Marianne Moore: Poetry

September 27, 2010

George Plank, Artist and Illustrator

George Wolfe Plank, the American illustrator and designer of magazine covers, was born on March 25, 1883, near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Growing up, he lived for a time in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, about six blocks from the Moore household. A self-taught artist, he worked in factories and department stores before moving to Philadelphia about 1907. In 1911, he was hired by Vogue and continued to supply illustrations and cover designs for the magazine until 1936. So popular was his fashion illustration that for a benefit for the Loomis Sanitarium, given at the Waldorf in New York, society matrons posed in tableaux vivants based on his Vogue covers.

Vogue Cover, November 1917

Vogue Cover, April 1916

Vogue Cover, November 1915

In 1914, Plank moved to England with his Philadelphia friends, James and Mildred Whitall. (James, a Quaker and wealthy scion of the Whitall Tatum Glass Company, was related to M. Carey Thomas, president of Bryn Mawr when Moore was there). Plank’s gift for friendship enabled him to move easily in all ranks of London society and his artistic talents were in great demand.

H. D.'s Hedgehog He drew illustrations for his friends’ books, including E. F. Benson’s The Freaks of Mayfair in 1916, Dorothy Wellesley’s Genesis in 1926 (Lady Gerald Wellesley, Dutchess of Wellington, friend of Yeats and the Sackvilles), Whitall’s English Years in 1832, H.D.’s Hedgehog and Marianne Moore’s The Pangolin and Other Verse in 1936.

The Pangolin and Other Verse

For Louis Untermeyer’s Food and Drink (1932), he drew one hundred “good things to eat and drink.” He also supplemented his Vogue income by designing costumes, sets, and programs for Edith Craig’s productions (Edith was the daughter of Ellen Terry and Edward W. Godwin, and sister of Gordon Craig); painting posters for the Red Cross during the First World War; designing chintz cloth and interior decorations for Lady Sackville, mother of Vita Sackville-West; and designing stationery and bookplates for H.D., Lady Carter, and Pauline Pappenheim, and many others. In 1936, Bryher hired him to illustrate Moore’s A Pangolin and Other Verse published by her Brendin Press. He even completed two royal commissions, including a map of South America in 1918, showing the Queen’s Needlework Guilds and, in 1921, the King’s bedroom for a dollhouse designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens for Queen Mary.

King's Bedroom, Queen Mary's Dollhouse

In 1927, Lutyens designed and built a house, Marvells, for Plank in Five Acres, Sussex, where he resided for the rest of his life. During World War II, Plank joined the Home Guard and nearly died of hyperthyroidism. He was naturalized as an Englishman in 1945 and spent the rest of his days gardening at his house, Marvells. George Plank died in his sleep on May 4, 1965 in a nearby nursing home.

Note: This text is adapted from the Beinecke Library, Yale University, Finding Aid for the Papers of George Wolfe Plank housed in the library.

July 12, 2010

Mei Lan-Fang, Chinese Theater

Filed under: Marianne Moore — by moore123 @ 2:49 pm
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Moore wrote to Monroe Wheeler that she had enjoyed a performance by Mei Lan-Fang in New York (SL 502). Lan-Fang made only one tour of New York, in 1930 when his company played at the 49th Street Theater. A two-week run had been planned but so popular was the program that it was extended to five weeks and moved to the much larger National Theater. Among the pieces performed were “The Suspected Slipper,” “The End of the Tiger General,” and “The King’s Parting with His Favorite.”

In 1935,  Sergei Eisenstein met Lan-Fang in Moscow and persuaded him to permit filming of “The King’s Parting with His Favorite.” The film was never completed, but a short clip survives, a taste of what Moore would have seen. Lan-Fang,  following the custom of classical Chinese theater where only men acted, as always took the woman’s role.

Moore’s assessment of the performance she attended: ” I liked [Mei Lan-Fang] so much the one time I saw him in New York, that I was well satisfied not to go to anything else at the theatre afterward that season.” (SL 502)

Coincidentally, Bryher would publish Bertold Brecht’s article on Lan-Fang in Life and Letters Today in 1936, after Brecht had met the Chinese actor in Moscow.

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