London & New York: The Studio/Studio Publications, n.d. Cloth. Water colour by Australian illustrator Maivs Dowling tipped in at the front gutter.
Hardcover (29.5 x 20.5cm), 128pp, richly illustrated with b&w photographs; red cloth covered boards with lettering in blue on the spine.
Lacks dustwrapper, the head and tail of the spine are a little frayed and the corners a tad abraded but still sharp; small stain to upper corner of top board, the letters "O" and "N" of the work ACTION are sunned. Previous owner signature on front past-down, advertisment for Haskell's Ballet to Poland (published 1940) tipped in at the front and a page from "Building" (May 25, 1937) and featuring Elizabeth Bay House "as it was a few years ago" is tipped into the back. Very good. Item #1107
A very curious find indeed.
The book itself is a survey of 1930s stage design in The US, Great Britain, Europe and the Near East.The curiosity is the little watercolour of a Poirot sliding down a wall with mittened hands upraised, signed by Mavis Dowling. Mavis and her sister Dorothea collaborated on illustrated books of verse which were published in the 1940s, 50s and early 60s. The sisters were educated in Sydney and were members of the Imperial Society of Dancing (Classical Ballet), representing Australia in London at a Festival of Ballet Congress. According to the AustLit site they also "...contributed verse, articles, and short stories to Australian periodicals and radio poetry sessions. The sisters wrote the words for 'Carols for Unison Voices and Piano' (1969), to accompany music by Miriam Hyde."
As nothing is known about the provenance of this book it is impossible to tell for sure if it belonged to Mavis Dowling. Nevertheless the presence of the signed watercolour, the subject matter and the advertisement for Ashton's ballet book invite speculation. Then there's the reference to Elizabeth Bay House at the back - Did the Dowling sisters have a connection to the House when artists were squatting there in the early 1930s? Something for the next owner of this book to explore.