Saturday, 6 January 2018

Luther Hooper - the Peasant Relationship?

I have no written record of Luther Hooper explaining the relationship that Hooper had with the Haslemere Peasants movement, however there are two significant indications:

1. Luther Hooper's sample T.254-1970, the composition of which is very similar to that of Godfrey Blount's deer and tree designs.  The sample is described as "Woven sample of white silk with metal strip and stag and fir tree design mounted in a card frame".   This one of many Luther Hooper samples that were given to the museum by Waldo Lanchester (1897-1978) the puppeteer.  This symmetrical design composition is not one I have seen from other artists at the time.  This is a very simple design for Hooper which is unusual.  The deer in Hooper's weaving are all facing away from the tree, but in Blount's designs they are always facing or eating from the tree.

Luther Hooper sample
T.254-1970, Victoria & Albert Museum
Montage of peasant deer and tree designs by the Haslemere Peasant Arts
movement, from my earlier post here

2. "A group of kindred craftsmen".  In his brief online autobiography (online here), Hooper states that he moved to Haslemere to be with "a group of kindred craftsmen".  He writes "In 1901 I returned to London in order to design for and superintend a small tapestry-weaving industry at Bushey, a branch of weaving I had not hitherto studied: here I remained for rather more than a year and then removed to Haslemere, where there was a group of kindred craftsmen, and set up a few looms assisted by my son and three skilled weavers who had been with me at Ipswich."

Luther Hooper sample
T.14-1999, Victoria & Albert Museum

Some years before moving to Haslemere, he is reported as presenting a paper to the Ipswich School of Science and Art (Ipswich Journal, 21 April 1894, p6) titled 'The Relation and Value of Art Education to Local Industries', in his address, Hooper exhibits many similar opinions to the Haslemere Peasants, at a time when these were not being publicly shared as far as I can see.  Similarities include: the quoting of Ruskin, the reverence of artistic objects made for daily use, the importance of local industry, the influence of the art master in training the taste of the student and advocating the formation of a permanent collection of works with which to train students.

“They knew how much Mr Hooper did to interest them by his productions, as exhibited at the Art Gallery in connection with the Society of which he was president, but they, probably, did not know the high position that gentleman occupied in the art word in designing….Mr Luther Hooper then read a most interesting and valuable paper, and after remarking that education in all its different aspects had for the last half century been on of the foremost subjects of enquiry, argument, and experiment, proceeded to give his idea of what should be the method and character of art education, with a view of showing how the advantages offered by such schools as those existing in Ipswich could be made of most value to students and all concerned. 
Luther Hooper 'Oriental Stripe'
T.23:3-1999, Victoria & Albert Museum

"Opportunities should be given to students of seeing fine examples of all kinds of art productions, and it was in this connection that a permanent collection of fine works of art and handicraft became so useful and important.  No town should reckon itself respectable, not to say advanced, which did not provide a beautiful building for a permanent gallery – (applause) – and devote a considerable amount of thought and money to the gradual collection of objects of really fine art. 

"Mr Hooper next treated of art education in its relation to local industry.   He gave some striking passages from Ruskin’s works, which pointed a finely-expressed conclusion that the entire vitality of art depended upon its being either full of truth or full of use – that however pleasant, wonderful, or impressive it might be of itself, it must be of inferior kind and must tend to still deeper inferiority unless it had one of these main objects in view – either to state a true thing or to adorn a serviceable one; and in continuation said we might carry this suggestive enquiry through the whole range of manufacture and should find that the best and most useful things are the most beautiful, and that there is a close connection between good workmanship and high artistic excellence.  It is quite a modern heresy and most pernicious to think, as so many people appear to do, that fine art has only to do with the painting of pictures for the enjoyment of the wealthy collector or merely as pieces of furniture whose only office and object is to adorn an otherwise bare space of flat wall.  The greatest masters of art of all ages have given no small portion of their time and devoted some of their best efforts to the designing and modelling of articles for daily use, and in the palmy days of art he who could produce a really fine piece of pottery, jewellery, armour, furniture, ironwork, or carving, was counted worthy of equal honour with men who could paint the portrait of an emperor or a representation of a saint. 

Luther Hooper 'Small Muir',
T.11:2-1999, Victoria & Albert Museum

"Fine art has, or should have, much to do with local industry, and art education, if properly pursued, will promote and improve the productions and manufactures of a neighbourhood.  There is one branch of local industry in this town which has evidently been considerably influenced by art education.  I think no stranger can walk through Ipswich without noticing, as I did when I first came here, a distinctly high character and degree of excellence attained by some local shop-sign painter or painters.  I knew no town where there is so large a proportion of well-painted, original, and finely-lettered shop facias.  There is a distinct character in these, and I should not be surprised to find that these good things are the result of studies began at the Ipswich School of Art.  There are many other industries that might be improved and benefited in every way by a close relationship to art education.  It is not easy to get good artistic printing done in Ipswich, judging from the specimens one sees on bills and programmes, and yet what a delightful and delighting art that of the printer is, and what a fine opportunity it gives for the use of taste and judgment, both in the selection of type and displaying of it.  The same may be said of the kindred art of bookbinding.  I know of few more satisfactory things to possess than a finely-printed and beautifully and fitly-bound book.  One might easily bring many instances to prove that high artistic quality, wedded, as it invariably must be, to good workmanship, is of a distinct commercial value, and I maintain that the relation of the Art School to the manufacturers should be a most kindly and cordial one, and that it is to be the interest of the latter to promote its effectiveness by every means in their power.  In considering the relation of art to local industry, we must remember that the students are divided into two classes, those who intend to take to art in some form or other as a means of livelihood, and those who commence a course of study because they have an aptitude for art, and a sufficient love of it to enable them to endure a certain amount of drudgery in its pursuit, but who do not intend to make it their chief aim. 

Luther Hooper 'Heartsease'
T.10:5-1999, Victoria & Albert Museum

"…The first class (of course the minority), who intend to live by art in some form or other, will be of value to manufacturers as cultivated workers, in whatever branch of handicraft they take up.  But it is the second class that I should like to point out are, or may be, specially of value to local industry, because, knowing and appreciating what is good, they are disposed to demand a high standard of quality in all they purchase, and having some experience of the Application and pains required to reach any degree of perfection in the fine arts, they can appraise at their proper value articles baring evidence of artistic thought and skill.  I have heard manufacturers say that it is no use producing good things, for the public will not buy them; they must be vulgarised or they will not sell.  But thanks to the influence of the Art School the public are beginning to demand a higher standard of excellence, and well-designed things are beginning to have a value in addition to heir artistic one – I mean the value so important to a manufacturer, a monetary one.  …The art master’s business is to train the eye and hand, to enlarge the ideas, and to improve and guide the taste of the student.  I believe technical training can only be of value when it is obtained by the student while taking part in actual work.  …actually valuable work, artistic or otherwise, can only be learnt in the studio, drawing  office, or workshop.  The last thing I have to say – and  am glad of this opportunity of saying it – is, that as I have advocated the formation of permanent collections of works of fine art and handicraft as important helpers in the training of art students”

Luther Hooper sample,
T.13:1-1999, Victoria & Albert Museum

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