Karl Hagedorn (1889-1969), Poster: Buy British.
The Future was Bright
By George Richards
George Richards asks why the brilliant, ground-breaking work of Karl Hagedorn, much celebrated in his own lifetime, is not better remembered today and takes a look at a new exhibition of his work.
“A day will come when people will see as much beauty in a decorative arrangement of lines and circles as they see now in a laboured masterpiece of the Pre-Raphaelite school, which may have taken years to paint.” (Karl Hagedorn, Manchester Playgoer, July 1914)
Having excited much furore in the press with his “Rhythmical Expressions in Line and Colour”, it was with conviction and prescience that Karl Hagedorn (1889-1969) set out his aesthetic theories, and issued a rallying cry to other British artists of the period. These vibrant, faceted designs were shown at the second exhibition of Manchester’s Society of Modern Painters on 23 October, 1913, and were quite unlike anything ever seen before in the North of England.
Liss Llewellyn has now reassembled many of these works from public and private collections and, together with additional material from the artist’s estate, they are the subject of a collaborative exhibition at Pallant House Gallery, in Chichester, which will then move to the Worshipful Company of Mercers, City of London, on 1 April. It is a rare opportunity to witness the radical painting and illustration of a figure dubbed “Manchester’s first Modernist”; a figure whose impact on the wider narratives of modern British art are only just beginning to be teased out.
Born in Berlin in 1889, Hagedorn emigrated to England in 1905 in order to study textile design at the Municipal School of Technology, Manchester. He secured work soon afterwards as a fabric designer in the Manchester cotton industry for Blakeley & Beving in what was to prove an inspiring move for the young artist. Under the aegis of fellow German expatriate Karl Beving, Hagedorn was exposed to a wealth of African textiles, from Ghanaian Asante Kente cloths to Yoruba Adire, as well as Indonesian batiks, which were popular on the Gold Coast. Beving was a manufacturer who had built up a substantial trade with West Africa, acquiring numerous textile samples during his visits, and when his collection was later donated to the British Museum in 1934, it was seen as the earliest documented and most important group of its kind. During Hagedorn’s time with his firm, these designs were used as prototypes for their own mass productions, which were then exported back to West Africa, finding their place within a thriving market.
Evidence suggests that African design was of lasting interest to Hagedorn. Not only is he still listed as a designer for Blakeley & Beving in the 1917-18 DIA membership list, but he organised an exhibition of his own West African textiles at the Southport Art Gallery in January 19351. Furthermore, one need only look at his illustration to see evidence of its influence there. Look at the whimsical poster of “Tutankhamun Coming to Life”, in which the figures seem to mimic Egyptian relief painting, while the batik technique of wax resist dyeing was commonly employed throughout Africa. Perhaps even more telling, given the wider interest in Britain for Egyptian culture sparked by the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by Howard Carter in 1922, is what appears to be a Baule Mbolo portrait mask, displayed prominently in Hagedorn’s view of Africa from his Nations and Continents series.
The graphic strength of these designs means that they form an important part of the exhibition and accompanying publication. While they have been squared up for transfer, the exact purpose of this group remains something of a mystery, which invites further research. However, the assured treatment of the portrait mask reveals Hagedorn’s knowledge of African sculpture, and a sizeable number of these were found in the artist’s studio. They often feature in the background of his selfportraits.
Hagedorn’s curiosity about non-Western art and design was augmented with a more traditional, albeit modern education. In 1910 he studied at the Manchester School of Art under the French Impressionist painter Pierre Adolphe Valette, before heading to Paris in 1912 alongside fellow student, Francis Sladen-Smith. The two artists were very close, and had established the beginnings of a Freundschaftsbund in the German style, entitled Der Künstler Zwei, for which they contributed drawings and watercolours for a handmade publication. A number of these scrapbook leaves are included within the exhibition at Pallant House Gallery.
While in Paris, Hagedorn worked in the atelier of Maurice Denis, exhibited at the Société du Salon d’automne, and met Henri Matisse in his studio at Issy-les-Moulineaux, where he would have observed the melodious, energetic works undertaken by the artist for his patron Sergei Shchukin. Hagedorn returned to England in the early part of 1913 and in the ensuing months he set about absorbing and reinterpreting these lessons, producing the works he would display at the second exhibition of Manchester’s Society of Modern Painters. These “rhythmical expressions”, as he called them, were to be some of the boldest and most singular examples of Post-Impressionism ever exhibited in Britain. The response was sensational.
Unaccustomed to the contrasting primary colours and angular forms of these works, the critics were taken aback by this new idiom of expression and voiced their disapproval at a fevered pitch. Works such as “Portrait of a Woman” and “Washstand” – now in the collection of the Whitworth Art Gallery – were described as “Cubist puzzles”2 or “violent ( ...) prisms”3, while a commentator in the Manchester City News wrote that the artist “produces curves and cross-lines such as might haunt the Christmas dream of a schoolboy gloomily oppressed with thoughts of Euclid”4.
A curious thread running through much of the criticism was this kind of use of mathematical terminology, reflecting the rigorous, geometric approach that underpins much of Hagedorn’s work in commercial design and illustration; areas in which he was increasingly active in the aftermath of the first world war. This is perhaps best seen in his “Buy British” poster, produced for the Empire Marketing Board in 1927, which employs repeated, tessellated forms to capture the movement of a marching band. A gouache study for the work in the V&A Museum, entitled “Drummer Boys”, shows the evolution of this design and the flattened and overlapping planes that reveal Hagedorn’s early textile training, as well as his growing awareness of the Futurist movement.
The dynamic mode of the Vorticists may also be glimpsed in Hagedorn’s illustration. It is known that Frank Rutter had introduced Hagedorn to Percy Wyndham Lewis before the publication of the Blast manifesto, and as alumni of the Slade School of Fine Art, it is likely that both artists had shared networks and interests. Interestingly, it appears to be the motif of a vortex that Hagedorn uses in his cover for the summer issue of the Radio Times, August 1929, as abstract shapes are drawn into a central, swirling mass. This work was commissioned during the celebrated editorship of Eric Maschwitz (1927-1933), when artists including Edward McKnight Kauffer, Rex Whistler, Eric Fraser and Paul Nash were employed by the magazine. In an interview with the BBC, fellow contributor Victor Reinganum recalled the “considerable prestige attached to drawing for the Radio Times” in the 1920s, as it was one of the only British periodicals prepared to take a risk employing avant-garde artists, and “illustrators with something new to say”5.
In addition to his ongoing commercial work – for companies such as Osman Ltd, and products including margarine and washing powder (Fig 4) – Hagedorn undertook charitable commissions throughout the 1920s. He designed the posters for the University of Manchester Rag Week, which also doubled as covers for the Rag Publication, The Rag Rag. Over a period of eight years, Hagedorn “brilliantly reinterpreted the motifs of sun and serpent in dazzlingly witty”6 ways. This arguably reached its high point with the 1927 cover (Fig 6), which employs a cunning use of mise en abyme – or the Droste effect – as students are shown swarming after a copy of the magazine themselves, suggesting an infinitely recurring sequence. Such demand was genuine, it seems, as the Cheshire Observer noted that the magazine had sold over 250,000 copies, compared with 159,000 the previous year. The commentator continues to say that the escalating success of the publication was due in no small part to the “striking colour design”7 by Hagedorn.
Cotton design was also of continuing relevance to Hagedorn throughout his career. When not involved in textile production itself, he produced shippers’ tickets for agents including Overmann & Co., which were attached to bolts of cloth or yarn, thus making goods instantly recognisable during transport. Some examples that he produced are included in the exhibition (Fig 8), and won Hagedorn the Grand Prix at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels of 1925 in Paris.
As late as 1941, Hagedorn was involved in an exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery, sponsored by the National Register of Industrial Art Designers, for which artists were asked to submit designs on cotton. Given his expertise, it is no surprise that Hagedorn earned special praise in this “remarkable and picturesque venture”, even though he exhibited alongside artists including Vanessa Bell, Ivon Hitchens, Eric Ravilious and Graham Sutherland8.
Although he was one of the best-known graphic artists of his era, it is strange that Hagedorn’s star should not shine as brightly today. In our efforts to champion the unsung heroes and heroines of British art, we seldom find a career that so clearly merits reanimation, and yet promises so much more in terms of discovery.
1. Lancashire Evening Post, 7 January, 1935.
2. Daily Mail, 24 October, 1913.
3. Liverpool Courier, 23 October, 19I3.
4. 25 October, 1913.
5. Driver, David (ed), The Art of the Radio Times: The First Sixty Years, British Broadcasting Corporation, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1981.
6. Manchester’s First Modernist: Karl Hagedorn 1889-1969, Whitworth Art Gallery.
7. Cheshire Observer, Saturday 21 May, 1927.
8. Liverpool Daily Post, 30 April, 1941.
George Richards is international relations and development manager at Liss Llewellyn Fine Art. Liss Llewellyn’s exhibition of Hagedorn’s work will be at the Worshipful Company of Mercers, City of London, from 1 April until 26 May. Visit www.lissllewellyn.com for details.
This article appeared in the Winter 2018-19 edition of Illustration.
Karl Hagedorn (1889-1969), Self-portrait with Pipe, c.1915.
The unforgettable art of the British WW1 soldier who might have been the Kaiser’s son
By Lilias Wigan
Karl Hagedorn’s contribution to Post-Impressionist art in Britain has been neglected for too long – a new exhibition at Chichester’s Pallant House Gallery seeks to right that wrong and put this intriguing figure back on the map.
In December 1910, the painter-critic Roger Fry shook the London art world when he launched the exhibition Manet and the Post Impressionists, at The Grafton Galleries. Cited as ‘the Art-Quake of 1910’, it was lampooned by London critics and proved a disastrous blow for his career.
Fry had introduced the London public to the work of the late Post-Impressionist artists such as Cézanne, Gaugin, Seurat and Van Gogh, and they found it scandalous. Not only did the pictures lack accurate representation, they prioritised form over content – often with distorted and simplified shapes and patterns that both challenged and insulted the conventional British aesthetic. In her essay Bennett and Mrs Brown, Virginia Brown wrote ‘On or about December 1910 (…) human character changed.’
It was within this context that one of the earliest Post-Impressionists in Britain, Karl Hagedorn (b. 1889), was working in Manchester. He studied at the Manchester School of Art under the French Impressionist painter Pierre Adolphe Valette and then at the Slade School of Fine Art in London.
Although born in Berlin, Hagedorn emigrated to England in 1905 at the age of 16 and travelled extensively across Europe throughout his career. Circumstances were uneasy for a German living in wartime Britain – for Hagedorn in particular, as he was thought to be the illegitimate son of Kaiser Wilhelm II – but, undeterred, he volunteered for the British Army, where he served from 1914-19.
With the rise of photography, Hagedorn no longer felt the need for art to be so representational; instead, he sought inspiration from artists on the continent. A pivotal point in his career came when, on moving to Paris to work in the studio of Maurice Denis in 1912, he met his artist-hero, Henri Matisse. Hagedorn idolised him – he even kept a cigarette given to him by Matisse as a souvenir for the rest of his life, an act which embodied the profound impact that Matisse had on his work. Modern British art history has struggled to place Hagedorn, mainly because of ignorance of the Post-Impressionist style at the time, and there has been little recognition of his significance since. But now the Pallant House Gallery, in partnership with Liss Llewellyn Fine Art, has staged their first exhibition devoted to the artist’s work.
The painting Village Street was made in 1916, the year that the artist’s only child was born (tragically, she died aged twelve). It was also the year of his first exhibition at the Society of Modern Painters, Manchester, to which he became secretary.
Hagedorn’s palette of contrasting primary colours and angular forms exemplifies his bold innovation and the very ‘un-British’ influences that alienated his work from British art history. Though devoid of people, the village scene is animated. Globular, yellow lollipop trees stand like troops as the sun beats down onto the houses, illuminating them with a stark brightness.
The mottled brush marks and bold outlining suggest the Pointillist influence of European contemporaries. The strangeness of the jarring shapes, termed ‘cubist puzzles,’ left the critics baffled and lead to comparisons with the ‘barbarous’ and ‘wild’ Fauves.
Hagedorn’s ‘rhythmical expressions in line and colour’, as he described them, are among the earliest examples of Post-Impressionism in Britain. His oeuvre widened to include commercial designs for posters advertising washing powder, Margarine or simply to ‘Buy British’, as well as Manchester University’s ‘Rag mag’ covers.
However, by the 1920s, in keeping with the ‘return to order’ that characterised much of the art produced in the wake of the First World War, his landscape painting had retreated from its earlier more radical Modernism.
The exhibition Karl Hagedorn: Rhythmical Expressions illuminates the role that this overlooked artist played in introducing Britain to a radical European style that would play such an important part in the development of Cubism, Art Nouveau and German Expressionism.
‘Karl Hagedorn: Rhythmical Expressions’ is on view at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, until Sunday 3 February 2019. See pallant.org.uk/whats-on/karl-hagedorn-rhythmical-expressions for tickets and further information.
This article appeared in the October 5, 2018 edition of Country Life.
Mary Adshead (1904-1995), Portrait of Marjorie Gertler, 1931.
FIFTY FEMALE ARTISTS IN THE FRAME: GALLERY HOLDS EXHIBITION DEVOTED TO WORKS BY WOMEN IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE 20TH CENTURY
By Frances Allitt
“When I was putting this exhibition together, a lot of people thought I would not be able to find 50 different women British artists to show. In the end, I could have shown 500,” says Sacha Llewellyn of 20th century British art specialist Liss Llewellyn.
She is the mind behind Fifty Works by Fifty British Women Artists 1900-1950, now on at The Ambulatory in London’s Mercers’ Company.
Running until March 23, it is designed as a “corrective” to the typically male-dominated art historical narrative and includes paintings, sculptures and prints by artists from the well-known (such as Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and Winifred Nicholson) to the under-represented or almost forgotten.
Each work is accompanied by commentary from a different contemporary mind such as Lara Wardle of the Jerwood Collection, former lawyer and crime author Frances Fyfield, dealer Rupert Maas and actor Griff Rhys Jones, writing on one piece lent from his private collection.
Half of the remarks were written by men, in an attempt to have a more gender-balanced view. All help to give a slightly different perspective on these artworks, their subjects and their creators, famous or obscure.
“It’s not just about rounding up lost heroines,” Llewellyn says. “It’s about rewriting their stories.” Following the show, a selection of the works will be on offer – the dealership’s standard, if unusual, model. Those interested in purchasing pieces in the collection can visit the Liss Llewellyn website to see a complete list.
Many of the works address the turbulent times of those 50 years, sometimes indirectly.
Portrait of a Jewish Refugee (c. 1939) by Phoebe Willetts-Dickinson (1917-78), for example, is part of her effort to draw attention to the situation of German Jews in the late 1930s. It shows a solitary figure squeezed onto the edge of a stage. Willett-Dickinson was a pacifist, a Deacon in the Church of England and a social justice campaigner who eventually spent six months in jail for civil disobedience. Isobel Atterbury Heath (1908-89), on the other hand, worked as an illustrator for the Ministry of Information. Her oil of a Royal Navy Mine Sweeper in Dry Dock (c. 1940) records an accomplishment in British military technology. Elsewhere there is a lithograph of an Italian Convoy by First World War artist Olive Mudie-Cooke and a portrait of Captain Pauline Gower of the Women’s Air Transport Auxiliary (c. 1940) by Ethel Gabain. “So many of these women were involved in the issues of war in their art, even when they weren’t official war artists,” Llewellyn says. The wartime picture Necessary Bandages (c. 1942) by British surrealist Emmy Bridgewater (1906-99), for instance, shows the artist heavily bandaged after being wounded apparently in love rather that battle.
A study by Mutual Art earlier this year suggested that there is an enduring imbalance in the way that male and female artists are seen by the market. It reported that, of the top 100 artists whose works reached the highest amounts at auction in 2017, only 13 were women (Yayoi Kusama, Louise Bourgeois and Joan Mitchell topped that chart).
But in 2018, a year marked by the centenary of female suffrage in the UK as well as the #MeToo movement, Llewellyn says that there is a “fashion” for celebrating the works of female artists.
Indeed, there have been a number of shows featuring female artists at major institutions this year: Frida Kahlo at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tacita Dean at the Royal Academy of Arts, and Modern Couples, which showcased a series of husband-and-wife artistic pairings, at the Barbican. And, Llewellyn says, “when you’re trying to stage an exhibition, calling attention to an unknown woman is a lot easier than an unknown man”.
However, it is women associated with groups such as the Surrealists or the Vorticists, she adds, who are the most straightforward to introduce. Those working alone, or even those creating pioneering works, are the ones who tend to get lost. These often need the work of a dealer or researcher to return to the fore.
For buyers, the show is a chance to get to know the women making art in the first half of the 20th century, to recognise where they fit in a larger story and either add works to a collection or find new names to follow on the market.
(This article appeared in The Antiques Trade Gazette on December 15, 2018)
The opening of Liss Llewellyn’s exhibition “50/50: Fifty Works by Fifty British Women Artists 1900-1950” (it continues until Marcy 23 at London Mercers’ Company). The dealership will continue to host such shows and has moved some of its stock, priced at under £2000, to a new website it has launched, Modern British Art Gallery.
MODERN BRITISH ART DEALER LAUNCHES NEW WEBSITE FOR PAINTINGS UNDER £2000 TO ENCOURAGE NEW BUYERS
By Frances Allitt
Modern British art specialist Liss Llewellyn has divided its business across two buying platforms to help customers search for and find pictures from its 4000 items of stock more easily.
Previously all the stock was offered via the original Liss Llewellyn platform. After 30 years, however, “there is just so much to look at”, Paul Liss told ATG. “Dividing our stock across two different sites with price being the deciding factor seemed a logical way of tackling the issue.”
The new site, Modern British Art Gallery (modernbritishartgallery.com), focuses on artworks priced at £2000 or less and targets first-time buyers and younger collectors and will make more use of social media for promotion. Liss Llewellyn (lissllewellyn.com), the original site, remains the platform through which the business develops its programme of publications and exhibitions.
Liss adds: “We have always believed that there is surprisingly little correlation in the art market between aesthetic and commercial value. Just because the Modern British Art Gallery site hosts work that is more affordable, that is not to say that the quality of what is on offer is less – hence the tag-line that we are offering museum-quality work for under £2000. We recently sold a picture to a museum for £90.”
Liss Llewellyn offers a total of 917 pictures by 386 artists and a further 1107 pictures by 391 artists are available from Modern British Art Gallery.
Though Liss plans to move the platforms in different directions over time, they remain connected. A further 2000 pictures are listed across the two sites as either having been sold or as pictures that will be available for sale after planned exhibitions.
Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004), Studio Interior (Red Stool, Studio), 1945.
Collection and Copyright: The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust
FIFTY WORKS BY FIFTY BRITISH WOMEN ARTISTS 1900-1950
LISS LLEWELLYN at THE MERCERS’ COMPANY
By Muriel Zagha
‘Pure’, ‘bewitching’, ‘naive’: it was not unusual for British women’s artworks in the 20th century to be characterised by male critics in terms of bon sauvage stereotypes, suggestive of decorativeness and, ultimately, inconsequentiality. Conversely, the very worst that could be said of a woman’s art was that it was masculine. One way women could subvert gender categorisation was by embracing abstraction; another was by adopting ambiguous names (Marjorie Moss became Marlow Moss, Dora Carrington shed the `Dora’). Their work neglected, many of these artists fell into obscurity. The fruit of a collaboration between the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery in Leeds and curator Sacha Llewellyn of Liss Llewellyn, specialists in the unsung heroines and heroes of British art, this exhibition seeks to redress the balance - not only in a spirit of feminist archaeology, but also to bring more good art to light. In existential terms the artists selected had much in common. There was the universal yearning, often frustrated, to be able to paint without interruption in a room of one’s own’. There was the struggle between domesticity and creativity illustrated in such works as Cecile Walton’s ironically titled Romance (1920), which shows the artist reclining on a chaise-longue like Manet’s Olympia, but holding a baby and with her space invaded with domestic obligations, or in Hilda Fearon’s Studio Interior (1914), where a mother sits in her makeshift studio with her two young daughters, a blank canvas abandoned on its easel next to an unmade bed. As expressions of creativity, however, what each work reveals is glorious idiosyncrasy, from Daisy Borne’s monumental marble sculpture Madonna of the Adoring Angels (1939), with its Jazz Age putti, to Eileen Agar’s small, colourful and complex The Happy Breakfast (1937), a painting that mimics the formal procedures of collage; from British Abstraction pioneer Wilhelmina Barns-Graham’s jubilant Studio Interior (Red Stool, Studio) (1945), which depicts the artist’s first studio in St Ives, pregnant with creative potential and anticipation, to works that transcend the wartime agenda that informed them, such as Ethel Leontine Gabain’s Women’s Work in the War (other than the Services) c1940, a lithograph of pilot Captain Pauline Gower at once energetic and melancholy. Highly illuminating are the commentaries, each by a scholar, curator or member of the artist’s family, that accompany the works. Prudence Bliss, daughter of Phyllis Dodd, and the model for Prudence on Pegasus (1937 -38), remembers the artist’s indignation when her husband, artist Douglas Percy Bliss, ‘lent a hand’ by adding to the background while she was in the kitchen. Of Winifred Knights’s dreamlike, luminous landscape Edge of Abruzzi; Boat with Three People on a Lake (1924-30), her son John Monnington writes movingly: ‘When I was a schoolboy I was slightly aware of there being something exceptional about my mother, but I was totally ignorant of her true abilities.’ This is a fascinating show, full of revelations and new lines of enquiry.
FIFTY WORKS BY FIFTY BRITISH WOMEN ARTISTS 1900-1950 runs 3 December 2018 - 23 March 2019, Mon - Fri 10-5.
Touring to the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery at the University of Leeds, 9 April - 27 July 2019.
This article appears in the January 2019 edition of The World of Interiors, copyright © THE WORLD OF INTERIORS/CONDÉ NAST PUBLICATIONS LTD.