Monday, August 15, 2016

Wait for Me! -- Modern Art

A continuing series of Neels-ian excerpts from the autobiography ("Wait for Me!") of Deborah Mitford, Duchess of Devonshire:

In summer 1929 Tom took part in an art hoax at Diana and Bryan's London house in Buckingham Street. Two hundred people were invited to meet the self-taught 'artist', Bruno Hat, who came from somewhere in Germany. Brian Howard, the poet, and the artist John Banting produced a series of works on cork bathmats framed with rope--pictures of extraordinary ugliness, forerunners of the kind of thing we are asked to admire today. Evelyn Waugh wrote an introduction to the catalog, "An Approach to Hat", and the party was a great success...Bruno Hat was in poor health but managed to make an appearance. Pushed in a wheelchair and muffled in scarves, he wore a black mustache and tinted glasses. After uttering a few words of an unknown dialect in guttural growls he was unmasked as Tom, who stepped out of the chair, threw off the coat, mustache and specs, delighted with the success of the joke. (In 2009 one of Bruno Hat's pictures sold at auction for 18,000 pounds--I wish we had kept an outhouse full of them.)

I can just see Veronica showing up dressed to kill, having dragged her busy fiance from his copy of the latest Lancet. She would be dismayed to find that mousy girl from the village there, eyeing the art with nothing like the right attitude, and more dismayed to find out that her fiance drove her home.