- J. Comyns Carr
drama and art critic, gallery director, author, poet, playwright and theatre manager.
Beginning his career as an art critic, Carr was a vigorous advocate for Pre-Raphaelite art and a vocal critic of the "short-sighted" art establishment. In 1877 he became a director of the
Grosvenor Galleryand promoting Pre-Raphaelite painters and other important exhibitors, such as James McNeill Whistler, Dante Gabriel Rossettiand Edward Burne-Jones. Ten years later he founded the rival New Gallery.
Carr also wrote essays, books, plays, librettos, English-language adaptations of foreign works and stage adaptations of Dickens novels and classic tales like "King Arthur" and "Faust".
Life and career
J. Comyns Carr was born in
Marylebone, Middlesex, England, the seventh of ten children. His parents were Jonathan Carr, a woollen draper, and his Irish wife, Catherine Grace Comyns. Kate Comyns Carr, his sister, became a portrait artist. He was educated at Bruce Castle School, Tottenham, Middlesex, from 1862 to 1865.Esposito, Anthony. [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/46761 "Carr, Joseph William Comyns (1849–1916)",] "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography", Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 7 Oct 2008, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/46761] He studied law at the University of Londonand graduated in 1869, beginning to practise at the bar at the Inner Temple, London. He soon gave up law for a career in journalism and became drama critic for the "Echo". [http://www.whistler.arts.gla.ac.uk/biog/Carr_JC.htm Biography of Carr at the Whistler website] ]
In 1873 in
Dresden, Carr married author Alice Laura Vansittart neé Strettell (1850–1927) in 1873. Alice had designed the bold costume that Ellen Terrywore as Lady Macbeth, and in which John Singer Sargentpainted her in 1889. Sargent also painted Mrs. Comyns Carr in 1889 [ [http://jssgallery.org/Paintings/Mrs_JW_Comyns_Carr.html Painting of Alice Vansittart Comyns Carr] ] and several portraits of her sister, Alma, and had illustrated Alma's Spanish and Italian Folk Songs in 1887. Carr and his wife had three children: Philip, Dorothy, and Arthur (1882–1965; later Sir Arthur Strettell Comyns Carr, Liberal Member of Parliament). Carr was a member of the Arts Cluband the Garrick Club. Carr published two memoirs: "Some Eminent Victorians" (1908), and "Coasting Bohemia" (1914). [Vansittart (1920) P.1]
Carr died of cancer at the age of 67 at his home in
South Kensington, London. He was buried in Highgate cemetery.
In 1873, Carr became an art critic for the "
Pall Mall Gazette". The same year, in "The Globe", he wrote a series of widely-read articles about contemporary artists. Dante Gabriel Rossettitook notice of these and befriended him. Carr was a strong critic of the art establishment, decrying what he saw as its short-sightedness. In 1875 He was engaged in 1875 by the influential French journal "L'Art" as its English editor. In 1881–83, he founded and edited "Art and Letters". As the first editor from 1883-86 of "The English Illustrated Magazine". He also wrote for a number of other journals including the "Art Journal", "Saturday Review", the "Examiner", the "World" and the " Manchester Guardian". Carr wrote books and articles about art championing the Pre-Raphaeliteschool of art, as well as monographic works on artists such as Edward Burne-Jones, Frederick Walkerand Sir Hubert von Herkomer.
Charles Halléwere appointed co-directors of the Grosvenor Galleryin 1877 by Sir Coutts Lindsay. The gallery promoted Pre-Raphaelite painters and exhibited provocative work. James McNeill Whistler, Rossetti and Burne-Jones exhibited frequently at the Grosvenor Gallery. In 1887, Carr and Hallé resigned from that gallery (which closed in 1890), after a dispute with Lindsay, and quickly founded the rival New Gallery, capturing Burne-Jones and most of the Grosvenor Gallery's other important artists. Carr continued as co-director until 1908. He also wrote the introduction to the British section of the 1911 International Exhibition of Fine Arts at Rome and later was chosen as the English representative to the Art Congress.
Carr was also the author of dramatic works, beginning with several light comedies in the early 1880s for the
German Reed Entertainmentsat St George's Hall. He also wrote numerous plays and adapted a number of French plays, such as "Frou-Frou", produced at the Princess's Theatre, London(1881); a stage adaptation of " Far From the Madding Crowd" co-authored with Thomas Hardy (1881); Hugh Conway's "Called Back" (1884), which was very successful for the actor–manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree; "Dark Days"; "Boys Together"; "In the Days of the Duke"; "A Fireside Hamlet"; "The United Pair"; "The Naturalist" (1887, an operetta with music by Charles King Hall); "The Friar"; and "Forgiveness".
Haymarket Theatrefrom 1887 to 1893, Carr acted as Tree's literary adviser and partner. He then leased the Comedy Theatrefrom 1893 to 1896. At the same time, his "King Arthur" (1895), a blank verseplay inspired by the writings of Thomas Maloryand Alfred Tennyson, as well as by the visual images of the Pre-Raphaelites, was produced by Henry Irvingin the Lyceum Theatre. It starred Irving and Ellen Terry, with music composed by Arthur Sullivanand sets, costumes and artwork designed by Carr's friend Edward Burne-Jones. This spectacular production was a success for Irving and ran for over 100 performances, also touring North America. Another play that year was "Delia Harding", an adaptation of a Victorien Sardouplay, at the Comedy Theatre. Also for Irving's company, in 1897 he produced and English version of " Madame Sans-Gêne" by Sardou and Émile Moreauin 1897, which played on both sides of the Atlantic. Carr also dramatised "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" in 1910, starring H. B. Irvingat Queen's Theatre. [ [http://dinamico.unibg.it/rls/stage.htm Information about Carr's version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde] ]
Carr collaborated with
Arthur Wing Pineroand Arthur Sullivan on " The Beauty Stone", a comic opera, at the Savoy Operain 1898. The theme was that "only through blindness can true love be realized," but the piece never found an audience. [ [http://math.boisestate.edu/gas/other_sullivan/beauty_stone/beauty_intro.html Information about "The Beauty Stone"] ] Carr's adaptation of " Oliver Twist" was produced by Herbert Beerbohm Treeat His Majesty's Theatre, London (1905). [ [http://gabrielleray.150m.com/ArchiveTextC/ConstanceCollier001.html Photo from "Oliver Twist"] ] It was also produced on Broadway in 1905 and 1912. [ [http://www.ibdb.com/production.asp?ID=7447 IBDB profile of Oliver Twist] ] From 1899 to 1904, after Irving transferred control of the Lyceum, Carr managed the theatre.
Carr's "Tristram and Iseult" (1906), a pseudo-medieval drama, was produced at the
Adelphi Theatrestarring Matheson Lang, Lily Braytonand Oscar Asche. An adaptation of Dickens' " The Mystery of Edwin Drood" (1907) was produced by Tree in Cardiff. Carr's theory of the play was that Jasper, under the influence of opium, attempted to act upon his murderous impulses, but Drood, overhearing his uncle's ravings, was able to escape. [ [http://www.victorianweb.org/mt/adaptations/39.html Information about Carr's "Mystery of Edwin Drood"] ] This was followed by an adaptation of Goethe's "Faust", for Tree in 1908, in collaboration with Stephen Phillips.
At the Covent Garden Theatre in 1913–14, Carr was artistic adviser. A fan of
Richard Wagner, Carr was responsible for the first English performance of Wagner's " Parsifal" in 1914 at Covent Garden.
Books by Carr
*"Drawings by the Old Masters", 1877
*"The Abbey Church of St Albans", 1878
*"Examples of Contemporary Art", 1878
*"Essays on Art", 1879
*"Hubert Herkomer", 1882
*"Art in Provincial France", 1883
*"Frederick Walker: An Essay", 1885
* [http://books.google.com/books?id=AeYHAAAAQAAJ&printsec=titlepage&dq=%22joseph+william+comyns+carr%22 "Papers on Art",] 1885
*"Exhibition of Works of Sir Edward Burne-Jones" 1898
* [http://books.google.com/books?id=JUoDAAAAYAAJ&dq=%22joseph+comyns+carr%22 "Some Eminent Victorians; Personal Recollections in the World of Art and Letters",] 1908
*"Coasting Bohemia", 1914
*"The Ideals of Painting", 1917 (published posthumously).
*Carr, Alice Vansittart Strettell. "J. Comyns Carr: Stray Memories by His Wife", London, 1920 ( [http://www.archive.org/details/jcomynscarrstray00carrrich available online here] )
*Carr, Alice Vansittart Strettell. "Mrs. J. Comyns Carr’s Reminiscences", ed. E. Adam, London, 1926.
*Carr, J. C. "Some eminent Victorians: personal recollections in the world of art and letters" (1908)
*Carr, J. C. "Coasting Bohemia" (1914)
*Bénézit, E., "Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs", 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61.
*Ward, Humphrey Thomas. .( [http://books.google.com/books?id=vucZAAAAMAAJ&dq=Humphrey+Thomas+Ward&as_brr=1 "Men of the Time: A Dictionary of Contemporaries",] G. Routledge and sons, London 1887
* [http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/book/lookupname?key=Carr%2C%20J.%20Comyns Libretti to two Carr stage works]
* [http://www.ibdb.com/person.asp?id=6499 J. Comyns Carr at the IBDB database]
*cite news|author=|title=An Art Critic's Reminiscences|date=|work=
New York Times
*cite book|title=The Quarterly Review|author=|year=1880|publisher=J. Murray|isbn=
* [http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/dgkeysearchresult.cfm?parent_id=1034936&word= Photos from Comyns Carr's play "Oliver Twist"]
*cite news|author=|title=Superb Acting in Dickens Revival|date=|work=
New York Times
*cite news|author=|title=Miss Terry as Guinevere; In a Play by Comyns Carr, Dressed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones|date=|work=
New York Times|url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9802E7DF1E3DE433A25756C0A9679D94649ED7CF|accessdate=2008-08-08
* [http://www.npg.org.uk/live/search/person.asp?search=as&grp=1071%3BPlaywrights+and+dramatists&lDate=&LinkID=mp00774 Drawings of Carr]
* [http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/manuscripts/search/resultsn.cfm?NID=8655&RID= Letters to Carr]
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