Algiers, Bloomsbury Group, C.P. Fitzgerald, Cora Pearl, Emily Hahn, Eugene Delacroix, Fun Art, J.H. Plumb, John Maynard Keynes, John Ruskin, Keynesian economics, Laura Bell, Lewis Carroll, Morocco, Participatory Art, Spoonerisms, Taizong, Tang Dynasty, Thomas Meehan, Toy-Pet Plexi-Ball, Victorian morality, William Archibald Spooner, William Ewart Gladstone, Women of Algiers
This issue’s cover shows the Chinese character for the T’ang Dynasty that ruled from 618 to 906.
It illustrates an article by Emily Hahn: ‘They built a dynasty abounding in ruthless ambition, fratricide, poisonings, deceit, and lasciviousness – and some of the most splendid art and poetry the world has ever known.’
Emperor T’ai Tsung (Taizong) ‘real founder of the T’ang Dynsty’.
Also in this issue:
Along with Hahn’s article on the T’ang, Horizon announces it is publishing two books on China, including a history by the Australian-based British historian C.P. Fitzgerald.
In ‘Fun Art’, Thomas Meehan writes about ‘participatory art’ that is meant for the viewer to get involved in. In 1968 the Museum of Modern Art’s show ‘The Machine: As Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age’ included examples of Fun Art like the Toy-Pet Plexi-Ball, an electronic pet that reacts to light or sound sources. In this time exposure it comes to the woman who has ‘summoned’ it by clapping:
In ‘The Victorians Unbuttoned’, J.H. Plumb looks at Victorian morality – the surface and the reality – as seen in the lives of Lewis Carroll, the art critic John Ruskin, the courtesans Cora Pearl and Laura Bell, and the prime minister William Ewart Gladstone:
Night after night the prime minister would leave 10 Downing Street, stout stick in hand, and walk up to the parading whores in the Haymarket and Regent Street. Once accosted, he would do his best to persuade the prostitute to give up her trade: if there were signs of repentance, he would invite her home for tea with Mrs Gladstone in the hope of persuading her to enter one of the houses for fallen women that he and his wife supported. No amount of ribaldry, no threat of blackmail, no scurrilous rumours about his real purpose, could deter him from his work. Odd work for a prime minister!
One can only understand the Victorians and the urgency of their morality if one grasps that they were a minority in a boisterous sea of dire poverty and rampant lust.
In ‘Delacroix in Africa’, Roy McMullen writes about how the artist accompanied a French diplomatic mission to Morocco in 1832. From his Moroccan sketchbooks:
McMullen describes the effect on Delacroix’s painting, and on nineteenth-century art:
…it is difficult to believe that without the stimulus of Moroccan hues and tinted reflections the color harmonies in such paintings as Women of Algiers and The Sultan would be what they are. These harmonies are not just an anticipation of impressionism (often they are not that at all). They are the work of a sensibility hit by an awareness of color as a thing in itself – a legitimate material for composition.
The change was noticed almost immediately. When Women of Algiers was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1834, the critic Gustave Planch wrote: ‘This capital piece…marks a grave moment in the intellectual life of Monsieur Delacroix….The color is brilliant and pure everywhere, but without ever being crude…It is painting and nothing else, painting that is frank, vigorous, vividly accented, with a boldness that is thoroughly Venetian and yet owes nothing to the masters of whom it reminds you.
In ‘The Economic Consequences of Maynard Keynes’ Lawrence Malkin traces the Bloomsbury origins of the economist who ‘helped steer capitalism off the rocks in the depression’ and ‘conceived the economic machinery that directs our lives.’ But by 1969 there were already predictions of trouble, and the long post-war boom would finally run out of steam a few years later.
Economists, Keynes was fond of saying, should be technicians ‘like dentists.’ He regarded members of his profession as ‘the trustees, not of civilization, but of the possibility of civilization.’ Today his intellectual heirs manipulate their slide rules and chortle, ‘We are all Keynesians now.’ Keynes would have shuddered at the expression, and if he were alive, I doubt he would be one.
In ‘Will Someone Please Hiccup My Pat?’ William Spooner Donald writes about his relative William Archibald Spooner, after whom Spoonerisms are named. He reports Spooner going on a holiday to Switzerland with his family, where he took a keen interest in geology:
One day at lunchtime the younger folk were worried because their parents had not returned from a long walk. When Spooner finally appeared with his wife, his explanation was: ‘We strolled up a long valley, and when we turned a corner we found ourselves completely surrounded by erotic blacks.’
He was, of course, referring to ‘erratic blocks,’ or large boulders left around after the passage of a glacier.