“Dr. Johnson’s Tardy Gallantry”
Oil on canvas, signed and dated 1886, Framed 46.5″ x 40″
William Powell Frith, R.A. (British 1819-1909)
William Frith’s anecdotal illustration was inspired by a scene described in the famous biography of Samuel Johnson written by James Boswell. Samuel Johnson, often referred to as Dr Johnson, was one of the most famous literary figures of the eighteenth century. His best-known work is his ‘Dictionary of the English Language’. The painting, Dr. Johnson’s Tardy Gallantry, is dated 1886 and hung in the Royal Academy of Arts the same year.
The author describes Mr. Johnson bidding farewell to an important visitor. Mr. Johnson realizes that he has not sent his guest off in a fashion befitting “a foreign lady of quality.” Eager to show himself “a man of gallantry,” he hurries outside, takes her hand, and guides her to her coach. “His dress was a rusty brown morning suit, a pair of old shoes by way of slippers, a little shriveled wig sticking on the top of his head, and the sleeves of his shirt and the knees of his breeches hanging loose. A considerable crowd of people gathered round, and were not a little struck by this singular appearance.”
Excerpt from the Royal Academy of Arts – Complete Dictionary of Contributors and their works (1769 – 1904)
275 Dr. Johnson’s Tardy Gallantry.
“When Madame de Boufflers (the mistress of the Prince of Conti) was first in England,” said Beauclerk, “she was desirous to see Johnson. I accordingly went with her to his chambers in the Temple, where she was entertained with his conversation for some time. When our visit was over, she and I left him, and were got into Inner Temple Lane, when all at once I heard a voice like thunder. This was occasioned by Johnson, who, it seems, upon a little reflection, had taken it into his head that he ought to have done the honors of his literary residence to a foreign lady of quality, and, eager to show himself a man of gallantry, was hurrying down the staircase in violent agitation. He overtook us before we reached the Temple Gate, and, brushing in between me and Madame de Boufflers, seized her hand and conducted her to her coach. His dress was a rusty brown morning suit, a pair of old shoes by way of slippers, a little shrivelled wig sticking on the top of his head, and the sleeves of his shirt and the knees of his breeches hanging loose. A considerable crowd of people gathered round and were not a little struck by this singular appearance.”
William Powell Frith, R.A. (British 1819-1909)
William Powell Frith was arguably the most prolific and financially successful British artist ever to have lived. Born in the same year as Queen Victoria, Frith originally wanted to be an auctioneer but was forced by his parents – who were convinced of his genius – to take up art as a career. His work spanned the entire Victorian age and he became famous for large-scale panoramic paintings, overflowing with colorful characters and vivid vignettes. Fascinated by the newly industrialized British society, Frith used his canvas as an opportunity to explore the best and worst of Victorian life.
Barely out of his teens, Frith celebrated his first Royal Academy success – a painting depicting a scene from novel The Vicar of Wakefield. But his success didn’t stop there – the ultimate coup came when he received a request from Charles Dickens for several illustrations. Even in his apprentice days Frith recognized the significance of a commission from the famed author Charles Dickens. Little did Frith know that this business arrangement would eventually lead to a lifelong friendship.
Frith was elected Associate of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1845 and became a full member in 1852. For over sixty years, from 1840-1902, Frith exhibited paintings at the Royal Academy. Similar to a Dickens’ novel, his images portrayed contemporary social life with “characters” from all segments of society. His first panorama of Victorian life, Ramsgate Sands, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1854 and was purchased by Queen Victoria – the first of many paintings acquired by the Royal Family. Encouraged by the Queen’s endorsement, Frith went on to paint a succession of similar large-scale panoramas. He is best known for Derby Day (1858) and The Railway Station (1862), both critical commentaries on the collision of wealth and poverty. When Derby Day was displayed at the Royal Academy’s annual exhibition it was so popular with the viewing public that it needed to be shielded by a special rail to protect it from the admiring crowds.
James Sant, R.A., Principal Painter in Ordinary to Queen Victoria, (British, 1820 – 1916), Enoch, Phillip and Annie in the Cave, signed with monogram, oil on canvas, 52″ x 42″ — displayed at the 1866 Royal Academy & exhibited at the 1904 St. Louis Universal Exhibition
James Sant was born in South London and first showed artistic inclination at the age of eight, when he became obsessed with copying a sketch by Landseer, a British painter who was famous for his paintings of animals. In 1840, at the age of twenty, Sant entered the Royal Academy Schools and quickly became a popular portrait artist. In 1872 Sant was appointed Principal Painter in Ordinary (official portraitist) to Queen Victoria and the royal family, producing many pictures of the Royals and the aristocracy. He lived to the age of 96 and produced an astonishing number of canvases for exhibition at the Academy, some 250 of them. He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1870, but resigned in 1914 to “make room for younger men.”
In addition to his portraits, Sant produced a large number of allegorical paintings based on romantic literature and poetry. James Sant’s painting Enoch, Philip, and Annie in the Cave is based on the epic poem Enoch Arden, published in 1864 by Alfred, Lord Tennyson during his tenure as England’s Poet Laureate. Enoch Arden is a somber poem based on a true story of a sailor who is thought to be drowned at sea, but returns home after many years to find his wife remarried. In Tennyson’s poem, Enoch Arden, Philip Ray and Annie Lee grow up together. The hero of the poem, Enoch Arden, is a fisherman turned merchant sailor. Enoch, leaves his wife Annie and three children to go to sea with his old captain, who offers him work after he had lost his job. During his voyage, Enoch is shipwrecked on a desert island, and remains lost and missing for ten years. When he returns home, he finds his wife, who believed him dead, happily married to his childhood friend, Philip, who has loved Annie since they were children. Enoch’s life remains unfulfilled, with one of his children now dead, and his wife and remaining children now being cared for by his onetime rival. Tragically, Enoch never reveals himself to his wife and children; he loves her too much to spoil her new happiness. He eventually dies of a broken heart.
Thomas Kennington (British, 1856-1916), Pandora, 1908, oil on canvas, signed and dated lower left, 80 ½” x 56 ½”
Kennington attended several prestigious schools, including the Academy Julian, where he trained alongside Bouguereau. Exhibiting frequently at the Royal Academy, he became a respected portrait artist, painting Queen Victoria in 1898. Passionate about social reform, he established an independent institution that provided exhibition opportunities for artists rejected and discouraged by the dictatorial Academy. Pandora is a compelling portrait of human suffering, an allegory for the looming catastrophe ‐ humanity at the brink of a modern age. It is interesting to note that at the height of Academic painting, nudes were only permissible in the form of mythological beings, with genitalia hidden from view.
BIOGRAPHY – reprinted from The Art Renewal Center – http://www.artrenewal.org
Born in Grimsby England on April 7,1856, Thomas Benjamin Kennington trained at an impressive line of schools including the Liverpool School of Art, the South Kensington School of Art, and finally at the Academy Julian with William Bouguereau, Jules Lefebvre, and Tony Robert-Fleury. Throughout his life he exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and his work was also seen at the Royal Society of British Arts and the famous Grosvenor Gallery. His work was well appreciated and he even won a bronze medal at the Exposition Universelle of 1889.
Kennington was a social activist who cared deeply about the poor and believed strongly in the artists’ community. He was a founder and first secretary of the New English Art Club whose purpose was to provide exhibition opportunities for artists who were not accepted to show at the Royal Academy or who were dissatisfied with its supremacy. Kennington was also a founder of the Imperial Arts League, which still exists today as The Artists’ League of Great Britain. The Artists’ League was founded in 1909 with the purpose of protecting and promoting the interests of artists in matters of business such as copyrights, contracts, and insurance. Kennington often painted, like many of his contemporaries, the plight of the impoverished and destitute in order to draw attention to the need for social reform. As well, he was a painter of beauty and scenes from everyday life. He also became a well-established portrait artist, painting Queen Victoria (1819-1901) in 1898.
Kennington died in London, December 10, 1916. Today, his paintings can be found in many museums and in public locations throughout England and Australia, including in England, the Tate, Alfred East Art Gallery Permanent Collection, Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, Atkinson Art Gallery Collection, Royal Shakespeare Company Collection, Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester, the Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, Grimsby Town Hall, Museum of Lincolnshire Life, Royal Society of Medicine, The Royal College of Surgeons of England , The Royal Society of Musicians of Great Britain, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, North East Lincolnshire Museum Service, Retford Town Hall, Bassetlaw District Council, and The Foundling Museum, and in Australia, the Art Gallery of South Australia, Bendigo Art Gallery, and the Christchurch Art Gallery in New Zealand.
William T. Maud (British, 1865 – 1903), The Ride of the Valkyrie (1890), signed, oil on canvas, 63.5″ x 79″
William T. Maud is a virtually unknown nineteenth century British artist and The Ride of the Valkyrie is his only known painting. During the Boer War (1899-1902) Maud worked as a war artist for the news organization The Daily Graphic – a British illustrated news journal. With the massive growth in literacy throughout the British Empire, coupled with the development of the global telegraph network, the illustrated news weekly flourished. Newspapers sent special war artists to the battlefields to create pictorial records of specific battles, as well as to sketch images depicting everyday life for soldiers on the front line. Many artists of this era took this dangerous assignment for the simple reason that it was more lucrative than painting in a commercial studio. The war artists were untrained for the battlefield, but by virtue of their vocation they were placed in the middle of the action, exposing them to the risk of injury, capture and disease. With pencils, brushes and sketchbooks their job was to go wherever the winds of combat blew, to live under fire, to endure the deprivation, hardship and danger of the campaign, and to send to the illustrated newspapers that employed them rough and hasty sketches. William T. Maud died from enteric fever while covering the Second Boer War; he was only 38 years old.
The Ride of the Valkyrie
In Norse mythology, a Valkyrie is one of a host of female figures who decide who will die in battle. The Valkyrie bring their chosen to Valhalla, the afterlife hall of the slain. According to the legend, the heroes who have died with great bravery on the battlefields will have their wounds miraculously healed when they arrive in Valhalla. Valkyrie also appear in myths as lovers of heroes and other mortals, sometimes accompanied by ravens, and sometimes connected to swans. Valkyrie have been the subjects of various poems, works of art, and musical compositions. For example, Valkyrie play a major role in the 1870 opera by Richard Wagner.
Francis Sydney Muschamp RBA (British, 1851-1929), Enid – Then breaking his Command of Silence given She told him all that Earl Limours had said, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1895, oil on canvas, 47″ x 61 “
Francis Sydney Muschamp was greatly influenced by Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Lord Leighton, and other leading classical artists of the era. He had a special love for ancient mythology, 19th-century romance, and Elizabethan dramas, as evidence by the titles of his paintings: The Merchant of Venice, The Sonnet, Much Ado about Nothing, Juliet and her Nurse, The Fool and Maria: A Scene for Twelfth Night, The Winning of the Golden Fleece and Ivanhoe.
Francis Sydney Muschamp was born in Hull to the son of the landscape painter, Francis Muschamp (active 1865-1881). The family moved to London in 1865, the year that Muschamp Sr. began to exhibit at the Royal Society of British Artists. The younger Muschamp began to exhibit at the Royal Society of British Artists in 1870 and continued to exhibit his paintings at the major halls until 1903. He exhibited at: the Royal Academy (1884-1903); Suffolk Street; Royal Society of Artists, Birmingham; Dudley Gallery & New Dudley Gallery; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; Manchester City Gallery; Royal Society of British Artists; Royal Hibernian Academy; and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters.
Francis Sydney Muschamp was elected a member of the Royal Society of British Artists (RBA) in 1893. Enid – Then breaking his Command of Silence …, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1895, brings to life a scene from the romantic legend of King Arthur, retold in Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. Enid is a humble maiden who desperately loves her husband, Geraint, one of Arthur’s bravest knights. Geraint doubts his wife’s loyalty and forbids her to speak on his journey to fame and fortune. Here we see Enid reluctantly breaking her husband’s command of silence to warn him of an evil plot by her former suitor.
Charles Soubre (Liege, Belgian, 1821‐1895), Lady Macbeth, oil on canvas, signed and dated 1877, 45” x 33.5”
“Out, damned spot! Out, I say!” William Shakespeare’s dramatic text inspired 19th century artists more than any other playwright, novelist, or poet. A perfect example is Lady Macbeth by Charles Soubre, a Belgian painter and professor.
From 1854 to 1889, after his training at the Academy of Fine Arts in Liege, Soubre became a respected drawing instructor. Although he is best known for his great historical images, Soubre also painted portraits, landscapes, and scenes from literature.
His 1878 historical painting, The Departure of Volunteers to Liege Brussels, 1830 was somewhat controversial, since, at the time, it was considered taboo to paint images of the Belgian Revolution. The central focus of the composition is Charles Rogier, a passionate leader of the Belgian Revolution of 1830 and future Prime Minister. Rogier is seen surrounded by a cheering crowd of Liège patriots holding a flag proclaiming: “Victory or Death to Brussels.”
Two years later, in 1880, Soubre painted Arrival of Charles Rogier Liège and Volunteers in Brussels, 1830. Once again the focus of the image is Rogier, the ardent patriot; however, in this later painting the inscription “Victory or Death to Brussels” is removed.
To acknowledge his civil service, Soubre was awarded the Knight of the Order of Leopold, one of the highest honors in Belgium.
Le départ des volontaires liégeois pour Bruxelles (1830) (Museum of Walloon Art, Liège)
Arrivée de Charles Rogier et des volontaires liégeois à Bruxelles (1830) (Army Royal Museum, Brussels)
Henry Turner Munns (British 1832-1898), Help on the Way, oil on canvas, 32″ x 45.7″
Henry Turner Munns (H. T. Munns) was born in Northampton, England, and active in both Birmingham and London. Munns specialized in portraits and genre subjects.
While still a schoolboy, Munns had cultivated a talent for portraiture; however, his father discouraged him from pursuing a career as a painter. As soon as Munns finished school, he was employed at the factory where his father was employed as a boot and shoe designer. Determined to pursue his passion, the younger Munns began painting lessons with a traveling miniature painter named Locke. At the age of eighteen, he began receiving small commissions for portraits. After his apprenticeship, he started a portrait club and was able to make a living as a portrait painter. He eventually he moved his portrait painting business from Northampton to Buckinghamshire.
When the Russian War broke out, he painted and exhibited a Panorama of the War. His popularity grew when he was invited to lecture about the painting. He then joined a Northampton photographer, and for many years he colored his photographs. He continued this work in Birmingham, this time employed by Mr. Whitlock of New Street.
His first portrait in Birmingham was of Dr. Langford, which was exhibited at the Royal Society of Artists. He was eventually invited to become a member of the Royal Society of Artists, and succeeded Mr W. T. Roden as director of the Life Academy. In 1871, he painted the portrait of the Lord Mayor of London, which led to other important civic commissions.
Munns exhibited 8 works at the Royal Academy. Help on the Way depicts the artist rescuing his model from the surging tide, as they nervously wait for a rescue boat.
Source: Illustrated Catalogue (with Descriptive Notes) of the Permanent Collection of Paintings and Sculpture and the Pictures in Aston Hall and Elsewhere, Aston Hall, Birmingham, Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, Hudson and Son, 1904, pg. 187, 215
VICTORIAN ART FROM THE PRIVATE COLLECTION OF DR. HOWARD & LINDA KNOHL
More than 400 personal and decorative art objects from the British Empire accompany 65 masterpieces by leading artists of the Victorian Era, many renowned members of London’s Royal Academy of Arts.
From walking sticks to weapons, match safes to music boxes, ivory sculptures to bronze statues, and household necessities to fashion accessories – each of the objects on display offers a window into this significant period in history, and collectively delivers a rich mix of visual stimulation, narrative intrigue, and social commentary.
Fantasy, myth and medieval legend were fashionable themes during the Victorian era. Representative of this genre is William T. Maud’s The Ride of the Valkyries, a larger-than-life image stimulated by ancient Norse mythology and the 1856 opera, The Valkyries, composed and written by Richard Wagner.