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Book Cover

1920s (made)
Place of origin

Design for a book cover

Object details

Object type
Materials and techniques
pen and wash
Brief description
Charles Ricketts. Design for the cover to the book "Modern Stage Setting". 1920s(?)
Physical description
Design for a book cover
  • Height: 12.3125in
  • Width: 9.125in
Credit line
Presented by Art Fund
Bibliographic references
  • Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design & Department of Paintings, Accessions 1933, London: Printed under the Authority of the Board of Education 1934
  • British artists Charles Shannon and Charles Ricketts were long-time partners in life and in art, collaborating on many creative projects in the almost half century they were together. Shannon is best known for his painting and lithography, and Ricketts for his illustrations and book design, as well as costume and set designs for the theatre. The met at a City and Guilds Technical Art School in Kennington, London, in 1882, aged 19 and 16 respectively. In 1889, they produced the first issue of their "occasional" magazine, The Dial. Four more issues would appear, the last in 1897. The illustrations in the magazine are notable for being some of the first Symbolist art in Britain. Lord Frederic Leighton, the President of the Royal Academy, was sufficiently impressed by Rickett’s early work to commission a drawing to encourage the young artists. Ricketts produced Oedipus and the Sphinx (1891), which Leighton described as having a "weird charm" and being "full of imagination." Ricketts and Shannon sent a complimentary copy of the first issue of The Dial to Oscar Wilde, who came to their house to praise their work. The young men became steadfast friends with Wilde and Ricketts illustrated most works by Wilde throughout 'the mauve decade'. They were supportive of him during his trial and imprisonment, visiting Wilde in jail, and helping him financially after his release. They painted many portraits of figures in their artistic and literary coterie, both becoming members of the Royal Academy and founding their own printing press named after their home in Chelsea, The Vale. Between them, they also accumulated an impressive and eclectic collection of art, including old master drawings and paintings, Egyptian and Greek antiquities, Japanese woodblock prints, Persian miniatures, and a Van Dyck. This impressive collection was given in the joint will of the artists to the Fitzwilliam Museum, the British Museum, and the National Gallery in 1937.
  • Matt Cook (2012). Domestic Passions: Unpacking the Homes of Charles Shannon and Charles Ricketts. The Journal of British Studies, 51, pp 618-640. doi:10.1086/665270. 'Neither Shannon nor Ricketts described themselves as homosexual, Uranian, or inverted, nor did they allude to the sex they might have had together. Ricketts playfully refused to answer the classicist John Addington Symonds's pleading questions on the subject, though in relaying the anecdote down the years indicated an ease and a certain mischievousness about the topic. Instead, Shannon and Ricketts's bond and relationship was articulated by the men themselves and by their circle of friends in terms of their coresidence; their emotional, practical, and aesthetic investment in their homes; their vast collection of art and antiques; and the artistic and design work that was closely identified with the places where they lived (their Vale Press, for example, was named after their first Chelsea home). [...] I examine some of the ways in which home functioned for the couple as a symbol and material indicator of queer alienation, belonging, difference, and normalization in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.'
Accession number

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Record createdJune 30, 2009
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