Walter Frederick Osborne.

Walter Frederick Osborne

My featured artist today is Walter Frederick Osborne, the Irish impressionist and post-impressionist landscape and portrait painter. He was born on June 17th, 1859 at 5 Castlewood Avenue in Rathmines, an inner suburb on the southside of Dublin, about 3 kilometres south of the city centre. He had two brothers and a sister, Violet. He was the second of three sons of Anne Jane Woods and her husband, William Osborne, an acknowledged animal painter whose speciality was portraits of horses and dogs owned by wealthy landowners. Walter Frederick Osborne, known as Frederick Osborne for the first twenty-five years of his life, attended the local school at Rathmines.

A Glade in the Phoenix Park by Walter Frederick Osborne (1880 )

Having realised that money could be made from painting, Frederick wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father and become an artist. So, once he had completed his schooling in 1876, seventeen-year-old Frederick, enrolled on an art course at the Royal Hibernian Academy School. Osborne made an impact straight away, exhibiting in the RHA annual show in his first year. He won numerous medals and prizes including the Albert prize in 1880 with his painting, A Glade in the Phoenix Park.

In 1881 he attended Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten van Antwerpen (Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp), where one of his tutors was the Belgian painter Michael Charles Verlat. Whilst studying there he won the Royal Dublin Society Taylor Art Award in 1881 and 1882, which awarded him an annual bursary. This was the highest student honour in Ireland of the time and given annually to a graduate of an Irish art college or an Irish art student graduating from an art college abroad to assist them with the development of their career as a visual artist.

A Flemish Farmstead by Walter Frederick Osborne (1882)

Osborne sent back to the Royal Hibernian Academy a number of paintings he completed whilst attending the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. One was his 1882 work, A Flemish Farmstead, and this exhibited by the Academy the following year, just after Osborne had been elected an Associate Member. From his earliest days, Osborne was interested in painting farmyards such as the one above. His scenes usually included one or two figures. However, this work is slightly subtler for he merely suggests that the farmyard is a working one by including the jacket that hangs on the open door and the clogs that stand against the wall. Being a great believer that detail is important, he has even depicted the clogs standing on end, suggesting that they are that way so as to allow them to drain after a wet morning in the fields.

Apple Gathering by Walter Frederick Osborne (1883)

He completed his studies in Antwerp in 1883 and travelled to the Breton artists’ colony at Quimperlé. Osborne soon realised that the most noteworthy modern painters were painting en plein air and were using ordinary local people as their models and the Breton fishing villages had a plethora of such willing characters. It was at Quimperlé that he completed his famous Apple Gathering painting which is now housed in the National Gallery of Ireland. The painting depicts a young girl dressed in a peasant costume holding a long stick, busily shaking branches of an apple tree to loosen the ripe fruit. Looking behind her, we see another young girl picking up the fallen apples which are scattered around the orchard. In the background we see the church of Quimperlé which was the subject of many of the artists residing at the town’s artist colony. The painting can now be found in the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin.

Estuary at Walberswick by Walter Frederick Osborne (c.1885)

Walter Osborne along with two fellow Irish artists, who were part of the Quimperlé artist’s colony, Drogedha-born Nathaniel Hill and Galway-born Augustus Nicholas Burke eventually left the Breton town and returned to England and headed for another artist’s colony at the Suffolk coastal village of Walberswick, where one of the artists was Philip Wilson Steer, who had studied at the École des Beaux Arts under Alexandre Cabanel, during which time he became a follower of the Impressionist school. Steer would become a leading figure in the Impressionist movement in Britain.

Feeding the Chickens by Walter Frederick Osborne (1885)

At the start of 1884, Walter Osborne’s early paintings often featured young children accompanied by animals, often their pets. One of his most famous works of this genre came about whilst Walter Osborne along with his fellow young artists Nathaniel Hill and Edward Stott, another former École des Beaux Arts student, travelled through the English countryside, on sketching trips. That October, the trio had arrived at North Littleton, near Evesham, Worcestershire and the painting which evolved from his visit here was the work entitled Feeding the Chickens. The oil on canvas painting measured 36 x 28 inches (92 x 71cms). In the work, we see a young but confident girl, with her earnest expression, scattering corn for the chickens. She is Bessie Osborne, (no relation to the artist), the daughter or maybe a servant in the substantial house which we see in the background. In Osborne’s preparatory sketch for this work, there was another figure, a gardener with his wheelbarrow, but he was not transferred to the finished painting. Presumably Osborne thought his inclusion would detract from the main focus of the work, the girl.

The Irish art historian Jeanne Sheehy’s biography of Osborne quotes from his letter to his father, dated October 12th, 1884, about the details of the work. In a letter to his father he set the scene for the painting:

“…’The weather, I am sorry to say has been bitterly cold the last week, so much so that my model nearly fainted and I had to send her home … It will probably seem funny to you all that my model’s name should be Bessie Osborne …”

The young girl is wearing an embroidered bonnet and holding a basket of grain, surrounded by a brood of hens. A further insight into the making of this painting can be found in the letter:

“…Now I am pretty far advanced on a kit-kat of a girl in a sort of farmyard, a rough sketch on the opposite page will indicate the composition. The figure of the girl which is a little over two feet high is coming towards finish, but the immediate foreground with poultry is merely sketched in as yet. The fowl are very troublesome, and I have made some sketches but will have to do a lot more as they form rather an important part of the composition…”

Also, in the letter to his father Walter asks him to look through his sketches he had done whilst at Quimperlé and find any of chickens which may help with this painting.

Winter Work by George Clausen (1883)

During his travels around the English countryside, Rural Naturalism became his favoured genre. He had been influenced by the works of the French painter, Jules Bastien-Lepage, whose works were dominating the Paris Salon and it was this type of work which Osborne preferred to the themes from history or mythology which were taught in the Academies of Europe. Another influence on Osborne was another Naturalist painter, the English artist George Clausen.

The Return Of The Flock by Walter Frederick Osborne (1885)

From 1883 and for the next fifteen years Osborne spent the summers wandering around the South of England often visiting the area of the beautiful Berkshire Downs or the area around the Hampshire market town of Romsey or the Suffolk coastal villages. Once asked why he did not spend his summers in Ireland he said that it was cheaper to live in England and it rained less which was important as he wanted to paint en plein air. Osborne was not looking for spectacular landscape which he could have found in the West of Ireland, the Lake District or Scotland. His preference was for the sedate beauty of rural villages with their well-stocked picturesque cottage gardens, often his paintings would include farmyard animals such as sheep. Like the French Impressionists, Osborne was fascinated by the effect of light and how it changes during every hour of the day.

Portrait of Mrs Chadwyck-Healey and her Daughter by Walter Frederick Osborne (1900)

Walter Osborne was elected an associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1883 and became a full member in 1886. Although Osborne spent the summers travelling around the southern English countryside he would return to the family home in Dublin during the winter months.  In 1886, following his election to the Royal Hibernian Academy he received many commissions for portraits and from 1892 onwards, Osborne’s main output changed from landscape work to portraiture. These portraiture commissions were essential to Osborne for his financial survival and that of his parents who relied heavily upon him. Osborne’s permanent move to Dublin in 1892 was prompted by the death of his sister Violet whose newly-born baby was given into the care of Osborne’s aged parents and he had to take on the task of looking after her daughter. His portraiture and landscape works had become so popular and because he received more and more commissions he decided that working from home was not feasible and so acquired his own studio in St Stephens Green in 1895.

Mrs. Noel Guinness And Her Daughter Margaret by Walter Frederick Osborne (1900)

One of his best-known portraits was entitled Mrs Noel Guinness and her Daughter Margaret and this was exhibited at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900 and which received the bronze medal. The painting depicts Mary Guinness (née Stokes), the wife of Richard Noel Guinness, and her four-year-old daughter Margaret.

The Old Fountain, Madrid by Walter Frederick Osborne (1895)

In 1895 he and his friend, the art historian and writer, Walter Armstrong, toured around Spain, where Walter completed a number of watercolour drawings and oil sketches. The following year the two men travelled to Holland where he completed a number of Amsterdam canal scenes.

Dublin Streets a Vendor of Book by Walter Frederick Osborne (1889)

During this time Walter Osborne put together a series of paintings depicting Dublin street scenes, which some time later were exhibited at the Royal Academy. Osborne made pencil sketches and took photographs of the street scenes and then completed the series in oils in his studio. Probably the most famous of the paintings in this series was Dublin Streets: A Vendor of Books which he completed in 1898.  The painting depicts a bookseller’s stall, set up on Eden Quay, looking eastwards towards the O’Connell Bridge. We see a mother leaning against the wall holding a very young child in her arms. She has a fatigued and nervous look about her. By her side, on the floor, there is a basket of daffodils. What is her story? Is she in any way connected to the bare-footed girl who has moved towards the customers who are perusing the books at the vendor’s stall? The little girl has a small bunch of daffodils in her hand which she is holding up to the customers. She has been sent by the lady, maybe her mother, to try and get a few pence for the flowers. It is a painting full of movement from the horse drawn carriages we see crossing the bridge to the barge making its way down the River Liffey about to pass under the bridge. These realistic paintings of street life in Dublin, although in great demand now and a good historical record of the times past, were not as successful then as his portraiture.

Greystones by Walter Frederick Osborne (1884)

Osborne did not forsake his landscape work completely and one his Impressionist-style works, completed around 1898, was entitled Greystones. It is a somewhat moody study 0f the quayside of Greystones, a small coastal fishing village in County Wicklow. In the painting we see a number of fishing boats tied up to the harbour quayside, some of which have the sails unfurled. In the background there are a number of cottages. His use of muted colours and tones such as his mauves, pinks, pale greys and browns induce a sense of soft light. Look how Osborne has cleverly depicted the diffused sunlight on the gable ends of the cottages and again with the way he has represented it with the silvery flickering of the water with its reflections.

Tea In The Garden by Walter Frederick Osborne (1902)

In 1900 Osborne was offered a Knighthood in recognition of his services to art and his distinction as a painter, but he refused the honour. His mother became ill in the early 1900s, and Walter spent long periods looking after her. In 1902 he started to paint what was to be his last picture, Tea in the Garden, which remained unfinished at the time of his death. It was a beautiful work, a juxtaposition of his favoured Impressionism and Naturalism.

Self-portrait by Walter Frederick Osborne

In 1903, after a strenuous time gardening, he became ill, which he tried to ignore but which developed into double pneumonia. He died aged forty-three, at the family home in Castlewood Avenue, Rathmines, Dublin, on April 24th 1903, and was buried in Mount Jerome cemetery. Walter Frederick Osborne never married and left considerable savings behind him. He was one of the most sought after and talented Irish artists of his time.

The portraiture of Giovanni Battista Moroni

Last week, I went to the Royal Academy which was staging three very different exhibitions.   Each one had its supporters and it was interesting to walk through each and compare the works on display.   I know that is somewhat foolhardy as one would never contemplate and compare the athletic prowess of a baseball star with a soccer star or a football star with and ice hockey player.  Each has a skill of their own and one cannot make a comparison across different sports so I suppose I should not contrast the works of Allen Jones with Anselm Keifer or Giovanni Moroni.  All are so different and it is up to one’s individual taste as to what  one believes is the most beautiful and the most eye-catching.

For me, the choice was a no-brainer.  I have always liked paintings from the 16th and 17th century and I have always admired the genre of portraiture and so my favourite, by far, was the Giovanni Battista Moroni exhibition which is on at the Sackler Gallery until January 25th.  In my next two blogs, I would like to whet your appetite by looking at the life and some of the works of art of one of the greatest Italian portraitists of the sixteenth century and by doing so try and persuade you to visit the wonderful exhibition.

Giovanni Battista Moroni was the son of architect Francesco Moroni and Maddalena di Vitale Brigati.  He was born around 1522 in the Venetian Lombardy region of northern Italy, in the commune of Albino, in the province of Bergamo.  It was a time close to the end of the Italian Renaissance period which had started back in the fourteenth century.  It was an exciting period of cultural change which brought about new styles of art, music, literature, and architecture.  This was a time designated as the Cinquecento also known as High Renaissance period and it was during this time that a secular theme started to manifest itself in the subject for paintings.  Moroni was apprenticed to Alessandro Bonvicino more commonly known as Il Moretto da Brescia who had a studio in Trento which at the time hosted the great meeting of Catholic clergy at the Council of Trent between 1545 and 1563.  For Roman Catholicism, this was It was the most important ecumenical council which had been called to come up with ideas to counter the Protestant Reformation.

The Tailor by Giovanni Moroni (c.1570)
The Tailor by Giovanni Moroni (c.1570)

In this first blog about Moroni I want to concentrate on his portraiture and I have chosen four of my favourite works from the exhibition.  One of his most famous works and considered to be one of the masterpieces of sixteenth century portraiture, is entitled Il Tagliapanni (Portrait of a Tailor), which he completed around 1570.  What is mystifying about this portrait is the fact that the title of the work although telling us this is a portrait of an artisan the costume of the man before us would seem to have aristocratic connotations.   The setting for the portrait is a bare room, which is not well illuminated and which contrasts with the way Moroni has illuminated the head of the tailor form a light source coming from the left of the painting.  The lack of furnishings allows us to concentrate on the subject of the painting.  The figure, who stands by his cutting bench, is the tailor.   He is wearing doublet and hose.  He has a cream fustian jacket and wears full red breeches, which almost, but not quite, hides a similar coloured codpiece.  The colour of the clothing worn by the tailor was a change from Moroni’s normal male portraits as he had, as a rule, had his sitters dress in all-black clothing which was the Spanish fashion-style of male sitters.  Around his waist is a sword belt – another hint of aristocracy.  He looks out at us pensively.  Maybe he just considering carefully what he is about to do.  He has a pair of scissors in his right hand, on the small finger of which is a gold ring set with a ruby.  His left hand spreads out a piece of black cloth which he is about to cut. One can just make out the faint white lines on the cloth which are a guide to the pattern which he is about to cut out.  This is not an impoverished tradesman and much speculation has been made as to who is this man.  Because of the richness of his clothes, some art historians, like Francesco Rossi in his 1991 book Il Moroni, would have us believe that he was an aristocrat who has turned to selling fabrics.  Others believe that not to be the case.  However the manner which the tailor is depicted gives one a distinct impression that the tailor was financially secure.    In the Grazietta Butazzi a leading authority on the history of fashion an article appeared in the 2005 edition on men’s fashion between fifteenth and seventeenth centuries and they were adamant that the style of costume on Moroni’s tailor was not out of place with his professional status as a tailor and that it was similar to garments seen on prints of the time, which depicted men in his trade.

Gian Gerolamo Albani by Giovanni Moroni (1568-70)
Gian Gerolamo Albani by Giovanni Moroni (1568-70)

The next portrait by Moroni, which I am featuring, is of Gian Gerolamo Albani and with it comes an amusing anecdote.  Albani was a powerful politician and military man in the Lombardy Veneto region.   In 1563 he fell from grace and was exiled for five years on the Adriatic isle of Hvar and banished from Veneto .   Gian Gerolamo Albani had had to endure this fall from power following his implication in the murder by Albani’s son of a family member of the rival Brembati family, Achille Brembati.  From Hvar Gian Girolamo moved to Rome and in 1570, at the age of sixty-one, was made a cardinal in the Catholic Church by Pope Pius V. Pope Pius V, who was born Antonio Ghislieri, and served his time in the Catholic Church as an inquisitor, was a friend of Gian Battista Albani and it was Albani that had once saved the life of the future pope.

Moroni favoured his sitters to adopt a three-quarter style profile but in this portrait of Albani he sits directly facing the viewer.   There is an aura of power about this man before us.  He sits upright in a Dantesca chair, book in hand.  He wears a luxurious black robe which is lined with lynx fur, which can also be seen appearing from slashes around the shoulders and cuffs.  This “slash and puff” fashion style will again be seen in the portrait of his daughter, Lucia.  Around his neck, adding an even more prestigious appearance is a gold chain on which hangs the lion of St. Mark, which alludes to Albani being a member of the Knights of the Order of St. Mark, an honorific Order of Chivalry title conferred on him by Andrea Gritti, who was at the time, Doge of the Republic of Venice.  The winged Lion passant  holding a drawn sword in one paw and an open book with the motto Pax tibi, Marce Evangelista meus (Peace to you, Mark, my Evangelist) in the other.  On the reverse there was a portrait of the Doge and St Mark.

And so to the anecdote I mentioned about this portrait.  The seventeenth century Italian art biographer and painter, Carlo Ridolfi, wrote about the origin of this portrait in his 1648 book Le Maraviglie dell’arte: ovvero Le vite degli ’illustri pittori veneti, e dello sato, (The Marvels of art: namely The Lives of illustrious Venetian painters, and the state):

“…Gian Geralamo Albani, a gentleman from Bergamo, a member of the Albani family, finding himself in Venice, sought Titian out to have his portrait painted.  He was asked from which area he came and let it be known that he was from Bergamo.  ‘What’ replied Titian, ‘do you think you will get a better portrait from my hands than you would get in Bergamo from your Moroni?  Best leave this work to him, for it will be more valuable and more distinctive than mine’.  Sig. Albani then returned to Bergamo and told the story to Moroni who produced this stupendous portrait now belonging to Sig. Giuseppe Albani…”

Portrait of Lucia Albani Avogadro ('La Dama in Rosso') by Giocvanni Battista Moroni (c.1555-60)
Portrait of Lucia Albani Avogadro (‘La Dama in Rosso’) by Giocvanni Battista Moroni (c.1555-60)

Whether the story is true or false I will let you decide but Gian Albani must have been already aware of Moroni and his skills as a portraitist as some ten years earlier, Moroni completed a female portrait entitled Portrait of Lucia Albani Avogadro (‘La Dama in Rosso’)She was one of Gian Albani’s daughters.  This is an exquisite work and can now be seen at the National Gallery in London.  The sitter for this work is Lucia Albani  Avogadro an Italian poet.  Lucia was one of seven children of Gian Gerolamo Albani, the head of the powerful Albani family of Bergamo.  This is not just a painting of a beautiful woman but a depiction of and an insight into of the fashion of the time.  Lucia Albani married Faustino Avogadro , her third cousin, when she was sixteen years old.  Her husband was a member of the powerful aristocratic family from Brescia.

She is depicted in three quarter profile seated on a Dantesca chair.  She wears a glittering red brocade dress with an open bodice which was popular in the 1550’s.  The silk was almost certainly given its exquisite colour by the use of the scales of the female cochineal insect from which the carminic acid is derived and which yields shades of red such as crimson and scarlet.   Once again we see the fashionable puff and slash style on the dress around the shoulders and upper chest .  This fashion style was popular with both men and women.  Portraits of Henry VIII often showed him wearing clothes which had the “puff and slash” stylisation.   The “puff and slash” effect was achieved by cutting slashes in the garment and pulling puffs of the undergarments through those slashes.

The lady sits upright  on the chair.  In her left hand is a fan which rests on her lap.  She is bedecked with expensive jewellery, including bracelets with agates, a ring on the finger of each hand, both set with precious stones.  Around her neck is a single strand of pearls which accompany a set of pearl earrings.  Her hair is swept to the back of her head in a most intricate fashion and is held in place by a gold chain with cabochon emeralds. Lucia was not just renowned for her beauty but for her literary skill as a poet but this portrait bears no reference to her literary work, it is simply a depiction of a beautiful lady and alludes to her aristocratic status.

Portrait of Faustino Avogadro by Giovanni Battista Moroni (c.1555-60)
Portrait of Faustino Avogadro by Giovanni Battista Moroni (c.1555-60)

My fourth and final offering of portraiture by Moroni has a connection to the lady in the previous work.  The work is entitled Portrait of Faustino Avogadro and is sometimes referred to as The Knight with the Wounded Foot or A Knight with his Jousting Helmet.   Giovanni Battista Moroni completed the portrait somewhere between 1555 and 1560 and is currently housed in the National Gallery in London.  Avogadro stands in front of an old wall, the base of which is made of marble.  There is an element of decay about this backdrop with green vegetation growing out of the cracks in the wall and brown streaks of damp running down across the marble

Faustino is predominately dressed in black.  It is a familiar style of the mid 1500’s.  He wears a high-collared white shirt and short puffed black pantaloons.  Over his shirt we see a torp-coloured jacket and over this, lying open, is a gambeson or arming doublet.  This is a padded jacket which was worn as part of protective armour.  It could be worn separately, or combined with chain mail or plate armour. The garment was made using a sewing technique known as quilting and was made of linen or wool.  In battle, a thrust of the enemy’s sword could penetrate the rings of the chain mail and this often drove the damaged rings deep into the wound. A lightly padded garment, such as the gambeson worn under the chain mail reduced the risk of these types of injuries.

Avogadro’s right hand touches the hilt of his long sword whilst he rests his left arm on his lavishly crested helmet which is adorned with an ostrich feather.  Around him are pieces of armour scattered on the floor, the light glinting on the highly polished surface of the steel pieces.  Besides this being a portrait of an aristocratic gentleman it is a depiction which is testament to his military rank and his involvement in tournament combat.  If one looks closely at his left knee one can see a sort of supporting brace on it which is attached to his left foot.  Some art historians believe this contraption was the result of an injury; hence the painting’s “sub-title” The Knight with the Wounded Foot.  However, Cecil Gould, a British art historian and curator, who specialised in Renaissance painting and once a Keeper and was at one time Deputy Director of London’s National Gallery, wrote in his 1975 National Gallery Catalogues: The Sixteenth Century Italian Schools that the brace we see in the portrait was more likely to be present to help remedy a congenital defect of the ligaments of the left ankle.  One would have thought that such a cumbersome contraption would have put paid to Avogadro’s taking part in tournaments, but apparently not.

Avogadro, like his father-in-law was involved in the deadly feud between the Albani and Brembati families with his servant being sentenced to death for his part in the murder of Count Achille Brembati in 1563.   Following this, Avogadro and his wife Lucia Albani fled their Bergamo home and went into exile in Ferrara to escape the aftermath and consequences of the murder.  A year later Faustino was dead.  It was reported that he fell down a well when he was drunk.  Fell or pushed?  One will never know for sure.  Four years later in 1568, his widow Lucia died, aged 34

In my next blog I will look at some of the religious paintings of Giovanni Battista Moroni.

Disappointed Love by Francis Danby

Disappointed Love by Francis Danby (1821)

Francis Danby was an English painter, born in 1793, in a small village near Waterford, Ireland, where his father owned a farm.  When he was fourteen years of age his father died and he along with his mother and twin brother moved to Dublin.  Whilst living in Dublin, Francis Danby enrolled at the Royal Dublin Society’s Schools of Drawing where he received artistic training.  It was at this establishment that he met the renowned Irish landscape painter James Arthur O’Connor and it was through his mentorship that Danby developed a love of landscape painting. Danby also struck up a friendship with another fellow student, George Petrie, and they along with O’Connor left Dublin in 1813 and travelled to London.  By all accounts the trip had not been well planned financially and their funds soon ran out and they had to head back to Ireland, on foot, but on the way they stopped off in Bristol.  It was in this city that Danby managed to supplement his meagre worth by painting watercolours of the local scenes and selling them to the locals.  At the same time as selling some of his work, he kept back what he considered to be his best paintings and sent them to various London exhibitions.

The works of Francis Danby, which were shown at various London sites, received favourable reviews and were soon in great demand.  It was whilst still living in Bristol around 1818 that Danby joined an informal association of artists based around Bristol, which had been founded by the English genre painter, Edward Bird, known as the Bristol School or Bristol School of Artists.  In 1821, Danby had a painting of his first exhibited at the Royal Academy.  It was entitled Disappointed in Love and is My Daily Art Display’s featured work today.  In 1824 Danby left Bristol and moved to London.  It was around this time that Danby gave up his naturalistic and topographically accurate landscapes and moved towards poetic landscape painting.  Poetic landscapes gave one the geography and architecture of landscapes from a subjective point of view, using elements of myth, fantasy or the picturesque. Claude Lorrain is usually looked upon as the originator of this style and this style of painting culminated in the Romantic landscape of the 19th century.   A Poetic Landscape presents us with an imaginary place and for that reason the artists did not have to worry about topographical accuracy and it allowed them the opportunity to transform the characteristic features of, for example, Italian geography and architecture, and turn them into mythical or pastoral fantasy. This painting genre allowed artists to exaggerate the shape and height of mountains, delete or redesign buildings and objects, insert dramatically placed trees or human figures, and throw strongly contrasted lighting effects over it all. The public liked this style of landscape painting and did not care about the topographical veracity of what they saw.  People, at the time, preferred this style to the topographical landscape with its dryly objective recording of what was actually there.

Another artistic genre Danby began to draw on was the large biblical scenes such as his 1825 painting The Delivery of Israel,  which was exhibited at the Royal Academy and which led to him being elected an Associate Member of the Royal Academy.  In the next two decades Francis Danby produced many large biblical and apocalyptic paintings which were to rival his contemporary and renowned “high priest” of apocalyptic art, John Martin.

Francis Darby, already an Associate Member of the Royal Academy was put up for election in 1829 to become a Royal Academician.  When the votes were counted, he was devastated to find he had lost out by one vote to John Constable,  who was elected instead of him.  This year, 1829, was an annus horriblis for Danby as this was also the year that his marriage to his wife Hannah failed and he took himself a mistress.  Hannah went off with another artist Paul Falconer Poole who had spent some time in the Danby household.  London Society was scandalised by the goings-on at Danby’s household and in 1830 he went into self-imposed exile in Paris along with his mistress.  From 1831 to 1836 Danby worked out of Geneva reverting back to his topographical watercolour landscape art work.

The Deluge by Francis Danby

In 1837 he returned to Paris and a year later went back to living in London.  It was in that year he produced his famous work, The Deluge, which re-established his reputation amongst the art community.  This massive canvas, measuring 2.85m x 4.52m, depicted an area of harsh and violent weather and writhing, diminutive bodies trying to save themselves from the stormy waters.  The painting put Danby briefly back in the limelight.  However for Danby,  life as an artist was becoming too much for him and in 1847, aged 54, he left London and went to live in Exmouth, Devon.

Whilst living in Devon Danby still found time to paint concentrating on landscapes and seascapes but he also took up boatbuilding.  Francis Danby died in Exmouth, in 1861, aged 67.  To the end of his life Danby constantly had money problems and was embittered that he never gained the recognition he deserved from the Royal Academy and was never elected as a Royal Academician.  The final straw came two days before he died when he learnt that his ex-wife’s husband, Paul Falconer Poole had been elected a Royal Academician !

My Daily Art Display painting for today is by Francis Danby which he completed in 1821 and is entitled Disappointed Love.  The painting was the first painting Francis Danby exhibited at the Royal Academy, and it became one of his best-known works. Before us, we see a heartbroken young woman who has just been jilted.  Her hands cover her face as she sits weeping on the bank of a  lily pond surrounded by dark and murky woodland.  The occasional small white flowers, dotted around, struggle to lift the dark green and browns of the undergrowth.  This gloomy undergrowth mirrors the depressed mind of the young girl.   Her long dark tresses hang down over her white dress.   On the ground beside her we see her discarded bonnet, her scarlet shawl , a miniature portrait of her lover and other letters which she has not yet destroyed.    Her sad figure dressed in white is reflected in the water and in some way it seems that the water is drawing her to it so that she can end her life and her misery, in an Ophelia-like fashion.  Floating on the surface of the pond are pieces of a letter which she has torn up and discarded.  Eric Adams wrote a biography in 1973 on Francis Danby entitled Francis Danby: varieties of poetic landscape and he believes the setting for the painting was on the banks of the River Frome on the outskirts of Bristol and that the model for the painting was a model at the Bristol Artists newly founded Life Academy.  There was a lot of criticism of the painting, not so much for the poetical nature of the work but for its technical faults, in particular the lack of proportion of the plants in the foreground.

When the painting was put forward to the Royal Academy jurists to see if it should be allowed in to the 1821 Exhibition it was not wholly loved.  An account of the jurist’s comments on seeing Danby’s painting was reported some twelve years later as:

“…An unknown artist about ten years ago sent a very badly painted picture for the exhibition.  The committee laughed, but were struck by “something” in it and gave it admission.  The subject was this.  It was a queer-coloured landscape and a strange doldrum figure of a girl was seated on a bank, leaning over a dingy duck-weed pool.  Over the stagnant smeary green, lay scattered the fragments of a letter she had torn to pieces, and she seemed considering whether to plump herself in upon it.  Now in this case, the Academicians judged by the same feelings that influence the public.  There was more “touching” invention in that than in the nine-tenth of the best pictures exhibited there the last we do not know how many years.  The artist is now eminent…”

To my mind it is a beautiful painting, full of pathos, and one cannot but feel sympathy for the young girl.  It was for this reason that I was surprised to read an anecdote about this painting and the depiction of the girl.  Apparently the Prime Minister at the time, Lord Palmerston, was being shown the painting by its owner, the wealthy Yorkshire cloth manufacturer, John Sheepshanks and commented that although he was impressed by the deep gloom of the scene, it was a shame that the girl was so ugly.  Sheepshanks replied:

“..Yes, one feels that the sooner she drowns herself the better…”

How unkind !

This painting along with the rest of his outstanding art collection was presented to the Victoria & Albert Museum

River Landscape with Apollo and the Cumaean Sibyl by Salvator Rosa

River Landscape with Apollo and the Cumaen Sibyl by Salvator Rosa (c.1655)

My featured artist today is the 17th century Italian Baroque painter Salvator Rosa.  He was born in 1615 in the small hill town of Arenella above the outskirts of Naples.  His father Vito Antonio was a land surveyor and had great ambitions for his son wanting him to become either a lawyer or take holy orders in the church and become a priest.  With this in mind he decided that his son should be afforded the best education and had him enter the convent of the Somaschi Fathers, a holy order of priests and brothers.  As we have seen in many biographies of artists, what the parents want for their children often differs from what the children themselves want and so it was the case for Salvator Rosa.  During his studies he had developed a love of art and with the support of his maternal uncle, Paolo Greco, he secretly began to learn to paint.  Rosa began his artistic training in Naples, under the tutelage of his future brother-in-law, Francesco Francanzano, who had trained under the influential Spanish painter, Jusepe de Ribera.  It is also believed that after this initial training, Rosa trained with the Naples painter, Aniello Falcone, who was also at one time apprenticed to Ribera.  Rosa greatly admired the works of Ribera and was influenced by them.

His father died when he was seventeen years old and, as he had been the breadwinner to Rosa’s large family, his mother struggled to feed her children let alone financially support her son Salvator with his artistic ambitions.  After his father’s death, Salvator Rosa continued to work as an apprentice with Falcone until 1634 when he relocated to Rome where he stayed for two years before returning home.

In 1638, aged 23 he went back to Rome where he was given accommodation by the Bishop of Viterbo, Francesco Brancaccio who treated him as his protégé and received commissions from the Catholic Church.  It was whilst in Rome that Rosa further developed his multi-talented skills, not just as an artist but as a musician, a writer and a comic actor.  He founded a company of actors in which he regularly participated.   He wrote and often acted in his own satirical plays, often political in nature and often lampooned the wealthy and powerful, and it was his devilish satire which gained him the reputation of a rebel, pitting himself against these influential people.  However his viperish-tongued satires made him some powerful enemies including Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the famous and powerful architect and who was at that time, the most powerful artist in Rome.  He, like Rosa, was also an amateur playwright and it was during the Carnival in 1639 that Rosa ridiculed Bernini’s plays and his stature as a playwright.  Eventually Rosa had made too many enemies in the Italian capital and decided it was just too dangerous to remain there.

From Rome he travelled to Florence where he was to remain for the next eight years.   One of his most influential Florentine patrons was Cardinal Giancarlo de’ Medici, himself a great lover and supporter of the Arts. Rosa worked for the Cardinal at his palace but was still allowed the freedom to paint his own landscapes and would go off and spend the summers in the Tuscan countryside around Monterufoli and Barbiano.    It was whilst living in Florence that Rosa did some work for Giovanni Carlo who was at the centre of the literary and theatrical life of Florence and Rosa soon became part of Carlo’s circle of friends.  Rosa used his own house as a meeting place for local writers, musicians and artists and it became known as the Accademia dei Percossi, or Academy of the Stricken.

He left Florence in 1646 being unhappy with the ever increasing restrictions put on him and his artistic and literary work by the Medici court  He went first back to Naples where he remained for three years before returning to Rome in 1649  where he believed his writings and paintings would win him even greater fame.  One of the problems Salvator Rosa had was his ever tempestuous relationship with his patrons and their demands.  He often refused to paint on commission or to agree a price beforehand.  He rejected interference from his patrons in his choice of subject.  In Francis Haskell’s book entitled, Patrons and Painters: Study in the Relations Between Italian Art and Society in the Age of the Baroque, he quotes from a letter Rosa wrote to one of his patrons, Antonio Ruffo, explaining his thoughts on his art and commissions:

“…I do not paint to enrich myself but purely for my own satisfaction.  I must allow myself to be carried away by the transports of enthusiasm and use my brushes only when I feel myself rapt…”

The 17th century Florentine art historian Filippo Baldinucci could not believe Rosa’s attitude to his patrons and wrote:

“…I can find few, in fact, I cannot find any, artists either before or after him or among his contemporaries, who can be said to have maintained the status of art as high as he did… No one could ever make him agree a fixed price before a picture was finished and he used to give a very interesting reason for this: he could not instruct his brush to produce paintings worth a particular sum but, when they were completed, he would appraise them on their merits and would then leave it to his friend’s judgement to take them or leave them….”

In his later years he spent much time on satirical portraiture, history paintings and works of art featuring tales from mythology.  In 1672 he contracted dropsy and died six months later.  Whilst on his deathbed he married Lucrezia, his mistress of thirty years, who had borne him two sons.   He died in March 1673 just a few months short of his fifty-eighth birthday.  After his father’s death forty years earlier Rosa had struggled financially but at the time of his death he had accumulated a moderate fortune.

Landscape painting had been regarded as a relatively lesser genre of painting in Italy at the time. But two French artists based in Rome, Claude Lorraine, who Rosa had befriended, and Nicholas Poussin, had done much to raise its status by setting scenes drawn from classical myth or biblical legend in grand Arcadian landscapes inspired by the nearby countryside. Rosa continued their tradition but with one subtle difference.  His landscape scenes depicted scenes of stormy desolation rather than calm pastoral beauty scenes of Claude and Poussin.  For My Daily Art Display today I am going to look at a painting by Salvator Rosa, which is a landscape but based on Roman mythology and Ovid’s book Metamorphoses.  It is the story of Apollo (often known as Phoebus) and the Cumaean Sibyl.   Cumae, which was the location of Italy’s earliest Greek colony, is on the Gulf of Gaeta near Naples and this location was probably known to Rosa.  The basis of the painting harks back to a conversation Aeneas had with the Cumaean Sibyl, who was a guide to the underworld of Hades, the entrance to which was the volcanic crater of Avernus.  Aeneas wanted to enter the underworld in order to visit his dead father Anchises.  Aeneas, with the help of his guide, the Cumaean Sibyl, found the aged ghost of his father.  It was at this time that the Sibyl recounted the story of her barter with the god Apollo, how she reneged on her promise and why she had become old and haggard:

“…“I am no goddess,” she replied, “nor is it well to honour any mortal head with tribute of the holy frankincense. And, that you may not err through ignorance, I tell you life eternal without end was offered to me, if I would but yield virginity to Phoebus for his love. And, while he hoped for this and in desire offered to bribe me for my virtue, first with gifts, he said, ‘Maiden of Cumae choose whatever you may wish, and you shall gain all that you wish.’ I pointed to a heap of dust collected there, and foolishly replied, `As many birthdays must be given to me as there are particles of sand.’  For I forgot to wish them days of changeless youth. He gave long life and offered youth besides, if I would grant his wish. This I refused, I live unwedded still. My happier time has fled away, now comes with tottering step infirm old age, which I shall long endure…”

The making of the bargain

Her mistake had been not only to ask Apollo for eternal life but also to ask for everlasting youth and beauty.  She aged over time.  Her body grew smaller with age and eventually was kept in an ampulla, a small nearly globular flask or bottle, with two handles.   Eventually only her voice was left.

The painting, entitled River Landscape with Apollo and the Cumaean Sibyl, depicting the meeting of the Cumaean Sibyl and Apollo, was painted by Salvator Rosa around 1655.  This is one of his finest works and highlights his ability as a landscape painter.  It is a desolate landscape scene.  Before us we have an isolated inlet of the sea, surrounded by towering cliffs of rough and rugged stone. On the right hand side of the painting we have a dark crag which towers against a stormy summer sunset.  From this jagged rock there are spindly trees sprouting from it at strange angles. In the foreground of the painting we see the god Apollo, seated on a tree stump with his lyre at his side, propositioning the beautiful Cumaean Sibyl, the turbaned woman who stands before him.    His hand is raised almost as if he is blessing the woman but it is his demonstrative act of granting her wish that she might live for as many years as there are grains of dust in the earth she holds out to him in her hand.   In return for the granting of her wish she would become his lover.   The Sibyl having been granted her wish, changes her mind, and refuses to surrender to Apollo’s advances.  Apollo cannot take back what he had given the young woman, but he was still able to punish the fickle girl, for, in devising her wish, she forgot to ask for eternal youth, and by refusing to grant her this he condemned her to grow older and older until at last she wasted away and only her voice was left.

The scene before us, depicted by Rosa, is purely imaginary, Rosa has included the cavern from which the Sibyl uttered her famous prophecies and which still exists in the dark, rocky area at the top right of the picture.  In the background we can see the inaccessible citadel perched high on a cliff.  The other characters we see in the scene are the nine muses, the goddesses of creative inspiration who were the handmaidens of Apollo. The painting is illuminated by the last rays of the setting sun light which light up the stormy sky in the distance. Look at how Rosa has managed to portray an aura of an ominous premonition.   The dramatic use of dark tones and chiaroscuro adds a feeling of foreboding about the scene.  The way he has depicted the wild landscape of bare rocks, splintered trees and a threatening stormy sky goes hand in hand with the story of retribution about to be dealt to the Cumaen Sibyl by Apollo for reneging on her promise to him.

Notwithstanding the darkness of the scene, it is still a beautiful landscape painting.  It is currently housed at the Wallace Collection, London.

The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife by Daniel Maclise

The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife by Daniel Maclise (1854)

Today I am moving from France to Ireland for my featured artist.  I will be looking at the life of the Irish painter Daniel Maclise and one of his historical paintings which will allow me to take you back in time to the twelfth century and regale you about a happening at that time in Irish History, but first let me tell you a little about the artist.

Daniel Maclise was born in Cork in 1806 into a poor but thrifty Scottish Presbyterian family. His father, after leaving the British Army, became a shoemaker. Maclise was educated locally in Cork and attended the Cork Institute where he studied drawing.   Whilst still a teenager  he was introduced to the art connoisseur, George Newenham, and the antiquarian and merchant, Richard Sainthill and it was through Sainthill that Maclise became interested in medals, coins, and aspects of heraldry and he would often illustrate coin catalogues for Sainthill.

In 1825, when he was nineteen years of age, Walter Scott the novelist and playwright visited a local bookstore in Cork and Maclise made a sketch of him which was subsequently lithographed and the copies sold.  This was to launch Maclise’s artistic career and enhanced his reputation as a portraitist.

Maclise travelled to London in 1827 and started to put together a portfolio of his work which he submitted to the Royal Academy as part of his submission to become a probationary student.  He was accepted into the R.A. the following year and stayed on for a further three years during which time he was awarded a silver medal and a gold medal for his historical painting, Choice of Hercules.  Whilst in London Maclise mixed in the company of men who appreciated his artistic skills and in particular Dr William Maginn, the founder and editor of Fraser’s Magazine, a general and literary journal for which Maclise contributed portraiture and caricatures.  He became a friend of Charles Dickens and contributed a number of book illustrations for his novels.

In 1848 he was back in London after a period of time spent in Ireland.  He presented a cartoon, sketch, and fresco specimens to the Fine-Art Committee of the Palace of Westminster for their official competition to paint frescoes in the House of Lords.   They liked his work and he was chosen to paint The Spirit of Chivalry for the House of Lords in 1848. One year later he painted a companion fresco entitled The Spirit of Justice.    His big break came along in 1858 when he was commissioned to paint two giant commemorative frescoes for the Royal Gallery of Westminster Palace, The Meeting of Wellington and Blücher and The Death of Nelson. These two mammoth works were to be the greatest achievement of Maclise’s public career but sadly they were also to cause the deterioration of his health.   The two works took Maclise seven years to complete and he worked tirelessly on completing them on time.   The passionate and concentrated effort which he put into these two great historic works affected him badly.   He would shut himself away and shun his erstwhile friends.  The Royal Academy even offered him the Presidency in 1865 but he declined the invitation.  His health declined rapidly and in 1870, aged 64, he died of acute pneumonia.

My Daily Art Display’s featured painting today by Daniel Maclise is entitled The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife and was completed in 1854.  I suppose the first thing you need to know is who are these two characters, Strongbow and Aoife, and why are they the centre of attention in the painting.

Strongbow was the nickname given to Richard de Clare the 2nd Earl of Pembroke who was born in Tonbridge, Kent in 1130.  He was a Cambro-Norman knight, that is to say, he was a descendent of the Norman knights who had eventually settled in southern Wales after the 1066 Norman conquest of England by William the Conqueror.  He had become the Earl of Pembroke on the death of his father in 1848 and had lands around Pembroke.

However fate was to take a hand in his destiny.   King Henry I of England died in 1135 and his only surviving offspring was his daughter Matilda, who at the time was pregnant in Normandy with her third child.  This gave her cousin Stephen of Blois, grandson of William the Conqueror, the chance he needed to usurp the English throne and he became King Stephen I of England and ruled until his death in 1154.  On his death, Matilda’s eldest son Henry was crowned King Henry II of England.   Unfortunately for Richard de Clare he made a bad decision in 1135 as instead of supporting Matilda’s claim to the English throne he supported Stephen’s claim and when Matilda’s son became King Henry II of England he took his revenge on Richard de Clare by stripping him of the title of the Earl of Pembroke.  Unbeknown to Richard his future lay entwined in what was happening across the Irish Sea as in 1167, Dermot MacMurrough, the king of Leinster, was defeated by Turlough O’ Connor, the king of Connacht.   Dermont hastily rushed to England and asked King Henry II for help .  Henry could not send troops but asked Dermot to approach Richard de Clare to help him in his war against Roderic.   Richard agreed to help on condition that he was allowed to marry Dermont’s daughter, Aoife and succeed Dermont as King of Leinster on his death.  With Richard de Clare’s help, Dermot was able to defeat the king of Connacht’s forces, who poorly armed with only slings and stones, where no match for  Richard de Clare’s army which relied heavily on Welsh archers, which is why Richard, who was an expert bowman,  received the nickname ‘Strongbow’.   Richard married Aoife in 1170 and when Dermont died the following year he became the new king of Leinster.   However back in England King Henry II was concerned with their power Richard now exerted in Ireland and so in late 1171 Henry and his troops crossed the Irish Sea and Strongbow was forced to surrender Leinster to Henry. The land was later returned to Richard de Clare in return for the service of 100 of his knights.

My Daily Art Display featured painting today is the large romantic historical oil painting (309cms x 505cms) entitled The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife which was completed by Daniel Maclise in 1854 and is housed in the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin.   It depicts the ruins of the captured city of Waterford, which is the setting for the arranged marriage of the daughter of Diarmuid Mac Murrough the King of Leinster to Richard de Clare. In the foreground of the painting we see bodies of the vanquished enemy heaped on top of each other.  To the left we see the broken-stringed harp, the instrument which symbolises Ireland.   In the central midground we see Richard and Aiofe.  The victorious Richard de Clare takes his bride’s hand whilst we see his foot on top of a Celtic cross, symbolising the crushing of the Irish enemy.  This would be the start of a long period of subjugation by the English for the people of Ireland.  Facing Richard is Aoife, his bride-to-be, behind who stand a line of her bridesmaids.  Facing us in the central midground is the local religious dignitary who, with his hand raised heavenwards, blesses the couple.  The father of the bride, Diarmuid Mac Murrough, King of Leinster, stands to the right of the priest.  In the background above the ruins of the city we see wounded men and bodies being carried away by their colleagues whilst women weep and mourn the loss of their men folk.

A truly remarkable painting with so much going on.   It is one of those paintings which every time you revisit it, you see something that you had not noticed before.

The Rain It Raineth Every Day by Norman Garstin

The Rain It Raineth Every Day by Norman Garstin (1889)

Most of you, who have read my blogs, may know by now that I took early retirement and am now running a small Bed & Breakfast establishment in a Welsh coastal town.  I pride myself in trying to give my guests the best stay they could ask for and each morning cook them the best breakfast possible and I am pleased to say my small establishment has received top ratings on a certain website.  The people that stay with my wife and I are from all over the world, some coming from hot climates.  Sadly, the only thing I cannot guarantee my visitors is the weather.  My breakfast room is in the conservatory and when the heavens open, I try and convince my diners that the sound of rain on the conservatory roof is actually worse than the conditions outside.  I am not sure whether I am believed!  I actually feel guilty about the weather they have to sometimes endure!  So why do I mention this?  It is certainly not an advert for my B&B but merely a lead in to today’s featured painting which highlights the worst of the British weather.  My Daily Art Display’s featured painting today is entitled The Rain it Raineth Every Day and it was completed by the Irish artist and writer Norman Garstin in 1889.

Norman Garstin was born in Cahirconlish, in County Limerick, Southern Ireland in 1847.  His mother was Irish and his father was of Anglo-Irish descent and he was their only child.  He displayed no early interest in art and on leaving school attended the Engineering College of Cork and it was during that time when he was studying to become an engineer and draughtsman that it became apparent that he had a great aptitude for drawing.  Because of this palpable talent for drawing, he moved to London to study architecture.  It was whilst living in the capital that he heard and read about the money that was to be made in the South African diamond fields.  The lure of a possible fortune to be made was too much for him to ignore and so in 1872 he journeyed to South Africa and the diamond field centre, Kimberley, in order to make his fortune.  He remained there for four years and for some time shared a tent with Cecil Rhodes, the English-born South African who was to become the founder of the diamond company De Beers and the founder of the state of Rhodesia, which was named after him.

Garstin did not make his fortune digging for diamonds and after four years he moved to Cape Town where with Frederick York St Leger, an Anglican clergyman and a fellow Limerick man he helped to edit the Cape Times newspaper.    He returned to Ireland but after a bad riding accident, in which he lost the sight of his right eye, Garstin made another career change and turned his attention to art.    He travelled to Antwerp in 1878 where he studied at the Koninklijke Academie, which had been founded two hundred years earlier by David Teniers the Younger.  It was here that Garstin studied under the Belgian painter, Charles Verlat.  From Antwerp he went to live in Paris in 1871, where he remained for three years studying at the studio of Carolus-Duran, the French painter and art teacher.  Whilst in Paris he made many friends in the artistic community, two of whom, Degas and Manet, were artists he looked upon as the greatest painters of their time.  After Paris, and influenced by the French naturalist painter, Garstin Jules Bastien-Lepage, Garstin travelled to Britanny to paint, which was a favoured place for naturalist painters at that time.   Later he travelled around the south of France, Spain, and Tangiers.  In 1885 he was in Italy and in Venice and it was during his European travels that he made friends with many artists who would later form part of the artist colony at Newlyn, which was to be his next port of call.

Garstin moved to Cornwall in 1886 and became one of the early members of the Newlyn School, an art colony situated in and around the small Cornish fishing village of Newlyn, which was situated close to the town of Penzance.  This newly found artist community was similar in nature to the Barbizon School on the outskirts of Paris, near the Fontainebleau Forest, which was established in the 1830’s.  In both cases the lure to these places was the fantastic natural light and the opportunity to paint outside, en plein air.  This opportunity to paint outside instead of in a studio was helped with the innovation of tubes of paint and the invention of the box easel with its built-in paint box, which made it much easier for artists to trek around the undulating countryside.  For Garstin, the fishing port of Newlyn had other things going for it as well.  It was cheap to live there and artists’ models were easy to come by and inexpensive.  The Newlyn School artists found the everyday life in the harbour and the nearby villages were ideal subjects for their paintings and their works often brought home the harsh conditions experienced by the fishing fraternity and the hazards and tragedies which were often associated with that profession.

It was also in 1886 that Garstin married.  The couple had two sons, one of whom was killed in the war and the other went on to be a respected writer.  In 1894, his wife, who was also a painter, gave birth to their daughter Alethea.  Garstin dedicated much time in teaching art to his daughter and she blossomed under his tutelage.  She was the youngest woman to have a painting accepted by the Royal Academy and went on to become a great en plein air artist in her own right and was once called “England’s leading Impressionist”.

Norman Garstin stayed in Newlyn for four years before moving to Wellington Terrace, Penzance in 1890.  He was not a prolific artist and so was not always able to support himself financially from the sale of his paintings.  For that reason he had to supplement his income by writing, teaching and giving lectures.  From 1899 onwards he would organize artist summer schools and led summer trips to the Continent for his students.  Garstin died in Penzance in 1926, shortly before his seventy-ninth birthday.

Today’s featured work by Garstin The Rain it Raineth Every Day derives its title from two of Shakespeare’s plays, Twelfth Night and King Lear.  In Act V, Scene I of Twelfth Night there is a soliloquy by the clown as he sings a song, the last line of each verse ends with the title of today’s painting:

When that I was a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came to man’s estate,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
‘Gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came, alas! to wive,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
By swaggering could I never thrive,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came unto my beds,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
With toss-pots still had drunken heads,
For the rain it raineth every day.

A great while ago the world begun,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
But that’s all one, our play is done,
And we’ll strive to please you every day.

The painting depicts the promenade between Newlyn and Penzance on a windswept and rainy day, just like it is now, as I look out my window.  It was painted in 1899 and Garstin, with his hopes high, submitted it to the Royal Academy for inclusion in that year’s exhibition but the jury rejected it.  It is such a realistic painting that one can almost feel the sea spay on one’s face as one gazes at the painting.  The way Garstin has painted the scene is thought to have been influenced by works of Whistler, one of Garstin’s favourite painters.  On the left we see the Queens Hotel and further to the right we can just make out the parish church which lies behind a row of terraced houses.

The painting presently hangs in the Penlee House Gallery and Museum in Penzance.  Of all Garstin’s works, this is the one he is remembered for.

So has the setting changed much since the time of Garstin?  I have to admit I have never been to Penzance but my thanks to Jane on whose website entitled Fleur Fisher in her World, I found this picture of the present day promenade


The promenade at Penzance today