Featuring Cecil Beaton
7 May – 1 June, Opening 7 May, 4 – 8 pm
The Last Tuesday Society, 11 Mare Street, E8 4RP
In the first major London exhibition of Stephen Tennant’s work since 1976, The Last Tuesday Society will be transformed into a replica of Tennant’s Wiltshire manor, Wilsford, exhibiting an extensive collection of the artist’s paintings, drawings, doodles, manuscripts and furniture, alongside ohotographs of Tennant, his circle and his home by Cecil Beaton. Nicky Haslam will also lend previously unseen footage of Tennant.
Stephen Tennant was reputed to be the brightest of the bright young things, closely associated with Rex Whistler, Cecil Beaton, the Sitwells, Lady Diana Manners and the Mitfords. He was immortalised in print by, amongst others, V.S.Naipaul, Nancy Mitford & Evelyn Waugh.
The Last Professional Exquisite by Philip Hoare
Stephen Tennant was a work-in-progress. Born in 1906 as the youngest son of the newly ennobled Baron Glenconner, his life was an expectation of privilege. Yet he subverted that all by becoming, in the words of Jacob Epstein, the most beautiful person, male or female, of his generation. Gold dust in his hair, vaseline on his eyelids, a leather coat copied from his brother?s First World War flying jacket (with the addition of a chincilla fur collar), he outraged staid society by dressing as a beggar in rags, and arriving with the greatest war poet, and protestor, Siegfried Sassoon on his arm.
But that dream ended, and Stephen, as the world became serious, retreated to the Arts and Crafts manor built for his mother by Detmar Blow, deep in a Wiltshire valley. There, overtaken by the vulgarity of the modern world, he recreated his beloved South of France ? the imaginary territory of his never-to-be-completed masterpiece, Lascar: A Story of the Maritime Boulevards. And just as he forever re-wrote that manuscript, in ever-changing ink colours, and illustrated it with the tough tars and tarts of his fantasties, so Wilsford Manor was refurbished in his image.
Twenty two tons of silver sand were spread on the lush English lawns to evoke his Marseilles dream, Chinese fan palms planted, and tropical birds and lizards let loose in the grounds. In the winter, they took refuge in the house, accompanying Stephen as he turned the bath taps on his collection of shells, since they looked better that way. Meanwhile Cecil Beaton brought David Bailey and David Hockney, Kenneth Anger and Derek Jarman came to call, all rapt in Stephen’s stories of Greta Garbo or the Ballets Russe, of the Sitwells and Rex Whistler, of dear Morgan Forster and Virginia’s pecularities, of Lawrence of Arabia and his beloved Willa Cather. And there Stephen lived on, in exquisite, decorative reclusion, reliving his past glories and imagining his future ones, such as this long-awaited exposition of his beauty and his art in London’s salubrious East End
More information from http://viktorwyndfineart.co.uk/stephentennantbio.html
An extensive selection of Stephen Tennant manuscript poems, letters, doodles, drawings & paintings are available from £20, framed drawings from £60.
A limited edition of nine postcards of Stephen Tennant drawings & one Cecil Beaton photograph will be available for £6.
All items courtesy of Sotheby’s and photos of Wilsford by James Mortimer, courtesy of The World of Interiors and film footage from Nicky Haslam.