After two blogs featuring contemporary artists whose style of work may not find favour with many who love depictions they can relate to, I have returned to a more conventional painter. William James Muller was a British figurative and landscape painter who was associated with the Bristol School, often referred to as the Bristol School of Artists, the informal association and works of a group of artists working in Bristol, England, in the early 19th century.
Muller, (or Müller) was born in Bristol on June 28th 1812 at 13 Hillsbridge Place, later becoming Hillsbridge Parade, which overlooked a man-made cut where the occasional small boat or barge would pass by. His father, John Samuel Müller, a Prussian by birth, had been born in Danzig in 1779 but in 1801 when he was twenty-two, with the continuing conflict between Prussia and France, he and some friends decided to flee the country. His method of escape was thought to be on a cargo boat carrying timber and which was plying its trade between the Baltic and Bristol. Although arriving in the British city almost penniless, his love, knowledge and achievements in natural history and geology soon found favour with members of the Philosophical and Literary Society of Bristol who took him under their wings. In 1821 William’s father published A Natural History of the Crinoidia or Lily-Shaped Animals and three years later he became the first curator of the Bristol Institution which later became the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.
East Lynn, Lynmouth by Edmund Gustavus Muller
In 1806, five years after arriving in Bristol, John Samuel Muller married Margaret James who came from a well established Bristol family. In 1808 the couple had their first child, Henry who later became a country doctor. Their second born was William James who is the subject of this blog and their third and final offspring, born in 1816, was Edmund Gustavus who at first was trained to become a doctor but he, like William, became a well-known painter.
In the Vale of Llangollen by James Baker Pyne (1840)
William James Muller was initially home-educated by his mother. In 1824, when he was twelve years old he began to be involved in his father’s work at the Bristol Institution sketching some of the establishment’s discoveries and would provide illustrations which then accompanied his father’s lectures. In that same year, the Bristol Institution began to hold art exhibitions which young William Muller would have witnessed. In 1827, when he was just sixteen years of age, his father had him apprenticed to the Bristol landscape painter James Baker Pyne whose works often depicted local views as well as imaginary ones.
Falls on the River Lledr by William Muller (1830)
William Muller completed his apprenticeship with James Pyne in 1829. The abrupt end to the apprenticeship came when William’s father complained to Pyne with regards how he was giving his son menial tasks to complete such as brush cleaning instead of teaching him artistic techniques. Pyne responded by telling John Muller that he could break his son’s apprenticeship agreement if he wanted to and Muller Senior did just that ! Although it is thought that Pyne’s work did not influence Muller work greatly William did learn to appreciate the Old Masters especially the works of the seventeenth century painters such as Claude Lorrain and Nicholas Poussin.
Classical Landscape by William Muller (1828)
The early termination of the agreement between Pyne and Muller did not put a barrier between them in later years and they always spoke about each other with a complimentary tone. In 1843 Muller wrote to a friend about Pyne saying:
“…In early life placed under the direction of my friend J. B. Pyne — nay, serving a regular apprenticeship to the arts with him, to whom I owe so much — I commenced painting in earnest…”
Landscape with Figures by William Muller
On May 25th 1830, William’s father died, aged 51. As he had been the sole family earner, the family would have struggled financially but this was avoided when the Bristol Institution agreed to buy John Muller’s extensive natural history collection for the sum of seven hundred and thirty pounds. John Muller had brought up his sons to appreciate and love nature and the natural world and William never forgot his father’s words. In a letter of 1843, William wrote:
“…Travel to me affords two pleasures—my love of botany, and natural history in general (for I cannot forget the impressions given me by my father, to whose acquirements as a man of science his works testify better than aught I can say). I continue to combine them as much as possible with my profession; a new flower often delights me as much as a new sketch…”
Waterfall by William Muller (c.1830)
The executor of William’s father’s will was the Right Reverend Dr. Beeke of Bristol Cathedral and it was he who commissioned William Muller to complete a painting of St Mary Redcliffe church and on completion he paid William £25. The curate of the church was Reverend James Bulwer, an amateur artist and naturalist who was a good friend of the artist, John Sell Cotman and he and William Muller helped the formation of the first art exhibition of the Bristol Society of Artists at the Bristol Institution in 1832. He and William each presented eight of their paintings at the exhibition.
Font at Walsingham Church by William Muller (1831)
In the early part of 1831 Muller travelled to Norfolk and Suffolk and stayed with various clergymen during his two-month travels. One of the paintings he completed during his trip was entitled The Font in Walsingham Church, although he probably completed the work once home in his studio, using sketches he made at the time.
Muller may have got the idea for his painting on seeing the illustration of the font in Architectural Antiquities of Norfolk by John Sell Cotman, dated 1818.
Trees, Suffolk by William Muller (1831)
During this period William Muller completed a number of largely monochrome watercolours such as Trees, Suffolk which he had sketched whilst visiting the Suffolk town of Lackford.
Fourteen Star Inn by William Muller (c.1832)
Another was of the Fourteen Star coaching inn.
In the second part of the blog looking at the life and works of William James Muller we will see how bloody riots and Mediterranean travel featured in his short life.
We are approaching a time when we have to expect very cold weather and for some of us the oncoming of snow. So as we are at the beginning of the Christmas month I thought I would treat you to some snowy scenes by one of the greatest exponent of such panoramas. Permit me to introduce the nineteenth century Scottish painter, Joseph Farquharson, whose snowy winter landscape paintings were featured on many Christmas cards.
Joseph Farquharson was born in Edinburgh on May 4th 1846. He was the son of Francis Farquharson, a doctor and laird of Finzean in Kincardineshire. Joseph’s brother Robert was a highly respected physician and local Member of Parliament. Joseph’s mother, Alison Mary Ainslie, was a celebrated beauty, one of the daughters of the lawyer Robert Ainslie, who was a close friend of the poet Robert Burns.
Road to Loch Maree by Joseph Farquharson
Joseph’s early days were spent in his father’s house in Northumberland Street Edinburgh, below the Queen Street Gardens. Later the family moved to Edinburgh’s Eaton Terrace and finally to the family estate at Finzean, in Aberdeenshire. Joseph was brought up in a strict family environment and was educated in Edinburgh. Although his father encouraged him to sketch and paint and even let him use his own set of paints, he only allowed his son to paint on Saturdays. Joseph developed his artistic skills and at the age of twelve, Francis Farquharson bought his son his first set of paints and a year later Joseph exhibited his first painting at the Royal Scottish Academy.
Joseph Farquharson’s first formal art training came in the 1860’s when he enrolled at the Trustees’ Academy in Edinburgh, the forerunner of the Edinburgh School of Art where his tutors included the landscape painter, Peter Graham R.A. who would be a constant influence on Farquharson and Graham’s style can be seen in many of Joseph’s works. Joseph then spent time at the Life School of the Royal Scottish Academy.
Day’s Dying Glow by Joseph Farquharson (1873)
Joseph Farquharson’s first exhibit at the Royal Academy, was in 1873 when his 1873 painting, Day’s Dying Glow, was on display.
Mrs Farquharson of Finzean (the artist’s stepmother) by Joseph Farquhardson(1871)
Farquharson followed the trend of other leading Scottish artists and concentrated on exhibiting his work in London rather than Edinburgh and Glasgow, as this was where the opportunity to sell their work was the greatest. Besides his Scottish landscape scenes, Joseph was also a a talented portrait painter and his first portrait to be exhibited was of his stepmother, Mary Ann Girdwood Farquharson, which he completed in 1871.
A Scottish Interior, the Box Bed by Joseph Farquharson (c.1874)
Joseph Farquharson produced a realist genre painting around 1874 entitled A Scottish Interior, the Box Bed which depicts a bed inside a cupboard and table and chair in a kitchen/bedroom/living room. The free-standing box or press bed developed into a very sophisticated piece of furniture, when cabinet-makers designed “secret” press beds disguised as wardrobes or sideboards, or hidden behind rows of bookshelves and drawers, even when there was no pressure on space, and no need to provide a mini-bedroom within a shared living area.
The Joyless Winter’s Day by Joseph Farquharson (1883)
However, Joseph Farquharson will be remembered for his bleak wintry landscapes often depicting sheep and the shepherd. One such painting can be seen in London’s Tate Britain, entitled The Joyless Winter’s Day which he completed in 1883. Despite blizzard conditions, Farquharson painted this en plein air although, he was in the relative comfort of his specially constructed mobile painting hut, which had the added benefit of a stove. This relative comfort enabled Farquharson to capture the remarkably realistic effects of a snow storm. Before you worry about the health of the sheep I have to tell you that those you see were made in plaster by a local sculptor
Sheep in a Snowstorm by Joseph Farquharson
Farquharson was famed for his Scottish snow scenes, and with the exception of 1914, he had a new painting exhibited at the Royal Academy every year between 1894 and 1925. . Farquharson combined a career as an artist with his inheritied responsibility as laird of the Finzean estate in Aberdeenshire, where many of his landscapes were painted.
The Stormy Blast by Joseph Farquharson (1898)
But it was not just about snow and blizzards.
The Winding Dee by Joseph Farquharson (1889)
Some of his landscape paintings depicted the beauty of the Highlands, such as his 1889 painting featuring the River Dee, which rises in the Cairngorms and flows through southern Aberdeenshire to reach the North Sea at Aberdeen.
Corn Stooks by Joseph Farquharson (1880)
Harvesting, Forest of Birse, Aberdeenshire (1900)
Some of his paintings depicted the agricultural times in rural communities during the summer months.
When the West with Evening Glows by Joseph Farquharson (1901)
One of Farquharson’s greatest skills was his ability to depict scenes at sunrise and sunset as this can be seen in his beautiful 1901 painting entitled When the West with Evening Glows. It is a snowy winter landscape, and we look along a snow-covered path, which runs through fields, with groups of trees on either side, as seen in the mid ground of the painting. In foreground we see freshly-made footprints in the deep snow, with three crows having landed close to the footprints. The whole scene is illuminated by the warm glow of the rising sun from behind the hills in the background.
When the West with Evening Glows by Joseph Farquharson (1910)
The above 1910 painting is a slightly smaller version of the work which is owned by the Royal Academy. This version was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1910 and now hangs in the collection of the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery. This painting was a commission Farquharson received from one of his patrons, who failed in his bid to buy the larger original version. Farquharson often copied his own paintings in order to satisfy his clients’ requests, or to provide an original for engravers tasked with the reproduction of a successful composition. It was such a popular painting with the public that thousands of prints of this work were sold. In his 1913 essay in the Christmas edition of the Art Annual, The Art of Joseph Farquharson, A.R.A, Archdeacon William Macdonald wrote about these popular works:
“…There is not one of Farquharson’s pastoral landscapes which is not treated from the contemplative or poetic point of view: the poetry of snow either in its suggestion of desolation, or of the endurance of peasantry life, or the exquisite beauty of rare tints in the sun or moon on deep snow surfaces and seen through leafless trees… and the varied voices with which Nature elevates us from the prosaic, the commonplace and the ugly in her countless moods…”
Market on the Nile by Joseph Farquharson (1893)
The Orange Seller by Joseph Farquharson (1893)
For the first four years of the 1880’s Farquharson spent the winters in Paris and studied with Carolus-Duran who installed in the minds of his students the importance of using the brush straight away and to think in terms of form and colour. In 1885 Farquharson went to North Africa. Among the works created during the subsequent 8 years were The Egyptian and On the Banks of the Nile opposite Cairo
On the Banks of the Nile opposite Cairo by Joseph Farquharson
Joseph Farquharson was elected Associate of the Royal Academy in July 1900, Royal Academician in February 1915 and finally, Senior Royal Academician in 1922.
Beneath the Snow Encumbered Branches by Joseph Farquharson (1901)
In addition to exhibiting over 200 works at the Royal Academy he showed seventy-three at the Royal Society of Arts and one hundred and eighty-one at the Fine Art Society. He also exhibited at the Royal College of Art and Tate Britain. The renowned artist-critic, Walter Sickert made Farquharson the subject of an essay comparing him favourably with Gustave Courbet. In it he extolled Farquharson’s tension and realism and criticized the pretension of his polar opposites, the Bloomsbury Group, who he wrote “fortunately does not run in the North of Scotland”. The remarkable realism of Farquharson’s work can be attributed to his desire to work en plein air. Farquharson painted so many scenes of cattle and sheep in snow he was nicknamed ‘Frozen Mutton Farquharson’
Farquharson inherited the title of Laird in 1918 after the death of his elder brother Robert. Joseph Farquharson died on April 15th 1935, three weeks before his eighty-ninth birthday..
Sisley went tirelessly in search of motifs along the Seine and its tributaries, he looked no further. He concentrated on views of village streets, or of interesting groups of buildings, he would be drawn to an old stone bridge, the kind of subject that had fascinated painters since Corot. In what many would dismiss as unprepossessing patches of gardens or meadows, landscapes on the outskirts of towns or along river banks, Sisley could often discover the most arresting colour or light effects.
In 1866, Sisley began a relationship with Eugenie Lesouezec and shortly thereafter the couple had two children: a son, Pierre, in 1867 and daughter, Jeanne in 1869. Although they remained together until Eugenie’s death in 1898, they didn’t marry until August 5, 1897. In 1870, the Franco-Prussian War began and this precipitated the failure of Sisley’s father’s silk business which ended in his father’s bankruptcy and the financial devastation hastened his death. Sisley had relied heavily on his father’s financial support because of the low prices being offered for his artwork, and this revenue stream had come to an end.
To manage his financial difficulties and to avoid the Prussian War, Sisley gave up his home in Paris and moved to the countryside and the town of Louveciennes, a village west of Paris. It is said that during the summer of 1871, Sisley, Renoir and Pissarro had watched Paris burn during the Prussian siege of the capital city. In his painting Louveciennes, above Marly, Sisley has depicted the view from Louveciennes, down over the forest and the riverside town of Marly.
Another of Sisley’s works featuring Louveciennes is his 1873 painting entitled Louveciennes: View of the Sèvres Road. It is a classic example of a perspective road which we see narrowing into the distance. He used this technique in many of his works as it allowed him to give movement to his depiction while also giving a feeling of space.
It is thought that Sisley’s depiction may have been influenced by Meindert Hobbema’s 1689 landscape painting, The Avenue at Middleharnis, which he would have seen at the National Gallery when he visited London.
Two years later, in October 1874, after his four-month summer holiday spent in London, Sisley and his family moved to 2 avenue de l’Abreuvoir in Marly-le-Roi, a commune in the Île-de-France region, in north-central France, located in the western suburbs of Paris, 18 kilometres from the centre of the French capital. The two following winters were especially harsh with temperatures below zero and frequent heavy snowfall. I particularly like Sisley’s 1876 painting entitled Place du Chenil at Marly, and the depiction of snow. There is an eerie stillness about the depiction of the town’s main square which since Sisley’s time has been renamed Place du Général-de-Gaulle. We see that a heavy snowfall has occurred and the town has been covered by a thick blanket of snow. Look at how Sisley has depicted the snow. It is not just coloured white but a subtle blending of blues, greens, creams and greys. There is nothing spectacular about the scene but it is just a timeless realistic rendition. Place du Chenil in Marly, Snow Effect is now located in Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen which is an art museum in Normandy, France. It was given to Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen by François Depeaux, a French art collector, industrialist and patron. He gave the painting to the museum in 1909, just over 100 years after the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen was built.
Commemorative postage stamp issued by Republic of Guinea on October 1st 2009 depicted Sisley’s painting Place du Chenil à Marly, effet de neige.
The Villeneuve-la-Garenne painting depicts the village on the River Seine, a commune in the northern suburbs of Paris, which lies less than ten kilometres from centre of the French capital. In 1872 Alfred Sisley created his painting depicting the small village entitled Village by the Seine (Villeneuve-La-Garenne). After visiting the small village, Sisley was inspired by what he saw and was determined to produce a work so that he could share the beauty of the place. The depiction oozes tranquillity. The two trees in the foreground act as if they were theatre curtains on either side of a stage. In this work Sisley has managed to encapsulate the beauty of nature.
Sisley completed a number of paintings featuring the village and just to the left of the previous painting, but out of view, is the bridge which crosses the river at Villeneuve-La-Garenne and this was the subject of Sisley’s 1872 painting, The Bridge at Villeneuve-la-Garenne. The cast-iron suspension bridge resting on stone abutments was built in 1844 to connect what had until then been a fishing village and small port with the Paris neighbourhood of Saint-Denis, on the other side of the river. The building of the bridge and the bridge itself was symbolic of French modernity, and the structure was depicted in a number of Sisley’s paintings of the 1870s and early 1880s. Sisley made the depiction somewhat livelier by including figures of holidaymakers on the riverbank and in a boat which is passing under the bridge. Look how Sisley’s brushstrokes communicate the fleeting effect of sunlight on the water.
About six miles up-river from Villeneuve-La-Garenne is the town of Suresnes, a commune in the western suburbs of Paris, Île-de-France. In 1877 Sisley completed his painting entitled The Seine at Suresnes. It is a typical work of Impressionism with its swirling clouds dominating his depiction of the sky. His intention was to capture a fast-changing scene due to the approaching storm. Look how he has depicted the river, no longer bathed in sunlight, now dimmed by the heavy clouds overhead. Unlike many of Sisley’s best loved works which focus on tranquillity, this is more about doom-laden skies and what was to come to pass. The painting was sold to fellow artist, Gustave Caillebotte, and along with Gustave’s other paintings he had amassed, it was later left to the French nation.
With the canals from Briare and Orléans completed respectively in the second half of the seventeenth century, merchants started complaining about the poor navigability of the river Loing. The Duc d’Orléans ordered a survey and designs for the navigational route which would be part river and part canal. The waterway was completed in 1723. The Loing Canal is used by working barges and was the subject of many Sisley’s depictions. In this painting we see a winding path, which follows the curve of the canal, alongside of which are poplar trees. Our eyes, once we have taken in the house, follow the curve of the road and canal into the distance. The inclusion of the winding road was one of Sisley’s favourite themes in which it plays a part in the perspective of the painting. This painting, The Loing Canal, was offered to the Musée du Luxembourg after the painter died in 1899. It was part of a gift from Sisley’s friends which was organised by Monet.
Seine et Marne is a department in the Île-de-France region of northern France named after the rivers Seine and Marne and is on the eastern edge of the Ile de France. It was to be Sisley’s countryside during the last twenty years of his life. In 1880 he had moved to Veneux-Nadon, close to Moret-sur-Loing. It was a “forced” move as Sisley had been evicted from his house in Sèvres for not paying his rent. As some of his work prior to 1880 depicted scenes of Veneux-Nadon, it is clear that he had visited the area on a number of occasions. This was an agriculturally rich and tranquil countryside with its woods and tiny hamlets. It was a perfect venue for Sisley’s landscape work and allowed him to relax away from the chaos of Paris. It worked for him as he produced many serene and beautiful paintings.
Sisley’s painting, The Meadow at Veneux-Nadon, depicts the slender poplars with their delicate leaves and it leads our gaze into the depth of the picture space and gives it stability in this wide summer landscape. Through a juxtaposition of shimmering fields of colour and a reduction of motifs, Alfred Sisley lends an iridescent vitality and tension to the seemingly monotonous theme. Sisley exhibited the painting at the Seventh Impressionist Exhibition in 1882, in which the group focused on landscapes.
In his work, Le Bois des Roches Veneux Nadon, we see a windswept scene of a forest at the water’s edge . To the left we see a small rowing boat struggling in choppy waters.
This painting, Snowy Weather at Veneux Nadon, was completed during his first winter in Veneux- Narbon on the Loing in 1880. It is another of his snowscapes which this time is dominated by dark clouds with just a glimmer of the rising sun in the background. This was one of Sisley’s favourite depictions, often populated by workers heading for the mills, which were the village people’s primary source of employment. It is an atmospheric depiction of a cold early-morning scene and Sisley has used muted colours to ensure the contrast with the presence of the rising sun.
Veneux, August Afternoon was paintedby Alfred Sisley in 1881. Financially, it had not been a good year for him although he managed to afford to travel to the Isle of Wight in June. He had arranged for canvases to be sent to him on the island but they never arrived an he could not afford to pay for English canvases. When he arrived back in France in August he painted this work. It is a typical Sisley scene – quiet riverside setting with trees and picturesque sky. Our eyes are drawn to the creamy clouds in the upper left of the painting and then back down in a diagonal direction to the patch of sunlight we see falling on the pathway on the bottom right of the work.
The painting Sailing Boats by Sisley depicts a scene of the boatyards at the riverside town of Saint-Mammès, sixty kilometres south-southeast of the French capital, at a point where the rivers Seine and Loing come together. Sisley has depicted a number of pleasure boats tied up next to a barge fitted with lifting gear. Sisley has used a familiar technique with the layout of his work – the subject is viewed head-on and the depiction is a series of wide horizontal bands, which, in this painting, is held together by the tall triangular shape of the lifting equipment. The scene is populated by a number of figures.
Sisley’s favoured painting medium had always been oils but this late painting by him was a pastel. It is not known whether this pastel work was just a preliminary sketch that would later be used to complete the depiction in oils or whether Sisley was intrigued by the medium. Once again Sisley has used a winding path to give perspective to the depiction. The work is not simply a landscape but focuses on a girl looking after her flock of geese.
Alfred Sisley was born and spent most of his life in France, but retained British citizenship. In 1897, Sisley and his partner of over thirty years, Marie Eugénie Lescouezec, visited Britain and were finally married at the Cardiff Register Office on August 5th. On his return to France, in 1898, Sisley applied for French citizenship, but was refused. Later, a second application was made and on this occasion his application was supported by a police report, but Sisley became seriously ill and the process was halted. In October 1898 his wife died of cancer and four months later on January 29th 1899 Sisley died of throat cancer, aged 59. Sisley remained a British national until his death. He was buried with that of his wife at Moret-sur-Loing Cemetery.
When depicting life in rural England, artists had to decide whether their depictions would focus on the hard lives endured by the peasant workers or focus on the beautiful idyllic life folk had who managed to escape the industrialization of the cities. The artist I am looking at today was of the second group of painters who wanted to cast her artistic spotlight on the beauty of rural life and was well known for her depictions of country cottages. Let me introduce you to Helen Allingham.
Helen Mary Elizabeth Paterson was born into a well-to-do middle-class family on September 26th, 1848 in the small village of Swadlincote, near Burton on Trent in Derbyshire, England. She was the eldest of seven children born to Alexander Henry Paterson, a rural physician, and Mary Chance Herford, the daughter of a Manchester wine merchant. Within her first year of her life, the Patersons moved to Altrincham, Cheshire where Helen’s father set up a medical practice and the young family grew and prospered. It was during these years that young Helen’s interest and talent in art blossomed, inspired by her maternal grandmother, Sarah Smith Herford, a landscape painter and her aunt, Laura Herford, a professional and accomplished artist.
One of Laura Herford’s most endearing paintings is her The Little Emigrant which she completed in 1868. It depicts a young girl seated on the deck of a ship, with her head resting on her hands, her right arm on the ship’s railing. She has golden hair, wears a maroon dress with red and white striped neck scarf. The work was painted by Laura after her visit to Auckland and Nelson. The idea of the depiction is believed to be after Laura had listened to an account by a real emigrant to New Zealand on the siling ship, Lord Auckland, when as a child she remembered sitting for days and weeks on the seat that ran round the waist of the ship, under the high bulwarks, looking out over the wide, wide sea. She sat there dreaming of the homeland to which she would never return.
In her twenties Laura Herford was heavily drawn into the argument of the recognition and training of female artists. She signed the 1859 petition to admit women to the Royal Academy. She submitted several drawings to the Academy’s admissions tutors signed “L. Herford“. The use of initials masked her gender, leading to the assumption that she was a man. She was admitted on the merits of these drawings and an offer was made to “L. Herford, Esq” and she took up her place at the Academy in 1860 !!! She exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1861 to 1869 and also at the Suffolk Street Gallery and the British Institution. Later, she invited her sister’s daughter, the painter Helen Paterson Allingham, to come live with her in London at the start of her career.
Helen’s mother, Mary was also an artist but gave it up when she married. Helen’s father’s medical practice failed and the family moved out of the small rural community, which Mary never liked, and relocated to Altrincham, Mary’s hometown. Her husband purchased another medical practice in the town. The new practice thrived and soon the family could afford to have a house built in the countryside at Bowden.
Helen Paterson attended the Unitarian boarding school, once attended by her mother and which had been founded by her grandmother, Sarah Smith Herford. In May 1862, when Helen was aged thirteen, tragedy struck her family. Her father battled to treat local victims during a severe diphtheria epidemic. Dr. Paterson succumbed to the disease himself, along with Helen’s three-year-old sister Isabel.
Shortly after the death of the father, the young family moved to Edgbaston, Birmingham where their Paterson aunts helped house and feed them, but money was tight. As time passed, Helen’s artistic talents grew and she enrolled in the Birmingham School of Design. Here for fifteen shillings a term, she studied Drawing, Perspective, Practical Geometry and Painting, three times a week. After three years of study, Helen won the School’s Special Prize, given to her for her outstanding anatomical studies. The School was so impressed with her talent they advised her to apply to the Royal Academy Schools.
At age seventeen, Helen secured a place in the Royal Female School of Art in London. A year later, in 1867, she was accepted into the prestigious Royal Academy Schools, a door first opened to women by Helen’s aunt Laura just a few years before. The Royal Academy Schools boasted a number of highly thought of masters of the art world who visited and taught the students. Helen Paterson was influenced the most by the lectures and tuition given by Frederick Walker, Sir Frederick Leighton, and Sir John Everett Millais, who was a co-founder of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. The tuition at the Royal Academy was free, but Helen still needed money to pay for her accommodation and living expenses. With that in mind, she sought work with engraving firms, sketching figures and scenes in black & white, and in 1869 was commissioned by the Once A Week magazine, a weekly illustrated literary magazine to contribute four full-page illustrations. Her work was well received, and this led to more commissions by other periodicals and children’s books while she continued her schooling three days a week.
In 1870, twenty-two-year-old Helen was hired as one of the founding staff members, and the only female, on The Graphic, a British high-quality weekly illustrated newspaper, first published in December 1869. During the next three years, commissions to illustrate books and periodicals continued to pour in and by 1872 Helen decided to give up her schooling at the Academy and work as a commercial artist. Some of her most important commissions included illustrations for Thomas Harding’s fourth novel, Far From the Madding Crowd which was first published in 1874.
Two sudden and unexpected deaths in the early 1870’s greatly saddened Helen. In October 1870 she was summoned from her lodgings by William De Morgan who was concerned that his fellow lodger at Fitzroy Square, Laura Herford, had not been seen that day. He knew that Helen was a relative of Laura Herford and so when the two went back and entered Laura’s lodgings they found her lying dead in bed. She had been suffering from constant toothache and be self-medicating with morphine and it was thought that she had died from an accidental overdose. She was thirty-nine-years-old.
One year later, in November 1871 Helen was summoned home. On returning to the family in Cheshire she was told that her eighteen-year-old sister Louisa was dying of consumption. There was little Helen could do but help the family at this sad time and sit with her sister and help her mother nurse her dying sister. During the times Helen sat at her sister’s bedside she made several pencil sketches of Louisa and one small and emotional watercolour of her.
Now in London and because of her commissions, Helen’s circle of friends grew and she came into contact with prominent writers and artists. One such friend was William Allingham, the editor of Fraser’s Magazine. William Allingham was born on 19 March 19th 1824 in Ballyshannon, a small town in the south of County Donegal in Ulster in the north of Ireland, which is now in the Republic of Ireland. He was the son of the manager of a local bank who was of English descent. When William was nineteen, he became a Customs officer, and he was stationed at different places in Northern Ireland until he was thirty-nine years old. Shortly after he obtained his appointment with the Customs, he made his first trip to London and after that first visit, made many more to the English capital. He would submit many articles to London’s periodicals. He retired from the Civil Service in 1870 and moved to London and sub-editor of Fraser’s Magazine under J. A. Froude, whom he succeeded as editor in 1874. It was also in 1874, on August 22nd, that Allingham and Helen Paterson were married after the briefest of engagements. He was fifty and she was a month away from her twenty-sixth birthday. William Allingham had developed many good friends in London’s literary and artistic circles such as Thomas Carlyle, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, John Ruskin, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
A few months after their marriage, Helen Allingham painted a portrait of her husband.
The newly weds went to live in a house at Trafalgar Square, in the borough of Chelsea, close to William Allingham’s best friend, the Scottish essayist, historian and philosopher, Thomas Carlyle. Such was their close friendship that William had taken Helen to visit Carlyle before they married, just to make sure Carlyle approved of his choice of wife ! Helen and William became regular visitors to Thomas Carlyle’s home in London and after many preliminary sketches completed a painting of their good friend. Look at how Helen has incorporated all the details of the furnishings of Carlyle’s room.
Helen’s other paintings depicted the interior of Carlyle’s rooms at his residence in Cheyne Row London. It is said that such an accurate depiction of the room aided the National Trust when they came to the restoration of the room.
Married life suited Helen and she no longer had to go out to work. She gave up her position at the Graphic and in a way she had been pleased to have worked at the journal for four years and it had allowed her to regularly send money to her mother. Although working for the Graphic had been advantageous, Helen was pleased to be able to concentrate on her paintings, especially her watercolours and she did manage to do some freelance book illustrations for novels written by her friends, George Elliot, Thoams Hardy and Tennyson.
In November 1875 Helen gave birth to her first child, a son, Gerald Carlyle named after her and her husband’s good friend. In February 1877 a second child, a daughter, Eva Margaret, was born. Her third child, a son, Henry William was born in 1882. He was the love of Helen’s life and she would often wear a locket with just his picture inside. In 1874 Helen Allingham had two of her watercolours, The Milkmaid and Wait for Me, exhibited at the Royal Academy and in 1875 she was put forward by the eminent watercolourist, Alfred Hunt, to become an Associate in the Royal Watercolour Society. She was later to become the first woman to be admitted to full membership.
Her early work tended to feature large figures in a landscape, but later, influenced by their holidays in the country, her style shifted more to smaller figures with emphasis on the rural scene itself. During the seven years the Allinghams lived in London, Helen exhibited more than a hundred watercolours, some depicting her own children as models. During her early days, Helen produced rural depictions featuring large figures. However, in her later paintings she focused on the inanimate and nature itself and any figures depicted were much smaller.
On February 5th 1881, after a short illness, Helen and William’ close friend, Thomas Carlyle died, aged 85. His death came as a terrible shock to them and now that he was not a close neighbour any more, they felt no reason to stay in the English capital. They decided to move into the country and settled in the small Surrey hamlet of Sandhills. It was from this new base that Helen developed the love of depicting pretty cottages. Sandhills proved to be an idyllic and peaceful resting place for both Helen and William. He was able to spend time writing poetry and Helen passed the hours painting watercolours depicting the rural areas around their home, the numerous pretty flower gardens, her children as they grew up and of course the “chocolate-box” country cottages which were all around where they lived. As the boom of industrial development continued to threaten traditional rural life, Allingham’s paintings captured unblemished landscapes and historic cottage architecture in superb detail. Helen was fervently concerned for the preservation of the English countryside and this love of hers was also held by the viewing public. In 1886 Helen was invited by the Fine Arts Society to hold a one-woman exhibition with the title Surrey Cottages.
Helen’s depiction of the old, thatched cottages was not just an act of sentimentality but it was to remind people of what life was like before the railways built their tracks through acres of beautiful land and with the arrival of the railways came the hordes of middle-class families into rural communities. Some bought the cottages and refurbished them while others demolished them and built modern monstrosities. For Helen, the task was to memorialise the beauty and tranquillity of rural life and the exquisiteness of the country cottage which she depicted with such accuracy. She would roam the countryside and paint en plein air the cottages which were marked for demolition. She would add small figures to the scenes and sometimes would substitute thatch rooves to depictions of cottages which had been modernised with man-made materials but at the same time tried to avoid the idealistic depictions.
In 1888, Helen’s husband William became ill with persistent indigestion and the couple decided to move away from the countryside and return to London to be close to family friends. They took up residence in Hampstead in a large home in Eldon Road. William Allingham’s health continued to deteriorate and despite an operation in the Spring of 1889, he died that November, aged 65, leaving Helen, then forty-one, to support herself and three young children, aged fourteen, twelve, and seven. In 1891 Helen and her children travelled to the Irish town of Ballyshannon where their father, William was born and laid to rest. A monument had been erected in honour of their late father and Mary took the opportunity to visit some of his relations. She also painted a number of watercolours of the landscape and the peasant cottages.
In 1890 the Royal Society of Watercolours opened their membership to women, and Helen had the honour of being the first elected into the Society. Helen exhibited her scenic country watercolours every year in London and her depictions of rural cottage scenes grew in popularity. In 1903 Helen collaborated with Marcus B. Huish for a book about English country life titled Happy England, which featured eighty colour plates of Helen’s watercolours.
In 1905 she and her brother, Arthur Paterson, collaborated to produce a book entitled “The Homes of Tennyson” which contained twenty of her paintings. More books followed including editing several books of her late husband’s poetry. Helen continued to paint and exhibit her work. On September 28th, 1926, two days after her seventy-eighth birthday, Helen Allingham died of a acute peritonitis while visiting an old friend at Valewood House in Haslemere, just a few miles from her old country home in Sandhills.
Most of the information for this blog came from the
The fifth son of Edward and Ann Williams was Sidney Richard Percy Williams. He was born on March 22nd 1822 in London. His eldest brother, Edward Charles was fourteen years old when Sidney was born. Once again, like his brothers before him, he was taught to paint by his father and he never received any formal training.
His childhood years were spent in or near the artist’s quarter of Tottenham Court and Brunswick Square. In 1846 he moved to his father’s house at 32 Castelnau in the London suburb of Barnes. It was here that he lived and worked with his father and his older brothers in a communal artist setting within the large house which had a studio which the father and sons shared. Although Castelnau is a built-up metropolitan area now, at the time of the William’s family living there, it was at the heart of a rural countryside area, close to the River Thames. It was an area of marshland and windmills with many small farms, ploughed fields and countryside inns. It was an ideal area for budding landscape painters such as the Williams family.
Sidney signed his early works of art Sidney Williams but from the age of twenty he signed his name Sidney Percy so as to set himself aside from his brothers and their paintings. His elder brothers Henry (Boddington) and Arthur (Gilbert) had also changed how they signed their work for the same reason. From 1842, his work was exhibited at the Royal Academy, the British Institution, and the Suffolk Street Gallery of the Society of British Artists. He also exhibited in many of the lesser-known Victorian art venues.
Sidney was also an avid amateur photographer, and some of his paintings show figures based on photographs that he took of gypsies frequenting the area around Barnes and Wimbledon Commons. One such painting is his 1861 work entitled Rest on the Roadside.
Although the painting seems to be a simple en plein air depiction of the two gypsies, the photograph which is part of the Victoria and Albert Museum collection states on its website that it may have been staged, rather than taken in an actual countryside setting, and in fact the characters in the depiction are household servants dressed up to look like gypsies. Photographs still survive that Sidney took at home of various family members. He also took pictures of views of fishing boats and old buildings, many of which he used for his paintings.
Edward Williams, the family patriarch died in 1855 and two years later, Sidney married Emily Charlotte Fairlam, one of the younger children of a large family of seven, on June 10th, 1857 in the Barnes Parish Church. He signed his name as Sidney Richard Percy Williams on his marriage certificate although he was known to the public and appears in the census records and exhibition catalogues, as Sidney Richard Percy.
Once Sidney had married he left the home he had shared with his family at 32 Castelnau and moved with his wife to Florence Villa on Inner Park Road in nearby Wimbledon, Surrey. It was said to be a substantial house on an acre and half of land, with coach house and servants quarters. He and Emily remained there for four years during which time his wife gave birth to their four children. The first born child was Gordon Fairlam Percy Williams who was born on April 12th, 1858. Their daughter Edith Maude Percy Williams came next on April 14th 1859 and their third child, another daughter, Amy Dora was born on October 6th 1860. Sidney Percy’s art had been selling well and the family finances were extremely good. Whether it was their newly-found wealth or the fact that their family was expanding, Sidney’s wife decided they needed to move to a larger home and so in 1863, the year that their fourth child, Herbert, was born, the family moved to Hill House in the village of Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire.
Hill House was a large, three-storey building complete with cellar and servants quarters. It was situated in a position which boasted beautiful views across the Misbourne Valley and was an ideal starting point for sketching and painting trips into the nearby countryside. Sidney did not restrict his painting forays to the nearby countryside as he travelled extensively throughout Britain, visiting Northern Wales, Devon, Yorkshire, the Lake District and Skye continually pictorially recording the beautiful landscapes. He also travelled to Venice in 1865 along with his friend and neighbour, the watercolour artist, William Callow. The painting trip was brought to an abrupt end in 1866 when war broke out between Prussia and Austria, and Sidney was compelled to return to Hill House and to concentrate his painting trips to North Wales in and around the villages of Llanbedr and Arthog.
There was a downturn in the popularity of landscape art with the buying public and landscape artists found it difficult to sell their paintings. Sidney suffered from this downturn in the popularity of his work in the 1870’s and the family income waned to such an extent that he and his wife could no longer live in the lap of luxury at Hill House and had to downsize in 1873 for a more modest residence in Redhill, Surrey. They remained there until 1879 when they made their final house move to Woodseat, Mulgrave Road, in the London borough of Sutton.
Sidney suffered a horse riding accident in the 1880’s and badly injured his knee when he was thrown from his horse. The injury proved to be so serious that he had to have his leg amputated. Sidney Richard Percy Williams died at home on April 13th 1886, aged 64, due to complications from the operation. Sidney’s finances had been excellent in the 1870’s but at the time of his death they had deteriorated so much that at the end of 1886, his widow was forced to auction off his remaining works to try and boost her meagre inheritance. However, Emily had to be supported in her final years by her Quaker son-in-law Fred Reynolds, the husband of their daughter, Amy Dora. Sidney’s widow Emily died in 1904. Sidney Richard Perry and his wife Emily Charlotte are buried at the Beckenham Cemetery on Elmers End Road, which is located in the Beckenham parish on the outskirts of London.
Alfred Walter Williams
Alfred Walter Williams and his identical twin, Charles, were born on July 18th 1824 in Southwark, London. Sadly, the second twin died a few days after birth. Alfred was the sixth son of the painter Edward Williams and Ann Hildebrandt and a member of the Williams family of painters, who also had family connections to such famous artists as James Ward, R.A. and George Morland. Alfred, who like his older brothers, was taught by his father and being the youngest also received artistic tuition from his siblings.
Alfred’s first work to be accepted by the Royal Academy was in 1843 and following that breakthrough he regularly exhibited there until 1890. Alfred also exhibited his work at the Society of British Artists’ exhibitions. That illustrious society was renamed the Royal Society of British Artists in 1887.
Alfred with his family had moved into a large Surrey home at 32 Castelnau, Barnes in 1846. It was a large residence with a spacious coach house which was converted into a studio for the whole family.
Alfred was very close to his brother Sidney Richard Percy. Sidney married Emily Fairlam in 1857 and left the family home at Castelnau and moved to Florence Villa, Wimbledon with their children. Alfred boarded with them for a couple of years. In 1860 he rented accommodation from Mr and Mrs Fitzsimon in their Westgate Street home in Reigate. In 1870 he was on the move again, this time he went to Mead Vale in the Surrey town of Redhill.
On August 13th 1888, sixty-four year-old Alfred married his housekeeper, Ann Hutchence, who had been widowed since her husband died in 1862. Ann was ten years younger than Alfred and not only did Alfred gain a wife but he became stepfather to Ann’s two daughter, Rosie who was twenty-eight at the time her mother re-married and Ada who was two years younger. There is no record of Alfred and Ann having any children.
Alfred and his family remained in their Mead Vale home until 1895 when they moved to 40 Croydon Road in Reigate, which was close to his older brother Arthur Gilbert, who lived on Canterbury Road in West Croydon. Alas, Arthur died that same year.
Alfred Walter Williams died on December 16th, 1905 in the Croydon area of South London. His wife is thought to have died around 1921. Alfred and his wife are both buried in the Mitcham Road Cemetery in Croydon, Surrey.
Alfred Walter Williams produced grand and romantic landscapes in the best tradition of the Williams family, which through their popularity became the most successful Victorian family of painters.
Most of the information I have found for these blogs about the Barnes School came from the excellent website of Mike Clark, entitled Genealogy of the Percy, Williams and Ward families. If you would like to read an in-depth account of the Williams family, this is a must-read.
The Children: George Augustus Williams and Arthur Gilbert Frederick Williams
George Augustus Williams
The third son of Edward and Ann Williams was George Augustus Williams who was born in London on May 4th 1814. He was one of the more prolific landscape painters of the Williams family. Again, like his brothers, the only artistic tuition he received was from his father. His work is distinct from that of the other family members as he preferred to paint depictions of riverscapes of the Thames, moonlit landscapes, seascapes and views of Kent, Wales and elsewhere. His work was characterized by moonlight and twilight winter scenes of villages and stables, often with horses and a light dusting of snow.
George was still young when he married Caroline Smith on February 19th 1834 at St. Pancras Church in Camden, London. It was a double wedding, in which Caroline’s sister Charlotte Matilda Smith also married her fiancé Edward Joseph Brett. By 1841 George and his wife had a family of three sons, Walter, Francis, and Frederick and a daughter, Caroline. The 1841 census shows that George and Caroline were living with their family on London Street in St. Mary Islington in the central part of London, next door to his brother Edward Charles Williams. The family moved around 1844 to Liverpool Street in the Bishopsgate District of London.
In 1846, the family had once again moved, this time to Barnes and lived in a house that had sight of the Thames, which was a favourite subject for Augustus Williams’ paintings. His paintings were primarily exhibited at the Suffolk Street Gallery, the home of the Society of British Artists but he also exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1841 onwards, and at many other galleries.
In 1846 George, Caroline and their family were living with his father at No. 32 Castelnau Villas in Barnes, which at that time was a rural area near the Thames River on the outskirts of London. George continued to live there until the death of his father in 1855. He then moved his family a short distance to another house at No. 4 Castelnau Cottages.
There is, however, somewhat of a mystery as to what happened to George’s wife Caroline as she seems to have disappeared from living at Castelnau Villas from any census records after 1851. It is possible that she left her husband, although in Jan Reynolds 1975 book, The Williams Family of Painters, she said that she believed Caroline had died.
George continued to give No. 32 Castelnau as his address in various documents until 1855, which is the year his father died. George then at some point soon after moved to another house on the same road, No. 4 Castelnau Cottages, which is very close to his late father’s house. We know for sure that he was in the new house by the time the U.K. Census for 1861 was taken. As I said before, nothing is known for sure about Caroline’s status or whereabouts during these years at the Castelnau houses, and she was definitely out George’s life by 1854 when he appears with a new wife and a new child.
George’s fifth child Albert Williams was born on August 26, 1854. The mother of the child was George’s second wife, Jane Newman, and they were shown on birth and baptism records as Albert’s parents. However, there is no official record of the marriage between George and Jane. Sadly, Jane died of tuberculosis on February 3rd, 1855 at the Castelnau Villas, less than five months after the birth of Albert. She was buried at the age of 27 on February 10th, 1855 in the Barnes parish, which indicates that she almost certainly is buried in the Old Barnes Cemetery.
Albert Williams was baptized on March 15, 1855 at the Barnes, St. Mary parish church, about three weeks after his mother’s burial. He died the next day on March 16 1855 in Castelnau, Barnes, and as his name appears in the burial register of the Barnes parish church, he is almost certainly buried with his parents in the Old Barnes Cemetery
In the 1861 U.K. census, George Augustus Williams now listed as a widow, was sharing a household with his daughter Caroline, who never married. George and Caroline were then joined around 1877 by George’s eight-year-old granddaughter, Maud Marion Williams, who was the daughter of George’s late son, Frederick Williams, and stayed with them for the rest of their lives.
George died on May 26th, 1901, aged 87, at his home at Castelnau Villas, having lived in the same neighbourhood for more than fifty years. He is buried in the Old Barnes Cemetery in the grave of his father, and near his brother Henry John Boddington.
Arthur Gilbert Frederick William
Arthur Gilbert Frederick Williams was born on December 19th, 1819 at Newington Butts Road in Southeast London. He was the fourth of six sons of Edward Williams and his wife Anne Hildebrandt. Again, like his brothers before him, he was initially tutored in art by his father but also by his older siblings. He, like his brother Henry (Boddington) Williams, attempted to distinguish himself from the other members of his family by avoiding the use of his surname, and instead signing his works, Arthur Gilbert. His works often focused on depictions of moonlit night scenes, and stark mountain landscapes uncluttered by trees or people.
When Arthur was twenty-three, he married his first wife Elizabeth Jane Williams on January 23rd, 1843 at St. Martin in the Fields in London. She was three years older than her husband. Although both had the same surname, there is no indication that they were in any way related.
Their daughter Kate was born later that year, on December 17th and the following year, 1844, Arthur was baptized with his daughter Kate on Sept. 9th at the Old St. Pancras Church, the same church where his parents had been married. Elizabeth died after contracting tuberculosis on August 29th, 1849, and she was buried on September 5th, 1849 in Hammersmith. Arthur was now left to look after his five-year-old daughter. Five years later, Arthur married his second wife, Sarah on June 28th, 1854 at the Barnes parish church. Sarah, whose father was a lawyer, was ten years older than Arthur. Arthur and Sarah had a son Horace Walter Gilbert who was born on April 6th 1855.
Arthur Gilbert lived at different homes in the London districts of Weybridge and Hammersmith, but he lived for seventeen years at Lonsdale Terrace in Barnes, close to his brothers at the Castelnau Villas. Arthur and Sarah moved to Redhill, Surrey with their family in 1873, and the following year he was on the move again, this time to Surrey and a large house, De Tillens, in the town of Limpsfield, Surrey. Arthur Gilbert Fredrick Williams died on April 21, 1895, aged 75, in Croydon, Surrey, near the home of his brother Alfred. It is believed that his wife, Sarah, died around the same time. It is thought that Arthur and Sarah were buried at the Queen’s Road Cemetery in Croydon, which is located only a couple of miles from where Arthur Gilbert died.
Friends described Arthur as of a shy and retiring nature. He was a devoted family man, but completely engaged in his work as a painter. He had an exceptional inherent flair for painting and was always fascinated with the beauty of the English countryside, which he was masterful when it came to transferring what he saw onto canvas in a crisp, colourful manner, whether it be the meadows, gently flowing rivers, verdant trees or the rustic farmsteads, and delightfully contrasted the lush greens with red-roofed barns and thatched cottages. Arthur Gilbert was equally proficient at painting farm workers, grazing sheep, horses at work and cattle idly drinking water in high Summer or in the glow of Autumn. He painted en plein air and lovingly transferred his love and kinship with the countryside into his artwork.
One example of this is his highly gifted 1844 work entitled The Bell Inn, Arthur Gilbert which depicts a rustic village inn, nestling under a canopy of trees, a wooden bridge crossing the shallow river, with sunlight illuminating the path. We observe a man on horseback who has paused for a drink at the inn. Another man fishes from the bridge, and a flock of sheep head for the fields, following a horse and cart. It is a tranquil depiction, the likes of which were popular with the public who wanted to remember the gentle serenity, peace and of a time long gone by.
Most of the information I have found for these blogs about the Barnes School came from the excellent website of Mike Clark, entitled Genealogy of the Percy, Williams and Ward families. If you would like to read an in-depth account of the Williams family, this is a must-read.
A year after Edward Williams and Ann Hilderbrandt married, she gave birth on July 10th 1807 to their first child, a boy, who was christened Edward Charles at St Mary’s Church in the St. Marylebone parish of Westminster. When he was still a child Edward Charles was taught to paint by his father and in years to come their styles were so similar it was difficult to detect the artist of some of their works, especially their woodland scenes.
As neither father nor son consistently signed their works, it can be very difficult to ascertain which one painted a given canvas. To complicate things even further Edward Charles Williams signed some of his paintings E Williams, which led to confusion with paintings by his father, and at other times he would sign his work C Williams. Like his father’s love of the work by the Dutch Golden Age landscape painters, his son was greatly influenced by those Dutch masters.
Edward Charles spent most of his life living around London and often his paintings depicted the countryside of the counties surrounding the capital such as Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Essex. On December 11th 1839, when Edward was thirty-two, he married Mary Ann Challenger at the St Marylebone Church in Westminster.
In the early 1840’s he was living at 2, London Street which was close to the homes of two well-known Pre-Raphaelite artists Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt. He exhibited his first work at the Royal Academy in 1840 entitled A Gypsy Encampment, Moon Rising.
By 1854 he had moved to Hammersmith. Edward and Ann’s marriage lasted until his wife’s death in 1857. The Barnes parish church Burial Register records her as being buried on March 13th 1857, a week after her death at the age of 49, and it is probable that she was laid to rest with other members of the family in the Old Barnes Cemetery. The couple were childless.
Edward Charles Williams was the least prolific exhibitor of the Williams family as he had almost given up painting after the death of his first wife, Ann.. It was thought that her death led to him suffering a mental breakdown. However, he did exhibit some of his work at all the major exhibition halls, including: The Royal Academy, British Institution, Royal Society of British Artists, Institute of Fine Arts and the National Institution.
Edwards’ first wife had been an invalid for many years and had required a live-in nurse. The nurse was Sarah Susannah Horley, the daughter of a pawnbroker, William Horley. A year after the death of Edward Charles’ wife, Ann, Sarah gave birth to his child, Alice. Edward, Sarah and Alice lived together almost ten years before Edward and Ann were married on October 3rd 1868 at the St. Pancras Old Church in Camden, London. She was the thirty-years-old and Edward Charles was sixty-one.
Edward Charles Williams saw his fortunes decline in his later years but it was said that he died “in respectable poverty” on July 25th, 1881 in Shepherds Bush, London. He had just celebrated his seventy-fourth birthday a fortnight before his death.
Edward Chales Williams was buried in the Old Hammersmith (Margravine) Cemetery, only a couple of miles from his family home. Sarah, who had been born Feb. 26th, 1838 in the Finsbury district of London, outlived him by more than fifty years, and died on Feb. 10th, 1933 in Hammersmith. She is also buried at the Margravine Cemetery, in the same plot as her husband and their daughter.
Henry John Boddington
Edward Williams and Ann Hilderbrandt’s second-born child was a son, Henry John Williams. He was born on October 14th 1811 in London. Like his elder brother, Edward Charles, he was taught to paint by his father and he was also tutored by his older brother but other than that, he received no formal instruction. On November 28th 1833, at the age of twenty-two, Henry married Clarissa (Clara) Eliza Boddington in the St. Pancras Church in Camden, London. It was then that Henry decided to adopt his wife’s maiden name and was. from then on, known as Henry John Boddington so that his artwork was not confused with that of other members of his artistic family. Henry and Clarissa had one child, Edwin Henry Boddington, who was born on October 14th 1836, and who would also become a well-known painter.
For many years after marriage Henry struggled to make ends meet and the family lived in great poverty but despite this, he continued to believe in himself as a painter and by 1840 he had become a prosperous and well-respected artist. He then enjoyed considerable success as there was an enthusiastic market amongst the emerging wealthy class, who were furnishing their grand city homes with scenes of the countryside that they had left behind, and wished to be reminded of.
Boddington had showed an early talent for painting and he quickly developed his own distinct style which was categorised by his treatment of blocked light as it seeped through an archway of trees. Like his brothers, Henry was known for his delightful depiction of trees, with their twisting branches and rich foliage set under glorious skies, with large white clouds illuminated from behind with a soft sunlight.
In Jan Reynolds’ 1975 book, The Williams Family of Painters, she writes about Henry Boddington’s painting style:
“…most characteristic effect is the appearance of a warm day, with the sun just out of the picture, giving a filmy, hazy atmosphere to the landscape, with deep blue shadows adding greater value to the opposing tone of yellow. The distant mountains are melting in vapory sunlight. The artist is a master of this effect…”
Henry Boddington liked to paint large canvases which allowed him to encapsulate the grandiose beauty of the English countryside. In an article in the 1865 Fine Arts Quarterly Review it noted that Boddington was:
“…an artist who, if he fell into mannerism, had yet during a hard working life, painted pictures not only large, but sometimes grand. His landscapes of mountains, lake and river had scenic breadth and power…”
The famous art critic John Ruskin praised his pictures for their honesty and true love of the countryside. One such painting illustrates this quality. It is his painting Eel Traps on the Ouse. This charming scene, which is set on the banks of the River Ouse, depicts a couple of children watching a man, as he skilfully creates a new eel pot from reeds, for his eel trap.
Henry had built up a reputation as being a talented painter of woodland and village scenes and in 1842, at the age of 31, he became a member of the Royal Society of British Artists. Many other artists had exhibited with the Society, but few had been accepted as a member, in fact Henry Boddington was the only member of his family to achieve this honour which carried with it definite status and responsibility.
Henry and his wife initially lived in the north central London district of Pentonville before moving to Hammersmith a western district of London. Their final move was in 1854 when they relocated to the Surrey town of Barnes. Many of his early paintings depicted the scenery of Surrey and the banks of the Thames.
Henry first exhibited at the Royal Academy, London in 1837, and then from 1839 onwards one or two of his pictures were always on display. As well as showing at the Academy, many of his works were exhibited at the Society of British Artistsin Suffolk Street. In 1842 Henry became a member of the Society of British Artists, and from then on exhibited an average of ten pictures a year until his death.
Henry travelled around Britain sketching and painting. In 1843 he visited Devonshire, staying at Ashburton; in 1846 the English Lake District; and in 1847, for the first time, North Wales, which, especially the country around Betws-Y-Coed and Dolgellau, became his favourite place for his landscape work. Boddington also painted in Scotland, Yorkshire, and other parts of England, but strangely, he never travelled to the European continent.
A fellow member of the Royal Society of British Artists was John Frederick Herring, Sr, who, along with Landseer, had become one of the more eminent animal painters of mid-nineteenth century. He collaborated with Henry Boddington by painting horses and animals into Henry’s prepared landscape.
After suffering for several years from a progressive disease of the brain, thought to have been a brain tumour, which eventually robbed him of his sight, he died at his home in Barnes on 11 April 1865, aged 54. Henry Boddington was buried in the Old Barnes Cemetery, next to his father’s grave, under his given name of Williams. Following her husband’s death, his wife Clara adopted his name after his death, and became known as Clarissa Eliza Boddington-Williams. She died at the age of 92 of complications from a fall on March 21st, 1905 at Upper Holloway in London, some forty years after the passing of her husband.
………….to be continued.
Most of the information I have found for these blogs about the Barnes School came from the excellent website of Mike Clark, entitled Genealogy of the Percy, Williams and Ward families. If you would like to read an in-depth account of the Williams family, this is a must-read.
When I came across the words “Barnes School” in connection with art, I immediately thought it was referring to an artistic colony or a type of painting but I was wrong, albeit the name derived from the then rural town of Barnes, a district in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, where a talented artistic family had their painting studio. The name referred to a nineteenth century family of gifted Victorian landscape painters who pictorially depicted the British countryside. The head of this family of artists was Edward Williams. In this and the next three blogs I will be looking at the life and work of the talented patriarch and his six sons
Edward Williams was born some time in 1781 as baptismal records show him as being baptised on October 13th 1781 at St. Mary’s Church in the London borough of Lambeth. Edward was the son of Edward Williams, an engraver and Mary Ward. Mary came from a large artistic family. She was a sister of James Ward the well-known animal painter, and a sister of the equally well-known engraver, William Ward. Mary was also a sister-in-law of the talented figure painter George Morland, and a sister-in-law of Henry Chalon, another animal painter. The family history recounts that around 1793 Edward Williams’ mother left his father for another man, and their son Edward was sent to live with his maternal uncle, James Ward the painter. Ward was one of the outstanding artists of the day and was regarded as one of the great animal painters of his time. It is not recorded as to whether Ward ever gave his young nephew any artistic training but there is no doubt that Edward must have been influenced by his brief association with Ward.
After staying with Ward for a short period Edward Williams took up an apprenticeship with a carver and gilder named Thomas Hillier, who was not in any of the trade guilds but nonetheless had a shop on Silver Street, Golden Square, London. It was probable that Edward began his career carving and gilding picture frames, but it is also known that to support himself financially he painted and sold miniatures.
Edward married Ann Hildebrant, who was the daughter of Frederick and Sarah Hildebrant, on February 12th, 1806 at St. Pancras Church in London. Ann was twenty-five and Edward was a year younger. Although Edward Williams’ profession was as a carver and gilder he was amongst relatives who were all well-known painters and engravers, and consequently, as time passed, Edward re-invented himself as a painter.
His initial delving into the world of art was when he started to copy well known landscape paintings of the Dutch Baroque era of the 1600’s, such as those by Jacob Isaackszoon van Ruisdael and Meindert Hobbema.
Following this phase in his artistic career, he concentrated on copying works by contemporary landscape painters, such as his uncle, George Morland. Edward took the decision to become a landscape painter which was a risky choice as landscape art was, at the time, considered to be an inferior genre.
Edward Williams became known for his moonlight scenes. Edward Williams often shared art exhibition venues with his sons, causing some confusion with the public who had trouble telling one Williams painting from another. He is often called “Old Williams” to distinguish him from his oldest son, and he is referred to in some of the art journals of the time as “Moonight Williams”, as moonlit scenes of the Thames were one of his favourite subjects in his paintings
As he got older, for river scenes along the Thames.
Edward and his wife Ann Hildebrandt had married in February 1806 and went on to have eight children. The first-born was Edward Charles Williams who was born on July 10th 1807 and because he had been given the same name as his father, Edward Williams, his father became known in his later years as “Old Williams” to distinguish himself from his eldest son . Two more sons followed, Henry John Boddington Williams in October 1811, George Augustus Williams in May 1814. Then followed the Williams’ only daughter, Emily Anne Williams who was born in June 1816. Arthur Gilbert Frederick Williams arrived in December 1819 followed by Sidney Richard Percy Williams in March 1822. Identical twin boys Alfred Walter Williams and Charles Williams were the final additions to the Williams family in July 1824. Sadly, Charles Williams died shortly after birth.
Edward and his wife Ann lived in various residences, in what is now termed the West End of London, in Percy Street, Foley Street, and Charlotte Street. In 1827 the family moved to Cromer Street in the St Pancras area where they stayed for almost twenty years. By 1846 with the continuous sale of the father and sons’ paintings, the family’s finances had improved. Add to that fact the family had grown, they needed a larger residence and so moved to 32 Castelnau Villas, Barnes. Edward Williams spent his final years there with his wife Ann. She died, aged 71, and was buried on September 24th, 1851 at the Barnes Parish Church. Old Williams was overcome with the grief from the death of his wife and he died just four years later at the age of 74 on June 24th, 1855 at his Castelnau Villa house. He along with his wife now rest in the Old Barnes Cemetery. Sadly, the cemetery has been turned into a nature sanctuary by the city council and the graveyard has fallen into disrepair and is overgrown with bushes and vines.
……………..to be continued.
Most of the information I have found for these blogs about the Barnes School came from the excellent website of Mike Clark, entitled Genealogy of the Percy, Williams and Ward families. If you would like to read an in-depth account of the Williams family, this is a must-read.
Today I am looking at an American painter, Sanford Robinson Gifford, who was a leading member of the second generation of Hudson River School artists. The artwork of the Hudson River School captured the rugged beauty of the American landscape and celebrated and venerated the heady era of manifest destiny. In 1845, newspaper editor John O’Sullivan coined the term Manifest Destiny, which was the belief that white Americans were divinely ordained to settle the entire continent of North America. The second generation of Hudson River School painters set out from the New York area to explore more far-flung regions of America. Their painting documented the westward expansion and the “land grab” which underpinned the concept of Manifest Destiny. During the Civil War, their majestic images shown in their paintings of an unspoiled West provided hope for post-war reconciliation and the promise of expanses of wild country, full of promise and lands which were unscarred by battle.
Sanford Robinson Gifford was born in Greenfield, New York 0n July 10th 1823. He was the fourth of the eleven children of Quaker ironmaker Elihu Gifford and his wife Eliza Robinson Starbuck. Most of his childhood was spent in Hudson, New York, a town on the banks of the upper reaches of the Hudson River, across from the Catskill Mountains. Following normal schooling, Gifford entered Brown University in 1842. He left college after completing two years, and moved to New York City in 1845 to study art. He studied drawing, perspective and anatomy under the British watercolourist and drawing-master, John Rubens Smith, who in 1806 had emigrated from London to the USA and set up successful drawing schools in Boston, New York and Philadelphia. He also attended drawing classes at the National Academy of Design and studied the human figure in anatomy classes at the Crosby Street Medical College.
In 1846 Gifford visited the Berkshire Hills and the Catskill Mountains, sketching en plein air. He thoroughly enjoyed his sketching trips, once writing to a friend:
“…”These studies together with the great admiration I felt for the works of [Thomas] Cole developed a strong interest in landscape art, and opened my eyes to a keener perception and more intelligent enjoyment of nature. Having once enjoyed the absolute freedom of the landscape painters’ life I was unable to return to portrait painting…”
The American Art Union bought and exhibited some of Gifford’s first landscape paintings in 1847. In 1851 he was elected an associate, and in 1854 an academician, of the National Academy of Design. He must have taken great pleasure in his landscape depictions as from that time on he concentrated on the landscape genre, becoming one of the finest artists of the Hudson River School. Gifford loved the freedom of the outdoors and travelled extensively to sketch landscapes which he would use later for future paintings. On his trips he would often write to his father recording his experiences. These letters home would, he said, serve the double purpose of letter and journal, and be an economy of time. He also asked his father to number the letters sequentially and keep them all together.
In the summer of 1855 Gifford crossed the Atlantic and visited England, Scotland and Paris. He then spent the winter of 1855 completing paintings from the numerous sketches he had made.
In the Autumn of 1856, he travelled to Italy and rented a studio in Rome and, during that winter he painted pictures of the surrounding area including Lake Nemi which he visited in October 1856. In a letter he described the scene:
“…We were high up above the lake. On one side in the foreground were some picturesque houses and ruined walls—a tall dark cypress, rising out of a rich mass of foliage, cut strongly against the lake, distance, and sky…”
By capturing scenes at sunset, Gifford was able to record the subtle effects of atmosphere and light that would become his trademark. Gifford was a true Luminist, a member of the Luminism art movement associated with many American landscape painters of the 1850’s to 1870’s Their artwork was characterized by effects of light in landscapes, through using aerial perspective, and concealing visible brushstrokes. The landscape art of the Luminist emphasized serenity and calmness. It focused on reflective water and soft, hazy skies but as part of often melodramatic, magnificent, oversized landscapes as the artist intended to capture the immenseness as they viewed their subject on location. An example of this Lumanism is his 1866 painting entitled A Home in the Wilderness. Gifford’s view of Mount Hayes in New Hampshire records human intrusion into a remote landscape. On the left riverbank a log cabin stands amid a recently cleared patch of land with several tree stumps, while figures in its doorway greet a man who has arrived with a canoe of supplies.
During the spring of 1857 whilst still in Rome, Gifford spent time with fellow American artists Worthington Whittredge, William H. Beard and Albert Bierstadt. Gifford and Bierstadt left Rome in May 1857 and set off on a walking tour of southern Italy. Gifford completed his European tour with visits to Innsbruck, Munich, Vienna, Prague, Dresden, Berlin and Paris, before returning to the United States at the end of the summer.
On his return Gifford rented studio Number 19 in the Tenth Street Studio Building in New York City. The Tenth Street Studio Building was constructed in New York City in 1857. It was situated at 51 West 10th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in Manhattan and was the first modern facility designed solely to serve the needs of artists. It became the centre of the New York art world for the remainder of the 19th century. Gifford retained his studio until his death.
Over the next few years Gifford also made frequent summer trips to various north-eastern locales including the Catskills, the Adirondacks, the Green Mountains in Vermont, the White Mountains in New Hampshire, Maine and Nova Scotia.
The American Civil War broke out in April 1861 and Gifford enlisted in New York’s Seventh Regiment and marched to the defence of Washington. Several paintings resulted from this experience, including his 1864 work entitled Sunday Morning in the Camp of the Seventh Regiment, near Frederick, Maryland, in July 1863 ,
Another was his night scene entitled Night Bivouac of the Seventh Regiment New York at Arlington Heights, Virginia which he completed in 1861.
In 1868 Gifford once again travelled to Europe, and again visited the English and French capitals. Whilst in Paris he met with a fellow American Hudson River painter, Jervis McEntee and his wife. McEntee was a to some extent a lesser-known figure of the 19th-century American art world but apart from his paintings, McEntee’s journals are an enduring legacy, documenting the life of a New York painter during and after the Gilded Age. From Paris Gifford spent the summer visiting the Alps and Sicily before wintering in Rome.
Gifford was always stimulated by the awe-inspiring Italian landscape and his painting Galleries of the Stelvio, Lake Como exudes a moment of pure artistic beauty. Gifford’s used shades of pastel blues and pinks to capture the hazy quality of a warm Italian summer afternoon. Look how the juxtaposition of light and shadow draws attention to the natural curve of the rock cliff exploited by and altered by man’s hand. The curve in the wall gives one the feeling of motion through the road tunnel and to the side of the road we see a couple looking over at the boats below and the still waters of the beautiful lake. Almost if we are in the tunnel\ we begin to feel the coolness of the tunnel in comparison to the area around the lake which is exposed to the sun.
In 1869 Gifford set off on his travels once more. This time he journeyed to Egypt where he and some friends. He hired a boat and took a two-month voyage from Cairo down the Nile River to the first cataract . Although many American artists left their home shores, few ventured much further than the European Continent. Sanford Gifford was one of the very few who ventured further afield.
On March 4 he reached the village of Siout (Asyut), on the western bank of the Nile, and this was the starting point of a great caravan route running through the Libyan Desert to the Sudan. The town was well known for being picturesque and for its history, having been the capital of the thirteenth province of Upper Egypt during antiquity and the birthplace of Plotinus, the great Neoplatonic philosopher. Gifford was taken with the town and noted in his journal the reasons for depicting it in his painting. He wrote:
“…Looking westward, the town with its domes and minarets lay between us and the sun, bathed in a rich and beautiful atmosphere. Behind, on the right, were the yellow cliffs of the Libyan mts., running back into the tender grades of distance. Between us and the town were fields of grain, golden green with the transparent light. On the right was a tent with sheep and beautiful horses, the sunlight sparkling on a splendid white stallion. On the left the road ran in, with a fountain and figures of men and women and camels. The whole glowing and gleaming under the low sun…”
The painting, simply entitled Siout, Egypt, is one of Gifford’s finest works in which he depicted Egypt.
From Egypt, Gifford travelled to the Middle East with fellow artist, Alfred Craven, via the Suez Canal, where his itinerary included Syria, Jerusalem, Samaria, Damascus, Greece and Turkey. Gifford travelled to Constantinople in 1869 and he wrote about the time in his journal:
“…boats and costumes on the water on either side were all aglow with color, while through the purple haze of the distance flashed a thousand little golden lights from the windows of the Seraglio and the mosque of St. Sophia…”
Gifford final port of call was Venice which he reached in June 1869 and it was from here that he took a sea passage back to the United States at the beginning of September.
Sanford Gifford married Mary Cecilia Canfield in 1877, at age fifty-four.
I end this blog with my favourite painting by Gifford. It is his 1876 work entitled Autumn, a Wood Path. Gifford created several paintings depicting forest interiors, including this one set amid full autumnal blaze. The dense forest path is enclosed in a network of overarching trees which casts shadows on the rugged ground below, restricting sunlight to haphazard patches. A solitary hiker is visible in the distance.
Three years after his marriage, Gifford became ill while on a trip to Lake Superior and was brought back to New York where he was diagnosed as having contracted pneumonia following a bout of malarial fever. On August 29th, 1880, Gifford died in New York city, aged 57, and was buried at Hudson City Cemetery, Hudson, Columbia County, New York. His death was seen as a tragedy for American art. He was memorialized in 1880 by the publication of a series of addresses given at the Century Association and by a large retrospective exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1881. A compilation of a catalogue raisonné was published in 1881 and recorded that he had completed more than seven hundred paintings during his career.
The Rev. Dr. Bellows, who several times has officiated at the funerals of well-known American painters, delivered a touching and beautiful address in the Gifford mansion at Hudson. He spoke of Gifford’s love of his country, saying:
“…Patriotism, in the speaker’s opinion, was at one time a greater force in Gifford’s life than even love of Art; and his resolve to fight as a private soldier in the late war for the Union was greater in its influence upon the man, and in its possession of him, than even his devotion to his profession…”
The Arts and Crafts Movement was a design movement which emerged from the Pre-Raphaelite circle with the founding of the design firm Morris and Co. in 1861 by William Morris. It was a design movement which aspired to enhance the quality of design and make it available to the widest possible audience. The term was not coined until 1887 and the Arts and Crafts Movement officially started when Morris and fellow artist, Edward Burne-Jones established a group that they called the Birmingham Set or Birmingham Group. They were an informal collective of painters and craftsmen who worked in Birmingham, England in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. My featured artist today, Joseph Edward Southall, was one of the leaders of this group. He was probably the most important, if not the most celebrated artist of that group and was looked upon as among the most dedicated.
Joseph Edward Southall was born in Nottingham on August 23rd 1861, the son of a grocer, Joseph Sturge Southall, and his wife Elizabeth Maria Baker, both offsprings of distinguished Quaker families. Just a year after the birth of Joseph Southall his father died aged twenty-seven and Joseph and his mother had to go and live with his maternal grandmother in Edgbaston, a suburb of Birmingham
Joseph Southall’s education was to attend Quaker schools. He attended the Friends’ School at Ackworth and in 1872, at the age of eleven, transferred to the Friends’ School at Bootham, York, where he received his first tuition in art when he was taught watercolour painting by the English artist and educator, Edwin Moore. From the school at Bootham he went to a school in Scarborough while still carrying on with private lessons with Moore. On September 1st 1878, following on a few days after his seventeenth birthday, Joseph Southall completed his schooling and began an apprenticeship at the offices of the renowned Birmingham architectural partnership of Martin and Chamberlain. He remained with the firm for four years but continued his art studies at evening classes at the Birmingham School of Art. Both the architectural company and the School of Art were steeped in the spirit of John Ruskin and the Arts and Crafts movement. The architect John Henry Chamberlain was a founder and trustee of the Guild of St George, while the Principal of the School of Art, Edward R. Taylor, was a pioneer of Arts and Crafts education and a friend of William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. It was also around this time that Joseph took to reading books written by Ruskin and William Morris, and what he gained from this would remain with him for the rest of his life.
Southall however felt unfulfilled with his architectural training. Southall left the architectural practice to pursue his studies in painting and carving. For him, architecture should embrace and craft disciplines such as painting and carving and with that in mind and having been inspired by his reading of Ruskin and Morris he decided to go on trips to Europe to broaden his artistic education. In 1882 he visited Bayeux, Rouen and Amiens in Northern France where he was enthralled by the ancient cities with their Gothic cathedrals. In 1883, now a free agent, he, accompanied by his mother, journeyed to Italy and spent thirteen weeks visiting Pisa, Florence, Siena, Orvieto, Rome, Bologna, Padua, Venice and Milan. It was during his stay in Italy that he fell in love with the works of the painters of the Italian Renaissance and the frescoes of the fifteenth century painter, Benozzo Gozzoli
Southall returned home with an overwhelming appreciation of the Italian Primitives and set his mind to study and practise the art of painting in tempera, a painting medium he had witnessed whilst in Italy. In an essay by Peyton Skipwith in the book of paintings, Joseph Southall: 1861-1944.Sixty works by Joseph Southall, 1861-1944, from the Fortunoff Collection, he quotes Southall’s recollection of his time in Italy:
“…the thrill of joy which I experienced when, without any knowledge of what I was about to see, I stepped inside the enchanting cloisters of the great Campo Santo of Pisa. There I found myself at 21 years of age face to face with a vast series of frescoes, so quiet and yet so gay, so reticent in manner and so lively in essence that words must ever fail to convey even the faintest expression of what I felt…”
After returning to England Southall began to experiment with the tempera medium whilst at the Birmingham School of Art. It was at the Birmingham School of Art that he met Arthur Gaskin, who became his closest friend. The School of Art was run by the enigmatic head, Edward R. Taylor who had made the Birmingham school one of the leading schools of art in Britain, and the foremost for the study of the crafts. One of Southall’s great work using tempera was his 1898 painting entitled Beauty Seeing the Image of her Home in the Fountain.
On his return to Birmingham Joseph Southall settled in the house of his uncle, George Baker, at 13 Charlotte Road, in the city suburb of Edgbaston and it would be here that he would remain for the rest of his life. George Baker was a charismatic man and a friend of John Ruskin. He was a staunch Quaker and a life-long admirer of John Ruskin’s Utopian ideals. Baker became a prominent member of Ruskin’s Guild of St George and succeeded him to become the second master of the Guild on Ruskin’s death in 1900. He also showed Ruskin some of his nephew’s 1883 Italian drawings. Ruskin was so taken by Southall’s architectural knowledge that in 1885 he gave Southall his first major commission. Ruskin wanted Joseph Southall to design a museum for the Guild of St George and have it built on Joseph’s uncle’s land near Bewdley, Worcestershire. To gather ideas for this project, Southall made a second trip to Italy in 1886, again visiting Pisa, Florence, Siena and Assisi, so as to do research into Ruskin’s commission. Unfortunately for Southall, the project was abandoned by Ruskin who reverted to his original plans to build a museum in Sheffield. Southall was very disappointed at the turn of events saying that his chance of becoming an architect vanished and he was destined to spend years of obscurity, followed by a little bitterness of soul. The years that followed this disappointment and his love of tempera began to wane. He was generally frustrated with the medium and eventually abandoned it leading him to favour painting with oils.
After a third visit to Italy in 1890, he once again became interested with the works by the Italian Primitives and slowly and once again experimented with the painting medium of tempera. His great influence now that he had returned to Birmingham, was his fellow Brummie artist, Sir Edward Burne-Jones.
It was he who congratulated Southall on his 1898 tempera painting Beauty Seeing the Image of her Home in the Fountain. It was also Burne-Jones who in 1897 sent Southall’s tempera self-portrait, Man with a Sable Brush, to the New Gallery, along with his own work. These paintings and others like them, confirmed Southall as one of the foremost British tempera painters and as such led to his participation in the exhibitions of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society and the exhibition of Modern Paintings in Tempera at Leighton House. The latter immediately preceded the foundation of the Tempera Society, of which Southall became one of the foremost members.
For a number of years Joseph Southall had been very close companions with his cousin Anna Elizabeth Baker, known as Bessie, who was two years older than Joseph. He completed a number of portraits of her including his 1887 portrait of her when she was twenty years of age.
Another early portrait of Anna was John Southall’s 1895 painting entitled Coral Necklace.
She also appeared in his 1898 painting Hortus Inclusus which means private garden. The setting is just such a garden with tall yew hedges in the background. It is a portrait of Southall’s wife-to-be although the wedding would not take place for another five years. It is an idyllic scene with Anna sitting on a bench in the garden with her cat by her side.
In June 1903 Joseph Southall and his long-time fiancé, Anna Elizabeth Baker were married. He was forty-two and she was forty-four. Their relationship started when they were both youths. Over time their relationship became more intimate and they eventually became engaged to be married. However, as they were cousins, this close kinship made the couple deliberately put off marriage until Anna was past child-bearing age. Probably my favourite portrait by Southall is the one which depicts he an Anna, eight years after they married. The setting is a beach, more than likely Southwold on the Suffolk coast, which is where they spent their honeymoon and returned their many times more. The title of the painting, The Agate, derives from Bessie seen in the depiction handing her husband an agate, a gemstone which can be found on the seashore in this area. This handing of the agate to her husband can be seen as a symbol of the couple’s collaboration, as we know that the agate gemstone is used by craftspeople to burnish the gilding on picture frames and Southall’s wife Anna, who was a talented craftswoman, would make the picture frames ready for her husband’s paintings.
Joseph Southall’s popularity and recognition as a great painter grew. He was at the height of his career during the latter years of the 1890’s until the start of World War I. His work was shown at numerous exhibitions, not just in Britain but in Europe and America and he was elected a member of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, the Art Workers Guild and the Union Internationale des Beaux-Arts et des Lettres. His major exhibition in England was held in 1907 at the Fine Art Society in London and three years later a major one-man exhibition was held at the Galeries Georges Petit in Paris. At the Paris exhibition Southall’s work was snapped up and following the event he received a number of lucrative commissions.
With the onset of war in 1014 Southall’s output as an artist waned. Southall being brought up a Quaker and followed their beliefs all his life had him take an anti-War stance at the onset of hostilities. Southall’s output as a painter declined considerably with the outbreak of World War I, as the pacifism inherent in his Quaker faith led him to devote his energies to anti-war campaigning. He abandoned his commitment to the Liberal Party and joined the Independent Labour Party, becoming Chairman of the Birmingham City Branch; the Party was the one left-wing body that always upheld its opposition to the war. Southall also chaired the Birmingham Auxiliary of the Peace Society and was a joint Vice-president of the Birmingham and District Passive Resistance League. His main artistic output during this period were anti-war cartoons printed in pamphlets and magazines, and art historians reckon they number among his most powerful works.
In the above cartoon we see depicted ‘all those who sit in the high places and cast the people into the pit’. A diplomat and a businessman push a blindfolded officer towards a precipice, whilst a fashionable society woman looks on and a cleric of the Established Church appears as the priest who ‘blessed our banners and bade speed to our swords’. Apart from Death, who gleefully accompanies this performance on his drum, only the diplomat sees what is happening; the others all have their eyes covered.
‘The Obliterator’ appeared in his anti-war pamphlet Fables and Illustrations opposite a mock sales promotion advertising the Obliterator’s record of leaving ‘nothing standing and nothing breathing’ while making ‘a clean sweep of civilisation’. Southall’s woodcuts and satirical fables were published when most of his wartime energies were consumed by pacifist activism in Birmingham and print caricature provided him a convenient alternative artistic output. The essence of his moral standpoint is an unshakable absolute conviction of conscience, clearly articulated in his fable ‘Inscription from Babylon’: although citizens ‘ought to be law-abiding’, in the final analysis, pacifism is justified by faith that ‘Divine law stood above human laws’ in the form of the the sixth Commandment: ‘Thou shalt not kill’
During the two decades of peace between the two world wars, Southall and his wife made regular trips to Europe, visiting France and Italy in the Spring and Autumn. Their European holidays were combined with their shorter summer holidays to their beloved Southwold on the Suffolk coast and Cornish breaks on the Fowey estuary, all of which gave Southall opportunities to paint the various places. At this time Southall’s favoured painting medium was watercolours. Many of these paintings were exhibited at the Alpine or Leicester Galleries in London and the Ruskin Galleries in Birmingham, as well as at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, the Royal Academy, and the Paris Salon.
Between holidays Southall spent time on lucrative commissions, painting portraits for wealthy patrons, who would often be from the Quaker community. One such work was his portrait of Sir Whitworth Wallace the first director of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery which opened in 1885.
At the 1930 Winter Exhibition at the Royal Academy, Southall exhibited his painting The Return. The painting depicts two women high up on the banks of a river, possibly the River Fowey, one seated on the grass in grey dress, with mustard coloured shoes and a blue hat with green bands. There is a red book on a rock beside her. The other woman stands. She wears a red hat, a salmon-coloured dress with white collar and cuffs. She waves a handkerchief and her white scarf also waves in the wind. On the still water below are sailing ships, casting long reflections on the water. On a small boat lower right, two figures appear to return the woman’s wave.
Many of the works at this exhibition focused on Southall’s Italian paintings, many done using tempera. So popular were paintings in that medium that the following Summer Exhibition 1n 1931 allotted one room for works using tempera. This was indeed a change of heart by the Academy Hanging Committee jurists who had scorned that painting medium and could not decide whether such works fell into a watercolour or oil classification.
Joseph and Bessie Southall made many trips to Italy and one of their favourite haunts was Venice which he depicted in a number of his works.
The couple made their last trip to Venice in the Spring of 1937 but later that year Southall was taken ill and had to undergo major surgery from which he never fully recovered. Doctors struggled to make a proper diagnosis of what was ailing Southall and he had to return to hospital on a number of occasions. Notwithstanding his poor health he still determinedly carried on painting. One of his last paintings was his memorial portrait in tempera of the Bradford MP, Frederick William Jowett who was a founder member of the Independent Labour Party. In the depiction we see a copy of the Independent Labour Party newspaper with a headline
“…IS THIS WHAT YOUR MEN FIGHT FOR?…”
Jowett had died in February 1944 and Southall had not quite finished it when he died nine months later. The work was then completed by Maxwell Armfield, before being presented to the City of Bradford.
Joseph Edward Southall died of heart failure at his home in Edgbaston in 1944, aged 83.