The Last Tuesday Society is proud to present an exhibition about Stephen Tennant. It is the first London show dedicated to the paintings and drawings of him since 1976. The Society will attempt to recreate the atmosphere of Wilsford and exhibit an extensive collection of his paintings, drawings, doodles, manuscripts, furniture and knick knacks. As well as Cecil Beaton photographs of Stephen, Wilsford & friends; courtesy of Sotheby's and photos of Wilsford by James Mortimer, courtesy of The World of Interiors and film footage from Nicky Haslam.
The Last Tuesday Society is a ‘Pataphysical organization founded by William James at Harvard in the 1870s and presently run by The Chancellor, Mr.Viktor Wynd and the Tribune, Suzette Field with the aid of The Fellows of The Society. It is devoted to exploring and furthering the esoteric, literary and artistic aspects of life in London and beyond.'
Known for their dedication to decadence and renowned for their epicurean balls, The Last Tuesday Society are the perfect organisation to curate an exhibition to remind people of the fascinating and exceptional art and life of the beautiful dandy Stephen Tennant. Mr Tennant was said to be the 'brightest' of the Bright Young Things and one of the inspirations for Lord Sebastian Flyte in Waugh's Brideshead Revisited.
In the words of Tennant biographer and decadence expert Philip Hoare, he describes him as 'The Last Professional Exquisite'.
"Stephen Tennant was a work-in-progress. Born in 1906 as the youngest son of the newly ennobled Baron Glenconner, his life was an expectation of privilege. Yet he subverted that all by becoming, in the words of Jacob Epstein, the most beautiful person, male or female, of his generation. Gold dust in his hair, Vaseline on his eyelids, a leather coat copied from his brother’s First World War flying jacket (with the addition of a chinchilla fur collar), he outraged staid society by dressing as a beggar in rags, and arriving with the greatest war poet, and protestor; Siegfried Sassoon on his arm.
But that dream ended, and Stephen, as the world became serious, retreated to the Arts and Crafts manor built for his mother by Detmar Blow, deep in a Wiltshire valley. There, overtaken by the vulgarity of the modern world, he recreated his beloved South of France, the imaginary territory of his never-to-be-completed masterpiece, Lascar: A Story of the Maritime Boulevards. And just as he forever re-wrote that manuscript, in ever-changing ink colours, and illustrated it with the tough tars and tarts of his fantasies, so Wilsford Manor was refurbished in his image.
Twenty two tons of silver sand were spread on the lush English lawns to evoke his Marseilles dream, Chinese fan palms planted, and tropical birds and lizards let loose on the grounds. In the winter, they took refuge in the house, accompanying Stephen as he turned the bath taps on his collection of shells, since they looked better that way. Meanwhile Cecil Beaton brought David Bailey and David Hockney, Kenneth Anger and Derek Jarman over, all rapt in Stephen’s stories of Greta Garbo or the Ballets Russes, of the Sitwells and Rex Whistler, of dear Morgan Forster and Virginia’s peculiarities, of Lawrence of Arabia and his beloved Willa Cather. And there Stephen lived on, in exquisite, decorative reclusion, reliving his past glories and imagining his future ones, such as this long-awaited exposition of his beauty and his art in London's salubrious East End."