A Legacy of Needlework – Part Four – Keeping the Art Alive

Women have been turning their hands to needlework for centuries, both for pleasure and necessity. To be an accomplished needlewoman was one of the hallmarks of being a well bred lady and Englishwomen displayed their work on everything from clothing to linens to decorative objects such as rugs, firescreens and draperies. Depending on the age and skill level of the artist, these objects ranged from the simple to the level of true artwork.

1783 ENGLISH NEEDLEWORK SAMPLER BY SARAH PRICE
17th CENTURY ENGLISH NEEDLEWORK TABLE CARPET
ENGLISH STOMACHER c.1730

Today, London’s Royal School for Needlework keeps the tradition alive by offering courses in a variety of needlework mediums, whilst the Embroiderers Guild and the National Needle Arts Association foster learning, the exposure of these arts to the public and the preservation of a national legacy. If you are a needle person and strive to keep this art alive, I’ll tell you about a few of my personal favorite finds as far as canvas and kits are concerned.

One of the banes of any needleperson’s life is what to make next. There are only so many pillows and cushions one can make before a person grows tired of the insipid designs available on most commercial needlework kits. And there are only so many kits and designs that are of sufficient quality to spur one on towards undertaking them. After all, one has to actually like the finished product in order to become enthusiastic about working it. For many years I put aside my hoop and thread in despair of ever finding anything that would fire me up creatively. I resorted to embroidering sheets and pillowcases just to have something to work on. Well, really, one can only own, or give away, so many pairs of bed linens. And people tend to look at you oddly when you ask leading questions about the decor of their bedroom. They don’t know that you’re trying to suss out what colors to embroider their next pair of sheets in.

When in London this summer with Victoria, we went to Liberty’s, where we ended up in the needlework department and where I discovered the work of designer Beth Russell, who offers many kits, including a series of projects based on scenes adapted from the work of William Morris.

As Russell explains on her website: This remarkable William Morris tapestry was originally designed for his patron Alexander Ionides. Completed in 1887, it measured 15ft (4.5m) wide. Morris delegated the drawing of the animals to the architect Philip Webb and the foreground millefleurs to his eventual successor Henry Dearle. The result is a tribute to their lifelong friendship and various talents. It is interesting to compare the Greenery tapestry designed later entirely by Henry Dearle. The original Forest is owned by the Victoria and Albert Museum.

This is the canvas I bought at Liberty’s, soon to be joined by it’s counterpart, the Fox. While I’ll be making cushions for my couch out of the finished works, we’ve seen in previous posts that a handful of Englishwomen regularly displayed their finished work for the pubic. These women included Harriet Frankland and Anne Morritt.

Anne Morritt
Anne Eliza Morritt (1726 – 1797) was the spinster sister of J.S. Morritt, once owner of Rokeby Hall. She created exquisite needlework “paintings,”  most of which are now displayed for visitors to see in the stairwell at Rokeby in Yorkshire.

 
Perhaps the most famous needlewoman of her day was Mary Linwood, whom we met in a previous post. Mary also created copies of masterpiece paintings with her needlework. Below is a picture similar in style to that of Linwood and Morrit, which recently sold in the Althorp Attic Sale held at Christie’s, London.

A LARGE NEEDLEWORK PICTURE IN THE STYLE OF MARY LINWOOD

What these artists had in common was that they embroidered from paintings using a technique known as needlepainting, a type of embroidery in which oils or other paintings were faithfully copied,
with the brush strokes rendered by stitches worked in crewel wool.

With this in mind, this series will end in Part Five with an interview with Doreen Finkel of the Art Needlepoint Company, who offer kits based on Old Master paintings by many artists and that are available in various sizes and using either wool or silk threads. Here are just a few examples of the kits available:

Pinky by Sir Thomas Lawrence

Girl With a Pearl Earring by Vermeer
Stay Tuned for Part Five!

ARTISTS / CARICATURISTS OF THE REGENCY ERA – HENRY ALKEN(1785-1851) – PART TWO

Louisa Cornell

I spent the three best years of my childhood in a little village in Suffolk – Kelsale – where I learned to ride and, more important, how not to ride. One of my prized possessions from those years is a little book of young rider themed cartoons entitled Angels on Horseback by the English cartoonist, Norman Thelwell.

 

His work pokes fun in a harmless and hilarious way at the efforts of young equestrians to meet the expectations of their pushy horsey parents and their tyrannical riding instructors.

There is an entire series of books of Thelwell’s horsey themed cartoons. Fifty years later I still find them amusing and, in many cases, far too accurate for comfort when it comes to my own early riding adventures.

Perhaps that is why I am such a fan of the work of Regency era artist and caricaturist, Henry Alken (1785-1851.) The great majority of his work depicts various sporting activities associated with horses, horsemen, the hunt, and horse racing. His serious work is elegant, polished, and includes little details that make it impossible to view a piece without finding something new and intriguing at each viewing.

However, it seems Mr. Alken had a sense of humor similar to that of Mr. Thelwell. Between 1780 and 1840, the material and style of clothing worn by those riding to hounds was transformed from the rough and billowy style of the country squire to the sculpted, flattering, and stylish fashions preferred by the young men of Town who sought to join the hunt in order to prove their masculinity and physical prowess. For these young urban Corinthians appearances, style, and the show of an athletic physique were paramount. For many, horsemanship came second.

There were a number of names given to these young toffs. The most prominent, however, was that of Meltonian. This is the term Henry Alken used to describe the riders in his humorous prints of the hunt. The name is derived from the town of Melton Mowbray in Leceistershire, a popular place for young Corinthians to gather and ride to hounds. Getting out of Town and spending time in the country engaged in hunting and shooting was a vital part of a young gentleman’s social life. I’ll do a longer post on the Meltonians soon as they definitely deserve a closer look.

However, Henry Alken’s prints concerning the Meltonian set leave his opinion of these gentlemen sportsmen in no doubt. In fact he did an entire series of prints entitled How to be a Meltonian.

How to be a Meltonian. Henry Alken

 

 

 

 

 

I hope you have enjoyed a brief look at Henry Alken’s humorous prints. And I wonder, am I the only one who sees the similarity in vision between his work and that of Thelwell? Either way, both artists present views on horses and horsemanship that both entertain and delight.

Part Three of this post will take a look at Alken’s more serious prints. Stay tuned!

John Singer Sargent – The British Portraits

 

John Singer Sargent, the son of an American doctor, was born in Florence in 1856. He studied painting in Italy and France and in 1884 caused a sensation at the Paris Salon with his painting of Madame Gautreau. Exhibited as Madame X, people complained that the painting was provocatively erotic.

The scandal persuaded Sargent to move to England and over the next few years established himself as the country’s leading portrait painter. Sargent had no assistants; he handled all the tasks, such as preparing his canvases, varnishing the painting, arranging for photography, shipping, and documentation. He commanded about $5,000 per portrait, or about $130,000 in current dollars. Following are portraits representative of Sargent’s prolific, and much prized, portraiture featurning British subjects.

Lady Agnew of Lochnaw
1892-93
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh
In late 1892, Sargent began work on the portrait of Lady Agnew, commissioned by Andrew Noel Agnew, a barrister who had inherited the baronetcy and estates of Lochnaw in Galloway. The sitter was his young wife, Gertrude Vernon (1865-1932).

 

Hon. Victoria Stanley – 1899
Winifred, Duchess of Portland (Winifred Dallas-Yorke) – 1902

Countess of Warwick and Son (Frances Evelyn ‘Daisy’ Maynard) – 1905

 

The Countess of Essex – 1906

 

Theresa (‘Nellie’) Marchioness of Londonderry – 1912

 

Sibyl Sasson-Countess of Rocksavage  (later Marchioness of Cholmondeley)  – 1913

 

Sir Philip Sassoon – 1923 (Sybil’s brother)
Tate Gallery, London

 

Mrs. George Nathaniel Curzon (Grace Elvina, Marchioness Curzon of Kedleston) – 1925

 

The Hon. Lilian Maud Glen Coats, later Duchess of Wellington
For a complete online catalogue of the works of John Singer Sargent, click here.

HELLO, HANDSOME – COURTESY OF SIR THOMAS LAWRENCE

by Kristine Hughes Patrone

Recently, I was Googling portraits of the Duke of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence (as one does) and the search returned images that were decidedly not Wellington. And I must say, some of the sitters were exceedingly handsome, and some of them were portraits I hadn’t seen before. So I Googled some more and you’ll find the results of my search below. Enjoy!

Portrait of Frederic Lock of Norbury Park, Surrey. Youngest child of William Lock, a London art critic. 
 
 
William Lock the Younger, elder brother to Frederic, above. 
 
From Yale Center for British ArtIt has been suggested that Lawrence’s sensitive portrait of the younger William Lock may be a study for an untraced portrait of the sitter exhibited as the royal Academy in 1791. Lock’s attire and hairstyle indicate a later dating however, and Lawrence did not usually make preliminary drawings for his paintings, preferring to prepare them by drawing directly on the canvas with chalk. . . . The sitter was the son of the connoisseur William Lock (1732-1810), was one of Lawrence’s first sitter and a close friend of the artist. The younger Lock (1767-1847) was a keen patron of the arts and an aspiring artist, but after viewing Rome he lost faith in his talent and gave up painting, though he continued to draw. 
 
Arthur Atherley MP 1772 – 1844
 
This portrait was painted by Lawrence when Atherley was an Eatonian. Afterwards, he went to Trinity College and went on to stand as MP for Southampton for four terms. He was a founding member of the Fox Club. He also served as a justice of the peace in Sussex and died at Tower House, Brighton. 
 
 
The finished portrait now hangs in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, but an unfinished sketch of the same subject, above, was recently purchased from a private owner by the Holburne Museum, Bath. You can read more about that here
 
 
John Arthur Douglas Bloomfield, 2nd Baron Bloomfield 1802 – 1879
 
Astonishingly, Wikipedia tells me that Bloomfield was privately educated and became an attache to Vienna at the age of sixteen. This may have been due, at least in part, to the position of his father, the 1st Baron Bloomfield, about whom Wikipedia says: “He was an Aide-de-Camp, then Chief Equerry and Clerk Marshal to the Prince of Wales and finally was Private Secretary to the King, Keeper of the Privy Purse, and Receiver of the Duchy of Cornwall from 1817 to 1822. One of issues that Bloomfield had to contend with a Private Secretary was King’s extravagant spending.” However, things did not end well for the elder Baron Bloomfield. You’ll find the story here.  
 
 
Richard Hart Davis Jr. 1791 – 1854
 
 
Charles William Bell
 
French video on Lawrence’s painting technique
 
 
Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux 1778 – 1868
 
Anti-slavery campaigner, attorney to Queen Caroline and one of the first Englishmen to fall in love with Cannes and make it into a popular resort. Like Wellington, Brougham was named by Harriet Wilson in her Memoirs. Unlike Wellington, he caved and paid the hush money her publisher demanded to keep his name out of the book. Brougham’s name is still familiar to us, as a style of coach was named for a vehicle he designed, which was carried on until recent memory as a style of automobile. Find his full biographical story here.
 
And finally . . . . .
 
Sir Thomas Lawrence, unfinished self portrait, circa 1825
 

 

The Queen’s Masterpieces on Exhibit

by Victoria Hinshaw

Opening December 4, 2020, sixty-five of the greatest paintings in the Royal Collection will hang in the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace until January, 2022. That gives us a year to get to London and binge on the Real Thing, usually seen only inside the Palace where the very nice but firm guards keep the crowd moving right along.

Recently, as part of the program to renovate the Palace and update its outmoded systems, the Picture Gallery was vacated and the contents put into storage, except for the masterpieces chosen to be exhibited for the next thirteen months while this portion of the building undergoes its share  of the Reservicing Program,  a ten-year period of repairs.

Rembrandt’s portrait of Agatha Bas, 1641

The Picture Gallery was added to the Palace in the 1820’s by George IV to house his art collection. Architect John Nash, the King’s favorite, designed the room, also used for state receptions. It has been updated several times most recently in the 1950’s.

Vermeer, Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman, early 1660s

One of only 34 known Vermeer paintings, this canvas was acquired by George III in 1762.  The relative simplicity of the scene concentrates the observer’s view on the figures and perhaps invites speculation on the relationship of the two. The delicacy of the light is a signature quality of Vermeer’s style and composition.

Claude Lorrain, Harbour Scene at Sunset, 1643

According to the description of the painting, “Claude was captivated by the effect of light in the landscape…we are transported directly into the scene.” This painting was probably acquired by Frederick, Prince of Wales, father of George III.

Guido Reni, Cleopatra with the Asp, 1628

The description states “Reni dramatically conveys the foreboding of her passage from life to death…a shift from flesh and blood to cold marble.”

Titian, Madonna and Child in a Landscape with Tobias and the Angel, c. 1535-40

This painting was presented to Charles II in 1660 by the States of Holland and West Friesland upon his restoration to the throne. Titan stands as a giant of Italian painting for his realism, use of color and dramatic structure.

Canaletto. The Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day, c. 1733-34

Canaletto is a favorite of the English, for both his Italian and his English scenes, all grand in scope but intricately detailed.  George III acquired this painting in 1762 as part of the collection of Joseph Smith, British Consul in Venice. It portrays a celebration of the city’s Marriage with the Sea.

The Queen’s Gallery

All these masterworks and more will be on view in the Queen’s Gallery long enough for us to get there, I hope! Once they are rehung inside the Palace Picture Gallery, more exhibitions from the Royal Collection will be mounted in the Queen’s Gallery. I have visited displays of Fabergé items, Leonardo drawings and artifacts, the Art and Love of Victoria and Albert, treasures from the courts of the first two Georges, and many more.  All together they represent only a fraction of the total Royal Collection of 7,000 paintings, 500,000 prints, and 30,000 watercolors and drawings, plus sculptures, jewels, ceramics, photos, and manuscripts valued at well over $13 billion, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

Hope I meet you there!