The Research

 
 

Henry Clews, Jr.
Self Portrait in Bronze, Newport Art Museum


Clews' "God of Humormystics" was given to Marie, his wife, as a wedding gift. To ensure its protection the sculpture was buried in the garden during World War II.


This portrait of Clews may be seen in the front stairwell of the Chateau.


This sculpted wing hangs in the studio of Clews. Similar details may be found on the base created for the “God of Humormystics.”

 

Research was conducted on site at the La Napoule Art Foundation - Clews Center for the Arts in La Napoule, France from September 3–10, 1998. Glenn is pictured here overlooking the Cote d'Azur and the Chateau from his room at the Hotel la Calanque.


A total of three hundred and twelve slides and sixteen hours of video footage were taken to document Glenn's research.


Glenn was able to share and exchange information on Clews with the Foundation in France. Nelcy Fourriques, Assistant Director of the Foundation, is pictured here with Glenn.


The Chateau contains the most complete collection of works by Clews, as well as his complete personal library.


Glenn is caught in a reflection as he video tapes the bedroom of Henry Clews, Jr.

 

Biography and Art as Source Material for a New Art Work:
Whistling Doves

Statement of Intent

On a promontory overhanging the Mediterranean near Cannes, France stands the medieval castle of La Napoule. This 8th-century fortress destroyed and rebuilt three times since 1400 was purchased in 1919 by an American sculptor named Henry Clews, Jr. Within the walls of his own private world Clews devoted eighteen years of his life to creating his own fairy tale ("Gods"). It is my intention to investigate the life and work of artist, Henry Clews, Jr. (1886-1937), for the purpose of establishing a foundation and inspirational background for the creation of a multimedia dance work which will capture the essence of his lifestyle and artistic motivation. This original dance work will premiere in the Winter of 1999 in partial fulfillment for the degree of Master of Fine Arts in Dance. I will specifically focus on a later period in his life, 1918–1937, during which time Clews secluded himself inside his castle on the southern coast of France. It was here that he dedicated his life to his work and to the creation of a romantic symbol to mankind representing the power of myth, mystery, devotion, and illusion. One aspect of the symbol was the garden filled with whistling doves. Clews was thought to have attached small whistles to the doves which flew in his garden, creating a magical aura of whistling doves. The unity of Clews' life and art will be illustrated through the use of the dove as a metaphor for purity, peace, and immortality. Through the process of this research for the multimedia dance creation I hope to identify the driving forces which influenced the art works of Clews and present these findings through the form of an original dance theater work.

Significance of the Project

I was a guest at the Chateau de La Napoule, which is now a foundation for artists, in August of 1991 while dancing on tour with the Nikolais and Murray Louis Dance Company of New York. During this six-day visit I became completely overwhelmed by Clews' spiritual presence and the influences of his life and work. This 1991 experience I encountered at the chateau was the most influential event of my life. It is vitally important to me that this inspiration is understood to its fullest and publicly presented in a creative documentary form which helps to preserve this great artist.

Clews' life and work provide the perfect scenario to create art based on a real-life romantic theme. An understanding of all aspects of his world, both public and private, provide the true subject matter equivalent to the creative fiction of the world's best authors. This foundation for creating will deliver a cohesive framework and will uphold the artistic value of a related artwork while giving a sense of historical and spiritual depth not often found in dance work.

Purposes of the Project

Henry Clews is not a terribly popular and well-known artist, yet through the understanding of his private life one may see that his greatest artistic achievement may have been his life itself. Since the opening of his chateau to the public in 1939 the world has been able to tour his castle and view what Clews had set up as a perfect romantic model.

Clews' poem which is engraved on the wall of his tomb inside one of the towers of the castle states his desire to return to this world and experience the joy of dancing. I hope, that through my great interest in Clews, I am able to provide a means by which his work may return to the public eye and through my creation fulfill his desire to bring his life's work to the attention of a greater audience. The documentary nature of this project will make available to the American public information on the original works of a great artist many of which are displayed only in his former home in France.

Secondary Research: A Solid Foundation of Preliminary Study

At this point I feel that I have nearly exhausted all resources available to me in Ohio and Wisconsin where my research on Clews began six years ago. Online library catalogues, including interlibrary loan, and internet searches have resulted in a brief bibliography of related materials. Searches in the New York Times Index, newspaper abstracts, periodical abstracts, and the National Union Catalogue have already resulted in family marriage announcements, death notices, reviews of exhibitions of sculpture, and social announcements, many of which are stored on microfilm. Other resources exist which may be useful in my research. Clews had a personal library beside his bed. In 1991 I was able to view only a couple of books containing his bookmarks. The Evolution of the Soul by Thomson Jay Hudson and Our Life After Death by Arthur Chambers as well as the rest of this library and his other personal belongings may hint to his philosophies on life and art.

Clews wrote one book, Mumbo Jumbo, which has a lengthy satirical introduction demonstrating his view towards democracy. His book includes a play about the life of an artist. This play is a great autobiographical reference. Clews' book was reviewed in 1923 by the New York Times which quoted his beliefs that he has the formula for escaping into a triumphant world, a glorious universe. Clews says, "I shall continue to think, feel, and dream that there exists a world, nay, a universe, of glorious, triumphant, beautiful, exotic, exquisite, mysterious, infinite, everlasting difference: and it is this difference which has given us love, hope, art, life - God" ("Low and High").

Contacting living relatives may be possible through on-line telephone directories. WorldCat internet searches include Europe and allow for local research prior to traveling to France. Related research topics may include: James Clews (grandfather), Henry Clews (father), Lucy Madison Worthington (mother), Henry Clews, Jr. (sculptor), Louise Morris Clews (first wife), Marie Elsie Whelen Clews (second wife), sculpture and France, Riviera Society, Fondation d'Art de La Napoule, Chateau de La Napoule.

Primary Research: The Key to Discovery

The Chateau in La Napoule, France is the center of information and events informing this project. This great distance limits my ability to access primary research sources. It is essential that I travel to the Fondation d'Art de La Napoule in order to explore and investigate crucial elements which may lend authority to my viewpoint on the subject. There exists no biography of Clews' life and most sources focus on the castle, or his work, and not on his personal life. Brookgreen Gardens, Brookgreen, S.C., published the book, Henry Clews, Jr. Sculptor in 1953. This is one of the very few and the most complete reference which documents the art work of Clews.

An on-site research residency at the Fondation d'Art de La Napoule is pertinent to this project in order to study the art works created by Clews and housed at the Fondation, and to gather video footage. While on location in France multiple videos will be made documenting the chateau and capturing source material for Whistling Doves. Equally important will be the taking of photographs and conducting interviews with the director of the chateau as well as employees and visiting artists. Employee records may be examined and a bibliography list may be compiled documenting the personal bedside library of Clews. Accessibility to primary resources such as the Office de Tourisme-Mandelieu La Napoule, local libraries, historical societies, and area museums is an invaluable element in pursuing this project. The interviewing of art scholars and researchers of the area will be of benefit in setting up guidelines and a historical perspective for my research. Correspondence with artists who have visited the chateau, employees, and family members may be important in generating anecdotal information.

Clews' sculpture was often inspired by the personalities of his friends. An understanding of these personalities will aid in bringing each of his sculptures to life through movement. It will be necessary to become familiar not only with the sculptures but also with Clews' social contacts during the period of 1918-1937, including special friends who led to the creation of many of his sculptures. For this purpose I will investigate the gatherings of the Riviera Society of which Clews was a member as well as the manners and mannerisms common with the social elite in southern France. Information on the gatherings of the Riviera Society will provide a spring board for movement invention while helping to set a period and location for the dance work. An understanding of the social dance forms of that time will be relevant to assist in the development of a movement vocabulary which will portray the social interactions of the individuals who gathered at the events hosted by Clews. Also, understanding the social ramifications related to being a member of the artistic and social aristocracy in southern France in the early 1900's will play a great role in understanding Clews' psychological state. A deep and thorough understanding of Clews, the main figure, is essential in establishing his character and motivation for all things related to this process.

Fondation d'Art de La Napoule is a French-American organization that sponsors a wide range of cultural exchange programs, including artists' residencies, seminars and conferences, workshops, exhibitions and performances. The Chateau is presently chartered by New York State as a museum and art center where tourists and artists may wonder, work - and perhaps shiver - among the carved chimeras of Henry Clews, Jr. ("Gods, Ogs").

Selected Works Consulted

American and French Modern Masters. New York: Wildenstein, 1955.

This catalogue records a May 1955 benefit exhibition for the La Napoule Art Foundation held at Wildenstein in New York City. The sixty-one paintings created by American and French artists included works by Chagall, Matisse, Picasso, and many others. Included is a listing of the board of trustees and various sponsors.

Chambers, Arthur. Our Life After Death. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Co., 1902.

"Chateau As Memorial: Widow of Clews, the Sculptor, Opens His French Home." New York Times 30 July 1939: 31.

Foundation Henry Clews, La Napoule. 17 Aquarillistes Americains Contemporains. Paris: Les Presses Artistiques, [1954?].

"George Blumenthal Weds Mrs. Clews." New York Times 19 Dec. 1935: 30.

"Gods, Ogs, Wogs: Castle of Weird Images Becomes a Museum." Life 15 Oct. 1951: 119–24.

This article announces the opening of the Castle of Henry Clews, Jr. as a museum. It contains a brief history of Henry and the castle as well as a description of the Chateau. An emphasis is placed on the eerie, wierd, and grotesque tone of the artist's work and is illustrated with samples of the range of artistic styles as well as inside looks at the castle.

Hudson, Thomas Jay. The Evolution of the Soul. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co., 1904.

"Leta Clews Wed to S. L. Cromwell." New York Times 2 May 1936: 12.

"Louise Clews's Troth Reported from Nice." New York Times 26 Aug. 1930: 25.

"Low and High Comedy as a Criticism of Life." Rev. of Mumbo Jumbo, by Henry Clews, Jr. New York Times 22 April 1923: 8.

This positive book review of Mumbo Jumbo by Henry Clews' Jr. introduces his statement about the troubles with modern society through quotes from the book's introduction. It includes a complete synopsis of the play, Mumbo Jumbo, as well as a photo of the author.

Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exhibition of Sculpture by Henry Clews, Jr. New York: Marchbanks Press, 1939.

"Mrs. Morris Clews, Belle of '90's, Dies." New York Times 29 Oct. 1936: 25.

"Mrs. Simpson Guest at Rivera Dance." New York Times 13 Feb. 1937: 15.

This article gives a description of the social events surrounding a 1937 dinner hosted by Henry Clews, Jr. in a Cannes, France restaurant. The guest of honor, Mrs. Wallis Simpson, the woman for whom Edward VIII abdicated the throne of Great Britain, was among the many prestigious guests.

"Museum to Show Americans' Work." New York Times 8 May 1939: 20.

"Never Never Land." Time 31 July 1939: v.34, 32.

"Notes from New York." Apollo August 1939: 72–73.

Proske, Beatrice Gilman. Henry Clews, Jr. Sculptor. Brookgreen, SC: Printed by the order of the Trustees [Brookgreen Gardens], 1953.

This detailed account of the sculptures of Henry Clews, Jr. includes both a brief family history and a history of the castle. It traces artistic style, influences, creative stages, and critical responses as well as describes the castle's ornamental design and analyzes many of Clew's works (especially "The Thinker"). It includes a personal description of Henry by art critic, Pierre Borel, and a copy of the poem engraved on Henry's tomb. Its illustrations include various sculptures, the castle, and a portrait of Henry.