Sunday, January 16, 2011
Fred Morgan - The Butterfly
Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 49,250 GBP
76 by 51 cm.; 30 by 20 in.
signed l.r.: Fred Morgan.
oil on canvas
Frederick Morgan was born in London in 1847, the son of John Morgan (1823-1886), a painter of historical and genre pictures who received his training in Paris under Thomas Couture. John Morgan was known as "Jury Morgan," after the success of one of his pictures entitled The Gentlemen of the Jury. He became a member of the Society of British Artists, as well as a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy. He firmly believed in the importance of learning art at a young age and he took his son Fred (as he was called) out of school when he was fourteen years old to begin his art instruction in his studio. Much of Fred's training was thus given, although he also appears to have taken lessons in an Edinburgh academy. When he was sixteen, Fred sent a painting entitled The Rehearsal to the Royal Academy, which depicted two old musicians playing for the village choir. Much to his surprise it was accepted and was "hung in one of the small rooms on the wall, near the ground," and purchased by a collector at the Private View, for £20. He soon realised that despite this early success, he was unlikely to make a name for himself if her remained in Aylesbury and unfortunately his father's encouragement began to wain. Three years later, John Morgan gave his son five pounds and told him that he had taught him all he could and that perhaps he should look for another profession in London. He initially looked for work in offices and warehouses but soon returned home without any progress. Fred worked for three years as a portrait artist in Aylesbury and was engaged by a photographic firm to paint family portraits for those clients who were not satisfied with photographs. After showing samples of his work to other photographic firms in London he received numerous portrait commissions and was thus able to make a sufficient income and his father's fears were finally laid to rest. The years that Fred spent working for the photographers proved to be a good training for Fred, as it "taught him how to observe closely and to give the greatest attention to detail" (John Oldcastle, 'The Art of Mr. Fred Morgan', The Windsor Magazine, June 1905, p. 15) . In addition to portraits, he painted other subjects that included rustic idealized peasants and domestic genre mostly of happy childhood scenes.
The increasing time spent by the Morgans in Sussex can partially be explained by their move from Willesden Green to Upper Norwood around 1900, which was further from the studio shared by Morgan and his brother-in-law the artist Arthur Elsley. Morgan may have needed space for his painting that the Upper Norwood house did not fully fulfill. It was also around this time that Elsley and Morgan became permanently estranged following an accusation by Morgan that Elsley had 'borrowed' an idea from one of his own paintings.
Morgan delighted in painted children playing in summer gardens and his best paintings were widely known from the many prints that were dissipated. Perhaps the most important commission he received was to paint Queen Alexandra with her grandchildren and dogs in 1902, for which Thomas Blinks painted the dogs. In his article John Oldcastle wrote of Morgan: 'An artist of his era in his choice of child-subjects, he is also of his generation in his methods, reminding us in his sympathies now of this contemporary, now of that. Yet, he has kept to his own chosen way with the vigilance of a palmer, the shrine of childhood always before him as his goal. Where is the child, his Holy Land is there. On that heavenly city he has kept a single eye.' (ibid Oldcastle, p. 18). His paintings are in many public collections, including the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston, the Towneley Hall Art Gallery and Museum in Burnley, the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, the Russell-Cotes Museum in Bournemouth and the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight.
at 6:00 AM