The Life and Work of Bernard Leach
|Collection||Crafts Study Centre|
|Description||Entries dated 20 March, 1908 in diary, bound in red leather, kept by Bernard Leach with some entries by his wife-to-be, Muriel Hoyle. Double-page spread with drawing of building on left-hand page, in pencil.|
|Part Of Series||Diary|
|Id Number Current Accession||LA.10874.31|
|Subject||Leach Archive, page|
|Measurements||13.5 x 9 centimetres|
|History||This is not a conventional diary: Bernard Leach uses it as a notebook to record his impressions of his travels in Italy and France, his thoughts on philosophical issues etc., although keeping fairly close to diary form during Mach and April. He is keenly critical of all the art work which he sees, and is nothing loth to write what are at times quite sweeping generalisations about the artists involved. His enthusiasm, when uttered, is passionate (eg. Ruysdael is ' ---- the greatest of all landscape painters', Leonardo da Vinci's drawings are '---- of supreme merit '). On the other hand, Jordaens was '---- possessed of enormous ability & a not altogether despicable spirit as far as it went!'. But the young Bernard Leach, 21 years old, with his nightmare of the banking world behind him, proves in these pages his claim as an artist - it is the artist's eye that sees people and scenes and landscapes, and it is the artist who describes them with palpable sincerity. From 22 March to mid-June he is in Italy, in Genoa (where he is 'rooked' on arrival by a compatriot), Pisa, Rome (which he obviously loves, where he enthuses about Michaelangelo, has a happy encounter with a street urchin, and where, on a chance visit to a church, he is so moved that 'I knelt and prayed very hard for Muriel & myself'), Perugia ('---oh this is a delightful city'), Florence (on 2 April: 'After lunch a letter from Muriel'; on12 April: 'Made a private inward vow'), Venice (where he 'Had an unpleasant interview with hotel manager undercurrent of sarcasm damn the swine!. This kind of brute always gets the upper hand over me', and where the non-arrival of his etching plates forces him to sketch and mke notes in readiness). On 20 April, he confesses: 'I have had enough sightseeing & long for good fellowship & company - I wonder if I will get heavily smitten with this state of mind in Japan - I hope not'. He leaves Venice on 28 April, bound for Padula, and from thence to Paris (13 June: 'Moulin Rouge - beastly!'), arriving in Southampton on 15 June. His critical commentary on art works covers galleries in all the Italian cities mentioned, and in Paris.
Bernard Leach confides much af his (then) philosophy to this diary: aphorisms, 'pensees', maxims, question-and-answer ('Comparative and Absolute', culminating in his own statement - 'That which is really understood is virtually done', 'The strife of nature' etc.) sometimes intense and agonised. What is the philosophy of art, in his view? On 30 August he writes 'Question:- Which is the greater - the artist (Raphael) who appeals to all, the multitude--- or the artist (Blake) who appeals only to the highest minds? What the devil has the 'mob' to do with art? What is the ratio between art & humanity? Is Art any use? Is anything any use? To live happily one must take for granted it is! ---- Turvey & I agree with Blake that Ability & Vision in an artist go hand in hand & are essentially equal (example for consideration D.G. Rossetti, his lack of ability was owing to his poetic & not artistic vision)'. There are nine sketches by Bernard Leach in this diary. Muriel Hoyle's entries are those more of a commonplace book than a diary, in the main: here, too, there is some philosophising ---- 'Past & Present', Christ incarnate and her difficulty in acceptance and belief, Buddhist thoughts, her unease in the act of expressing feelings, one can actually feel differently - 'I want to draw some picture of human life, something real & unaffected. I think I have enough material to start on but it is all confused at present. I think I shall depict a nature full of promise in childhoood later developing weaknesses with which it cannot grapple'. Included is a copy letter (?) from 'Mr Whistler' to 'Madame la Massiere' in very formal terms; a short essay - 'Can one make a friend of an Oriental (Japanese)?; a form a of drama - 'The two burdens' etc. Actual date entries fall at the end of April when she, too, is travelling, in order to meet up with Bernard Leach (this was the year before their marriage). On 29 April she is at Cap Martin; on 30 April, 'Perfect day'. Got p.c. (sic) from B. from Padua'; on 1 May she is at Bordighera, 'Dear little lunch at Ventimiglia. Asti'. She emerges from her few contributions to this diary as a sensitive person, perhaps lacking the determination to put good intentions into effect.
NOTE: An enigmatic note is struck by an entry dated 9 November, 1910 in part of the space for 30 April 1908: 'Yes, oh yes! this dreadful lack of emotion, but I don't (sic) judge quite fairly yet & I must stay till I do, or rather I must (sic) understand more fully by the time we are able to go'. This would appear to be Muriel's hand.
|Literary Source||Catalogue of the Papers and Books of Bernard Leach, Volume II by Alyn Giles Jones, Crafts Study Centre, 1984-85|
|Rights Owner||David Leach/Crafts Study Centre 2004|
|Style Period Period||1900s|