A Spring Exhibition at The Virago Art Gallery

Here is another celebration of the art that adorns the covers of some of my favourite books.

The the covers are lovely, but the paintings really come alive when they are released from their green frames.

Sometimes just a detail has been chosen, or the painting has been cropped because it wasn’t book-shaped. That may be the best way to make a good cover for a book, but it shouldn’t be the only way we see work of the artists.

I do hope that you will enjoy looking at this season’s exhibits.

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The new edition of the book is lovely, but I am very fond of my old, green copy

Lyme Regis by Richard Ernst Eurich

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A View of the Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor (#245)

“Passions intrudes into the dull, predictable world of a faded coastal resort when Tory, recently divorced, begins an affair with her neighbor Robert, the local doctor. His wife Beth, Tory’s best friend, writes successful and melodramatic novels, oblivious to household chores and the relationship developing next door. But their daughter Prudence is aware and appalled by Robert and Tory’s treachery. The resolution of these painful matters is conveyed with wit and compassion, as are the restricted lives of other characters: the refreshingly coarse Mrs. Bracey, the young widow Lily Wilson and the self-deceiving Bertram … an unforgettable picture of love, loss, and the keeping up of appearances.”

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This is so like a very old picture I have of my mother

Mary Lapsley Caughey by John Butler Yeats

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The Fly on the Wheel by Katherine Cecil Thurston (#265)

“Isabel Costello’s return to Waterford causes a stir in the Carey household when Stephen, an upstanding lawyer, hears that his impecunious brother has become engaged to her. Outraged by Frank’s attachment to a woman with few material prospects, Stephen intervenes. But his actions are the prelude to a far more devastating entanglement – he and Isabel fall in love. As a married man with children, Stephen faces the full weight of society’s moral and religious opprobrium. For Isabel the consequences are equally circumscribed: a beautiful and reckless woman with no inheritance has little freedom in turn-of-the-century Ireland. This vivid portrait of social behaviour among the Catholic middle classes, originally published in 1908, is also a moving story of illicit love.”

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When the painting caught my eye it felt so familiar

Spring Day at Boscastle by Charles Ginner

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One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes (#195)

“The English village of Wealding is no longer troubled by distant sirens, yet the rustling coils of barbed wire are a reminder that something, some quality of life, has evaporated. Together again after years of separation, Laura and Stephen Marshall and their daughter Victoria are forced to manage without “those anonymous caps and aprons who lived out of sight and pulled the strings.” Their rambling garden refuses to be tamed, the house seems perceptibly to crumble. But alone on a hillside, as evening falls, Laura comes to see what it would have meant if the war had been lost, and looks to the future with a new hope and optimism. This subtle, finely wrought novel presents a memorable portrait of the aftermath of war, its effect upon a marriage, and the gradual but significant change in the nature of English middle-class life.”

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A book I should love to revisit

The Violet Kimono by Robert Reid

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Christopher and Columbus by Elizabeth Von Arnim (#395)

“As WWI looms, Anna-Rose, and Anna-Felicitas, seventeen-year-old orphan twins, are thrust upon relatives. But Uncle Arthur, a blustering patriot, is a reluctant guardian: the twins are half-German and, who knows, they could be spying from the nursery window . . . Packed off to America they meet Mr Twist, a wealthy engineer with a tendency to motherliness, who befriends them on the voyage. However, he has failed to consider the pitfalls of taking such young and beautiful women under his wing, especially two who will continue to require his protection long after the ship has docked, and who are incapable of behaving with tact…”

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The cover is effective but I’m not convinced that it suits the book

Bank Holiday by William Strang

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The Misses Mallet by E H Young (#141)

“There are four Misses Mallett. Caroline and Sophia are large, jolly spinsters with recollections of a past glamour to sustain them as the years slip by. Then there is beautiful Rose. Much younger than her stepsisters, she calmly awaits the event — or the man — that will take her away from their life of small social successes in the city of Radstowe. But she is independent and fastidious; no man, not even the eligible Francis Sales, can entirely capture her heart. The fourth Miss Mallett is Henrietta, who comes to share the conventional home of her three aunts. With her Aunt Rose’s beauty and her own willful spirit, she devotes her energies to eluding spinsterhood. Encountering Francis (no longer so eligible), she falls under his spell. As Rose and Henrietta both circle ’round Francis, they are forced to decide between sense and sensibility — and each of them makes the perfect choice.”

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The cover is effective  the whole painting is so much more striking

Dreaming Head by John Armstrong

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Surfacing by Margaret Atwood (#8)

“Part detective novel, part psychological thriller, Surfacing is the story of a talented woman artist who goes in search of her missing father on a remote island in northern Quebec. Setting out with her lover and another young couple, she soon finds herself captivated by the isolated setting, where a marriage begins to fall apart, violence and death lurk just beneath the surface, and sex becomes a catalyst for conflict and dangerous choices.”

* * * * * * *

I wonder what she is thinking …

The Blue Girl by Mainie Jellett

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Two Days in Aragon by M L Farrell (Molly Keane) (#193)

“The Georgian house of Aragon stands amongst rhododendrons and scented azaleas, a testament to centuries of gracious living. Here, with their mother, their dotty Aunt Pidgie and Nan O’Neill, the family nurse, live Grania and Sylvia Fox. Wild-blooded Grania is conducting a secret affair with Nan’s son, Foley, a wiley horse-breeder, whilst Sylvia who is “pretty in the right and accepted way” falls for the charms of Captain Purvis. Attending Aragon’s strawberry teas, the British Army Officers can almost forget the reason for their presence in Ireland. But the days of dignified calm at Aragon are numbered, for Foley is a member of Sinn Fein …”

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That’s the last painting in this collection and this is the last of four seasonal exhibitions, but there are many more paintings in the archive and I am sure that there will be more exhibitions in the feature.

Please do tell me if you have any particular favourite cover artwork, or any other suggestions for future exhibitions.

10 thoughts on “A Spring Exhibition at The Virago Art Gallery

  1. Lovely as always Jane! I especially like the Eurich. I know what you mean about the Strang not suiting The Misses Mallet. I remember thinking when I was reading it that maybe it was chosen because the period outfits seemed right.

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  2. Thank you Jane for this beautiful posting! At present I am reading Fanny Chapman’s diaries, and I just happen to be
    in October of 1811 where Fanny and her Auntie Powell are having an off-season “vacation” in decidedly downmarket
    lodgings in Lyme Regis. Sending all love & best wishes to you and yours!

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  3. Have several of these in my collection of ancient green Viragos. Was fortunate to accidently stumble on your blog recently. Am so enjoying it. I look forward to each post. It has prompted me to rummage through my own bookshelves and to seek out other books. Thank you.

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  4. Another beautiful collection. Just looking at these paintings and the matching titles makes me want to seek out these books even where I have no idea what they are about. I’ve just looked at my copy of A View of the Harbour, which is post green spines. The effect is completely different.

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