Thursday, January 3, 2013

King Lear - Sketches of Lear imagining his unfaithful Daughters' Trial and Lear in the Storm / Alfred the Great - Compositional Studies and Sketches, and The Seeds and Fruits of English Poetry - Study of Cherubs

This sheet of paper has been divided in two and contains sketches for two scenes from 'King Lear.' The top sketch is for the scene in which Lear imagines himself at his unfaithful daughters' trial. It shows Lear standing by the farmhouse, symbolised by the two servants and the cooking pot, pointing with his right hand and holding onto his faithful courtier Kent, recognisable from the cloak and sword with which he is depicted throughout the series. On the left of Lear are two seated figures in pencil which represent Edgar and the Fool. The sketch depicts Act III, sc. vi, lines 33-39.The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, holds a loosely drawn sketch for this scene in which the seated figures of Edgar and the Fool are on the right and the two figures of Lear and Kent on the left. Tthere is no known finished drawing for this scene and it may be that Brown eliminated it from his selection after making some initial sketches of it. The lower half of the paper is a study for Lear in the storm ('King Lear,' Act III, sc. ii, 1-24). The final version for this scene is at the Whitworth. On the back of this sheet of drawings are studies for 'Alfred the Great' and 'The Seeds and Fruits of English Poetry.' Like the other side of the paper, the reverse has been divided into two. The top half depicts a pencil sketch of the same composition as 1906P754 with the seated figure of King Alfred the Great surrounded by figures. Above this are further figures sketches, drawn from the group surrounding King Alfred. On the lower half of the paper are two pencil sketches of a seated figure and two sketches of a seated couple. In these drawings the figures are more detailed and several have been given individual costumes suggesting that it is the later of the two compositional studies. Brown has signed this sheet of studies 'Alfred the Great / FMB' more firmly identifying the figure who appears on two other works in the collection as King Alfred (1978P513 and 1906P754). Also on this sheet of studies are two putti for the triptych 'The Seeds and Fruits of English Poetry' both in chalk. One of the putti is less detailed and it appears that it is an impression from another chalk drawing as it is very faint and has left no impression on the page. As can be seen from the oil study and the pen and ink study of the right hand side of the 'The Seeds and Fruits,' both at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, the putti were paired up at the bottom of the composition and held medallions with the names and symbols of four English poets. It appears Brown was experimenting with the poses of the putti in these studies. It is difficult to date the studies of the putti but they must have been drawn between 1845, when 'The Seeds and Fruits' was first conceived, and 1849, when it seems Brown abandoned the side wings. LM

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