signed and dated l.r.: MARCUS STONE/ 1900
oil on canvas
40 by 53 in.
Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 36,000 GBP
London, Royal Academy, 1900, no.161
Marcus Stone was born in 1840, the son of the artist Frank Stone A.R.A. (1800-1859). Stone Snr. clearly influenced and schooled his son in the art of narrative and genre painting. Indeed both were friends of Charles Dickens and Marcus illustrated Our Mutual Friend for the author. The setting of his work regularly harks back to the eighteenth century with the subjects playing out dramatic situations in Empire costume.
Stone received high acclaim for his pictures which translated into high prices during his lifetime. This is not surprising considering the meticulous detail employed to render the various textures of skin, cloth, stone and nature. This quality of draughtmanship adds a weight and gravitas to a scene which could become frivolous in the hands of a lesser artist.
In the present work Stone gives the often painted subject of lovers reconciliation an original and subtle treatment by presenting the moment prior to the reunion rather than the reunion itself. The viewer is aware of the imminent meeting but the woman sits isolated; her predominantly black dress conjures up a sense of potential mourning. She is surrounded by various props which are symbols of the passing of time; the sundial, a book, material and a sewing box, all presumably to keep her mind occupied while her soldier lover is at war. These distractions have ultimately failed however as she holds a letter close to her heart. Our empathy is further enforced by the fact she stares directly at the viewer in a lost, almost accusing manner. The soldier is directed to her whereabouts in a conspiratorial fashion by a member of the household but his approach seems to be silent and her melancholic reverie remains undisturbed. This imbues the scene with a sense of ambiguity, leaving the viewer to imagine a joyful or tragic conclusion to the narrative.