Saturday, 31 December 2011

Thank you Father Christmas!!

So I try to keep the huge list of costume books that I want/need for Christmas and birthdays, mainly as I would be constantly broke, but also as I believe that that is how life should be; we shouldn't have everything that we want immediately- I mean, should we!?

And good old Father Christmas did not let me down!! My lovely family bought me 2 books which I have been hankering over for the last year or two:

 'A History of Costume in the West'. Francois Boucher - Thames & Hudson
1996. This book is great- tonnes of colour images, and fantastic text including contextual historical information as well as the detailed fashion and textiles documentation.  * This book is currently out of print, so second hand copies are few and far between, and on the pricier side.

This second book I wanted for a particular reason-

Inside there is the only image that I have seen so far of a Regency dress fastened at the back with the Dorset buttons which I make:

'The Art of Dress ~ Clothes and Society 1500-1914' Jane Ashelford - The National Trust. 1996. The aforementioned dress is in the Killerton Collection, at Killerton House, Devon. Flicking through this one, it has detailed descriptions about the life and work of seamstresses & tailors, and chronicles the development of shops and retailing. I was also interested to read that Rudolph Ackermann (of Repository of Arts fame), "boasted that he was the first shopkeeper to have his premises illuminated by gas when it was installed there (101 Strand, London) in 1810".

Costume Films:
I am so excited about one of these, that I am afraid that if I do watch it, and it doesn't live up to my expectations, I will be terribly disappointed!! A few months ago I read 'So Bright and Delicate: Love letters and Poems of John Keats to Fanny Brawne' by Penguin Classics. It had me enthralled. He wrote so beautifully; I was sad when it ended (as of course, does his life along with the book).
If I am feeling brave, I might tuck myself up in bed and watch this tonight. I must admit, I can't wait to see all those Regency fashions!!

The other film is 'Young Victoria'. I was very interested in the late 1830s fashion here, so will be writing again with what I thought of them.  I LOVE the fact that Queen Victoria was lucky enough to have fallen in love with Albert, as the marriage was (like all English monarchical marriages until very recently) in all reality an arranged one.

I will just leave you with one image of Fanny Brawne, who went on the marry another, and had 3 surviving children. Isn't she lovely?

A very happy New Year to all!!

with love,

Monday, 12 December 2011

Thomas Lawrence ~ Regency Portrait Painter Extraordinaire

Those of us who have a real passion for Regency clothing and the period in general, are very familiar with the image below. She is Margaret, Countess of Blessington, who was a darling of London Regency society, famous for her literary salons. It was painted in 1822, when she was around 33 years old.

Utterly gorgeous. Whenever I look at her, my eyes always linger on down to the fabric of her dress; I can almost feel that silk, it is so beautifully and accurately represented. Yes, of course, as a seamstress I appreciate the style of gown, but it is the quality of painting that draws me in.  I actually do rather love Art History, and completed a course at undergrad level (sadly not the entire degree), about 3 years ago, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

It is not just silk that this artist paints with such verisimilitude, look at Princess Sophia here (George IV's sister) in her velvet gown:

Again, you know that the fabric is velvet, you can feel the pile.  Lawrence was the portrait painter of the day, and with these 2 examples alone, you can see why.

With a star that shone so bright in the art world, it is no wonder he was chosen as Royal Painter in 1792 after the death of Sir Joshua Reynolds, and later on was elected as President of The Royal Academy in 1820. So it is time to find out a bit more about this artistic wonder, and just how he came to be Regency Portrait Painter Extraordinaire.

Now sadly, his reputation at the time of his illustrious career was well, a little infamous to say the least, with tales of his love life often preceding those about his work. He also suffered a breakdown much later on in his career, but was able to recover and continue as brilliantly as before. He never married.

Born to an inn keeper in the west on England in 1769, his talent and love of art was apparent at an early age; at 12 he had his own studio, and was accepted into The Royal Academy in 1787.  His first Royal Commission was of Queen Charlotte, in 1790. The Prince Regent later sent him across Europe to capture the likenesses of all those sovereigns who had assisted in the defeat of Napoleon, creating the great Waterloo Gallery in Windsor Castle around 1818-20. He remained The Royal Painter until his death.

What is little known about him is that he was quite a collector of art himself, and amassed a great collection of 'Old Master' paintings. So although he certainly made a great deal of money, he was just as quick it seems in the spending of it.

I cannot of course, leave off mentioning this mighty portrait of King George IV:

This version is from 1822, but Lawrence depicted the Regent, and then the King as he later was, in a similar pose for quite a few paintings, wearing different formal dress during various periods of his life. Lawrence did a pretty good job!! Reminiscent for me of another English King, the mighty Henry VIII. 

Lawrence died in 1830, rather suddenly, due to heart problems, or mismanagement by his medical team. He was laid to rest in St Paul's Cathedral.

Thank you Thomas Lawrence, for your outstanding contribution to 19th century portraiture, and for giving us costumiers beautiful examples of Regency Dress to drool over. Whilst I am on this thread (see what I did?!), I leave with one more fine example of a Regency beauty- well really the Extended Regency/Romantic era, of The Honourable Mrs Seymour Bathurst from 1828:

with love,

Further Reading:
'Thomas Lawrence- Regency Power & Brilliance.' Cassandra Albinson et al. Yale University Press 2010.
'Thomas Lawrence Portraits.' Richard Holmes. National Portrait Gallery Publications. 2010.