Thursday, September 30, 2010
Rum, sodomy and the lash... that was the least of it: 19th century Royal Navy medical journals reveal the perils of a life at sea
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1316428/19th-century-Royal-Navy-medical-journals-reveal-perils-life-sea.html#ixzz111JvardG
Price Realized £9,400
signed and dated 'George Smith.1869' (lower right); and signed and inscribed 'Little Villagers/George Smith/Augusta Villa/Camden Hill/Kensington' (on the reverse)
oil on panel
18 x 14 in. (45.7 x 35.6 cm.)
George Smith studied at the Royal Academy Schools under Charles West Cope (see preceding lot). The present picture is a typical example of his work, which was often of children and full of domestic incident. In this his oeuvre is reminiscent of those members of the Cranbook Colony, Thomas Webster and Frederick Daniel Hardy.
Eloise Harriet Stannard - Apples on a willow-pattern plate, holly, walnuts, hazlenuts and a nutcracker
Price Realized £4,406
Apples on a willow-pattern plate, holly, walnuts, hazlenuts and a nutcracker
signed and dated 'E H Stannard/1879' (lower left)
oil on canvas
85/8 x 12 in. (22 x 30.5 cm.)
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
[E.A. (Edward Arthur) Walton, Seaside Cottages with Dovecote, c. 1883. Watercolour, 34 x 52.7 cm. Lent by Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museums, Culture and Sport Glasgow on behalf of Glasgow City Council]
GLASGOW.- Pioneering Painters: The Glasgow Boys 1880-1900 at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum opened on 9 April 2010 and ran until 27 September 2010, attracting over 120,000 visitors as well as wide critical acclaim.
The exhibition has set a new record for the number of visitors to an art exhibition at Kelvingrove, smashing the previous record of 103,000 visits to a display of work by Van Gogh in 1948.
Comprising around 100 oil paintings and 50 works on paper, this was the first major exhibition devoted to this influential group of artists since 1968, and the definitive display of Glasgow Boys work, both celebrating the group and reviewing its legacy.
All the important artists associated with the group, including James Guthrie, EA Hornel, George Henry, Joseph Crawhall and Arthur Melville were represented.
Works from Glasgow Museums' collections sat alongside other major pictures brought together from public and private collections across the country.
In October 2010, a condensed version of the exhibition will tour to the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
Price Realized £498,050
signed 'H.H.LA THANGUE.' (lower right)
oil on canvas
41¾ x 35¼ in. (106 x 89.5 cm.)
Painted in 1906.
London, Royal Academy, 1906, no. 825.
In the early years of the century, recalling the sunny experiences of his youth, Henry Herbert La Thangue returned to the south of France. Provençal paintings appeared at the Royal Academy for the first time in 1901 and in 1904 his first Ligurian subjects were shown.1 By 1906, when the present work was exhibited alongside Selling Chickens in Liguria, this new aspect of La Thangue's work was widely appreciated, one critic remarking that his Ligurian subjects restore ' ... the light heart he (the visitor) may have lost in the preceding galleries'.2 These pictures immediately indicated that La Thangue was not a traveller of the classic Victorian type. He eschewed topography and the popular tourist sights. He was in essence, looking for a congenial way of life which he felt had been destroyed in the English shires. Alfred Munnings recalled meeting him at the Chelsea Arts Club, occasionally before the Great War, when La Thangue would ask him if he knew of a 'quiet old world village where he could live and find real country models'. Munnings ruefully added that he 'never found his spot'.3 By contrast, the untravelled roads of northern Italy led La Thangue to sunny arbours and neglected gardens which were eminently paintable.
Bound for Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples, late Victorian travellers to Italy tended to miss the Ligurian coastline as they were delivered by train through to St Gothard tunnel.4 The hill towns and coastal villages of Piedmont, Brescia and Liguria acquired a few more hotels, but remained generally unspoilt. In 1881 Samuel Butler, literary pariah of the 1870s, published Alps and Sanctuaries, an account of the towns, people and monastic settlements of Northern Italy which was reissued as a pocket edition in 1913, as the area was slowly becoming more popular. For him, the traveller in this region found hillsides covered with auriculas and rhododendrons, and landscapes such as 'some old Venetian painter might have chosen as a background for a Madonna'.5 Despite Butler and artist-enthusiasts like Charles Gogin, however, the development of the region as a tourist destination was slower than that of the fishing ports of the Riveria.
While he had witnessed the complete demise of classical and mythological painting at the Edwardian Academies, La Thangue's arrival on the shores of the Mediterranean brought the opportunity to rework from life, a number of themes which retained ancient resonances. Living in later years at Bormes les Mimosas, he had ready access to the primitive livelihoods of French and Italian shepherds and goatherds, who were shown watering their flocks.6 Peasant women packed the flowers and fruit that grew in abundance in winter and early spring, before the earth became too parched. Although many of these activities had changed little since Virgil, flowers had become luxury goods in Paris and London, as is clear from the work of Madeleine Lemaire and Victor Gilbert. La Thangue nevertheless refused to romanticize their production.
Winter in Liguria thus represents the first statement of two related themes in his work. The first of these, figures at the well, was to be treated in a number of Academy exhibits in the 1920s. These include a A Provencal Fountain (Manchester City Art Gallery) and Goats at a Fountain (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool). In general terms it refers to the complex imagery of the well of 'source' as a sustainer of life. There were numerous treatments of the subject in the nineteenth century, from Ingres' classic nude La Source, 1856 (Musée du Louvre, Paris) to the more prosaic works of Edward Poynter such as The Cup of Tantalus, (Royal Academy, 1905, unlocated). This latter work appeared in the same Academy as La Thangue's A Ligurian Mill Race (unlocated), and both showed female figures drinking, the one a product of classical artifice, the other a vivid record of the action of a thirsty shepherdess.
La Thangue's second theme, the packing of scented stocks was also to provide favourite motifs in later years, as is clear from Packing Stocks (fig. 2, Oldham Art Gallery) - a work that shows a young woman with bobbed hair, fashionable in the twenties, filling wicker boxes with flowers.7 This same lucrative activity conducted throughout the winter months, is clearly that upon which the two girls in Winter in Liguria are engaged. Visiting Italian gardens, Vernon Lee observed this phenomenon. 'Flowers in Italy', she wrote, 'are a crop like corn, hemp or beans; you must be satisfied with fallow soil when they are over. I say these things learned by bitter experience of flowerless summers, to explain why Italian flower gardening mainly takes refuge in pots ...' watered, as here, from springs and fountains. Lee explains that flower gardens in Italy are like Moorish ones, 'sunny yards walled in with myrtle and bay, in mysterious chambers, roofed over with ilex and box'.8
So important did such scenes become, that the painter staged an exhibition almost exclusively devoted to them in 1914 at the Leicester Galleries. Although many of the 42 pictures on display were landscapes, the critic of The Times, reminded readers that La Thangue was at his best as a figure painter, and predictably, it was works of this type that lingered in the mind.9 And at the end of his life, it was the Ligurian canvases, with their 'preference for colour and strong sunlight' that, as a body of work, was considered his lasting achievement.10
Of La Thangue's two early Ligurian pictures in 1906, The Illustrated London News preferred the present example to its companion piece. It described Winter in Liguria as ' ... the most pleasure compelling (of the two), for here La Thangue's powers of selection seem to have crowded into one canvas all the especially delightful accessories of an Italian scene; the well with its whitewashed walls, the well water, the flowers deliciously cool in the shadow - the whole world of colour and contrasts ...'11 It was clear that the simple harmonies of rural life, first discovered in the val du Rhône, and which appeared as In the Dauphiné, are, at that moment when two Ligurian girls water and pack their flowers, experienced once more.
We are very grateful to Professor Kenneth McConkey for providing the above catalogue entry.
1 For further reference see K. McConkey, Exhibition catalogue, A Painter's Harvest, H.H. La Thangue, 1859-1929, Oldham, Art Gallery, 1978, n.p., no.s 26, 27, 28, 31, 37, 38, 39, 40.
2 Illustrated London News, 19 May 1906, p. 732.
3 A.J. Munnings, An Artist's Life, Bungay, 1950, pp. 97-8. Munnings was heavily influenced by La Thangue in the early years of the century (p. 138).
4 The St Gothard tunnel opened in 1882. Thomas Cook planned a circular tour of Italy in anticipation of these improved transport links taking travellers south to Naples and returning via the coast from Pisa and Genoa to Nice. This latter part of the journey proved the most problematic because of the poor condition of the roads, see L. Withey, Grand Tours and Cook's Tours, A History of Leisure Travel, 1750-1915, 1998, pp. 153-5. When An Italian Flower Seller, a Ligurian work of 1907-8 was purchased by Blackburn Corporation, La Thangue wrote to the local art dealer, Richard Haworth describing the 'fine old house' at which it was painted and concluding that ' ... all of these regions have been spoilt by the war and still more perhaps by the peace ...'. It is likely that the present work was painted in the same setting.
5 Samuel Butler, Alps and Sanctuaries, 1881, p. 26.
6 For an account of this idyllic setting see W. Donne, Bormes-Les-Mimosas - A Winter Sketching Ground, c. Holme (ed.), Sketching Grounds, 1909, The Studio, Special Number, pp. 175-82.
7 K. McConkey, 1978, no. 40, fig.12.
8 V. Lee, Italian Gardens, Limbo and other Essays, quoted from I. Cooper Willis (ed.), A Vernon Lee Anthology, 1929, pp.10-11.
9 The Times, 20 April 1914, p. 12.
10 The Times, 23 December 1929, p. 12.
11 Anon., The Royal Academy, The Illustrated London News, vol. 128, 12 May 1906, p. 689.
Price Realized £94,850
signed, dated and inscribed '332 The Toast Richard Jack A.R.A. ... Jan 1913.' (on a fragmentary label on the reverse of the frame) and further signed and inscribed 'Royal Academy Title: 'The Toast' Artist: Richard Jack 2 Earl's Court Square SW. N/So 1' (on an old label on the reverse)
oil on canvas
60¼ x 84 in. (153.1 x 213.3 cm.)
London, Royal Academy, 1913, no. 542.
Painted on the eve of the First World War this picture is an evocation of a dinner held a century earlier, during which a toast is proposed to the young and beautiful hostess. A group is assembled in the dining room of a well appointed house, around a table laden with crystal. Secure in their prosperity, they are also saluting their good fortune. It is a depiction of a confident, and comfortable England.
The picture was executed at the height of Jack's career. The artist had made a name exhibiting portraits at the Royal Academy, and the previous year his Rehearsal with Nikisch had been presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest to the Tate Gallery. The following year, 1914, he was elected A.R.A, becoming a full Academician in 1921. While showing a debt to the style and props of portraits by Romney and Gainsborough a century earlier, Jack also assimilated the influence of contemporaries such as Sargent, Lavery and Orpen. Along with Collier, Solomon, Henry and Harcourt he was to provide the central consensus of Edwardian portraiture at the Royal Academy and New Gallery exhibitions during the opening years of the century.
Born in Sunderland in 1866, Jack first studied at the York School of Art before attending the South Kensington Schools. There he won a gold medal and in 1888 a travelling scholarship to the Academie Julian in Paris. In 1916 Jack accepted a commission in the Canadian Army to go to France and paint for the Canadian War Records: two vast canvasses of battle scenes at Ypres and Vimy now hang in the National Gallery of Canada, Ottowa. He was also to find royal favour: a portrait of King George V commissioned by the Royal Borough of Fulham was later bought by the monarch himself, and he subsquently painted a portrait of Queen Mary, and various interiors at Buckingham Palace. Jack closed his career in Canada, where he had emigrated in 1938, as a painter of landscape and several of his later works remain there. Paintings such as the present example, arguably a tour de force of British Impressionism, and executed on an unusually large scale for the artist, are rare to the market.
Price Realized £117,250
oil on canvas
22 x 36 in. (55.8 x 91.3 cm.)
Probably London, Royal Academy, 1870, no. 370.
This picture has traditionally been identified as A Village School in Bedfordshire, Morgan's RA exhibit of 1870. The subject, of schoolboys buying 'tuck' from a vendor in a schoolyard, carries echoes of The Fight, Morgan's hugely popular exhibit of 1869, which was sold from The Forbes Collection, Christie's, London, 19 February 2003, lot 16 (£260,000). Both are concerned with boyhood pre-occupations: the ability to purchase treats with which to supplement school food, and the wish to have a good punch up. Morgan no doubt included the cricket bat, prominent in the foreground of the present picture, to allude to the success of The Fight of the previous year, set against the backdrop of a country cricket pitch.
As Terry Parker points out, Morgan not only painted scenes of lawyers, doctors and dentists, but also featured tradesmen prominently in his work. Ginger Beer, exhibited at the RA in 1860, no. 572, shows a street-vendor plying his trade outside the entrance to a school, while a similar theme was treated in The School Pie Man, exhibited at the Glasgow Insititute of Fine Arts, 1873, no. 480.
Morgan's principal pre-occupation was with the antics of schoolchildren however. Leapfrog was exhibited at the French Gallery, 1861, no. 255, while other subjects were depicted in several versions, namely Snowballing (one of which can be seen in the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood), and Tug of War (painted in 1860, 1867, and 1879). The group of boys playing marbles in the far left of the present picture were first seen in a painting of 1863, and they also formed the subject of of Morgan's RA exhibit of 1872, no. 593. All of these pictures take place out of doors, while school interiors are featured in Those Naughty Boys (Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield), Left at School, Society of British Artists, 1871, no. 536, Ought and Carry One, Society of British Artists, 1871, no. 84, Cross your T's, Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts 1873, no. 154, and The Address to the Young, RA, 1874, no. 688.
The location of the present school has so far eluded us. Morgan occupied addresses in various towns in the south of England throughout his career leaving London for Aylesbury in 1865, and later residing Bedfordshire before moving to Guildford and Hastings. The building is not Pulford School, Leighton Buzzard, where Morgan occupied a house in Leck, now Lake Street, and painted Sums, Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, 1868, no. 129, or The Blot ('Whom to punish? No, Sir, I made the blot, But I didn't make the smear'), Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts 1869, no. 118. Morgan noted in his diary that the models for these pictures were taken from Pulford School, 'Mr Bateman the master being very attentive and kind'.
We are grateful to Terry Parker for his help in preparing this catalogue entry.
Price Realized £69,310
signed with initials and dated 'F.W./1865' (lower right) and signed again and inscribed 'The Bouquet/FWalker' (on the artist's headed paper attached to the backboard)
pencil, watercolour and bodycolour with gum arabic and scratching out
25¾ x 21 in. (65.4 x 53.3 cm.)
Athenaeum, no. 2010, 5 May 1866, no. 604.
Times, 9 May 1866, p. 6.
Claude Phillips, Frederick Walker and his Works, London, 1897, p. 30.
London, Society of Painters in Water Colours (Old Water Colour Society), 1866, no. 25.
This superb watercolour, magnificent in scale, fascinating in technique, and truly astonishing in its state of preservation, was Walker's only exhibit at the Old Water Colour Society in 1866. He was still only an Associate, having been elected in 1864 together with G.P. Boyce and Edward Burne-Jones. However, he was to be elected to full membership the following November, no doubt partly on the strength of this recent exhibit.
The painting belongs to a sequence of large-scale watercolours of figures in outdoor settings, based on existing wood-engravings that Walker had designed but without the specific narrative content found in Philip in Church (Tate Gallery), the watercolour version of an illustration to Thackeray's novel Philip, published in the Cornhill, that had done so much to secure the artist's election to the O.W.C.S. in 1864. Previous works of this type had been the well-known Spring and the perhaps less familiar Autumn (fig. 2) shown at the O.W.C.S. in 1864 and 1865 respectively and both now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is interesting that during its early history The Bouquet was linked more closely to these pictures by being entitled Summer. It bore this name when it appeared at the Royal Academy winter exhibitions in 1891 and 1901. On both occasions it was in the company of Spring and Autumn, which were lent by Sir William Agnew.
F.G. Stephens, reviewing the 1866 exhibition in the Athenaeum, felt that The Bouquet, a scene of 'an old gardener presenting such to two small children (in) a garden, in intense sunlight,' was 'one of the most striking pictures in the room'. He then proceeded to make an interesting comparison with Burne-Jones's Le Chant d'Amour (fig. 3), which had been given 'the place of honour... and deserves it, on account of the superb colour, poetic feeling and vigorous manner it exhibits'. 'Technically', Stephens felt, The Bouquet was 'nearly equal to Mr Jones's (picture), especially as regards colour'; but 'in all other respects, taste, composition and poetic feeling and force, not the slightest comparison can be suggested; the gardener is awkward, uncharacteristic, ugly; the children are uncouth; the absence of converse qualities to these is not compensated to the spectator by character or humour. On the other hand, nothing surpasses the splendour of the garden, - see the flowers to our left, - or the atmospheric truth that is here exhibited'.
The picture also won qualified approval from Tom Taylor, the art critic in the Times. 'Mr Walker', he wrote,
in a single drawing, The Bouquet, a cottager, in a sun-lit garden, showing a gorgeous posy of hardy perennials to an admiring pair, a ragged boy and girl, proves the painter's rare power of representing figures and flowers in bright daylight, Mr Walker works in the same manner as the late W. Hunt, with a powerful impasto of body colour. He is to be commended for the courage with which he eschews all aids from picturesque costume, or conventional prettiness, but there is a wide field of natural gracefulness and every-day charm between these and the utter homeliness - if we must not call it squalor - of figures like these. Homely beauty in the children would have better fitted their setting of bright flowers and broad sunlight. We must, besides, venture a question as to the very ugly brick buildings in the background. Brick submits so readily to the kindly influences of weather-stain and lichen, and is so ugly without them, that we should be inclined to charge the painter with a kind of perverseness for his resolute adherence to the harsh nakedness of burnt clay. But, with all deduction, this is a drawing of wonderful power, particularly when seen from a proper distance; examined closely, the palpableness of the touch and roughness of the workmanship detract from the enjoyment of it; it is evidently taste and not power that needs culture in Mr Walker.
Victorian art-criticism can seem incredibly pompous to modern taste, but Taylor, like Stephens, makes some helpful comparisons. It would not have occurred to him to invoke the name of Burne-Jones. He heartily disliked the Pre-Raphaelite's work, sensing in it a threat to his own artistic assumptions, and never missed an opportunity to disparage it. This very year he found Burne-Jones's contributions 'unhealthy', 'utterly unreal', and so on. But Taylor was perfectly right to compare Walker's remarkable technique of bodycolour overlaid with broken touches of transparent watercolour to that of William Henry ('Birdsnest') Hunt, who had died in 1864. It is interesting that Ruskin, who was such a great admirer of Hunt, made much the same point when discussing a still-life by the younger artist, claiming that 'it entirely beats my dear old William Hunt in the simplicity of execution, and rivals him in the subtlest truth'. Ruskin himself probably had some impact on Walker's technique, which has much in common with that advocated in his Elements of Drawing (1857).
Taylor's review suggests comparisons with artists whom he does not even mention by name. In criticising Walker for not giving more 'homely beauty' to the two children, he was almost certainly thinking of Birket Foster, one of the pillars of the O.W.C.S. And his complaints about the 'ugly brick buildings', unrelieved by 'weather-stain and lichen', recall the work of G.P. Boyce, who made such a feature of brick walls weathered and mottled in the way that Taylor describes.
Taylor probably comes nearer than Stephens to identifying the subject when he says that the gardener is 'showing' the bouquet to the children, rather than, as Stephens has it, 'presenting' it to them. Yet by expressing a wish that the children had been made more attractive, he also shows how little he really understands Walker's purpose. The whole point of the picture, and what makes it so poignant, is surely the unbridgeable social gap between the two urchins and those for whom the bouquet has been prepared. Nothing is explained, but we are left to imagine a grand country house beyond the kitchen-garden wall, presumably owned by the local squire and his family. The bouquet is for a wedding or some smart dinner-party, and the children are being allowed no more than a glimpse of an exotic world they will never experience themselves. Their reactions are beautifully calculated. The young boy views the bauble with awe but his older sister is more detached, even a little disdainful of the conspicuous consumption it implies.
Like the equally marvellous and well-preserved W.H. Hunt in our 'Art on Paper' sale on 20 November (lot 108), The Bouquet belonged to Sir Cuthbert Quilter, the elder brother of Harry Quilter, a successor to Tom Taylor as art-critic on the Times and the victim of Whistler's mercilessly caustic wit. Cuthbert was a wealthy corporate capitalist who invested in the nascent telephone system, entered Parliament, and was rewarded with a baronetcy in 1897. Like his contemporary Sir John Aird, he tended to like large, well-reviewed academic pictures; and he was almost over-eager to lend them to exhibitions, aware that this reflected well on himself and enhanced the value of the work concerned. J.W. Waterhouse's Mariamne, formerly in the Forbes Collection which we sold last February (lot 32), was the quintessential Quilter picture. Perfectly tailored to big international exhibitions, it travelled eighteen times across Europe and America during his twenty-two-year ownership, in the process picking up medals in Paris, Chicago and Brussels.
But not all Quilter's pictures were of this type. He also owned works by Constable, Cox, Rossetti, Holman Hunt and Burne-Jones, and he evidently had a genuine fondness for Fred Walker. He also owned his Bathers (fig. 4), a major example of the artist's rare oil paintings, more or less contemporary with The Bouquet, which had belonged to that great collector William Graham. When Quilter's own collection was sold at Christie's in July 1909, The Bathers was included but not The Bouquet, presumably because no-one could bear to part with it. In fact it has remained in the Quilter family to this day, a circumstance which must have had an important bearing on its incredible condition.
Price Realized £89,250
signed 'John Collier' (lower left) and signed and inscribed 'The Priestess of Bacchus John Collier' (on an old panel on the reverse)
oil on canvas
58 x 44¼ in. (147.5 x 112.5 cm.)
Collier was a versatile talent whose portraits were often to be seen on the walls of the Royal Academy. He also treated genre subjects, and became known in his later career for such social psychodramas as The Prodigal Daughter (1903, Usher Gallery, Lincoln). Hugely popular, these were termed 'problem pictures' because they encouraged audiences to suggest a plot around the scene depicted, and caused animated discussion amongst gallery crowds.
Although undated, and, curiously, unexhibited at the Royal Academy, this monumental work probably dates from the artist's early career, when interest in classical subjects, as popularised by Leighton and Alma-Tadema, was at its height. Collier presents, life-size, a female devotee of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and fertility, known in Greek mythology as Dionysus. The priestess carries all the attributes associated with the god's cult, notably a pine-cone tipped wand, known as a thyrsus, and she wears a leopard skin cloak and a wreath of ivy. In contrast to Alma-Tadema's treatment of the subject (see fig. 1), or Leighton's Bacchante of circa 1892 (see fig. 2), in which the figure is seen in movement, delighting in physical abandonment, Collier's priestess stands to attention, as if presiding over the feast to come. No doubt the picture was intended for a dining room, ball-room, or some other room of entertainment. The symbolism of the picture would not have been lost on a Victorian audience, for, since the Renaissance, the passionate, abandoned spirit of Bacchus was put forward in antithesis to the spirit of Reason as personified by Apollo, and the emblems of Bacchus were seen in the rooms in which parties were held.
The picture probably dates from the late 1880s as Collier submitted similar subjects to the Royal Academy in 1886 (Maenads, no. 757, and 1887 (An Incantation no. 716). (A maenad was the generic term given to a female follower of Bacchus). The pine-clad Alpine pass glimpsed in the background is perhaps an echo of Collier's early years, for after leaving Eton, he studied in Heidleberg and spent several summers in Switzerland. Collier's father, the Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Porrel Collier, a lawyer and M.P., later elevated to the peerage as Lord Monkswell, was a talented amateur painter of Alpine scenery who exhibited his sketches regularly at the Royal Academy between 1864 and 1885.
Collier's trained at the Slade, under the tutelage of the classicist E.J. Poynter, and continued in Munich and Paris, where he studied under J.P. Laurens. Collier's father asked Alma-Tadema whether he would take his son as a pupil, and although Alma-Tadema reluctantly refused, he took a keen interest in Collier's career. In order to show the younger artist how a painting should be constructed he executed The Sculptor's Model (1877) in Collier's studio. Collier returned the compliment by exhibiting a portrait of Mrs Alma-Tadema at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1881 (no. 11).
Alma-Tadema's notorious demands for historical accuracy have been observed in the present work, although the features of the model are those of a High Victorian beauty. Through his family connections, Collier also spent much time in Millais's studio, studying the artist at work while executing portraits. In its skilful handling of different textures and its commanding pose, the present picture is an excellent example of the restrained good taste that made Collier such a popular portraitist and ensured his commercial success.
Price Realized £531,650
oil on canvas
94 x 62½ in. (238.7 x 158.7 cm.)
The Times, 12 April 1886.
The Saturday Review, 17 April 1886, p. 521.
Art Notes, The Magazine of Art, 1886, p.xxx.
Pall Mall Gazette 'Extra', 1886 p. 72, illustrated.
J.S. Little, H.H. La Thangue, The Art Journal, 1893, p. 172 (referred to as 'A Sketch').
G. Thomson, H.H. La Thangue and his work, The Studio IX, 1896, p. 168 (referred to as 'A Sketch of Toiling Peasants').
B. Hillier (intro.), Exhibition catalogue, The Early Years of the New English Art Club, London, Fine Art Society, 1968, n.p.
K. McConkey, Exhibition catalogue, A Painter's Harvest, H.H. La Thangue, 1859-1929, Oldham, Art Gallery, 1978, p. 9, fig. 7. (line illustration).
A. Bowness (intro.), Exhibition catalogue, Post-Impressionism, London, Royal Academy, 1979, entry for 'Return of the Reapers', by A. Gruetzner, p. 200.
A. Robins, Feuds and Factions at the New English Art Club, Exhibition catalogue, The New English Art Club Centenary Exhibition, London, Christie's, 1986, p. 5.
K. McConkey, British Impressionism, London, 1989, pp. 50, 56, fig. 50 (line illustration).
A. Jenkins and C. Hopper, The Connoisseur, Art Patrons and Collectors in Victorian Bradford, 1989, n.p., fig. 5.
K. McConkey, Exhibition catalogue, Impressionism in Britain, London, Barbican Art Gallery, 1995, pp. 38, 146.
K. McConkey, Exhibition catalogue, British Impressionism, Tokyo, Daimaru Museum, and tour, 1997, p. 135.
A. Jenkins, Exhibition catalogue, Painters and Peasants, Henry La Thangue and British Rural Naturalism, 1880-1905, Bolton, Museum and Art Gallery, 2000, p. 109.
London, New English Arts Club, 1886, no. 31, as 'In the Dauphiné, An Unfinished Study'.
Bradford, Arcadian Art Club, Winter Exhibition, 1886.
If any single painting could be advanced to prove the new Francophile allegiances of young British painters of the 1880s it would surely be this one.1 Known hitherto only through an illustration reproduced in the Pall Mall Gazette 'Extra', In the Dauphiné has nevertheless been extensively discussed.2 Not only was Henry Herbert La Thangue's work painted in France, but its subject matter, peasants of the Rhône valley, painted life-size, in a broad 'square brush' style, was widely, if not entirely accurately, regarded as a replication of the mannerisms of current French naturalist painters who followed Jules Bastien-Lepage.3
Exhibiting what was described as a 'Sketch of Toiling Peasants' at the first New English Art Club exhibition in 1886, La Thangue was closely identified with this alien tendency, and the exhibition was taken as the first concerted demonstration of its power and presence. An old genre, associated particularly with the realists of the mid-century - paysanneries, or 'peasantries' - as purveyed by Jean-François Millet and Jules Breton, accentuated the idyllic aspects of the peasant's labour.4 By 1875, the time of Millet's death, however, his work had begun to seem old-masterish, even though it provided the first visual prototypes for In the Dauphiné.5 Rising stars of the 1870s like Bastien-Lepage, recognizing Millet's continuing popularity with collectors, sought to breathe new life into this type of painting. Often presented as revolutionary, this new painting contained powerful modernizing attitudes which encouraged the rejection of the commercial classicism of Bouguereau and Gérôme. Ministers of state for the fine arts, reacting to fears of urban insurrection, increasingly supported art production that explicitly referred to the healthy, outdoor values implied in images of contemporary rural life. France remained predominantly an agrarian economy and the horrors of the siege of Paris and the commune, associated with the modern metropolis, were still vividly remembered in the early days of the Third Republic. Many of Bastien-Lepage's rural naturalist contemporaries, like Ulysse Butin, Julien Dupré, Dagnan-Bouveret and Léon Lhermitte, taking their cue from his challenging Les Foins, 1878 (Musée d'Orsay, Paris), were fêted with medals at the Paris Salon and state purchases. At the same time the Impressionists, whose exhibitions commenced in 1874 and continued throughout this period, conducted their enterprise amidst a flurry of rhetoric concerning 'modernity'.
Paris, despite its recent redevelopment, retained the romantic aura popularly associated with Mürger and la vie de bôhème and for young painters like La Thangue, rural naturalism represented modern art. The international prestige of French art training, and the relative impoverishment of art education in Britain, however, provided the most immediate and unavoidable reason to go there. When La Thangue won the Royal Academy Schools' gold medal in 1879, Frederic Leighton, the Academy's President, recognizing the trend, armed him with a letter of introduction to Jean-Léon Gérôme, at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, where he enrolled in January 1880.
La Thangue instantly found himself in a thriving milieu, surrounded by American, Scandinavian, Eastern European, and French students, that included, during the early 1880s young British painters like John Lavery, Stanhope Forbes, Arthur Hacker, Arthur Melville, William Stott of Oldham and others. While working from the life model, he witnessed the unveiling to the public of dramatic canvases like Julien Dupré's Faucheurs de Luzerne, Bastien-Lepage's Le Mendiant, (Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen) and Lhermitte's La Paye des Moissonneurs (Musée d'Orsay, Paris) shown at the Salons of 1880, 1881 and 1882 respectively.6 The future lay with such painting and to attain it, there was no alternative than to experience rural life at first hand. It was this impetus which was leading to the establishment of rural colonies and led to La Thangue's visits to Cancale and Quimperlé in the summers of 1881 and 1882. Here he produced Study in a Boat Building Yard on the French Coast, 1882 (National Maritime Museum), and other notable canvases.7
The following summer, concluding that the Breton coastline was too popular, La Thangue made his first expedition to the Rhône valley, stopping at the village of Donzère, equidistant between Valence and Avignon. This area, the Dauphiné, became his new summer haunt, although at first he appears to have only painted interiors such as Poverty, 1883.8 It was evident that in such works, La Thangue was looking for harsher realities than those found by his colleagues on the coast. Here he conceived In the Dauphiné, his most ambitious canvas to date.
In this, peasants, at mid-day, have temporarily left their labours, to rest at the edge of the field and have their lunch. The monumental harvester in the foreground, carries his scythe over his shoulder. Like Dupré's faucheur he wears a straw hat to protect his head from the sun, a stout white shirt with a yoke construction and pleated sleeves and patched blue trousers - common French field worker's clothing at the period.9 His female companion, carrying a lunch basket, wears a white apron over a pale blue skirt, a simple buttoned tunic, and a head scarf. There is no archaizing here. What might, in other hands, be treated as an ennobling motif, is rendered with strict accuracy. Unlike earlier treatments of the subject, La Thangue's harvesters are seen against a backdrop of fields and buildings rather than sky. This would be in accord with our eye level, were we to be standing opposite them. For Bastien-Lepage this was an essential badge of authenticity and a way of simulating a real life encounter.10 It is the salient feature of Pas Mèche, (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh), a work shown in London in 1882, and l'Amour au Village, 1882, his Salon painting of that year.11
Perhaps the most important antecedent, which ties In the Dauphiné firmly to French practice, was Lhermitte's La Moisson, shown at the Salon of 1883 and purchased in 1885 by Isaac Smith J.P., a northern industrialist and later mayor of Bradford.12 While Bastien-Lepage's Les Foins, 1878 (Musée d'Orsay, Paris), can be said to show the labourers resting at mid-day, after they have eaten, this monumental work illustrates the moment prior to that depicted by La Thangue. The heroic harvester wipes his brow and calls for a break from his labours. That such a canvas could have been seen by the members of the progressive art collecting circle in Bradford, and with whom La Thangue was involved, is significant.13
There was at the same time an implied symbolic context for representations of men with scythes. In 1859, Millet had exhibited his Death and the Woodcutter (Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen) at the Salon. This took the familiar tale from the Fables of La Fontaine and cast it into contemporary terms. 'Death' was seen as a man with a scythe, and the cutting of ripe corn, a metaphor for human mortality.14 The theme was reworked consistently by Alphonse Legros, Slade Professor of Fine Art, in etchings and in an important oil version, (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa), painted in 1878, in the years when La Thangue was a student. It was in these terms that the symbolic reaper was translated into Britain, and as such he later re-appeared in La Thangue's Chantrey purchase, The Man with the Scythe, 1896 (Tate Britain).15 None of this latent symbolism is apparent in In the Dauphiné. If anything, more apposite comparisons could be found elsewhere. In an idyllic vein, for instance, British painters following Millet and Breton had represented happy harvesters with scythes returning from the fields at twilight. The Virgilian swains in George Heming Mason's The Harvest Moon, 1872 (Tate Britain) are slowly transformed in George Wetherbee's Harvest Moon, 1881, but neither of these earlier works prepares us for the shock of In the Dauphiné.
This bold manifesto-statement was brought up from the depths of rural France to be shown at the first exhibition of a new society. By the time it went on show at the Marlborough Gallery in April 1886, the New English Art Club had already courted controversy. Martin Colnaghi, who had promised his gallery for the exhibition, withdrew his offer when he saw Henry Scott Tuke's The Bathers, (unlocated), a picture of the type which became Tuke's stock in trade. A new backer, W.J. Laidlay, was hastily found, and the exhibition opened at the Marlborough Gallery, so named because it was opposite Marlborough House in Pall Mall. Aside from carping critics, there was a great deal of confusion about the ambitions of the club. Some prominent members, La Thangue among them, felt that the club should bring sweeping changes to the whole art politics of the day, displacing the Royal Academy. Laidlay, fearing financial ruin, threatened to withdraw his support if the 'revolutionists' led by La Thangue, took the helm.16 Despite these internal disputes, most critics recognized that the club members were, as their catalogue stated, 'more or less united in their art sympathies', and La Thangue weathering the criticisms which greeted his large canvas, after a general meeting in May 1886, was obliged to resign. While there were general tendencies within the art on display in the first exhibition, The Saturday Review observed, 'Mr H La Thangue's In the Dauphiné is the largest, and - perhaps partly because it is unfinished - the most pronounced example of the distinguishing tendencies of the school. The touch is square, broad and systematised; and the colour high, bluish, and open-air-like, though it must be confessed, without sufficient delicacy.'17
Two points are obvious. The first is to do with technique and finish and the second relates to the 'evident preoccupation about material' which the critic noted in comparing the big La Thangue with Tuke's Bathers. With La Thangue, the square brush style was at its most extreme. He was latterly credited with leading what became known as the 'Square Brush School', which was described as a, '…technicl method which puts paint on canvas in a particular way with a square brush ... those who practice it in its simplest form leave the brush-marks and do not smooth away the evidence of method, thus sometimes insisting on the way the picture is painted, perhaps at the sacrifice of subtleties in the subject.18
There was further debate as to whether this method has actually originated in classes taught by the marine painter, James Clarke Hook, at the Royal Academy Schools.19 It was nevertheless in close accord with French methods of building up a composition in uniformly solid, opaque paint, applied with self-confidence. Walter Sickert recalling this debate in later years credited La Thangue with having adopted and developed the methods of his day in the use of 'an opaque mosaic for recording objective sensations ... in personal manner'.20 Other artists who had been to France in the early eighties employed the 'opaque mosaic', but not to the same degree. For La Thangue, as for Stanhope Forbes, Frank Bramley, Frank Brangwyn and George Clausen, it meant painting across the forms to give a sense of breadth and solidity. The brushmarks in the clothing of the harvester do not follow the fall of the fabric. Edges, to some extent are blurred, giving the sense of arrested motion. While others applied this method, they selectively 'finished' their pictures to the extent that heads and hands, the focal points in a figure composition, were painted with great detail. This is apparent from Clausen's first two New English exhibits, The Shepherdess, 1885 (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool) and The Stone Pickers, 1887 (Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne). La Thangue understood these processes completely, and in the much less ambitious, Return of the Reapers, 1886, we see a higher level of finish than in the present work. In both, however, La Thangue's proccupation with what we might refer to as 'materiality' is evident. Even the glazes of the rustic water-jug, to be held above the head for drinking, as in Manet's La Régalade, 1862 (Art Institute of Chicago), are treated in such a way as to accentuate the solidity of the object.21 Such effects, dependant upon the regularity of brushstrokes, as in a Cézanne, impress ideas of three-dimensionality upon the viewer, and make the experience of La Thangue's grand 'unfinished' peasants of the Dauphiné, compelling.
After it was shown at the New English, In the Dauphiné was exhibited in the Winter Exhibition of the Arcadian Art Club in Bradford.22 La Thangue was the President of the Club, and a contemporary photograph shows the picture as the centrepiece of the Bradford exhibition. The Mitchell family, who may have acquired it before either of these shows, were also involved with the club.23 In 1887 La Thangue was commissioned to paint Abraham Mitchell, as The Connoisseur, with his wife, sons and daughter, in his picture gallery at 'Bowling Park' Rooley Lane, Bradford.24 Mitchell's fortune depended upon the production and sale of mohair. A good proportion of it and that of his sons, was spent on the accumulation of works of art and in La Thangue's depiction, he appears as a domineering presence.
The painter returned to the subject of harvesters in two equally monumental pictures, Travelling Harversters, 1897 (private collection) and Harvesters at Supper, 1898 (Bradford Museums and Art Galleries). In the first of these, the man with the scythe, also carrying his cooking pot, trudges towards the viewer, while in the second, the scythe has been laid down, as the group gathers round the camp-fire. Both pictures are formidable experiences, but both are trapped in sentiment. It is dusk, and these are the homeless rural poor. Like La Thangue himself by that stage, the harvesters are increasingly rootless. Neither canvas takes us out into the glare of mid-day in the val de Rhône and confronts us with what is one of the most arresting encounters produced by a British artist in final quarter of the nineteenth century.
We are very grateful to Professor Kenneth McConkey for providing the above catalogue entry.
1 For a fuller account of the British context in which La Thangue's work emerged, see K. McConkey, Exhibition catalogue, Impressionism in Britain, London, Barbican Art Gallery, 1995.
2 See literature above, especially, McConkey, 1978; Robins, 1986; McConkey, 1989; McConkey, 1995; Jenkins, 2000.
3 See K. McConkey, The Bouguereau of the Naturalists, Bastien-Lepage and British Art, Art History, vol. 1, no. 3, 1978, pp. 371-182; idem, 'Rustic Naturalism in Britain, in G.P. Weisberg (ed.), The European Realist Tradition, Indiana, 1982, pp. 215-28. See also G.P. Weisberg, Beyond Impressionism, The Natural Impulse, 1992.
4 K. McConkey, Exhibition catalogue, Peasantries, 19th century French and British pictures of peasants and field workers, Newcastle, Polytechnic Art Gallery, 1981.
5 In this regard we may consider a painting of a peasant couple, like Going to Work, 1851 (Glasgow Art Gallery) as an important precedent. Slightly younger contemporaries like Jules Breton extended the range of Millet's subject matter. Both produced canvases that show groups of peasants setting off for, or returning from, work in the fields. Breton's Le Depart pour les Champs, 1857 (untraced) containing a reaper, his scythe over his shoulder, and his wife and children, setting off to work, is a further example of an early working of La Thangue's theme. For further reference see A. Bourrut-Lacouture, Jules Breton, Painter of Peasant Life, Yale, 2002, p. 97.
6 These examples are chosen merely to point to a substantial, international body of work.
7 K. McConkey, 1978; A. Jenkins, 2000, p. 56.
8 K. McConkey, 1978; At Donzère, on the banks of the Rhône, La Thangue was on the western edge of the Dauphiné region, an area to the south of the French Alps, which received its name in the fourteenth century. It was thereafter the appanage of the eldest son of the French King who henceforth bore the title 'Dauphin'.
9 See for instance, Bastien-Lepage's Faucheurs aiguisant leur faux, 1881 (private collection).
10 A. Theuriet, Jules Bastien-Lepage and his Art, A Memoir 1892, p. 73.
11 This pictorial strategy was instantly adopted by Bastien's British followers, see for instance George Clausen's Breton Girl carrying a Jar, 1882 (Victoria and Albert Museum).
12 For further reference see M. le Pelley Fonteny, Léon Lhermitte, Paris, 1991, pp. 100-01.
13 For progressive collecting in Bradford, mentioning Smith, see A. Jenkins and C. Hopper, The Connoisseur, Art Patrons and Collectors in Victorian Bradford, 1989. Smith was to acquire three important works by La Thangue, The Yeoman, 1887; Resting after the game, 1888 (both private collections); and the monumental Leaving Home, 1889-90 (formerly the Forbes Collection; sold Christie's, London, 19 February 2003, lot 19, private collection). As a collector he was in competition with Abraham Mitchell, the first owner of the present work, and John Maddocks, all three of whom were industrialists in the Bradford area.
14 K. McConkey, Dejection's Portrait: Naturalist Images of Woodcutters in Nineteenth Century Art, Arts Magazine, April 1986, pp. 81-7.
15 K. McConkey, 1978, no. 14.
16 For a more detailed account see A. Robins, 1986. Robins quotes George Bernard Shaw's remark on In the Dauphiné that 'public impatience to see the work could have been restrained pending its completion'. La Thangue did not rest with the club's decision for a moderate expansion of its membership. In 1887 and 1889 he published polemical pieces in The Magazine of Art and The Artist respectively, arguing for a new 'National Movement' based upon the principle of universal suffrage. As an exhibitor, he transferred his attentions to the Grosvenor Gallery and later, the New Gallery, returning to the Academy fold in 1891 with Clausen and Frederick Brown.
17 The Saturday Review, 17 April 1886, p. 541.
18 M. Roberts, A Colony of Artists, The Scottish Art Review, 1889, p. 72.
19 A.S. Hartrick, A Painter's Pilgrimage through Fifty Years, Cambridge, 1939, p. 28, contends that the 'square brush act' started in 1883, when Bastien-Lepage gave painting lessons to a group of British and American followers. While this might have occured, it is unlikely to be the 'origin' of the method.
20 The New Age, 7 May 1914, quoted from O. Sitwell (ed.), A Free House, Being the Writings of Walter Richard Sickert, 1947, p. 271.
21 A similar jug appears in Winter in Liguria, (lot 37).
22 For further reference see A. Jenkins and C. Hopper, 1989.
23 In this regard it is worth noting that George Clausen's The Shepherdess, 1885 (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool), was also in a Bradford collection, that of John Maddocks, at the time of its showing in the first New English Exhibition.
24 For further reference see A. Jenkins and C. Hopper, 1989; see also K. McConkey, Memory and Desire, Painting in Britain and Ireland at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, Aldershot, 2002, pp. 43-7.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Price Realized £1,035,650
signed 'J.J.Tissot' (lower right)
oil on canvas
55¾ x 21 in. (141.5 x 53.5 cm.)
W. Misfeldt, James Jacques Joseph Tissot: A Bio-critical study, Ann Arbour, Michigan, 1971, p.178.
M. Wentworth, James Tissot: Catalogue raissoné of his prints, Minneapolis, 1978, p.154.
M. Wentworth, James Tissot, Oxford, 1984, pp. 138, 142, 143, 144, 202.
K. Matyjaszkiewicz, ed., James Tissot 1836-1902, London, 1986, pp. 60, 76, 118, 101, 102.
C. Wood, The Life and Work of James Jacques Tissot 1836-1902, London, 1986, pp. 101, 105.
W. Misfeldt, J.J. Tissot: Prints from the Gotlieb Collection, Alexandria, Virginia, 1991, p. 84.
N.R. Marshall and M. Warner, James Tissot: Victorian Life/Modern Love, Yale, 1999, pp. 121, 123
London, Grosvenor Gallery, 1878, no. 31.
Spring dates from the happiest period of Tissot's life. It is a portrait of his beloved mistress, Kathleen Newton, who he is reputed to have met in 1875, when she was posting a letter in St John's Wood, where she was staying with her sister. By 1878 she had moved to the artist's residence at 17 Grove End Road and bore him a son, Cecil George. Their companionship is one of the most legendary in art history; the more so because of her early death from consumption in November 1882. Tissot never quite recovered; immortalising her in numerous canvases that replicate her image from those studies and paintings he made when she was alive.
Those full-scale oils that Tissot did complete during their blissful seven years together are therefore informed with a sense of that contentment, that translates in paint to a sparkiness of touch, and tenderness of observation. Here, for example, we note how Tissot traces Kathleen's whole form with light; she seems weightless, an impression which is the true physical effect of viewing a person lit from behind by the sun.
Kathleen's life had already been eventful, and tinged by scandal. She was born Kathleen Irene Ashburnham Kelly in Agra, India, in 1854. Her father worked in the accountant's office of the British East India Company. Kathleen and Mary Pauline, her sister, were sent to England, and are recorded as having been baptised in London in 1860. They were educated at Gumley House Convent School, Isleworth. Soon after Kathleen left school her marriage to Dr Isaac Newton, a surgeon working in India, was arranged. The ceremony took place in Hoshearpore (now Hoshiapur) in January 1871. However, Kathleen had fallen in love with a Captain Palliser on the voyage out. Her marriage was accordingly doomed; divorce proceedings were begun and she returned to England, where a daughter, Muriel Violet Mary Newton, was born in December, ten days before Kathleen's decree nisi was declared. (This biographical information has been researched and published by Dr Willard E. Misfeldt in the exhibition catalogue J.J. Tissot: Prints from the Gotlieb Collection, Art Services International, 1991.)
Kathleen rapidly became Tissot's principal model. He executed several rapid oil sketches of a woman and baby which can be identified as Kathleen and Cecil George. Frequently Tissot broadens his subject matter to represent a chaotic but equally happy view of family life, incorporating the children of Kathleen's sister Mary Pauline, who lived nearby.
Kathleen's death inaugurated many changes in Tissot's life and art. He returned to Paris and embarked on a large-scale modern-life series depicting chic Parisian women. He subsequently became interested in religion, and travelled to the Holy Land; his depictions of the Life of Christ and stories from the Old Testament won him international repute.
This portrait of Kathleen is especially tender; her lips are breaking into a gentle smile and the way light catches upon the feathered hat trim gives her the illusion of a halo. The face is much softer than in the gouache replica that Tissot painted subsequently. In 1878 Tissot sold both this and Spring to E.F. White, a dealer who is recorded as a vendor in Christie's archives many times during the 1860s and 70s. Tissot sold Spring for £300, the gouache replica for £50. (This information is courtesy of Dr Misfeldt, from the notebook or carnet in which Tissot recorded his sales each year, now in a private collection). In addition to the gouache replica (fig. 1; private collection), Tissot reproduced the composition in an etching (fig. 2), which was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1878 (no. 158) at the same time as the oil.
Tissot was experimenting around 1875-77 with figures placed against the light. Both in his oils and etchings, he explored the subtle contrasts of light and shade, and the rich intensity of sun-drenched colour. A 1875 oil painting, Spring Morning (Matinée de Printemps) (private collection), of a young woman wearing a striped dress and holding a parasol, and standing beside a pond with tall plants, was reworked with a narrower composition and stronger contrasts in a drypoint (fig.3). The same figure, in the same striped costume, stands outside a window looking into an interior - again silhouetted against a sunlit landscape - in an etching of circa 1875, Femme à la fenètre (Bibliotèque Nationale, Paris, and Art Gallery of Ontario). An oil painting of a woman standing in a doorway, wearing the same dress as Kathleen in Spring, was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1877 (no.18) as A Portrait (fig. 4; Tate Britain, London), and reproduced by Tissot in an etching of 1876. The composition of Spring Morning, meanwhile, was repeated in The Widower (Le Veuf), with the figure of a woman substituted by a bearded man holding a small girl in his arms, and known in both oil versions (one of which was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery with A Portrait in 1877) and an etching.
Critics remarked on Tissot's virtuoso handling of light: The Times reviewer of the 1878 Grosvenor Gallery exhibition noted the 'skilfully managed reflected lights' in Spring, while the Magazine of Art critic enthused that 'M. Tissot has carried the study of light so far that he aims at nothing less than the abolition of the studio with its artificial chiaroscuro. He paints either in the diffused and gentle open-air light, or in the gentle and natural shadows of a room... One of the noticeable results of M. Tissot's mastery of 'values' - i.e. of the inter-comparison of the degrees of lights or shadows on objects, which is quite a distinct study from that of tone, or the relative depth or lightness of their local colour - is the perfection of his rendering of surfaces, without laborious imitative effect; the fan of the lady in Spring...[is an] excellent specimen of this quality.'
Both the contrast of light and shade, and the placing of a single prominent figure beside large foreground plants, are devices found in Japanese prints. Like his contemporaries and friends, Albert Moore and James Whistler, Tissot avidly collected and studied Japanese art. The series of tall and narrow compositions with single figures that Spring belongs to are very similar to Moore's single verticle figures. But whereas Moore dressed his figures in classical robes, and was preoccupied with subtle arrangements of colour, Tissot's figures are in modern dress and mostly posed outdoors, against exotic or richly coloured plants.
The concept of figures personifying seasons or times of day was a favourite one among artists, and occurs in both the work of Tissot and Moore. Tissot had, in addition, a great admiration for the work of the Belgian artist Alfred Stevens, whose pictures had enjoyed great success in Paris during the late 1860s, and included a series of tall, narrow, single-figure 'Seasons'. Spring, 1869 (fig. 5; Clark Institute of Art, Williamstown), echoes Tissot's own later treatment of the subject.
From the subtitle of Summer, exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1877 (no.17), it is clear that Tissot intended to paint at least one series of four seasons. The painting, which may be the three-quarter-length study of Kathleen in black, holding a Japanese parasol (sold Sotheby's, New York, 29 October 2002), which Tissot reworked as an etching published in 1878 (fig. 6), was subtitled 'from a series of the Four Seasons', and like Spring had been purchased by E.F. White. It is possible that a three-quarter-length of Kathleen in fur-trimmed jacket, painted in 1877 and now known by the title of the etched version, Mavourneen (private collection), was intended to represent autumn in this series; and A Winter's Walk, exhibited at the Royal Manchester Institution in 1878 (private collection) and reproduced in a print published by Tissot in 1880, winter.
Spring therefore, appears to belong to a series of full-length or almost full-length paintings personifying the seasons. An unfinished variant of the Summer composition described above (fig. 7; Musée Baron Martin, Gray) portrays Kathleen standing, and is painted on a Winsor and Newton canvas of the same type and dimensions as Spring. A canvas of similar dimensions was used for a replica of October (fig. 8; private collection), sold by Tissot in 1878 to the dealer Maclean for £250 alongside the larger version (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts), which Maclean also bought from Tissot, for £425 (information courtesy of Dr Misfeldt, from the notebook or carnet in which Tissot recorded his sales each year, now in a private collection). It is tempting to see these three similarly-sized works as Spring, Summer and Autumn.
Both the summer picture and Spring have vivid greens and yellows in the grass behind the figures. Paint analysis has shown that Tissot used both Viridian mixed with dazzling yellow Barium Chromate, and the brilliant but poisonous Emerald Green; the brightness of the yellow grass is due to the use of Strontium Yellow. The whole was painted on to an underlay of pure white, for added luminosity. The same acidic yellow and green colours are used in the grass in a number of Tissot's garden pictures dating from the late 1870s and early 1880s, including Croquet (fig. 9; Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ontario), exhibited with Spring at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1878 (no.32), Uncle Fred, reading a Story and In the Sunshine (En plein soleil). Tissot clearly liked the unusual but vivid combination, which no doubt helped differentiate his pictures from others.
The summer dress in Spring was a favourite of Tissot's. Modelled by both Kathleen Newton and others, it features in a variety of compositions including A Portrait, 1876 (fig. 4; Tate Britain, London), the etching Ramsgate, 1876, A Fete Day at Brighton, and Seaside- exhibited in 1878 as July (Specimen of a Portrait) (sold Christie's 27 November 2002, lot 19). In The Gallery of HMS Calcutta, Portsmouth (Tate Britain, London), exhibited with A Portrait and The Widower at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1877, the foreground model wearing the same muslin dress is posed with her back to the viewer, so that across several pictures we get an view of the costume from every angle.
The muslin folds allowed Tissot to demonstrate his skill at rendering light and shadow. In Spring his mastery is fully evident; in the way he suggests the layers of striped muslin - jacket over sleeveless dress - and soft satin yellow ribbons catching the sunlight. His ability to replicate sartorial details earned Tissot a reputation as a recorder of fashion. Some contemporary reviewers criticised Tissot for creating compositions that evoked fashion plates: 'his devotion to modern millnery in its most extravageant forms lends an ephemeral fashion-book air to his performances', wrote one in 1878. The seasons, like Spring, come closest to resembling magazine fashion plates, which regularly illustrated up-to-date costumes for current and forthcoming seasons, from back and front or side. Today, fashion historians and film and theatre costume designers have been able to reconstruct actual clothing from Tissot's pictures.
James Laver, in his early biography of the artist, concludes that Tissot was 'assured of his immortality, if not in the History of Art, at least in l'histoire des moeurs, for most books on 19th century costume or society illustrate at least one of Tissot's pictures. Yet his re-use of costumes, and of both sketches and photographs, over several years, lends a note of caution to precise dating of many of his works, though it is interesting to note that such reuse did not cause undue comment (at least until the 1880s), indicating that it was generally acceptable for slightly-dated dress to coexist happily with the latest fashions. Precise dating of Tissot's pictures is difficult unless they can be identified with exhibited works. This is particularly true of paintings featuring Kathleen, where the terminus post quem of 1875 when they met, and about 1880 when Cecil George proudly wore His First Breeches (as recorded in an etching after a lost photograph from a known series of the family in Tissot's garden), are the only anchors.
In associating Tissot with the minute detail of buttons and seams, it is easy to forget that he was a contemporary and friend of the Impressionists and was adept at painting atmospheric landscapes. The background to Spring is purposely diffused to enable the white-clad sunlit figure to stand out. The lilac-coloured rhododendron blooms are subdued in tone and painted in soft, blended brushstrokes, as are the leaves and background trees, the greens of both being mixed with yellow ochre and traces of soft brown for a lower key. The cool green and lilac provide a foil to the bright yellow of the ribbons. The whole composition is framed by an arching bough of pink spring blossom, which is meticulously rendered as befits an object near to view.
Tissot's subtitle for Spring at the Grosvenor Gallery, 'Specimen of a Portrait' was the same subtitle given to July (also known as Seaside) at the same show. Tissot was presumably trying to win portrait commissions. Several portraits subsequently recorded in Tissot's carnet suggest that he was successful in attracting these.
Kathleen Newton was the model in seven of the nine works that Tissot showed at the Grosvenor in 1878 - the oil and etched versions of Spring, the etched versions of autumnal subjects October and Mavourneen, the oil of July, an oil painting of Kathleen in bright yellow evening dress at a ball, entitled Evening (also known Le Bal, Musee d'Orsay, Paris), and A Study 'of which only a pretty simple head is finished' (sold Christie's, London, 17 March 1989). The following year, all but two of Tissot's exhibits featured Kathleen, the exceptions being etched studies of the classical colonnade in his garden and of the Trafalgar Tavern. The regularity of her appearance annoyed some reviewers in 1879. Spring, shown the previous year, had seemed fresh and was accordingly favourably received. It thereby represents Tissot's honeymoon period in both critical estimation, and personal experience.
We are grateful to Krystyna Matyjaskiewicz for her help in preparing this catalogue entry.
Price Realized £100,450
with inscription and number '2317 Salves[?] Drawing by Burton' (on the reverse of the frame)
pencil, watercolour and bodycolour, with gum arabic
11¾ x 9 in. (29.9 x 22.9 cm.)
Frederic Burton was born on 8 April 1816 at Clifden House, Corofin, in Co. Clare, Ireland. The Burtons could trace their lineage back to the fifteenth century, and Frederic's father, Samuel Frederic Burton, was an amateur landscape painter of independent means. In 1826 the family moved to Dublin, where Frederic recieved some artistic training from the Brocas brothers and the landscape painter and antiquary George Petrie. His dual interest in the practice of art and art-historical scholarship would seem to owe much to the influence of Petrie, who remained a lifelong friend. By 1837, when he was still only twenty-one, he had made such artistic progress that he was elected an associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy, graduating to full membership two years later. His handsome features, keen intelligence and natural distinction of manner gave him ready access to Dublin society and local intellectual circles. Many sat to him for portraits and miniatures, although his best-known early portraits were two likenesses of the English actress Helen Faucit, exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1849. Meanwhile he was experimenting with landscape, historical subjects, and genre. Some of his genre scenes, such as The Aran Fisherman's Drowned Child and A Connaught Toilet, became well known through engravings; another notable example, The Blind Girl at the Holy Well, shown at the R.H.A. in 1840, was sold at Christie's in London on 10 March 1995 (lot 148A). All this early work was in watercolour, which remained his favourite medium.
Contact with Dublin's intelligentsia developed Burton's historical sense, and in 1851 he settled in Munich to begin a six-year study of German art. He continued to paint, taking his subjects from the lives of the local peasantry and developing a style which led critics to compare him to Van Eyck, Memling, Holbein, and other early Flemish and German masters.
On his return to Britain, Burton settled in London. He had exhibited at the Royal Academy since 1842, and in 1855 he was elected an associate of the Old Water-Colour Society, proceeding to full membership the following year. From the 1840s he seems to have felt the influence of Ruskin; witness the detailed naturalism of his portrait of Annie Callwell, or the study of a pine-stump in the Tyrol, both in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin. Now he came into personal contact with the Pre-Raphalite circle, and this too left its mark. The outstanding example is Hellelil and Hildebrand: The Meeting on the Turret Stairs (National Gallery of Ireland), a subject: inspired by a Norse ballad that he exhibited at the Old Water-Colour Society in 1864. Rossettian in its medieval theme and emotional intensity, the picture also shows awareness of Millais' paintings of star-crossed lovers, such as A Huguenot (1852; private collection) and The Black Brunswicker (1860; Port Sunlight). However, the artist to whom Burton was personally closest was Edward Burne-Jones, his junior by seventeen years but a man who shared his scholarly approach to painting and art-historical interests. When Burne-Jones resigned from the Old Water-Colour Society in 1870 after objections were raised to the nudity of one of his figures, Burton withdrew in sympathy and refused to reconsider his decision.
Throughout these years, Burton maintained his scholarly interests, which embraced not only the history of European painting but literature, music, and anything to do with Irish antiquities. He was involved with a number of organisations promoting research on these subjects, helping to found the Archaeological Society of Ireland and becoming a member of the London Society of Antiquaries in 1863. In 1874 his art-historical eminence was recognised when he was appointed Director of the National Gallery in London. It was usual at this time for the post to be held by an artist of scholarly inclinations. Burton succeeded Sir William Boxall, who in turn had succeeded Eastlake, and he himself was to be followed by Poynter in 1894. During his twenty-year regime, Burton's knowledge and connoiseurship were to be fully deployed. The Gallery not only acquired no fewer than 450 pictures, including some of its most familiar and best-loved masterpieces, but progress was made on the arrangement, classification and cataloguing of the collection. Burton devoted himself to the task, abandoning his brushes entirely, nor did he return to the practice of painting on his retirement. He was knighted in 1884, and given the degree of LL.D. of Trinity College, Dublin, in 1896. Although his later career had unfolded in London, where he died, unmarried , in 1900, Ireland never lost its place in his affections, and he was buried beside his parents in Mount Jerome cemetary, Dublin.
This present watercolour has all the hallmarks of Burton's style: restrained sentiment, scrupulous draughtsmanship, and an obvious awareness of the Old Masters. It almost certainly dates from the early 1860s and may well have been exhibited, although the venue, if any, has not yet been identified.
The subject seems to be an Italian or Irish child on her way to church. The image is a little reminiscent of Holman Hunt's painting The School-Girl's Hymn (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford), a work of 1859 representing, as its first owner, Thomas Combe, put it, 'a school girl on a smiling summer morning, singing her hymn as she walks along'. Burton's child, in holding a lily, almost becomes an infant version of the Angel of the Annunciation, and it is tantalising that a word that could be construed as 'Salve' (hail) is written on the back. However, it is far from clear, and in any case the Angel in the Vulgate version of St Luke's Gospel uses the word 'Ave' by way of greeting the Virgin.
Although Burton's curtailed working career means that his work is rare Christie's has had a distinguished record of handling his watercolours in recent years. The Child Miranda, an enchanting study of 1864, was sold on 11 November 1999 for the record price of £265,500, The Wife of Hassan Aga, a slightly earlier example of 1862, followed on 19 May 2000, and Weary, which appeared at the O.W.C.S. in 1867, on 17 May 2001.
So wounded and weary from the conflict, he rose and followed the beckoning Shadow. His steps were feeble by reason of his sore hurts; but his heart quailed not, for he knew that ere now his Lord had trodden the same way. Thus passed he through the dark valley where were many tombs; and the dead leaves were deep beneath his feet... At last, strength failing him, he sank upon his knees. Then the Shadow made pause; and turning round, laid upon him a hand, at whose touch his blood became as ice... And the Shadow spake, and its voice was as the voice of an angel: Thou hast been faithful unto death; the Lord will give thee a crown of Life. Then was the vail of the Darkness rent asunder and lo! the Shadow was clothed with light as with a garment of rejoicing; and he knew that the promise was fulfilled, and that, in very deed, Mortality was swallowed up in Life - The Good Fight.
Price Realized £45,410
signed with monogram and dated '66'
oil on canvas
46 x 29 in. (116.9 x 73.7 cm)
In the original gilt frame designed by the artist
London, Royal Academy, 1866, no.299.
Paton was a Scottish painter of historical, religious, literary and allegorical themes. He was born in Dumfermline and began his career as a designer of textiles. In 1843 he went to London to study at the Royal Academy Schools, and there met John Everett Millais (see pl.82), his junior by eight years. He did not join the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, having returned to Scotland by the time it was founded in September 1848, but he remained on close terms with Millais and his work has a certain affinity with that of the Pre-Raphaelites.
Paton was an intellectual whose imagination was profoundly stirred by Celtic legends. He was also one of the greatest Victorian exponents of fairy painting, particularly during the early part of his career. His passion for fairy subjects was such that in 1850 the painter and photographer David Octavius Hill urged him to send 'historical and sacred subjects' to the Royal Scottish Academy in order to refute the critics who were accusing him of being 'fairy mad'. In fact in later life Paton did turn increasingly to 'sacred subjects', investing them with a rather sentimental piety that made them enormously popular. Queen Victoria herself was among his patrons and admirers. She appointed him her Limner for Scotland in 1866 and knighted him the following year.
Paton was eminently suited to receive these accolades. A.T. Story described him as 'so notable a figure that it would mark him out among a thousand as that of a man of distinguished parts and position, to a head that would have served, in his prime, as a model for a Jupiter ???, he unites a frame that is almost Herculean in breadth of shoulder and depth of chest. 'William Michael Rossetti' was similarly impressed, recalling 'a tall and very fine-looking man (who) received us with a stately courtesy, in which some degree of shyness seemed to be lurking... He had a handsome well-kept house, comprising a very noticeable collection of armour.' A.M.W. Stirling thought him 'the bean ideal of a Highland chief, good to look at and delightful to talk to, a poet and an artist'.
The present picture, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1866, the very year that Paton took up his royal appointment, is an early example of his later style, and typifies the religious sentiment he was increasingly anxious to express. It was accompanied in the RA catalogue by a long quotation reminiscent of Pilgrim's Progress explaining in pictorial terms that death, far from being an ending, is the beginning of eternal life. In an age noted for high mortality and beset by religious doubts, the appeal of such a message was obvious.
The picture is well documented in photographs of Paton and his home surroundings. An albumen print of c.1865-6, possibly by David Octavius Hill, who was his brother-in-law, shows him in his studio laying in the outlines on the almost blank canvas while a suit of armour, worn by the knight in the picture, stands in the corner. The picture is also seen hanging above the door in the artist's drawing room at his house in St George's Square, Edinburgh, in a photograph reproduced in A.J. Story's article.
The picture has a curious capacity to remind us of images which are in a sense irrelevant. The phrase 'faithful unto death' so central to the accompanying text had been adopted by E.J. Doynter ?? as the title of his well-known picture, exhibited at the Royal Academy the previous year, of a Roman centurian standing at his post while Pompeii collapses around him (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool). The concept of an angel at a doorway addressing an armoured knight recalls designs by Rossetti and Burne-Jones of Sir Lancelot failing to achieve the Holy Grail. And the title Mors Janua Vitae was to be used by Alfred Gilbert for his extraordinary bronze shrine created 1905-9 in memory of Dr and Mrs Macloghlin and to hold their mingled ashes (Royal College of Surgeons, London). Ironically in view of the fact that the words imply eternal life, the couple were atheists.
A small (11¼ x 7in.) version of the picture was offered in these Rooms on 13 March 1992, lot 93. To produce two versions in this way was Paton's normal practice.
Price Realized £363,650
signed, inscribed and dated 'D.Wilkie.Madrid 1828' (lower right) and 'Head of a Spanish Girl By Sir David Wilkie, R.A. Painted in Madrid 1828' (on an old label attached to the reverse of the stretcher)
oil on canvas
26½ x 22¼ in. (67.3 x 56.5 cm.)
In the summer of 1825 Wilkie set out on a belated Grand Tour, precipitated by a nervous breakdown he suffered that year which had left him temporarily unable to paint. He spent two winters in Italy, travelled to Germany, France and Switzerland, and reached Spain in October 1827. He stayed in Spain for seven months, mostly in Madrid, where he found the social life congenial and was afforded the opportunity to study many of the great Old Master paintings in Spanish collections. This picture is the only one to survive of those painted by him in Spain, excepting those in the British Royal Collection.
While in Madrid Wilkie executed a coloured drawing which he was to exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1830 titled A Spanish Senorita, with her nurse of the Asturias, walking in the Prado of Madrid. This has been missing since 1922 but is known through an engraving by T.W. Hunt. Wilkie returned to the subject with the present picture which he began at Madrid late in April 1828 and finished in London in mid-December that year, after which it was engraved by Robert Graves, over the title 'The Spanish Princess', as the frontispiece to an annual, The Forget Me Not, for 1830. The drawing and this picture were both in effect costume studies and would doubtless have been of ethnographical interest to contemporary viewers. The little girl in the picture, who is said to have been the daughter of Wilkie's host in Madrid, wears a mantilla and carries a fan, both principal characteristics of female dress in Spain at the time. Wilkie executed the picture with great speed and in its broad painterly handling it is characteristic of the new direction his painting had begun to take while he was abroad, partly as a consequence of his extensive first hand study of the Old Masters which his three year trip had allowed him, but also of his conscious search for an alternative to the meticulous and intensely physically demanding technique of his earlier work.
Although deeply influenced by his stay in Spain, Wilkie executed relatively few paintings while he was there. The three pictures in the British Royal collection: The Spanish Posada: A Guerilla Council of War; The Defence of Saragossa; and The Guerilla's Departure, which King George IV saw on the artist's return and acquired for a total of 2000 gns., are each, like the present picture, signed and dated 'David. Wilkie. Madrid 1828', and together with the present picture represent the whole of the artist's known output of pictures while there (O. Millar, Later Georgian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, London, 1969, pp.139-140, nos. 1179-1181, II, pls. 269, 272 and 270). The impact of Wilkie's Spanish sojourn was not, however, limited to the works which he painted there and, after his return to England, his imagination was still fired by subjects from Spanish history and literature with Spanish subjects featuring heavily among the works he exhibited at the Royal Academy exhibitions of 1830, 1833, 1834 and 1835.
Sir William Knighton (1776-1836), who bought this picture on the artist's return in 1828, before it was engraved, was an important figure at the Court of King George IV, a friend of the artist and an influential patron. He had initially entered the service of George IV when the latter was Prince of Wales, as a physician in 1810, on the recommendation of the Marquis of Wellesley. However, as Knighton gained the trust and admiration of the Prince and demonstrated both loyalty and a capacity for business, his influence and authority extended to include almost all of George IV's affairs which became an increasingly important role as George IV became progressively Prince Regent (1811) and then King (1820). Eventually he exerted an influence over George IV which few of his ministers enjoyed which was reflected in his formal appointment as Auditor to the Duchy of Cornwall (1817) and then Private Secretary and Keeper of the King's Privy Purse (1822).
Knighton formed an important picture collection which included many paintings and drawings by Wilkie, among them the early Self-portrait (Scottish National Gallery), a Portrait of Sir Walter Scott of 1824 (Faculty of Advocates, Edinburgh), Washington Irving in the archives of Seville (Leicestershire Museums and Art Galleries, Leicester) and The Spanish Mother (based on a drawing which the artist had made in Seville in April 1828) which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1834 (The Fleming Collection). Wilkie also painted a portrait sketch of Knighton which was sold in these rooms on 15 June 2001 (now Royal Collection; see C. Lloyd, 'George IV, Sir William Knighton and Sir David Wilkie', Apollo, August, 2002, p. 54, fig. 4.) as well as a three-quarter-length drawing of Knighton (University of Dundee Museum). The artist is also said to have painted portraits of Lady Knighton and her son, William Wellesley Knighton, who became a pupil of the artist. The 1885 Knighton sale at Christie's (loc.cit.), which took place shortly after William Wellesley Knighton's death, reflected the cumulative patronage of father and son, and included seventeen paintings and numerous drawings by Wilkie. As King George IV had given Knighton control of the Privy Purse, Knighton was also closely involved in the latter's patronage of the arts including his acquisition of so many examples of Wilkie's work. Knighton's own interest in Wilkie may well have been influenced initially by George IV's enthusiasm for the artist. The King had become a patron of the artist early in his career acquiring two important early examples of the artist's genre pictures: his Blind Man's Buff of 1812 and his Penny Wedding of 1818. Knighton's particular interest in Wilkie's Spanish pictures may well also have been stimulated by memories of the time he had himself spent in Spain in July 1809 when he had attended the Marquis of Wellesley as his physician on his embassy to Spain.
The present picture entered the collection of Sir Charles Tennant, 1st Bt. (1823-1906), in 1888. Tennant, a prominent Glasgow industrialist, who was Member of Parliament for Glasgow (1879-80) and later for Peebles and Selkirk (1880-1886), was a Trustee of the National Gallery and formed a notable collection of pictures with the help of W. Morland Agnew who catalogued the collection in 1896. Like other collectors of similar origin he was principally interested in British painting and his collection included ten paintings by Reynolds, including his Viscountess Crosbie; works by Gainsborough and Romney, Hoppner's Frankland Sisters and other portraits, eight Morlands, a major Bonington, two Turners, and examples by Constable and Etty. Other works by Wilkie included The Errand Boy (sold in these Rooms on 10 November 1995, lot 34, for £238,000) and the Study for the Village Festival (sold in these Rooms on 30 November 2000 for £200,000). Among contemporary painters he patronised Orchardson, Walker, and Millais, owning the latter's portrait of Gladstone. The collection was divided between Tennant's London house in Queen Anne's Gate, where the 'Tennant Gallery' was regularly opened to the public, and his Scottish Baronial mansion, the Glen, near Innerleithen.
We are grateful to Professor Hamish Miles for his assistance with this catalogue entry.
Price Realized £565,250
oil on canvas
8¼ x 11¼ in. (21 x 28.5 cm.)
Painted circa 1832, this picture is a recently rediscovered version of a work of the same dimensions formerly in the collection of Paul Mellon, and now at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven (see fig. 1). A third variant of the composition, a fine plein-air sketch for the two finished versions, measuring 5½ x 8 1/8 in., was sold at Christie's London in 2001. As Anne Lyles has pointed out, it was not uncommon for Constable to paint more than one version of popular cabinet-size pictures, such as the Yarmouth and Harwich subjects he repeated around 1819-22 (see G. Reynolds, The Later Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, New Haven and London, 1984, nos. 20.6 -20.9, and nos. 22.36 - 22.38), and the versions of Hampstead Heath with London in the Distance (see Constable, catalogue for the exhibition at the Tate, London, 1991, nos. 127 - 129). The exhibited version (1830) of the latter subject, now in Glasgow, is illustrated as fig.2.
The Yale version of the present composition was engraved in mezzotint by David Lucas and published in 1845 as a supplement to his English Landscape Scenery (A. Shirley, Mezzotints by David Lucas after Constable, 1930, no.48). It is the Yale picture which has generally been identified with the artist's Sir Richard Steele's Cottage, Hampstead, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1832 (no.147). That picture, described by the Morning Post as a small oil, is at the furthermost point, in terms of scale, from Constable's chief exhibit of that year, the much-delayed The Opening of Waterloo Bridge seen from Whitehall Stairs, June 18th 1817, measuring 53 x 86½ in., now in Tate Britain (see fig.3).
Thomas Rought, the earliest known owner of the present picture, was a prominent London dealer with premises on Regent Street, who handled several other important works by Constable, including The Hay Wain (National Gallery, London) and Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows (private collection, on loan to the National Gallery, London). Among Rought's most important clients was Joseph Gillott, the noted Manchester industrialist who, in 1853, added the present picture to the important collection of British pictures that he had already formed. Gillott owned a large number of works by Turner, and several other significant pictures by Constable including Weymouth Bay (Musée du Louvre, Paris). Gillott's collection was sold in these Rooms from 19 April to 3 May 1872, for the remarkable sum of £170,000.
The view in the present picture is taken from Hampstead Road (now Haverstock Hill), looking down Eton Road, with the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral and the City of London in the distance. Sir Richard Steele (1672-1729), whose cottage is on the right, was an essayist, dramatist, journalist and Whig politician, as well as chief instigator of and contributor to, with his friend Joseph Addison, The Tatler, 1709-11, and The Spectator, 1711-13.
Constable first took lodgings in Hampstead, then just a village north of London, in 1819, and returned there for each summer - with the exception of that of 1824 - until 1827, when he became a resident by taking a lease on No. 6 Well Walk, his home for the next six years. The elevated, airy position was beneficial for his wife Maria's health and, with commanding views over London and the surrounding countryside, provided ample material for the artist's fascination with landscape and the effects of light. The series of cloud - or, more technically, 'meteorological' - studies he began painting in crayon and then in oils, circa 1819-22, were unprecedented. Of the view from the windows at the back of Well Walk, in 1827 Constable wrote to his great friend John Fisher 'Our little drawing Room commands a view unrivalled in Europe - from Westminster Abbey to Gravesend - the doom [sic] of St Paul's in the Air - realizes Michael Angelo's Idea on seeing that of the Pantheon - "I will build such a thing in the Sky"'.