Monday, September 13, 2010

Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale - Mary for all Generations

Price Realized £17,250

signed 'E.F.BRICKDALE' (lower right) and signed and inscribed 'Miss E.F.Brickdale/55 Holland Park Road/Kensington' (on an artist's label on the reverse)
oil on canvas
30 x 76 in. (76 x 193 cm.)

Little is known of the details of this commission. It is not thought that the oil was ever exhibited, and it was most likely installed as an altarpiece soon after it was completed. For many years it hung in St. George's Church, Campden Hill, Kensington. It follows the form of Venetian sacra conversazione, as exemplified by the work of Giovanni Bellini, in which the Virgin and Child are surrounded by donors. Brickdale has updated the idiom, and has shown the Holy Family flanked by succeeding generations of Londoners.

Along with her friend and exact contemporary, Byam Shaw, Brickdale delighted in executing multi-figured processional pieces. Perhaps the most memorable example to have appeared at auction in recent years is the watercolour Love and his Counterfeits, sold in these rooms for 97,750 on 8 November 1996. Other comparables include the watercolours The Challenge and The Wise and Foolish Virgins, sold at Sotheby's London, 25 January 1989, lots 412 and 411. It has been suggested that the models for the present composition taught or studied at the Byam Shaw School of Art, which was founded in 1911, and where Brickdale herself taught for several years. The picture probably dates from between 1910 and 1920 as Brickdale's studio address changed from 11 to 55 Holland Park Road around 1909. Although Brickdale mainly worked in watercolour, and oils by her are rare, she was nevertheless the first lady member of the Institute of Painters in Oils, being elected in 1902.

We are grateful to Cathryn Spence for her help in the preparation of this catalogue entry.

No comments: