New Ricketts and Shannon Finding Aids

Published: October 27, 2010

Thanks to UCLA MLIS intern Katie Duvall, there are two new finding aids to the Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon collections now available via the Online Archive of California.

Charles de Sousy Ricketts was born on October 2, 1866 in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1882, at the age of sixteen, he met his lifelong partner, artist and lithographer, Charles Haslewood Shannon. Shannon was born on April 26, 1863 in Quarrington, Lincolnshire, England and was studying wood engraving at the Lambeth Art School when he and Ricketts met.

The two lived in London, where together they founded an occasional art journal, The Dial (1889-1897) and designed and illustrated books, including Daphnis and Chloe (1893) and Hero and Leander (1894). During this period Ricketts also worked for commercial publishers designing books, including an edition of Oscar Wilde’s The Sphinx (1895). In partnership with wealthy lawyer William Llewellyn Hacon, Ricketts and Shannon also ran their own imprint, called the Vale Press, from 1896-1904. The Vale Press published over eighty volumes.

"On the reedy banks," an illustration for Oscar Wilde's The Sphinx, by Charles Ricketts

In this period Shannon also developed his skills as a painter and lithographer. Today, his paintings can be found in museum collections around the world, including the Musee d’Orsay and the Tate. His body of lithographic work contains more than 100 works and is considered a major British contribution to printmaking.

Lithograph, by Charles Shannon

After the Vale Press closed, Ricketts focused his energies on painting, sculpture and theater design. He was also a great connoisseur of art and, with Shannon, developed an extensive personal collection of drawings, paintings, prints and antiquities. This connoisseurship led to a position as the acting art adviser to the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa from 1924-1931.

Design of a theatre costume for actress Lillah McCarthy, by Charles Ricketts

In 1929, Shannon fell while hanging a picture in the home he shared with Ricketts and suffered brain damage from which he never recovered.  Parts of their art collection had to be sold to pay for Shannon’s care, and the financial and emotional strain of his condition contributed to Rickett’s death on October 7, 1931 in London.  Shannon died 5 1/2 years later, on March 18, 1937.

The Clark’s collections of Ricketts’ and Shannon’s work include proofs of their engravings for the Vale Press’s Daphnis and Chloe, costume designs by Ricketts, Shannon lithographs and many other visual works.  Much of the work in these collections was donated to the Clark Library in the 1960s by Albert Sperisen.

Direct links: Ricketts finding aid & Shannon finding aid

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