‘Such Friends’: 100 Years Ago, April 1910

In Ireland

…poet, playwright and artist George Russell, always known as AE, turns 43.

A childhood friend of fellow Abbey theatre founder William Butler Yeats, 44, AE is one of the few members of any of the four groups who had to have a ‘day job’ while pursuing his art.

Early on, Yeats got him a position with the Ireland Agricultural Organization Society [IAOS], and they made good use of AE’s oratorical skills. AE is sent throughout the west of Ireland to rally farmers to set up their own cooperative banks and therefore be less dependent on the British government.

Now, in his early 40s, AE can point to the 200 cooperative banks in Ireland, as well as the Abbey Theatre and the many plays he wrote for them, as the fruits of his labors over the years.

On Saturday nights he attends the salons of his old friend George Moore, 58, in Ely Place, near Merrion Square, where he meets the movers and shakers of Ireland at the time.

In England

…the writers and artists who frequent the salons in the Bloomsbury section of London are spread out, traveling.

Essayist Lytton Strachey, 30, is off to Dorset with poet Rupert Brooke, 22.

Lytton’s cousin and former lover, painter Duncan Grant, 25, has been in Greece and Turkey with his current partner, Lytton’s Cambridge friend, economist John Maynard Keynes, 26.

The hostesses of the Bloomsbury salons, writer Virginia Stephen, 28, and her sister, painter Vanessa, 30, along with Vanessa’s husband, art critic Clive Bell, 28, have been to the beach at Studland together for a rest.

By the middle of this month Virginia returns to her home in Fitzroy Square, not in good health. In a few months she enters a private nursing home in Twickenham for more rest.

In France

…it has been one year since painter Duncan Grant had come to Paris to attend the Salons des Independents, meet painters Henri Matisse, 40, and Pablo Picasso, 28, and see the paintings displayed at the home of American ex-patriates Gertrude Stein, 36, and her brother Leo, 37, at 27 rue de Fleurus. Later Grant describes the paintings as

‘so beyond anything I was used to.’

Now, in 1910, Gertrude’s partner, Alice B. Toklas, also from San Francisco, turns 33. She has lived in Paris for three years, describing the time later in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas:

‘Picasso had just finished his portrait of Gertrude which nobody at that time liked except the painter and the painted and which is now so famous…[Critic Max Jacob called it] the heroic age of cubism…We were young then and we did a great deal in a year.’

In a few months, Alice will officially move in with Gertrude, and eventually Leo will move out.

After the war, when the painters have left, the American writers will come to rue de Fleurus to listen to Gertrude and eat Alice’s little cakes.

In America

…in Manhattan, the Independent Artists’ Exhibit is held in a rented loft at 29 West 35th Street. One of the few non-juried shows in the US, the four-week exhibition is not a hit with the critics. But among the interested young artists who attends is Emmanuel Radnitzky, 19, who soon signs his paintings, Man Ray.

By the 20th of the month Halley’s Comet reaches its perihelion as it travels throughout the solar system.

On the 21st, right on schedule, American writer Mark Twain, 74, dies. In his recent autobiography Twain had written:

‘I came in with Halley’s comet in 1835. It’s coming again next year (1910), and I expect to go out with it. The Almighty has said no doubt, “Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.”’

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