By Liz Bruchet, on 4 September 2013
Archive research is full of fascinating twists and turns. By their nature archives are subject to periods of neglect and changing collection practices so they can be a maze of false leads and missing links. Archives are also subject to well-intended but inaccurate interpretation.
And so, an addendum to a previous post. Reading former Slade tutor William Townsend’s journal I came across this entry, dated 28 October 1946:
… at tea-time with Bill [Coldstream], Sam Carter and [Thomas] Monnington, Monnington gave us a remarkable, objective but nonetheless macabre account of the taking of Tonks’s death mask, in which undertaking he was the assistant of [Alfred] Gerrard. Monnington, who was Tonks’s downstairs neighbour, the closest friend of his last days and in his illness, could not forget his friendly feelings even for the old man’s dead body when the mask would not be detached from the face and he had to assist Gerrard in a tug of war, first on the bed and afterwards as this did not allow for the exercise of all their strength, on the floor, for hours, to remove it. It was a very good mask apparently. Bill is most anxious to get a cast of it – he grows more and more attached to his days at the Slade, the doctrine of Tonks, his teaching and the memory of the master himself.*
This excerpt tells an entirely different (and indeed more layered) story of the casting of Tonks’s death mask than the one described in an earlier blog post. It was in fact Alfred Gerrard and Thomas Monnington who made the mask, not William Coldstream. Let the record hereby stand corrected.
*The Townsend Journals: An Artist’s Record of His Times 1928-1951,
ed. Andrew Forge, Tate Gallery Publications, London, 1976, p.72.