Sunday, October 19, 2014

HvS | In Dublin, 1929-32

Hilda van Stockum as Art Student, 1929-32
The National Gallery of Art in Dublin has been including Hilda van Stockum's two portraits of Evie Hone in their calendars and catalogs. Since they are sticklers for obtaining permissions for every reproduction–doubtless because they expect the same in return–they are in touch with the family regularly.

Their latest question (from Marie) is about HvS's time studying art in Ireland. What information do we have on this period? Are there any relevant letters?

My search is not ended, but HvS's art studies in Amsterdam are much better documented for a simple reason. When Hilda was at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunst (Royal or State Academy for Fine Arts), she lived with her Aunt Hilda de Booy and she sent long letters to her mother in Dublin.

My mother wrote out these letters in a copy book. I transcribed them into electronic form and posted them on the site. These letters, in a family collaboration, were turned by Brigid Marlin over several years into chapters for her Society for the Art of Imagination magazine into a book, the first 12 chapters of which are posted. I will post a corrected version and then the entire book shortly (one of the chapters I posted is out of order). We intend to add art from the period and publish the edited letters as a book through Boissevain Books.

The Irish periods occur before and after her time at art school in Amsterdam. She was at art school in Dublin before, and was a mature artist afterwards. Her second period in Dublin should be especially interesting, because she was mixing in the Trinity College crowd with her brothers, who were both students there. Through her brother Willem she met her husband.

In Holland she was just one of many good art students. In Dublin in the second period she had much more self-confidence and stood out because she had experience from two different centers of art. A book of Irish Artists of the 20th Century is limited to a small number of artists and HvS is one of them - her claim to Irishness being her Irish grandmother (Emily Heloise MacDonnell) and her two periods of residence in Dublin as a young woman and then another three years in Dublin in 1951-54.

Some of the drama of those years was focused on HvS's brother Willem. He was a prize-winning student of Mathematics at Trinity. He won a gold medal that is not awarded in many years. (He sold it in the Depression, to his great distress, to help out his sister. It would be good to know where it is and whether it could be repurchased.) His life has been written about in Time Bomber by Robert Wack, and it goes into considerable factual detail about Willem's love for Pic Gwynn and vice versa.

While they were in Dublin, the van Stockums - Olga, Hilda, Willem and Jan - shared the gardener's cottage at the home of Billy Kirkwood and Harrie Jameson Kirkwood on the Howth peninsula. Brigid reports that the cottage was divided in half and the gardener had one half and the three van Stockums had the other.

Willem, of course, moved out to be in Trinity College Dublin lodgings, where he roomed with Ervin R. (Spike) Marlin. Jan later also went to Trinity. Hilda and Spike got married in 1932 and rented a home somewhere. That is where Orson Welles, who I think was then also a student at Trinity Dublin, arrived for dinner a week before scheduled.

Spike then went ahead to New York City, to look for a job - no easy assignment in the Depression. He did some work on overdue premium collection for Prudential Insurance, I believe, before he took a competitive exam to join FDR's administration. He was one of 300 people selected out of thousands of applicants. He also found a publisher (Harper  Brothers) for HvS's first book, A Day on Skates, which was published with an introduction by her Aunt Edna St. Vincent Millay in 1934, also the year Olga E. Marlin was born.

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