Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections

 

Claud Lovat Fraser and Grace Crawford Lovat Fraser Collections

Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library
Collection Number: M 25

Copyright © 2003 by Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library

May, 2003
Last Updated: November 14, 2013

For descriptions and administrative information, including ownership and copyright, please read the introductory material at the beginning of each Guide.

 

   

 

Biographies

 

Claud Lovat Fraser
Grace Crawford Lovat Fraser

Claud Lovat Fraser (1890-1921) was an active artist in the fields of illustration and theater design. He was born in London on May 15, 1890 to Florence Margaret Fraser, an amateur artist, and Claud Fraser, a city solicitor. Fraser and his brother Alan were educated at various English boarding schools, including the prestigious Charterhouse School in Surrey, from which Fraser graduated in 1907. He then began a course of legal study, entered into articles of clerkship in his father's law firm, and joined a group of critics and artists who regularly congregated at Dan Rider's Den, a printer's shop. Fraser produced many caricatures of contemporary literary and theatric figures, and in 1910, he produced a privately printed edition of ten of these caricatures. In 1911, Fraser left his father's firm to seriously pursue art. He spent a brief period under the tutelage of Walter Sickert at Westminster Technical Institute. In 1912, Fraser executed decorations for Haldane Macfall's essay on art and aesthetics, The Splendid Wayfaring, and for Macfall's play The Three Students, considered but ultimately rejected for production by Herbert Beerbohm Tree. Fraser was also interested in producing affordable, quality toys, and some of his designs were executed. These and the illustrations for The Splendid Wayfaring and The Three Students were among the objects shown at his first solo exhibition, in his studio in February 1913. Fraser, Holbrook Jackson and the poet Ralph Hodgson established the "Sign of the Flying Fame" in 1913, and published several poetry broadsides and chapbooks illustrated by Fraser. Although printed in limited editions and often hand-colored, they were affordably priced and were intended to bring poetry to the general public. Flying Fame's activities ended with the start of World War I, replaced by Harold Munro's Poetry Bookshop.

In the fall of 1914, despite a history of ill health, Fraser enlisted with the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps and was quickly commissioned to the 14th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry. Fraser's war-era sketchbooks and the drawings he included in his correspondence provide an intimate visual record of the trenches and battlefields of Flanders in this early phase of the war. He was one of few British officers to survive the battle of Loos (September 25-October 8, 1915). In December 1915, Fraser's battalion was the first to withstand a German gas attack. In the excitement and confusion of the event, he neglected to put on his gas mask until he had emerged from his bunker and was dispatched to England for a short sick leave. Fraser was promoted to captain in January 1916, but by late February he was home on leave again, suffering from the effects of gas and shellshock after a battle at the Ypres Salient. While recovering, Fraser occupied himself with plans for a pictorial history of the Grenadier Guards that was never published. Successive Medical Board Reviews continued to find his health unfit for battle through the end of the war. Fraser instead served the Army as a clerk upon the completion of his sick leave in August 1916. He worked in the War Office on visual propaganda from October 1916 through late April 1917 and at the Army Record Office at Hounslow until his discharge in March 1919.

In August 1916, Fraser met the American-born actress Grace Inez Crawford in the dressing room of a theater where she was appearing in Hugo Rumbold's L'Apres Midi d'un Faune. They were married on February 6, 1917 and had one daughter, Helen Catherine Adeline Lovat Fraser. His wife's theatrical interests may have contributed to Fraser's increased activities in stage and costume design after this date, and the two collaborated on many projects, including her translations of several eighteenth century Italian lyric plays.

After the war, Fraser continued to make designs for the Poetry Bookshop, provided illustrations for approximately twenty books, executed private commissions for bookplates, stationery and greeting cards, and designed commercial advertisements through the Curwen Press. Fraser's designs for Nigel Playfair's production of Shakespeare's As You Like It, staged on opening night of the Shakespeare Festival at Stratford-Upon-Avon in April 1919 and at the Lyric Theater, Hammersmith, in April 1920, were derisively called "futurist" by some critics because of their spare, evocative design. Despite the critical furor raised by the unconventional set and costumes, this was later acknowledged as a groundbreaking departure from the unimaginatively literal Shakespearean production typical of the time.

As early as 1914, Fraser had begun to make designs based on John Gay's The Beggar's Opera. His innovative set and costume designs for this play were essentially designed in only four days because of last-minute budget constraints. The designs, which premiered at the Lyric Theater on June 5, 1920, proved successful and were used for many subsequent stagings of the play.

In the fall of 1920, Grace and Lovat Fraser befriended the Russian ballerina Tamara Karsavina, who expanded their stage interests to include the ballet. Fraser designed the costumes and set for her Nursery Rhymes, which opened at the London Coliseum on January 3, 1921. In the spring of 1921, Fraser embarked on numerous projects, including set and costume designs for John Drinkwater's Mary Stuart and Lord Dunsaney's If. Designs for Karsavina's Divertissement were finished on June 14, 1921, while the family was vacationing at Dymchurch. Fraser died on June 18 after a sudden illness. His final project, Divertissement, opened at the London Coliseum on July 4 of that year through the combined efforts of Karsavina and Grace Lovat Fraser.

A tremendous outpouring of emotion marked Fraser's early death. A well-attended memorial service at Saint Mary the Boltons in South Kensington was held on June 24. Fraser's final project, Divertissement, opened at the London Coliseum on July 4 of that year through the combined efforts of Crawford and Karsavina. A memorial exhibition was held in December, 1921 at the Leicester Galleries in London. Subsequent exhibitions of Fraser's work have included:

Works cited:
Drinkwater, John and Albert Rutherston. Claud Lovat Fraser. London: Heinemann. 1923.
Fraser, Florence M. Unpublished typescript timeline, after 1921. Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library.
Fraser, Grace Lovat. In the Days of My Youth. London: Cassell & Company Ltd. 1970.
Macfall, Haldane. The Book of Lovat Fraser. London: J.M. Dent. 1923.

Claire Pingel

Inez Grace Crawford Lovat Fraser (1889-1977) was a singer, actress, costume designer, translator of plays, and author of several books. She was born in Paris in 1889, daughter of Theron Clark Crawford, an American entrepreneur, and a highly trained amateur pianist (maiden name Randall). Her father's professional projects (including work with Buffalo Bill Cody's "Wild West Show") caused the family to reside in various European and American cities, but England was considered home. Crawford's circle of acquaintances in London included Ezra Pound, Ford Maddox Ford, Violet Hunt, Yeats, and D.H. Lawrence.

Crawford received training in voice, ballet, piano, and music theory, as well as French, German and Italian. She met her future husband, artist Claud Lovat Fraser, during a fitting for a faun costume for Hugo Rumbold's adaptation of L'Après-midi d'un Faune." After a brief courtship, they were married February 6, 1917. During the next four years, until Fraser's death in 1921, the two worked jointly on a number of theatre projects, including La Serva Padrona and The Liar (both of which Crawford translated), and Fraser's long-running production of The Beggar's Opera. Their daughter, Helen Catherine Adeline Lovat Fraser, was born in 1918.

After Fraser's death, Crawford promoted and protected his artistic legacy through exhibitions and publications. She continued her own work in singing and in costume design, working with prominent music and theatre figures of the time, including composer Arthur Bliss, Serge Diaghileff, and Nigel Playfair. Tamara Karsavina, the Russian ballerina, was a lifelong friend.

Crawford also worked in other design-related businesses. In 1923 she formed a firm with Norman Wilkinson and a Mr. Trevelean that specialized in scenery and dress for the theatre, interior decoration for the home, hand printed fabrics, and "modern" clothing. She was editor of the magazine Art and Industry, worked in the design departments of Schweppes and Venesta Limited, and served for a time on the Research and Industrial Design Advisory Departments of Pritchard, Wood & Partners, Ltd.

Crawford was the author of Doll Making at Home, 1940, with drawings by Helen Lovat Fraser; "Different types of plastics, their properties and uses" in John Gloag's Plastics and Industrial Design, 1945; Textiles in Britain, 1948; and a number of magazine articles. She was co-editor with F.A. Mercer of Modern Publicity in War, 1941. In 1970, Crawford published her autobiography, In the Days of My Youth, which concluded with Fraser's death.

Works cited:
Fraser, Grace Lovat. In the Days of My Youth. London: Cassell & Company Ltd. 1970.
Hooper, Sir Anthony. "Mrs. Grace Lovat Fraser." London: The Times, April 28, 1977, p. 21
"Notes and News" in Art and Industry, London: Volume 34, March 1943, p. 92.
Unidentified newspaper clippings in the Fraser Collections, Bryn Mawr College Library.

Processing and description by Barbara Ward Grubb and Claire Pingel

 


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Last Update: November 14, 2013 , Special Collections at SpecColl@brynmawr.edu