Friday, October 24, 2014

The Painter and the Cartoonist


     “Even a casual reader of ‘Dick Tracy’ finds his memory’s dam bursting with recollections … and images.” Richard Marschall, ‘This IS a Comic Strip!’, Nemo 17, Feb 1986
by John Adcock

CHESTER GOULD had many imitators among comic strip artists but he was one of a kind, as writer and artist. The only cartoonist whose influence on Dick Tracy I could ever discern was that of Frank Willard’s Moon Mullins, as can be seen in the faces of Detective Sam Catchem and characters in Tracy’s crowd scenes. Gould mentioned his admiration for Moon Mullins in an interview but Johnson’s influence was slight. Another strip, The Gumps by Sidney Smith, inspired Gould’s storytelling style.

With little to compare him to in cartoonist circles, writers over the years have turned to the fine arts for comparison. Chester Gould’s comic strip style has been described as realist, expressionist, Dadaist and surrealist, and — in one obituary — Gould was headlined as the “Father of Pop Art.” All of these comparisons are valid although Gould himself might have had minimal interest in Fine Art.

1967 — ‘Pacific’
THE FINE ARTIST whose work most closely resembles that of Gould (1900-85) was the Canadian painter Alex Colville (1920-2013), dubbed a “Magic Realist” (he personally preferred the term “straight realism”) who worked steadily from 1951 until his last painting in 2009. Colville, like Gould, was a unique artist and a private person. He reintroduced the practice of egg tempera into Canadian painting.

He had several younger Canadian imitators (Christopher Pratt, Ken Danby and Tom Forrestall) but didn’t consider himself the leader of any “school” of painting. Some of his followers among the photorealistic wildlife painters drifted into the controversial commercial print business. None of Colville’s imitators ever surpassed his stature among Canadian painters however. In 1967 he designed the Centennial Coins – beautiful bird, fish and wildlife designs issued to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Confederation.

“The thing that hit me hardest was the ancient Egyptian art and, of course, its main theme is death, eternity, and all that business.” Its secret lies in a system of mathematics that, millennia later, in a cold attic in Atlantic Canada, Colville uses to make geometric grids for the composition of every spooky painting he puts together. – Harry Bruce article Beside the Shadow of the Raven, 1977

1965 — ‘To Prince Edward Island’
COLVILLE practiced magic realism in a sharply defined realistic style, with elements of the fantastic and the emotionally psychological. His figures were strongly outlined and looked almost like cutouts pasted onto the painted backgrounds. Chester Gould’s drawings also mixed detailed realism with the emotionally disturbing, and both artists used a clear line, flat shapes, frozen time, and sharply defined grid-like structures to anchor visual space. Columnist Harry Bruce described Colville’s grids as ‘his ancient Egyptian geometry.’

“— in varying degrees, Dick Tracy proposed a new standard of precision, a rediscovery of precision such as only those artists, major and minor, who are entitled to be taken with full seriousness, ever deal with. Like Aubrey Beardsley and Max Beerbohm, Chester Gould insists, in his work, on presenting the terms and figures of darkness in the imagery of a superhuman, murderous daylight, the language of impeccable identification.” — ‘Flat Foot Floogie’ by Donald Phelps, Nemo 17, Feb 1986
Gould departed from realism only in his use of exaggerated caricature to delineate his human characters. My feeling is that if Gould’s style must be compared to fine art then magic realism is closer to the descriptive mark than expressionism or surrealism.

Colville’s paintings were widely reproduced in Canadian periodicals but I wouldn’t think that Gould was familiar with Colville’s work, or vice versa. If Gould knew of magic realism it would probably have been through the American paintings of Andrew Wyeth. Nonetheless a comparison of their works discloses a startling similarity of ideas and execution.

1955 — ‘Dick Tracy’, Star WeeklyNov 19
I already entioned the grid-like structure of Colville’s paintings and Gould’s panels, both used straight lines for horizons separating earth from sky, and both frequently cut off the heads of figures in their panels. (Gould often hid them behind word balloons.) Colville’s 1967 painting Pacific cuts off the head of the main figure as does River Spree from 1971. Woman with Revolver decapitates the head and feet.

“…frequently cut off the heads of figures in their panels…”

COULD Colville’s compositions have been inspired by Dick Tracy? Perhaps the question is not as far-fetched as it seems. Colville was eleven years old when Tracy made his debut in 1931. As a Canadian sponsored war artist he may have come across Dick Tracy in comic books, the choice reading of troops serving overseas. If Colville read newspaper comics in the 50s and 60s he couldn’t have missed Dick Tracy, which appeared in many comic sections including The (Toronto) Star Weekly, The Winnipeg Tribune and The (Vancouver) Sunday Sun.

1958 — ‘Birds of Canada; Robin’, by James Fenwick Lansdowne, August 23
I RECALL that in the 60s every time Alex Colville finished a painting it would be reproduced large-sized in the weekend magazine supplements like (Toronto) Star Weekly (1910), (Montréal) Weekend Picture Magazine (1951) and the Canadian (1965). Ken Danby, James Fenwick Lansdowne, and Robert Bateman were others honored with full page color reproductions. Turning to the comic supplement in the same package you would find the Sunday Dick Tracy.

1956 — ‘Dick Tracy’, Star Weekly, June 30
Life magazine stated that “Dick Tracy is bought every day in the year by 18,500,000 people, and is probably read by twice that number.” The Dick Tracy comic books claimed sales of 25 million. It would be more likely that Colville was familiar with Dick Tracy than that Gould knew of Alex Colville, who scoffed when newspaper articles referred to him as an international celebrity. Twenty American museums rejected showings of Colville’s 1984 Retrospective exhibition of paintings and Colville said “I can’t imagine more than five per cent of Canadians are aware I exist.” I think he was being modest.

1975 — ‘Dog and Priest’


Harry Bruce, Beside the Shadow of the Raven — Why death suffuses the art of Alex Colville, Montreal Gazette, Jan 15, 1977.
Alex Colville obituary, The Telegraph, Aug 22, 2013 HERE.
Chester Gould obituary, Los Angeles Times, May 12, 1985 HERE.
All Alex Colville images (copyright A.C. Fine Art Inc.) are reproduced with permission of Official site of Alex Colville HERE.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Posada Art Books, a Dutch miracle in Brussels


[1] Posada Art Books. A photo I took of Ada en Martijn Oleff in front of their shop, at Spoormakers straat 50 rue des Éperonniers in Brussels on 22 September 1980.

by Huib van Opstal

‘The spark hit me… A fascinating world…’
   
STEPPING INTO his bookshop, Martijn Oleff instantly gave you the feeling you were an old friend. I bet he did that to every customer of Posada, the shop he and his wife Ada Roorda ran in Brussels, the capital of Belgium. Their Posada began in 1974 as a small gallery specialized in art prints (‘grafiek’) and was named in remembrance of a Mexican artist-engraver who published and sold his raw prints and pamphlets in his own shop too, José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) – with the added attraction it contained Ada’s first name.

[2] Mexican newspaper boys. Niños voceadores de periódicos on the cover of a stapled booklet, engraving on type metal by J.G. Posada, c.1900; sent out as a Posada Art Books mailing around 1979.

POSADA ART BOOKS moved house twice, but all three addresses were located in bilingual Brussels. The first in 1974-81 was at Spoormakers straat 50 rue des Éperonniers, zip code 1000, at the heart of the city. A shop that soon morphed into a very special type of bookshop that offered what was called ‘Art visuel (livres neufs et d’occasion),’ every type of art publication in any language, new or used. A spicy detail is that the Belgian book trade at the time saw selling modern art and books in foreign languages in Brussels as suicidal. But Posada Art Books became a thriving business: a Dutch miracle in Brussels.

[3] Posada mailing. Six thematical book lists folded into El purgatorio artistico, engraving on type metal by J.G. Posada, c.1900; sent out as a Posada Art Books mailing around 1979.

DUTCH BOOK HISTORIAN Piet J. Buijnsters published his latest book in 2013, when he was 80 years of age, a history of the antiquarian book trade and the love of books in Belgium, a work applauded as a ‘trailblazer’ — titled Geschiedenis van antiquariaat en bibliofilie in België (1830-2012). In this 432-page book Buijnsters included 35 of his personally conducted interviews with Belgian antiquarians and collectors. In the Summer of 2010, one of these was held at Posada Art Books in Brussels with an antiquarian who already knew the days of both his bookshop and his life were numbered: Martijn Oleff, who spontaneously gushed out a wide range of names and details that once inspired his career. Almost ‘a long monologue’ according to Buijnsters.

[4] First Posada logo. A stylized symbol looking like a mirrored S. Was it Mexican? A good-luck sign? A labyrinth?

ADA S.B. OLEFF-ROORDA. Martijn and Ada, both born in 1941, came from the Netherlands (or Nederland, or Holland), he from Rotterdam, she from Scheveningen (part of Den Haag, or The Hague). They met in their teens and after some international stints in the book and print trade in the Netherlands, the US, Mexico and Spain, decided to try their luck in Belgium in 1974. They did their business in Dutch and French, and spoke some German, English and Spanish as well.

MARTIJN CORNELIS OLEFF (born 10 October 1941, Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland — ‘Oleff, that’s Scandinavian’ he told his interviewer), first worked as a biochemical analyst at Organon in Oss, Noord-Brabant, much to his dissatisfaction. In the early 1960s he stayed in Spain for many months. He then began to work as factotum for the small publishing company of Ad Donkers in Rotterdam, at the same time following a two-year correspondence course in Bookselling & Publishing. Just-married, he and Ada headed for the US where he landed a job with art book seller Wittenborn and Co. in New York.

[5] Art book seller. George Wittenborn managing his paperwork in the 1960s.
GEORGE WITTENBORN (1905-74, Jewish, fled from Germany in the 30s) with his wife Joyce Phillips (from England) in the US mainly dealt in imported art books, the latest titles from the finest European publishers from Germany, France, the UK, Spain, Italy. The Wittenborns. also published books and since 1956 used every inch of available wall space of their Madison Avenue shop as their ‘One-Wall Gallery.’ Martijn Oleff couldn’t resist mentioning that artists Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol were frequent visitors at “Wittenborn and Company, 1018 Madison Avenue.
‘Working with Wittenborn, the spark hit me… A fascinating world… I got to know many other book traders, and major customers and museums too.’ Martijn Oleff  (in: Buijnsters, 2013)

[6] Don Quichotte. ‘A ‘calavera’ or skeleton-view featuring Don Quixote, a broadsheet print by José Guadalupe Posada, engraving on type metal, c.1900; published around 2 November — All Souls’ Day or “the Day of the Dead” in Mexico.

WANDERINGS. While working and living in the US for two years, in New York, Martijn developed an interest in Mexican culture and began to collect the metal cut prints of J.G. Posada. Since their residence permits expired after two years, he and Ada drove to Mexico to set up a bookshop there, for some gallery owner — a failed project. Back in Europe Martijn worked a couple of years at Editorial Blume in Barcelona, Spain — abruptly ended by Sigfrid Blume’s bankruptcy. Then, around 1970 in Ada’s hometown The Hague in the Netherlands, they set up Edition Unida and published ‘multiples & graphics’ (‘grafiek’) of modern artists. When their financial backing fell away they tried their luck in the South, in neighbouring country Belgium, in the city of Brussels. In April 1974 they opened their first Posada shop at Spoormakers straat 50 rue des Éperonniers, initially using the rented premise as a small gallery to sell the remainder of their art prints — which didn’t work out as expected.

SELLING old and new fine art books became their core business, although they kept selling art prints and multiples. Martijn was always snooping around for good old stuff, in other shops, at the Vossenplein place du Jeu de Balle flea market in the old city of Brussels, at trade fairs. Posada as a bookshop really took off when it acquired the complete stock of bookseller Hankard.

[7] Cheese market. A walk along the Spoormakers straat rue des Éperonniers, a view towards the Kaasmarkt rue du Marché aux Fromages, c.1905 photo.
[8] Cows and cheese. A walk along the Spoormakers straat rue des Éperonniers — a closer view of the Kaasmarkt rue du Marché aux Fromages, the location where the cheese market was held, c.1905 photo.
[9] Adverts. A walk along the Spoormakers straat rue des Éperonniers, a view of the large wall advertising at the Kaasmarkt rue du Marché aux Fromages, with already a glimpse of number 50 in the distance, on the left, 1905 photo.
[10] Corsets and lace. A walk along the Spoormakers straat rue des Éperonniers — the shop at number 50, c.1910 photo. When Posada Art Books left here in 1981 the shop was taken over by Wijnand and Mieke Plaizier who specialized in posters and cards.

AFTER SEVEN YEARS at Spoormakers straat 50 rue des Éperonniers Martijn and Ada moved their shop to a larger space around the corner, their second Posada shop, at Magdalena steenweg 27 rue de la Madeleine, in 1981. Finally, seven years later again, they moved to the adjoining building at number 29, their third Posada shop and a truly glorious location, in 1988.

Six years earlier, Belgian graphic artist Ever Meulen was commissioned to make a brand new Posada Art Books logo, in 1982.

[11] Bilingual streets. A 1970 list of all street names in the Brussels area in both Dutch and French, with zip codes, titled Lijst der openbare wegen van de Brusselse agglomeratie met aanduiding van de postnummers; Liste des voies publiques de l’agglomération Bruxelloise avec indication des numéros postaux. Paperback, size A5, 315 pages, plus 46 pages of later added modifications (in the shape of 9 inserted booklets, 1970-81), published by the Belgian Postal Administration and untouched by designer’s hands.

PART OF the larger kingdom of the Netherlands until 1830, Belgium split itself off by a nationalist revolt and became the present kingdom of België or Belgique situated between the Netherlands and France. But its population still bickers on about its multiple languages. Today a larger half of around 60% of Belgians speaks Flemish (Dutch, also in dialect). A smaller half of around 39 percent speaks Walloon (French, also in dialect) — even German speakers claim one percent. Today, a linguistic frontier officially splits the country in two: only Dutch spoken in the North, only French spoken in the south. On top of it, Brussels, its capital right in the middle, is bilingual with all street name signs lettered in Dutch and French, crammed in any size of sign, no matter how long the text runs. But this French-Dutch agglomerative wall dictionary is never read in full. To turn a blind eye to the opposite language, to half of the names, is standard procedure. Denial is the second name of most Belgians.
[12] Bilingual street name sign. ‘Spoormakers’ or ‘éperonniers’ were makers of spurs.
‘With customers from both sides of the linguistic frontier, I wasn’t troubled by the linguistic conflict in Belgium. But some customers had a problem with it themselves. Resulting in customers standing outside, before the shop window, waiting until the Flemings inside left, or vice versa!…’Martijn Oleff  (in: Buijnsters, 2013)

YOUNG and Dutch, I was working as art director-designer for a Dutch bi-weekly pop music paper — Muziekkrant Oor — when chief editor Jan-Maarten de Winter and I commissioned a series of section logos from Eddy Vermeulen for the year 1978. Eddy was a top-notch graphic artist from 1946 who worked in Brussels under his trade name ‘Ever Meulen.’ A few years later I managed to connect Martijn Oleff with him to have an illustrated Posada logo done.

[13] Posada logo design. Some of the initial pencil sketches by Ever Meulen, 1982 — with the germ of the triple-A idea…
[14] Pencil sketch. Logo, final design sketch in pencil by Ever Meulen, with the triple-A idea developed into a mask-like lettering.
[15] Final version. Hand-lettered, in Indian ink.
[16] Printed version. Used in a variety of print products in 1982-2011.
THE WAY Martijn Oleff with his jolly walrus mustache is portrayed in Ever Meulen’s final logo design for Posada is spot on: when a customer walked into his bookshop Martijn would look up as an old friend… in the midst of some intense research… Then offered you coffee with a smile, and books and papers in every shape or size. And whatever book or artist you mentioned, he always shared some stimulating insight about it – producing more and more printed works you’d never seen before. Strips or bandes dessinées were limited to just half a shelf and he jokingly agreed “to hell with comics!” — the incredible shrinking medium with its zealots and their restrictive definitions. Reaching mainstream audiences with comics was already on the wane in the 1980s.

[17] Already a memory. The third Posada shop on the cover of a Dutch book about the Belgian antiquarian book trade, by Piet J. Buijnsters, published in 2013.
2010-2011. In his final working year at the Magdalena steenweg rue de la Madeleine, Martijn Oleff reminisced about his international dealings in the past with:
…art book dealers like Heneage, Batterham, Sims & Reed in London, Perkins in Oxford, Laget in Paris, Vloemans in The Hague, Brouwer in Amsterdam, Ursus and Rietman in New York, Walter König in Cologne, De Nobele in Paris, and many others…Martijn Oleff  (in: Buijnsters, 2013)

THE GETTY. He took pride in having the library of the New York Getty Museum as a regular customer. He collected typewriters and ornamental prints (1830 and later). Published an occasional little catalogue himself and was blessed with Ada doing all day-to-day administrations. They lived in nearby Duisburg, halfway Brussels and Leuven-Louvain, arrived in the center of Brussels by car, six days a week, around seven o’clock each morning, and had their daily dinner at noon around the corner, in a cosy restaurant, often taken visitors with them.

[18] Martijn Oleff. Tribute in Elsevier magazine (detail with photo by Jan van de Wel).
 
FINAL. A final interview with Martijn and Ada in the Dutch weekly Elsevier under the header ‘A world bookshop’ (een wereldboekhandel) concluded in late 2010: ‘They’re tired’ (ze zijn moe). The new internet possibilities changed all book searching and selling. When closing shop in May 2011 Martijn was approaching seventy and physically already suffering unspeakable diseases. He finally passed away in Duisburg around ten o’clock in the morning of Tuesday 10 June, 2014. His cremation was the following Saturday, in silence; twenty of his family members were present at the funeral service.

[19] Closed down. The shopfront the week after, early May, posters in four languages, Dutch, French, French and German, saying: ‘Posada art books will be permanenly closed from May 3, 2011. We thank our customers and our colleagues for their friendship and loyalty.’

[20] In fond memory. Martijn Cornelis Oleff, bookseller, b. 10 October 1941, Rotterdam, Nederland – d. 10 June 2014, Duisburg, België.

THANKS TO:
Piet J. Buijnsters
Marcel Cattoor
Eddy Vermeulen
Jan-Maarten de Winter
Mieke & Wijnand Plaizier
Universiteit Gent
Elsevier Weekblad
Carla Joosten
Ada S.B. Oleff-Roorda

In late 2011 the premises at Magdalena steenweg 29 rue de la Madeleine were rented to chocolatier Neuhaus, who offers chocolat only in an interior setting of cold glass and marble. The old-style interior has been knocked out. 

Go back to the interiors of all four floors of the Posada bookshop in early 2011 via dozens of photos HERE.

See Martijn in Posada in early 2011 HERE.

See the website initiated by Martijn Oleff, Les Polyèdres, set up by Remy Bellenger HERE.

…Venez chez moi, je vous montrerais mes Polyèdres…Alfred Jarry, Ubu Cocu

See the present Plaizier shop HERE.

See Ever Meulen HERE and HERE.

See the 2013 book by Piet J. Buijnsters, Geschiedenis van antiquariaat en bibliofilie in België (1830-2012) at Vantilt publishers HERE. 


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Little Willie’s Dream strip


[1]
“…Wow! What a narrow escape eh!? Where did Broncho Billy go? Oh! I was only dreaming…”
COMIC HISTORIANS delight in finding unknown examples of comics mimicking the dénouement of Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo dream strips where our hero falls out of bed to find it was only a dream. Examples can be found both before and after McCay began Little Nemo in Slumberland in the New York Herald on October 15, 1905.

Little Willie’s Dream was a 1914 comic strip feature in Motion Picture Magazine. W.H. Sheahan made a Little Willie’s Dream page for the November 1914 issue; L. Kirshbaum made one for the January 1914 issue.

Gilbert M. “Broncho Billy” Anderson (1880-1971, real name Max Aronson) while still a budding movie actor —‘lost his role as a mounted outlaw in The Great Train Robbery (1903) because he kept falling off his horse’ (Brownlow, 1978). He did eventually make it as an actor in Westerns though. His biggest success came when he decided to set up his own film company, together with George K. Spoor. An S for Spoor and an A for Anderson gave it its name: the
Essanay Company (1908-16). Gilbert M. Anderson became the first ‘motion picture cowboy’ in over 500 short Broncho Billy Westerns, one-reelers, and finally two-reelers. All filmed in his own primitive little studio in Niles Canyon, California. It was there that the first Broncho Billy was made, in July 1910. Most of these short films are lost.

[2] Nov 1914. Willie ‘shall die at the stake…’ Little Willie’s Dream. One-pager by W.H. Sheahan; dream strip in Motion Picture Magazine.
[3] 1910s. Rerelease of the early Broncho Billy one-reel films or ‘photoplays.’
[4] 1912. “BRONCHO BILLY.” Essanay publicity photograph. ‘…Broncho Billy Anderson, dressed in the Easterner’s conception of the Western costume, derived largely from dime novels…’ (Fenin & Everson, 1973)
[5] Jan 1915. Willie is shown ‘how to ride a hawss…’ Little Willie’s Dream. One-pager by L. Kirshbaum; dream strip in Motion Picture Magazine.
[6] 1905-11. Little Nemo in Slumberland. Final.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Lichty Cartoons


1 [1961] Detail from Grin and Bear It by Lichty, Sunday page
CARTOONS by George Maurice Lichtenstein (1905-83) who presented himself as ‘Geo. M. Lichty’, signing his work ‘Lichty’ — with the dot on the ‘i’ as a small circle.
      
2 [1947] Modern Screen (advertisement)
3 [1947] Modern Screen (advertisement)
4 [1947] Modern Screen (advertisement)
5 [1948] Modern Screen (advertisement)
6 [1961] Grin and Bear It, in Vancouver Sunday Sun, Sept. 17
7 [1961] Grin and Bear It, in Winnipeg Free Press, August 5
8 [1961] Most of Lichty’s work of this period is inked with a lush brush (detail from Grin and Bear It page)
See also Line and style HERE.

‘i’
  

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ralph Rollington’s Marriage


[1] A.J. Allingham, aka ‘Ralph Rollington

   by Robert J. Kirkpatrick
 
‘Ralph Rollington’ – the name was familiar to many readers of boys’ story papers throughout the 1880s, as both an author of school and adventure stories and as an editor/publisher of a range of cheap periodicals, in particular The Boy’s World and Our Boys’ Paper. He later became well-known for his anecdotal A Brief History of Boys’ Journals, published in 1913. Rollington, whose real name was Albert John Allingham, painted a rather rosy picture of what was, in the late 1800s, a time of intense and often bitter competition between rival publishers, and he himself came across as genial, benevolent and mild-mannered. But behind the air of bonhomie and easy friendship that Allingham portrayed lay a dark secrethis troubled marriage to an American woman which started with tragedy, then presumably settled into a state of stability, only to descend into acrimony and violence, with Allingham being accused of both cruelty and adultery. But that was only half the story…

[2] Marriage.

SECRETARY. Albert John Allingham, born in Southwark, UK, on 26 June 1844, began his working life as a compositor alongside his older brother James (who went on to launch The Christian Globe in 1874). In 1866, he travelled to New York, where he was later to meet up with the author Bracebridge Hemyng, and where, on 9 August 1868, at the Presbyterian Church of the Sea and Land, he married Eva Leoni Smith, a 23 year-old secretary. Their first child, Albert William, was born in New York in May 1869, but he died aged only 5 months. The couple then settled in London, where they had four further children: Eva Leoni (b. June 1870), Nellie Grace (born January 1873), William Albert (b. May 1875), and Violet May (b. May 1880).

BOYS’ PAPERS. Between 1879 and 1888 Allingham devoted himself to writing for and publishing boys’ papers, enjoying only limited success. He was usually struggling financially, although unlike many of his contemporaries he managed to stay out of the bankruptcy courts. It may have been that life in London was not as glamorous as Eva had been led to believe it would be, and the family’s relative poverty may well have created tension between the couple.

CLAIM. On 16 October 1890 Eva filed a petition for divorce. At the time she was living at 131 Ruckledge Avenue, Harlesden, Middlesex. In her affidavit, sworn on 15 October, she claimed that her husband had been mistreating her since around 1877in her own words:
Albert John Allingham has habitually treated me with unkindness and neglect and cruelty and that he has habitually used coarse and offensive and insulting language to me and swore at me and threatened me and (…) has dragged me out of bed and downstairs in the middle of the night and that on divers occasions he has assaulted and struck me.Read the full petition HERE.
She went on to highlight three specific incidents of violence, at their homes in East Dulwich in 1881, Heston, Middlesex in 1882 and Dulwich in 1883, which culminated in Allingham walking out on her in 1885. Furthermore, she claimed that since 1879 Allingham had habitually committed adultery with a woman calling herself Mrs Lilley, Mrs Lilian English and Lilley Tempest at various places including Islington, Dulwich, Nunhead and Tottenham.

Ava’s solicitor continued to act for her between October 1890 and July 1891. In March 1892 a new solicitor filed a notice that he was now acting for her, but when the case was finally called at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand on 25 October 1892 no one appeared, and the judge ordered that it be struck off. The divorce was therefore never finalised.

CENSUS. At the time of the 1891 census, Eva and her daughter Violet May were recorded as visitors at an address in Chipping Barnet, Hertfordshire, staying with a Henry Dixon, a 50 year-old carpenter, and his family. Albert Allingham was absent from the census, possibly having returned to New York with his other children, as there is no trace of them in the census either.

Whether or not Albert was a violent and/or adulterous husband as Eva claimed cannot be proved. Under the then existing legislation (the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857) if a husband wanted a divorce he had only to prove his wife’s adultery, whereas if a wife wanted a divorce she had to prove not only adultery but also cruelty or desertion.

Ironically, direct evidence of cruelty came to light three years after Eva had filed for divorce, but this time it was on the part of Eva herself.

[3] Cruelty.
Eva, described as a lady of independent means, living in Twickenham, on 12 February 1894, at Brentford Police Court, was charged with having cruelly ill-treated her daughter, May, aged 13, in a manner likely to cause her unnecessary suffering. May (actually Violet May), had been living with her mother since the previous August. The Pall Mall Gazette (13 February 1894) reported:
The child stated that she could not remember a day for the last six months when she had not been beaten. She had been struck with switches, with a blind-roller, with a carpet stick, with a violin bow, and with the back of a hairbrush. Once she bought a cake with twopence belonging to her mother, and for that she had been put in a cold bath, her head being held under water until she was quite exhausted, while she was afterwards beaten with a knotted rope until she was covered with weals, which were rubbed with salt.
Other newspapers, including Reynolds’s Newspaper, reported that her evidence included that she was only ever given breakfast and tea, and no dinner; that she was compelled to keep pieces of soap in her mouth for up to half-an-hour; and that Eva had scrubbed her teeth with a scrubbing brush such that her gums bled. The Pall Mall Gazette continued:
She had several times run away from home in consequence of the treatment she received from her mother. The punishments she had mentioned were inflicted for various small offences, such as neglecting her household work, making mistakes in errands, or telling stories.
Corroborative evidence came from May’s elder sister (named as Mary in some reports, but presumably Nellie), who witnessed some of the acts described whilst staying with Eva the previous year.

DENIALS. When Eva reappeared before the Court a few days later, she denied having beaten her daughter as alleged, claiming that she had only ever beaten her with a stick taken from the garden. She also denied the other accusations. However, the magistrates did not believe her, and she was found guilty and sentenced to three months imprisonment with hard labour, and fined £10 (half of which would go to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children).

When she was released from prison Eva went to live in Battersea, from where, at the end of June 1894, she summonsed Albert Allingham for non-payment of maintenance totalling £36 15s. It appears that at some point after separating from Eva Albert was required under a court order to contribute 35 shillings a week to her support. In his defence to the summons, Albert said that he was not aware that he was obliged to provide for her maintenance whilst she was in prison.

The magistrate told him that he was liable under the court order, and that it was no defence to say that she was being supported by the state. Despite Albert then claiming that he was unable to pay, an order for payment was made, although Albert was then allowed to take out a summons against his wife to show cause why the order should not be varied, on the grounds that he was paying for his daughter’s education. The outcome of this is not known (London Standard, 29 June 1894).

FINAL. The final act in this rather sad saga came in March 1895, when Eva was charged with obtaining relief from the Wandsworth and Clapham Poor Law Guardians by falsely representing herself as destitute. The magistrates were satisfied that, despite her claim that the allowance she was receiving from Albert was very small, Eva had made a false declaration of her circumstances, and she was sent to prison for 21 days with hard labour (Pall Mall Gazette, 13 March 1895).

What happened to Eva after that is not known. She does not appear in any further census returns, nor is there is any record of her death in any of the online indexes. Violet May Allingham married James Charles Reynolds, an actor, in Barnet in 1905. Albert Allingham appeared in the 1901 census, described as a widow, and living as a boarder in Hammersmith with the family of Nicholas Boyce, a professional musician. He died in Hammersmith on 24 August 1924, aged 80, and was buried in the Essex village of Chappel, home to his daughter Nellie Grace.

[4] Sentenced.