ARTHUR JEFFRESS | Introduction

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In the darkness of the COVID-19 pandemic, my book on Arthur Jeffress cannot be launched with a party nor can the planned exhibition in Southampton City Art Gallery, or a lecture with much archival material, be staged. Yet.

Arthur Jeffress in uniform Arthur Jeffress in uniform photo portrait of Arthur Jeffress

Meanwhile, here is more information in the form of short essays based on out-takes from the book and many images from various archives to add even more to the story of Arthur Jeffress. The text panels designed for the exhibition are reproduced here, too, with references to and images of, where permissions are granted, the works in the proposed exhibition. All the paintings bequeathed by Arthur Jeffress or given by him, plus a few directly related to him can be found on the ArtUK website, with Arthur Jeffress as keyword:

Arthur Jeffress occasionally signed a letter or postcard, Love, Art. Arthur's signature
US army chums called him Art, an abbreviation that sounds entirely American – Art Tatum, Artie Shaw, Art Garfunkel – to English ears. ‘Love Art’ was a knowing joke, an exhortation to do exactly what Arthur did all his life. But he would not have tolerated being called Art at his gallery, at home in Eaton Square or Venice, where he was more often called, certainly by Peggy Guggenheim, Arturo.

Arthur was ambivalent about his nationality. Born in England to American parents, he only ever lived for brief periods in America, said he disliked it yet asked to have his ashes scattered there. He spent several months of each year in Italy, France and Greece. Certainly, in the 1950s many acquaintances took it for granted that he was American. He was wealthy, lavish with décor and hospitality; he encouraged an idea that he was Persian or Armenian. Being Jewish like his mother and born in Acton was not something he made known.

So, who was Arthur Tilden Jeffress? The full story of his early life, years on the stage, with John Deakin, art collecting, World War II in Africa and Italy, backing the Hanover Gallery, his own gallery, his life as a queer man, his suicide in Paris, and more, is told in details in a new biography. See the next page of this site: the book.