstract paintings. He named his style ‘neo-plasticism’ (from the Dutch ‘nieuwe beelding’ meaning new image). In 1938, as the political situation in Europe began to grow tense, Mondrian abandoned the Continent for London where he stayed with the British artists Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth. In 1940, with France fallen to Nazi Germany, and England suffering daily air raids, the artist took a ship to New York, despite the risk of U-boats. Mondrian settled in New York where he spent the last four years of his life. He held a number of exhibitions together with other European abstract artists who had escaped the war and the brutal Nazi regime that viewed modern art as an aberration. The metropolis, its size, scale and exuberance, fascinated him and inspired his ‘New York, New York’ (1941/2). His subsequent creation ‘New York City I’ (1942) can be read as an elegant abstraction of the Manhattan gridiron whereby streets are represented in primary colours (red, blue, yellow) and blocks in white. Another interpretation of this painting is an abstracted ‘snapshot’ of built form in Manhattan, whereby primary colours represent vertical construction elements (post, beams and/or floors) and white represents the space or window framed within these load-bearing elements. In his final painting ‘Broadway Boogie Woogie’ (1943) the checkerboard lines, previously black, are now painted blue, gray, red and yellow (inspired by New York’s Yellow cabs). The craze for boogie-woogie


(the etymology of the term is unclear) in New York had reached fever point in those years. In 1938 and 1939 producer John Hammond promoted the ‘From Spirituals to Swing’ concerts at Carnegie Hall. The success of these events inspired many swing bands (Tom Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Will Bradley) to incorporate the boogie-woogie beat into some of their music. The Andrew Sisters sang boogies. The floodgates had opened. Every big band included boogie numbers in their repertoire, as the dancers were learning to jitterbug (derived from the slang term ‘jitters’ or delirium tremens - an American critic of the exploding jazz scene had made the observation that ‘just when they made delirium tremens unconstitutional, jazz came along and gave us dancing tremens’) and do the Harlem inspired Lindy Hop. Critics consider ‘Broadway Boogie Woogie’ to be Mondrian’s masterpiece, and a culmination of his aesthetic. Compared to his earlier work, the canvas is divided into a much larger number of squares. The painting was inspired by the city grid of Manhattan, and the jazz music to which the artist loved to dance. New York painter and printmaker Robert Motherwell grasped the essence of this remarkable painting and its significance in the history of the cityscape: ‘The Modern City! Precise, rectangular, squared, whether seen from above, below, or on the side; bright lights and sterilized life; Broadway, whites and blacks; and boogie-woogie; the underground music of the at once resigned and rebellious’. Mondrian was a man of complex contrasts. Artistically he was a precise technician and the creator of austere pictures, in life he was a chaotic dreamer and a withdrawn romantic. He was a lucid intellectual who, at the same time, was attracted to the mysticism of Mme Blavatsky, Annie Besant and Rudolf Steiner. He joined the Theosophical Society in 1909. In Art and Act Peter Gay locates Mondrian’s creative impulse not in some rational aesthetic concept of pictorial form, but in the artist’s flight from sentiment and sensuality, in his dread of desire. For Mondrian - as was the case for Albert Einstein - creativity was partly motivated by a desire to escape from day to day reality in order to find a harmony and balance that he could not find in private life. Withdrawn, anxious, and fastidious to the point of obsession, Piet Mondrian painted cool geometric abstractions for intensely personal reasons. No


sentiment, no curves, no touching - that is how he lived and that is what his abstract paintings proclaim. Beauty was wrested from anxiety. That gives such significance to the title and execution of Mondrian’s last painting which contrasts the square severity of Broadway with the nerve and restlessness of jazz as an expression of modern life. Mondrian’s boogie woogie supplies a rhythmic finale to this festival of street art. This does not mean that Mondrian stands at the end of a tradition or that the possibilities of further developing this genre have been exhausted. It certainly is a fact that during the twentieth century attention was largely focused on abstract and conceptual art. The interest in cityscapes declined as a result of that development. The revival of figurative art at the end of the century however heralded a revaluation of the urban landscape. Gerhard Richter’s townscapes - and those of Milan in particular - have been influential. An important contribution to the genre was made by photo-realist painters. An already classic example is the view of Madrid’s ‘Gran Via’ which Spanish artist Antonio López painted from life during innumerable sessions across a seven years period (1974/81). Since his arrival in 1980, Martin Kostler has produced some fine cityscapes of Washington DC. Richard Estes is based in New York. His 2010 painting ‘Broadway Bus Stop’ has given the genre a new impetus. Over the years, Leon Kossoff has produced a number of splendid London landscapes. Some of the most intriguing post-war cityscapes have been created by Frank Auerbach. As a youngster he was sent to England from his home city, Berlin, shortly before his eighth birthday and the outbreak of war. Both his Jewish parents were killed in the concentration camps and Auerbach made London his new home where from 1947 to 1952 he was an art student. The capital at the time was badly scarred by war wounds. The Blitz had levelled whole areas of the metropolis and left numerous buildings severely damaged. During the post-war years large numbers of workmen were involved in clearing the debris and excavating new foundations. Once again, London was in the process of transforming itself. For Auerbach, this changing urban landscape made the most compelling of contemporary subjects.


He remembered London after the war as a ‘marvellous landscape with precipice and mountains and crags, full of drama’. His uncompromising painting ‘Building Site, Earls Court Road: Winter’ is one of an extraordinary group of paintings of postwar London building sites. This series of fourteen works was created in the decade between 1952 and 1962 and are among the most profound responses made by any artist to the post-war urban landscape. The painful irony is that the Blitz - like the Great Fire had done previously - offered London the opportunity for renewed ‘planning’. It either had damaged poor districts and shabby property in need of redevelopment, or opened up hidden architectural treasures that once again could be made visible. Bomb damage was the spur to reconstruction. London’s post-war revival is not only proof of the urban resilience in overcoming disaster, but also of the creative potential to harness and maintain its distinctive character.


colophon: Streetwise was designed and produced by Paul Dijstelberge. All images are either from Wikipedia Creative Commons or made by Paul Dijstelberge.

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