Friday, January 27, 2012

The Story of Alma-Tadema and the Epps Family

Buckinghamshire, Marlow High Street

Artist’s rare works shown for first time

Henry Herbert La Thangue - Calling to the Valley

Price Realized

signed 'H. H. LaThangue' (lower left) and signed and inscribed 'Calling to the Valley H. H. La Thangue' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm.)

In his youth Henry Herbert La Thangue had visited the Rhône valley to paint the peasants of the Dauphiné and the memory of this experience remained vivid as the restless painter became increasingly disenchanted with the changes affecting rural England at the turn of the twentieth- century. He bemoaned the damage that the modern world was inflicting upon such communities and like D.H. Lawrence, he had rejected the England of industrial grime and rampant commercialism. In the winter of 1901 he set off for the South of France and each year thereafter, Provence, Liguria and Southern Spain became destinations of choice. He avoided the fashionable coastal watering holes of the Riviera favoured by English expatriates, preferring instead the mountain paths and hill villages beyond the reach of Baedeker, such as St Jeannet and La Roquette. These 'castelli' frequently feature in his work but are never identified; they were regarded by travellers as 'more picturesque at a distance'. (Augustus J.C. Hare, The Rivieras, 1897, George Allen, p. 69.) Where other artists might broadcast their discoveries, this painter wished to guard his secrets and one such is the location of Calling to the Valley. Here, a young woman on a high mountain plateau has tethered her donkey and is calling down to unseen peasants in the valley. In the distance are the glistening snow-covered peaks of the Alpes Maritimes. The clean, pure air in such a place may well throw back an echo of her call.

Suggesting the sounds one might hear at such a place was a ploy frequently adopted by painters of La Thangue's generation. Fragments of conversation or characteristic calls became picture titles. Themes such as 'the song of the lark' accentuated the crystalline stillness of the countryside at dawn or dusk. In the mountains near his winter studio at Bormes-les-Mimosas, such piercing cries were not unusual, especially during the olive harvests when donkeys carrying sackcloth panniers would be led up into the hills to bring back the fruit to village presses, their well-worn tracks etched into the hillsides. The pack animal was a familiar sight on these roads and no one painted it with more sympathy. In Ligurian Olives and The Threshing Floor for instance, La Thangue's familiar peasant woman wearing a red headscarf loads her donkey in preparation for the trek while in The First of Spring, the painter comes upon a harvesters' campfire high in the hills. It was a scene relished by Lawrence in the last Winter before the outbreak of the Great War.

' have no idea how beautiful olives are, so grey, so delicately sad now the hills are full of voices, the peasant women and children all day long and day after day, in the faint shadow of olives, picking the fallen fruit off the ground, pannier after pannier full".
A. Huxley introd., DH Lawrence, Selected Letters, London, 1950 (Penguin Books, 1954 reprint), p. 65 (letter to W.E. Hopkin, 18 December 1913).

Calling to the Valley thus portrays a typical moment. The low rampart and cross suggests that it was painted on the edge of a village, convent or monastic settlement, affording splendid views of distant peaks and deep ravines. These are appropriately framed by an everyday event, a wave of the hand, a call, a greeting.


Edward Brian Seago - Storm over the farm

Price Realized

signed 'Edward Seago' (lower left)
oil on board
11½ x 16 1/8 in. (28.5 x 41 cm.)

Robert Anning Bell - Three girls preparing to bathe

Price Realized

signed and dated 'RA.BELL.01' (lower left)
pencil, watercolour and bodycolour on paper
14 1/8 x 14 7/8 in. (36 x 37.8 cm.)

Unlike many of his contemporaries Bell painted as much in watercolour as in oil. Exhibiting his first painting at the Royal Academy in 1885, in 1914 he was elected an Associate member, and from then onwards he showed annually until his death, being elected a full Royal Academician in 1922. In 1901 he was invited to become an Associate of the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours (the Old Watercolour Society) and he was elected a full member three years later, by which time he had exhibited twenty-nine works. During that period watercolours became Bell's principal form of expression, and he wrote enthusiastically about the merits of the watercolour medium, which he prized above all others, in the second annual volume of the Old Water-Colour Society's Club.

The figures in the present watercolour appear to relate to those in The Pool, a watercolour dated 1906 and exhibited at The Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colour, Winter exhibition, 1906, no. 41.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

LGOC 'knifeboard' type horse bus operating between Highbury and Hornsey, 1860-1870

John Atkinson Grimshaw - In the artist's house

signed and dated 'Atkinson Grimshaw/1878 May' (lower right), and signed and inscribed 'A reverie Atkinson Grimshaw' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
32¾ x 48¼ in. (83.3 x 127.7 cm.)

Although Grimshaw is best known for his moonlit 'nocturnes', of British ports and the lanes of suburban Leeds, he produced in the 1870s a remarkable group of works celebrating the interiors he created at Knostrop Hall, a house he leased on the Temple Newsam estate.

These demonstrate the prevailing taste for Japanese objects. Following the dawn of the Meiji period, during which Japan, after centuries of self-imposed isolation, sought to strengthen its links with the West, Japanese textiles, fans and ceramics became a pre-requisite for fashionable, 'aesthetic' interiors. The eclecticism of this taste is shown in the richly stamped wall paper, which showed the Jacobean furniture to best advantage. The exoticism is continued in the deliberately archaic costume of the sitter who wears her hair, her gown and slippers in a pastiche of the fashions of Regency England. Everything in the interior has been carefully collected, and composed to demonstrate a refined sensibility.

In this small series of pictures of his house and garden, Grimshaw demonstrates his versatility as an artist. Several carry echoes of Alma-Tadema, and Tissot, and they brought the artist to the attention of leading London galleries, such as Agnew's, who started to sell his work from the 1880s onwards. Perhaps Grimshaw's most sophisticated and celebrated interior, entitled 'Dulce Domum', is now in the collection of Lord Lloyd Webber and was exhibited at his exhibition at the Royal Academy, Pre-Raphaelite and Other Masters, 2003, no. 117.

John Atkinson Grimshaw - The Sere and Yellow Leaf

Price Realized

signed 'Atkinson Grimshaw' (lower left) and further signed and inscribed 'In the Sere and Yellow/Atkinson Grimshaw' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
12 x 18 in. (30.5 x 45.7 cm.)

John Atkinson Grimshaw - The Harvest Moon

Price Realized

signed, inscribed and dated 'Atkinson Grimshaw 53 72' (lower right) and further signed and inscribed 'Painted by Atkinson Grimshaw Knostrop Old Hall Leeds' (on a label on the frame), and inscribed on the stretcher 'Under the Harvest Moon Atkinson Grimshaw Knostrop Hall Leeds. 53 72+'
oil on canvas
20 x 30 in. (50.8 x 76.2 cm.)

This is a rare composition, where the artist has responded to the landscape before him with great sensitivity. In his early career, Grimshaw painted views, notably in the Lake District, with Pre-Raphaelite intensity and attention to detail. Later, in the 1860s, he enjoyed the friendship of John Linnell. Linnell was the son-in-law of Samuel Palmer, and some of Palmers, and Linnells ideas undoubtedly influenced the younger artist, especially after works by Linnell were shown at the Leeds Infirmary in 1868.

Under the Harvest Moon seems imbued with the spirit of English Romanticism. It is an early essay in the 'nocturnes that made Grimshaw famous. The effect of moonlight, on the hanging wood in the distance, the top of the cart laden with hay, and the gently meandering farm track, is expressed with great poetry. As opposed to later suburban lane scenes, which were often repeated, the artist has carefully considered each element of the composition and there is nothing formulaic in his rendition.

Dated 1872, the picture stands firmly within the decade where Grimshaw saw his career take wing. He moved to Knostrop Old Hall, outside Leeds, and started to be promoted by Thomas Agnew & Sons, who also had branches in the commercial centres of Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow, where his work found a ready market.