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Denton Welch:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Welch, Denton, 1915-1948
Title: Denton Welch Art Collection
Inclusive Dates: circa 1838-1948 (bulk circa 1933-1948)
Extent: 2 boxes, 25 flat file drawers, 3 paintings (2 framed) (92 items)
Abstract: The collection includes thirty-seven oil paintings, eight watercolor paintings, thirty drawings (pencil, ink, and/or watercolor), and two sketchbooks. Subjects include still lifes and landscapes, many done in a surrealistic style, as well as a few portraits. There are also works by other artists which include family portraits and watercolor paintings.
Access:

Open for research. A minimum of twenty-four hours is required to pull art materials to the Reading Room.




Provenance:

The Denton Welch Art Collection has nine works given by the estate of Gordon Hooper of Strood, Kent, England. These include six works by Denton Welch: an oil still life, a watercolor, and four drawings of nudes; and three prints that had belonged to Denton Welch.

Acquisition:

Purchases (R3326, R4815, R4228, R13557), 1957-1995; Gift (G12509), 2006

Processed by:

Helen Young, 1997, 2001

Repository:

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin


Maurice Denton Welch was born March 29, 1915, in Shanghai, to Arthur Joseph Welch, whose parents were English, and Rosalind Basset, whose family was originally from New Bedford, Massachusetts. Denton Welch was the youngest of four boys and spent his early childhood in Shanghai, with many visits to England.

In 1924, Welch was enrolled in a school in Kensington, and then from 1926 to 1929 he attended St. Michael's, a preparatory school in Uckfield, Sussex. While he was in school, his mother, with whom he was especially close, died in Shanghai in March 1927; this event had a profound effect on him. In 1929, Welch started attending school at Repton in Derbyshire. Welch started at the Goldsmith School of Art in New Cross in 1933, where he studied for three years; among his teachers was the printmaker and graphic designer Edward Bawden. At first he lived in a house where his brother Bill was also rooming, and then he moved into a house near Greenwich Park where the landlady was Evelyn Sinclair, who became a close, lifelong friend.

On June 7, 1935, Welch was traveling by bicycle to go visit his aunt when he was hit by a car. His spine was fractured, and for a few months he was paralyzed from the chest down. He was able to learn to walk again, but with difficulty. For the rest of his life he had kidney and bladder infections, which would cause frequent and severe headaches. After the accident, Welch first spent time at National Hospital, and then in the Southcourt Nursing Home in Broadstairs, Kent. When he left the nursing home July 1936, Welch rented an apartment with Evelyn Sinclair in Tonbridge in order that he could be close to his doctor, John Easton. Sinclair remained with Welch as his housekeeper at his different residences until May 1946, two months after Welch and his partner Eric Oliver moved to Middle Orchard, the country house of Noël and Bernard Adeney at Crouch, near Borough Green, Kent. However, Sinclair returned to Middle Orchard in July 1948 to assist Welch until his death.

Welch continued to paint and draw after his accident. In 1941, the Leicester Galleries in London first exhibited some of his paintings, and continued over the next few years to include his paintings in their exhibitions. The Leger Gallery and Redfern Gallery, both in London, also exhibited his works. Welch began writing in 1940, and some of his poems appeared in minor publications in 1941. In 1942, after the death of the painter Walter Sickert, Welch's article "Sickert at St. Peter's" (an amusing account of his having tea with Sickert shortly before Welch left the nursing home in Broadstairs) was published by Cyril Connolly in the August Horizon. Welch received a letter of praise from Edith Sitwell. Soon after, Herbert Read, editor at Routledge, accepted Welch's manuscript for "Maiden Voyage", and Sitwell offered to write the foreword; she also wrote a review for the book. With her support, Maiden Voyage sold out before its May 1943 publication. The book received enthusiastic reviews, and Welch began writing In Youth Is Pleasure, which was published in February 1945. He also wrote several short stories, and in the fall of 1945, as his health was worsening, Welch resumed his work on A Voice through a Cloud, a novel that he had begun earlier and that was to remain unfinished at his death. Although Welch was to consider himself primarily a writer after the success of Maiden Voyage, he kept painting and drawing. Nine of his late paintings, created during a time when his health was failing, were reproduced in A Last Sheaf (published in 1951). He died December 30, 1948, at Middle Orchard Cottage in Crouch, Kent.


De-la-Noy, Michael. Denton Welch. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Viking, 1984.

Laughlin, Charlotte Gay. "A Catalogue of the Denton Welch Collection at the University of Texas." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1975.

Phillips, Robert. Denton Welch. New York: Twayne, 1974.

Welch, Denton. The Denton Welch Journals, edited and with an introduction by Jocelyn Brooke. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1952.


The Ransom Center's Denton Welch Art Collection is organized in two series: I. Works by Denton Welch, and II. Works by Other Artists. All works are arranged by accession number. Titles given in the list are transcribed from the works; cataloger's titles appear in brackets.

The Works by Denton Welch series comprises most of the collection. It includes thirty-seven oil paintings, eight watercolor paintings, thirty drawings (pencil, ink, and/or watercolor), and two sketchbooks. Most of the works are still lifes and landscapes, many done in a surrealistic style. There are also a few portraits, including three self-portraits, two portraits of his friend and housekeeper Evelyn Sinclair, a portrait of his brother Bill, and portraits of unidentified subjects. Among the drawings are also designs for the title page and a decorative border for Maiden Voyage. One of the sketchbooks was created during Welch's hospital stay in 1935.

The Works by Other Artists series is comprised of a miniature portrait of Welch's maternal grandfather, Thomas Bassett; an award medallion of Welch's maternal great-grandfather, William Pitt Denton; ten watercolor paintings by William Pitt Denton's wife, Elizabeth H. (Randall) Denton; and three erotic prints by Larée.


The Ransom Center also has Denton Welch material in its Manuscript Collection, its Library, and its Photography Collection.