Many visitors in search of their Huguenot ancestors visit us at Town House to visit one of the early 18th century Spitalfields buildings and to look at its atmospheric panelled interior. Inspired by the tales of the search for your ancestors, I decided to commission a map of the area on which you could all pin your forebears, placing them in context and showing the impact Huguenot immigrants had on late 17th and early 18th century Spitalfields.
The map drawn by the artist Adam Dant and based on the mid 18th century map of Spitalfields by Roque, has drawn an overwhelming response from all over the world and around 350 names and addresses have been added. Stanley Rondeau unveiled the finished 1.5 x 2.5m map at Town House on the17th June in the presence of many Huguenot descendants of those on the map and a signed edition of 200 prints is now available for sale for £80 plus postage and packaging.
Huguenot Map of Spitalfields drawn by Adam Dant
Measuring 111cm x 72cm, it is printed on 300 gsm textured, soft white, Somerset paper made at St Cuthbert’s Mill in Wells, which has, very appropriately, been making paper there since the 1700s. The paper is mould-made of 100% cotton rag to exacting specifications and is hand inspected during manufacture. It is a strong, acid-free paper with a very long life making it ideal for framing a fascinating map of Huguenot Spitalfields that can be handed on to future generations.
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A little over a year ago I stood before Picasso’s ‘Desmoiselles d’Avignon’ in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and for the first time I got a slight sense of what it might have been like to be one of the first to see that painting a hundred years ago. With its complete negation of classicism and of the decorative in painting, in its brutality and aggression it baffled the first of his friends to see it and received a hostile reception from the Parisian public when it was first exhibited in 1916. Picasso himself continued to receive a hostile reception in Britain until after the Second World War. It is easy for us to see with hindsight the impact this painting had on 20th century art, to see it as the beginning of modernism, yet at the time whether loved or loathed, it would probably have been regarded by most as unimportant, and Cubism as a short lived aberration.
The impact of the painting stayed with me and when I bought a cubist paper collage a few months later, indistinctly signed, but British and dating from just before the First World War, I started to look for the influence of Cubism in some of the other paintings by British artists I had been putting aside for exhibitions. During a long period of thinking and reading it eventually became clear that the thread I was following was not the influence of Cubism, but of Stéphane Mallarmé (1842 – 1898), the French poet whose ideas inspired Cubism, Futurism, Dadaism and Surrealism in France and Europe. There was (almost) no equivalent British ‘-ism’ however, despite the complex network of connections, which existed between London and Paris from the 19th century through to the 1930s.
During this period Paris was still the place to go for artistic training and after the First World War was a cheap place to live, with a thriving artistic community. George Bissill was a young miner until after the First World War when he studied art in Nottingham, but as soon as he had his first successful exhibition in London in 1925, he left to spend some time in Paris. Many British artists had visited Paris and knew Picasso and the Paris avant-garde well, yet their ideas apparently failed to take hold. In a modest way this exhibition is an exploration of that theme until around the time of the Second World War.
I also realised during the course of putting this exhibition together, that Mallarmé’s ideas had a strong personal resonance for me as a dealer and collector (most works in the exhibition are for sale, but not quite all). The idea that the juxtaposition of two things each with their own associations for the audience can produce a new, chance idea is as relevant for curators, dealers and collectors as it is for poets, writers and artists. Hence the title for the exhibition is taken from the central idea of Mallarmé’s last great poem: ‘all thought is a throw of the dice’.
When David Milne introduced me to Ben Rea and showed me the painted section he had done of Dennis Severs’ house my immediate reaction was ‘I want one of my building!’ Ben trained as an architect and is about to take up a post with Haworth Tompkins, the Stirling Prize winning architects, but it is his artistic ability and sense of humour in his work that appealed to me.
Ben calls his house-sections ‘Living Sections’ and in them he manages to combine a measured section of the building with both elements of its past and its current life, but with his wonderful humour evident in the detail. His sections of Dennis Sever’s house and Town House will be exhibited here in the gallery from 12th June to 12th July, together with some of his preparatory sketches, so come and have a look. Further examples of his work can be found at benrealivingsections.com
Many visitors in search of their Huguenot ancestors visit Town House to look at its atmospheric 1720’s panelled interior. Inspired by the tales of the search for your ancestors, I decided to commission a map of the area on which you could all pin your forebears, placing them in context and showing the impact Huguenot immigrants had on late 17th and early 18th century Spitalfields.
The map by Adam Dant based on the mid 18th century map of Spitalfields by Roque, has drawn an overwhelming response from all over the world and names of over 300 Huguenots have been added. The finished 1.5 x 2.5m map will be unveiled at Town House on the 17th June in the presence of as many of the descendants as we can gather together and space will permit. It will be a part of ‘Huguenot Summer’, http://www.huguenotsofspitalfields.org a wide-ranging series of events and talks around the country celebrating the people, places and legacy of the Huguenots
Although three centuries have passed, the story of these people who were expelled from France for their religion, but who found a home here still resonates with their descendants today. It demonstrates the historic significance Spitalfields possesses for Londoners at a time when it is experiencing renewed threat from developers in Norton Folgate and elsewhere.
If you pinned your ancestors on the map and would like to be present at the unveiling on the 17th June please email email@example.com.
Copies suitable for framing will be available for sale on the evening and afterwards in the shop and on the website
The catalogue is being printed and after all the preparation I’m looking forward to finally hanging these works next week.
It was almost four years ago that I held my first art exhibition here ‘Spirit of Place’ by a group of students in their final year at the Sir John Cass School at London Metropolitan University. It was a wide range of work spanning photography, large pieces of abstract art through to exquisite jewel like watercolours. The last were by Beryl Touchard and talking to her one day she showed me her sketchbooks including some colour fields, which I absolutely loved for their spontaneous intensity of colour. I was struck too by her surprise at my liking them: to her they were just preparatory colour fields, of no interest outside their usefulness in her work. I just wanted to buy one, frame it and put it on the wall.
About a month later I visited an auction to view a painting I had seen in the catalogue and which I thought might be of interest. Sadly it was not, but rather than have a wasted journey I looked round the rest of the sale including some sketches and watercolours in folios. To my surprise one included a design by Duncan Grant for a plate for the Festival of Britain and I was happy to be able to buy the folio in the sale.
Looking through that folio of watercolours and sketches made me realise that in general, works on paper reveal the mind of the artist in their immediacy with which they are committed to paper much more than say an oil painting, a much more forgiving medium that can be worked and re-worked over a longer period of time. So the germ of the idea for the next exhibition: ‘The Mind of the Artist’ was born, which will run in the gallery from 14th – 30th November at Town House. It will include works by Hercules Brabizon Brabizon, Laura Knight, Feliks Topolski, Madge Gill, Austin Osman Spare, Scottie Wilson, E Q Nicholson and of course the Duncan Grant design for the plate.
Welcome! If you are here to leave details of your ancestors for the Huguenots of Spitalfields Map or want to see it’s progress please visit the Town House Facebook page
and like, comment or share so that we can get as many families as possible on the map before we print it. Thank you and please come and see the map if you can, it will be in the gallery at Town House until the end of August.
I can’t believe it’s already a year since the Huguenots Festival and the launch of the Huguenots of Spitalfields charity. It was an amazing couple of weeks: so many people coming in who’d never visited the area before, but fascinated by it all and very keen to share their family history. I know the feeling: we discovered a couple of years after I opened the shop here in Fournier Street, that my husband’s ancestors had lived at number 29 in the 18th century and were married in the church opposite in 1756 – an extraordinary coincidence!
I had the idea last year of a Huguenot family history map of the area, but too late to organise it. However, this year I have and Adam Dant has drawn a very large map of the Spitalfields area extending from Bell Lane in the south to Calvert Avenue in the north and from Norton Folgate/Bishopsgate in the west to Brick Lane in the east. From 1st July to 31st August this year the map will fill the back wall of the gallery at Town House. We’re asking anyone who has details of their 18th and 19th century family who lived in the are (dates, names and addresses), either to come in and put the details on the map or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do it for you.
We’ll also have a very large blank piece of paper on another wall, which will be a ‘message-board’ for anyone seeking further information about their family members.
We need as many people as possible to come and take part so that we can build a good family history map of the area and if we get enough families then we’ll get it printed for sale and give the original to the Bishopsgate for their archives. So come and see us in the summer and put your family on the map!
I am delighted to present ‘Now and Then’ an exhibition by a group of artists living and working in the East End of London in the spirit of the original East London Group of artists active from the 1920’s.
The recent resurgence of interest in the history of the East End of London has been demonstrated by the extraordinary success of ‘Spitalfields Life’ and the campaigns to preserve such buildings as The Marquis of Lansdowne, precisely because they reflect the way in which ordinary people lived their lives.
In the 1930’s a group of artists were inspired to record the stark beauty of Whitechapel, Bow and Stratford as recounted by David Buckman in his ‘From Bow to Biennale’ published recently and now a new group of artists has been similarly inspired to record these streets as they undergo the upheavals of gentrification and re-generation. We are fortunate to be able to show some of the original East London Group’s works alongside that of the new group in the forthcoming exhibition and also to be able to include some works by Anthony Eyton who had a studio in Spitalfields from 1968 – 1982 and who forms the perfect link between the two groups.
I had an unexpected treat when I visited Anthony Eyton to collect the paintings and drawings which are going to be included in ‘Now and Then’, an exhibition of current figurative artists living and working in the East End opening here on the 28th November. Anthony is no longer living in Spitalfields, but he had a studio in Hanbury Street at the end of the 60’s, when he was drawn to Spitalfields and Whitechapel by the noise, colour and vibrancy of the area.
He had managed to get most of the paintings together, but was still unable to find a couple, so that meant a lot of rummaging through stacked up paintings, looking for the elusive ones. Nothing nicer I think, because of course we discussed the paintings we came across as we searched, in a much more companionable way than you’d expect given that I hadn’t met him before. We were drawn together for the time being by the magic of seeing old friends for him, and the magic of seeing the many facets of his work for the first time for me.
This painting, from his studio in Hanbury Street in 1981, encapsulates for me his view of the East End at the time. No sky, just an overwhelming sense of buildings one after the other, run-down, but not depressing. A sense of lives lived on top of each other, but where someone has made a tiny patch of green amongst the endless brick. His is a gaze of great fondness for the city and although his paintings in the exhibition are mainly about the buildings, you sense a great love of life at the heart of them all.