Saturday, September 3, 2011

Albert Joseph Moore - A Decorator

Signed with anthemion l.r, indistinctly signed and inscribed on the stretcher; No 5 A
Decorator/A.Moore/1 Holland Lane/Kensington W
oil on canvas
50 by 22 cm., 19 ½ by 8 ½ in.

ESTIMATE 60,000-80,000 GBP
Lot Sold: 61,250 GBP

Mrs. Harris Holland, 1894;
Charles and Lavinia Handley-Read, 1972;
Fine Art Society, London;
Pre-Raphaelite Trust, London;
Private collection

London, Grosvenor Gallery, 1887, no. 5;
London, Royal Academy, Victorian and Edwardian Decorative Art: The Handley-Read Collection, 1972, no. D146;
London, Fine Art Society, The Aesthetic Movement and the Cult of Japan, 1972, no. 37;
London, Fine Art Society, The Paintings, Water-colours and Drawings from the Handley-Read Collection, 1974, no.
York, City Art Gallery and London, Julian Hartnoll Gallery, The Moore Family Pictures, 1980,

A. L. Baldry, Albert Moore, His Life and Works. London, 1894, pp. 61 & 105, illus. p. 22;
Robyn Asleson, Albert Moore, 200, pp. 204, 207

Albert Joseph Moore's A Decorator shows a young woman in classical draperies standing at a doorway, her left hand resting on the jamb and in her right holding a vase of flowers. She looks out into the open, as if ascertaining the state of the weather, but no larger drama is implied. The title of the painting, which is borne since it was displayed in the West Gallery of the Grosvenor Gallery in 1887, seems simply to refer to the action which she is presumably about to undertake of placing the vase of flowers in some carefully considered position in the rooms of the house. The only information that can be gleaned about the house itself is the decoration of the floor, which is patterned in the squares of dark and light, the lines of perspective of which run away into the shadowy depths.

Alfred Lys Baldry confirms the date of 1887 for the present painting. Richard Green has written of A Decorator and another work entitled The Painted Wardrobe (York City Art Gallery) of 1886: 'Moore's work of the second half of the 1880s shows a comparative simplification' after the more richly patterned surfaces with which he had previously experimented. These two works are 'conceived boldly and simply and the paint itself is broadly handled ... The broad, painterly technique of The Painted Wardrobe and A Decorator undoubtedly reflects the influence of Velasquez, as does the black and dark greys as colours in their own right in the late 1880s, here exemplified in the background of A Decorator.' (The Moore Family Pictures, exhibition catalogue, York City Art Gallery, 1980, p. 30). A Decorator belonged to Charles and Lavinia Handley-Read, the pioneering collectors of British Victorian and early twentieth-century paintings and decorative arts was displayed in their house in Ladbroke Road until the time of their tragic deaths in 1971. It was included in the exhibition of paintings and drawings from the collection held at the Fine Art Society in 1974. Its earlier history is not known, but an anecdote survives of the Handley-Reads', at an early stage of their joint careers as collectors, purchasing 'an enchanting little Albert Moore, paid for by Lavinia', and how they knocked the Kensington dealer who offered the painting down from £5 to £4 / 10s, 'and felt slightly ashamed of doing so!' (Thomas Stainton, 'Introduction', The Paintings Watercolours & Drawings from the Handley-Read Collection, exhibition catalogue, Fine Art Society, London, 1974, not paginated.) The Handley-Reads had at least one other painting by Moore, but it is tempting to think that the painting referred to may have been the present A Decorator.

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