Wednesday 2 October 2019

On the Beach and In the Stacks

When would you say this photo was taken? Sixties? Seventies?
 In fact, it was taken in 1913, using the autochrome colour process, by Lt-Col Mervyn O'Gorman, a man of many parts who did much to ensure that Britain had something like a fighting air force when the Kaiser War came along. Later in his career, he took a keen interest in road safety and was instrumental in getting the first Highway Code published. And, in 1913, he took a series of photographs of his neighbour's teenage daughter, Christina, dressed in red and with her hair down, striking hippyish poses on the beach. He also made etchings and linocuts, and published a volume of poetry with the deeply unpromising title Verses Gloomy and Gay.
 I came across the name of Mervyn O'Gorman while browsing in one of my current bedside books, Florian Illies's 1913, where I also discovered that in that year Marcel Duchamp, fresh from his succès de scandale  at the Armory Exhibition in New York, did what the finest minds and choicest spirits of every generation do and became a librarian. He took a position as Assistant Librarian at the Sainte-Geneviève library in Paris, and spent most of his spare time playing chess, going on to represent France four times at the Olympic games. There's the making of a pub quiz question there, I think.
 But now I'm off to France again for a few days. A bientot, mes amis...

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