On Tuesday we hosted a viewing of the artworks archive of The Illustrated London News for a handful of auctioneers. The archive is not as complete as it once was, but still includes illustrations and paintings by high-profile artists including Terence Cuneo, Bryan de Grineau, Fortunino Matania and Stephen Ward
The auctioneers included 25 Blythe Rd, Christie’s, Bonhams and Sotheby’s, who valued the items and advised on the best way to sell them. Chris Beetles of the Chris Beetles Gallery also came along to give us the benefit of his vast experience in 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century watercolours and illustrations.
It was apparent from the start that what we had unwrapped with anticipation the previous day was a unique collection.
The Fortunino Matania reportage illustrations of World War I and World War II, and of early 20th century royals, are historically accurate and technically excellent. To imagine that many of these were initially sketched out in the front-line trenches or live at the coronation of King George V is extraordinary.
Undoubtedly the most exciting moment was when the very knowledgeable Grazia, our in-house historian, while attempting to answer my questions about a pencil sketch of the “Hampstead Parliament” noticed at the end of her pointed finger, the signature of Terence Cuneo, the official artist for the Coronation of Elizabeth II, immortalised on his death in 1996 by a statue at Waterloo station. This sketch was tucked away among the “unknown artists” pile and could very easily have been missed.
It was pleasing to see Richard Slocombe, senior curator from the Imperial War Museum, spend two hours forensically inspecting some of the works. He pointed out a fascinating drawing of Mussolini, surrounded by fans presenting the Nazi salute on his visit to London in 1910 and who’s recognisable, flawed arrogance Matania captures with obvious ease. There were many more pieces every bit as interesting.
It’s unlikely that these works will be seen together again as they will be sold at auction over the coming months, and it was apparent that these highly experienced specialists, who will have seen a great deal of artworks in their time, felt the same sense of privilege and of “touching” history as we at ILN did.
It was a great privilege to be invited to Le Mans by Aston Martin in their centennial year. To say that your correspondent was excited about this weekend would be an understatement (akin to saying that the 24 hours of Le Mans is ‘just another race’).
Expectations were high; with the perfect run-up to race day, the Professional and Amateur teams were both starting in pole position in their respective classes, the cars and crews were in excellent form, and there was even the threat of periodic sunshine.
It was an even greater thrill to join the GTE Am team in their garages to see the beginning of the race; the cars had been wheeled out to the grid, the decks were cleared for action and the pit-crews were preparing for that unique mix of intense action mixed with periods of inactivity that endurance racing demands. Just nine minutes into the race the atmosphere of excitement turned to disappointment and quickly to disbelief and shock at the tragedy developing at Tertre Rouge.
A tribute to a person can only truly be delivered by those who knew and admired him, so there could be no tribute to Allan Simonsen more sincere than the manner in which his crew and team mates rallied around and, at his family’s request, took the race to the opposition. Under the circumstances, you have never seen teamwork like it and one couldn’t but help being moved by the determined professionalism of not just the pit crews but the entire support team.
Many would argue that the final result was no longer quite so important, when the 97 and 96 cars crossed the finish line shortly after 3pm on Sunday, cursing the weather and debating stop-strategies pointless. Aston Martin Racing did what they came to La Sarthe to do – race – and they did so to the very best of their abilities. Hopefully that can provide some comfort to Allan’s family and the team after such a tragic weekend.
ILN’s work was recently showcased by influential New York-based website Luxury Daily (www.luxurydaily.com), with a detailed and complimentary profile of the new-look Aston Martin magazine.
The feature focuses on the high-end advertisers that placed bookings in the magazine, with the likes of Clive Christian and Ulysse Nardin taking the first double-page spreads. It goes on to list the other clients who booked pages throughout the magazine, as well as showcasing a selection of the editorial content, emphasising its lifestyle credentials. Read more
The Illustrated London News made an appearance at 165 Eaton Place last weekend in the third episode of the second series of the BBC’s popular period drama Upstairs Downstairs.
We don’t believe in spoilers, so you’ll have to watch it yourself to find out what cook Mrs Thackery is reading about…
Watch the episode on BBC iPlayer