Anton Pieck

Anton Pieck

When one thinks of artists, one looks to the greats such as Veronese or Goya or Turner and some are maybe somewhat “sniffy” when graphic artists and illustrators are lumped together with such luminaries.  My artist today was reviled by serious art lovers for his artwork being petty kitsch. Still, friend and foe had to admit that he was an accomplished draftsman with a highly unique, instantly recognizable and barely imitated style. However, whether you love or hate his work my featured artist today is one of the great illustrators of his time and whose works have brought unbridled happiness to many.  For those who have never seen any of his works, let me introduce you to the Dutch graphic artist Anton Pieck.

Anton Pieck aged 1 year-old, on the left, next to his twin brother Henri Pieck

Anton Franciscus Pieck and his twin brother, Henri, were born in the Dutch town of Den Helder on April 19th, 1895.  He was the son of Henri Christiaan Pieck, who was a machinist in the Royal Dutch Navy, so he was often away from home for lengths of time. His wife was Stofffelina Petronella Neijts who gave birth to their first child, Coenraad, in 1891 but who died when he was just one year old.   Anton’s twin brother Henri Christiaan became a Dutch architect, painter and graphic artist but who would lead a different, more exciting and dangerous life than his brother Anton. As an adult Henri became active within the Dutch Communist Party, and was recruited as a spy for Soviet Russia. Henri’s artistic interests differed from those of Anton as his main love was modern art, whereas Anton loved old-fashioned illustrations and paintings . When the twins were six years old, they took drawing lessons from J. B. Mulders, who ran after-school art classes at their school. He recognized the talent of the twins and taught them the basics of perspective and proportion, and these lessons quickly bore fruit.  When he was ten, Anton won a prize at an exhibition for his still life watercolour depicting a brown pot on an old stove, and in recognition, among other things, he received five tubes of watercolour paints.  More awards followed during his teenage years.

River Spaarne and the Bakenesser Tower by Anton Pieck

In 1906, after Anton’s father retired, the family moved to live in The Hague. Anton and his brother, after finishing secondary school, enrolled on a drawing course in the evenings at the Royal Academy of Art. They later received training at the drawing institute Bik and Vaandrager.  When the brothers were aged fourteen, they obtained the first stage of their teaching certificate and 3 years later they completed their teaching certificates and were able to call themselves drawing teachers.  Anton went to teach at his old school, Bik and Vaandrager. Henri Pieck was considered the better artist of the twins and is allowed to go to the Academy of Fine Arts in Amsterdam. This was a personal blow to Anton who never came to terms with the fact that his twin brother was looked upon as the more skillful artist. One could almost say that Henri was looked upon as an artist whereas Anton was looked upon as a drawing teacher!

During the First World War the Netherlands remained neutral, but still many young Dutchmen were mobilized so as to be on standby in case their country became embroiled in the fighting.  Anton Pieck was one of those men and became a sergeant, however he spent most of his spare time sketching for his fellow recruits. A somewhat damning psychological army report on him in 1915 described Pieck as:

“…someone who looks more at the past than the future and will therefore never amount to anything…”

Not considered as “fighting material” and unlikely to be used for military duties, Pieck was sent back to The Hague, where he gave drawing lessons to other soldiers. This was pure heaven for Anton as for four evenings a week he would oversee two-hour sketching lessons.   Pieck was then able to spend all his time doing what he loved best.

A boat on the River Amstel near Ouderkerk with the house “Wester Amstel” by Anton Pieck

When Anton graduated from the Bik en Vaandrager Institute, they offered him the position as an art teacher which he accepted and held the position until 1920.  He then applied and was accepted as an art teacher at the newly established Kennemer Lyceum, a high school in the Haarlem suburb of Overeen.  He would continue to work there until his retirement in 1960 at the age of 65.  Throughout those years teaching students, he always made time for his own work.

Hofje van Loo with communal water pump by Anton Piecke. The Hofje (Courtyard) van Loo is a hofje on the Barrevoetstraat 7 in Haarlem

Teaching art was not his great love and he was never quite satisfied with his job and he couldn’t wait for his daily teaching duties to end so that he could dash home and continue drawing and painting. However, being employed as a teacher gave him financial stability and this in turn gave him the comfort of only choosing commissions which pleased him, rather than being forced to work on work he disliked. Whilst employed at the school as a teacher, Anton would also illustrate diplomas, bulletins, ex-libris bookplates, birth cards and other administrative documents for his school.

The River Spaarne with the Waag building designed by Lieven de Key at the end of the 16th century by Anton Pieck

In the 1920’s Anton Pieck published his first drawings. It was also around this time that Anton forged a close friendship with the Flemish novelist Felix Timmermans and it is said that Timmermans’ jovial attitude rubbed off on Pieck whom he advised to “lighten up” and be more spontaneous and follow his own spirit.

A recent edition of Felix Timmerman’s book.

For the 10th edition of Timmerman’s very successful book, Pallieter, published in 1921, Timmermans asked Pieck to provide the illustrations to go side-by-side with the text. Through correspondence, Timmermans indicated what he wanted to see on the illustrations. The book was described as an ‘ode to life’ written after a moral and physical crisis. Pallieter was warmly received as an antidote to the misery of World War I in occupied Belgium. For Pieck, this was just a start of his book illustration journey as he went on to illustrate about 350 books. 

In 1921 Pieck illustrated Felix Timmermans’ book Pallieter by the Flemish author Felix Timmermans.  As the book was set in Flanders Pieck decided to visit there to soak up the atmosphere in the various towns.  Above is an ink illustration from one of the chapters, A beautiful winter day in which the main character, Pallieter, goes out on a clear winter day and hears organ music. He heads towards the sound, but only sees two children playing with mud.

Anton Pieck’s way of announcing the birth of son Max Pieck sent to all the staff of the Kennemer Lyceum in 1928

In 1917, Anton Pieck met Jo van Poelvoorde, the sister of fellow soldier Hendrik van Poelvoorde. Jo was a teacher at the Royal Dutch Weaving School. Her first impressions of Anton were that he was friendly, but also taciturn and absent. Gradually he opened up more and became more talkative. Anton and Jo entered into a relationship and twenty-seven-year-old Anton Pieck married twenty-nine-year-old Josephina Johanna Lambertina (Jo) van Poelvoorde, on March 8th 1922 at The Hague. After the marriage the couple moved to Overveen. From their marriage three children were born, Elsa, Anneke and Max.

Harpenden Engeland by Anton Pieck

Throughout his life, Anton was an enthusiastic traveller and visited England, France, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Poland and Morocco during which he built up a collection of sketches.  He was a great lover of quaint buildings and had no interest in modern architecture.  For him, it was a joy to study nature as well as picturesque cities and villages. He was so in love with Belgium and England that he termed them “his second mother countries” as their towns had not been “ruined” by modernisation as had happened in his homeland The Netherlands.

The ruins of Brederode in Santpoort by Anton Pieck (c.1950)

Anton Pieck was a twentieth century man as he only lived his first five years in the nineteenth century.  Having said that, Pieck loved to look back with pleasure on what he considered to be a more appealing century – the nineteenth century.

The Warmoesstraat, Amsterdam by Anton Pieck

He had fallen in love with the Dickensian era and had completed many paintings, drawings, etchings and engravings depicting Dickensian scenes. He depicted gentlemen in high hats or ladies adorned in crinoline, people taking coach rides, watching a magic lantern show or listening to barrel organs or chamber concerts.  All such scenes gave him great pleasure and they all contributed to his artistic ideal. Anton Pieck was adamant that when it came to commissions, he would only accept those which allowed him to illustrate novels or short stories set in bygone days.

Greeting card of Winchester by Anton Pieck

What Pieck liked to depict were things which looked old or dilapidated.   Buildings and their interiors which were crooked and looked ramshackle and run-down.  For Anton, nothing was to look new or be built completely straight. Anton’s first visit to England appears to have been around 1937 when, on a voyage by ship to North Africa, he had managed to come ashore in Southampton and was able to made sketches of some of the old commercial buildings and to visit the city of Winchester where he sketched some of the old Tudor buildings and historic inns, one of which was turned into a greetings card.

Besides prints and greeting cards, calendars were produced each year with a selection of Anton Pieck’s drawings.

He would also produce a number of ex libris bookplates, a book owner’s identification label that was usually pasted to the inside front cover of a book. Above is one he created for his son, Max. 

Anton Pieck’s vision for De Efteling

Anton Pieck’s work over the years and his popularity with the Dutch people was probably in the minds of  the mayor of Loon op Zand, R.J. van der Heijden and filmmaker Peter Reijnders who had envisioned the building of a fantasy-themed amusement park, De Efteling, in Kaatsheuvel in the Dutch province of North Brabant in 1951, named after a 16th-century farm named Ersteling.  The men approached Anton Pieck to design the theme park but he initially refused but later changed his mind on the proviso that only original materials are used for building the houses, such as coloured roof tiles and old stones.  Anton then set about designing het Sprookjesbos, the fairy tale forest.

Anton Pieck at Efteling

Initially, the Fairy Tale Forest was designed and based upon ten different fairy tales, all of which were brought to life using original drawings by Pieck.  Added to Pieck’s designs were mechanics, lighting and sound effects designed by the Dutch filmmaker Peter Reijnders. The life-sized dioramas, shown together in an atmospheric forest, were a incredible success and in 1952, the first full year, Efteling was open, it had 240,000 visitors and since 1978, the park has grown in size and is now become one of the most popular theme parks in the world.

Frau Holle at Efteling

Pieck designed all the houses, buildings and the special animatronic inhabitants who were inhabitants of the fairy tale forest, such as Little Red Riding Hood at her grandma’s house, Sleeping Beauty’s castle, Frau Holle’s well and Hansel and Gretel’s gingerbread house.  Frau Holle, also known as Mother Hulda, is a German fairy tale character from the 1812 book, The Grimm Brothers’ Children’s and Household Tales (Grimms’ Fairy Tales). 

Frau Holle by Anton Pieck

Frau Holle is often depicted shaking out bed linen over an outside balcony then it begins to snow.  It is still a common expression in Hesse and Southern parts of the Netherlands and beyond to say “Hulda is making her bed” when it begins to snow.  Like many other tales collected by the Brothers Grimm, the story of Frau Holle was also a moral tale explaining that hard work is rewarded and laziness is punished.

Anton Pieck Museum

Anton Pieck retired from teaching in 1960.  He was made a Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau. Pieck died on November 24th 1987 at the age of 92. Three years before his death the Anton Pieck Museum House for Anton Pieck was opened in Hattem,  a municipality and a town in the eastern Netherlands.

Anton Pieck loved nature, the past and Dutch cityscapes. Sadly, during the course of the 20th century, large swathes of that old Netherlands he loved disappeared due to bombing during the war, the renovation and rejuvenation of the city centers from the 1960’s and the construction of the complicated road network. As a result, Anton became sad and depressed at what he witnessed during his latter years, saying in 1985:

“… Yes, I have known this country very well. What is still there now, I see as a mess of the past. That makes me sad, yes…”

Whatever you may think about the artistic style of Anton Pieck, one has to feel warmed by the depictions and undergo a desire to be back in olden days when life may have been simpler, or was it ?

Anne Goldthwaite

Anna Goldthwaite Self Portrait

The artist I am showcasing today is a lady who hailed from the American Deep South.  Anne Wilson Goldthwaite was born into a genteel Montgomery, Alabama family on June 28th, 1869.  She was a true daughter of the South and the oldest of four siblings. Her father was Richard Wallach Goldthwaite, who served as an artillery captain for the Confederacy during the Civil War and the son of Alabama senator George Goldthwaite.

Portrait of a Young Man by Anna Goldthwaite (1913)

Her family moved to Dallas,Texas when she was young and remained there for the majority of her childhood while her father looked for work.  After her parents both died, in the early 1880s, she and her siblings were taken back to Alabama where they lived with different relations. Anne went to live with her aunt Molly Arrington and her aunt’s nine children.  Her aunt presented her to society as a promising young debutante who was destined to become a southern belle. However this ended when her fiancé was killed in a duel.

 

As a teenager Anne liked to sketch and paint and soon developed into a talented artist, so much so, that in 1898, one of her uncles, Henry Goldthwaite, who was so impressed by her artistic talent, he offered to pay for her to have private art tuition.  He offered to support her financially for up to ten years if she relocated to New York City to study art. Anne Goldthwaite accepted his offer and arrived in New York around 1898.  She then enrolled at the National Academy of Design, where she studied etching with the German-born immigrant, Charles Mielatz and was tutored in painting by the Scottish-American painter and illustrator, Walter Shirlaw and American artist, Francis Coates Jones.

Young Mother by Anne Goldthwaite

She also spent one summer in Princeton, New Jersey, in the 1890’s, where she met then-professor Woodrow Wilson who had been appointed by Princeton to the Chair of Jurisprudence and Political Economy.  Two decades later he would become the twenty-eighth President of the United States.  He commissioned her to paint a portrait of his wife.

Young Nude Woman in a Hat by Anne Goldthwaite

In 1906, Anne Goldthwaite decided to travel to Paris to further her interest in the early modern painting styles of Fauvism and Cubism.

4 Rue de Chevreuse, Paris by Anne Goldthwaite (1908)

On her arrival in Paris Anne headed for the American Girls Art Club at 4 rue de Chevreuse, on the Left Bank.   The property was built by the Duc de Chevreuse and back in the 18th century it was the Dagoty porcelain factory. Later, in 1834,  it was turned into a Protestant school for boys called the Keller Institute.  It was in the 1890’s that Elisabeth Mills Reid, a wealthy American philanthropist and wife of the American ambassador, had the idea to turn it into a residential club for American women artists in Paris.  Anne Goldthwaite made this her base for the next six years.  According to Mariea Caudill Dennison’s article in the Woman’s Art Journal (2005) entitled The American Girls’ Club in Paris: The Propriety and Imprudence of Art Students, 1890-1914, Anne viewed the Club as a “chateau that was not a club at all, but a glorified pension for American women art students. We paid little board and lived in the midst of luxury and romance”

One day, while she was at the Luxembourg Gardens sketching, she met American writer Gertrude Stein. After a long conversation, Stein invited Anne to visit her apartment, but Anne was somewhat wary due to Stein’s scruffy appearance but eventually she agreed. Goldthwaite recalls Stein describing her as

“…a large, dark woman…who looked something like an immense brown egg. She wore, wrapped tight around her, a brown kimono-like garment and a large flat black hat, and stood on feet covered with wide sandals…”

Gertrude Stein’s legendary Montparnasse apartment at 27 rue de Fleurus

Despite Anne having doubts about Gertrude Stein, she was impressed with what she saw in Stein’s apartment.  A large collection of contemporary paintings hung on the walls.  Little did Anne realise that this chance meeting with Gertrude Stein, the most influential pre-war and avant-garde person of the time, would provide her with an opportunity to join the art circle of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. In her memoirs, Goldthwaite wrote about he visit to Stein’s apartment:

“…Crossing a little pebbled court, we went into a beautiful large studio filled with antique Italian furniture. The walls were covered with the most remarkable pictures I had ever seen. I knew they must be pictures because they were framed and hanging on the walls […] There was what I know now was a head by Picasso, looking like a design made of the backbones of fish; “Le Joie de Vivre [sic] ” by Matisse; a small grey canvas by Cezanne, and a yellow nude on a peach-colored background, the feet hanging down as in an ascension […] This was my introduction to what we now call Modern Art, made some six days after my arrival in Paris. It was with surprise, later, that I saw American students who had been in Paris a long time, yet had not heard the names of Matisse, Picasso, et. al., and had never heard of l’Art Moderne, or if they had, thought it completely negligible …”

Anne was adamant that but for Gertrude Stein, Modernism would not have arrived in America. A page from her unpublished memoirs testifies to this belief. She wrote:

Page from the memoirs of Anne Goldthwaite

“Cones” refers to the Baltimore Cone sister, Dr Claribel and Etta Cone, who from 1898 to 1949 amassed a collection of primarily post-impressionist and modern French masterpieces.

Anne Goldthwaite later recalled her time in Paris and wrote:

“…Fate gave me several years in Paris at the most exciting time: during the great reconstruction from art to modern art…”

During her stay in Paris Anne moved from one atelier to another searching for a teacher that she could work with.  Eventually, she joined a small group of young artists called Académie Moderne.  This was a free art school in Paris, founded by Fernand Léger and Amédée Ozenfant who also taught at the academy.  The school attracted students from Europe and America.  They also held an exhibition each spring and their work was periodically critiqued by the post-impressionist painter, Charles Guerin.

The House on the Hill by Anne Goldthwaite (1911)

According to an article in the American Art Annual published in 1911, Anne served as president of the American Woman’s Art Association (AWAA) which was based at the The American Girl’s Club, from 1910-1911.

Cottage in Alabama by Anne Goldthwaite (c.1920)

In 1913, the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, also known as the International Exhibition of Modern Art organised a grand art exhibition.  It was the first large exhibition of modern art in America, and a shocking introduction of Modernism to an American audience. It was an exhibition that had been held in the vast spaces of U.S. National Guard armories.  It was a three-city exhibition which started in New York City’s 69th Regiment Armory, on Lexington Avenue between 25th and 26th Streets, on February 17th and ran until March 15th.   The exhibition then moved to the Art Institute of Chicago and finally arrived at The Copley Society of Art in Boston.  The Armory exhibition, as it became known, was an important event in the history of American art for it introduced Americans, who were accustomed to realistic art, to the experimental styles of the European avant-garde, which included Fauvism and Cubism. The show acted as a catalyst for American artists, who wanted to become more independent and by so doing, create their own artistic language.  Upon her return to America in 1913, Anne Goldthwaite exhibited two of her works at the New York Armory exhibition.  One was entitled The Church on the Hill, now known as The House on the Hill which she had completed around 1911.  The other painting was entitled Prince’s Feathers.

Rebecca by Anne Goldthwaite (c.1925)

Now back in America, Anne lived most of her adult years in New York but travelled south during the summer months to spend time with her family.  She became a member of the Dixie Art Colony in Wetumpka, Alabama, which was thought to be one of the Deep South’s first art colonies. These summers she spent in and around Montgomery established Anne Goldthwaite as one of the South’s most important regional artists for the period.  During this time she often depicted rural African Americans in their post-slavery contexts in oil paintings, watercolours, and etchings.

Women’s suffrage march on New York’s Fifth Ave. in 1915

Anne Goldthwaite’s politics were said to be progressive and she was a staunch supporter of women’s suffrage, serving on the organizing committee for the 1915 Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture by Women Artists for the Benefit of the Women’s Suffrage Campaign, open from September 27-October 18, 1915 at the Macbeth Gallery in New York which coincided with the Women’s Suffrage March held that year in New York during which it was said that 20,000 supporters attended.

The Atmore Post Office mural: The Letter Box, by Anne Goldthwaite, 1938

The Atmore, Alabama Post Office

The Great Depression hit America at the end of 1929 and lasted almost ten years.  It was both a financial depression and a mental depression which affected many American citizens.  The American government thought that cheering people up during these hard times was something they needed to achieve.  It was part of the New Deal, a series of programs, public works projects, financial reforms, and regulations enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the United States between 1933 and 1939.  One of the projects in the New Deal was the Public Works of Art Project which was developed to bring artist workers back into the job market and assure the American public that better financial times were on the way. The idea was to employ artists to beautify American government buildings.  The mission of the post office murals was multifaceted – to boost morale in communities, employ artists by the thousands and create world-class art that was accessible to everyone. The murals revolved around local folklore, landscapes, industry and, unsurprisingly, mail delivery. They told the story of life across the United States.

Tuskegee Post Office mural: The Road to Tuskegee, by Anne Goldthwaite, 1937

Anne Goldthwaite had two of her murals accepted for Alabama post offices.  One was in the town of Atmore, the other was in the town of Tuskegee. The Road to Tuskegee mural painted in 1937 by Anne Goldthwaite was restored and moved to the new Tuskegee post office in 1996.

Portrait of Frances Greene Nix by Anne Goldthwaite (c.1940)

Anne Goldthwaite executed a number of portrait commissions, one being that of Frances Nimmo Greene Nix, the Museum Director, Artist, Portrait Painter, and Writer.  Frances was clerk, director, and curator of the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts and studied with Anne Goldthwaite.

Goldthwaite’s work is included in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum, Whitney Museum, Montgomery Museum, Montgomery Alabama, Greenville County Museum of Art and History, Greenville, South Carolina.  She was a member of the National Association of Women Artist, New York (Co-founder), Watercolor Society, Salons of America and the Society American Etchers/Brooklyn Society of Etchers.  Goldthwaite began teaching at the Art Students League, where she was a very popular teacher until her death in 1944.

Anne Goldthwaite (1869-1944)

Anne Goldthwaite died in New York City on January 29th 1944, aged 74.

Holger Drachmann

The Artist, the Poet, the Lover of Women.

Holger Drachmann

The subject of this week’s blog is the nineteenth century Danish poet, dramatist and painter Holger Drachmann. Holger Henrik Herholdt Drachmann was born on October 9th, 1846 in Copenhagen. He was the son of Andreas Drachmann and his wife Vilhelmine.  Holger was one of five children, having an older sister, Erna and three younger sisters, Mimi, Johanne and Harriet.

Andreas Drachmann

His father. Andreas, initially trained as a barber whilst studying for his medical exams. In 1831 he was an assistant to a surgeon in the Danish navy and eventually passed his exams to become a surgeon in 1836.  He left the navy in 1845 and became a physician at Langgaard’s orthopaedic institute and in  1859 he founded the first institute of medical gymnastics in Copenhagen.

Coastal party north of Årsdale, by Holger Drachmann (1869.)

In March 1857, when Holger was ten years old, his mother Vilhelmine died.  She was just thirty-six years old.  Once he completed his schooling in 1865 he went to University where he remained for three years.  He then transferred to the Academy of Fine Arts and studied under Carl Frederik Sørensen, a noted marine painter and soon Holger developed a love for that painting genre.  Art was a great love of Holger but around this time he developed another love, a love of literature. 

View of the island of Maïre west of the Goudes district, Marseille by Holger Drachmann

This painting above is thought to have been painted by Holger during his voyage around the Mediterranean in 1867.

Rocky Coast by Holger Drachmann

The beauty and ferocity of the sea is captured in Drachmann’s painting entitled Rocky Coast. It depicts the unstoppable waves of the blue-green sea crashing violently against a towering rock formation in the foreground of the painting.  To the left, we see heavy grey storm clouds.  It is a depiction which is devoid of figures and one’s focus is simply concentrating on the violent force of nature.  There is nothing noted as to the location of the scene but during his lifetime he visited many places, such as the Orkney Isles, and Norway, with their rocky coasts and archipelagos or it could have been locations in Newfoundland or Nova Scotia, places he visited during his long trip to North America.

Våde ovn, Bornholm. by Holger Drachmann

To further his interest in marine painting, Holger went to stay on the island of Bornholm.  This Danish island is located in the Baltic Sea, to the east of mainland Denmark, and south of Sweden.  It was here he painted a number of seascapes. One of his Bornholm paintings depicted Vade Ovn, a notable rock or group of rocks attached to the underlying bedrock. It is a grotto, part of the area known as Helligdomsklipperne.

A wreck hut on Skagen’s beach by Holger Drachmann

The Skagen artists’ colony is now as famous as the ones at Barbizon or Newlyn and Holger Drachmann was an important figure in the history of the Skagen artists’ colony, for it was he, who first arrived there in 1872 together with Norwegian Frits Thaulow, and he then persuaded many artists to go there with him during the following years. He fell in love with the area with its  breath-taking nature and the simple life it afforded people.

View from Knippelsbro with the Sugar Factory by Holger Drachmann
Fishing boats in Stormy Weather by Holger Drachmann

Besides his love of painting and fame as an artist, Holger Drachmann had two other great loves. He had the love of literature and poetry and was a renowned poet. He was part of the Scandinavian Modern Breakthrough Movement which was a movement of naturalism and which debated the literature of Scandinavia, which replaced romanticism near the end of the 19th century.

Georg Brandes

Around 1870, Drachmann became motivated by the writings of the Danish critic and scholar Georg Brandes, who had greatly influenced Scandinavian and European literature.  It was a time when art became secondary to literature in Drachmann’s life.  He had travelled quite extensively around England, Scotland, France Spain and Italy and had started a habit of sending accounts of his travels to the Danish newspapers. 

Digte (Poems)

Drachmann made his debut in 1872 as a prose writer with the collection With Coal and ChalkIn and that same year he had a book of his poems entitled Digte (Poems) published. He also joined the group of young Radical writers who were also followers of Brandes.  For Drachmann it was a time of contemplation and soul searching as to whether painting or writing would be his prime driving force. Drachmann established his position as the greatest poet of the Danish modern movement of his time with such collections as Dæmpede Melodier (1875; “Muted Melodies”), Sange ved Havet (“Songs by the Sea”) and Venezia (both 1877), and Ranker og Roser (1879; “Weeds and Roses”). The prose Derovre fra Grænsen (1877; “From Over the Border”) and the verse fairy tale Prinsessen og det Halve Kongerige (1878; “The Princess and Half the Kingdom”), demonstrated a patriotic and romantic trend that brought him into conflict with the Brandes group.   Drachmann was one of the most popular Danish poets of modern time though much of his work is now forgotten. He unites modern rebellionist attitudes and a really romantic view of women and history. 

Kristian Zahrtmann – Portrait of Vilhelmine Erichsen (1867)

Earlier I said that Drachmann had two great loves other than his art. He loved writing and poetry as I have just recorded but his other great love was women !

Whilst on the island of Bornholm in 1869, Holger Drachmann met his first wife Vilhelmine Charlotte Erichsen, She had been a good friend and muse for both Drachmann and another artist, Kristian Zahrtmann who was also living on Bornholm and who had painted her portrait when she was fourteen-years-old.   Zahrtmann was besotted with the young girl who modelled for him.  In a letter in 1868 to his friend and fellow artist August Jerndorff ,  he wrote:

“…I have had a young girl of mine of mine painting who interests me greatly. An adorable child – she is 16 years old – cannot be seen; After all, she is at an unfortunate age for most people, to which is added an extraordinary height and width, a short neck and stooped posture, but these are flaws that only all the more accentuate her beauty. A more regular face is unthinkable- – Her hair and eyes are almost black, her mouth bulging, and the pale yellow color, with its vexing and the utterly regular, narrow eyebrows, becomes so southern and melancholic dreamy that I can be so seized by it that the brush shakes in my hand. She herself does not know that she is beautiful, on the contrary, I think that she considers the yellow-laden color hideous, and at all she knows very little, both of knowledge and of what life is and gives…”

Marie Henriques (on the left) and Eva Drachmann painting, probably at the Art School for Women in Copenhagen, (c.1900)

But three years later, in 1869, when she was seventeen, Vilhelmine fell in love with twenty-three-year-old Drachmann and they got engaged.  Two years later, on November 3rd 1871 Holger and nineteen-year-old Vilhelmine married  in Gentofte Sogn, København.  To be able to marry Vilhelmine had to lie about her age, declaring that she was twenty-one.   Holger was twenty-five years old and so did not need her parents’ permission for the marriage.  On November 4th 1874 they had a daughter, Eva, but at the end of that year, they separated and finally divorced in 1878. It was a bad-tempered divorce and in a fit of rage Vilhelmine destroyed all correspondence and manuscripts from Holger that she possessed. Eva Drachmann wrote about her mother and father in her 1953 book Vilhelmine, my mother:

“…They divorced after 4 years of marriage. As the poet’s muse, Vilhelmine had entered into a cohabitation of whose seriousness and difficulties none of them had the slightest concept. Of the two, she was the largest child. She didn’t have time to grow up before it was all over. As an old woman, she reflected on how fateful the disaster came………. After all, in childhood and growing up, she had done nothing useful – nothing but dream…”

Eva Drachmann married for the first time in 1899 and the ceremony was held in a local manor house as the parish priest of the local Flade Church, refused to marry the couple in the parish church, citing Eve’s father’s godless lifestyle.

Polly Culmsee

Around 1866, three years before he met his first wife, Vilhelmine, Holger Drachmann had struck up a friendship with Valdemar Culmsee, the son of Frederick Culmsee, the owner of the Havreholm Paper Mill on the Danish island of Zealand.  It was during a visit to their home in 1866 that he met Emmy Culmsee, Valdemar’s twelve-year-old sister and her older sister Polly who was sixteen. Polly had later married Charles Thalbitzer and had two children with him but around the time Holger Drachmann and his wife had separated in 1874 she had a relationship with Holger and had his child, Agnes Gerda.  Polly eventually divorced her husband and she and Holger left Denmark for Sweden because of the social scandal they had created in Copenhagen.  They intended to be married in Paris when Drachmann was legally divorced from his wife. Now living in the Swedish town of Lund, Polly fell ill and Drachmann took her to a local doctor, Alphons Theorin, and sought his help with the care of Polly. Bizarrely, Polly transferred her affection from Holger to the doctor who in turn fell passionately in love with his patient which created yet another scandal as the doctor abandoned his wife and their three children and ran off with Polly to the central Swedish town of Sveg, where he managed to arrange a position as a provincial doctor.

Emmy Culmsee

The bizarre story of Holger Drachmann love life does not end there.  Polly’s younger sister Emmy had moved with her parents to Kristiania, where she stayed until she travelled to Hamburg in 1876 to study languages and it was in this German city that she once again met Holger.  He told her he was devastated by a relationship break-up and she was very comforting.  However he failed to impart to her that the relationship had been with her married sister, Polly. On finding out about the involvement of her sister she broke off with Holger and settled into a life as a German language teacher.  However, in 1878 whilst on holiday in Hamburg, out of the blue, she received a call from Copenhagen from Holger Drachmann’s married sister Erna Juel-Hansen. She told Emmy that Holger had suffered a breakdown when Polly left him.  Emmy went to Copenhagen and cared for Holger and nursed him back to full health.  Emmy and Holger married and they adopted his and Polly’s daughter, Agnes Gerda.  Emmy and Holger went on to have four more children of their own. 

Amanda Jensine Nielsen (Edith)

Sadly in 1887 Holger, for whatever reason, began an affair with Amanda Jensine Nielsen a cabaret artist in Copenhagen, despite the fact that he was married and twice her age.  He and Amanda became lovers and he would refer to her as Edith.  He even mentioned her in his 1890 novel Forskrevet, a depiction of Denmark in 1880 and the then political dispute between Right and Left, as well as the cultural dispute between citizen and bohemian

Holger Drachmann by Peder Severin Kroyer

Eventually Holger grew tired of his affair with Edith and moved on to another young actress.  His many scandalous affairs with his “muses” were often the fuel of his inspiration.  On his deathbed he said that his two biggest muses were Vilhelmine and Edith.

Drachmanns Hus in Skagen

Holger Drachmann died in Copenhagen on January 14th 1908, aged 61.   He is buried in the sand dunes at Grenen, near Skagen and following his death his Skagen home, Drachmanns Hus, became a museum.

Rudolph von Alt

Self-portrait (1890)

The focus of my blog today is to look at the life and work of the nineteenth century Austrian painter Rudolph Ritter von Alt.  The word “Ritter”is used as a title of nobility in German-speaking areas.  It translates approximately to the British designation “Sir”, denoting a Knight.  It is not a first or middle name of the person.  The artist was born Rudolph Alt and used the title of a Ritter after he gained nobility in 1889.

View from the Artist’s Studio in Alservorstadt toward Dornbach by Jakob Alt (1836)

Rudolph was born in Vienna on August 28th 1812.  His father, Jakob Alt, the son of a carpenter, was a German landscape painter and lithographer who was born in Frankfurt am Main in 1789 where he received his first artistic tuition and later moved to Vienna where he enrolled at the city’s Academy of Fine Arts.  Jakob Alt travelled through Austria and Italy, hiking through the Austrian Alps, all the while painting scenes of beauty. He also depicted many scenes of the neighbourhood along the River Danube and in the city of Vienna.

Room of Archduke Ludwig Victor in the Hofburg, Vienna by Franz Alt (1861)

Rudolph Alt had a younger brother, Franz, who was nine years his junior and who also became a famed Austrian landscape painter. His work can be seen in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cooper Hewitt Museum (Smithsonian), the Albertina Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest and other international collections.

The Dachstein Mountain from Lower Lake Gosau by Rudolphe von Alt (1838)

Rudolphe, like his father before him, went on many hiking-trips through the Austrian Alps and northern Italy and fell in love with the spectacular landscapes he witnessed.

View of the Strada Nuova against the Giardini Pubblici in Venice by Rudolph von Alt (1834)

 In 1833, he travelled to Venice where he pictorially recorded his visit. He was inspired by the city of Venice and took the opportunity to visit neighbouring areas as well as the Italian capital, where he completed a number of architectural paintings

The Capitol in Rome by Rudolphe von Alt (1835)

Rudolphe von Alt was a talented watercolourist and during his journeys around Italy he completed many watercolours featuring various Italian cities.

Port of Santa Lucia, Naples by Rudolphe von Alt (1935)

In 1830, five years before he took the throne, Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria started to develop a plan which entailed the commissioning of paintings depicting the most beautiful views of the Austrian Empire. Jakob Alt, and his eldest son, Rudolf were two of the commissioned artists and between them they painted about one hundred and seventy of the three hundred completed works.  The project came to an end in 1849 a year after Ferdinand abdicated.

The Josef square in Vienna by Rudolphe von Alt (1831)
The St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna by Rudolphe von Alt (1831)
View of Salzburg by Rudolpe von Alt (1831)

Der Hohe Markt in Wien  by Rudolphe von Alt (1836)

Rudolphe’s watercolour depictions of interiors of wealthy patrons’ residences brought him more recognition from the Austrian public

Interior at Palais Windischgrätz in Renngasse in Vienna by Rudolphe von Alt (1848)

Salon in the Apartment of Count Lanckoroński in Vienna by Rudolphe von Alt (1881)

The library in the Palais Dumba by Rudolphe von Alt (1877)
The Blue Drawing Room at the Valtice Palace by Rudolphe von Alt (1845)

The grandeur of the interior of many palaces was captured by Rudolphe in his magnificent watercolour paintings. Originally the Gothic Valtice palace was founded in the 12th century by the bishops of Passau and in 1530 Valtice became the place of residence of the princely family of Liechtenstein, one of the wealthiest families in Europe. 

Drawing Room at the Rasumofsky Palace by Rudolphe von Alt (1836)

A less formal room was captured by Rudolphe von Alt in his 1836 watercolour entitled Drawing Room at the Rasumofsky Palace. The palace was commissioned by Prince Andrey Razumovsky  as a Neoclassic embassy which would be worthy of the representative of the Russian Tsar, Alexander I. It was built at the prince’s own expense on Landstraße, close to the centre of Vienna. Razumovsky then filled the rooms of the palace with antiquities and modern works of art.

The Staircase of the State Opera Thatre, Budapest by Rudolphe von Alt (1873)

A large number of Rudolphe von Alt’s paintings are held in the Princely House of Liechtenstein collections in Vaduz, Liechtenstein and Vienna.  The Princely House of Liechtenstein is one of the oldest noble lineages in Europe being first mentioned in the twelfth century.  The Princely House of Liechtenstein is one of the oldest still extant noble lineages in Europe. The first documented bearer of this name was a Hugo von Liechtenstein, mentioned in archival sources dating to between 1120 and 1143.

View from the Klausen Valley to Modling Castle by Rudolphe von Alt (1827)

The family’s art collection had its beginnings in the sixteenth century and has been influenced over time by the varying interests of individual princes.  The collection has been assembled over several centuries, and now the Collections of the Prince von und zu Liechtenstein are one of the most important private art collections in the world, containing around 1,600 paintings with masterpieces ranging from the early Renaissance to the second half of the nineteenth century, including works by Lukas Cranach the Elder, Quentin Massys, Raphael, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Frans Hals, Rembrandt, Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, Friedrich von Amerling and Hans Makart and today’s artist, Rudolphe von Alt,

Organ Base by Master Anton Pilgram in St Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna by Rudolphe von Alt (1876)

Alt demonstrated a remarkable talent for expressing certain peculiarities in nature. He managed to paint nature authentically by focusing on the different hues of sky, the colour-tone of the air and the vegetation.

Ansicht von Jägerndorf mit ländlicher Staffage by Rudolphe von Alt

His later works were more Impressionistic in style but maybe above all von Alt will be remembered for his exquisite architectural and indoor scenes, genres that made him famous in Vienna.

Alservorstadt, Vienna

Rudolphe Ritter von Alt died in Vienna on March 12th 1905, aged 92. Most of his paintings are held by various museums in Vienna.

Carl and Karin Larsson. Part 2.

Karin Larsson with her firstchild, Suzanne (1885)

Carl and Karin Larsson married in late 1882 and in 1884 their first child, Suzanne was born.  Their second child, a son Ulf, was born in 1887 but sadly died when he was eighteen. In all, Carl and Karin had eight children.  After Ulf came Pontus in 1888, Lisbeth in 1891, Brita in 1893, Mats in 1894 but he died aged just two months, Kersti in 1896 and finally Esbjörn in 1900.  It is quite obvious that Karin’s time was taken with the upbringing of their children.

Lilla Hyttnäs by Carl Larsson

In 1888 the couple returned to Sweden with their two children and on deciding to settle permanently in Sweden Karin’s father, Adolf Bergöö, gave them a wooden cottage in the countryside of central Sweden, which had belonged to relatives. The house named Lilla Hyttnäs, was situated in the town of Sundborn, in Falun Municipality, 250 kilometres north-west of Stockholm. 

Ett Hem by Carl Larsson

Carl remembered his first visit to the cottage accompanied by his father-in-law and in his 1899 book, Ett Hem (A Home) he wrote:

“…The cottage stood right on a bend in the Sundborn River, just where it gets a smidgeon wider. Everything inside was spick and span, the furniture was simple, but old fashioned and robust, handed down by their parents, who had lived in the vicinity. While I was here, I experienced an indescribably delightful feeling of seclusion from the hustle and bustle of the world, which I have only experienced once before (and that was in a village in the French countryside). When my Father in law suggested buying me a small property in the same village, I declined, saying that only something resembling this little idyll would suit an artist…”

The Kitchen by Carl Larsson (1898)

Lilla Hyttnäs soon became Carl and Karin’s mutual art project in which their artistic talents found expression in a very modern and personal choice of colour schemes and interior design. The couple favoured bright colours, and filled the rooms with handcrafts, which mirrored the Arts and Crafts Movement which had inspired them.  The Arts and Crafts movement was an international trend in the decorative and fine arts that first emerged in the mid-nineteenth century in the British Isles and then spread to the rest of Europe and America.

Karin Larsson weaving.

Karin Larsson was a young mother, but on top of that she was an ambitious woman who although she had stepped back from her painting, she had replaced the canvas with other artistic goals that would see her use needles, thread and silks instead of brushes and paint.  She would now concentrate on home furnishings which would brighten up the old cottage.  The cottage interior had now taken the place of the canvas.  Her great inspiration was William Morris, who was a leader of the English Arts and Crafts movement, and she liked to incorporate foliage designs across her upholstery.  Karin’s husband, Carl, created a series of twenty-six watercolours, entitled A Home which depicted the beautiful interior designs of his wife.

The Studio (From “A Home” watercolor series) by Carl Larsson

Karin Larsson spent mch time designing fabrics for their furniture. One example of this is the chair cover (below).

Chair cover designed by Karin Larsson

Her beautifully, highly colourful designs were used for bench cushion covers.

Bench cushion cover designed by Karin Larsson

The transition from painting to textile art and home furnishings by married females was in those days an acceptable evolution and was not seen as something forced upon them by their husbands.  In the work she lovingly put together to create their home she was able to express herself through the medium of textiles, and furniture design.

Rocking Chair designed by Karin Larsson

Karin’s life at Lilla Hyttnäs was tiring.  She had to cope with the everyday house chores and eight children to manage.  Her eighth child, a son, Esbjorn had been born in 1900.  However, she still found time to design and weave a large amount of the textiles which she utilised in her home.  She also spent time embroidering, and designing clothes for herself and the children.   The aprons, known as karinförkläde in Swedish, were worn by her and the other women who worked at the house.

Daddy’s Room by Carl Larsson

Carl Larsson’s bedroom at Lilla Hyttnäs was a through-room. The door is wide open to the end room where his wife and the smaller children slept. The white four-poster bed with embroidered curtains stands in the middle of the floor. It has several ingenious features, such as a bench, a chamber-pot cupboard and a small, built-in bedside table. Look closely at the background and you will see that this is also a self portrait as we can just observe the artist, looking in a mirror, doing up his collar buttons.

Cosy Room by Carl larsson

The interiors of the Larsson home were characterised by rural simplicity. Nevertheless, every detail was carefully designed, with influences from England, Scotland and Japan.

The Kitchen by Carl Larsson

The kitchen, which was first and foremost a place for household chores, did not display the same modern interior style and comfort as the rest of the house.

Through Larsson’s paintings and books their house has become one of the most famous artist’s homes in the world. The descendants of Carl and Karin Larsson now own this house and keep it open for tourists each summer from May until October. The rooms of the house featured in many of Carl’s paintings and books.

Self portrait in New Studio by Carl Larsson

Besides depictions of their home featuring in his artwork which highlighted Karin as a talented interior designer, Carl featured his wife and children in many of his paintings.

Karin and her first child Suzanne by Carl Larsson (1887)

In 1905 Carl featured his seventh child, eleven-year-old Kersti in his watercolour work.

Kersti in Black by Carl Larsson (1907)

In his 1890 watercolour it was his third-born child, two-year-old son, Pontus, who featured.

Pontus on the Floor by Carl Larsson (1890)

The Christmas spirit was captured in some of his family portraits.

Brita dressed as Iduna

Carl and Karin’s fifth child, daughter Brita, was depicted as Idun or Iduna, the Norse goddess of Spring and rejuvenation.  Norse mythology tells us that Idun was the keeper of the magic apples of immortality, which the gods must eat to preserve their youth.  Iduna carried her apples in a box made of ash (called an eski), along with her fruit, and this box served as one of Idun’s major symbols. 

Azalea by Carl Larsson featuring his wife Karin

Carl Larsson travelled away on a number of occasions leaving the household and his children the sole responsibility of his wife.  Karin employed the carpenters and painters needed to transform Lilla Hyttnäs and was the one who made all the decisions with regards its interior.  He never underestimated the role she played in their marriage and this was evident when you look at his artwork and read his books.

In the Corner by Carl Larsson

In his book Ett Hem, there is an amusing watercolour by Carl of his son Pontus sitting rather gloomily on his chair in an empty room.  Larsson talked about the depiction saying that he took the idea from the sight of a gloomy little boy who had been sent from the table as he had misbehaved during the family meal and had been left to deliberate on his misbehaviour whilst languishing in the beautiful room. Pontus’ bad behaviour was probably not a factor in this work but his punishment was real, that of having to sit still for such a long period whilst his father sketched the scene !  The depiction is probably more about the room itself and the combination of the striped chair covers and rugs, with the tiles of the fireplace.

The Door

The central part of the painting is taken up by the door.  The design of which is a mix of irregularity on the lower panel whilst the panel above  is a drawing based on a poem by the English Victorian artist and writer Kate Greenaway’s poem:  There was an old woman, who lived on a  hill and changed by the artist to There was a little woman who lived with Carl Larsson.  Above the door we see decorations, and even though it was a classical temple, it is surrounded by leaves.

The Reading Room by Carl Larsson

In many of his paintings featuring the interior of Lilla Hyttnäs and his family, reading was a recurring topic and was probably a means of enhancing the idea that his young family were well educated, unlike himself, during his torrid childhood.

Karin Reading by Carl Larsson (1904)

Homework by Carl Larsson

Carl and Karin Larsson’s popularity increased considerably with the progress of colour reproduction technology in the 1890s.   The Swedish publishing house Bonnier published books written and illustrated by Carl Larsson and containing full colour reproductions of his watercolours, such as Ett Hem. (A Home).

Das Haus in der Sonne by Carl Larsson

However, the print runs of these rather expensive art books were small in comparison to those published in 1909 by the German publisher Karl Robert Langewiesche.  He had chosen a number of Carl’s watercolours, drawings and text by the artist, which culminated in the publication in 1909 0f Das Haus in der Sonne (The House in the Sun), which became one of the German publishing industry’s best-sellers of the year with forty thousand copies sold in three months, and which required more than forty print runs.  Carl and Karin were delighted with the success.

 Car Larsson’s 1907 mural Gustav Vasa’s procession into Stockholm, 1523  (7 x 14 metres)
Nationalmuseum Stockholm.

For all his paintings depicting his wife, children and beloved home, all his illustrating work for books and newspapers, he considered his large-scale frescoes as his most important work.  He created frescoes for schools, museums and other public buildings.  In 1907, Larsson completed his mural of Gustav Vasa’s procession into Stockholm, 1523, which was hung with his other commissioned murals in the National Museum in Stockholm, part of a series of murals which he had been working on since the mid-1890s.

Midvinterblot (Midwinter Sacrifice) by Carl Larsson (1915)

In 1915 Carl had just completed his last monumental work, Midvinterblot (Midwinter Sacrifice), which measured 6 x 14 metres (20ft x 46ft). This was yet another fresco commission he had received from the National Museum in Stockholm and this would like several other of his works adorn the walls of the museum. This new fresco painting would be placed on the wall of the hall which led to the central staircase of the museum.  The painting, entitled Midvinterblot (Midwinter Sacrifice) depicts a legend from Norse mythology in which the Swedish king Domalde is sacrificed at the Temple of Uppsala in order to avert famine. Larsson was rightly excited with the commission but devastated when the museum rejected the finished work.  Larsson was extremely bitter with the museum’s decision.  In his autobiography, he wrote:

“…The fate of Midvinterblot broke me! This I admit with a dark anger. And still, it was probably the best thing that could have happened, because my intuition tells me – once again! – that this painting, with all its weaknesses, will one day, when I’m gone, be honoured with a far better placement…”

Later in the book Larsson admitted that the paintings depicting his family and home:

“…became the most immediate and lasting part of my life’s work. For these pictures are of course a very genuine expression of my personality, of my deepest feelings, of all my limitless love for my wife and children…”

The controversial rejection of Larsson’s painting rumbled on well past his death in 1919.  Some schools of Swedish artists loved the work whilst others hated it.  The painting was never hung in its designated space and the wall remained bare. 

The painting’s final resting place.

In 1987, one artist from the “school of detractors” offered the museum a monumental painting for free, provided it would adorn the empty space but the museum declined the offer.  The painting was then sold to a Japanese art collector, Hiroshi Ishizuka, who in 1992, agreed to lend it back to the museum for its major Carl Larsson exhibition.  The painting was hung exactly where Larsson had intended.  On seeing the giant painting, the public loved it and wanted the museum to buy it from the Japanese owner.  With the aid of public and private donations, the museum and the Japanese owner came to an agreed price and in 1997 the painting was purchased by the museum and the painting remained in its “rightful” place and it remains part of the museum collection.

Carl Larsson died on January 22nd 1919 aged 65. His wife Karin died nine years later on February 18th 1928 aged 68.

Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov and the Peredvizhniki.

In past blogs about Russian artists I talked about an artistic group known as the Peredvizhniki, often referred to as The Wanderers or The Itinerants and the artist I am looking at today was also a member of this group.  The Wanderers gave a voice to Russian art for the first time in the country’s history. Their art answered the people’s search for solutions to their country’s problems. Many of these artists completed works which were parodies of Russian life and were, through their depictions, critical political statements about the Russian ruling class.   Russian art critics had voiced their concern with regards the state of Russian art stating that it was devoid of any originality.  They wanted artists to focus more on native themes rather than concentrating on what they termed “cosmopolitan garb”. 

In 1863 a group of fourteen students, led by Ivan Kramskoi, who were studying at the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg found the rules of the Academy too limiting.  They also believed their tutors were too conservative and so decided to take a stand.  They believed art should be available to all people and, as many could not visit the grand city galleries, they would take their art to the people. They formed Артель художников, the Petersburg Cooperative of Artists (Artel of Artists).  The society resolutely maintained independence from Russian state support and took their art, which depicted the contemporary life of the people from Moscow and Saint Petersburg, to the provinces.  In 1870, this organization was succeeded by the Peredvizhniki.   The Wanderers established a new social artistry that depicted the lower classes and highlighted the issues surrounding social injustices. Of the aims of the Group, Kramskoi believed that their paintings should, as well as being beautiful, be both wise and educational.  Among the movements leading members were Ilya Repin, Ivan Shishkin, Konstantin Makovsky, Vasily Perov and Vasily Polenov.

Abram Arkhipov; Portrait by Ilya Repin

Today’s artist under the spotlight is Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov who was also a member of the group.  Abram was born Abram Efimov[ich] Pyrikov on August 15th 1862, the son of Efim Nikitich and Arina Fedorovna Pyrikovs.  He was raised in an impoverished household in the small and remote village of Yegorovo, in the Ryazan province, two hundred kilometres south-east of Moscow.  He would later adopt the surname “Arkhipov” in honour of his great-grandfather, Arkhip Rodionovich.

Winter by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov

Abram showed an interest in art when he was a young boy at the village school.  However, the only artistic tuition Abram received whilst at home was from traveling icon painters, one of whom, Zaykov, who had connections with the Moscow School of Painting, which was formed by the 1865 merger of a private art college, established in Moscow in 1832 and the Palace School of Architecture, which had been established in 1749.  It was one of the largest educational institutions in Russia. Zaykov was impressed by the Abram’s artistic talent and encouraged him to enter the School. His parents were proud of him and offered him great encouragement to continue with his love art.  In 1877, despite being impoverished peasants they managed to collect enough money to send him to study at the School of Art, Sculpture and Architecture in Moscow.

 

Sunset over a Winter Landscape by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov

Abram was accepted at the School in 1877 and he studied there for five years. Here he studied alongside future greats in Russian art such as Ryabushkin, Kasatkin and Nesterov and he was tutored by the leading painters of the time, Vasily Perov, Makovsky, Polenov and Savrasov.  Arkhipov left the Moscow School and in 1884 transferred to the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg. Here he was academically successful and some of his paintings were selected for permanent storage at the Academy’s Museum. 

Village Iconographer by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov

Something, however, was not right and Abram broke off his studies at the St Petersburg Academy and in 1887 returned to study at the Moscow School of Art, Sculpture and Architecture . The reason for his sudden departure from St Petersburg is not fully known but it is thought that he was discouraged by the Academy’s strict way of teaching art.  However, the reason could have been more mundane, and he simply had no financial means to continue his studies in St Petersburg.

Sick Woman by Abram Arkhipov (1885)

Arkhipov had completed a painting entitled Sick Woman in 1885 and two years later at the Moscow School’s student’s exhibition he exhibited it.  It depicts two women in a dark and dank interior.  The artist’s mother sits with her head dejectedly inclined, her eyes fixed at one point,  Next to her sitting on a straw-filled bed is her neighbour who had come to pay the sick woman a visit. She too has the same dimmed sorrowful look in her eyes The postures of the two women, with their tired, unhappy faces is a depiction of their humility, despondency and misery. The only uplifting aspect to this painting is the sunlight, emanating through the open door.  Maybe Arkhipov wanted to remind us that happiness and beauty do exist somewhere. It is a work that gives out both quiet sadness and an air of deep compassion for human suffering.  The painting proved to be a major breakthrough in Archipov’s life as the work was bought directly from the student exhibition by Pavel Tretyakov, the art collector and owner of the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

On The River Volga by Abram Arkhipov (1889)

Once Abram had completed his studies, he decided to embark on a painting trip with some of his former students, along the River Volga.  From this journey he completed a number of paintings like his 1889 work, On the Volga. It proved to be a successful fusion of a genre scene and lyrical landscape.

Along the River Oka by Abram Arkhipov

A similar river scene which Arkhipov painted at that time was Along the River Oka. It depicts a barge floating along the river filled with weary peasants, who seem lost in thought. It should not just be taken on face value as a river scene as it is a story about impoverished people who are capable of enduring a great deal without losing their strength and resoluteness. It is both a declaration of the beauty of Russian nature, with its blue horizons, the spring flooding of its rivers, and its streams of sunlight. Arkhipov has used a subdued colour scheme which is in accord with the general mood of the painting. His artistic style has changed. Compared to the careful detail of his early works, his style has become more free, expansive and passionate.  Of the painting, the Russian art critic Vladamir Stasov wrote:

“…The whole picture is painted in sunlight and this can be felt in every patch of light and shade, and in the overall wonderful impressions among the people on the barge, the four women—idle, tired, despondent, sitting in silence on their bundles—are portrayed with magnificent realism…”

In the Evening by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov

The work earned Arkhipov membership of the Society for Traveling Art Exhibitions in 1890.  He was now one of the Peredvizhniki.  It was the largest art association of the second half of the nineteenth century and their exhibitions were held in Russian cities such as Riga, Kiev, Kharkov, and Odessa. Its objectives was three-fold:

Delivery to the inhabitants of the provinces the possibility of contacts with Russian art

Development and love of the arts in society

Making it easier for artists to sell their works.

Radonitsa (Before the Church Service) by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov (1892)

Many of Arkhipov’s paintings were juxtapositions of landscape and genre works such as his 1892 painting entitled Radonitsa or Waiting for Church in which we see a large group of peasants sitting on the floor outside a church waiting for the doors to open and the service begin, but this is not just any service, this is Radonitsa.  Radonitsa is a universal church day when relatives and friends of the deceased celebrate the commemoration of those who have died.  In the Russian Orthodox Church it is this commemoration of the departed which is observed on the second Tuesday of Easter.  The word derives from the Slavic word radost meaning joy and so it is not looked upon a s a mournful day but one of joyful remembrance.  It is the Christian belief that lies behind this joy, is the remembrance of the resurrection of Jesus and the joy and hope it brings to all.

The Ice is Gone by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov (1895)

Another of Arkhipov’s paintings which is a mixture of genre and landscape is his 1895 work entitled The Ice is Gone.  The painting depicts the connection between nature and the peasants. In a way, it is like the previous work.  It is a celebration.  The celebration is because the Spring has finally arrived and the ice on the rivers has melted and once more the peasants can use the flowing rivers to their advantage.

Women Labourers at the Iron Foundry by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov (1896)

Many of Arkhipov’s paintings depicted the harsh plight of female peasant workers and their brutal working environment.  One such work was his 1896 painting entitled Women Labourers at the Iron Foundry in which we see two women sitting outside the foundry in the relentless hot sun, trying to relax from their physical labour.  Black smoke rises against a backdrop of low, wooden workshops.

The plight of the female worker was again highlighted in two paintings by Akhipov entitled Washer Women which he completed 1899.  One hangs in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow and one in the State Russian Museum in St Petersburg. They were based on a series of studies Abram made of life in the wash-house and are depicted in the muted colours associated with Realism paintings.  We see the bent backs of prematurely aged women, toiling amid the steam and heat of their workplace.

Washer Women by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov (1899)

Washer Women by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov (1899)

In one work he depicts many peasant women working to clean the village’s laundry. For an accurate portrayal, Abram visited many washhouses making sketches always keen to find figures which would enhance his final work.  Eventually he found his “perfect” model and rearranged the depiction around her.  She was an elderly woman whom we see on the left of the second work, sitting hunched over, totally exhausted. All the women look defeated and overcome by their physical efforts.  These two works by Arkhipov’s highlight the plight of woman who had to work in such harsh, almost inhuman conditions just to earn some money to feed their families.  Again, like his other Reailist paintings he has used muted colours, the works only lit up by the light coming in from the small window at the rear, which shows up the steam coming up from under their hands as they wash the clothing. Many of the details stay the same in both works, for example, their hair being tightly tied back and the same women appearing in the background of both paintings. The women are all hard at work in the upper painting, whereas the lower work focuses on the elderly woman talking a break.

Arkhipov’s paintings are brutally realistic and are important pieces in history revealing much about the conditions in the USSR during this time by showing the truth behind the closed doors of the washhouses. The opportunity for women to get better and less arduous jobs was just not available to them.

Northern Village by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov (1902)
In the North by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov !903)

In 1902 Arkhipov took the first of a number of trips to the White Sea and from the sketches he made during these journeys he produced two memorable landscape works. A Northern Village in 1902 and In the North in 1903.  They signalled a move away from Realism works and a move towards the landscape genre of paintings.

Around 1903 came the formation of the Union of Russian Artists which was the coming together of former Peredvizhniki members and those who had been part of the World of Art, an artistic movement inspired by an art magazine which served as its manifesto de facto, which was a major influence on the Russians who helped revolutionize European art during the first decade of the 20th century.  Arkhipov became one of its founding member in 1903.

Around 1903 came the formation of the Union of Russian Artists which was the coming together of former Peredvizhniki members and those who had been part of the World of Art. The Union of Russian Artists lasted until their exhibition in 1910 when due to a split between St. Petersburg and Moscow artists due to harsh words and denouncements of the paintings by various factions.  Arkhipov decided that he had had enough of the constant bickering and resigned.

The Visit (also known as On a Visit; A Festive Spring Day) by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov (1915)

Following his resignation from the group he reverted to his favoured painting style, that of genre painting and the depiction of peasants. However, the muted coloured realist paintings soon gave way to a more colourful Impressionist style as seen by his 1915 work entitled The Visit (also known as On a Visit; A Festive Spring Day)

The Tea Party by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov (1919)

Another highly colourful painting was his 1919 work entitled The Tea Party.

Around 1920, Arkhipov became interested in the genre of psychological portraiture.  Psychological portraiture is when an artist tries for something more than a simple physical representation of the sitter but tries to reflectand depice the character of the portrayed person. In essence the painter is endeavouring to capture a range of the sitter’s emotions in fractions of a second or for the finished work to tell us more about the personality of the person in a single image.

A Girl with a Jug by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov (1927)

Arkhipov painted an unusual series of portraits of peasant women and girls from the Ryazan and Nizhny Novgorod regions. They are all dressed in bright national costumes. with embroidered  scarves and beads. Painted with broad lively strokes, the paintings are marked by their decorative nature and buoyant colours, with rich reds and pinks predominating. The most famous of his portraits is his 1927 painting entitled Girl with a Jug. It depicts a Russian woman dressed in an orange top, a bright red bottom, an apron with a bright pattern.  In her hands she holds a bright blue cup and a jug of milk.  The dark background, painted by the artist, sets off the girl.  Her figure is hidden from us by the wide sleeves and a skirt.  She smiles confidently as she looks out at us with an affectionate countenance.  The painting is a mass of colour and yet Arkhipov seems to also focus on the inner beauty of the woman which he believes is a window into the Russian soul, strong and yet truthful, open-minded, and generous.  In this colourful cycle of painting female peasants, Arkhipov has loosened the shackles of his gloomy realist depictions and his shown us a different side to his art.

Young Girl by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov (1920)

In 1924 Arkhipov joined the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia, and in 1927, to mark his fortieth year as an artist, he was among the first artist who was awarded the title of *People’s Artist of the Russian Republic*.

Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov died in Moscow on September 25th, 1930 aged 68.

ArtCatto Gallery

Often when you visit small galleries which are staging a joint exhibition of paintings done by a small number of artists, you like some and are disappointed with others.  I was in Portugal last week and my visit coincided with an opening of a joint exhibition at a local gallery and I was fortunate to have received an invite which coincided with my short break away.

ArtCatto Gallery, Loulé, Algarve, Portugal

The exhibition was at the ArtCatto gallery in the heart of the Algarve town of Loulé.  ArtCatto was the brainchild of Gillian Catto, who after 30 years as the owner of an internationally recognised and respected gallery in London, decided to settle in the Algarve and she opened ArtCatto in 2011.  Gillian Catto developed a reputation, which is second to none. She was responsible for launching the careers of artists who have subsequently become household names, such as Jack Vettriano. His solo exhibition at her Gallery helped to create a global demand for his work, which skyrocketed in value virtually overnight.

The Girls by Shen Ming Chun

The gallery is divided into a number of small rooms, each featuring the work of one artist.    In one of these rooms there were six exquisite works of portraiture by the Chinese artist, Shen Ming Cun.  Shen was born in 1956 and graduated from the University Art College of Guangxi in China, where he is now a professor of European Art. He is highly respected as an official artist for the Chinese Government, and has exhibited in Hong Kong, Beijing, Singapore, New Zealand, and Britain.

Beautiful Headdress by Shan Ming Cun

Shen Ming draws his inspiration from the ancient traditions, crafts and culture of the tribes of the Miao, Yao and Dong of the remote GuangXi region of China. There are large changes in China which is causing a massive strain on the ancient way of life in these small village communities and as the young people leave the villages to seek work in the large cities one has to wonder how long these cultures can survive.

Looking at You by Shen Ming Cun

Each tribe has a quite unique tradition in dress and adornment from the other. The young girls sew everything entirely by hand and their jewellery is crafted in the village.

Silver Necklace by Shen Ming Cun

Shen’s paintings have come to focus on capturing, distilling and representing the inimitable customs, dress and heritage of these minority tribes of Southern China. His empathy and admiration of these tribal people is well-defined in his paintings, which possess a lyrical beauty, dignity and grace. In fact, his paintings have been likened to a kind of visual poetry in their way they communicate to the viewer a variety of emotions and to entice the spectator into their worlds.

Pink Roses by Shen Ming Cun

Shen’s paintings capture the chromatic vibrancy of the costumes and ornate silver jewellery with a lightness and confidence that has undoubtedly led to his success. Their adornments are genuine symbols of the wealth, religion, ritual and national consciousness that shape their lives. It is truly remarkable to witness the intimate moments that he often portrays which provide an atmosphere of invitation and intrigue for the viewer.  Shen explains his inspirational art:

“…I have spent a long time researching the richly colourful cultural heritage of the Yao and Miao nationalities and the Dong minority of Southern China. Over the years I have lived amongst them and become friends with these beautiful people who radiate pure goodness and a simple love of life. Cultivating their ancestor’s achievements, they turn life into immortal art…”

Pedro Guimares

On entering another room I came across some fascinating works of art by Pedro Guimares.  Pedro Guimarães, born 1974 in Guimarães, Portugal. From an early age, Pedro was fascinated by art and design, resulting in an exhibition at the age of sixteen at the Youth Centre in Braga. The success and impact of that show confirmed his career as a professional artist and as a result he set up his studio in Guimarães to continue his practice.

All I Want by Pedro Guimares

In 2011 he moved to Cantabria, Spain, having the opportunity to exhibit his work there. Back in Portugal it was in Guimarães that he set up his atelier. There he devoted an increasingly greater amount of time to plastic arts until it finnaly became his exclusive activity. Since then, Pedro Guimarães participated in several individual and collective exhibitions in Portugal and abroad with an intense and always innovative artistic production.

Sky Dreamer by Pedro Guimares

Pedro Guimarães’s work is based on a conceptual language created by him, which he defines as:

“…the true transparent reaction of our consciousness with the synapses that make us unique and influence the direction of our concepts, associating colours and shapes…”

Untouchable. In loving memory of Queen Elizabeth II by Pedro Guimares

Enjoying a wide creative freedom, Pedro Guimarães uses various resources and materials. One of the strangest and probably the most time-consuming work was a portrait entitled Untouchable. In loving memory of Queen Elizabeth II.  For this work, Guimares used a technique which he terms “Untouchable” which gives the work a unique content, curious, and some might say disarming. Standing before the portrait you see nothing unusual but……….

Side-on view of Queen Elizabeth II portrait

………..stand to the side of the portrait and when you look again you realise the artwork comprises of numerous pins (180,000 pins) that forms the figure into a three-dimensional shape.  You only notice the pins when you view the work side-on.

The Three of Us by Pedro Guimares

The painting of his, maybe I should say the three paintings of his, which fascinated me was entitled The Three of Us.  I suppose the portrait(s) fall into the category of being a  Trompe L’oeil depiction. As I stood in front of this strange slatted painting I saw a depiction of Princess Diana. At first I could not fathom out the reason for the vertical slats.

The Three of us by Pedro Guimares

However when I moved to the left and viewed the painting at a 45 degree angle the image of Diane disappeared and as if by magic, the depiction of her son Harry came clearly into view………

The Three of Us by Pedro Guimares

……and when I moved to the right of the painting an image of William gradually appeared. Yes, I know it was just a work of trickery but it was very cleverly done.

Richard Gower

On entering the gallery, you were greeted by a wash of bright colours which extended along the walls of the passageways.  The paintings reminded me of some of the colourful seascapes I saw at the Joaquín Sorolla Museum in Madrid.  These artworks at the ArtCatto gallery were by the English artist Richard Gower.

Finding the Perfect Spot by Richard Gower

Richard Gower was born in West Yorkshire in 1962 and is a fine artist who is known for his contemporary oil paintings rendered in his characteristic impressionistic style.  At the age of seventeen, he studied at Batley College of Art and specialised in fine art and sculpture.  He is influenced by the great artists of the nineteenth and twentieth century such as Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Sickert, Francis Bacon. Richard’s determination to paint and learn everything he needed to learn motivated him to study the great impressionists. Richard’s fascination with the great painters pushed his own creativity and observations to develop and fine-tune his personal ‘Reflections’ style over the years. As a young man he travelled throughout Europe on his motorbike stopping of at various cities and towns always visiting galleries and exhibitions, whilst all the time honing his artistic skills and developing his passion for painting.

The Splash by Richard Gower

The semi-abstracted, figurative compositions we see in his beach scenes have both a real sense of joie de vie but also intrigue. As observers, we are asked to conjure up narratives about these anonymous characters who are enjoying a day at the seaside and who are immortalised on his canvases.

Day at the Beach by Richard Gower
The Promenade by Richard Gower

These seaside scenes by Gower would light up any room and bring with them the hankering to leave rainy and windswept climates and visit beautiful beaches and soak up the sun.

Mario Henrique with his portrait of Marilyn Munroe

Another room at the ArtCatto exhibition was dedicated to the artwork of Mario Henrique.   Mario Henrique is an artist based in Cascais, Portugal, who graduated in Design from Lisbon’s University of Fine Arts and started his career in online marketing and web development agencies.  Later on, as a creative director he recruited and led teams in Portugal, Spain and Brazil.

Somnium No. 1, Series X by Mario Henrique

Of his painting style Mario explains:

“…I try to be fast and spontaneous when I’m painting – that process should be reflected in the final piece. The observer should be able to infer the physicality of the painting process, when looking at the brush strokes and paint drippings…”

Mario Henrique at work in his studio

“…When I throw paint, I can do it with some premeditation – but I can never really predict where the paint will actually fall on the canvas. So, my approach to painting is – in part – based on chance, on small random accidents – it doesn’t rely exclusively on my persistence or my technique.

That’s why I don’t feel completely responsible for my paintings – in the sense that, although I can answer for my initial intentions, the final…”

Mariana by Mario Henrique

Mario Henrique is passionate about his work and has exhibited his work in Portugal, Brazil, Germany and the US. He says that he is forever intrigued by the subtleties and double meanings of people’s body language, expressions and looks, and he composes works centred around people. Mario uses his portraits to represent the impermanence of facial expressions and unpredictability of human movements, and paints abruptly and spontaneously in drippings and splashings.

Nebula No. 5, Series IV by Mario Henrique

Listed in various private collections across Europe, America and Asia, he has exhibited in galleries both locally and abroad, and was awarded an Honourable Mention for his participation in the Brasília Biennial of Contemporary Arts 2016. He was also featured in Saatchi Art’s Inside The Studio.

At the ArtCatto’s exhibition, there was also a selection of sculptures both with a modern style and a classical one.

Sculpture Flow by Paul Sibuet

Golden Flow by Paul Sibuet

Paul Sibuet, a French visual artist, was born in 1986.  He was trained in Design and Art and his work has been submitted at numerous competitions, in Tokyo and Paris. He has now broken free from the techniques he was taught by exploring his own perceptions of the object and volumes, and in so doing so he has created his own signature. He lives today in Lyon and exhibits in particular in Geneva, New York and Venice.

Spring by Anneke Bester
Emanate by Anneke Bester

At the rear of the gallery there is a narrow outdoor passage way which was lined by statuettes by Anneke Bester. Anneke Bester is a South African born artist who now considers New Zealand her home country. She not only exhibits in New Zealand but also regularly in Portugal and Dubai. Her body of work is a combination of one-off, delicately cast, bronze sculptures as well as editioned works. Anneke’s work focuses on celebrating Femininity in all its aspects. She sculpts gorgeous female forms in sensual poses. She develops the female energy of nature and depicts the female forms as daughters of mother earth in her most recent work.poses. She sees the female in its internal beauty and its core driving force that only a female sculptor can explore to its full extent.

If you are ever in the Algarve you should try and visit the ArtCatto gallery which lies on the town’s main street, across from the large Municipal Market Hall,

Dutch and Flemish Golden Age painters.

Like many others, I am a lover of the artwork of the Dutch Golden Age painters.  The Dutch Golden Age was a period in the history of the Netherlands, which spanned the era from 1588 and the birth of the Dutch Republic to 1672, Rampjaar (Disaster Year) which was the year of the outbreak of the Franco-Dutch War.  During this period, it was considered that Dutch trade, science, and art and the Dutch military were among the most acclaimed in Europe.  We all know about the lives and works of the famous artists of that era, such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Jan Steen, Frans Hals and Judith Leyster to name but a few.  In my blog today I want to look at the lives and works of the lesser-known painters of that era.

Izaak van Oosten was a Flemish Baroque landscape and cabinet painter who worked out of Antwerp.  Izaak was born in Antwerp in December 1613 and was the son of an art dealer with the same name.  His father had become a master in the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke in 1617. Very little is known about his upbringing or his early artistic training as there is no record of which master or masters he studied under.  Izaak became a master in the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke in 1652.

Landscape with a Wagon and Travellers passing through a Village by Izaak van Oosten

There is something joyful about paintings depicting skaters on frozen rivers and lakes.  It is all before global warming and I am sure that now, many of the rivers and lakes retain their fluidity even in the depths of winter.  The painting I am showcasing is entitled Skaters on a Frozen Lake at the Edge of Town and it was painted by the Dutch Golden Age landscape painter Cornelis Beelt.  Cornelis Beelt was a Dutch Golden Age landscape painter who was  one of the chief figures in the Haarlem school of landscape painting, but was also well-known for his genre paintings of towns, markets and villages.  Beelt was born in Haarlem during the first decade of the seventeenth century.

Skaters on a Frozen Lake at the Edge of Town by Cornelis Beelt (c.1652)

The setting is a clear winter’s day and crowds of locals gather besides a country inn keen to enjoy the sport on the ice. Young and old, rich and poor are attracted to this pastime. In the foreground a group of well-dressed men and women stands on the ice and chat. An old lady with her hands in a fur muff sits in a splendid arreslee (sleigh which is drawn by a horse and which is decorated with a fine plumed harness. Close by young children propel themselves across the ice on small prikslees (sledges).

Beach of Shevingen by Cornelis Beelt

There is a strange thing about this painting which unfortunately is not visible from the attached picture. Beelt signed his painting in an unusual manner, one which he had also done on his painting Beach of Shevingen. He signed his name on the plank of wood in the foreground. However , at a later time, his signature was scrubbed out and replaced by the inscription J.V.Ostade f.1653 and this was judged to be an attempt by a less than honest art dealer to ascribe the work to a more famous name, Isaac van Ostade, so as to have a better chance of selling the painting, even though Ostade had died in 1649 !

The phrase ‘cabinet d’amateur’, in French, is an ancient term which referred to a room or part of a room in an art collector’s house where he or she displayed the paintings they had purchased.  These display areas were before the rise of public galleries.  Some where simple cabinets which contained their owner’s beloved works and some where floor to ceiling displays of their paintings.  The phrase cabinet d’amateur should not be viewed as that of an “amateur collector” but that of an “art lover”.  A German term for such a place is often referred to as a kunstkammer. In Italian it might be called a Gabinetto, Studiolo or Camerino.

Two collectors dining in a gallery surrounded by paintings and works of art, with two parrots in the foreground. by Frans Fancken the Younger

The painting connected with this term is one by the Flemish painter, Frans Francken the Younger and described as Two collectors dining in a gallery surrounded by paintings and works of art, with two parrots in the foreground. Frans Francken the Younger was the most famous of an Antwerp dynasty of painters; he trained with his father, Frans the Elder, and joined the Antwerp guild in 1605. He was a painter of religious and historical subjects as well as being the inventor of the genre – the cabinet painting.

On the right-hand side of the painting we see two men deep in discussion about a painting one of them is holding up but we do not know who is the owner of this kunstkammer.  The presence of a kunstkammer in one’s house was a sign of wealth, intelligence and social status.  In the main part of the painting, we see an ornate sideboard supported by classical caryatids.  A caryatid is the name given to a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support taking the place of a column or a pillar supporting an entablature on her head.  A light-pink fringed cloth covers the top shelf of the sideboard on which two large shells are placed either side of the painting, The Adoration of the Magi.   Richly decorated goblets and covered urns are displayed on two of the sideboard shelves. On the floor we see two parrots depicted sitting on a perch.  The import of exotic foreign birds testified to the owner’s wealth.   We see a large red velvet curtain falls from the ceiling which when released would act as a separator of the two rooms.  Everything in the room exudes the wealth of the owner which would have been the raison d’être for the owner of the cabinet d’amateur commissioning the work.

The Cabinet of the Collector by Frans Francken the Younger (c.1617)

A similar painting by Frans Francken the Younger is in the Royal Collection entitled The Cabinet of the Collector which he completed around 1617. Amongst the paintings on view in the kunstkammer is a landscape by Joos de Momper,  a still life of an everyday table set for a meal; and a small, nocturnal Flight into Egypt. Other religious painting depicted are one featuring St Augustine who is trying to comprehend the idea of the Trinity and sees a baby struggling to pour the entire sea into a pool in the sand with a shell – both tasks being equally beyond the scope of man. The drawings, one framed and one in an open book are two studies for Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling and a preparatory drawing for Raphael’s Madonna della Perla which emphasise the intellectual side of painting.. There are also letters on the table, no doubt signifying an intelligent characteristic of the painting’s owner.  Also displayed are exotic weaponry which is a reminder of the importance of travel and trade and a handful of Roman coins and a bowl of modern ones, which were not anything to do with wealth but more likely a celebration of the achievements of great men.

For me, the most interesting part of the work is seen beneath the arch to the right.  In the background a church is demolished and nearby donkey-headed men with cudgels destroy a pile of objects associated with learning, science, the arts and sport. According to Karel van Mander, the sixteenth century Flemish poet, painter and art historian, a man with a donkey head is a symbol of Ignorance. The episodes depicted here recall two historical events: the Beeldenstorm, an outbreak of iconoclasm carried out by Protestants in 1566; and the ‘Spanish Fury’, the sack of Antwerp in 1576.

A Rhineland Landscape with a Hermit and Soldiers by Jan Griffier the Elder

Jan Griffier the Elder, who was born in Amsterdam around 1645, was a painter and printmaker, who produced views of Rhineland landscapes as well as spending time, around 1660, in England where he produced many landscape works featuring the English countryside.  One of his most beautiful landscapes is referred to as A Rhineland Landscape with a Hermit and Soldiers. The painting dramatically depicts a steep mountain landscape with a meandering river below which slowly flows through wooded crags which are surmounted by castles.  If we look to the left foreground, we can see a men loading barrels of wine onto a small boat.  The main figures in this painting are on the right-hand side.  We see a group of soldiers lying down, concealed among the ferns and flowers.  One of the group points down to the boat which is being loaded.  Are they planning to raid the operation?  Above them, sitting on a rock by a large oak tree in peaceful isolation, is a hermit, who is meditating.  It is an interesting painting with plenty to focus on, but what is it all about ?

Floral Still life Floral by Gaspar van den Hoecke

There is something that fascinates me about floral still life paintings.  I think it is just the effort and patience the artists must have put in to produce such beautiful works.  My next featured painting is a small (70 x 50cms) floral still life attributed to the Flemish Baroque painter, Gaspar van Hoecke, who was born in Antwerp around 1580.

Gaspar van den Hoecke was best known for his small religious cabinet pieces but during his early period around 1610 his work focused on still life floral paintings.  The vase of flowers sits on a wooden tabletop.  This dense grouping of flowers fills almost two thirds of the painting.  The profusion of flowers doesn’t allow the artist to depict twigs and leaves between individual flowers.  On the table we see a caterpillar of the swallow-tailed butterfly which is next to it.  Also on the table there is a silver medal with the head of Pope Pius V which had been created in 1571.   Just above it is a gold coin which is a rare example of a byzantine solidus made during the era of Anastasius, the Eastern Roman Emperor. 

Winter Landscape with a peasant walking through snow by Gysbrecht Leytens

The Flemish painter Gijsbrecht Leytens was born in Antwerp in 1586. As a teenager, he began his apprenticeship with Jacob Vrolijck.  In 1611 he joinied the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke as a master. In 1615 he became a member of the Olijftak, a chamber of rhetoric that dates back to the early 16th century in Antwerp, when it was a social drama society which drew its membership primarily from merchants and tradesmen and provided public entertainment at prestigious events.  Gijsbrecht was a captain in Antwerp’s Civic Guard between 1624 and 1628.  His work followed the style of 16th and 17th century Flemish and Dutch great landscape paintings, which had brought recognition to such masters as Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Hendrick Avercamp, Gillis Van Coninxloo, Joost de Momper and Denijs Van Alsloot.

Winter landscape with a woodsman and travelers by Gysbrecht Leytens

However, it was Gijsbrecht Leytens’ determined personal style that brought him to the public’s attention.   Many of his paintings were simply attributed to “The Master of the Winter Landscape” and only in the 1940’s attributed to him.  Leytens has an easily recognisable style not just because he focuses on snowy winter scenes but because of the way he depicts intricate and curious intertwining designs created by the bare branches and twigs which form a large part of his depictions.   He was described as a poet of the frost in the way he conveys the cold nakedness of the sun on a countryside caught in the ice. No-one before him, nor after him, either in Flanders or elsewhere, expressed this with such intensity. The fundamental and unique quality of his art also resides in the extreme refinement of the subtle colour harmonies apparent in his paintings at all times.

Old Man Reading a Letter by Willem van Mieris (1729)

The depiction of the reading of a letter has featured in many paintings over the years.  Such attention to what is written in the letter adds to the back-story of the artwork and often our imagination runs riot as we try to fathom out the sentiment expressed in the pages of the letter.  My next painting is one by the Dutch artist Willem van Mieris who was born in Leiden in the Northern Netherlands in June 1662.  His artistic tuition came from his father Frans van Mieris who was a genre painter.  Throughout his career Willem was successful and had the support of a number of patrons who constantly supplied him with commissions.  He was equally at home painting genre scenes and portraiture as well as being a skilled landscape painter, etcher, and draughtsman.  He was the active leader of, and once became dean of, the Leiden Guild of St. Luke in 1693. A year later, in 1694, he established a drawing academy in Leiden along with the painter Jacob Toorenvliet.

In this work we see an elderly gentleman seated  at a table in a darkened interior deep in concentration as he reads a handwritten document.  He wears an opulent-looking gown which is made of richly embroidered material and which is evocative of the fashion for Japanese dress at the time.  Upon his head is a hat made of rich blue velvet and lined with a extravagant swathe of fur.  In the dark background we can just make out shelves filled with books.  Couple that with the paraphernalia on the table, such as an inkwell, sealing wax and quill pen tells us that this a gentleman of great learning, maybe a lawyer.  Lawyers were often depicted in paintings reading documents and letters.

I hope this blog will encourage you to delve into the world of Dutch and Flemish painters where you will find so many talented artists.

John Downton

Self portrait by John Downton (c.1928)

My featured artist today is the lesser-known British painter John Downton who was born on March 27th, 1906 in the Kent town of Erith, some twenty kilometres south-east of London.  He was the youngest of three children of Albert Victor and Flora Edith Downton (née Mitchell).  John had two older sisters, Hilda and Mary both of whom had intended to study medicine but their plans were thwarted by family circumstances and health reasons.

At the age of four John attended the Erith Convent where he was a pupil for the next four years.  In 1914 he transferred to the Erith Grammar School.  It was around this time that John developed a love for music.  His father played the flute and the piano and was a prominent member of the local church choir.  John’s uncle, Hedley, gave John a violin and during the following years John became an important member of the school orchestra.  The other great love of the teenager was his desire to read, particularly books by ancient philosophers and other “serious” works of English literature.

Portrait of a Young Woman by John Downton (1929)

Apart from his music and books, John had an overriding passion for art and even built a summer house/studio in the family garden where he did his painting.  When he was seventeen the school entered his pencil sketch, Biplanes: A Study, into the Royal Drawing Society at the Guildhall, London and he was awarded a Silver Medal.  As a teenager he was fascinated by all things military and penned many sketches of war machines and yet, later in life he became a pacifist.

Woman at the Window by John Downton (1934)

In 1922, when he was sixteen years old, his mother noticed an advert in The Times which stated that a Professor Gaugot, who was a lecturer at the Sorbonne, was willing to teach an English boy to speak French and so young John Downton headed to Paris where he stayed with the Gaugot family.

Child with Roses by John Downton (1936)

A year later in 1923 John accompanied his two sisters to Italy where they visited Venice and the Northern Italian Lakes as well as the Swiss towns of Lucerne and Lugano.  This was the start of John’s love affair with travel.  His favourite destinations were Northern Italy and Switzerland.

Having completed his schooling John was accepted into Queen’s College, Cambridge.  Initially he took Part 1 of the English Tripos and in 1927 was placed into the Second Class but the following year he decided to abandon English and instead enrolled in the History of Art course and once completed, he received a First Class degree.  During his three years at the university John immersed himself in their musical activities.

Hilda Downton by John Downton (1929)

In the Autumn of 1928, having completed his three-year degree course, John Downton enrolled at the Slade School of Art which at the time was presided over by Henry Tonks, a British surgeon and later draughtsman and painter of figure subjects, chiefly interiors, and a caricaturist who was Slade Professor of Fine Art from 1918 to 1930.  John, like many of the Old Masters of the past, preferred the medium of tempera but the Slade tutors wanted him to change his favoured painting medium and embrace a more modern style of painting.  There was to be no common ground and so on May 21st 1929, John resigned.  In a forward to John Downton’s 1937 book, The Death of Art, an art critic and author wrote about Downton’s falling out of love with the Slade and the Academy’s thoughts on art.  He wrote:

“…A certain kind of rather drably coloured, sober urban realism was the style in favour.  Not for Downton though: he had pretty certainly made up his mind what he wanted to do and what sort of painter he wanted to be well before he arrived at the Slade and it has much more to do with the legacy of Piero della Francesca than that of Sickert and Cezanne…”

Downton’s art was a return to the art of the early Renaissance.

In 1930 John Downton and his sister set off on an European trip.  They based themselves in the Côte d’Azur town of Menton and from there they took day trips out to the Italian Riviera towns of Ventimiglia and Genoa.  Much longer trips were taken by the pair when they visited Milan and Lugano as well as his beloved Italian Lakes.

Portrait of a Young Lady by John Downton (1929)

Around 1930, John bought Park Cottage in the Kent village of Sundridge, some twenty miles, south-east of London.  He spent much of his time renovating the property and buying antique furniture at auction to furnish the rooms.  After two years living there, he realised it was too small for him and his artwork and so he moved out and rented the cottage to a fellow artist, Vincent New.

In April 1932 John Downton was awarded his M.A. and, as if to celebrate the successful completion of his studies, he took a trip to Tunis and returned via Naples, where he remained for a few months.  On arriving back to England John searched for a new home and eventually purchased a property with a north-facing conservatory in which he could paint.  The property was in Observatory Gardens, in the London borough of Kensington.

Frances Witts by John Downton (1935)

Around 1935, John Downton completed a poignant in memoriam portrait of his cousin Frances Witts.  She had died of pneumonia aged just twenty-six.  He used a family photograph for this work.

Portrait of a Lady in Yellow by Alesso Baldovinetti (1465)

Downton was influenced by profile portraits executed by Florentine painters such as Baldovinetti’s 1465 work entitled Portrait of a Lady in Yellow but art historians believe this portrait of his cousin was influenced by the Milanese painter, Ambrogio’ de Predis and his c.1490 work, Beatrice d’Este, which was once attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. 

Portrait of a Lady (Beatrice d’Este) by Ambrogio’ de Predis

Downton’s memorial portrait has a dark and rich tonal quality and he has based it on a conservative portrait of the past and has accomplished an image that is both solemn and inspiring.  The woman in Downton’s portrait, like the Italian females in the portraits mentioned earlier, includes a necklace with diminishing size of beads whilst her hair is similarly geometric but in Frances Witts’ case it is gathered at the sides rather than at the back of the head.

Nora Russell by John Downton (1936)

Between 1936 and 1940 John Downton exhibited work at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.  His two submissions in 1936, which were considered to be his masterpieces, were The Battle and and Nora Russell.  The latter painting was executed in egg tempera and, despite it being a simple depiction of a young schoolgirl, it is evocative in the way it reminds us of the spirit of Quattrocento female portraiture, that is to say, female portraiture in fifteenth-century Italy, which portrayed womanly perfection as established in Catholic doctrine, illustrating the special social roles that upper-class women fulfilled at the time.

The Battle by John Downton (1935)

The title, The Battle, the second of his submitted painting to the 1936 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, is to do with conflict but not a battlefield scene, as you may have expected.  It is all about the battle between modern industrialisation and the ideal of Renaissance humanism, which was a revival in the study of classical antiquity, at first in Italy and then spreading across Western Europe in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries, a cultural legacy, literary legacy, and moral philosophy of classical antiquity.

Erasmus of Rotterdam by Hans Holbein the Younger (1523)

The figure and its stance in the painting is based upon Holbein’s 1523 work, Erasmus of Rotterdam.  Erasmus was the leading humanist at the time.  Both works accentuate the hands of the sitter.  In the Louvre collection there are studies of hands made by Holbein as preliminaries for his painting.  In Downton’s painting we see through the window an abstract depiction of a modern factory.

Joan Harris by John Downton (1937)

John Downton was always on the move and made many more house relocations and in August 1937 he took up residence in Cambridge.  That year he submitted his work entitled Joan Harris to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition where it was subsequently chosen to be shown in The Prominent Living Artists Exhibition which was staged at the Russell-Cotes Museum in Bournemouth.  Joan Harris was the daughter of John Downton’s Cambridge neighbour.  From a letter she wrote him during the sittings for the portrait we can gather that Downton completed more than just this one portrait of her.  She wrote:

“…I hope you will finish the picture soon; but if you ever want me to come and sit for you again, just let me know and I will come any time that I am able.

When you have finished the picture I hope I will be able to see it and if you get the first picture back in Cambridge I would like to see it, and I know Mummy and Daddy would love to see it as they never saw it when it was completed…”

Portrait of a Girl by John Downton (1938)

Downton’s 1938 submission to the RA Summer Show was Portrait of a Girl which unusually for Downton depicted the model against a landscape background giving the impression that it was a plein air portrait.  There is a definite resemblance to the style of one of my favourite portrait artists, Gerald Brockhurst.

Portrait of a Woman by John Downton (1955)

A strange looking portrait going under the title Portrait of a Woman was completed by John Downton in 1955. 

Edith Sitwell by Pavel Tchelitchew (1935)

It is thought that the depiction was loosely based on the Polish painter, Pavel Tchelitchew’s portrait of his good friend Edith Sitwell in 1935.

Girl Conducting by John Downton (1940)

In 1938, now living in Cambridge, Downton was having to cope with the rejection by Faber & Faber of his manuscript, The Death of Art, but which was published years later. In 1940 Downton submitted three paintings to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, Eve, A Girl Conducting, and A Child. His painting entitled Girl Conducting is all about his depiction of the girl’s hands and it is such a facet in many of his works. The finished product did not come easily for Downton, who made numerous sketches of hands until he had perfected them. Many of the depictions were influenced by Renaissance paintings. The three paintings Downton submitted to the RA that year were to be the last of his offerings to that establishment.

Woman in Flemish Head Dress by John Downton

So why did Downton stop exhibiting his work at the RA ? In the foreword to Downton’s book The Death of Art, which his sister, Hilda, finally had published in 1995, the writer and critic John Russell Taylor explained:

“…He seems to have felt himself marginalised in a world increasingly unsympathetic to everything he stood for. In 1939 he moved to Florence in an attempt to escape the materialist twentieth century, but then almost immediately had to return to Britain at the outbreak of war. The war itself was even more of an alienating factor, a total outrage to his dearly held pacifist principles. And a general feeling that the mainstream of British Art was moving further and further away from his own ideals, first into luxuriant Romanticism and then into freeform abstraction, caused him to withdraw altogether from exhibiting his own art after 1940…”

Bearded Profit by John Downton (1975)

Now back home in England with the war waging in Europe, John Downton received his conscript papers.  Downton had always been a pacifist and went before the Review Board to argue his case for not fighting.  The Board accepted that he was a genuine conscientious objector and so, in September 1940, he was put to work on a farm near Ludlow.  That same year his two sisters moved north to Pitlochry in Scotland and later Downton moved north to be with them and work on the land of the local farmer.

Portrait of a Woman by John Downton (1940)

When the war ended Downton moved south and took up residence in the Kent town of Sevenoaks.  He remained there for two years but then returned to Cambridge where he stayed until 1964 but when his lease ran out on the property he was renting in 1971 he moved back to Sevenoaks and rented a large ground floor flat with a cellar, close to where his sisters, Hilda and Mary were then living.  Mary became very ill with asthma in 1986 and died.   In December 1990 a water pipe burst in the cellar and caused a flood which partly destroyed some of his books and manuscripts he had stored in the room.  He struggled to save and move the heavy boxes of books and this exertion damaged his heart.  He was confined to hospital for two weeks and on discharge went to live with his sister, Hilda, who looked after him during his final days.  John Downton died on July 31st 1991, aged 85.

John never married but was in no way a recluse as his time was taken up with his painting and his love of music.  He had many friends who valued his company.  His sister, Hilda died in 2006, aged 104.

British Victorian Art and the Maas Gallery, London. Part 2.

My second blog continues to look at some of the Victorian paintings which were on show at the Maas Gallery in London.

The Last Song of the Girondins by Claude Andrew Calthrop (1868)

The first painting I am displaying in Part 2 is one by the English artist Claude Andrew Calthrop.  Calthrop was born in Deeping St Nicholas, near Spalding, Lincolnshire, on December 20th 1844, the youngest son of James Thompson Calthrop, a farmer and grazier, and his wife, Edna (née Knowles).  Calthrop attended the Merchant Taylors’ School, in the City of London, but, by 1861, had transferred to King’s College School. From there, he then studied art at Lambeth School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools, where in December 1864, he was awarded a silver medal for the best drawing from life and a gold medal and a scholarship for £50 for the best historical painting, a biblical one, depicting a subject from the Book of Job. He went on to exhibit at the Royal Society of British Artists and the Royal Academy.  At first, Claude Calthrop concentrated on history paintings depicting episodes of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. Later he changed to depictions of contemporary life, portraiture and genre scenes.

Today’s painting, Last Song of the Girondins, was completed and submitted by Calthrop to the Royal Academy exhibition in 1868.  It depicts a scene from the French Revolution and the Jacobins, an anti-Royalist grouping formed mainly of two prominent parliamentary factions, the Montagnards, lead by Robespierre and the Girondins lead by Jacques-Pierre Brissot.  The Montagnards referred to those who occupied the higher benches in both the Jacobin club and the national legislature. Those who sat on these high benches were generally more radical in their ideology and their policies, while those who sat further down were usually more moderate. The conflict between the Girondins and Montagnards came to a head in the spring of 1793. The catalyst for this was the trial of Louis XVI

Detail from The Last Song of the Girondins by Claude Andrew Calthrop

The two factions fell out and in 1793, the Girondins were charged with conspiring against the Republic by the Montagnards.  They were all immediately found guilty in a show trial, and just before midnight on the October 30th 1793, they were sentenced to death. The following morning, the twenty-one convicted men were taken by cart from the dungeons of the Conciergerie to the guillotine. Defiant to the end, the prisoners, led by Brissot, started to sing the Marseillaise and as each was beheaded, the sound of the song dwindled to silence, until the very last Girondin was executed.  The twenty-one died in a space of thirty-six minutes and this heralded in the Reign of Terror.

Of Calthrop’s painting, the art critic for Bell’s Weekly Messenger, described it as:

“…a more difficult scene to portray could scarcely have been chosen; but he has given individuality to each character, whilst he has managed the processional grouping with an ease which says much for his appropriate idea of detail. The manner, too, in which the general scheme is worked out by means of a happy blending of colour, is also appropriate. The handling is minute, without being laboured; and the tone, kept down, to represent the vault from which the prisoners are about to emerge, is as sober as the scene is sad. We shall expect, after such a specimen as this, to note Mr C Calthrop’s rise in his profession…”

Ruskin in his Turret Brantwood by William Collingwood

William Gershom Collingwood, a writer and artist, was born in Liverpool in 1854. He had always liked the Lake District and had accompanied his father there on sketching tours.   He received his early education at Liverpool College and at the age of eighteen went to University College, Oxford, where he first met John Ruskin. During the summer of 1873 Collingwood visited Ruskin at his Lake District house, Brantwood.  Ruskin had bought the somewhat dilapidated house in Coniston in August 1871.  Brantwood was Ruskin’s main home from 1872 until his death in 1900.  Ruskin oversaw many renovations to Brantwood including adding a turret to his bedroom which gave him a panoramic view of the lake

Brantwood as it looks today.

Later Collingwood was working at Brantwood with Ruskin and his associates. Ruskin was impressed with Collingwood’s draughtsmanship, and so he influenced Collingwood to study at the Slade School of Art between 1876 and 1878. Collingwood exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1880.  For many years Collingwood dedicated his life to helping Ruskin and lived at Branston, taking on the role as Ruskin’s personal assistant.   In 1883 Collingwood married Edith Mary Isaac and the couple lived close to Ruskin in the Lake District. Collingwood went on to edit many of Ruskin’s texts and published a biography of Ruskin in 1893.

Michelangelo Nursing his Dying Servant by Frederic, Lord Leighton (c.1862)

In this 1857 watercolour painting by Frederic, Lord Leighton, we have a depiction a young man supporting and comforting an older man.  It is a tender and compassionate scene.  The old man, a servant, is Urbino and the benevolent person with his arm around the old man’s shoulder is his master, Michelangelo.  Leighton has fashioned the depiction similar to many religious depictions of The Deposition, the cradling of the dead Christ after being brought down from the cross.  A number of years later Leighton completed a copy of the work in oils.

Kathleen by James Tissot

This is an unfinished watercolour portrait of Kathleen Newton by the French painter James Tissot.  She was his favourite model who also became his lover.  The story of artist and model is fascinating and I covered it in my blog, James Tissot and Kathleen Newton ten years ago.

Quiet by James Tissot

This watercolour is thought to be a preliminary sketch which Tissot used when he worked on his painting entitled Quiet. This was one of Tissot’s most famous pictures of Kathleen and it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1881.  Kathleen is depicted sitting on a bench in the garden at Tissot’s house in Grove End Road with one of her children and a pet dog.  The depiction of Kathleen in Quiet shows her in a similar pose as in the unfinished watercolour sketch. 

My next offerings were paintings by the prolific English Victorian painter William Lionel Wylie, an artist of maritime themes which he painted in both oils and watercolours.

W L Wylie

William Lionel Wyllie, better known as W.L.Wylie, who was born on July 5th 1851 at 67 Albany Street, Camden Town, London.  He was the elder of two sons of a prosperous minor-genre painter, French-born English William Morrison Wyllie, who at the time of the birth of his son, was living in London.  His younger brother Charles William Wylie was also a talented painter.  William Jnr. received a first-class artistic education, studying firstly at the Heatherley School of Fine Art, and then in 1866, when he was aged fifteen, at the Royal Academy Schools, where he studied under some of the great artists of the time like Edwin Landseer, John Everett Millais and Frederic Leighton.

Dawn After a Storm by W.L.Wylie (1869)

His artistic talent showed through with his 1869 painting entitled Dawn After a Storm which won him the Turner Gold Medal. He was just eighteen years old.

Landing the Catch, Portel Sands by W.L. Wylie (1875)

William Wylie submitted his painting Landing the Catch, Portel Sands, in 1875.  Wylie who had success at submitting his work to the Royal Academy’s Exhibitions the previous years was horrified and disillusioned  to have his work rejected by the Exhibition jurists.  It was the first time this had happened to him in seven years.  He swore that he would give up painting and go off to sea.

  His parents once had a summer home at Wimereux, a coastal town just north of Boulogne and just to the south was Portel Sands which is depicted in his painting.  This painting depicts fishermen landing their catch on the beach at low tide.  The scene is lit up by the blazing sun overhead.

Shrimpers Hauling to Windward by W.L. Wylie

Wylie’s painting entitled Shrimpers Hauling to Windward is a small work (58 x 71 cms) and is looked upon as one of Wylie’s masterpieces of maritime art.  It appeared at the Royal Academy in 1905.  It is a work full of movement, air, and light. It depicts a sea reach, which is the last bit of river before it meets the sea.  To the right we see the submerged mud bank. The last of the shrimper fleet heads towards land, hard on the starboard tack in the channel, battling against both wind and the current, whilst the leading boats have already made it to the inner harbour and protection against the elements. 

The Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805 by W.L. Wylie

Wylie’s small painting featuring the Shrimpers which was shown at the Royal Academy in 1905, was overshadowed by another of Wyllie’s works, the monumental (148 x 272 cms) painting of Trafalgar on the centenary of the battle. The art press and critics alike stated that this large maritime depiction ‘stole the show’.

A Walk in the Country by John Ritchie (1863)

Little is known about the artist who created the painting above, simply entitled A Day in the Country.  The artist is John Ritchie and we know he is Scottish and was born around 1821.  The difficulty in unearthing facts about his life is strange as he did exhibit his work at such hallowed establishments as the Scottish Academy, Liverpool Academy and the Royal Academy in London.  He began to exhibit his work in 1840 when he was nineteen years old.  One of the artists who influenced Ritchie was John Brett (see earlier painting in Part 1).  His painting, A Day in the Country, was exhibited at the Liverpool Academy in 1863 and depicts a farmer taking a stroll on his land and checking on the forestry management with, in the middle-ground, some of his workers hauling away a felled tree. In the foreground we see the exposed roots of a large old oak tree.  Rabbits have nibbled at the roots and the bark and have burrowed under the sandy bank beneath the tree.  Besides checking on the tree-felling he is carrying a shotgun and is also hunting the rabbits that are damaging his trees.  To the left we see one of his men collecting the body of a rabbit his boss has killed.

Pensive by Sir George Clausen (1895)

The painting above is by George Clausen, an artist I have dedicated two blogs to back in 2015. This work is his beautiful and sensitive portrait of a young woman which he completed in 1895 and originally it was entitled Pensive but later was given the name Cinderella on the behest of David Croal Thomson, an Edinburgh-born art dealer and critic, who was based mainly in London, managing the London branch of the prestigious Goupil Gallery. Thomson advised Clausen that such a change of name would add a touch of romanticism to the work.  The painting was shown at the New Gallery in 1896 and the critic for the Pall Mall Gazette praised the work saying that Clausen had captured a creature exquisitely tender in nature.  The girl who modelled for the painting was Lizzie Deller a girl from Widdington, Essex.

Although the exhibition at the Maas Gallery has finished by the time you read these two blogs, I just wanted to remind you of the benefits one gets when you call in and look around these private “selling” galleries.