Have you ever heard of…?

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s existential angst is centred around the sound of the word pendulous.

Anyone here heard of Gertrude Hermes?… No?
Well, I hadn’t either, until last week. I wonder if her surname is pronounced like the Greek god ‘her-mees’, or if it is anglicised down to a single syllable ‘herms’? Me, I’d stick with the Greek god. We English are a bit odd with some of our surnames aren’t we? We once had a Prime Minister Called Alec Douglas-Home (ADH), the Home being pronounced ‘hume’ for some reason – and how about St John being ‘singe-on’, Cholmondeley being ‘chumly’ and Belvoir being ‘beaver’. But we mustn’t forget the Scots with their Colquhoun being ‘c’hune’ and Menzies and Dalziel being ‘mingis’ and ‘dee-ell’ respectively. But I digress…
I recently had a walk round a rather strange little exhibition in Beverley (a market town a few miles north of Dulltown) called British Neo-Romantic Art – pieces of work collected over several decades by Frances and Nicolas McDowall. Most of the artists featured I had never heard of, but there were one or two well-known names: Paul Nash, John Piper, Graham Sutherland. It was mix of paintings, drawings, and prints, and apparently they were good examples of Neo-Romantic British art.
Me, I’m not even sure what the Romantics did, never mind about these Neo-Romantics. No, I was never very good at art history. I only remembered things about the artists I liked, and as for places and dates I was always sneakily evasive if questioned. Perhaps I should Google Romantic Art and Neo-Romantic Art sometime… I can’t be bothered right now… I’m in the middle of all this bloggy business at the moment… Maybe tomorrow…
‘So Dave, why did you mention Gertrude H at the start of this?’ I hear you ask.
Well, she had just one work in the show; it’s from 1938, a black and white wood engraving on paper, oh, about 12″x 7″. It is semi-abstract and surreal, and a bit dreamy I’d say, hoping that there is such a thing as ‘semi-abstract’ – perhaps I’ve just made that up? It does depict a couple of figures and a lovely fish of some sort across the bottom though. Here’s a link to a small photo of it. (click) It is all intricately detailed, you could hardly make out the lines and dots they are so finely done – it’s a striking and lovely piece of work.
Isn’t it strange that people of the past, that you have never even heard of, can be so interesting and engaging, and that famous celebrity artists of today can be so anodyne and dull? I suppose this is all about learning skills and not learning skills. Maybe I’m being a bit hard on today’s artists, perhaps their skills are just different from those of the past – the subtle skills of public relations, marketing, networking, and self-promotion?
Anyway, we’ve all heard of Gertrude H now haven’t we? And the show is still on as I write, it runs until 24th June 2017. It’s definitely worth a visit should you be in the neighbourhood.

About Dave Whatt

Grumpy old surrealist artist, musician, postcard maker, bluesman, theatre set designer, and debonair man-about-town. My favourite tools are the plectrum and the pencil...
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14 Responses to Have you ever heard of…?

  1. Jheron Bash says:

    Yes indeed, a splendid artist I’d never previously heard of. Oh joy!

  2. memadtwo says:

    She clearly did not have the right promotional skills…a twitter account perhaps, or instagram?

  3. David Manley says:

    I didn’t know about till by chance we were in the Hepworth a couple years back…sad that you missed it I think you would have really enjoyed it.

  4. Dana Doran says:

    It’s really a wonderful piece – but, as you know, not many women have been famous for their art during their lifetimes until very recently.

  5. Cakeordeath says:

    Interesting I have never heard of her. There is definitely such a thing as semi-abstract. The neo-romantics were British, kind of surrealist. Mervyn Peake was neo-romantic and John Cowper Powys

    • Dave Whatt says:

      Yes, some of those works in the show did look like surrealist stuff – but then, they were not at all like the ‘Vorticists’ who were around at the same time in Britain.
      In my lighter moments I call myself a Vorticist – it’s such a good name – like something out of Star Trek…

      • Cakeordeath says:

        it does sound excellent. The Vorticists were kind of England’s answer to the Futurists with a strong dash of Cubism, Wyndham Lewis was a big player. England was on the cutting edge of literary Modernism but in the visual arts tended to lag behind and water down, at this period anyway.

  6. ktz2 says:

    Interesting about the name pronunciations not even close to what the spelling says, the St John, Menzies, etc. I went to school with a girl named Menzies, it was said the way it looks. . . and I’ve known 2 people named Beauchamp–one pronounced it ‘Bo-shomp’, the other was ‘Beechum’, go figure.
    I’d never be able to learn Gaelic, it’s like Welsh for globs of letters that don’t sound as they would seem to. I have an Irish friend last name of ÓCaoimh.. pronounced OQueeve .. wth?

    • Dave Whatt says:

      I think if one is English (or American) you’d be pronounced Menzies as it is spelled – but not if you are Scottish.
      Oh, yes Beauchamp – Beechum, I’ve heard of that one. What utter madness!
      And as for Irish – it’s crazy talk! – I mean ‘Siobhan’ for instance!
      ‘Cor blimey Gov’nor!’ as Dick Van Dyke might say in his best cockney.

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