Monday, July 27, 2009

Charles Brasch Centenary

Today marks the hundredth birthday of poet and editor Charles Brasch. Brasch became a good friend of Janet Frame's, and the Frame estate has with pleasure been taking part in many of the various activities that have been planned this year, to commemorate that significant patron of the arts and letters in New Zealand.

Charles Brasch (much like Janet Frame) enjoyed a quiet life, and did not relish the spotlight, and he did many of his good works anonymously (including the badly kept secret that it was his inherited fortune that bankrolled the fruitful Robert Burns Literary Fellowship at the University of Otago).

Janet and Charles shared a love of classical music and liked to go to concerts together, but they were also frequent guests at each other's houses. After attending one particular dinner party hosted by Charles, Janet commented in a letter to her friend the California painter Bill (Theophilus) Brown:

If one does not want to join in the conversation at Charles’ place one can always gaze at the paintings on the wall. His collection is usually on loan somewhere but last night he had a lovely painting by Frances Hodgkins whom I think you said you didn't know. She's our painting equivalent of Katherine Mansfield and her life followed something of Mansfield's pattern - most of it spent away from New Zealand. [September 1970]
Various exhibitions and events in Dunedin have (and will) this year celebrate the many facets of Charles Brasch. On display at the Otago Museum are treasures of the past (antiquities, textiles, archaeological artefacts) given by Brasch and his family; at the Public Art Gallery I enjoyed looking at the several Frances Hodgkins paintings donated by Charles Brasch. I wondered which of the paintings was the one Janet had referred to.

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