Ricketts, Charles (1866-1931) by Scholes, Robert

Ricketts (1866 – 1931) He was born on October 2, 1866, in Geneva, where his father, Charles Robert Ricketts was studying painting after having been invalided out of the Royal Marine Light Infantry. Ricketts’s mother, Hélène Jouhan (née de Sousy) was a Frenchwoman who was, according to Ricketts, She may have been the illegitimate daughter of a French count. bred Italian. Ricketts’s parents soon settled near London, but because doctors advised that the English climate was too hard on Mrs. Ricketts, she and her son moved back to the continent. Ricketts spent much of his youth in France and Italy. Too sickly to attend school regularly, he was educated mostly by governesses or left to his own devices. He became an avid reader and museum-goer. Upon the death of his mother, Ricketts, aged thirteen, returned to England to live with his father, who died two years later. His paternal grandfather provided for him to enroll in the City and Guilds Technical Art School in 1882. There is a full discussion of Rickets and his work on –from which the following excerpt has been taken: www.operetta.org A friend from student days remembered Ricketts as he added While at Lambeth, Ricketts met fellow student . For the rest of their lives Ricketts and Shannon were inseparable. Together in London they opened The Vale Press to produce exquisitely designed pages and bindings for limited editions of popular English classics. Early examples of their work show a design aesthetic rooted in the Arts and Crafts Movement but later freshened with Art Nouveau borders, type faces and woodblock illustrations. The books that survive are now cherished collectors’ items. Shannon, the more reticent of the two, became (and remained) a talented painter of portraits and landscape idylls. Ricketts, more assertive and restless, worked in a wide range of media and subjects. He was a brilliant conversationalist and, as a friend later recalled, Perhaps it was this character trait that came to dominate for as the years passed Ricketts continued to paint but earned a more lasting reputation as an insightful art critic, collector, and connoisseur. For display in the house they shared in Richmond, the two artists collected antiquities, old master drawings, paintings and small bronzes. One of their prized possessions was a Grecian vase with a cracked foot— joked Ricketts, They bought Japanese prints too and Ricketts made himself knowledgeable in what was still an arcane specialty. They also collected about them a coterie of like-minded artists, the already established and the merely hopeful, who came to the Richmond house Friday evenings for a lively exchange of ideas. An amiable limerick of the day had it that: a short, ramshackle youth in a cloud of extremely fine, tow-coloured hair which stood around his head like a dandelion puff … I have never met a more energetic or more rapid mind. Charles Shannon had a passion for influencing others. no doubt, the result of carelessness on the part of Clytemnestra’s maid. There was a young lady from Annan Whose father-in-law was a canon She gave up the church For artistic research And consorted with Ricketts and Shannon. Ricketts was seized with interest by the art of various eras and cultures, but it was the paintings of the Italian Renaissance that became in time his primary delight. His treatise on Titian (1910), one of his three books of art criticism, was admired by scholars and read for decades in art history classes. His first encounter with theater design came when Ricketts provided sets and costumes for his friend Oscar Wilde’s . Considerable discussion went into the design of Salomé’s costume. Should it be black like the night, silver like the moon, or green, as Ricketts is said to have suggested, The production was a mixed success but sufficient to impress George Bernard Shaw who gave Ricketts a series of design commissions that culminated in the celebrated production of starring Sybil Thorndike at the New Theater in 1924. In the years that intervened, Ricketts consolidated his influential position in the theater by designing important Shakespeare revivals (, , and ) and productions of new plays by Yeats, Masefield, Barrie, Maeterlinck, and Granville Barker. Salomé like some curious, poisonous lizard? Saint Joan Macbeth Lear Henry VIII

Back to top

Back to Top