DATE: 20th century
Much of the series consists of Dorothy Elmhirst's correspondence with artists and performers involved with Dartington Hall, between about 1927 and 1968. Many of the letters tend to be personal and reflect Dorothy Elmhirst's role as a patron of the arts. Additional material such as obituaries, has been subsequently added, so that the files have become a good biographical resource for their subjects.
Major subjects and correspondents in the Painters and Art Galleries subseries cover artists, critics and art galleries, including: Ben Nicholson; Barbara Hepworth; H S (Jim) Ede of Kettle's Yard (Cambridge); Frances Hodgkins; John Piper; Graham Sutherland; Kenneth Clark; Angna Enters. There is material about purchases of paintings by Christopher Wood, David Jones, and of other art works.
Material in the Handicrafts subseries includes correspondence with printer Guido Morris; artist and educationalist Robin Tanner; and textile printer and designer Susan Bosence.
Dartington Arts Department records cover minutes and papers 1942-1950; there are Arts Enquiry and other arts-related reports in this subseries. Also 'The Arts at Dartington' by Dorothy Elmhirst and printed by Guido Morris. There is also correspondence with Norbert Brainin and a Guarnerius violin purchased by Dorothy Elmhirst.
Material in the Music subseries includes a quantity of correspondence from Benjamin Britten to Peter Cox and Dorothy Elmhirst, including discussion of Elmgrant funding towards productions of Dido and Aeneas, 1951, and Ruth and Boaz (by Lennox Berkeley), 1956; and Aldeburgh Festival Appeal auction, to which the Elmhirsts donated a painting by Duncan Grant. Other music correspondents and topics covered include Hans Oppenheim; Music Theatre Studio; Dartington Hall Music Group; Nannie Jamieson; Ronald K Anderson; Muriel Taylor; Robert Masters; Peter Pears. Material also covers details of student concerts; music recital programmes; Dorothy Elmhirst's music notebook c1920; reports by Imogen Holst. There is also a bundle of correspondence re London Boy Singers (previously Finchley Boys' Choir) between Imogen Holst, Leonard Elmhirst, Rosamund Strode, London Boy Singers. Also in this subseries is the original manuscript of the 'Five Flower Pieces' by Benjamin Britten, opus 46; and 'Truth of All Truths', manuscript by Gustav Holst.
Dance material correspondents and topics covered include: Uday Shankar; Rudolf Laban, Lisa Ullmann and the Laban Art of Movement Centre; Martha Graham; the Ballet Rambert; Marie Rambert; Louise Soelberg; Margaret Barr and the early School of Dance-Mime; Jenny Gertz; Kurt Jooss and the Ballets Jooss; F A Cohen; Sigurd Leeder; the Jooss-Leeder School of Dance; Beryl de Zoete; performances at Dartington. Later records relating to the Ballets Jooss include a transcript of a 1973 interview with Kurt Jooss describing how the Ballet came to Dartington Hall before World War II.
Drama was a particular interest of Dorothy Elmhirst, and the Arts Drama subseries includes collections of letters from and about Vera Bowen; Rupert Doone; Ashley Dukes; Reginald Pole; F G Thomas and the rural theatre; puppeteer Richard Odlin; actor, producer and poet, Maurice Browne and Ellen van Volkenburg; Nellie Cornish. There are documents relating to the Globe and Queens Theatre and other theatres.
There is a substantial quantity of material relating to Michael Chekhov, including correspondence, class and lecture notes, and other writings. There are Chekhov Theatre Studio prospectuses; student lists; some administrative material; lessons given at Ridgefield, Connecticut; and notebooks kept by Dorothy Elmhirst together with audio recordings of interviews and lectures given by Michael Chekhov in 1955. There is detailed correspondence between Michael Chekhov and Dorothy Elmhirst; other correspondents include Beatrice Straight and Deirdre Hurst du Prey.
Also included in these drama papers is Dorothy Elmhirst's notebooks for the classes that she regularly gave about Shakespeare, and her collection of theatre programmes from performances at Dartington and at professional and amateur theatres around Britain, dating from the late 1920s to 1968.
The files in this series include press cuttings, printed material and some photographs.
Many of the early cultural activities at Dartington Hall owed their inception to Dorothy Elmhirst who made contact with people of ideas and inspiration in the arts. The period of arts development at Dartington 1925-1934 was known as the Amateur Phase. Both Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst had certain aims: to support arts for their own sake; to provide everyone connected with the estate opportunities for the appreciation of and participation in the arts; through example and experience at Dartington Hall to raise the standards of artistic taste and performance among amateurs.
The period of arts development at Dartington 1934-1940 was known as the Professional Phase. On April 1st, 1934, the Arts Department was formally constituted, and Christopher Martin appointed Administrator. The Arts Department was a Dartington Hall Trust responsibility and Martin was subject to the decisions of the Arts Board which met for the first time on May 11th, consisting of Leonard Elmhirst, Dorothy Elmhirst, W B Curry, E S Porter and Christopher Martin. The Department was developed because Arts activity had multiplied and urgently needed co-ordination and centralised control. Also, ever-increasing funds were being expended upon arts activities, and these activities needed formal organisation to control expenditures and permit budgeting for the future. The Arts Department and its administrator would be devoted solely to the administration and promotion of the arts.
Dorothy Elmhirst was a collector of art and the bulk of the paintings bought during the early period make up the Collection of The Dartington Hall Trust. Dorothy Elmhirst was also a patron of dance and theatre, and an actress, having studied under Michael Chekhov. For further information see: Dartington Hall 1925-1956 A Report, by Victor Bonham-Carter.
Information for Researchers
All papers belonging to The Dartington Hall Trust Archive (with the exclusion of Dartington Hall School pupils individual records) are held at the Devon Record Office. All enquiries relating to research should be made to Devon Records Office, Great Moor House, Bittern Road, Sowton, Exeter, Devon EX2 7NL
+44 (0)1392 384253
+44 (0)1392 384256
The following requests should be made direct to the Archives & Records at The Dartington Hall Trust as shown below:
Copies of images as seen on The Dartington Hall Trust online catalogue with appropriate reference number (Ref No.)
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Former pupils of Dartington Hall School wishing to view their records
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