Cedric and Lett, friends and lovers (1922-1925)

by Diana Grace and Andrew Campbell, Darsham Parochial Church Council, 2018 (ISBN: 978-0-9536592-7-2). Available from 5 Oban Street, IP1 3PG for £14.99 (inc. p&p).

In 1937 Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett Haines founded and ran the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing initially at Dedham and later at Benton End, Hadleigh which attracted a great number of celebrated artists and gardeners. These were documented in local author, Diana Grace’s, earlier work (with Gwynneth Reynolds) Benton End remembered.

This book reveals the close and sometimes turbulent relationship between the two established artists whose gay relationship was illegal at the time. An annotated sequence of letters is transcribed with photographs of the two men and of some of the documents, with some reproductions of art works. There appears to this reviewer to be a preponderance of correspondence from Cedric to Lett; perhaps this is an indication of the strain in their geographically distant relationship during this period.

There are fascinating references along the way to Ford Madox Ford, Isadora Duncan, Dora Carrington, Raoul Dufy, Nancy Cunard and Ben Nicholson among others. During a period in Paris when the Surrealist group were evolving from the Dada movement, Cubism, Futurism and Modernism developing, avant garde artists from many countries vied with traditionalists; the backdrop for these letters couldn’t be more fervid.

This book is a valuable contribution to the rich tapestry of art and social history of the time which led to the foundation of a small but important art school on our doorstep.