Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Alexander Technique

Frederick Matthias Alexander (20 January 1869 – 10 October 1955) was an Australian actor who developed the educational process that is today called the Alexander Technique – a form of education that is applied to recognize and overcome reactive, habitual limitations in movement and thinking.

Searle inscribed his portrait of Alexander "from the reconstituted artist, with thanks"-presumably alluding to the health problems incurred as a prisoner of the Japanese during WWII.  Ronald was asthmatic, smoked for years and had throat surgery late in life so perhaps Alexander's theories on respiration helped him?

'He teaches the way back to Health'

Half a century ago a hansom cab arrived in great haste at a house in Ashley Place, Victoria.  The driver had instructions from Sir Henry Irving to "fetch Mr. Alexander to the theatre immediately" as he was in need of help.
More than 25 years later George Bernard Shaw crept up the same steps suffering from angina.  (After three weeks he was again taking his jaunty way to the club for his morning swim!)
Some years before the war a newspaper report of an all-night sitting in the House of Lords ended by stating that at "4am the only person sitting up straight was the Earl of Lytton."  The next morning Lord Lytton sent the cutting to "F.M. with thanks."
There are enough of these stories, studded with illustrious names, to fill a book, but it wouldn't give frederick Matthias Alexander very much pleasure.
For he dislikes any suggestions that he is a healer, or a miracle man.  The statement that he 'cures' makes him angry and he accepts no patients, only 'pupils'.  He is, he says, an educator.
For sixty years he has been trying to pass on to mankind the lessons he has learnt on hos own body-discoveries which caused the American philosopher Professor JohnDewey to write, "It is a revolution in thought and action".

Ronald Searle & Kaye Webb quoted in The Alexander Technique As I See It By Patrick MacDonald-probably originally part of their 'People Worth Meeting' column for the Saturday News Chronicle (but not included in Looking At London)

Francesca Greenoak wrote this profile of Searle for the Alexander Journal in 2010.

This article was first published in the Alexander Journal 23, republished here with the kind permission of the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT).


UM said...

What an amazing portrait drawing. Ronald's mastery still surprises me anew on a daily basis.

Matt J said...

Lovely isn't it -the Alexander foundation bought it for 2k a few years back from Alexander's estate via Ebay.

docnad said...

I'm a bit skeptical of the Alexander technique. I'd like to know more about the education. Great drawing though.