Friday, December 31, 2010

The Poetry of Drawing: Pre-Raphaelite Designs, Studies and Watercolours

The year opens with a show at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery called 'The Poetry of Drawing’, the most comprehensive survey of Pre-Raphaelite drawings and watercolurs ever staged (January 29 — May 15).

Arthur Hughes - The old Neighbour gone before: a Street Episode in Brittany

Price Realized £8,970

signed 'Arthur Hughes' (lower right) and signed and inscribed 'No 2. The Departure of a Neighbour/Brittany/Arthur Hughes/2 Finboro Road/Fulham Road/S.W.' on an old label on the reverse
oil on canvas
30½ x 44.5/8 in. (77.5 x 113.3 cm.)
Painted in 1878-79

L. Roberts, Arthur Hughes - His Life and Works, Woodbridge, 1997, no. 160 (illustrated p. 190).

London, Royal Academy, 1879, no. 1366.

The artist, in a letter to Ernest Chesneau dated 2 May 188[2], expresses gratitude for his proposed inclusion in Chesneau's forthcoming survey of important British artists, and he goes on to list the present work as amongst 'my chief pictures' (Roberts, op. cit., p. 285).

William Morris - The Earthly Paradise

MORRIS, William. The Earthly Paradise. Hammersmith 1896-97. 8 vols. 4o. Printed in Golden type in black and red, title and facing page of vol. I with full woodcut page-borders, text opening of all other vols. with similar double-page borders, each vol. with one internal double-page opening, vols. IV, V and VII each with two double-page openings, a number of partial page-borders, numerous 10-line and smaller initial capitals, printer's device. Original limp vellum, spines gilt-lettered, silk ties, uncut (minor wear to upper spine end of vol. I). LIMITED EDITION, one of 225 copies of an edition of 231. Cockerell 41, 41a-f ("None of the ten borders used in the Earthly Paradise appear in any other book. The four different half-borders round the poems to the months are also not used elsewhere"); Peterson A41. The first two vols. were issued by Morris himself, the remaining vols. carry the statement on the colophon page "Printed by the Trustees of the late William Morris at the Kelmscott Press."

William Morris - The Roots of the Mountains ...

Price Realized £16,450

MORRIS, William (1834-1896). The Roots of the Mountains Wherein is Told Somewhat of the Lives of the Men of Burgdale their Friends their Neighbours their Foemen and their Fellows in Arms. London: Chiswick Press for Reeves and Turner, 1890.
4° (197 x 160). Half-title. Illuminated in gold and colours and heightened in white by Edmund G. Reuter, the half-title, title, contents pages, opening page of text, chapter headings, and some pages decorated with floral and foliate naturalistic borders, the final page of the text with a miniature of a mediaeval city on the banks of a river with mountains in the distance and a manuscript explicit dated 30 January 1895. Contemporary limp vellum, the covers with yapp fore-edges, the spine titled in gilt at the head and dated in gilt at the foot, vellum endpapers, uncut (vellum lightly marked). Provenance: 'The Roots of the Mountains , by William Morris , Copy illuminated for the author by , Edmund G. Reuter , Lent by Mrs Morris Oct 1909' (loosely-inserted, inscribed vellum slip).

MORRIS' OWN COPY, ILLUMINATED FOR HIM BY REUTER. ONE OF 250 COPIES ON WHATMAN PAPER. According to Reuter's manuscript explicit, the five year-long task of illuminating the book was a happy labour, finished in 1895.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dante Gabriel Rossetti - caricatures of William Holman Hunt

Morris and Company - A Rossetti chair

the chair in ebonized beech above a rush seat, probably designed by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

For a similar example see, 'William Morris, Victoria & Albert Museum, 1996, Exhibition Catalogue, No. J.24, p. 176

Dante Gabriel Rossetti - Girl with a Lute

Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 17,750 GBP

This watercolour of a girl in medieval dress singing and playing a lute was made while Rossetti was staying with William Bell Scott in Newcastle in June 1853. In a letter to his brother William Michael, dated 1 July 1853, Rossetti wrote: 'I have done little here. However I have made a little watercolour of a woman in yellow, which I shall be able to sell, I have no doubt.' It has been suggested that the drawing was done by lamplight (see Royal Academy of Arts, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, exhibition catalogue, 1973, p.29), but it is as likely that the figure is shown lit by a beam of sunlight in a shadowy interior. The girl's face is a likeness of Elizabeth Siddal, but as she did not accompany Rossetti on this trip to the north, it cannot have been done from life.
A year or two afterwards the watercolour passed into the possession of John Ruskin, who in the mid-1850s was taking a close interest in Rossetti's painting. In a letter to Dr Henry Acland, dated by Cook and Wedderburn (the editors of the Ruskin Library Edition) to '1855' Ruskin described how he had been looking for a drawing by Rossetti for Acland (who had given Ruskin £5 to pass on to Rossetti by way of payment). Ruskin selected from Rossetti's portfolio a pencil drawing for a subject entitled The Eating of the Passover, which Rossetti had presumably promised to Ruskin, and took for himself instead 'a coloured sketch, which was not what you wanted at all, but will be very useful to me. I was very glad to extricate it from the mass of the condemned [works by Rossetti that were being destroyed by neglect] - it is a single figure in a golden dress singing.'
Ruskin valued the drawing as an example of Rossetti's work with what he called 'the right feeling'. In 1865 he had a frame made for 'the golden girl with black guitar'' and sometime later he gave it to Constance Hilliard, the niece of Pauline Trevelyan who joined Ruskin on trips to Switzerland in 1866 (see lot 41) and 1870, and to Rome in 1873, and who remained a close friend of his until the late 1880s .

William Michael Rossetti,

sketch by his brother

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

William Henry Millais - View of Dunkeld

signed, inscribed and dated 'Dunkeld/W.H.Millais/1881' (lower left)
pencil and watercolour heightened with white
9 x 20½ in. (23 x 52 cm.)

John Everett Millais - Greenwich Pensioners at the Tomb of Nelson

Price Realized £14,663

signed with monogram (lower left) and signed and inscribed 'Greenwich Pensioners/before the tomb/of Nelson/J.E. Millais R.A.' (on an old label on the reverse)
oil on board
13 x 9 in. (33 x 22.8 cm.)

A small version of a picture exhibited by Millais at the Royal Academy in 1868, with the title Pilgrims to St. Paul's (where Nelson is buried). The large picture (56 x 44in.), which, like the present version, was bought from the artist by Agnew's, was destroyed in a fire at Tilbrook Hall, near Kimbolton, in 1933.

We are grateful to Dr. Malcolm Warner for his help in preparing this catalogue entry.

John Everett Millais - Roundhead Conventicle: A Scene from Sir Walter Scott's 'Peveril of the Peak'

Price Realized £13,145

A Roundhead Conventicle: A Scene from Sir Walter Scott's 'Peveril of the Peak'
signed and dated 'J.E.Millais 1841' (lower right, on a roundhead's coat) and with inscription 'This remarkable drawing was made by my brother, Sir John Everett Millais, at the age of 11/12 years. I, myself, was a schoolboy at King's College School and can well remember him at work at it and the great excitement we all felt at home during its execution. I have written ... to guarantee the genuineness of this work as it is almost incredible that it should have come from so young a child. W.H. Millais' (on the reverse)
pencil, watercolour and oil
, heightened with touches of white and with gum arabic on two joined sheets
34¾ x 46¼ in. (88.4 x 117.5 cm.)

J.G. Millais, The Life and Letters of Sir John Millais, London, 1899, vol. I, p. 11, illus. vol. II, p. 489.
A. Fish, John Everett Millais 1829-1896, London and New York, 1923, p. 6.
G. Millais, Sir John Everett Millais, London, 1979, p. 7, 27.
R.D. Altick, Paintings from Books, Columbus, 1985, pp. 169-170, 433 pl. 131.
M. Bennett, Artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Circle. The First Generation. Catalogue of Works in the Walker Art Gallery, Lady Lever Art Gallery and Sudley Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1988, p. 199.

In his biography of his father, J.G. Millais describes this drawing as 'the most elaborate work of (the artist's) early years'. It was executed in 1841, when Millais was eleven or twelve, and his brother, William Henry Millais, later felt it was necessary to put a notice on the back 'guaranteeing' its 'genuiness ... as it is almost impossible that it should have come from so young a child.' Millais had entered the Royal Academy Schools, as their youngest ever student, in 1840, and soon proved his brilliance. He won the silver medal for a drawing from the antique in 1843, exhibited for the first time at the Royal Academy in 1846, and carried off the coveted gold medal in 1847.

This drawing is an illustration to Sir Walter Scott's novel Peveril of the Peak (1831). The story is set at the time of the Civil War, and the incident depicted is the fiery and radical Roundhead conventicle described in Chapter 43.

Julian now doubted not that he was in one of these conventicles which, though contrary to the existing laws, still continued to be regularly held in different parts of London and the suburbs ... About two hundred persons were assembled ..., in an area filled up with benches, as it were for the exercise of worship; and they were all of the male sex, and well armed with pikes and muskets, as well as swords and pistols. Most of them had the appearance of veteran soldiers, now past the middle of life, yet retaining such an appearance of strength as might well supply the loss of youthful agility. They stood, or sat, in various attitudes of stern attention; and, resting on their spears and muskets, kept their eyes firmly fixed on the preacher, who ended the violence of his declamation by displaying from the pulpit a banner, on which was represented a lion, with the motto Vicit Leo ex tribu Judae.

The torrent of mystical yet animating eloquence of the preacher - an old grey-haired man, whom zeal seemed to supply with the powers of voice and action of which years had deprived him - was suited to the taste of his audience, but could not be transferred to these pages without scandal and impropriety. He menaced the rulers of England with all the judgements denounced on those of Moab and Assyria; he called upon the saints to be strong, to be up and doing; and promised those miracles which, in the campaigns of Joshua and his successors the valiant Judges of Israel, supplied all odds against the Amorites, Midianites, and Philistines. He sounded trumpets, opened vials, broke seals and denounced approaching judgments under all the mystical signs of the Apocalypse. The end of the world was announced, accompanied with all its preliminary terrors.

The drawing's provenance offers a fascinating insight into the changing fortunes of Victorian art in the twentieth century. In the possession of the Millais family until 1923, it was then bought by the first Lord Leverhulme, who formed one of the last great collections of Victorian paintings. Indeed, by 1923 the reaction was already far advanced, and Leverhulme himself died two years later. The eclipse lasted until the 1950s and in 1958 the drawing was one of many items that were sold off by the trustees of the Lady Lever Art Gallery. It was the worst possible time to throw them on the market; prices were at rock bottom, and the Millais itself was bought for a mere ten guineas.

However, the tide was about to turn. The 1960s saw the beginnings of a vigorous revival, marked by exhibitions, books and dealing activity. Mary Bennett's Millais exhibition, still the landmark in the artist's rehabilitation, took place in Liverpool and London in 1967, less than a decade after the Lady Lever sale. The Forbes Collection, which was to play a leading role in the revival for over thirty years, was launched in 1970.

We are grateful to Malcolm Warner for his help in preparing this entry.

Library at Speke Hall

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christina Rossetti -Goblin Market

Christina Rossetti - Remember' - poem

read by Eleanor Bron

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

Audio created by Robert Nichol AudioProductions all rights reserved
rnaudioproductions for

Walter Crane - Watercolour of the Red House

William Morris - Study of Jane as Iseult

Monday, December 27, 2010

Dante Gabriel Rossetti - Poems. London: F.S.Ellis, 1870.

° (219 x 136mm). Contemporary green morocco by F. Bedford, gilt floral mosaic corner-pieces and spine compartments. Provenance: publisher's presentation copy to John Ruskin, Brantwood (ex-libris) -- purchased from Howard Mott, New York, 17 February 1942, $35 (with autograph letter signed ('F.S. Ellis') to 'Dear Sir' [presumably to John Ruskin], Covent Garden London, 7 September 1871, 2 pages, 8°, inserted).

FIRST EDITION, ONE OF 25 COPIES ON LARGE PAPER, JOHN RUSKIN'S COPY. The Poems appeared in April 1870 amidst general acclamation, firmly establishing Rossetti's reputation both as poet and painter. In a letter to Mrs. Gabriele Rossetti, the poet wrote 'My book will have brought me £300 in less than a month, which is not so bad for poetry, particularly if it goes on.' By the beginning of June, his Poems had entered its third edition of 500 copies each; in September its fourth, to be followed by a fifth and sixth before the end of the year. The collection largely consists of rearrangements of earlier works.

It is interesting to note that despite their estrangement by 1870, Rossetti still sent Ruskin a presentation copy of his poetry, along with Patmore, Meredith, Tennyson and Browning. From his position as the foremost English art critic, Ruskin had defended the work of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1851, although he did not make Rossetti's acquaintance until the end of 1852 when Ruskin wrote favourably of Rossetti's works at the Winter Exhibition of watercolours in Pall Mall. Their correspondence began in 1854, when they also started teaching drawing together at the Working Men's College, and Ruskin adopted the painter as his new protégé after Millais's departure. However, Ruskin's admiration for Rossetti's talent, which he keenly patronized together with Elizabeth Siddal, was marred by an increasing dislike for his untidyness, unreliability, intermittent inertia, and general Bohemian way of life. Far more eager to obtain advance payments than to finish pictures, Rossetti's continual requests for financial aid eventually alienated the critic, whose benevolent enthusiasm slowly declined.

A letter from the publisher and well-known London bookseller, F.S. Ellis, describes the book as being the product of which 'machinery has had no part or lot,' thus it has been printed at a hand-press on handmade paper and bound by hand in hand-draped leather. Hayward 283.

John Brett - Forest Creek, Newport Sandbanks, Pembrokeshire Coast

inscribed 'FOREST Creek 15 July 82' (upper right); and signed and inscribed 'Newport Sandbank Pembrokeshire Coast/by John Brett/ARA' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
71/8 x 141/8 in. (18.1 x 36 cm.)

Price Realized £9,400

The present work is a smaller version of one commissioned by Dr J. Watt Black in 1882. The larger oil measures 15 x 29½ in. and is currently in the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.

Brett is particularly known for his Pre-Raphaelite works of the 1850s, including The Glacier of Rosenlaui, (1856) (Tate Gallery, London), The Stonebreaker, (1857-8) (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool) and Val d'Aosta, (1858) (Private Collection).

In 1863-64 Brett visited the Bay of Naples and began thereafter to paint sea pictures and coastal views; in subsequent years he frequently travelled along the coast of the British Isles during the summer months. He painted several pictures of Cardigan Bay including one which was exhibited in 1892 at the Royal Academy.

Brett frequently included rocks in the foreground of his coastal scenes which enabled him to display his skills at portraying their detailed surfaces. He was interested in geology and, as a scientist of some repute, was a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. He used strict mathematical theory to determine the size of his canvases; the eye could take in a view on a horizontal azimuth of 60 degrees, and it was his opinion that 'all the paintable phenomena in nature occur within an angle of about fifteen degrees above or below the horizon'. This resulted in almost all of his paintings being exactly twice as long as they are high.

Round Table

designed by William Morris for Red Lion Square
now in Cheltenham Museum

Oak sideboard from Liberty

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Henry Nelson O'Neil - 'The Two Extremes - the Pre-Raphaelite'

Price Realized 10,158

signed and dated 'H.O'Neil. 1856' (lower left) and further signed and inscribed 'No 1. The two Extremes - The Pre-Raphaelite Henry O'Neil' (on an old label on the reverse)
oil on panel
18¾ x 15½ in. (47.6 x 39.3 cm.)

This picture formed a humorous pendant to The Post Raphaelite, exhibited at the British Institution of 1857, no. 483, under the joint heading, The Two Extremes. The Art Journal, commenting on The Post Raphaelite, explained that 'This and The Pre-Raphaelite by the same artist, illustrate these opponent Art-theories, with some causticity of allusion to the latter'.

Arthur Hughes - A Passing Cloud ...

A Passing Cloud
'O how this spring of love resembleth
The uncertain glory of an April day
Which now shows all the beauty of the sun
And by and by a cloud takes all away'

Shakespeare, The Two Gentlemen of Verona
signed 'Arthur Hughes' (lower right) and inscribed as title (on the reverse) and further signed 'Arthur Hughes, Eastside House, Kew Green'
oil on canvas
38 1/2 x 24 1/2 in. (98 x 62 cm.)

Price Realized £103,250

Cardiff, National Museum of Wales, and London, Leighton House, Arthur Hughes: Pre-Raphaelite Painter, 1971, no. 33.

A letter, sold with the picture, from Arthur Hughes to Margaret Finch, dated 8 September 1908 reads:

Kew Green

I am so delighted to know how much you like my picture, but cannot tell you how glad I am. I like it myself and rather think it among my better things. I know that altho' they always I hope mean well, some turn out middling at last.

But, but, I cannot accept £75 for it from you, so please forgive me for so enclosing the cheque; and my proposal is that you write one for £60 - now that will be meeting your most generous mind quite satisfactorily, and more to me a great deal.

Your idea of taking the picture home with you is truly comic: and instead of that, you must let me have the address of the new abode, and I shall forward it straight there in a case, safely and properly I trust, about the time that your Staines treasures reach it. And now dear Margaret, about the price: this is the final word.

The Germ: Thoughts towards Nature In Poetry, Literature, and Art. London: January-April 1850.

Edited by William Michael Rossetti, with contributions by Dante and Christina Rossetti, F. Madox Brown, Thomas Woolner and others, the title refers to the Pre-Raphaelite belief in the importance of nature and the human imagination. The title was altered for the last two parts and reads Art and Poetry: Being Thoughts toward Nature Conducted principally by Artists.

William Morris - The Earthly Paradise : A Poem

Price Realized £900

"Ford Maddox [sic] Brown from his friend the Author"

When Sydney Cockerell suggested a cathedral game whereby various members of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood were associated with a particular English cathedral, Edward Burne-Jones was given Wells and Ford Madox Brown Peterborough. It is therefore not inappropriate that one of the most spectacular passages in The Earthly Paradise is the Wanderer's description of the west front of Peterborough cathedral under construction. As their biographers have noted, Morris and Brown made similarly "unequal" marriages to their models. Morris's wife, Janey, "belonged to the substratum of Oxford society recreated some years later in Jude the Obscure" (Macarthy, p. 136), and Brown's second wife, Emma, was the illiterate daughter of a farmer. For two or three years their marriage was kept a secret from all except his closest friends so that he could educate her. Both men were members of the the Corps of Artist Volunteers formed in 1859 as a reaction to the threat of invasion by Napololeon III. Most crucially, Brown was one of seven partners in the firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co, the decorative arts firm set up by Morris in 1861 following completion of the Red House in South London. At forty, he was not only the oldest partner but the most productive and high powered. It was also in 1861 that Morris began The Earthly Paradise, a long poem Chaucerian in its language and plan, but mingling classical and Norse elements.

After Ford Madox Brown's death in 1893, Morris was approached by Longmans to write his biography. When he refused, the commission passed to Brown's grandson, Ford Madox Ford, then still in his early twenties. Ford attended socialist meetings at Morris's Kelmscott House in 1893/4. His founding of The English Review in 1908 -- one of his greatest achievements -- largely stemmed from principles with which Morris would have been in sympathy: "I am an idealist and my ideal is to run the ER as far as possible as a socialistic undertaking." Nevertheless, the Pre-Rapahelite heritage was one which he eventually came to reject. "What the poet ought to do is to write his own mind in the language of his day," he wrote in 1913. "Forget about Piers Plowman, forget about Shakespeare, Keats, Yeats, Morris, the English Bible and remember only that you live in our terrific, untidy, indifferent empirical age, where not one single problem is solved and not one single accepted idea from the past has any more any magic" [quoted by Saunders, I, p. 371].

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ford Madox Brown v. 1 & 2 A Catalogue Raisonne

For the most magisterial and comprehensive monograph of the year — and perhaps the decade — we must turn to Mary Bennett's Ford Madox Brown (Yale, £125), two hefty volumes and 640 pages of a catalogue raisonné devoted to the half-remembered Pre-Raphaelite who never was, and one of British art's few links with the German Nazarenes. Every painter of significance deserves a Mary Bennett, and she, for discovering so much material, deserves a dozen doctorates — on Brown (1821-1893) surely nothing remains to be said. Nine years older that Rossetti, he was briefly his master but his lifelong friend, yet remained outside the PRB, a player in a complex play of influence and counter-influence. Politically interested in social justice, The Last of England and Work are his most famous paintings, but he himself was never famous; Ruskin ignored him and he was at odds with the Royal Academy. This book should encourage Tate Britain to mount a major exhibition so that the rest of us may reconsider this belligerent, ambitious, underrated and frustrated

Also just published

John Brett, Pre-Raphaelite Landscape Painter (Yale, £40), by Christiana Payne, is an affectionate attempt to make major a very minor painter who, after his celebrated Stonebreaker and Views of Florence, Jerusalem and the Val d'Aosta, descended into formula. For the better part of the four decades preceding his death in 1902, he painted landscapes and seascapes on canvases and boards that were double squares, oblongs as small as 7 x 14 inches and as large as 42 x 84 — approaching a thousand in number and too many much the same. The most intriguing thing about the man was Daisyfield, the extraordinary house that he designed for himself in Putney. The last word on Brett, only for anyone compelled to explore the furthest shores of PRBism can this be a necessary book.

see also:

Edward Burne-Jones - Maria Zambaco

John Everett Millais - The Crawley Family, 1860

John Everett Millais - Christmas Story-Telling, A Winter's Tale, 1862

Edward Burne-Jones - Repose in Egypt, cartoon for a stained glass window for the church of St. James, Brighouse, York, executed for Morris & Co., 1874

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Edward Burne-Jones - Sibylla Tiburtina

Edward Burne-Jones - The Battle of Flodden Field 1882

John Everett Millais - The Princes in the Tower detail

oil on canvas
58 x 36"
exhibited at the RA in 1878

John Everett Millais - Princess Elizabeth in Prison at S James's

oil on canvas
57 x 40"

painted to accompany The Princes in the Tower but was not finished in time and was not exhibited till 1881.The model was the artist's daughter Sophie. Her beautiful wistful expression attracted a lot of praise.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Arthur Hughes - Will o' the Wisp

Arthur Hughes - The Reaper in the Flowers

A. Corsi Lalli - Proserpine after Gabriel Dante Rossetti, c.1890

Kelmscott Press

Two employees working on the Kelmscott Chaucer, perhaps the most beautiful book in the world.

In 1889, Morris under the influence of printer and fellow Socialist (Emery Walker) began to study fine printing, and by 1891 was producing books. In the five years left tohim, Morris produced some 52 volumes from pamphlets to the Chaucer, which W B years callws 'the most beautiful of all printed books'.