Monday, February 14, 2011
Matthew White Ridley - Sioters
Matthew Ridley was born in 1837 in Newcastle, studied at the Royal Academy Schools and in Paris. From 1862 until his death in 1888 he was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy.
The subject matter of this painting of two young women taking in an attractive setting is very much in the style of the Aesthetic Movement of the 1860's and 1870's. It is thought to be one and the same as the painting titled Sisters which was exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1876. Furthermore, there appears to be no record of any other double portrait by Ridley.
The Sisters concerned would be his future wife Dorothea Hester Harriott Major and one of her four sisters, possibly Rosa Major. Their father Charles James Major was a wealthy merchant of Herne, Kent and had a large family. The Majors were great friends of the Ionides family, and like them, regularly entertained artists in their Putney home. George Du Maurier frequently refers to the family and his visits there on Boat Race Day or New Year's Eve in his letters to his mother or Tom Armstrong in the 1860's. Whistler too was a frequent visitor and if the second sister is Rosa, she was the one who featured in the well-known story of Whistler, Rosa Major and the pork-pie hat. Dorothea had red hair and Ridley painted several portraits of her. There is a strong resemblance between this portrait and the other ones he painted of her. They were married in 1882 in Canterbury Cathedral. He also did a dry point etching of his wife. A number of his etchings are in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and four of them form part of the Ionides Collection. Ridley himself features in two etchings by Whistler in the British Museum.