PRINT December 1982


Our aims have the simplicity of a need:
We want a place given up
to gaiety, to a gaiety stimulating
thought, rather than crushing it.
We want a gaiety that does not have
to count with midnight.
We want surroundings, which after
the reality of daily life,
reveal the reality of the unreal.1

WITH THIS STIRRING AND DEFIANT declaration, described by its author as “our beautiful appel aux armes,”2 the Cabaret Theatre Club was launched upon London in the summer of 1912. As the outspoken rhetoric of its manifestolike announcement indicated, it was an audacious enterprise. Although cabarets had already proved an uninhibited stimulus to avant-garde movements elsewhere in Europe, none of them had attempted to carry out a program of decorations as elaborate and ambitious as the wall paintings, sculptural installations, and stage scenery in this extraordinary interior. For Madame Strindberg, the club’s patroness and a woman of headlong passions equal to those of August Strindberg, the Swedish playwright who had once been her husband, commissioned some of the most innovative artists in England to provide a spectacular mise-en-scène. Wyndham Lewis, Spencer Gore, and Charles Ginner collaborated with Jacob Epstein and Eric Gill to devise surroundings brazenly expressive of the libertarian pleasure principle the club supported. They ensured that its main arena, which soon became called the Cave of the Golden Calf, was given a subversive visual impact that matched the equally unorthodox music, dancing, and satirical performances on the cabaret’s stage.

An Austrian by birth and a journalist, translator, and author by profession, Frida Uhl Strindberg was cosmopolitan enough to be aware of both Parisian and Viennese precedents for her cabaret. The fondness in those cities for giving clubs the names of animals—a cat, a rabbit, a bat—found an echo in her decision to use the Golden Calf as a nickname for the main room in her premises. She likewise intended to commission artists to design promotional publications ranging from posters and programs to elaborate illustrated brochures. Moreover, the space she acquired for her club was as subterranean as the wine cellars where the term “cabaret” had originated.

In common with many other cabaret owners, Madame Strindberg was excited by the notion of bringing about a fusion between popular culture and artistic experiment, so that the avant-garde could benefit from the vigor, wit, and irreverence that variety theater knew exactly how to exploit. Without in any way setting up in direct competition with the rude health of the variety of tradition of the time, she wanted to share its rambunctious élan. London’s new Cabaret Theatre would ensure that its proceedings were carried out with boisterous delight, and Madame Strindberg’s desire to escape from the traditional English idea of a meetingpoint for artists and writers was indicated clearly by her choice of location. This was a seedy basement area situated below a cloth merchant’s warehouse in a narrow, obscure cul-de-sac called Heddon Street. Leading off the broad thoroughfare of Regent Street, where the elegant Café Royal was an inescapable landmark, Heddon Street must have seemed flatly opposed to everyone’s concept of a glamorous rendezvous.

If the Cabaret Club was a bold venture, however, Madame Strindberg possessed an explosive personality that hardly qualified her to run it responsibly. The sad truth was that despite inheriting a sizable fortune from her aristocratic Austrian family, she seemed incapable of deploying this money without misunderstandings, financial mayhem, and bitter recriminations. She was far too impulsive a woman ever to supply the hardheaded practical acumen that any commercial undertaking requires. Her involvement at the age of 19 with Strindberg had been a reckless episode, founded as it was on hero-worship for a man she regarded as a genius. And although the failure of that marriage left her with a fatherless baby, Madame Strindberg does not appear to have learned that her rashness should henceforth be tempered by common sense. She remained a hopelessly impulsive and unreliable woman, and Michael Holroyd has observed that her “brilliant gifts as a journalist” prompted her to conduct life “as if it were the daily material for front-page headlines.”3

Nevertheless, however impossible her behavior may have been, this larger-than-life patroness should not be underestimated. In the end the vision that shaped the overall character of the Cabaret Club belonged to her alone, and it needed a woman of remarkable resourcefulness to bring such an unconventional scheme to fruition. Ashley Gibson, who met Madame Strindberg shortly before the cabaret opened, was enormously impressed. He described her as “an amazingly masterful, intelligent, and in her way fascinating Austrian Jewess of uncertain age. She already gave proofs of a mesmeric faculty for getting people to do things for her, and showed a rare discrimination in her choice of accomplices. Instinct led her without fail to select the young men who mattered, or were going to.”4 Gibson is right to stress her percipience in selecting artists who had not yet acquired the reputations they would later possess, and her talent for enlisting everyone’s aid was well to the fore when she enlisted Lewis in the venture. The unusual boldness that lay behind her plans must have convinced him that they were worth implementing, and although she offered him £60 for his efforts he later admitted that he would have done his decorations “for nothing.”5

In her conversations with all the artists involved, Madame Strindberg must have emphasized that the club’s interior would be shaped far more decisively by the paintings and sculpture it contained than any previous cabaret had been. At the beginning of a “Preliminary Prospectus,” published in April 1912, she was at pains to stress that “the decoration will be entirely and exclusively the work of leading young British artists.”6 Rather than relying on random pictures that visiting artists happened to put up on the walls, as the Parisian cabarets did, Madame Strindberg wanted everything she commissioned from Epstein, Gill, Ginner, Gore, and Lewis to contribute to an integrated visual scheme. In the Cave of the Golden Calf she offered her artists a rare opportunity to work in a place where art and architecture could be brought together in a dynamic union.

No repressive constraints would be placed on the artists, only one of whom was requested to depict the golden calf itself. Madame Strindberg did not expect the murals or the sculpture around the pillars to adhere to a precise iconographic program. But the idea of a cave, doubtless suggested by the subterranean setting that the club inhabited, did conjure up prehistoric associations, which must have proved stimulating to a generation of artists profoundly indebted to “primitive” art. Sensing at once how congenial the “savage” implications of a cave might be, The Observer’s art critic was quick “to compliment this group of artistic revolutionaries upon the happy title which has been bestowed upon and accepted by them. The ‘Troglodytes,’ or ‘Cave-dwellers’ is a singularly appropriate appellation for a coterie of artists, who are not only connected with the ’Cave of the Calf,’ but who aim—most of them—at the primitive simplicity of the days when art was in its infancy. It was, after all, on bones and on the walls of caves, that the artistic instinct found its first expression.”7

Most of the club’s wall paintings in fact contained exotic jungle scenes, a fitting motif for the primal emotions the artists wanted to unleash. But the golden calf theme proved influential as well, albeit in a more oblique way. The spirit of profane dissent which created the calf idol in the biblical story permeated all the artists’ contributions. They would all have been aware that Exodus recounts how the Israelites, escaping from Egypt, began to resent Moses’ prolonged absence on Mount Sinai and staged a revolt. They called for other gods, “and Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.” Aaron took the gold and “ . . . made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the Lord. And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.”8

The Bible does not specify how the rebellious Israelites played, but it has always been presumed that orgiastic revels were enjoyed, and artists have certainly used the subject to paint full-blooded bacchanals. The golden calf story has clearly been considered to epitomize irreligious permissiveness. Its appeal to the sexually liberated Madame Strindberg must have been powerful, and she would not have been at all discouraged by the terrible fate meted out to the Israelites by a wrathful Moses, who on his return from the mountain ordered the immediate slaughter of “about three thousand men.” Undeterred by such a warning, she made sure that the monochrome design illustrating her “Preliminary Prospectus” placed the garlanded calf at its center. To the left of the deceptively innocent idol a bare-breasted woman performs a provocative dance. Two other figures flaunt themselves behind the calf, and the artist closely integrates their thrusting limbs with the structure of his architectonic background.

This illustration, with its pronounced Expressionist character, is probably the work of Lewis, the artist responsible for decorating the club’s other publications and for the calf on the cabaret’s envelopes.9 But Gore, whose style at this period came remarkably close to Lewis’ in such paintings as A Singer at the Bedford Music Hall, may have worked with Lewis on the illustration.10 Madame Strindberg decided at a fairly early stage in the negotiations that Gore should be entrusted with the supervision of the artists’ contributions, and she was undoubtedly wise to do so; this artist was universally admired for his honest willingness to help friends in a nonpartisan spirit and to work unsparingly for organizations he believed worthy of his wholehearted support.

Gore’s most important role lay specifically in organizing the decorations. Not only did he execute at least two huge wall paintings and try to ensure that the other artists’ contributions added up to a unified ensemble, he was also responsible for the overall design of the club’s interior, and Madame Strindberg relied on his advice at every stage in the proceedings. In the spring of 1912 she wrote to him, in a characteristically last-minute manner, announcing that “tomorrow 2.30 the builder and I meet 3 [sic] Heddon St. He will draw out a plan and I should be awfully thankful, if you could be there . . . Please bring paint box—I must have the colour scheme, as we’ll have to order curtains, backgrounds, all.”11 Standing in the empty basement with brush at the ready, and attempting to make up his mind with the speed that Madame Strindberg’s congenital impatience demanded, Gore appears to have made all the crucial decisions concerning the range of colors employed on the club’s walls, ceiling, and stage.

Although his patroness’ headlong approach must have been somewhat unnerving, especially to an artist with so little experience of such tasks, Gore probably began by relishing the chance to design a cabaret. After all, he shared Walter Richard Sickert’s obsession with the music hall, and some of his most beautiful canvases are based on visits to the ballets and other entertainments at the Old Bedford and the Alhambra. Gore’s sketchbooks12 testify to the amount of enthusiastic work he devoted to the commission. Some of the studies set the decorations firmly in an architectural context, the cabaret stage forming the focal point of the design. One sketch shows the curtain hanging in heavy folds above a stage framed by enormous pillars. They recall the interior of a music hall, but the painted panels placed on the walls beside the pillars would never have been found in such a place. The sketches suggest that Gore wanted to line the walls of the room containing the stage with images that would prepare the audience for the spectacle provided by the cabaret itself. The performances would therefore be seen as the culmination of the decorative scheme.

One such study sees the stage as an animated picture, with the gesticulating figure who stands there echoing the forms of the near-abstract panels hanging on either side. In another, performers are no longer visible, and in their place a nonfigurative composition which may have been intended as a painted curtain or backdrop develops the imagery explored on a smaller scale in the panels. This sketch also indicates Gore’s willingness to bring about a union between the art and the architecture it enlivens. The pattern created by the painted rafters on the ceiling reappears below the stage, and the pillars that once seemed dominant have now given way to a pair of discreet upright forms which Gore clearly wants to link up with the beams in the ceiling.

The studies that relate most closely to Gore’s final wall decorations turn to an exotic coastal landscape, closer in spirit to Gauguin’s Tahiti than to a prehistoric jungle or the terrain around Mount Sinai. In one of these surviving oil-on-paper works, orange tigers slashed with surprising blue stripes cavort on land while rudimentary craft float across a placid sea. The hot, brazen colors demonstrate Gore’s desire to assault the Cave’s clientele with imagery impossible to ignore. His indebtedness to Gauguin is clear, but the playfulness of the striped tigers also recalls the Douanier Rousseau’s jungle scenes, and the Fauvist intensity of the broad, flat color fields is clearly the work of a man who, as early as 1910, admired Matisse’s experiments sufficiently to tell a friend that “even the uttermost of that kind have an extraordinary fascination, at least for me.”13

The opportunity the Cabaret Club afforded Gore to work on a mural scale seems to have enlarged his imaginative resources rather than stifling them. A second oil study is dominated by shafts of startling yellow, which scythe through the blue and irradiate the land below. They inflame the hot orange horsemen and strike the left side of the tree, which fills the upper corner of the picture with a solid mass of foliage and stretches its roots down to the base of the design. This bulky, dominant form gives the whole composition greater stability and strength than the lighter, more playful character of the scene with the tigers. The horses, however, are as fancifully conceived as their counterparts in that scene, suggesting that both the murals belonged to the realm of fable; yet the deliberately “naive” style Gore uses to depict the horses’ outflung legs also reflects the serious belief, held by many avant-garde artists of the period, that “primitive” idioms could move close to the imaginative essence of a theme.

None of the club’s wall paintings has so far come to light, but a photograph of the mural Gore developed from the second oil sketch does exist. Carried out in distemper on canvas,14 the work replaced the impasto of the study with a thinner handling. More emphasis was laid on linear definition, which would have made the mural accord more closely with the styles employed elsewhere in the Cave by Ginner and Lewis. Moreover, Gore’s increased clarity of contour means that the ambiguities in the sketches have on the whole been resolved, There is no longer any doubt that three horsemen are involved, that they ride naked on barebacked mounts, and that the animals they pursue are deer.

But even as he spelled out the identity of the painting’s principal elements, Gore left other aspects open to a wider interpretation. Realizing perhaps that the kind of sails he had given the ships in his oil study limited the picture to a comparatively recent historical period, he reverted to the more rudimentary vessels depicted in his tiger scene. The same thinking probably accounts for his decision to dispense with the overly modern houses in the middle distance of his oil study, and devise instead a more “primitive” habitation apparently carved out of the hillside. Its cave-dwelling associations suited the club’s context, as well as removing the mural to the distant era when prehistoric humans first depicted animals on the walls of their caves.

Gore must have wanted to reinforce this new sense of remoteness in his painting style, for the entire work is simplified into severe, monumental areas of flat color. The shafts that so arrestingly pierce sea and sky are now more insistent in their triangular geometry; the pursuers and pursued are pushed away from the foreground so that their weightless bodies assume a frieze-like sequence; and the strange, swollen hill has become schematized into a series of rainbow arcs. Contemporary reviews of the decorations indicate that Gore also orchestrated his colors to enhance this new aura of imposing mystery. One writer, having observed that “as paintings they are remarkably fine,” described how they were “done in bold masses of pure, glowing colours” which have “sometimes the effect of stained glass, yet more often of swirling Eastern tapestries.” The reviewer was particularly impressed by “the splendour of Gore’s colouring and the large remoteness of his manner,”15 suggesting that his wall decorations were vibrant and hieratic in equal measure.

How many murals did Gore himself execute? The full extent of his contribution is difficult to assess, since he was concerned with so many aspects of the club. In a letter to a friend he mentioned the “days and days I have spent arguing about the colour of the walls and ceiling,”16 so he probably assumed responsibility for a whole host of decorative elements that have gone unrecorded. He also found himself saddled with the task of urging his fellow-painters to finish their work on time. Gore’s widow later recalled that a special room was hired, large enough for the three painters to lay out their canvases on the floor.17 Neither Lewis nor Ginner displayed the requisite sense of urgency. For a time Lewis seemed unable to proceed with the work at all, so Mrs. Gore took him in hand; as well as doing her own jobs—priming canvases, melting size, preparing the distemper employed on the decorations, and mixing colors—she was finally obliged to stand over Lewis in order to ensure that he got on with his share of the painting.

Ginner was almost as dilatory. Born and brought up in France, he always took a lengthy continental lunch hour which threatened to extend over the entire afternoon. As the deadline drew nearer, his seemingly insouciant attitude to time became more and more alarming. But the fact remains that Ginner completed a remarkable amount of work for the club. His notebooks reveal18 that he painted three large wall decorations: Chasing Monkeys, which was over eight by six feet in size; Birds and Indians, an even more enormous painting19 which surrounded a doorway, filling an irregular space; and Tiger Hunting, a triptych in which a central panel almost six feet square was flanked by two narrow side-panels. No trace of the first two decorations has survived, but the titles suggest that all three were united by exotic jungle locations. Madame Strindberg’s predilection for the pet monkeys she kept in her suite at the Savoy Hotel may have influenced the choice of theme, but Ginner, who had studied painting at various art schools in Paris between 1904 and 1908, must have been aware of the Douanier Rousseau’s preoccupation with the subject.

Before studying in Paris Ginner had worked in an architect’s office, and the fascination with buildings that dominates so many of his later paintings served him well when he worked on an architectural scale in the club’s interior. His preliminary oil study for Tiger Hunting shows the remarkable confidence with which he transformed his style to meet the requirements of a monumental decoration. Realizing that radical simplification was called for, he organized his triptych into a composition shorn of the picturesque incidents another artist might have been tempted to include. The debt to Rousseau is clear, particularly in Ginner’s decision to fill his entire picture with the flat, patternlike forms of the jungle’s branches and leaves. He also learned from Rousseau how to make attractive play with the fruit, which stands out in brilliant yellows and mustards against the dark-green foliage. The influence of the Douanier’s wit can be found, too, in the monkey’s brilliant white eyes, gazing intensely at the viewer as if annoyed to find the club’s clientele invading his jungle fastness.

But this oil study goes further toward abstraction than Rousseau would have wished. Everything in the three scenes is reduced to its essential geometrical components, so that circles, crescents, triangles, and ovals predominate. The branches and plant stems that provide the composition with much of its underlying structure are stripped of everything that would detract from their clean contours, curving across the panels like the arches in a Gothic nave. These ecclesiastical associations are reinforced by the heavy outlines with which Ginner defines all his forms, animals and vegetation alike. They are thick enough to recall the leaded divisions in stained glass, and Ginner may have wanted his decorations to fuse with their architectural setting as harmoniously as the windows in a medieval cathedral.

Nevertheless, there is nothing pious about this festive triptych with its effervescent pink and yellow borders. The chocolate monkeys swing ing through the jungle’s orange branches are full of sunny insolence, and even the tiger has an elegance which prevents us from taking his life-or-death dilemma too seriously. A monochrome photograph of the central panel shows how Ginner tackled the wall decoration itself, but because it gives no indication of the colors he used we cannot tell if the painting had the zest of the oil sketch’s greens, yellows, and purples. Even so, this inadequate record of the huge painting demonstrates that Ginner remained remarkably faithful to the spirit of his study. Although the massive elephant barging into the design from the right narrows his eye into a fierce slit and thrusts a sharp tusk out in front of him, he is still a playful animal. In common with the other artists who worked at the Cabaret Club Ginner aimed to delight rather than to terrify.

Although Ginner also sold two lost posters in distemper to the club,20 Madame Strindberg did not invite him to design the cabaret’s official advertisements. That task was one of the many assigned to Lewis, who was entrusted with a great deal of the illustrative work for the advance publications. Since these images would be instrumental in defining the spirit of the Cave for potential customers, they had to arrest attention as forcibly as possible. Lewis rose to the occasion. Unlike Gore and Ginner, he concentrated exclusively on human figures. His poster for the club shows a woman twisting her Amazonian body into violent contortions as she thrusts up her arms, unleashing the name of the Cave. Like Jove hurling thunderbolts, she seems able to invest the words with an electrical charge which projects them through the air, fizzing and crackling with excitement.

The same demonic vitality runs through the dancing figures Lewis designed for the club’s brochure of May 1912. On the cover a woman swathed in volum inous robes holds up a hand as if to attract her audience. Inside the brochure, leering faces rise up over the Cave’s name and thrust themselves forward, half human and half animal. As if in response, two figures on another page fling themselves into a dance; their movements are at once ecstatic and aggressive, but on the brochure’s back page Lewis finally calls a halt to all this frenetic activity with a stern figure who brandishes his commanding arm as imperiously as a warrior directing a battle.

For many years, Lewis had shown a fascination with the theater and the circus. Madame Strindberg’s commission gave him the chance to explore his involvement with the theater, and it seems appropriate that he was the artist who designed the drop curta in for the club’s stage. The orange animals and naked figures that move across the dark-brown background of his ink-and-wash study for the curtain were intended to evoke an exotic mood for the evening’s performances.

At first, the gamboling deer and generously proportioned nudes ambling over the primeval mound appear to be enjoying an idyllic relationship. Unlike the panels painted by Ginner and Gore, in which humans hunt down their prey, Lewis’ study shows tame animals nuzzling fearlessly against the women. But more sinister elements assert themselves. An implacable man in one corner points his finger accusingly at a woman clasping her hands in supplication before him; this aggression is reinforced by the strange length of wood, broken at one end so that its splinters are dangerously exposed, that thrusts toward the central woman like a weapon. She appears to be caught off balance in her effort to shy away, and the animal whose hindquarters alone are visible may likewise be responding to this mysterious menace. All the same, the predominant mood of the study is expansive and playful; it seems likely that the final design was especially arresting. Madame Strindberg certainly thought so, insisting that the drop curtain was the product, “not of talent, but of genius!”21

The disappearance of all the wall paintings Lewis did for the cabaret makes it impossible to tell whether his other decorations were carried out in a comparable idiom. A note has been preserved which offers him payment for two paintings, a pair of screens, and the arrangement and decoration of the walls, 22 so his overall contribution sounds extensive. But only a drawing entitled A Wall Decoration in the Cave of the Golden Calf23 affords any indication of its appearance. This drawing is executed in a more elaborate and densely hatched manner than the curtain design; even so, it suggests that the mural itself was a dynamic and spectacular composi tion. In an arena dramatically sliced up by an array of conflicting spotlight forms, which animate the entire space with their geometrical vitality, three figures dance. Lewis’ predilection for conflict is embodied in the sinister presence on the left, who stretches arms and legs into a predatory stance. He seems to be preparing an advance on his companions, and they hurl themselves across the stage in their anxiety to escape. But Lewis does not imply that they are defenseless. The central figure’s extraordinary uplifted leg seems capable of delivering a formidable kick, and the dancer on the right is swathed in draperies sharp-edged and metallic enough to rebuff all but the most lethal of attacks. The aggressive character of this dance outweighs any bacchanalian elements it may contain; the figures seem to revel in their militancy.

Madame Strindberg’s Cave also prompted Lewis to conceive the most important and successful picture he had so far painted.24 This canvas, measuring almost nine feet square, was called Kermesse, and a contract shows that for at least three months it was rented by Madame Strindberg to hang on the stairway leading down to the club from Heddon Street.25 She may well have intended it to be the first image to confront visitors as they descended; a vast, deliberately overwhelming picture, it celebrated the pleasures of merrymaking as boisterously as the annual fairs in the Low Countries from which the name “kermesse” derives. The cabaret aimed to incite among its clientele a spirit of unabashed hedonism which stood in defiant opposition to the puritanism of English morality, and Lewis’ canvas, now lost, was probably supposed to strike the first blow in this battle for sensual liberation.

Like Rubens, whose Flemish Kermesse would have been familiar to him from visits to the Louvre, Lewis was attracted by the idea of lustful encounter. But unlike Rubens he dispensed with all reference to a precise geographical location, and evoked instead a setting unspecific enough to be identified with a more remote period. If an urgent ink sketch called Design for a Programme Cover—Kermesse can be linked with his preliminary studies for the painting, it is clear that Lewis shared Rubens’ partiality for rapacious lunging; but by now all affection has disappeared from sight. Three hungry men, their lips parted to reveal teeth bared in vicious leers, close eagerly on an embattled woman. Although seriously outnumbered and already hampered by the man clutching her waist, she seems determined to resist their advances. The wide-brimmed hats worn by the men suggest that Lewis was thinking of the Breton peasants he had studied in his early short stories, but there is nothing amiably bucolic about these figures. More like storm troopers than rustics, they are locked in a battle from which all vestiges of Rubensian warmth have been expunged.

A more elaborate wash drawing called Kermesse26 could well contain some of the principal forms Lewis deployed in his lost canvas. The harshness of Design for a Programme Cover has been intensified by cold blue washes, which give the protagonists a glacial quality. Although the woman occupying the center of the composition is no longer assailed by the three predators, and might even be enjoying the dance she performs, her partner gazes over her shoulder with a venom so fierce that she might still be endangered. As for the woman on the right, her arms are raised with a declamatory passion which suggests she is participating in a stylized primitive ritual.

The only trace remaining of the final Kermesse canvas is a tantalizingly vague drypoint by Horace Brodzky, which shows a gallery visitor staring at the enormous picture in 1917.27 It is not very informative, but the main figurative components outlined by Brodzky do look like a reversed image of the woman dancing in the center of the Kermesse wash drawing. She seems to have been considerably enlarged, so that her billowing dress and bending leg now extend to the bottom of the composition. Brodzky’s print also suggests that some of the attendants were eliminated from the painting, a supposition confirmed by a catalogue description of Kermesse which recorded it as a “cubistic rendering of three festive figures, the central in rich yellow, the others in varying shades of red and purple.”28

The Dancers, the other Lewis study that can be associated with the lost work, is also restricted to three figures. Everything in this drawing has been drastically simplified. The dancers’ massive yet sinuous limbs dominate the composition, leaving little room for Lewis to treat their surroundings as anything more than a means of reinforcing the movements they make. One outflung arm is heightened by a brilliant shaft of light, like the beam of a spotlight, shooting down from the upper left corner. Lewis accentuates the theatrical metaphor by carving his figures into broad, highly contrasted masses of white and dark blue, as if a battery of artificial lights were trained on them. It is easy to imagine that these haughty and implacable dancers, their faces cast in expressions of enigmatic rigidity, are indeed the denizens of some lurid underground world where macabre cabarets are enacted in a midnight cavern.

Kermesse surely provided an ideal scene-setter for the risqué delights Madame Strindberg wanted to offer in the Cave, and it was enthusiastically praised by artists of very different persuasions. Augustus John, who refused to admire either Cubism or Futurism, was moved to write to Lewis, admitting doubt about the “perplexing and unaccustomed elements of the design” but announcing that John was “greatly impressed” by the “energy and grandeur of the conception.” He seemed to see the canvas as a bacchanal tumultuous enough to have taken place around the golden calf itself, and he confessed that the painting was for him “a revelation of dynamic art.”29 Sickert and Roger Fry were equally impressed.

Kermesse, then, struck a resounding blow for all those who hoped to emancipate British art, and its triumphant figures may have seemed to be performing a victory dance. The painting also vindicated Madame Strindberg’s farsighted support for a young artist. Lewis, emboldened by the opportunity to work on a far larger scale than ever before, overcame his earlier uncertainties as a painter and rose to the occasion; it gave him the stimulus he required to define his newfound sense of confidence and audacity on a major canvas. In this respect, the festive theme he chose could hardly have been more appropriate.

The pictures in the Cave formed only a part of the decorative ensemble, which also embraced freestanding and relief sculpture, much of it painted in outspoken colors, by Epstein and Gill. In his autobiography Epstein remembered Madame Strindberg as “a little Jewish woman from Vienna”30 a description that suggests that he remained quite undaunted by her erratic, temperamental behavior. He also maintained that the decision to execute columnar decorations in the Cabaret Club was his alone, unprompted by either her or any of the other artists. “Two massive iron pillars supported the ceiling,” he wrote, “and I proposed surrounding these with sculpture.”

In Madame Strindberg, Epstein had to deal with a patron who wanted her decorations in a hurry. Carving would have been too slow, and the iron pillars were clearly antipathetic to the stone medium he was employing elsewhere at the time. “I proceeded directly in plaster,” Epstein remembered in his autobiography, “and made a very elaborate decoration which I painted in brilliant colors.” The result must have possessed an almost barbaric allure. Violet Hunt recalled that the pillars “all had scarlet details, the heads of hawks, cats, camels”31—a tantalizing description. Lewis’ account of the sculptures centered on images of caryatids; he described them as “figures appearing to hold up the threateningly low ceiling,”32 and Epstein may have intended them as a pugnacious corrective to the caryatids at the Café Royal.

The amalgam of human and animal forms in Epstein’s contribution to the Cave sounds as if it related directly to the primitive jungle themes explored by some of the wall paintings. But the sexual content of these polychromatic plaster pillars was probably far more explicit than in any of the other decorations. Gill believed that Epstein was “quite mad about sex,”33 and a vivid indication of how far he was prepared to explore this obsession can be gained from his extraordinary study of a Totem. Drawn several months after Epstein completed his pillars, it shows an inverted man copulating with a woman above him, and the whole generative ensemble is crowned by a baby symbolizing the ascendancy of the new generation. The caryatids probably expressed some aspects of the preoccupation with virility, procreation, and birth running through Epstein’s work of this period.

Gill was as interested as Epstein in exploring the potential of colored carvings. In 1911 he had exhibited gilded stone sculpture at his first one-man show, and at least one of the images Madame Strindberg asked him to make for the cabaret required the same treatment. It depicted the all-important golden calf, symbol of the idolatry that caused the Israelites to indulge in hedonistic revelry. Madame Strindberg hoped that her club would inspire a comparable spirit among its clientele, and Gill must have sympathized with her ambitions. Although he was soon to espouse the Catholic faith, he had no patience with the Church’s views about sexual pleasure. To him the erotic urge and the act of copulation were manifestations of divine joy, and he had no compunction in declaring that “it is high time to create works of art to destroy the morality which is corrupting us all.”34 Portraying the golden calf would therefore have been an appropriate task for Gill, who had no hesitation in berating the Catholic priests who thought that sex was “like being in the W.C. (quite pleasant, not necessarily sinful, but only a dirty function).”35 Better by far to encourage everyone to savor the pleasures of the flesh under the benign influence of a gilded idol.

But the golden calf images Gill executed for Madame Strindberg did not flaunt sensuality in a coarse or strident way. The drawings he made for the Cave’s membership cards were, in fact, notable for their restraint. He stamped the calf in gold above the club’s name on the handsome red covers, while inside a similar line drawing of the idol was reproduced between the words “Cabaret” and “Club.” The calf delineated here is a calm creature; it raises its head as if in quiet acknowledgment of the crowds gathered to celebrate it. Maybe Gill opted for this coolly restrained image to suit the official purpose of the card, which members were required to produce before they could gain admittance to the Cave.

Gill certainly attempted to enliven the animal when he drew a preparatory sketch for the smaller of his two carved versions. Now the idol has been transformed into a friskier creature, running along and sniffing the air with pleasurable expectancy. The erect penis and the testicles to the left of the main drawing suggest that the pleasure will be sexual, as does another phallic doodle in the lower-right margin. Above, a third pencilled penis curves in an arc, and its similarity to the curved hooks on the frame surrounding the calf suggests that Gill wanted phallic imagery to adorn the carving itself.

But there is in this sketch something irresolute and unconvincing about the calf’s limbs, two of which have been drawn in alternative positions. A photograph of the lost relief shows that Gill finally decided to place the front legs side by side. The hind legs are still active and the head remains alert, but the calf now seems to have arrested his forward motion, as if suddenly aware that the destination he had been hurrying to reach in the drawing should be scrutinized with care. Ashley Gibson recorded that the sculpture, which he described as “a mural tablet in bas-relief,” was displayed in a position “adjoining the entrance.”36 Gill would therefore have been justified in making his calf reflect the wariness of visitors as they approached the doorway for the first time.

A seasoned carver of tombstones and memorial plaques, Gill was formidably equipped to execute the relief with precision. The carving possesses a greater poise and a more refined simplification than the sketch, but the hooks are even more teasingly phallic than in the drawing. The heavy, plaited frame elaborated in the sketch has been replaced by a series of restrained lines which make the border appear less fussily ornamental. In a similar spirit the letters announcing the “Cave of the Calf” are now partially merged, in order to reinforce the reductive lucidity of the entire design. Like everything else Gill undertook, this tablet was planned and executed with meticulous care. Its painted animal contrasted warmly with the coolness of the white stone surround, and the relief was impressive enough to be remembered by one of the Cave’s visitors as “a masterpiece.”37

The exact position occupied by the larger calf sculpture, which Gill’s account books described as “on pedestal in the round,”38 is unknown. But Madame Strindberg would surely have given this version of the idol a prominent place. It would have glowed like a beacon in the basement at Heddon Street, for the Hopton Wood stone Gill employed for the sculpture has been given a gilded surface. And as if to match the mellowness of his alluring color, the golden calf has become more docile. His hind legs are drawn together, precluding the possibility of movement implicit in the relief carving. His tail has been lowered to a more compliant angle, and he cranes his neck forward like a pet waiting to be patted on the head. He is a cuddly little animal, and his friendliness would have helped put visitors at their ease in the startling environment they scrutinized while waiting for the cabaret to begin. Gill has ensured that the calf’s genitals are very specifically defined, but any thoughts of phallic power seem superfluous when we contemplate the tameness of this young idol. He is so comically affable that Gill must have intended him to spread among the Cave’s clients the good-humored spirit that, as Madame Strindberg insisted, “does not have to count with midnight.”39

Judging by the program of the first week’s attractions, a heady concoction of performances was offered to hasten the gaiety along. The exotic La Morenita, and Margaret Morris with her Greek Children Dancers, were among the events that might start off an evening. Then the pace would quicken, with “The Three Impostors,” “A Veil Dance,” “Jester Songs,” “A Breton Wake,” “Exultations,” and “A Love Mask” all adding their own flavors to proceedings which could also include a “Tarantella,” “Gipsy Folk-lore,” “Playing with Fire,” and “The Midnight Mail.” Lewis’ drawing for the program, filled with grimacing faces, gesticulating nude women, and performers who lunge precipitously toward each other, energetically evokes the brittle blend of satire, spectacle, and music that the cabaret presented.

Although there was a distinct cosmopolitan flavor to the lineup, Madame Strindberg’s brochure announcing the club proclaimed that “we do not want to Continentalise, we only want to do away, to some degree, with the distinction that the word ‘Continental’ implies, and with the necessity of crossing the Channel to laugh freely, and to sit up after nursery hours.” No limits were placed on the range of entertainment that the Cave could supply. “Any form of Art will be welcomed by us, provided it brings with it, from whatever milieu it comes, either life or beauty,” declared the brochure. And in order to show just how catholic its sympathies really were, it explained that the character of the cabaret’s program could “best be suggested by the names of some of the authors and composers under whose banners we range ourselves:—Abercrombie, Villiers de l’Isle Adam, John Davidson, Walter Delamare, Arthur Machen, T. Sturge Moore, Ezra Pound, August Strindberg, Frank Wedekind, Yeats; Granville Bantock, Delius, Holbrooke, Raoul Lapara, Ernest Moret, Florence Schmitt, Dalhousie Young.” It was a diverse list, encompassing the older generation as well as the avant-garde, and ranging from the lightest of humorists to the most grueling of tragic playwrights.

But the Cave’s overall aim remained singleminded in the extreme: it wanted to encourage even the most conservative visitors to relax, unbutton their stiff white shirtfronts, and lose themselves in the unorthodox pleasures of the occasion. Lewis’ marvelously demonic drawing for the menu implied that the liberal amounts of food on offer, combined with a plentiful supply of alcohol, would soon make the clientele sway as violently as the most exclamatory performers on stage. For Madame Strindberg believed that London could indeed produce a cabaret mesmerizing enough to bear comparison with the best European counterparts. Her brochure promised that “during and after supper, the picturesque dances of the South, its fervid melodies, Parisian wit, English humour, will create a surrounding which, if it has no other merit, will at least endeavour to limit emigration.”

How well did the Cave fulfill these ambitions? When it finally opened on June 26, 1912, it was besieged by customers who did not seem to mind that the premises had, in the Times’ words, “to be entered by a sort of manhole.”40 Several reporters decided to brave the throng, and one account is detailed enough to afford a vivid description of the interior.

A deep oblong-shaped apartment capable of housing, perhaps, two hundred persons in atmospheric comfort is the Golden Calf Cabaret, the latest addition to the amusement life of London.The raftered ceiling is picked out in green and white; there are many suspended lanthorn-shaped lights and numerous round tables with ordinary straight-backed Vienna chairs. Around the walls, which are adorned with curious panels in coloured chalks looking much like enlarged editions of a child’s early drawing efforts on a slate, are a few divans. On the right as you enter, raised a foot or so above the level of the floor, and occupying about a third of the wall space, is a platform across which fall deep blue curtains.

The writer of this report seems to have been disoriented by the experience, finding it hard to believe that such an unfamiliar scene could be encountered in England. “The world of London seems to have completely disappeared,” he explained;

You might be in Cairo or Vienna, in Brussels or in Amsterdam, in Madrid or in Stockholm; you are surely not in England. Seated at the tables are 40 or 50 men and women; some in evening dress, some in tweeds, or even flannels. Most of the women are smoking, and so are the men, but the cigarette always. There is a babel of tongues—French predominating; but you also hear Spanish and Russian, and German also, and a language which sounds like harsh German and proves to be Swedish. At one table are seated four East Indians, with aigretted turbans and brilliant robes with strings of costly beads round their necks. They have half-full tumblers in front of them. A cordial greeting comes to you from a lady who is evidently in authority, and whose English has a Continental accent.41

The lady in question was undoubtedly Madame Strindberg herself, who must have reveled in the chance to give vent to her most gregarious instincts. But although she probably tried her best to benefit from the limelight, she could not have monopolized her guests’ attention for long. The first distraction was caused by a farcical crisis over Lewis’ drop curtain. Since he had only finished it the day before the opening, it arrived at the Cave wet, and stuck fast on the first night. But after this embarrassment had been overcome the entertainments commenced, performed by what one reviewer described as “the excellent cabaret artists the committee of the club has gathered from the four corners of the earth.”42

The Observer’s reviewer quickly succumbed to the proceedings on stage. He joyously decided that “if anything can make ‘the cave’ a success it will be the fascinating Norwegian maitresse des cérémonies (conferencière they call her, but the rôle is first cousin to that of commère in a revue) Mlle. Bokken Lasson, who sings ravishing little songs in all languages to mandolin accompaniment.”43 The Sunday Times’ critic, J.T. Grien, echoed this praise for Bokken Lasson and then went on to report that there were many other

numbers of real artistic value . . . thus the exquisite and fantastic dances to tunes of Grieg by Miss Margaret Morris; thus the refined singing of Mr. Vernon D’Arnalle; thus the fairy tales of Mlle. Aggersholm, who would be even more delightful if she did not seem so intensely convinced of her powers to please; thus perhaps the best number of all, the Spanish dances of Senor Matthias, dances fraught with the spirit of Spain and the passion of the Latin blood. Not for a long time has a male dancer, whose art is not academic but intuitive, roused so much enthusiasm among an audience, many of whom were connoisseurs and gourmets of choreographic art.44

At this stage in the evening, the club was clearly beginning to lose the sense of formality and decorum so evident in a drawing published by the Daily Mirror.45 It contains a valuable record of the room’s painted rafters, bentwood chairs, tables covered with white cloths, and of Gore’s enormous deer-hunting picture, on the right of the stage and apparently filling most of the wall it occupied. But the drawing shows the Cave at an early time of the evening, and does not begin to convey the atmosphere of a place where, as one correspondent discovered, increasingly unlikely encounters could be witnessed as midnight came nearer. “By this time the cabaret feeling grows upon you,” he wrote;

You discover that the woman talking so volubly to the Spanish dancer is the widow of a famous German professor, and the rather shy-looking girl is the wife of a Danish poet, who presently recites an English translation of one of his poems. Three or four well-groomed men have arrived, and they are trying their best French on a dark-haired, dark-eyed woman to whom they have been presented—the men are all soldiers, officers from one of the Guards regiments, and the woman is a prima donna from Milan. Presently she sings an aria from a French opera, and you listen entranced. She is followed on the stage—the performer always rising from among the audience—by a girl dancer of the cult which Maud Allan made familiar to us, and with bared feet and limbs she endeavors to convey the motions of a grasshopper or the moonlight gambols of a Titania. It does not strike one at all as astonishing to hear that the dancer is one of the attractions of grand opera and that she has been just borrowed for a cabaret evening.46

Eventually, when midnight arrived, another reporter found that the Cave and its surroundings persuaded the visitors to drop their reserve entirely: “the tempo quickens, the singing gets more reckless, and the audience more gay; something of the true spirit of the cabaret seizes it by the starched shirt-front, and a straggly chorus begins to hop and wobble about the cave.”47 Even the Times’ reviewer was forced to admit that the entertainments on offer “must have kept the cave-dwellers happy till dawn.”48 Indeed, the cabaret proved so potent that many of its habitués never forgot the pleasure it gave them. Many years later Osbert Sitwell remembered how, as a young man about town, he would delight in repairing “to the Cabaret Club, where the lesser artistes of the theatre, as well as the greater, mixed with painters, writers, and their opposite, officers in the Brigade of Guards. This low-ceilinged night-club, appropriately sunk below the pavement . . . and hideously but relevantly frescoed . . . appeared in the small hours to be a superheated Vorticist garden of gesticulating figures, dancing and talking, while the rhythm of the primitive forms of ragtime throbbed through the wide room.”49 Sitwell was sufficiently aware of avant-garde art to appreciate the way the figures in the decorations seemed at one with the dancers below them, but Violet Hunt looked at the murals with alarm, and shuddered when she described these paintings as “Bismarckian images, severings, disembowellings, mixed pell-mell with the iron shards that did it, splashed with the pale blood of exhausted heroes.”50 Her melodramatic description may well have been echoed by the visitors who, like Edgar Jepson, found that you could dance “the Turkey Trot and the Bunny Hug” and then “between the dances you could observe violent, Vorticist assaults on the drama.”51

As the club gained notoriety it became less of a straightforward cabaret and more of a center for experimental artistic activity. Madame Strindberg would have been gratified by this development. In order to enable penurious artists to enter the Cave, she had offered to reduce the annual membership subscription from five guineas to one guinea for “fifty members exclusively representative of the four arts, i.e., Literature, the Stage, Painting, and Music.”52 In a letter to Gore she even promised that people like Ginner, Lewis, and Sickert “will have to pay no subscription, but will be according to the rules liable up to one pound in case of smash. If you wish to ask any artists under those conditions, please do if you like them personally!”53 She became more generous still after the Cave had been running for some while, and proposed “that a number of well-known members of the theatrical and art world should be elected Honorary members, and enjoy as such the full benefits of the Clubhouse.”54

No wonder that Ezra Pound, who was then as short of money as most other avant-garde writers and artists in London, gratefully described the Cabaret Theatre Club as “the only night club . . . impovrished artists cd/get into.”55 The extraordinary mixture of wealthy socialites and impecunious bohemians, soldiers and poets, politicians and anarchists was bound to cause friction: Pound complained bitterly about “the bloody guardsman who borrowed my luxurious hat from the Cabaret cloak room (not by accident).”56 But he remained enchanted by the vitality and perpetual human comedy to be witnessed there, especially when he saw Madame Strindberg “wave a customer away from her table saying as she did so that sleep with him she would, but talk to him, never: ”One must draw the line somewhere."57

Mischievous, irritating, capricious, enterprising, and unique, Madame Strindberg had succeeded in making her Cave as magnetic as she had originally hoped. She had also brought into being a decorative environment far more impressive and unified than the usual cabaret interior. This was the ideal environment for innovative artists and writers to gather in—an underground center where they felt at home and saw how memorably the new art could be transposed to a monumental scale. Ford Madox Ford, keenly supportive of the young artists and writers who “dragged me round to conspiracies, night-clubs, lectures where [Filippo Tommaso] Marinetti howled and made noises like machine-guns,”58 regarded the cabaret as one of the main rallying grounds for the spirit of renewal. He realized that the overheated cellar contributed to the vitality of an extraordinary moment when, as he testified, “in the just-before-the-war days, the Fine, the Plastic and the Literary Arts touched hands with an unusual intimacy and what is called oneness of purpose.”

But like so many of the ventures initiated during this frenetic period, the club did not last long.59 According to Gibson, who witnessed its progress at first hand, the lavishness of the enterprise finally proved its downfall. “On such later occasions as I explored the Cave it seemed to be doing good business,” he recorded. “Madame’s flair for recruiting impeccable artists secured her a chef beyond criticism, nor did the establishment’s cellar give ground for complaint. While these remained, and the cabaret turns maintained their novelty, supper parties in those subterranean alcoves continued popular with those who could afford them, for the fun was fast and furious. There lay the rub, however. The clientele whom it was intended to attract could not afford to keep it up.”60

Nor could Madame Strindberg. One of her most distressing problems was her inability to pay the artists whose labor had contributed so much to the Cave’s success; both Gill61 and Lewis were forced to withdraw work from the Cave in order to realize income on it. Simultaneously, as Ashley Gibson explained, the club’s fortunes deteriorated. “The vulgarer stockbroking element soon preponderated,” he wrote; “their notions of fun were a little too fast and furious, and the Cave . . . met the common fate of such institutions in the West End of London.”62 The police raided the premises one night in 1913, acting on information that it was breaking the law by asking nonmembers to pay for their food and drink. The club never recovered.

On February 13, 1914, the liquidation sale was held. Although the furniture raised £80, and the “goodwill” another £10, the long-suffering artists failed to rescue their work. Epstein’s sculpture disappeared completely, and Madame Strindberg herself was rumored to have taken the wall decorations away with her when she departed for America soon afterwards. “I’m leaving the Cabaret,” she told Augustus John in a letter written on board the transatlantic liner. “Dreams are sweeter than reality.” And she pleaded that “if ever you think of me, do it without bitterness and stripe [sic] me of all the ugliness that events have put on me and which is not in my heart.”63

The Cabaret Theatre Club decorations were regarded as “the first success”64 of the avant-garde art that English writers loosely associated with the term Cubism. When the experimental artists newly arisen on the continent first exhibited in the London galleries, their work was usually vilified. But when the English saw similar paintings and sculpture installed in a nightclub dedicated to the emancipation of its visitors, artistic renewal suddenly made sense. It became an integral part of a larger release from the constraints imposed by an older generation, and the Cave’s pleasurable ambience played an important part in persuading London that the new art could delight as well as bewilder its viewers.

Before long, therefore, other decorative ventures were planned to build on the startling success enjoyed by the cabaret’s environmental éclat. In the summer of 1913 Madame Strindberg wrote Gore an excited letter informing him that the Daily Mail wanted to create a similar space: “The Ideal Home Exhibition asked Konody for an eminent Futurist painter, to decorate a room for them—I told Konody to give them your name and address [sic]. He has done so. For God’s sake don’t recommend another man but make the money yourself.”65 In the event the commission was given to the Omega Workshops, which undertook several experimental interiors in the wake of the enthusiasm initiated by the Cave’s reputation.66 Lewis, however, ultimately benefited from the cabaret, carrying out a sequence of intriguing schemes for a variety of private and public spaces over the next couple of years.

Nor was the influence of the Cabaret Club’s decorations confined to aristocratic dining rooms and expensive restaurants. In the months before the First World War was declared, even the music halls began to discard traditional backdrops and to astonish their audiences with radical designs in a direct line of descent from the wall paintings at the Cave. If Madame Strindberg had sought to infuse her club with some of the vigor and outspoken zest of the music halls, they now returned the compliment by experimenting with the most outlandish decor imaginable. In March 1914 the Daily Mirror reproduced a trio of new scenery paintings at the Coliseum, where Malcolm Scott performed in drag below an enormous, ferociously grinning mask; Dorothy Webster sang in front of a vast chessboard design; and Nella Webb entertained her public with the aid of a semiabstract decoration based on musical motifs. “No longer will the stars sing and patter before the old-fashioned scenes, which generally represented a busy street situated nowhere in particular, and in their place weird backgrounds will be lowered before the gaze of an astonished audience,” commented the reporter, who asked: “Will people appreciate the novelty?”67 They probably did approve, but it remains doubtful whether any of the music-hall designs were as memorable as the paintings and sculpture in the overheated basement at Heddon Street, where art merged with architecture, cabaret performance, music, and dance in an exhilarating synthesis.

Richard Cork is the art critic for The Standard, London, and an art critic whose study of Vorticism was published in 1976.

The author is very grateful to Freddy Gore for his help in the preparation of this article.



1. “Aims and Programme of the Cabaret Theatre Club,” dated May 1912, in “Cabaret Theatre Club: The Cave of the Golden Calf,” an illustrated brochure published from 9 Heddon Street, London W.1. (unpaginated).

2. Frida Strindberg to Spencer Gore, n.d., unpublished letter owned by Frederick Gore. It is written from “4 St. Albans Place, Carlton St., Regent St.,” and Madame Strindberg notes in the letter that she wants to open the Cabaret Club around “9th to 10th May!!!”. So it was probably written at least a month before.

3. Michael Holroyd, Augustus John: A Biography, London 1974 and 1975, revised Penguin edition 1976, p. 481.

4. Ashley Gibson, Postscript to Adventure, London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1930, p. 103.

5. Wyndham Lewis, Rude Assignment: A Narrative of My Career Up-to-Date, London: Hutchinson, 1950, p. 125.

6. “Preliminary Prospectus,” an illustrated pamphlet dated April 1912 and published from 3 Heddon Street, London (unpaginated).

7. The Observer, June 16, 1912.

8. Exodus 32, i-vi.

9. Lewis drew the illustrations in the May 1912 “Cabaret Theatre Club” brochure (see note 1) and he designed the club’s poster as well.

10. Frederick Gore thinks that the illustration in the “Preliminary Prospectus” may be by his father (interview with the author, January 26, 1981). The figure on the left of the design is certainly reminiscent of Gore’s contemporaneous style, but the couple dancing on the right are surely by Lewis. The illustration may perhaps have been a collaborative work by the two friends.

11. Frida Strindberg to Spencer Gore. n.d., unpublished letter (see note 2).

12. Gore’s sketchbook material for the Cave project is owned by Frederick Gore and Anthony d’Offay.

13. Spencer Gore to Doman Turner, quoted by John Woodeson in his introduction to the catalogue of the “Spencer Gore 1878–1914” exhibition, The Minories, Colchester, March–April 1970, unpaginated.

14. Spencer Gore’s wife, who was involved in the cabaret project, recalled the kind of paint employed by the artists very distinctly. (Frederick Gore, interview with the author, January 26, 1981).

15. “The Variety Theatres,” by “W.R.T.” Unidentified newspaper cutting owned by Frederick Gore.

16. Spencer Gore to Doman Turner, n.d. unpublished letter owned by Frederick Gore, who believes it was written in 1912

17. Frederick Gore, interview with the author, January 26, 1981.

18. Wendy Baron, in The Camden Town Group, London: Scolar, 1979, p. 43, records the details that Ginner wrote in his notebooks concerning the cabaret project.

19. In his notebooks (see note 18) Ginner records that Birds and Indians measured 9 by 6 feet overall, but these dimensions do not tally with a diagram of the space that he drew in a letter to Gore (May 9, 1912, unpublished. owned by Frederick Gore). Here Ginner states that the overall size is 12 feet, 4 inches wide and 6 feet high, and he writes: “The measurements of the panels given yesterday are quite correct.”

20. Wendy Baron, The Camden Town Group, p. 43. One of the posters was entitled Piccadilly Circus, and may have been related to the painting of the same name that Ginner exhibited later in 1912 (Tate Gallery collection).

21. Frederick Etchells, interview with the author, June 2, 1970.

22. Frida Strindberg, unsigned note to Wyndham Lewis, n.d., Dept. of Rare Books, Cornell University.

23. Lewis’ A Wall Decoration in the Cave of the Golden Calf only exists now as the frontispiece of the “Cabaret Theatre Club” brochure, (see note 1).

24. For a full account of the reasons why Lewis’ Kermesse can be linked with the painting subsequently exhibited at the 1912 Allied Artists’ Salon, see my Vorticism and Abstract Art in the First Machine Age, Volume 1: Origins and Development, London: Gordon Fraser, 1976, p.37, and especially footnote 47 on p.301.

25. The contract is preserved in the Dept of Rare Books, Cornell University. It provides for a three-month rental of £10, and an option to purchase upon payment of another £20, which was obviously never taken up. Kermesse remained in Lewis’ possession until its acquisition by John Quinn.

26. Lewis himself called it Design for Kermesse (no.27) in the catalogue of his May 1949 exhibition at the Redfern Gallery, London.

27. Horace Brodzky’s etching shows a visitor gazing at Kermesse when it was included in the “Exhibition of the Vorticists at the Penguin,” held at the Penguin Club, 8 East 15th Street, New York, commencing January 10, 1917. Brodzky was “clerk of the works” at the exhibition.

28. Entry no.382 in the 1927 Quinn Sale catalogue. Its measurements were “height 8 feet 9 inches x length 8 feet 11 inches.”

29. Augustus John to Wyndham Lewis, n.d., probably Summer 1912, Dept. of Rare Books, Cornell University.

30. Jacob Epstein, Let There Be Sculpture, London, 1940, p.116; New York: Putnams, 1940, p.99.

31. Quoted by Douglas Goldring, South Lodge: Reminiscences of Violet Hunt, Ford Madox Ford and the English Review Circle, London: Constable & Co., 1943, p.246.

32. Wyndham Lewis, Rude Assignment, p.125.

33. Eric Gill, Diary, December 13, 1913, quoted by Malcolm Yorke, Eric Gill: Man of Flesh and Spirit, London, 1981, p.105.

34. Recorded by Count Harry Kessler, The Diaries of a Cosmopolitan, 1918–1937_, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, p.330.

35. Robert Speaight, The Life of Eric Gill, London, 1966, p.174.

36. Ashley Gibson, Postscript to Adventure, p.104.

37. Ibid.

38. In his account books Gill itemized both the Calf carvings as transaction 437 under the name of Madame Strindberg and The Cabaret Theatre Club. (Owned by William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, University of California).

39. “Aims and Programme of the Cabaret Theatre Club,” May 1912 (see note 1).

40. The Times, June 27, 1912.

41. “New Sensation For London. Night in ‘Cave of the Golden Calf.’ Exotic Atmosphere.” Newspaper clipping owned by Frederick Gore. Despite extensive research in the British Newspaper Library, I have failed to identify its source.

42. “The Variety Theatres,” by “W.R.T.” (see note 15).

43. The Observer, June 30, 1912,

44. Sunday Times, June 30, 1912.

45. The drawing was reproduced on a large scale across the centerfold of the Daily Mirror, July 4, 1912.

46. See note 41.

47. See note 15.

48. The Times, June 27, 1912.

49. Osbert Sitwell, Great Morning, Being the Third Volume of Left Hand, Right Hand! An Autobiography, London MacMillan, 1948, p.208.

50. Violet Hunt, I Have This To Say, New York: Boni and Liveright,1926, p.267.

51. Edgar Jepson, Memories of an Edwardian and Neo-Georgian, London: Richards, 1937, p.155.

52. “Preliminary Prospectus,” April 1912 (see note 6).

53. Frida Strindberg to Spencer Gore, n.d. (Summer 1912), unpublished, owned by Frederick Gore.

54. Entry for November 1, 1913, in the Minute Book of the General Committee of the Cabaret Club (owned by Frederick Gore).

55. Quoted by Eustace Mullins, This Difficult Individual, Ezra Pound, New York, 1961, p.98.

56. Ezra to Isabel W. Pound, ca. November 1913, The Letters of Ezra Pound, 1907–1941, ed. D.D. Paige, London, 1951, p.62; New York: Harcourt Brace, 1950.

57. Noel Stock, The Life of Ezra Pound, London: Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1970, p.145.

58. Ford Madox Ford, Return to Yesterday: Reminiscences 1894–1914, London: 1931, p.419.

59. I refer in particular to the extraordinary number of artists’ groups that rose and fell with spectacular swiftness around this time.

60. Ashley Gibson, Postscript to Adventure, p.105.

61. Eric Gill. account book owned by William Andrews Clark Memorial Library. University of California. The Golden Calf reproduced by Joseph Thorp as plate 6 in Eric Gill, London, 1929. is stated by Thorp to have “once belonged to Sir Cyril Butler.” So this carving must have been the one Gill showed at the “Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition.”

62. Ashley Gibson, Postscript to Adventure, p.105.

63. Frida Strindberg to Augustus John, n.d. from the R.M.S Compania. Quoted by Michael Holroyd in Augustus John: A Biography, p.534.

64. Morning Post, March 30, 1914

65. Frida Strindberg to Spencer Gore, n.d., ca. Summer 1913 owned by Frederick Gore.

66. For a detailed account of the confused events surrounding the Ideal Home commission, see Quentin Bell and Stephen Chaplin, “The Ideal Home Rumpus,” Apollo, October 1964, and my Vorticism, pp 92–8.

67. Daily Mirror, March 16, 1914.