Sunday, September 23, 2012

Felice Beato Prints Inspired Family Research

"The King's Pleasure Boat"
Mixed Media on Canvas, 2002

In a critical theory seminar at the San Francisco Art Institute I was encouraged to explore my family history. As a result, I decided to do a painting that would serve as a kind of collaboration with my heritage. 

During this creative process, I incorporated a color xerox of a print from the collection I inherited (see explanation below) over an old painting to give a layered, textural effect as well as a sense of history. I then used acrylic paint with medium and a few strips of wire screen mesh. The end result is the above piece that includes painting, drawing, photography, history, and storytelling.

The Chattur Munsil by Felice Beato
British, India 1857, Albumen Print

Felice Beato was the first photographer to devote himself to photographing Asia and the
Near East. His photographic career was long affiliated with war images. In the 1850's he
documented the Indian Mutiny "Sepoy Rebellion" and its aftermath.

 Written in calligraphy below the print:

The Chattur Munsil, now used as a general hospital. This is only one end of it: the building
stretches a long way to the left, the other end being very much the same as this. The big fish in front was the King's pleasure boat. Across the river is where the new levies are drilled.

The above print is from a collection of 30 albumen prints by Felice Beato acquired by my maternal great, great grandfather, Lieutenant Colonel Ninian Lowis, during the Sepoy Rebellion. He then passed the collection to his son, Richmond Shakespear Lowis, my maternal great grandfather, who gave it to my mother. He fought in the Indian Mutiny and gained the rank of a Captain in the service of the Bengal Staff Corps in the 36th Native Infantry. His father, my maternal 3rd great grandfather, was Sir Richmond Campbell Shakespear who served with distinction in India and was knighted by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle in 1841. He went to England with his first cousin, William Makepeace Thackeray, to be educated at Charterhouse.

The centenary biographical edition of The Works of William Makepeace Thackeray, a book passed on by my mother, Alice C. Irving, includes The Roundabout Papers in which Thackeray pays tribute to her great, great grandfather Sir Richmond Campbell Shakespear in the chapter, "On Letts's Diary". Mother's maternal grandfather, Richmond Shakespear Lowis, had indicated in the margins specific references Thackeray had made relevant to our family history. In the front of this volume, my great grandfather also included the following quote in his gift to mother on January 1943;  "Life is beautiful to whosoever will think beautiful thoughts. There are no common people, but they who think commonly, and without imagination." -Stanton Davis Kirkham

Family Research (maternal side):