|Albert Lipczinski (1876-1974)
Self-portrait - oil on board. c. 1911-12
1911: Art & Revolution in Liverpool
- the Life and Times of Albert Lipczinski
Who knows what slumbers in the background
of the times?
Friedrich Schiller: Don Carlos (1787)
Some of the most dramatic events in the cultural, political and social
history of the city happened during 1911, which were to challenge the
assumptions of cultural and civic life. In March that year the Sandon
Studios Society at the Bluecoat buildings hosted what can probably be
considered the most ground-breaking art exhibition held in the city in
the 20th century: An exhibition so far ahead of its time and so unusual
that in some ways it occupied a place almost beyond expectations or perceptions.
Before the exhibition opened in Liverpool, the artist and critic Roger
Fry had presented his ground-breaking exhibition of ‘Manet and the
Post Impressionists’ to London society at the Grafton Studios in
Piccadilly in November 1910. This exhibition was the first time such challenging
images had been seen together in Britain, whipping up a great furore in
the capital, with visitors to varying degrees stunned and appalled by
the images they saw and commentators largely pouring scorn on these ‘vulgar
daubs’ or even pointing to the clear insanity of the art. Following
the end of this exhibition, forty-seven of the works, including what are
now priceless paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Gauguin, Cézanne and
Van Gogh, travelled to Liverpool to be exhibited at the Sandon Studios.
These works were also shown in the company of selected contributions from
other artists linked to the Studios, including Albert Lipczinski.
Lipczinski’s life around this period provides an interesting angle
on the relationship between art, labour and radical political thought
of the time. Lipczinski’s bohemian life in this city first began
with his arrival from Danzig around 1897 and his subsequent brief studentship
at the University Art Sheds under a yet to be famous painter named Augustus
John. He formed a relationship with John’s model, Elizabeth Milne,
and subsequently married her. They grew to be involved within a small
but vigorous artistic and academic community in Liverpool, pursuing an
infectious sense of freedom with others from the social and civic constraints.
It was a time when they became immersed within a romantic ideal embracing
poverty, artistic enrichment and adventure. Albert and Elizabeth’s
home, what Lipczinski called the ‘Schloss’ (meaning ‘castle’
or ‘palace’ in German), was situated just off Roscoe Street,
and it exemplified their life: It was the top floor of a disused Gothic
school house, where in 1911 they made a home and studio apartment, divided
with temporary partitions lined with brown paper. To this venue all kinds
of Liverpool people arrived for visits and entertainment, including University
professors, union activists, actors and artists, all of whom were considered
friends. It was a stimulating mix dissolving class divisions and statuses,
all gathering in this run-down location, which confused the police who
were observing such movements.
Lipczinski was a friend of the syndicalist stonemason, Fred Bower, and
attended the International Club in Canning Place, which was created from
a variety of internationalist and syndicalist influences, including that
of Francisco Ferrer’s modern school in Barcelona. We know from Bower’s
autobiography1 that the most prominent of the political figures Lipczinski
painted included Tom Mann, who had been the first general secretary of
the newly created Independent Labour Party and that he also painted a
‘larger than life’ portrait of the ‘Rusher’ Jim
Larkin2. Around the time of 1911 while Lipczinski was painting the portraits
of these two leaders, it was suggested that he invite both Tom Mann and
Jim Larkin down to the Sandon Studios Society one evening for some entertainment.
This culminated in Mann standing up on a chair and singing for his audience
in the dining room, the labour anthem The Red Flag which was followed
by Augustus John singing his ballads and what was described as a ‘sensational’
rendering of The Jabberwocky by Lipczinski’s friend and fellow Sandon
member George Harris3.
In the aftermath of 13th August, when police brutally broke up what was
a huge but peaceful demonstration4, it appears that the Lipczinskis allowed
their home to be used as a temporary refuge where injured strikers could
be brought to safety5. As for Lipczinski’s artworks, it is not known
what happened to his portrait of Tom Mann but it will probably be still
hanging on the walls of a more obscure union hall somewhere. The portrait
of Jim Larkin which was painted around 1911 encountered a more dramatic
end. It was reported to have been held as a banner by the Irish strikers
in Dublin prior to the Easter Uprising and while being held aloft in this
way, it was claimed to have been targeted by the infamous ‘Black
and Tans’ with their weapons and destroyed with gunfire6.
© Copyright  . All rights reserved.
The biography of Albert Lipczinski - 1911: Art
& Revolution in Liverpool – the Life and Times of Albert Lipczinski
is due to be published by Sansom & Company (www.sansomandcompany.co.uk)
in July 2011. Dedicated exhibitions of Lipczinski’s artworks will
be shown at the Zeilona Brama in Gdansk in March 2011, the Williamson
Art Gallery in Birkenhead in August 2011 and there will be a summer exhibition
next year attempting to recreate parts of the 1911 Post Impressionist
exhibition in Liverpool by the Walker Art Gallery.
- Fred Bower (1936) Rolling Stonemason: An Autobiography. Jonathan Cape,
London. p.189-90. With thanks to Ron Noon, who is looking to republish
Bower’s biography with a new introduction.
- Larkin, who had been one of the leaders of the Liverpool Dock Strike
in 1905 had a reputation as a belligerent figure. He was later to lead
the strikes concerned with the Dublin lock-outs - the original Bloody
Sunday in 1913 - and he ended up for a while at least, admired by Lenin
for his activities.
- Roderick Bisson (1965) The Sandon Studios Society for the Arts. Parry
Books, Liverpool. p.99.
- Grace Goldie, a historian of the Repertory Theatre, noted that some
protesters in the mêlée retaliated by throwing bricks at
the time that had been stacked up to help to rebuild this Theatre which
before it became known as the Repertory Theatre was called the Citizen’s
Theatre. Lipczinski had a one man exhibition in the new foyer in 1912.
G.W.Goldie (1935) The Liverpool Repertory Theatre 1911-1934. Hodder &
Stoughton Ltd, London. p.60.
- With thanks to the local historian David Jones, an ex-Sandon Society
member, for the recollections passed to him from the sculptor and artist
Herbert Tyson Smith.
- Ibid: Bisson,R. (1965) p.100.
Comment left by Marsden Broadbent on 13th December, 2010 at 3:29
I am in the process of preparing a copy of Fred Bower's book "Rolling Stonemason" for my family. Fred was my grandfather's cousin on my mother's side. I have a full PDF version completed and am resetting the work to include backgrounds on the principal characters. This will include a background on Lipczinski.
I would like to contact Ron Noon about the republishing work. Can you put me in touch with him?
Comment left by Brian Durrans on 6th January, 2011 at 14:28
I would like a copy of Ron Noon's new edition of Bower's autobiography but more urgently I need, for a reference in an article I am writing on another subject, the page numbers of the original 1936 edition in which Bower reveals 'the secret of the stone'. Any help would be much appreciated.
Comment left by Jan Bolton on 16th April, 2011 at 23:18
I,ve got a copy of the 1936 in front of me now. Fred was my mum's uncle on my maternal side.The page in which he describes the note is 121/122 , in whci he says what he actually wrote. He then goes on to say on page 122 how it was put into a tin and covered with another sheet of tin and placed in the foundations of the cathedral between 2 courses of bricks. Let me know if you need any more info.Marsden I,m still trying to work out the relationship between your family and mine.
Comment left by Dave Lamb on 21st January, 2012 at 22:10
I would also like a copy of Ron Noon's edition of Bower's autobiography. Fred Bower is also my great great uncle on my mother's side nee Ely. I am also Jan bolton's cousin and I live in Canada.
I have three boys and grandchildren who would be very interested in their heritage. It seems that the comment left by Marsden Broadbent indicates that we may all be related.
I would be interested to find out how.
Any assistance would be apprecisted