Claud Lovat Fraser

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Claud Lovat Fraser
Set Design, 'Much Ado ...'
Black ink, gouache, and watercolor on paper.
10 1/8 x 12 5/8 inches (257 x 321 mm)
The Joseph F. McCrindle Collection.

Inscribed at lower edge in pen and black ink, "C LOVAT FRASER / JUNE 1919 / MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING ACT. 1. SCENE. 1".

Nicholas Brown, from whom purchased in July 1977 by Joseph F. McCrindle, New York (McCrindle collection no. A0439).

Claud Lovat Fraser, whose mother was an amateur artist, was active as an illustrator and theater designer. While practicing as a lawyer as a young man, he joined a group of artist and critics who frequented Dan Rider's Den, a printer's shop, where Fraser produced sketches lampooning contemporary literary figures and theater performers. During World War I, Fraser was commissioned to the 14th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry and he recorded his experiences intimately in sketchbooks and drawings. He would later die in 1921 from war-time exposure to gas.
The present sheet belongs to a series of drawings that illustrate Act 1, Scene 1 of Much Ado about Nothing. It is signed and dated to June 1919. This opening scene is set in a house in Messina and it introduces all of the major characters, many of whom are pictured by Fraser. The artist depicts Leonato, who owns the house; Don Pedro; and two of his friends, Claudio and Don John. Leonato's daughter, Hero, or her cousin, Beatrice, is on the right. Don Pedro and his companions are returning victorious from war, and they fall in love and are entertained in this scene. The tranquility of Messina will be upset later in the play. Fraser's reductive stage sets, like the one here, initially garnered criticism for their unconventional design; however, they ultimately became influential in Great Britain.

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