Friday, June 03, 2016

Arty Farty Friday ~ William Roberts - Against-Type Gemini Sun

William Roberts, born 5 June 1895, died 20 January 1980. He was a British painter of, mainly, groups of figures and portraits. He was also a war artist in both World War I and World War II.

I was unaware of Mr Roberts' paintings, but having wandered among those available via Google Image have been duly impressed.

From a piece by Michael Spens HERE with added images of paintings mentioned.
Roberts, always himself a most independent figure, carved a special niche from an early age. Very much a man of the people, from the simplest East London beginnings (his father was a carpenter), he remained all through his life a man who chose not to communicate with people. Yet, he provided us through his oeuvre with a broad yet spectral insight into the social characteristics of society as he saw it and of its changing nature as the 20th century wore on...........
Roberts' dramatic set-piece, entitled 'The Cinema' (1920)
The film being a silent cowboy saga, the female musical accompanist is glimpsed through curtains below the screen and the monochromatic expression of the silent movie is represented in toned sepia, as a maelstrom of feverish activity. By contrast, the audience, mainly male, is shown enthralled in sombre, darkening colours, not without cubist or even futurist influence. It is interesting to be able to see, in the same exhibition, Roberts' 'TV' (1960).
Here, a similar engrossment with the screen, now contained within a living room for a family grouping is revealed, yet all is at a private scale of activity. Privacy was a permanent necessity for William Roberts himself in his career and in his closely guarded family life.

Roberts had a highly proactive start to his career, following his scholarship to the Slade at the age of 15. By the time he was 20, he had signed the Vorticist manifesto with other colleagues, together with Wyndham Lewis and the poet Ezra Pound. Did active service as a young war artist in World War I ever expand Roberts's enthusiasm for the mechanistic surge and thrust of the compelling machine age? There is no evidence of this. Indeed, a degree of revulsion now turned Roberts towards full-blown figurative art, developing human forms that were well rounded and upright, generic in a language all his own. Roberts, from his working class background (which he never foresook) was able to provide a genuine social documentation throughout his career, of ordinariness and light together, of his fellow Londoners and Eastenders. He suffered after the war, for his apparent lack of charisma, buying, too, a simple home in Camden, becoming something of a recluse - always with his wife discouraging art critics. He taught at the Central School of Art, but even with students and staff maintained a 'Trappist' lack of verbal exchange, just drawing on his students' work, and in all human contacts painfully shy and less than amiable. His work, and family, became his entirety. Yet Roberts was also an exceptional portrait painter and was persuaded to complete portraits of such luminaries of the pre-war period as TE Lawrence and JM Keynes. His self-portrait shows a cloth-capped, warily reticent, red-faced individual.

Roberts's countervailing sense of humour is apparent in many paintings, such as 'Rush Hour' (1971), one of the best depictions of the almost-disappeared and much-lamented London bus.

Rush Hour

He distrusted critics for the most part and took strenuous measures to avoid them. What speaks out from his work is a self-explanatory integrity, both visual and of technique. He had developed and mastered his personal style from a young age, maintaining and developing it all his life.

Unfortunately, his typical rejection of the entire gallery system (with the proud exception of the Royal Academy, which had perceptively elected him an RA in later life) had long-term shortcomings for his estate. A most important collection of his work, comprising some 70 paintings, numerous drawings and other documentation, still lies in the Tate Gallery cellars, inaccessible as long as the Treasury Solicitors' Department takes to decide as to the best manner of its disposal. Roberts had, typically, died intestate aged 85 in 1980. Neither his family, nor indeed the William Roberts Society, have been able to advance this situation at present.

Many of Roberts' paintings can be seen via Google Image, his subjects encompass a wide variety of everyday activities. From HERE:
Painter, William Roberts, started out as a poster designer and studied at the Slade; leaving the school in 1913 he travelled in France and Italy and fought in the trenches during WWI, the sheer horror of the experience, as with many other artists who went to fight, significantly changing the direction of his work. Roberts was one of the signatories to the first issue of BLAST, the short-lived literary magazine of the Vorticist movement in Britain.

The Vorticists at the Restaurant de la Tour Eiffel: Spring, 1915.
He developed an interest for representing and interpreting the predominantly working class elements of metropolitan London’s everyday life and events – visits to the cinema, the dance hall but treating them with dignity and humour.

 Cantering to the Post
 The Palms Foretell
The Wimpy Bar

 The Dressmakers
 The Barber's Shop


Born on 5 June 1895 in London, UK. time of birth unknown, chart set for 12 noon.

Mentioned often in descriptions of the artist is Roberts' need for privacy - from Wikipedia, for instance:
Roberts was often described as reclusive, and he was very wary about interviewers – especially after an Observer journalist who visited him produced an article that Roberts felt was concerned more with his rather spartan lifestyle than with his work. 'What kind of art critic is this, who sets out to criticise my pictures, but criticises my gas stove and kitchen table instead?' he asked. One admirer of his work has told how she saw him getting on to a number 74 bus and 'Fascinated to gain a sighting of the octogenarian recluse, she followed him to the top deck. Aided by "the chutzpah of youthful inexperience", she respectfully asked him if she were addressing Mr William Roberts. After what felt like an interminable pause, and with his gaze defiantly averted, he replied: "I really do not know."

That reclusiveness is reflection of four personal planets in Cancer: Venus conjunct Mars and Jupiter conjunct Mercury. Cancer, a sign said to indicate, when prominent in a natal chart, a propensity for feelings of vulnerability and need for self-protection - the sign's symbol - the crab displays these tendencies. From snips quoted above: His work, and family, became his entirety. That clearly signals Cancerian!

Elementally, Roberts' chart has a preponderance of intuitive, sensitive Water, with only Sun and two outer planets in Air, and no Earth or Fire at all - unless rising sign added one of those elements to the mix.

Roberts' Gemini Sun, closely flanked by Neptune on one side and Pluto on the other, seems a tad beseiged. This, in tandem with four Cancer personal planets could well account for a Gemini Sun person turning out to be against-type, and rather unsociable - at least on the surface. Roberts' underlying affection for ordinary people, though, is evident from his paintings - his way of communicating without making himself vulnerable.

Saturn, from secretive Scorpio trines Mercury, further adding to some feeling of inner restriction or limitation. Also in Scorpio are Uranus and, quite possibly Moon, with one or both in trine to some of the Cancer planets - still more reflection of Roberts' need for privacy - a known Scorpio trait.

Uranus' links to personal planets also relates to Roberts' modernistic quasi-cubist art style, and his connection with the avant-garde Vorticists.


mike said...

And you thought your intestate inheritance was taking forever...LOL. Strange how his and wife's gene line bottomed-out with his son, with both his son and wife predeceasing him. I tried to find something online about his son, there's scant...he is apparently the author of "Quatrains" (1977)...Wiki indicates the son, John David Roberts, was a poet. It would seem that there must be some distant relative...maybe that'll be your next surprise, are in another intestate with Roberts' inheritance.

I like his paintings, but there's something a bit unsettling or nervous about them to my visual sense. His figures are rounded, many plump, yet the arms and hands appear slightly large for the scale, and form sharp angles that seem incongruous together.

Everything points to him being a recluse, but he did have professional interaction, which bordered on social interaction, with his artist peers and others in the business of art.

You defined him well with your astrological interpretation. I'd only add that he had Moon and Mars in mutual reception and both are his final dispositors. Oddly, both Moon and Mars are in "Fall" and are considered debilitated-weakened in those two signs. Another oddly...his Jupiter and Uranus were exalted in those same two signs and, I suppose, may have the truer dominance over his natal planets, and therefore his personality and life.

Twilight said...

mike ~ LOL re his estate and paintings being stashed away pending....whenever! Such things always bring to mind the saying, "The law is an ass". What'd be wrong with displaying the dang paintings in a gallery somewhere in the meantime (or forever), that's what, I bet, Mr Roberts would have preferred.

Yes, his quasi-cubism creeps in via the hands and the angles - I guess that was his "signature". I couldn't help being reminded of another English artist who loved to paint ordinary people doing ordinary things, but with more overt affectionate humour, and many more curves: Beryl Cook. I did a post about her in 2007, thought I'd done another, with more illustrations, but seems not. I was probably wary of copyright issues at the time.

Thanks for the additional astrological points. I like this as an example that Sun in Gemini need not always present as textbooks proclaim!

Sabina said...

Just a few observations in no particular order. I see the South Node cjs Asc in 1st and the best I could find quickly is from a review of a Celeste Teal book at Llewellyn's Journal:

'Also, if your north or south nodes are conjunct your Ascendant or Descendant, your life should take on a fated quality. It might seem that every action or situation is significant in terms of your life goals and spiritual meaning...' I'd say South Node in Virgo is someone who is too persnickety - I say this as a Virgo Sun/Asc who knows a person with Virgo South Node. Of course, position of Ruler of Node plays a part too.

Question for mike: you say, 'Jupiter and Uranus were exalted in those same two signs.' In what sign is Uranus exalted - I can't quickly find any exaltations for 'modern' planets.

His paintings remind me somewhat of heroic 'Communist' art. One can see the evolution of the Vorticists in the works of Italian deco period graphic design between the wars. I find some of Roberts' works highly amusing. The juxtaposition of humour and darkness seems Gemini-like. Roberts' work as a war artist is congruent with Mercury as psychopomp.

If I had the ability, I would look at indicators of his parents' influence on his early life; so often is there truth in that old saw about as the twig is bent, so grows the tree. (Moon/Uranus and Sun/Pluto placements, eg.)

Personally, I have a great deal of sympathy for those who seek 'reclusivity', especially creatives. I will say two of the Gems I know do swing between charmingly outgoing and completely out of sight. I think that's an 'energy' thing. Makes me think of Leo and Trump and how the Sun is its own source of energy. The modern obsession with the minutiae of celebrities' lives is execrable. If one abjures dissection by the likes of TMZ, can being branded as a recluse be far behind? Spoken like a true 12th house Sun ;P

David Macadam said...

Arty farty Friday is a constant with me. I did art at school and draw cartoons sort of semi professionally so think I'm pretty good at artists. Almost always bowled over by "new" artists I never knew before turning up on you blog. Worth waiting the week for :)


Twilight said...

Sabina ~ Time of birth isn't known, though, so ascendant as shown in this chart isn't accurate (unless Roberts was born 12 noon) - otherwise good points about nodes, thank you. :-)

He was a product of his times as well as of his parental influence, little wonder, then, that he shades humour with darkness - two World Wars can do that to a person, I'd guess!

I'm a bit of a recluse myself, so would never criticise on that score. I don't sympathise much with today's celebs due to fans' obsession with their doings, however.
The heat goes with the kitchen in which they chose to work. Painters are somewhat different though, their artistry is produced in private, not on a stage or screen, so do deserve more understanding - in my opinion.

Twilight said...

David Macadam ~ Hi again David! Thanks for popping in and for appreciating Arty Farty Friday. It has always been my favourite day's post to prepare. I've seen your cartoons on your blog (The Oligarch Kings - in sidebar assorted links) and admired them. :-)

mike (again) said...

Sabina - I have S Node in Virgo conjunct Saturn. Persnickety? Maybe...depends on which of the several possible definitions. "It's all in the details."

This person deems the outer, transpersonal planets as not having rulership subdomains. I believe that the transpersonal planets can play an important role in the natal and transiting charts of individuals, so I include the subdomains.

Here's a list including the outer planets:

You inquired several days past, whether I'd want to know my future, and I gave a response. In thinking about it more, if my future could be known to me, similar to reading a biography, with each chapter representing a portion of my future life, AND I had free will to change those events, then definitely a yes. If there is no free will, then perhaps not...LOL.

What about you? Would you elect to know your future?

Sabina said...

mike, Thanks for links to rulership info.

Yes, I think knowing the future loses its attraction if we know we are mere pawns of fate; trouble is, we don't know....

mike (again) said...

Catching a glimpse of the future then trying to create a different outcome has become a sci fi cliche. The person that has been shown the future drastically alters course to prevent the occurrence, only to produce the exact conditions for that future condition. Or someone traveling back in time to correct a fated event that leads to the present time, but somehow manages to create the event they tried to prevent.

mike (again) said...

Ray Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder" uses the backward time-travel trope, producing the "butterfly effect".

I haven't read, but I think Twilight read "11/22/63", a Stephen King novel, about "fixing" Kennedy's assassination:

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Fascinating topic! Coincidentally (quicky-dinkily) last night we watched a DVD I bought for $1 at a local book sale a few weeks ago: The Air I Breathe". It's one of those stories where unconnected characters are eventually shown to be linked in some way - there are several of this genre around. In this film, one character, an employee - hit-man type - of a variation of "the mob" has a mild natural ability to see into the near future - a trait that assists him greatly in his dark work. Yet he seems always to be unhappy, trapped. Then his "gift" unexpectedly deserts him and he's attacked, his injuries leaving him bereft of his "gift". He can't see into the near future now, but feels happy, freed of it at last. He's able to live his life as most people have to, without any impending darkness. He does, however come to a sticky end eventually - probably as he deserved, but he's willing to accept it.

It's an interesting movie, not believable at all, but cleverly constructed and with a great twist at the end I didn't see coming. :-)

mike (again) said...

"Air I Breathe" didn't fare well with the critiques or you, but I sure like Wiki's conclusion synopsis:
"Fingers looks for Trista at the hospital, but his efforts to find her are in vain, as she has already left. As Trista escapes in Love's car, she slightly hits Happiness as he runs in front of her car in his dash from the bank (in the scene that we saw from his point of view earlier); as she sits at the intersection, as she's coming to grips with all that has happened, the money bag Happiness threw from the top of the building lands on her car's rooftop. The film closes with Trista at an airport traveling away, the money bag providing her with all the financial support she needs to escape from Fingers and start a new life for herself and her baby abroad."

Saturday night, I watched (binged) all ten episodes of "Dramaworld"...they're only twenty minutes each, so an evening's fun. I thought it was a foreign series, as it starts with subtitles and Korean language. After a couple minutes, it becomes English speaking, with the occasional Korean with subtitles. I didn't think I'd like it, but I have to admit that I did. Metaphorical for reincarnation, to me, anyway. It involves a bit of blending the past-present-future, as the American girl knows the plots and bylines to the on-going-but-changing-every-season story plot, so she's at an advantage. Of course, she breaks the rules, both saving and altering "Dramaworld". Cute series.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Yes, that was the twist - I'd completely forgotten the early scene where the bag of money was thrown from roof of a high building - and at the time assumed it'd have been collected by police officers.

"Dramaworld" wouldn't immediately appeal to me from what I've read, but will keep in mind for the times we are out of better options. :-)

We're working our way slowly through a set of many DVDs I found at Goodwill in Lawton - surprising really because it's a long-running BBC detective series, 90 minute episodes: "Dalziel & Pascoe", set mostly in Yorkshire with accents to match. We have captions switched on for anyjazz.

jpbenney said...

I had known of William Roberts before – and of the unusual occurrence of simultaneous empty Fire and empty Earth (I have a table of all periods with two empty elements from 1640 to 2140 and will send it if you want) and of all the planets in three signs (the equal fewest on record no doubt).

Paired empty Fire and empty Earth most recently occurred during the 1915 “Great Cancer Conjunction”, and is impossible during the prolonged Neptune/Pluto waxing sextile, next occurring in February 2053 as the waxing square is approached, and there is a gap of more than a century after the early 2060s (I have not checked when the next occurrence after the 2140s opposition will be). The conflicts between the worldly, justice- and equality-oriented air signs and the unworldly, natural law and mercy-oriented water signs is brought in the clear during periods of paired empty fire and empty earth, as I argue in my blog posts on the “Great Cancer Conjunction”. The conjunctions in Gemini and Scorpio remind me a little of my own chart (Sun, Mercury, Uranus in Scorpio, Moon and Ascendant in Gemini) as does the concentration of planets in the signs between these two (I have all planets Sun to Pluto below the horizon) and of a number of charts from November 1896.

There exist three charts with a known birth time from this rare period, Eugène Antoine Désiré Émile Carp with a Capricorn Ascendant and a Scorpio Midheaven, Belgian violinist August Baeyens, also with Capricorn Rising and Scorpio Midheaven plus Italian Fascist minister Dino Grandi with a Leo Ascendant and Aries Midheaven – both of which eliminate one paired empty element.

What’s interesting is that Roberts was so populist a painter – a trait one would expect for the Cardinal mode but not for the water element in general, which tends to be rather enclosed from the world as you note – however, Cancer is very good at relating to the public with its strong ability to feel for what people want. I’m also somewhat puzzled by Roberts’ spartan simplicity with so much emphasis in Cancer and Scorpio – two signs known to love comfort. Where his Ascendant would logically be with that sort of spartan living I am not sure – a Pisces Ascendant would be very rare at that latitude (fifty minutes per day) and would leave Sagittarius on the Midheaven, a Virgo Ascendant would leave many planets right in the spotlight which is not what his chart suggests, a Capricorn Ascendant would also leave many planets near the Midheaven on in the seventh house, an Aquarius Ascendant is very rare (one hour per day) and also has Sagittarius on the Midheaven, and a Gemini Ascendant (double Gemini) would also be questionable given his quiet manner.

Twilight said...

jpbenney ~ Hi there, and many thanks for this interesting comment! Thanks also for your kind offer of your list of periods with 2 empty elements. I doubt I'm up to using that level of data though.

I shall alert "mike", a regular commenter who is well-versed in astrology, to your comment.

Re Roberts' likely ascendant - hard to guess, as you've indicated! If I had to make a stab at it I'd go for Cancer. Comfort is subjective; what one person would feel as the ultimate in personal comfort, another could find austere and uncomfortable. I have Cancer rising, Aquarius Sun and can relate to Roberts' feelings to some extent (but I do have Earth and Fire planets). :-)

jpbenney said...


interesting thought. I had always suspected some Mutable ascendant (not Sagittarius) myself. At the latitude of the UK, it’s notable that a Cancer Ascendant can quite easily have Aquarius on the Midheaven, which would fit in with an innovative artist perhaps more than the “familiar” Pisces Midheaven.

It’s true that some would find spartan living very comfortable – I am consistently fascinated by the lifestyle of the radical Anabaptists (Amish, Hutterite etc.) and know this point more than I could think at the time.

I was wanting to print a date of all periods with two empty elements, but will only give dates with empty fire and empty earth. These dates are only approximate, since planets do not change sign at exactly midnight on any given day. Nevertheless, I wonder what you can deduce from the clusters and gaps in occurrences shown below:

— 17 to 20 and 25 to 27 June 1641
— 1 to 5, 10 to 13, 19 to 22 October 1672, plus 29 October to 1 November, 1672
— 26 to 28 September, plus 3 to 6 October, 1728
— 29 January to 1 February, plus 7 and 8 February, 1729
— 6 to 9, 14 to 18, and 24 to 26 June, 1729
— 22 to 26 January, and 1 to 5 February, 1745
— 1 to 5 and 10 to 13 October, 1787
— 30 and 31 January, plus 6 to 10 and 15 to 18 February, 1788
— 10 to 15 November, 1803
— 10 to 13, and 19 February, 1804
— 2 to 4 and 9 to 12 October, 1893
— 24 to 28 May, plus 2 to 5 June, 1895
— 4, 10 to 14, and 20 March 1896
— 26 to 30 January, plus 5 to 9, 13 to 17 and 22 to 26 February, plus 4 to 18 and 13 to 16 March of 1914
— 7, 12 to 15, and about 11 hours on 21 March of 1915
— 8 to 12, plus 18 and 19 July of 1915 (“Great Cancer Conjunction”)
— 26 February to 1 March, plus 6 to 10 and 16 to 19 March of 2053
— 21 and 22 plus 27 to 31 May, and 6 June of 2053
— 23 to 27 September and 1 to 5 October of 2053
— 26 to 30 September and 6 to 10 October of 2059
– 5 to 9 and 15 to 18 July of 2060
— 30 January to 3 February, plus 8 to 12 and 18 to 21 February, 27 February to 2 March, 7 to 11 March and 18 March – all in 2061
— 21 to 23 May, 28 May to 1 June, 7 to 11 June, 16 to 19 June and some hours on 25 June – all in 2061
— 3 to 7, 15 to 19 and 22 to 25 June 2064
— 22 to 26 February, plus 3 to 7 March of 2171
— 3 to 17, 12 to 15 and 21 to 24 June, plus 30 June to 4 July, and 9 to 13 and 18 July – all in 2171
— 25 to 28 January 2172
— 7 to 11 and 16 to 20 July 2172

The crucial point – even more emphatic with paired empty fire and empty water (more recent occurrence 1889; next 2107), but also with paired empty earth and empty air (most recent occurrence 1928; next 2065) or paired empty air and empty water (most recent occurrence 1941; next 2079) is that people alive today do not possess quite the full range of elemental imbalances possible over a longer period.

Twilight said...

jpbenney ~ Thank you for this added data and your observations. Hmmm - trying to get my head around what it might mean, in general. Most alive today (I say most because there are lots of people born 1941 around still) don't have signs empty of planets in elemental pairs, but their ascendants could possibly make up for at least one of the missing elements, and Moon's nodes if an astrologer gives them importance, might also help balance imbalances. But I do see what you're saying -there will be many less elementally imbalanced individuals around these days. Not that it has done us much good , looking at the state of the world today! :-(

It's a very interesting piece of research you've done - I congratulate you on it! :-)
The more research, the better for astrology in general!