Friday, November 30, 2012

Frank Dicksee - Portrait of Elsa

Portrait of Katie Lewis

At the bottom of the fantastic stairs is this wonderful portrait.

"It’s 1883.  Artist Edward Burne Jones begins painting  a portrait of his best friends young daughter, Katie Lewis, a child known to be “headstrong and highly intelligent, with a wicked sense of humour and explosive vitality.”   The perfect subject for Jones, who delighted in creating non traditional portraits and other “fanciful” artwork.   The portrait of Katie  began when the girl was four, and evolved over time as did the relationship between artist and subject, into the finished product which now adorns the top of this page.   Burne Jones own children were grown and gone, and he relished the opportunity to play father figure once more.  Katie herself, the youngest child in her family and accustomed to much attention being lavished upon her, was perfectly happy to add this famous artist to her list of admirers. "

Hylas and the Nymphs close up Manchester art gallery

Millais in his Studio by Rupert Fuller. 1886

John Everett Millais - Mackenzie of Birnam c. 1885

Thursday, November 29, 2012

‎" Elegy for Darkness-The Lady of Shalott "

‎" Elegy for Darkness-The Lady of Shalott "

Appearing on the cover of the novel, Banewrecker by Jacqueline Carey
57" x 46" oil on panel
© 2004 Donato Giancola
collection of Scot Tubbs

study and zoomed images

Love and Death: Victorian Paintings from Tate

Love and Death: Victorian Paintings from Tate is still on and for those like me who can't see it (there is no catalogue) this post and the accompanying video gives a taste and shows some great paintings. Just enjoy and drool a while. Particularly strong on Waterhouse.
(3 mins)

John Schaeffer Collection

Daniel Maclise, Scene – lawn before the Duke’s palace; Orlando about to engage with Charles, the Duke’s wrestler, 1854

Over the past 25 years John Schaeffer has been one of the world’s most prominent collectors of British nineteenth-century art. Born in the Netherlands, John Schaeffer emigrated to Australia in the late 1950s where his business career flourished. He was founder, Executive Chairman and CEO of Tempo Services Limited, one of Australia’s largest multi-service public companies. His interest in collecting started in the 1970s with Australian paintings by Rupert Bunny, Emanuel Phillips Fox & John Peter Russell but increasingly through the 1980s and 90s he developed a passion for British nineteenth-century painting and sculpture. He is a benefactor of the Australian art community and his support includes contributions of art and financial assistance to educational institutions and state and federal galleries. He is a board member of the National Gallery of Australia Foundation, a Life Governor of the Art Gallery of New South Wales and a board member of the Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation. He is a past Trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and an Honorary Governor of the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales. In acknowledgement of his generosity and support, Sydney University now has The Schaeffer Fine Arts Library and The Art Gallery of New South Wales, The National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne and the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra each incorporates a John Schaeffer Gallery.

Museo de Arte de Ponce

Museo de Arte de Ponce

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Arthur Hughes - Enoch Arden's Despair

Arthur Hughes - The Beautiful Lady 1869

At the Back of the North Windby George Macdonald. Good Words for the Young. July 1869, p.440.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ford Madox Brown - Study of a Man Painting: 1839

The Tate Gallery, London

Edward Burne-Jones - Study of two male nudes for ‘Arthur in Avalon’

Study of two male nudes for
‘Arthur in Avalon’
signed with initials ‘EBJ’ (lower left)
pencil on paper, unframed

Edward Burne-Jones - Study for the head of a Queen in ‘Arthur in Avalon’

Study for the head of a Queen in
‘Arthur in Avalon’
signed with initials and dated ‘E.B.J./1885.’ (lower left) and inscribed
‘for a Queen in/AVALON’ (lower right)
pencil, on paper
in a period oak frame



Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thomas Woolner - Puck

This plaster statuette of Puckthe troublesome fairy in Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, was first exhibited at the British Institution 1847. William Holman Hunt (1827-1910) describes a visit to Woolner’s studio earlier that year when the sculptor showed himPuck ‘with much paternal fondness’ (quoted in Read and Barnes, p.142). According to the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, Woolner was illustrating an incident from the ‘Imaginary Biography of Puck’: ‘As he was sailing through the air one day, searching for wherewith to please his humorous malice, right well was he satisfied to alight upon a mushroom and awaken a sleeping frog, of which a hungry snake was about to make a meal’ (Parris, p.49). The left leg of the sprite is firmly placed on the giant mushroom and, as described in the passage, he is about to startle the frog with his right. Meanwhile the snake, which has wound itself around the top of the mushroom, is poised to catch the unsuspecting frog. The fairy himself has a mischievous smile which shows pleasure in saving the frog, while spiting the snake of his meal. The sculpture captures a split second of time before a sudden movement, as Puck will touch the frog, which will jump away just before the snake lunges forward.
Woolner was the only sculptor member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which was founded in 1848, one year after this sculpture was made. The Brotherhood drew heavily on Shakespeare and based many of their paintings on characters and incidents from his plays. For example, in successive exhibitions at the Royal Academy, in 1850 and 1851, John Everett Millais (1829-96) showed Ferdinand Lured by Ariel and Hunt Valentine Rescuing Sylvia from Proteus. In addition to the Shakespearean subject matter, Puck exemplifies the leaf by leaf realism which characterises Pre-Raphaelite paintings. The mottled snakeskin and the detailed musculature of the fairy demonstrate the degree of naturalism which Woolner was striving to obtain. The consequences of these efforts were to surface again twelve years later when Woolner was sculpting a bust of the naturalist, Charles Darwin (1809-82). Woolner mentioned to him that he had modelled Puck’s pointed ears after studying the vestigial ‘tips’ that appear on some human ears. He made a drawing of his observations which Darwin chose to include amongst the illustrations of The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871).
Puck should also be linked to the Victorian obsession with fairies and other magical creatures. Maas’s remark that ‘Fairy painting was close to the centre of the Victorian subconscious’ (Martineau, p.11) is borne out by the large number of paintings of goblins, elves and sprites by Richard Dadd (1817-86), Daniel Maclise (1806-70) and Robert Huskisson (1819-61). The trend for pictures of these imaginary creatures, however, dates back to the late eighteenth century, and Woolner may have been familiar with the Puck Tate N05384) which Reynolds (1723-92) made for Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery, and the imaginary Fairyland which Fuseli (1741-1825) conjured for his Titania’s Awakening, (1785-90). It was only in the mid nineteenth century, however, that sculptors began to tackle subjects from Shakespeare. This was partly in response to a campaign to decorate the Houses of Parliament in 1844 and 1845, for which sculptors were given the freedom to choose a subject of their own choice. John Henry Foley (1818-74) and Frederick Thrupp (1812-95) can be included amongst a number of sculptors who chose Shakespearean subjects. The subject was unusual though for Woolner and, with the exception of Ophelia which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1869, he was forced to accept commissions for portrait busts to make a living.
Puck was praised by the sculptor John Lucas Tupper (ca. 1823-79), as ‘the puissant sprite of Shakespeare’ (quoted in Benedict Read and Joanna Barnes, p.142) and by Coventry Patmore, for whom Woolner made a plaster cast of Puck in 1849as ‘the product of a grotesque fantasy in harmony with the modern mind’ (quoted in Benedict Read and Joanna Barnes, p.142). Two bronze casts have been made, one in 1865 for Louisa, Lady Ashburton and the other in 1908 for Sir John Bland-Sutton of Middlesex Hospital.
Further reading:
F.G. Stephens, ‘Thomas Woolner RA’, Art Journal, LVI, March 1894, p.82, illustrated p.82
Leslie Parris, ed., The Pre-Raphaelites, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery London 1984, pp.48-9, reproduced p.49
Benedict Read and Joanna Barnes, eds., Pre-Raphaelite Sculpture: Nature and Imagination in 
British Sculpture 1848-1914, exhibition catalogue, The Matthiesen Gallery, London and Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery 1991, pp.141-2, reproduced plates 53 a-c
Jane Martineau, ed., Victorian Fairy Painting, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts, London, University of Iowa Museum of Art and Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto 1998

William Holman Hunt - The Haunted Manor 1849

Most of this landscape was painted in the open air in Wimbledon Park, in south-west London. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood believed strongly in painting directly from nature.The picture has a low view point, filled with close and fastidious studies of plants, rocks and water. The murky tones of the waterfall and tangled vegetation contrast strongly with the narrow, brightly-lit strip of landscape at the top of the picture. It is likely that this and the deserted manor house in the top right were added later, to give the scene a mysterious atmosphere.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

George Frederic Watts - Edith Villiers, later Countess of Lytton

Dante Gabriel Rossetti - Elizabeth Siddal as Delia in The Return of Tibullus to Delia, c.1860-62

Ford Madox Brown - May Memories

Signed with monogram and dated 69-84
Oil on canvas

Ford Madox Brown began this painting of his second wife, Emma, at his house in Fitzroy Square, London in 1869, retouching and finally working it up for sale in Manchester in May 1884. The year 1870 began as one of some depression does, and held on its course rather languidly. No pictures new in subject were commenced, but designs for pictures, subsequently executed, had their origin in the already referred to illustrations of Moxon's 'Byron'. The early part of the year was occupied by the painting of a fancy portrait' of Mrs Madax Brown, May Memories, of a lady of sumptuous charms sitting amongst a wealth of may-blossoms, meditating on the glories of her may-days in the 'temps jadis'. This picture was, however, not finished until long subsequently. [Hueffer, 255]
... During the early part of the year following [1884] the exigencies of his pocket and the prospect of possible sales caused Madox Brown to recur to his old device of retouching and finishing up old pictures, a kind of work that the months of April and May were devoted. The works treated in this way were the pictures of the Traveller, an oil replica of that work of sixteen years' standing, and the portrait of Mrs Madox Brown, called May Memories. [Hueffer, 366]

Ford Madox Brown - The Establishment of Flemish Weavers in Manchester. AD 1363. Completed 1882.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Desperate Romantics

William Holman Hunt and Annie Miller portrayed in desperate Romantics

Andrew Lloyd Webber staircase


A Passion for the Pre-Raphaelites

John William Waterhouse nymphs


signed and dated l.r.: T Seddon 18/52
oil on canvas
91.5 by 71cm., 36 by 28in.

London, Royal Academy, 1852, no. 339;
London, Society of Arts, Thomas Seddon Memorial Exhibition, 1857

John P. Seddon, Memoir and Letters of the late Thomas Seddon, artist, By his Brother, 1859, pp. 16-17

This is the first recorded work from the hand of the short-lived and very remarkable Pre-Raphaelite artist Thomas Seddon. Thought of principally as a painter of eastern landscape subjects, the present beautiful and important work provides a fascinating clue to his artistic training and formative years. Although quite unlike the type of work for which he did become known, it reveals the instinctive creative talent and natural skill that he possessed. An unusual subject for an English painter to take in the 1850s, and therefore possibly reflecting his knowledge of contemporary French art, it shows Penelope looking out as the dawn breaks – her companions still sleeping – after a night spent undoing the previous day's work on a woven shroud. Her reason for doing this was because – according to the story told in Homer's Odyssey – during the long period during which her husband Odysseus was away, assumed by most to be dead, she remained faithful to him and, when pressed to give herself in marriage to another, always said she could not until the shroud was finished, a subterfuge which she maintained for ten years until a maid servant revealed how it was that the garment was never completed.

Seddon's family were cabinet-makers based in London's Gray's Inn Road, and as a young man Thomas Seddon was trained to design and make furniture. He seems to have decided to take a career as an artist in the late 1840s, receiving drawing lessons from Charles Lucy, and – in 1850 – working in Ford Madox Brown's studio, making copies of Brown's works including Chaucer at the Court of Edward III. Also in 1850, Seddon spent a summer season painting at Barbizon, making contact with French and British landscape painters.  

The care with which Seddon prepared the mythological subject Penelope is emphasised by J.P. Seddon in his account of his brother's early career: 'He constructed a model of the apartment in which the heroine is represented, with an opening for the window, with the curtain partition, and with the loom itself; and he hung up a taper in order to study the effect of the double light; and at the British Museum and elsewhere he studied most carefully the costumes and manners of the Greeks'. John Seddon's verdict on the painting, which he makes clear had occupied his brother for an extended period, was that 'there is considerable simplicity in the composition but it has a fine breadth and harmony of rich colouring; and many of the accessories, such as the leopard's skin, are painted elaborately and powerfully'. The painting was in fact only completed once he had taken up his career as a painter in 1851, and as his first Academy exhibit in 1852 was clearly regarded as an opportunity to establish himself professionally. In the event it was little noticed, on account of its having been 'hung in the very top row, where it could only be seen with an operaglass, and attracted no attention', as the artist's brother reported. 'However', he went on, 'it was some comfort to his
friends to hear the strong terms of commendation in which it was noticed by connoisseurs sufficiently enterprising to search for it in its exalted position'.

In 1857, shortly after Seddon's tragically early death – from dysentery contracted in Cairo – a group of friends andadmirers raised funds to buy a work of his to present to the National Gallery (his undoubted masterpiece The Valley of Jehosophat (Tate Gallery) was bought for 400 guineas and thus became the first Pre-Raphaelite painting to enter a public collection). An exhibition was also staged, and on the occasion of its opening, John Ruskin gave an account of Seddon's career, explaining that 'he had turned away, of his own free will, from the paths of imagination to those of historical and matter-of-fact representation. [Thus visitors to the exhibition] would see, on the one side of the room, the noble picture "Penelope" [...] the first which Mr Seddon painted [and which] showed inventive genius of the highest order'. This was contrasted with the works that the artist had done in Egypt and Palestine, and in which, again according to Ruskin, 'he had sternly turned from the temptations of Fancy, and set out on a journey of danger and long self-denial, in order faithfully to record the scenery of the Holy Land'. CSN

Marie Spartali Stillman - Fiammetta Singing

signed with monogram and dated 79 l.r.
pencil, watercolour and bodycolour
75 by 100cm., 29½ by 39½in.

ESTIMATE 20,000-30,000 GBP
Lot Sold: 25,000 GBP

London, Grosvenor Gallery, 1879, no. 158 (East Gallery)

David B. Elliott, A Pre-Raphaelite Marriage, The Lives and Works of Marie Spartali Stillman & William James Stillman, 2006, illustrated p.99, pl.33

Marie Stillman's watercolour takes its subject from Giovanni Boccaccio's Elegy of Madonna Fiammetta – a monologue describing the jealousy and distress of a woman in love, and how in the first place she had ignored the warnings of the gods which had come to her in a dream, and how later on and following her lnfatuation with a young Florentine called Panfilo she had been visited in her imagination by the goddess Venus who expounded to her on the familiar pattern of love affairs, whether between gods or mortals. The scene represented occurs early on in the story, when Fiammetta dreams of passing through a sylvan landscape, singing happily and feeling utter contentment, but which blissful state is cruelly interrupted when she is bitten by a snake.  

Written in 1343-44 during the time that Boccaccio was engaged on the much larger Decameron, and having returned to Florence, the Elegy reflected the love affair that he himself had previously had with Maria d'Aquino, the natural daughter of the Angevin king of Naples, Robert the Wise, and for whom he devised the love name Fiammetta.

Marie Spartali, who married the American journalist and photographer W.J. Stillman in 1871, was the daughter of a Greek merchant based in the city of London and sometime Greek consul. She was a pupil of Ford Madox Brown in 1864-70, and from about 1867 embarked on a professional career as a painter. Later, she became the close friend of both Rossetti and Burne-Jones, each of whom admired her striking beauty and frequently drew and painted her. The watercolour was presumably painted in Florence, where the Stillmans had settled in 1878. It was first exhibited in 1879, at the third Grosvenor exhibition. In 1877 Marie Stillman had modelled for Rossetti's oil A Vision of Fiammetta (private collection). CSN

Dante Gabriel Rossetti - Portrait of Aflaia Coronio (née Ionides) 1870

Dante Gabriel Rossetti - Sweet-tooth

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Simeon Solomon as an Illustrator Bob Speel

Illustration for Dalziel's Bibible Gallery

The Illustrated Moxon Tennyson 1857

If I won the lottery I would buy a Kelmscott Chaucer and a Moxon Tennyson.

A first edition of The Moxon Illustrated Edition of Tennyson’s Poems, is now one of the most collectible, valued books in the history of printed book illustration. It includes images designed by some of the most well-known artists of the Victorian age
Intended as a Christmas gift book in 1856, Edward Moxon commissioned the artists to design the illustrations, which were then cut into wood blocks by various engravers.  24 of the designs were produced by established members of the Royal Academy, such as Daniel MacliseJohn Horsley and William Mulready.  However 30 were commissioned from the startling Pre-Raphaelites, Rossetti, Hunt and Millais.  Millais had a foot in both camps being an ‘associate’ of the Royal Academy. 
The only known complete set of publisher’s proofs of the engravings are in the Tennyson Research Centre. 
Rossetti was late with his designs. The book missed the Christmas market when its high cost would have been more acceptable, and therefore sold very slowly from February 1857.  The financial consequences are said to have led to Moxon’s early death.

St. Agnes Eve
John Everett Millais
Engraved by the Dalziels
Wood engraving

William Holman Hunt - the versions of Light of the World

The Light of the World (1853–54) is an allegorical painting by William Holman Hunt representing the figure of Jesus preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened door, illustrating Revelation 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me". According to Hunt: "I painted the picture with what I thought, unworthy though I was, to be by Divine command, and not simply as a good Subject." The door in the painting has no handle, and can therefore be opened only from the inside, representing "the obstinately shut mind".Hunt, 50 years after painting it, felt he had to explain the symbolism.
The original, painted at night in a makeshift hut at Worcester Park Farm in Surrey, is now in a side room off the large chapel at Keble CollegeOxford.Toward the end of his life, Hunt painted a life-size version, which was hung in St Paul's CathedralLondon, after a world tour where the picture drew large crowds. Due to Hunt's increasing infirmity, he was assisted in the completion of this version by English painter Edward Robert Hughes. Hunt also painted a third version. The first version is now to be found in Keble College, Oxford. Another version  is in Manchester Art Gallery. 

The version which is found in St. Paul’s, was painted in Hunt’s old age. His eyesight was failing and he was helped by pupil, Edward Hughes. There are small differences between the different versions, most notably, in the Cathedral’s version, Jesus’ halo is not painted as the full moon as it appears in the other two.

Charles Booth, a wealthy ship owner and philanthropist, was a great devotee of Hunt’s work. He organised for the large version of the work to be taken around the world where it was seen by around two million people. Whilst in Australia, for example, reports state that it was viewed by a hundred people every minute.  Booth donated the painting to the Cathedral in 1907 and it has hung in there for most of past hundred years. 

 It inspired several musical works, including Sir Arthur Sullivan's 1873 oratorio The Light of the World.

Maas, Jeremy (1984). Holman Hunt and the Light of the World

Holman Hunt's Light of the World in the side chapel at Keble College, Oxford.

Manchester Art Gallery : First floor: Pre-Raphaelites

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dante Gabriel Rossetti - Study for the figure of Love for Dante's dream at the time of the death of Beatrice

signed with the artist's monogram and dated l.r.: 1875
black and red chalk on pale blue paper
57 by 39cm., 22 by 15in.

Purchased from the artist by Charles Augustus Howell in 1875 and probably sold by him to the Hon. Percy Wyndham by 1899

This drawing probably originated as a drapery study for the central figure in Rossetti's most ambitious painting Dante's Dream at the Time of the Death of Beatrice (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool) completed by Rossetti in 1871. In the years following the completion of the painting Rossetti added heads and hands to various drapery studies for the paintings as part of an obligation to Charles Augustus Howell. It is likely that Howell sold the drawing to Percy Wyndham, who owned at least three more drawings by Rossetti and a version of his painting Beata Beatrix. A photograph shows this drawing hanging in Madeline Wyndham's boudoir at their house country house in Wiltshire, Clouds.

Evelyn de Morgan - The Vision 1914

titled with a cartouche and signed with initials l.r.: 1914/ E de M. 
oil on canvas
61 by 79cm., 24 by 31in.

ESTIMATE 20,000-30,000 GBP
Lot Sold: 25,000 GBP

Bought from St. Dunstans by Mrs Wilhelmina Stirling, the artist's sister, in 1919 for £5 and given to the De Morgan Foundation

Catherine Gordon (ed.), Evelyn de Morgan, Oil Paintings, 1996, pp.26, 82-83, cat. no. 88, illustrated pl.61

According to the exhibition catalogue of 1916, The Vision, 1914 depicts an allegory of WWI; 'The threatening horror dawning on Peace and Purity'. A young maiden crowned with a golden band decorated with vines and holding sheaves of barley is acompanied by the figure of Peace robed in red with a wreath of olive leaves in her hair and over her shoulder. The leaves are being dislodged by the swirling gusts of wind stirred by the malevolent figure of a batwinged bogie with flames in its hair, who represents the destruction of war. Despite the threat of war, the dawning sun calms the ocean and parts the cloud to suggest hope.

Evelyn de Morgan was inspired to paint several allegories of WWI, The Vision, 1914 being one of thirteen oil paintings sold for the benefit of the Red Cross in 1916, including The Search Light (private collection), The Red Cross (de Morgan Foundation), S.O.S. (de Morgan Foundation). The pictures were exhibited at a studio she had rented on Edith Grove in Chelsea.

(Anthony) Frederick Augustus Sandys

possibly by Percy Wood
bromide print on card mount, late 1890s-early 1900s

Frederick Sandys - Margaret Slaughter

Coloured chalks and pencil on paper
The sitter was the daughter of the lawyer, Sir William Capel Slaughter (1857-1917), founder of the firm of solicitors which still bears his name, Slaughter & May. He was knighted in 1915. He was married twice (to Ida Weaver, then to Hester Mary Bruce). Olive Margaret was his third child from his first marriage. He lived at 3 Berkeley House, Berkeley Square and at White Ness, Kingsgate, Thanet.

Frederick Sandys - The Laurel Wreath

Signed, indistinctly inscribed and dated 1902
Coloured chalks on pale blue paper

Frederick Sandys was one of the finest draughtsmen of the Victorian period. Until his very last days he was drawing almost entirely in chalk in his Victorian house on Hogarth Road. His family became the principle subjects of his work during these years and his youngest daughter Gertrude was the sitter for The Laurel Wreath.
Gertrude or 'Girlie,' as she was nicknamed by her family, was one of the nine children of the artist and the actress Mary Jones. Mary was the third love of Sandy's life with her stunning looks and flowing, curly red hair. In The Laurel Wreath, Gertrude sits in profile holding a cascade of spring flowers, her embroidered dress carefully observed. With her mother's russet gold hair, Sandys's last muse has become the reincarnation of the young Mary, who he also continued to draw as though she were a twenty year old. This fancy portrait is appropriately titled The Laurel Wreath, a trophy long associated with the spirit and inspiration ofpoetry. The Greeks would crown their poets with laurel and put the leaves under their pillows at night to fire their imaginations. Gertrude later married Lionel Crane, the eldest son of the artist, designer and book illustrator, Walter Crane.
Frederick Sandys entered Rossetti's circle in 1857. Most of his paintings and finished drawings are bust length pictures of women. These are Rossetti-like in spirit (compare Rossettit's Portrait of Alexa Wilding and Proserpine) which display Sandys's precision and mastery of technique in both oil and coloured chalks." Sandys's skill of composition also appears in his illustrations. Sandys, Millais and Frederic Walker are the three leading figures in the illustration revival of the 1860s.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Walter Crane - Recent Discovery in Egypt

Recent Discovery in Egypt by Walter Crane, RWS 1845-1915. >Ink drawing

Walter Crane - Willows whiten, aspens quiver

Houghton Library, Harvard University
Crane's illustration for Tennyson's "The Lady of Shalott," a poem that inspired an enormous number of paintings, is one of the few that depicts the poem's setting rather than the tragic artist-figure of the Lady

Sunday, November 18, 2012

William J. Webbe

There's a £70k Pre-Raphaelite owl in my attic: Teacher's joy after stumbling across battered old painting by eminent artist

  • When Jane Cordery cleared out her roof space, her aim was to make space
  • Art teacher stumbled across painting and was drawn to intricate brushwork
  • Painting exhibited at Royal Society in 1856 and praised by art critic
  • Partner recalls his mother giving painting to him among other 'bits and bobs'

Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

My latest book purchase

John Melhuish Strudwick - A Symphony exh 1903

Throughout his life Strudwick worked on a series of paintings one take music as their central theme. 'A Symphony' is among the culminating examples of these works, which also include 'The Gentle Music of a Bygone Day' (1890, Private Collection), 'When Apples were Golden' (1906, Manchester City Art Gallery) and closest precedent to the present work 'St. Cecilia' (1897, private collection) which exists in a number of versions. Significantly in the present painting Strudwick has eliminated any reference to a story or individuals so that the musical theme stands alone. Music was the central metaphor in the aesthetic movement for the direct way in which paintings affected the spectator's emotions through their design and colour. Many artists in this movement made musical references in their works. It is noteworthy that Whistler titled his paintings 'Harmonies' and 'Symphonies'.
The present painting shows how Strudwick attains an evocative mood outside everyday reality through pictorial inventiveness. As Bernard Shaw wrote in his pioneering article on the artist:
No matter how minutely a painter copies a model in the costume of a certain period, with appropriate furniture and accessories, his labour is as nothing compared to that of a man who creates his figures and invents all the circumstances and accessories. This is what Strudwick does. [Shaw, 1891]
In the present painting, by drawing directly onto the canvas and then building up a series of thin glowing glazes in the Pre-Raphaelite manner, Strudwick creates both a richness and delicacy.