Stephen Tennant: Work in Progress
Stephen Tennant (1906 - 1987) is remembered mainly as one of the “Bright Young People,” a group of upper-class British artists, writers, and bon vivants. While Tennant’s friends and peers, including Cecil Beaton and Rex Whistler, are much better known, Tennant can be seen as a connecting thread in several artistic and social circles of the 20th century. He had a brief, passionate affair with the poet Siegfried Sassoon, he befriended his favorite author, Willa Cather, and became a travelling companion to her partner, Edith Lewis, and he enjoyed close friendships with Daphne Du Maurier, Stephen Spender, Vita Sackville-West, and Elizabeth Bowen. Yet, if there is any popular image of Tennant, it is of the faded aesthete camped in his bed at his country estate for decades, producing sheaves of handwritten pages for a unfinished novel, “Lascar.” Tennant left a legacy of archival documents that were dispersed at auction following his death. The Beinecke Library has reconstructed a part of his archives - hundreds of pages of drafts for “Lascar” and letters from and to Cather, Spender, Du Maurier, and Beaton. This exhibition showcases the potential found in his documentary legacy. While fragmentary, the individual drafts, drawings, and correspondences show a highly inventive mind and a supremely creative hand.
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