Siegfried Sassoon

Sassoons Art

Siegfried Sassoon’s talent as a sketch artist may not be as well known as his written work. He created watercolour paintings, caricatures, bookplates and other illustrations. Often he painted pictures on the title pages of books to enhance them. He sketched caricatures of close friends, and also of people he liked very much less!

Presented here are a few examples of the type of work he created, these pictures are not in my possession. They come mainly from auction catalogues but each one is acknowledged.

Huntsman Jumping a Fence

‘Huntsman Jumping a Fence’ What could be more representative or more typical of Siegfried Sassoon than a fox-hunting man? This pen and black ink, watercolour, and bodycolour drawing is described as being inscribed and dated “1915./Copy.” lower right in Sassoon’s hand.

The picture was catalogued as a sporting watercolour by Sassoon, probably of himself on ‘Cockbird’ his favourite hunter. The catalogue was prepared by Christies for a sale of books from the Library of Lady Ottoline Morrell in November 2006.

The reality is somewhat different, see here.



Below: Six pen and watercolour sketches all from the Christies, Library of Lady Ottoline Morrell sale in November 2006

Ruins in a landscape with figures

Ruins in a Landscape with Figures

Love's Golgotha

Love’s Golgotha

Landscape with reclining figures

Landscape with Reclining Figures

Poeme de L'extase

Poeme de L’extase

Two nude male figures

Two Nude Male Figures

Mors Janua Vitae

Mors Janua Vitae


The following sketches are from the Sotheby’s catalogue for their auction of English Literature and History, held in July 1991. The sketches all feature members of the Sitwell family, Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell, who were (from time to time) good friends of Sassoon.

The Sitwells

Above: While Sassoon was at Craiglockhart Hospital in 1917, Edith Sitwell sent him a number of copies of her book, ‘Wheels.’

“We send you our book as a tribute,” she wrote, dating it 30 August 1917. Sassoon signed the book with a note “sent me by the Sitwells.” He also drew this watercolour caricature of the Sitwells in the second volume.

Edith Sitwell
The Sitwells

Above and below: Two caricatures from a series of 118 representing members of the Sitwell family.

The Sitwells

Left: a caricature of Edith Sitwell which Sassoon pasted into a copy of her book ‘Aspects of Modern Poetry.’ by this time the friends had fallen out.


Below: Six small mongramed bookplates drawn by Sassoon on books he once owned and auctioned by Sotheby’s in July 1991

Bookplate

Watercolour drawing in a copy of Shakespeare’s ‘Plays and Poems’

Bookplate

Watercolour bookplate in a copy of Woodforde’s ‘Diary.’

Bookplate

Circular watercolour bookplate in a copy of ‘Poems’ by Milton.

Bookplate

Watercolour drawing in a copy of a book by Robert Browning.

Bookplate

Watercolour bookplate on the works of ‘Fitzgerald.’

Bookplate

Watercolour bookplate from unknown book.


Memories of Racing and Hunting

Watercolour sketch painted on the title page of ‘Memories of Racing and Hunting,’ by The Duke of Portland.

Watercolour Drawing

Watercolour drawing on Heytesbury House note paper showing a bird in a tree incorporating the words ‘Many Happy Returns of the Day.’


Wyndham Lewis
Wyndham Lewis

Two sketches by Sassoon of Wyndham Lewis pasted into his book ‘One Way Song,’ and auctioned in the Sotheby’s sale of 1991.

On the left sassoon has added the caption “As, perhaps, seen by himself.” Above he has captioned his sketch, ”Mr Lewis as I remember him.”


Bookplate

A charming watercolour drawing by Sassoon on the half-title of the first volume of Max Beerbohm’s ‘Works.’ The painting is dated 23 June 1940, showing the spines of the full set, with the initials “S” and “M.” The painting also incorporates a previously unpublished autograph epigram. Sotheby’s, 1991.


The following items are held by the University of Texas at Austin, as part of their large Siegfried Sassoon collection. These pictures were published in the university’s volume ‘Siegfried Sassoon: A Memorial Exhibition.’

Everyone Sang

Above and right: Both of these items are from “Emblems” a manuscript notebook, dated September 1941.

The Old Century

Above and below: The Old Century, 1938 proof copy, watercolour embellishment

Emblems 1941
Old World to New
Batsman

Above: A pen and wash drawing in a letter from Sassoon to Edmund Blunden, 31 July 1934.

Emblems 1941

Above: another verse from the manuscript notebook “Emblems,” September 1941.


Sassoon’s Art - when I first created this web site it was with a view to putting online the complete bibliography of Siegfried Sassoon. I believe that I have now done this, however, my interest in the man is such that I have found that I want to continue to add more and more content to the site relating to Sassoon, and additional pages can already be found relating to his home, his childhood, his friends and acquaintances and his art, the list goes on and as long as it does, I will keep adding to the site.

One amazing piece of good fortune that I experienced was to be able to make contact with Robert Pulvertaft, the stepson of George Sassoon, Siegfried’s only son. Robert has been extremely generous in allowing me to showcase on this web site four pieces of Siegfried Sassoon’s art which had never before been seen in the public domain. Click the images on the right


The ‘Huntsman’

While on holiday in the south of France this year (September 2017), I was walking through an antiques market in Nice, when I spotted this rather scruffy picture lying on the ground along with a number of other paintings and prints that the vendor had for sale. At first I couldn't believe what I was seeing, I thought I was looking at a painting by Siegfried Sassoon that had been sold at a Christie’s auction in 2006, part of the estate of the late Lady Ottoline Morrell (see top of page).

'A Pytchley Double Oxer'

Reverse of frame

On closer inspection the picture above proved to be a print, fixed on a larger buff coloured mount. On the mount below the picture was printed:

Hunting Types

A Pytchley Double Oxer

In small letters on the left below the picture was printed ‘Painted by Cecil Aldin.’ On the right was printed ‘’Published by Richard Wyman & Co, Ltd, 16 Bedford Street, Strand, London, W.C. 2.’ On the bottom right hand corner of the print the artist had signed it ‘Cecil.’ I don't think there is any doubt that the original of this picture was painted by the British artist and illustrator Cecil Charles Windsor Aldin 1879-1935. I immediately bought the picture for thirty Euros without haggling to the surprise of the seller.

I now had a problem as there was no way I was going to get this glazed picture frame in my luggage and safely home by air. I took it back to our holiday apartment and removed the print from the frame. In the back of the frame acting as packing was a copy of the the French newspaper ‘Le Patriote de Nice et du Sud-Est,’ dated 27 September 1958. I now knew the frame was not contemporary with the print so I threw it away and was able to get the print safely tucked into my luggage with no risk of smashed glass creating havoc on the way home.

Le Patriote de Nice et du Sud-Est

Le Patriote De Nice et du Sud-Este

The Communist newspaper (left), was used as packing behind the back of the print. It was published by the underground during the Second World War and became official after the liberation, directed by Communist deputy Virgile Barel. This newspaper was then called Le Patriote niçois. From 1945 it became the Patriot of Nice and the Southeast and remained daily until 1967.

During the Algerian war, the premises of the newspaper were set on fire, due to the newspaper's support for the independence of Algeria.

Financial difficulties eventually caused Le Patriote to disappear from the kiosks. It then reappeared a few months later as a weekly magazine under the name of Patriote Côte d'Azur. It continued until May 2013, when it was placed into liquidation, by then it only employed six people.

A brand new newspaper was then created on October 3, 2013 under the name "Patriote Côte d'Azur". It contains 8 pages, occasionally 16, and is available again in the kiosks of the department.

How ironic that this print depicting the privileged British upper class was framed and kept in Nice by a person who we can only assume was a communist; and how fortunate that an Englishman who is fascinated by Siegfried Sassoon and publishes a web site happened to be walking through a town in France and almost literally stumbled on this connection with Sassoon?

Christie’s are wrong, this is not a picture of Sassoon on Cockbird. I can't see any mention in Sassoon’s books or diaries of him riding with the Pytchley, although the National Horse Brass Society claim, “The young poet Siegfried Sassoon quartered his horse [at Lamport Hall] at the end of a hunt in the spring of 1914...which is in the heart of Pytchley country.” I don’t believe Cecil Aldin would have painted a picture of him anyway, I think Sassoon copied Aldin’s print of a generic huntsman while staying at Ottline Morrell’s mansion which he often did. By the way, an oxer is a hedge with a guardrail running along one side at a distance of two or three feet and often a ditch along the other side to prevent cattle from passing through it. A double oxer has a guardrail on each side.

I have the results of that Christie’s auction from November 2006. It appears the Sassoon painting went unsold. I wonder where it is now?

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