Saturday, 28 January 2012

Who's the daddy ? Scandal in Elizabethan Essex.

These days, paternity can be easily ascertained using DNA testing. Four hundred years ago, the question was far more complex, often pitting the word of a woman against a man. As the care of an illegitimate child usually fell to the parish, it was important to establish, if possible, who the most likely father was and to make them support their offspring. In search of the truth, the whole community could get involved. Everyone seemed to have some insight or evidence to offer and hearsay or the good "reputation" of those concerned was considered crucial. This could open the wounds of old grievances and scandals. The case of Mary Graunte, a spinster of Colchester, provides a really good example of the way illegitimacy cases were conducted.
The Easter Chelmsford Court Sessions of 1601 heard tell of a child born to spinster Mary Graunte, who she claimed had been fathered by a Thomas Carter of White Colne. The complicated twists and turns, rumour, reported conversations, multiple witnesses and mixing of the claims of paternity, loans and debts, illustrates the very public dimension of pregnancy and the roles of those involved. Justices Sir Roger Harlakinden and Thomas Waldegrave led the examinations, starting with evidence concerning Carter. Apparently, Mary had already been examined by a panel of matrons, upon her pregnancy becoming public. This was common practice, although not fool-proof, as ascertaining that conception had taken place was not an exact science. She must have undergone an intrusive physical inspection, when quite advanced in her pregnancy, as if the stigma of illegitimate conception had made her an open target for all other sorts of invasion and losses of dignity.
At that stage, Mary had refused to name the father, although she claimed he had agreed to pay her maintenance so long as she concealed his identity. He had told her that if she were to name him, he would give her nothing “but grow to utter defiance and dislike of her.” However, the minister of East Colne, a Mr Adams, then got involved, as men of the cloth frequently did in such cases, either for good or bad. Adams tried to persuade her to confess, upon which she gave him a clue in a description of Carter’s mother, whom Adams had buried a few years before. She then described Carter to him as having been a “serving man and park-keeper and a butler and had but one eye;” which left Adams in little doubt about who she meant, as all the “circumstances of the description do fitly fall out.” Adams must have communicated these findings, as Mary was then re-examined and admitted Carter was the father and told the story of their courtship. In less than romantic terms, she described how he had had “the use of her” twice around Lent and a third time after Easter last, after which the acquaintance had developed in the household of Carter’s uncle, where Thomas was living at the time and Mary was an accustomed visitor. So far it seemed a fairly straightforward case with Carter as the child’s father.
The Justices then called upon the women who had attended Mary during her lying-in, her midwives and assistants, or "gossips." They may have been her friends; some were certainly her relations. In the court records, these women defined by their marital status and given a social identity by men, as whose instruments they appear to be here: the widow Margaret Pullen; Barbara Prentice, wife of John; Florence Ford, wife of William; Joan Carter, wife of Robert, uncle of the accused; Jane Saunderson, wife of Thomas and the widow Margery Edwards.  Ordinarily, female evidence in the law courts was received with suspicion and subject to social standing: Swinburne claimed their inadmissibility because of “inconstancie and frailty” at the end of the Tudor period. However, when it came to cases of paternity, a reversal of the norm saw midwives at the centre of bastardy suits; male reluctance to condemn based on the world of females alone, would have also affected the parity of justice meted out. Mary’s case was typical. These women gave their oaths that whilst she was in “the extremity of her pain and travail” they had charged Mary to betray the father or else they would not help her, which seems a remarkably unsympathetic threat if they would have carried it through. In response, she called out the name of Thomas Carter, which she repeated during and after her delivery. Carter’s aunt Joan then added for good measure that Mary owed her 3s and a bed sheet lent to her a fortnight before her labour.
Mary’s own mother was then called for questioning; one widow Margaret Claypoole of Earls Colne. She described how Thomas Carter had repeatedly denied paternity and that her daughter knew she would receive no money from him if she were to accuse him. A Margery Tailor, wife of William, then told the court how she had been with Mary during her lying-in, when the new mother had “made great mone, (moan)” saying that she would now get no relief from Carter, having confessed his identity and “cried woe to the bones of him”, wishing they had never met. She told Margery that if Carter had kept promise with her, she would never had betrayed him though she be “racked to death” and could have had a child by him long before this, if she had consented.
Carter himself was then pulled in for questioning. He appears to have had some influence over the process, drawing in a staggering number of witnesses in an attempt to identify other potential fathers and exonerate himself. At his suggestion, Mary was asked about a statement she made that the father of her child visited her on foot rather than horseback. She had claimed he need not ride, living so nearby that she saw him out walking every day. This was corroborated by a John Warde, who had heard her say so, although this does not seem to have assisted Carter’s case in any way. Then Carter suggested Mary be examined regarding a plea she made for help to one Robert Reade, claiming she would otherwise receive nothing from her child’s father: Reade, present at the examination, denied this upon oath, as did John Dikes and his wife Margaret, whom she had also supplicated. In Mary’s favour, a Thomas Healy swore he had heard the conversation take place at “Old Reade’s,” so somebody was not telling the truth. A widow Agnes Kinge then claimed that one Thomas Allen knew the identity of Mary’s child’s father; Allen and Helen his wife denied this and a subsequent charge of offering Mary ten pounds in support. A Robert Rooke then deposed that Agnes Kinge believed Allen to be the child’s father and that she had gone to him when she was called for her initial examination and a Mary Sparrowe stated how Mary had received other money from Allen. Apparently one Frances Gergrave had been the go-between but Allen stated he had only paid her for her spinning work. Allen also said Mary Sparrow had stolen herrings from him and that he had also lent her money, so she had cause to speak against him. Sparrow confessed that Carter had tried to bribe her to say something good about him. The cast list grew longer and the plot thickened.
Carter seemed desperate to clear his name, which is neither indicator of guilt or innocence. As the father of an illegitimate child, he may have been willing to try anything to avoid responsibility, especially if it caused him trouble with his family and/or employer. Equally, as an innocent man, he would not wish to have his name tainted by someone else's scandal, perhaps affecting his social standing, business and even future marital prospects. Keen to defend himself, he went on to claim that a Thomas Turner would wager 40s that Carter had been wronged and that an unknown man had ridden with Mary on horseback behind Turner and lain with her at Carter’s house. However, Turner denied this when before the court. Was it a bribe ? Turner’s brother, one Clement, then described how when Turner returned home from the sea, Mary fell to her knees before him saying that if he had been gone she would have “raised town and country after you;” also that Allen told him he had lain with Mary at the house of Nicholas Grigges of Donyland, when they had pretended to be man and wife. Grigges claimed Mary had lain with a man he did not know in a trundle bed beside the very bed where he slept that night with his wife ! Such beds were often stored and used in close proximity by masters and servants. If anyone knew what had happened, it would have been the Griggeses!
The outcome of this complex case is unclear but the numbers of people involved and the surfacing of many accusations of bribery, secrecy, theft and false confessions is indicative of a small, close community, ready to side against each other. Sadly, little mention is made of the child in all this legislation. Many children did not survive beyond their first year, given the dangers of illness and disease. Its probable fate, as with so many illegitimate children of the era was to be raised by the parish and placed at an early age in service or an apprenticeship. The fates of Mary and Carter are unknown.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Artquake, 1910: The show that shocked London.

From Ridicule to Respect:
How Post-Impressionism altered national  perceptions of art. 
Modern artists are no strangers to controversy. So many boundaries have been pushed and pulled, so many dimensions explored and taboos broken that we’ve come to expect our art to be provoking. In fact, we expect nothing less; such works command thousands, millions. But it wasn’t always the way. In London, just over a century ago, the biggest storm in the history of English art was about to break, with our most famous and cherished artists of today relegated to the status of a freak show.
Virginia Woolf’s often quoted comment that “on or about December 1910 human character changed”, reminds us of the impact the first Post-Impressionist exhibition had upon public consciousness. England had barely been touched by the artistic revolution raging across the Channel, with middle class tastes set by the traditional teaching of the Royal Academy. At the time it would not have been possible to predict the “artquake” that was about to drag England unexpectedly and belatedly into the modernist era. Significantly, the newly powerful Edwardian Press were to play a key role in the fervent dialogue that sprung up in the show’s wake.  Public responses would range from disbelief to the hysterical and those involved were to find themselves the targets of censure and hostility for challenging the very definition of art and national identity. For better or worse, Post-Impressionism was about to seize the public imagination.
                                                                       Roger Fry, self portrait
The show was the brainchild of Bloomsbury artist and critic Roger Fry, although until shortly before, even he had remained unconvinced by the new art and firmly wedded to tradition. Since 1906, Fry had been Curator of Paintings in New York’s Museum of Modern Art and envisaged an Anglo-American future for the arts, rather than with his European contemporaries.  He was first impressed by Cezanne’s work at an International Society exhibition in 1906, although damned it with faint praise, admitting they were at least “complete” and had “power.” By 1908, he was writing in the Burlington Magazine that Cezanne’s position was assured and that the art of Gauguin, Denis and Signac also offered an “expressive alternative to the Impressionists’.” However, he could still not accept the European use of bright colours, reacting in bafflement to the colours in a work by Moreau, whilst admitting that it “must be possessed of a quite astonishing artistic intelligence…yet for the present, I do not quite see it. I can suppose myself capable of seeing it; I can argue that I ought to; but I still fail.” His own 1909 one man show at the Carfax Gallery presented a typically English palette of browns, blues and greys, gently criticised in the Times for its colours:” “a land of everlasting twilight would be a dreary place” and the Morning Post for inaccessibility: “people will have to be under its influence for a time to appreciate its beauty.”
Something changed though. The following year saw Fry’s focus shift from past to present and a desire to breathe new life into the modern art movement; writing to William Rothenstein in January 1910, he announced “I feel a new hope altogether about art…all those who care and are not fossilized must get together and produce something.” A chance meeting on a railway station platform that month provided the opportunity.
                                                    Vanessa Bell by Roger Fry
At Cambridge Station, awaiting the London train, Bloomsbury artist Vanessa Bell introduced herself and her husband to Fry, in a move that was to have immense repercussions for the impact of European avant-garde art upon London. Clive Bell had developed an interest in art independent of his wealthy “hunting, shooting, fishing” family who had made their fortune in coal; Cambridge friends had been impressed by a reproduction Degas hanging in his room: in 1904 he had visited Paris ostensibly to research a paper, yet spent all his time at the Louvre. Vanessa, the elder sister of Virginia Woolf, had received some formal training at South Kensington Art School, the Slade and the Royal Academy School but social ties gave her wider connections, including radicals like Walter Sickert and society portraitist John Singer Sargent.
 Towards the end of that year, when Fry was asked to organise an exhibition for the Grafton galleries, he “seized the opportunity to bring before the English public a selection of works conforming to the new direction.” Part of the problem was the wide range covered by these artists; no coherent style united them, it was simply their simultaneity that prompted Fry to choose their name. “Manet and the Post-Impressionists” included two hundred and twenty eight catalogued items, of which twenty-one were Cezannes, twenty-two Van Goghs, forty-six Gauguins, a few Vlamincks, Derains and Frieszs and twenty-two Matisses, covering painting, drawing and sculpture.
Helping Fry organise the event, art critic Desmond MacCarthy had some inkling of the potential public explosion that was to follow and welcomed it, expecting “howls of derision,” as “the cat has been let out of the bag” and “the more it jumps the better.” Critic Frank Rutter had already used the term “Post-Impressionist” about the work of Othon Friesz in that October’s Art News and pressure from the media forced a quick decision regarding the exhibition’s name; in fact the whole show was put together in haste, with preparations lasting until four in the morning of Press day, to which MacCarthy walked as if to “the gallows.”
                                                      Matisse's portrait of his wife
Then they simply had to wait and see what the reactions would be. The first rumblings came from the show’s eminent patrons: Sir Charles Holroyd, director of the National Gallery asked that his name be removed from publicity on seeing the paintings and the Duchess of Rutland wrote to MacCarthy that she was “horrified” at being associated with the exhibition. A slightly less extreme reaction came from Charles Holmes, Slade Professor at Oxford, whose lukewarm guide went on sale at the exhibition, vaguely praising Cezanne and granting “in the arts, I am inclined to think that a stimulus of any kind is healthy.”  Chasing a sensational headline, critic Robert Ross misidentified “a wide-spread plot to destroy the whole fabric of European painting,” another commented that “the exhibition is either an extremely bad joke or a swindle” and at the Slade, Professor Frederick Brown broke off his long standing friendship with Fry and students were warned to stay away for fear of contamination. The anonymous critic of the Connoisseur regretted that “men of talent…should waste their lives in spoiling good acres of canvas when they would have been better employed in stone breaking for the roads.”
But there was no going back now. Londoners were let loose with howls of derision upon works that a century later would be recognised and loved world-wide.  The spectacle of art was treated much like any of the sensational shows to be visited at Olympia or Alexandra Palace as the critics recognised: “the British public will flock to the new sensation and laugh, marvel or rage…” for their amusement. Their behaviour was not unlike that of the stalls at a music hall. One critic used the analogy of dogs and music, “it makes them howl but they can’t keep away.” He had overheard the paintings described as “nightmares” and the “ceaseless hee-haw” of laughter, while the Observer described “the majority of the pictures…are not things to live with.” The Illustrated London News tried to capture the range of public responses: “some who point the finger of scorn, some who are in blank amazement or stifle the loud guffaw; some who are angry; some who sleep.”
                                                 Gauguin's controversial yellow Christ
Whilst some still persisted in seeing these new works as “post-savages…apaches of art” whose work belongs “on the pavement,” according to one letter sent into the New Age magazine, reactions did mellow after the initial weeks. By January 1911, the Daily Graphic was able to report “the general attitude was one of admiration and of regret that an exhibition which has furnished so much food for discussion must close.” V.H.Mottram attended the exhibition “as unbiased as anyone could…owing to the newspapers” and expecting to “be made to laugh,” which he did, “at the stupidity of the comments made in my presence by the other visitors.” Douglas Fox Pitt reminded readers that “all art movements have grown out of difference” and the inability to see the beauty in Cezanne indicated “a defective aesthetic sense.”
The public’s reactions had not been a surprise. Stirred by the comments and cartoons in the National Press, Londoners of all classes had gone along to the Grafton Galleries expecting to be amused and were not disappointed. With artistic tastes dictated by the Royal Academy and favouring the representational and heroic, it is not surprising that the subject matter and brush work of artists like Van Gogh and the colours of Gauguin and Cezanne were not instantly accepted. Works that appeared to be simplistic, immediate and rule-breaking threatened the powerful Edwardian hierarchy that was already crumbling and tapped into middle and upper class fears about the blurring of social boundaries. Teaching in London’s art schools had favoured the “draw for seven years – learn anatomy and chemistry and the use of the stump,” approach derided by Vanessa Bell. Once the masses had seen the Post-Impressionists, the message was spreading that an expensive education and social connections were not necessary in order to paint. What was needed instead was passion and creativity.
                                                                Van Gogh
The furore died down as quickly as it had arisen. Some new scandal came along in the papers and some other taboo of Edwardian society was being threatened. By the time Fry bravely mounted his follow up exhibition in October 1912, the participants and public had a far better idea of what to expect. Still, Londoners of all classes had not changed their views significantly. Cutting his honeymoon with Virginia short, Leonard Woolf hurried home to help as nine out of ten visitors were still roaring with laughter at the Matisses, Picassos and Cezannes. Fifty years later, Woolf particularly recalled that “every now and then some red-faced gentleman, oozing the undercut of the best beef and the most succulent of chops, carrying his top hat and grey suede gloves, would come up to my table and abuse the pictures and me with the greatest rudeness.”
Initial reactions might have been extreme but for Londoners, Fry’s exhibition was the start of an immense change. Today the influence of artists like Picasso and Gauguin, Matisse and Cezanne is impossible to underestimate: their challenge to the artistic conventions has infiltrated all aspects of design and injected colour and freedom into the stagnating Edwardian art world. Our world is one of bright colours, broached boundaries, immediacy and multi-dimensional media. Without them, the achievements of modern leaders in the field such as Richard Wright and Rachel Whiteread, Mark Leckey and Tracey Emin would not have been possible. In 1910, Virginia Woolf was right to describe the experience as provoking a change in “human character”; a century on, with the popularity and accessibility of the capital’s galleries and the incredible range of works on display, Fry’s legacy can be felt daily by Londoners in the Twenty-First Century. If only Fry were able to come and take a walk around the Royal Academy today

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Feasts from the Past

I love browsing through old menu cards; here's a few I've found recently.

A menu card for lunch at Trinity College Cambridge, 30 January 1899, which I have vicariously enjoyed despite the years that have passed since its creation. The autumn of the same year saw the arrival of many of the students who were to form the Bloomsbury group: Leonard Woolf, Lytton Strachey, Thoby Stephens and others. Judging by the image of the exploding champagne bottle at the top, it looks as if it may have been a riotous affair.

1899 - Trinity College



         Consomme Jardiniere
              Bonne Femme

     Filets de soles, sauce Tartare

          Caneton aux olives

           Selle de Mouton
       Croquettes de pommes
            Choux de mer


     Pudding au Caramel

       Becasse Ecossaise


In April 1921, the Royal College of Art Student Common Room offered a dinner at the Boulogne Restaurant in Gerard Street, with the French theme continued with an illustration of a buxom looking jolie femme by the sea side:

1921 - Royal College of Art


          Hors d'Oeuvre varies

            Creme Milanaise

      Filet de Hallibut Robert
            Pomme nature

    Quartier de mouton demi-glace
   Choux fleur    -    Pomme au Four

               Poulet au jus

      Glace Melba a la Student
     a dish we all like to feed upon

          fromage  - radis

               cafe noir

On Christmas Day 1950, the Cumberland Hotel offered its young diners a special menu, where the usual traditional fare was gratuitously linked with various nursery rhyme characters, all presented in the teeth of a friendly-looking giraffe:


               Creme Miss Muffett
          Veloute Three Blind Mice

             Turkey Jack and Jill
      Brussel Sprout Little Bo Peep
              Potatoes Peter Pan

           Pudding Tommy Tucker
        Mince Pie Humpty-Dumpty
       Yule Tide Log Queen of Hearts

1950 - Cumberland Hotel

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Women of 1912: a generation of new consumers

The women of 1912 had been born and raised during the Victorian era, yet soon the watershed conflict of the Great War would forever alter their lives. In less obvious ways though, the world their mothers had inhabited was already changing, taking small but significant cultural steps towards the modern. In terms of their domestic lives, experiences, clothes and daily routines, our counterparts of a century ago were living through a period of exciting transformation.

                                                                           A 1913 corset
In 1912, around one in eight women was in domestic service of some sort, from the lowest form of skivvy cleaning out the fireplaces to the impoverished genteel roles of nanny or nurse maid, living in the homes of wealthy families. Eighty percent of people lived in towns, with the increasing development of public transport- in the form of the underground, trains and omnibuses- making transport more possible. For respectable women though, this was still a minefield to be negotiated and many still hesitated before using these unchaperoned. For the more daring, the advent of the bicycle meant considerably more freedom, even if it raised a few eyebrows. Female equality had already been a topic of hot debate whilst many of the women of 1912 were in their infancy; in that year, though, many activists began to use more militant tactics in order to protest about their inability to vote. Society was still polarised between the privileged minority and the mass of working class, yet increasingly a more leisured middle class with some disposable income was emerging, looking to ape the lives of the upper classes. "The Queen" magazine ran a regular column, allowing them to follow the escapades and society events of the "upper 10,000."

                                                 Queen Alexandra, widow of Edward VII

The first Ideal Home exhibition had taken place at Olympia in 1908, aimed specifically at the middle-class housewife with a little money to spare. It featured a range of full-scale homes designed to attract first time buyers. At the time, 90 percent of homes were rented and over the next few years, a huge drive towards home ownership and the expansion of the suburbs and establishment of the airy, healthy and accessible garden cities, aimed to reduce this number. The 1910 exhibition featured a "dream home" of eight rooms, which cost £600 to build. By 1912, it had become a five-bedroom, eleven roomed ideal, costing £1100, which was considered well within modest means. Lifestyle magazines suggested layouts and furnishings peopled by ideal families, in the style of the country "hunting, shooting, fishing" set. In the rapidly expanding suburbs, the mock "Jacobethan" style was most popular: everyone wanted to own their little castle and plot of land, with its flushing toilet, spacious bedrooms and sanitised kitchen. In newly built avenues named "Belle Vista" and "The Beeches," the commuter was king.

Inside these homes, things were changing too. As recently as 1900, electricity and indoor plumbing had been beyond the reach of the majority; by 1914, most London homes had a gas cooker fitted. From 1912, after the BCGA- a compressed Gas company- was founded to reduce labour and reach female customers, door to door salemen and accessible salesrooms displayed the latest cookers, vacuum cleaners and electric irons. The increasing use of tinned and packaged foods also made life easier for the Edwardian woman, no longer needing to spend hours slaving away in the kitchen. Many popular brands were launched, such as Birds and Frys and Cadbury; the first Heinz factory opened in London in 1905. Soon the familiar "catsup" bottle was gracing many tea tables. By 1914, Britain was the largest importer of tinned and dried foods. In her 1909 "Book of the Home," Mrs Humphreys gave the young ambitious hosuewife advice on how to copy expensive styles cheaply and a range of new women's magazines included tips for recipies and household care, as well as patterns to replicate the latest fashions. Shopping increasingly became a leisure activity, with department stores offering a safe haven for unchaperoned women to spend time and perhaps pick up a few bargains. Selfridges, founded in 1909, attracted female customers with its in store library, quiet room and restaurants: the experience was key: such shops provided an equivalent of the male club, where women would conduct social occasions and even receive post. With increased leisure time, women needed somewhere to spend it. Alternatively, shopping could be done from the comfort of one's own home using one of the many thick, detailed catalogues issued by companies such as Heal's or The Army and Navy stores.

Inside the kitchen at the White House, 1910

An explosion of beauty products; lotions, perfumes, creams and soaps; showed the emphasis this era put on the emulation of physical ideals. Many relatively cheap new products brought a touch of luxury within reach, with garden-style scents like violet, sweet pea, lily-of-the-valley and rose, with exotic Art Nouveau labels. Yardley's April Violets can still be purchased in modern chemists. These were the last days of the corset, with the ideal figure being elongated, with low hips and bosom, dictated by the S-shaped underwear of the American Gibson girl. The pigeon-chest and large blowsy hair were instantly recognisable and adopted by many leading ladies, especially the scandalous Evelyn Nesbit, notorious for the 1906 New York murder of her lover by her husband. In the late Victorian era, fashions had been set by the appearances of royal mistresses such as Lily Langtry and Alice Keppel, as well as the denizens of the stage like the hugely popular Marie Lloyd, Ellen Terry and Lily Elsie. Elsie was one of the most photographed women of her era; she launched the career of designer Lucile (Lady Duff Gordon, Titanic survivor,) by appearing in her hats.

An edition of the Suffragette commemorating Emily Davison who threw herself under the King's horse at the Derby, 1913

                                                 Mary Pickford, popular Hollywood actress

Cheap, mass-produced magazines catered to a new found literacy. Since the 1880 education reforms, a new generation had remained in school longer and more profitably; while prices, time and accessibility might put books beyond the reach of many working class and employed women, stands selling aspirational magazines could be found on street corners and at stations. They could choose from titles such as "Home Fashions," "Fashions for all," or "Weldon's Ladies Journal," for 3d; while "Practical Fashions", featuring three patterns for a bodice and blouse cost only 1 1/2d. "Enquire Within" had a wider scope, containing "homely reading," "boudoir gossip," "social confidences," bargains and short stories. Of wider appeal still were the many magazines catering for specific contemporary interests, from "The Lady's Gazette" and "The Wheel of Fortune: the romance of luck is in real life" to "Idle Moments," "The Vegetarian," "The Epicure," "Temperance Advocate" and "Competitions: everybody's weekly." The demand for gossip and romance were liberally met with "Chic," "Tat," "Gossip," "The Cosy Corner" and "Forget me Not." Imported American magazines introduced new icons such as Mary Pickford, who had made her debut in 1909 and by 1912 had earned her epithet "America's Sweetheart" by appearing in over fifty films so far. The first Hollywood film had been produced in 1910 and publications like "Motion Picture Story" and "Photoplay," founded in 1911, made the faces of the first actresses famous world-wide.

                                                             An Edwardian family portrait

                                    The wasp-waist and pigeon-style chest of the Gibson girl style.

Fashions were changing rapidly. Exciting innovations from abroad were beginning to liberate female dress and introduce new body shapes and fabrics. The House of Poiret, established in 1903, offered the restrictive but very popular hobble skirt, which was banned by some employers as being too dangerous for work. In 1911, Poiret founded the Ecole Martine to afford working class girls with some artistic talent the opportunity to be trained. After visiting the Wiener Workstatte, an oriental influence blended in his work, along with the style and colours of the costumes designed for the Ballets Russes by Leon Bakst. Poiret also launched his own perfume line; his 1912 scents included "La Rose de Rosine" and "Fan Fan Le Tulip." Also in Paris, Russian-born Sonia Delaunay's clothing designs were driven by her theories on the simultenaiety of colour, whilst in Vienna, Emilie Floge's salon, established in 1904, prodcued loose clothing in bright blocks of colour, like the paintings of her lover Klimt. The Parisian Vionnet house was established in 1912, with its flattering bias-cut pret-a-porter clothing and Coco Chanel set up shop in 1913. While the Great War would set back the flourishing of many of these houses and the availability of leading fashions, it fuelled home industry, with many women adapting, dyeing and altering existing garments in order to refresh limited wardrobes.

Poiret fashions from 1908

A number of women were leading in their artistic fields in 1912. Garden designer Gertrude Jekyll had an existing reputation based on her articles and photographs before meeting architect Lutyens in 1889. Together, they designed almost 100 gardens between 1900 and 1914; Jekyll had become a household name through the publication of her books and features in popular magazines such as "Country Life." Artist Vanessa Bell, sister of the author-in-embryo Virginia Woolf, was at the vanguard of modern English art. A key figure in the two controversial Post-Impressionist Exhibitions of 1910 and 1912, her work was at its most experimental during this time. Influenced by Cezanne and Matisse in particular, her abstract, fine and applied art showed her to be one of the few female English artists working in the Post-Impressionist tradition before the war. Irish designer Eileen Gray, an ex Slade student, was influenced by Parisian and oriental styles in her creations; wishing to create contemporary items, an exhibition of 1913 gave her the break she needed. Famous for her minimal tables, chairs and carpets, she was commissioned to create three large pieces by Jacques Doucet, which brought her wide acclaim. Among the most famous names in the England of 1912 were popular novelist Elinor Glyn, for her mass market erotic fiction and the hostess and cook Rosa Lewis, trained by Escoffier, owner of the exclusive Cavendish hotel. Such women set the standard of fashion and behaviour, for an aspirational middle class to buy into.

                                                 Vanessa Bell, "Studland Beach," 1912.

                                                               Eileen Gray, 1920s

In 1912, images of travel were everywhere. Postcards, boardgames, magazines, cigarette cards and posters featured images of cars, ships and planes. The world was changing; perhaps one of the greatest and sudden changes of all was brought about by the innovation in transport; the remaining years before the Great War saw a struggle for dominance between the Victorian, Imperial world and the freedoms of the modern age.  For the middle-class Edwardian housewife with a little disposable income, the times offered unprecedented levels of consumer choice. However, the coming years would bring greater privations and trials as well as new opportunities for employment and equality.

                                                 Suffragettes protesting in Manchester, 1911