Arthur Hacker R.A. (1858 – 1919)

Copyright Leeds Museums and Galleries / Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The Temptation of Sir Percival

Found- an anonymous article in Pearson’s  Magazine (London 1898)  on the artist and Royal Academician Arthur Hacker. Of note because there is not much about him – a short Wikipedia entry and this piece from Art Magick. He mainly painted genre and historical scenes,mythological and allegorical subjects (some verging on kitsch) and for the middle part of his career was a successful portrait painter. He studied in Paris under Leon Bonnet, renowned portrait painter and life long friend of Degas. The article, chatty and light in tone, sees the artist in his successful mid career.


Pictures and their Painter – Arthur Hacker

Born in London in 1858, Arthur Hacker. became a student at the Royal Academy when he was seventeen.. As Millais said when he presided for
the first and only time at the annual banquet, so soon to be followed by his death: “I received here a free education as an artist – an advantage many a lad may enjoy who can pass a qualifying examination, and I owe the Academy a debt of gratitude I can never repay.” The qualifying examination is a full-length drawing from a Greek statue carefully shaded, with another drawing showing the anatomy of the figure. It is a matter of three or four month’s hard grind, and brings out the faculty for taking pains, for not only has the drawing to be very accurate, but the modelling must be intelligently and delicately rendered, and to do this the drawing must be stippled very finely, a trick which can only be acquired by practice.

240px-Hacker_Arthur_SyrinxMany clever students have had to try two and even three times before they have sent in a drawing acceptable to the Academician. Arthur Hacker was successful at the first attempt.
He was a student at a time when attention was directed to the training given in the Paris studios, and thither he went at the end of the three years spent in the Academy Schools to the atelier Bonnat, where he worked hard for two years. And students do work hard in Paris, for they begin at eight in the morning, working to twelve. Then comes the breakfast-lunch, which is taken in some cheap cafe, where you get four or five course for a franc, including a glass of vin ordinaire.

Work goes on again from two till five, and again in the evening, and though there are students’ balls and parties, and outings to Fontainebleau, a Paris studentship is a time of unremitting hard work, with the added problem of making both ends meet.

Many a student has starved in an apartment at the top of one of those large houses which in Paris house so many families, in order to take advantage of the training offered by the Beaux Arts or Julien’s, and though, when you look back upon those days from the standpoint of success they seem bathed in the colour of romance, the hard work, neglect, poverty, and unsatisfied longing of frustrated ambition is bitter indeed at the time.

Mr. Hacker has lived to work out some of the ideas which came to him doubtless in his student days, and from dreaming of fame to winning the guerdon the time had been very short, for at the early age of thirty-five the Academy elected him to an Associateship; and, furthermore, two years ago purchased his large picture (now in the Tate Gallery) under the terms of the Chantrey Bequest. Between two and three thousand pounds is spent annually in pictures and sculpture, interest on the money left to the Academy by the sculptor, Sir Francis Chantrey.

Mr. Hacker is much sought after for portraits, and this year’s Academy will see no subject-picture from his hands. We shall give in a subsequent number a reproduction of his most charming portrait of that clever artists, Miss Ethel Wright. This picture hangs in Mr. Hacker’s studio. The sitter gave him as many as fifty sittings, and the result is that the portrait has subtle charm about it which is not always found in all great portraits.

Mr. Hacker ought to be a happy man, for he has found customers for all his important pictures, and this is a great stimulus to ever increasing effort. It takes away one’s belief in oneself to find one’s work returning time after time to adorn the studio walls or little the place, the frames having been used for newer works. The painter who can make a collection of his own pictures, as did Corot and our own Linnell, must have an abundance of belief in himself, for painting for posterity is a poor business. Recognition is so stimulating.

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The Briar Rose — exhibited August 1890

Found in a slim volume of verse from 1891 'printed for private circulation' - this poem about The Briar Rose - a series of 4 related paintings by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne Jones. These were first exhibited at Agnew's Gallery in Bond Street, London in 1890. The paintings depict a moment in the story of Sleeping Beauty, the title of the series coming from the version presented by the Brothers Grimm in their collection of 1812. The book was called Thoughts by the Way / Sicily by S.A. Thompson Yates. He was the son of Henry Yates Thompson (1838 -1928) a wealthy British newspaper proprietor and collector of illuminated manuscripts. He was known as the Reverend S. A. Yates Thompson and was the brother of Henry Yates Thompson also a major book collector.

After seeing Mr Burne-Jones picture, 'The Briar Rose.' (August 1890)

Love comes at last with sad and serious face,
A pale, armed youth with sharpened sword in hand,
To pierce the briar-rose hedge, which can withstand
The arms of hate or lust. It is disgrace
To let such through. But, that true love's embrace
Should give all life again, the burly band
Of sleeping sentinels will not demand
The watchword, as should guardians of the place.
Here all are sleeping. King and council sit,

In years and wisdom ripe; next maidens
While busy with their housework. All, asleep,
Await the kiss of love, which, as is fit,
The warrior gives, yet sadly, half afraid
To rouse the loved one from her slumbers deep.

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Show me the Money, Coutts

Sent in by Hertfordshire's top jotter Robin Healey for which much thanks. The tradition of writing family histories appears to be alive and well.

I’ve always been mildly amused at why the heir to a banking fortune ends up with the name Money-Coutts. And I’m equally certain that my aunt, who wrote a history of the Coutts family, was also tickled by the name.

Anyway, here’s an attractive bookplate which an inscription in pencil on the reverse assures us was designed by the gifted painter and book illustrator, John D Batten (1860 – 1932), in 1889, at the age of 29. The design is eclectic, featuring a central circular panel that owes much to Burne-Jones, and spandrels that are crammed with writhing Art Nouveau-style  foliage.

We can be sure that the design was very much to the taste of Batten’s patron, Francis Money-Coutts, 5th Baron Latymer ( 1852 – 1923), who had studied Law at Cambridge but  was considered too unstable to join the family firm. Instead he practised as a solicitor in Surrey while pursuing under the pseudonym ‘ Mountjoy’ his preferred vocation as a poet and general man of letters, safe in the knowledge that he was not likely to end up in a garret. He also befriended the composer Isaac Albeniz, becoming his benefactor and contributing the lyrics to a series of operas.

John Batten had a similar background to Money-Coutts. He also read Law at Cambridge, though at a later period, and like his future patron, was called to the Bar. Again, like Money- Coutts, Batten abandoned Law for his true passion, which in his case was Art. In 1886 he exhibited for the first time at the Grosvenor Gallery, which was owned by a kinsman of Money-Coutts, Sir Lindsay Coutts. So, it is very likely that the artist and the banking heir met through their shared association with the Gallery.

It would be interesting to know how the relationship developed over time, and particularly whether Money-Coutts became a keen collector of Batten’s striking, Pre-Raphaelite-influenced paintings.

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Oliver Madox Brown’s ‘Gabriel Denver’ – a rarity

Found - Oliver Madox Brown's novel Gabriel Denver (London: Smith, Elder 1873) - a late Victorian rarity with Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood connections. The binding was designed by the author's father, Ford Madox Brown and is said to be the only book cover he ever worked on. A loosely inserted catalogue clipping from about 1920 prices the book at 18/6 and states;

'...  a novel of great promise, the first and only production of the author, who died in his twentieth year. In A Birth Song Swinburne refers to him in the following lines:
"High hopes and hearts requickening in thy dawn,
Even theirs whose life-springs, child,
Filled thine with life and smiled,
But then wept blood for half their own withdrawn."

70 years late in 1992 a slight used copy turned up at Christies New York (from the collection of librarian and poet Kenneth A Lohf) and made $1210. The cataloguer described it thus:

Original tan cloth, pictorially blocked in black, lettered in gilt and black ..binder's ticket of Leighton Son and Hodge at inside rear cover, fraying at ends of spine, rear cover slightly soiled, cloth slipcase. FIRST EDITION, published when the author was eighteen years old (he died tragically the following year); this is the only book cover his artist father designed. Fredeman 47.1 and Plate VII for illustration of the front cover; Robert Lee Wolff, Strange Stories (Boston, 1971), pp. 37-43 and illustration of the front cover. "The death at nineteen of this brilliantly versatile and precocious artist and novelist, son of Ford Madox Brown, and brother-in-law of William Michael Rossetti and Francis Hueffer, deeply distressed the boy's father and all the brethren of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Both [this and The Dwale Bluth in the next lot] his books are rare ... By 1883, [Gabriel Denver] was already a rarity. Only 300 copies were sold and the rest pulped. See also a remarkable passage in George Moore's Vale (Hail and Farewell, III, 1914, pp. 47-51) in which Moore describes his friendship with Brown formed at art school. During the model's rest periods Brown read aloud from a novel of his which must have been Gabriel Denver..."The model was so entranced, she let her robe slip from her and listened quite naked"--Wolff 881.

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A lost Rossetti letter

Found in the front of an 1866 first edition of Swinburne's  Poems and Ballads (Moxon) this cutting from a catalogue from about 1920. The dealer is unnamed, possibly Maggs or Quaritch, and the catalogue seems to be entirely made up of autograph letters. This is an important letter but does not appear to be recorded anywhere or published. It was possibly bought by a wealthy collector and sits in a drawer in a mansion now owned by his indifferent heirs...the catalogue gives a good taste of it however and it is good on Swinburne and Milnes...Swinburne's book was disowned by the publisher Moxon and scandalised Victorian England by its sensual and decadent themes and lack of respect fro Christianity...

Swinburne by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Rossetti (Dante Gabriel, 1828-1882). English Painter and Poet. A.L.S. to Frederick Sandys, the painter and book illustrator. 9pp, 8vo. N.D. circa 1857 £15 15s.

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Constable and the Spedding family—-the missing pieces of the jigsaw

Sent in by a regular from Hertfordshire - Robin Healey.

John Constable -- The Spedding Home

Less than five minutes into an episode of the recently aired Fake or Fortune series I pricked up my ears. Fiona Bruce and her art sleuths were discussing the provenance of a putative Constable painting of Yarmouth Harbour when they pronounced the name of a former owner, Jane Spedding.

That rang a very loud bell with me. You see, about 25 years ago I bought a rather battered dissected map of England and Wales, dating to around 1811, from an eccentric old dealer in the Pimlico Road. It was priced at just only £2, and I assumed that its cheapness reflected the fact that it, like many of these early jigsaw puzzles, had many pieces missing. At home I examined it further and discovered that the handwriting in pencil on the bare wood on the reverse of the lid confirmed my suspicions. There were, according to the writer, six pieces missing---‘ Anglesea, Flintshire and Radnor, Surrey, Middlesex and Isle of Wight ’. But there was more information. The writer had appended two names and two addresses: ‘Margaret and Jane Spedding 23, Norfolk Street, London & Hampstead Heath, near London, Middlesex, England’.

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