Sunday, 17 November 2013

Kettle's Yard Part II

Kettle's Yard stands as a monument to the High-mindedness of a lot of 19th and 20th century British intellectual life.  I suppose it had it's origins in the Evangelical revival, and in the Victorian ideal of the Gentleman.  It is too be found in the life and works of Thomas and Matthew Arnold, and in all those intellectual dynasties that flow through British public life.  It's there in that Post-War Labour Government.  I see it too in the leadership of the Congress Party in India, such as Nehru and Krishna Menon.  I see it too in the character of  Stephen Lynn in Noel Coward & David Lean's film 'Brief Encounter'; effortlessly superior, clever, and above the physical, and indeed emotional sides of life.  A rational human being, thanks to the developments of modern science and psychiatry. It's end was in the rise of Post War popular culture.  Thankfully Kettle's Yard displays more than just those attributes.  There is a poetic quality to the space and, on the afternoon we visited, the light.

The downstairs living room.  The white walls, absence of mouldings, lack of curtains (grey venetian blinds instead) suggest modernism.  The furniture, the fireplace, bare boards and oriental rugs suggest some older aesthetic - part cottage, part gentry.  In fact there are no pieces of Modernist furniture - no steel, chrome, or black leather.   The furniture is mostly pre-industrial and English.  The 'feel' is very English all together.  It is understated if not frugal, though one is tempted to think that this 'look' is not cheap to achieve.

The Dining alcove, Modernist or Arts and Crafts?  The detailing around the fireplace suggests the former.  Note the ceiling light in the alcove.  If I remember correctly this is the only one in this room; as I wrote in Part I, the Edes seemed averse to modern technology - the house was lit with candles.

Jim Ede's desk, barring the way to his bedroom.

Jim Ede's bedroom.  There is a self-denying ordinance here.  Austerity.  One is tempted to say a denial of the carnal self.  Modernism might be successfully deployed to re-enforce that sense, and thereby becomes a series of styles to be used and combined around the house as needed.  The house has become monastery.  I would go so far a to say that Kettle's Yard was indeed a sort of secular monastery, if not church, dedicated to the propagation of a certain set of artistic values, with Jim Ede as both collector and curator acting as the High Priest of the Mysteries.  For in place of God there was Art.

Another view of Jim Ede's bedroom.  A Neo-Georgian bay window with Modernist blinds.  The important thing here though is the grouping of objects and the objects themselves.  Firstly this low grouping is repeated three times in the house, and then the objects:  the pre-industrial furniture, the Modern art (I think that figurative art just predominates in Kettle's Yard), and the found things.  In assembling them thus he gave resonance to both furniture and found objects.  They become art.  In assembling natural objects as he did Jim Ede gave order to a Post Religious and Post Enlightenment world.

Neo- Georgian detailing on the stairs, but the material (teak) and the open treads suggest Scandinavian Modernism. 

The upstairs sitting room.  The alcove here provides a different sort of sustenance from the one blow.  The chairs, though comfortable, are not for relaxation.  Again the solitary light fitting.  Perhaps because Mrs Ede's bedroom is the next room this room has a more 'femine' feel.

Another view of the upstairs drawing room, with Mrs Ede's bedroom beyond. Note the repetition of low table and chair found earlier in Jim Ede's bedroom

In the early 1970s Kettle's Yard was extended at one end, apart from this one section where I took this picture it is currently closed for renovation.  The work, not by the original architect is completely Modernist, and although in sympathy is not entirely in keeping.

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