cross pollination

Elizabeth Bishop: Pansies, 1960, watercolour and gouache.

A recent snoop in our secondhand bookshop brought to light a book of paintings by the American poet Elizabeth Bishop*. I was immediately interested, because I have a great curiosity for artists who write, poets who paint, painters who embroider... the rich exchange of medium and mood experienced by so many artists over the centuries. It's fascinating to find that an artist or writer you know for their work in one discipline turns out to have been active in a quite different area of expression.

Elizabeth Bishop: Table with Candelabra [undated], watercolour and gouache.

Of course, women artists have often done this instinctively through domestic textiles and decoration of the home environment, indeed the home has traditionally been the sole provider of surfaces for embellishment and opportunities for creative expression for those many many women who have been denied a more focussed outlet. However noble or humble the setting, I just love how creativity oozes out of artists and writers like mud through the fingers: it's unstoppable. Vanessa Bell's work at Charleston Farmhouse is a wonderful example.

Mary Fedden: The Lemon, 1976, pencil and gouache.

I learnt from a book about one of my favourite painters, Mary Fedden*, that she also makes what she calls 'little soft lions' for new babies... exquisite embroidery and wonderful tactile shapes that call out to be held tightly in tiny hands. I shall post a couple of snaps of them taken from the book although of course they are copyright, but I think they deserve to be better known and I think many of you will love them, as I do.

* William Benton, Exchanging Hats: Elizabeth Bishop Paintings. Carcanet, 1996
* Christopher Andrae, Mary Fedden: Enigmas and Variations. Lund Humphries, 2007

All images are copyright of the artists and mustn't be reproduced except, as here, for personal use, and without due credit.

19 comments:

Magic Cochin said...

I'm a great admirer or Mary Fedden's work - but the little lions are new to me. Thank you for the introduction, they're delightful.

Celia

Gina said...

What a delightful post. I too have long been an admirer of Mary Feddon but knew nothing about the lions which are wonderful. I rather like the Elisabeth Bishop paintings too, which have a feel of textiles about them.

Cottage Garden said...

Hope things have settled down at home now Sue, it's certainly good to see you back in this little space!

I'm not aware of Mary Fedden's work so thank you for this introduction - the little lions are delightful.

Mention of Vanessa Bell reminds me that a visit to Charleston Farmhouse is well overdue.

Take care. Jeanne x

Diva Kreszl said...

I too am a fan of creativity that spills over into so many different areas, perhaps because I have trouble choosing one medium myself :)

Dan said...

Aww, I love these little soft lions and I'm certainly not a newborn babe!
They are unusual, appealing and almost irresistible!
Nice to see you back!
Best wishes
Dan

Hollace said...

What a fascinating blog! The idea of the poet who has a sketch book...Sue, you could pursue these well-written thoughts right into a book of your own...and I would buy it.

ljw said...

Glad you're feeling better. I love it when I discover artists who have talent in different fields. Dirk Bogarde and Mervyn Peake are two who immediately spring to mind.

alice c said...

How delightful - I have recently discovered the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop and having read a little bit about her I find the artwork of domestic scenes quite surprising.

Gilly said...

Love that little soft lion! Can I read that book?

Now, what could this writer do in addition??

Mark said...

Mary Fedden also made cats, although the one I have seen is quite a naughty looking one and probably fiercer than her lions. I can send you a picture if you like. markandkateanderson@googlemail.com

Jackie said...

Lovely lovely.
I really like Mary Feddens work. Don't know Elizabeth Bishop's though.

Mila said...

Очень интересная информация!! Спасибо!

rachel said...

How refreshing to see gifts for newborns that aren't in the usual 'baby' colours, or indeed, in glaring primary colours! Such an interesting post, too.

Heather said...

This is so interesting! I love hearing about women like this, especially since I consider myself an artist who fancies herself a writer ;) we like to put ourselves in boxes and think we cant get out. Women like this point out that we most definitely can!

Heather said...

This is so interesting! I love hearing about women like this, especially since I consider myself an artist who fancies herself a writer ;) we like to put ourselves in boxes and think we cant get out. Women like this point out that we most definitely can!

Chrissie said...

I love Mary Fedden's painting,but those little soft lions are adorable too! Nice to see you back here.

Sue said...

Just a quick hello and thank you to all you 'no-reply' bloggers for your kind comments. Your profile set-up means I can't contact you personally with a reply.

A Time to Dance said...

...what beautiful beautiful things...I love the paintings and those gorgous lions..thank you for sharing..

kate fern said...

Gorgeous images, thank you so much for sharing. It's hard to know which I like best the paintings or the lions!