The Wall Cupboard, result 1 of 1
Charles Shannon (1863-1937) was a painter, printmaker and collector whose life is inseparable from that of Charles Ricketts (1866-1931). They first met in 1882, when both were still in their teens, on the wood engraving course at the City and Guilds Technical Art School at Lambeth and became friends and life-long companions. In 1898 they moved into James McNeill Whistler's former house, The Vale, in Chelsea, which provided the name for their private press and the book illustration and publishing projects relating to it, including works by Oscar Wilde.
While Ricketts was a multi-talented painter, sculptor, theatre designer and art critic and art historian, Shannon's orientation was primarily towards the fine arts. He took up lithography in 1888 as an independent printmaking rather than an illustrative medium and by the 1890s he was the leading British lithographer. The same year he took up lithography and began exhibiting as a painter; he also achieved importance as a wood engraver. In all he made some 109 lithographs and was one of the very few lithographers working in England who had their own press at a time when the medium was in danger of being abandoned in serious art. Shannon's mature paintings often have sensuous, idyllic subjects. They show the influence of Titian, Watts and Puvis de Chavannes. His first one-man exhibition was held at The Leicester Galleries, London, in 1906.
Ricketts and Shannon together formed a magnificent collection of old master drawings and paintings, Egyptian and Greek antiquities, Japanese woodblock prints and Persian miniatures, also including a Van Dyck portrait of Archbishop Laud, which was confirmed as an original in the 1980s.
Sadly, Shannon fell off a ladder in 1929. He suffered brain damage and required extensive nursing. Struggling to meet costs, Ricketts decided to sell the Laud portrait, but never found a buyer. Devastated by Shannon's suffering and exhausted from work, Ricketts died of a heart attack in 1931. When Shannon himself died in 1937, the Ricketts and Shannon Collection entered the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, by bequest.
This lithograph depicts a full-length nude woman, her knee resting on a stone bench, opening a cupboard door and handing a towel to another woman who is seen from behind and is emerging from a pool. It is part of a related series of small bas-relief-like lithographs. While clearly informed by life drawing, it also has a Venetian Renaissance quality that we can easily see translated into Shannon's more ambitious paintings. Two closely related examples are The Toilet I and The Toilet II, both in Manchester Art Gallery.
The Wall Cupboard was among the purchases made from John Baillie's exhibition of British art held in a wool store in Waterloo Quay, Wellington, in 1912, when Shannon was still at the height of his career. See also Shannon's The Letter (Te Papa 1914-0001-12).
British Museum, Collection Online, The Wall Cupboard
Fitzwilliam Museum, 'Biography Charles de Sousy Ricketts (1866-1931) & Charles Haslewood Shannon (1863-1937)', https://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/gallery/hiddenhistories/biographies/bio/friendship/rickettsshannon_biography.html
Dr Mark Stocker Curator, Historical International Art November 2018
Now viewing The Wall Cupboard