Saturday, October 8, 2011

William Quiller Orchardson - Hard Hit

signed l.l.: W.Q.O.
oil on canvas
84 by 122cm., 33 by 48in.

ESTIMATE 20,000-30,000 GBP
Lot Sold: 27,500 GBP

Humphrey Roberts Esq., 8 Queen's Gate Place, London, his sale Christie's, 22 May 1908, lot 69, bought by Scott & Fowles, New York for 3300gns.;
Private collection

Royal Academy, 1879, no.287;
Lille, 1881;
Manchester City Art Gallery, Jubilee Exhibition, 1887, no.384;
Glasgow, Institute of Fine Art, 1901, no. 627

Walter Armstrong, The Art of William Quiller Orchardson, 1895, illustrated p.31;
James Stanley Little, The Life and Work of William Q. Orchardson, special issue of The Art Journal, 1897, pp. 23-24, illustrated special plate opposite p.24;
Hilda Orchardson Gray, The Life of Sir William Quiller Orchardson R.A., 1930, pp. 241, 261, 332, illustrated p.113;
William R. Hardie, Sir William Quiller Orchardson RA., exhibition catalogue (various venues in Scotland, London and Newcastle), 1972, unpaginated but mentioned in the introductory text

'A fashionable youth has been rooked by a trio of scoundrels, and, full of resentment which his good breeding will not allow him openly to show, is about to take his departure. His hand is on the door-handle, and as he turns it he is almost moved to tell the precious rascals who have relieved him of his fortune a few home truths. But he will not do so. The unhappy youngster probably reflects that he was unequally matched against heavy odds - callous old age, calculating middle age, and the precocious vanity of youth - and that it would be to waste words to bandy them with these scoundrels. It is a dramatic work and admirably told.' (James Stanley Little, The Life and Work of William Q. Orchardson, 1897, pp.23-24)

One morning, the artist remarked upon the dejected appearance of his model, who replied; '"I was hard hit last night,sir"' (Hilda Orchardson Gray, The Life of Sir William Quiller Orchardson R.A., 1930, p.261). The model posed for the figure at the door in the picture and his words were used for the title. Orchardson's daughter wrote; 'I have often wondered what suggested "Hard Hit" to my Father; possibly the entire lack of any gambling instinct in himself - though I have known him to play poker for fun and a few shillings - made gambling in others appear noticeable and striking, and for the incident itself, the dramatic always appealed to him.' (ibid Gray p.261) She had asked about the large number of playing cards in the picture and was told that 12 packs proved 'insufficient, and finally he had fifty packs
which he threw down at each corner of the table, so that in the picture 200 packs actually appear. It seems that gamblers have a new pack for each game, at any rate they did so at the period and in the society the picture depicts.' (ibid Gray, p.261) When Hard Hit was exhibited at the Royal Academy, Orchardson received a curious compliment from the artist Pellegrini; 'Mr Orchardson, if I thought that by killing you I could paint like that, I would stab you in the heart.' (ibid Gray, p.241) Hard Hit was owned by Orchardson's most loyal patron Humphrey Roberts, who had a fine collection of over 300 pictures, including four major paintings by Millais, more than a dozen examples by Constable and at least the same number by Turner. He also owned Orchardson's A Tender Chord, Music and Escaped. The picture has been out of
sight for many years and was listed as 'unlocated' in the Orchardson exhibition catalogue in 1972.

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