Monday, September 12, 2011

Edward Burne-Jones - Girl’s Head late 1880s - early 189

red, black and white chalk on terracotta paper

39.3 x 27.6 cm

This attractive drawing exemplifies the wistful, enigmatic expression that Burne-Jones loved to give his models. The technique is one he often used at this period. Lady Burne-Jones quotes him writing on the subject of red chalk to the artist E. R. Hughes, who also favoured the medium for his drawings:

The ancient red is a far more crimson and rosy tint than the dusty brown sticks they give us now, and I have understood always that the ancient red is exhausted and that we have fallen on evil days and can get no more of it, and…I am always asking about it of every colourman I meet, in vain…I am waiting till I can find one stick of the tint Correggio used (Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones, 1904, vol.2, p.322)

As so often with Burne-Jones at this date, the drawing seems to have been conceived as an independent study, unrelated to a picture. Given his tendency to impose his own visual ideal on his models, it is unlikely that the sitter will ever be identified.

Tthe drawing was in the vast collection formed by William Hesketh Lever, first Viscount Leverhulme, the wealthy manufacturer of Sunlight Soap. The drawings were given by him to the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, which he built after the first world war for the benefit of his workforce and in memory of his wife; but they were among many items which were sold by the Trustees at Christie’s in 1958, at a time when Victorian art was out of fashion.


PROVENANCE: Thos. Agnew & Sons Ltd; 1st Lord Leverhulme; Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight; Christie’s, 6 June 1958, part of lot 23, with P.239, purchased by Gallery.

EXHIBTIONS: Drawings and Studies by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Bart., Berlin, 1898; The English Tradition, Bedford, Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, 1972, no.11; Burne-Jones, London, Hayward Gallery, Southampton, Southampton Art Gallery, & Birmingham, City Museum & Art Gallery, 1975-6, no.322; The Last Romantics, London, Barbican Art Gallery, 1989, no.11.

REFERENCE: R.R. Tatlock, A Record of the Collection in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, vol.1, 1928, p.123, no.718.

Copyright © Trustees of Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford.

Extract taken from Watercolours and Drawings, Cecil Higgins Art Gallery by Evelyn Joll.

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