The Grosvenor Gallery Once More:
A Supplement to Review No. 4
in the Journalism volumes
of the OET Complete Works of Oscar Wilde
Was du ererbt von
deinen Vätern hast,
Erwirb es, um es zu besitzen.
Goethe, Faust. Part I, 682-3.
[Wouldst thou possess thy heritage, essay,
By use to render it thine own. (Trans. Anna Swanwick.)]
‘Auf einem Bein kann man nicht stehen’ (literally: ‘you can’t stand on [only] one leg’) is a jocular saying which you will often hear in a German pub when a customer, on draining his first glass of beer, asks to have another one. Perhaps, when he or she had finished my supplement to Stokes & Turner’s Review No. 1 (‘The Grosvenor Gallery’ ), many a Wildean has felt not unlike the proverbial pub philosopher and, instead of being lectured about pars pro toto, would have appreciated another close analysis.
Well, here it is: a supplement to Wilde’s review of the Grosvenor Gallery Exhibition of 1879, which figures in Stokes & Turner’s opus magnum as No. 4. The procedure adhered to is the same as the one used in my first paper. Again I begin with a scrupulous inspection of the text as reprinted in Journalism and as originally published, listing all differences under the heading ‘Collation’ and in the following manner: first the line number/s is / are given where the corpus delicti will be found. Then follows the expression / passage at issue, put in italics (or, where the original text is in italics, put in ordinary type), before, to conclude the note, the authentic expression / passage is supplemented in square brackets and in the original type. Incidentally, this is not such an easy task as the reader may think, since, this time, it is a matter not only of spelling, punctuation, capitalisation, inverted commas, choice of words and word order but also of blank spaces where the printer’s ink has not come off onto the newsprint so that, for once, I would have welcomed a facsimile of the copy text.
After the collation, there follows, as in my previous article, the examination of Stokes & Turner’s Commentary, the outcome of which is an assemblage of several additions and, respectively, corrections which, I hope, will be taken into consideration when the time has come for an in-progress online edition. The format used is again the same as the one selected for the section ‘Collation’: first, to locate the point of reference, the line number/s of Wilde’s article is / are cited; added to which is, in square brackets (and where available), the page number of the editors’ Commentary. Then follow the passage under consideration (but unrevised this time, even where the transcription is at fault) and my discussion. Each note ends with a reference to the relevant literature.
Before we go into details, though, I would suggest that some thought be given to Review No. 4 as a whole, the title of which reads ‘Grosvenor Gallery. (First Notice)’. So, how come, every reader will of course ask, that there never was a ‘Second Notice’, in spite of such an unequivocal commitment to a sequel? A commitment, moreover, which Wilde himself had twice endorsed in his article? For, after all, when commenting upon William Blake Richmond’s Sarpedon picture and his statue of the Greek athlete, he had significantly added: ‘I will reserve for another occasion a fuller consideration of his [i.e. Richmond’s] power.’ (77 f.) And he had concluded his article, it will be remembered, by saying: ‘I shall reserve for another notice the wonderful landscapes of Mr. Cecil Lawson [...], as well as a consideration of the works of Herkomer, Tissot and Legros, and others of the modern realistic school.’ (121-124).
Unfortunately, Stokes & Turner, like Ross and Mason [Millard] before them, do not discuss the said question but content themselves with simply stating the bare fact: ‘a second notice never appeared’ (219 n. 121). And yet, it seems to me that the question can be answered, albeit conjecturally only, thanks to Wilde’s letter of 20 May 1879 to Mary Caroline Stuart-Wortley, one of the contributors to the 1879 Grosvenor Exhibition, in which Oscar remarked that his notice in the Irish Daily News had been ‘shockingly printed’. (For Miss Stuart-Wortley, see my comments below with regard to ll. 102-5.) Why such harsh criticism? Most likely, I would say, because of the really awful paragraph break near the beginning of the review and right in the middle of a sentence (21-26) – faithfully transcribed by the editors but not annotated –, furthermore, to mention only another few blunders, because of the confusion of ‘then’ and ‘than’ (25), the use of the singular verb form where the plural form was called for (59), and, last but not least, because of the misspelling of the names of J. M. Strudwick (37) and, most grotesquely, of Keats (38). (Funnily enough and no doubt unintentionally, Stokes & Turner have emended the last howler. [See ‘Collation’.]) Considering this lamentable state of affairs, I can well imagine that Wilde was so disgusted that he broke off his dealings with the Irish Daily News and, not wishing to run the risk of being exposed once more to such humiliation, did not hand in a ‘Second Notice’.
But enough said of these speculations. Let us now proceed and examine the review at our disposal.
Ref.: John Stokes & Mark W. Turner, eds., Journalism, in: The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, (general editor Ian Small), vols. VI & VII, (Oxford: OUP, 2013); ‘Grosvenor Gallery. (First Notice.)’, Irish Daily News, vol. 192, no. 42,867, Monday, May 5, 1879, [p. 3, col. b] [microfilm]; Stuart Mason [i.e. Christopher Millard], Bibliography of Oscar Wilde, (London: T. Werner Laurie, 1914), 194 [N.B.: numbering of volume, issue, and pagination slightly incorrect]; Oscar Wilde, Miscellanies, ed. Robert Ross, (First Collected Edition), (London: Methuen, 1908), 29; The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde, ed. Merlin Holland & Rupert Hart-Davis, (London: Fourth Estate, 2000), 79.
Collation. – 1: GROSVENOR GALLERY [~ GALLERY.] – 2: FIRST NOTICE [~NOTICE.] – 20: somber in colour [sombre ~]. – 20: all the fine grace [~ infinite grace]. – 21-22: In presence of what may be called the medieval spirit [~ of what one may call the mediæval spirit]. – 22: the idea and the technique of the work [~ this work]. – 38: Keats’s poem [Keat’s ~]. – 39-40: both works tell of great delicacy of design and refinement of detail, yet essentially weak in colour [both works tul of ~]. – 52: marvelous [marvellous]. – 62-63: two pictures which show the splendid simplicity and directness of his strength, the one a portrait of himself, the other that of a little child [~ strength the one ~]. – 64: “Dorothy” (143) [~ (143 ]. – 75-76: “Sleep and Death Bearing the slain body of Sarpedon” [“Sleep and Death bearing ~]. – 86: the philippics of the Fors Clavigera [~ the Fors Clavigera]. – 87-88: one of which, called [one of which called]. – 89-90: what ships […] are from “the Impressionist point of view” [~ are, from “the Impressionist point of view”]. – 90: Mr. Eugene Benson [Mr ~]. – 96-97: are full of the highest truth and beauty [are all full ~]. – 97: Mr. Forbes-Robertson [Mr ~]. – 100: a portrait of Mr Hermann Vezin (49) [~ ( 49)]. – 105-106: Mrs. Valentino Bromley’s “Misty Day” (307) [Mrs Valentine Bromley’s “Misty Day” (207)]. – 113: the “Spirit of the Shell” [“The Spirit ~]. – 114: the “Nymph and Satyr,” [“The Nymph ~]. – 114-116: where the little goat-footed child has all the sweet mystery and romance of the woodlands about him; and the [~ about him, and the].
3-6: While the yearly exhibition of the Royal Academy may be said to present us with the general characteristics of ordinary English art at its most commonplace level, it is at the Grosvenor Gallery that we are enabled to see the highest development of the modern artistic spirit […].
The remark brings to mind The Picture of Dorian Gray, ch. i, where Lord Henry advises Basil Hallward about his portrait of Dorian: ‘It is your best work, Basil, the best thing you have ever done […]. You must certainly send it next year to the Grosvenor. The Academy is too large and too vulgar. The Grosvenor is the only place.’ This piece of advice will have struck a chord with many readers in July 1890, when Dorian Gray appeared in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine. Nine months later, however, in April 1891, when the novel was published in book form, the situation had changed, as the Grosvenor Gallery had closed down in October 1890. One might have expected, therefore, that Wilde would have entirely rewritten Lord Henry’s address. But he did not do so. On the contrary, not content with retaining the original text, he even expanded it a little by inserting the following witticism: ‘Whenever I have gone there [to the Royal Academy], there have been either so many people that I have not been able to see the pictures, which was dreadful, or so many pictures that I have not been able to see the people, which was worse.’ – Ref.: Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, vol. 3: The Picture of Dorian Gray, ed. Joseph Bristow, (Oxford: OUP, 2005), 4.6-8, 169.31-170.4; Collins Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Centenary Edition, (Glasgow: HarperCollins, 1999), 18.
8-10 [and 216 n.]: Mr. Burne-Jones’s [...] four pictures illustrating the Greek legend of Pygmalion.
Burne-Jones’s Story of Pygmalion was best described by the Times: ‘The four pictures are summed in a [rhymed] quatrain – [“The Heart Desires. / The Hand Refrains. / The Godhead Fires. / The Soul Attains.”] –, each line of which serves as a title to one picture, and marks one stage of the action. In The Heart Desires, we see the artist brooding over his conception, already worn and wasted with the inner fire that feeds upon his hungry heart, but the statue does not yet appear. In The Hand Refrains, we see the sculptor absorbed in ecstatic contemplation of the statue, which he can hardly bring himself to pronounce finished, at the moment he kneels in worship of the work of his own hands. In The God-head Fires, Aphrodite has come down into the studio on a purple cloud up-borne by a flight of doves, and, breathing life into the marble, draws it to her by a mysterious, irresistible power. The arms of statue and goddess are interlaced; the statue bows forward from its pedestal, and will soon be entirely living woman, as she is in the fourth picture, The Soul Attains, where the full glow of life and love has flushed the marble, and Pygmalion kneels in the crowning ecstasy of his miracle-working worship of beauty at the feet of his Galatea.’ – Ref.: The Grosvenor Gallery, New Bond Street. Summer Exhibition, 1879, (London: Printed at the Chiswick Press), 36, nos. 167-170; ‘The Grosvenor Gallery’, The Times, 2 May 1879, 3.
20: somber in colour, [...] all the fine grace of nobly-fashioned drapery [...].
That the misreading ‘somber’ instead of ‘sombre’ went undetected through all stages of proof-reading is perhaps due to the editors’ spelling checker having been keyed to a US language program; the more so, as a similar slip occurs at l. 52 where Stokes & Turner have ‘marvelous’ rather than the authentic and [in British English] correct ‘marvellous’. – The collocation ‘fine grace’ (rather than ‘infinite grace’) is an ‘improvement’ taken over from Ross. (Cf. ‘Collation’.) – Ref.: Miscellanies, 25.
21-26: In presence of what may be called the medieval spirit may be discerned both the idea and the technique of the work [the Annunciation], and even still more so in the four pictures of the story of Pygmalion, where the sculptor is represented in dress and in looks rather as a Christian.
St. Francis, then as a pure Greek artist in the first morning tide of art, creating his own ideal, and worshipping it.
Except for the spelling ‘medieval’ (instead of ‘mediæval’), the slight deviation from the original, which I have recorded in the section ‘Collation’, goes back to Ross who revised the passage so as to form one continuous sentence and who also did not hesitate to make some further minor changes: ‘In presence of what may be called the mediæval spirit may be discerned both the idea and the technique of the work, and even still more so in the four pictures of the story of Pygmalion, where the sculptor is represented in dress and in looks rather as a Christian St. Francis, than as a pure Greek artist in the first morning tide of art, creating his own ideal, and worshipping it.’ – With regard to the contents side of the passage, it should be noted that Wilde’s criticism of Burne-Jones’s portrayal of Pygmalion was also voiced by other reviewers. The art critic of the Illustrated London News, for example, said of the sculptor that he had ‘an ill-favoured, hollow-cheeked physiognomy, utterly unlike anything Greek, and looking a mean sort of enthusiast rather than the “king” he was.’ Similarly, Tom Taylor of the Times observed: ‘The beautiful and suggestive legend is late Greek. Mr. E. B. Jones’s pictorial embodiment of it, there is hardly need to say, is in the Early Renaissance manner of Mantegna [...]. The backgrounds and accessories are treated as an early Renaissance painter would have treated them, mediævally rather than classically, but with a mediævalism so classical that no sense of incongruity is produced, any more than by Pygmalion’s rather mediæval than classic dress.’ And the reviewer of the PMG, less tolerant than his colleagues, commented caustically that the artist had given Pygmalion ‘a sickly Gothic countenance of modern cut.’ – Ref.: Miscellanies, 25; ‘Grosvenor Gallery Exhibition’, Illustrated London News, 3 May 1879, 415; ‘The Grosvenor Gallery’, The Times, 2 May 1879, 3; ‘The Grosvenor Gallery. Mr Watts and Mr Burne Jones’, Pall Mall Gazette, 16 May 1879, 12.
36 [and 217 n.]: the Lethaen poppies.
In view of Wilde’s personal and cultural background, it is, of course, not surprising that there are numerous references in his oeuvre to the waters of forgetfulness of Greek mythology. See, for example, ‘Ravenna’, l. 45 f.: ‘here, indeed, / Are Lethe’s waters’; ‘Charmides’, l. 613: ‘There by a dim and dark Lethæan well’; ‘The New Helen’, l. 37: ‘Didst thou lie there by some Lethæan stream’; ‘Panthea’, l. 67: ‘Alas! They know the far Lethæan spring’; ‘The Critic as Artist’: ‘When we […] have drunk of the fountain of Lethe’. – Ref.: Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, vol. 1: Poems and Poems in Prose, ed. Bobby Fong & Karl Beckson, (Oxford: OUP, 2000), 47, 88, 107, 112; Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, vol. 4: Criticism, ed. Josephine M. Guy, (Oxford: OUP, 2007), 170.24-25; Centenary Edition, 779, 812, 829, 832, 1134.
38: the pathos of Keats’s poem.
As already mentioned in the introduction, the editors’ transcription is not authorized by the original, which reads ‘Keat’s’. (Cf. the section ‘Collation’.) – Needless to say that Ross, with his mind bent to bring out an attractive readable edition, silently corrected the blunder. – Ref.: Miscellanies, 25.
39-40: [...] both works tell of great delicacy of design and refinement of detail, yet essentially weak in colour [...].
In Ross’s edition the passage reads: ‘both works full of delicacy of design and refinement of detail, yet essentially weak in colour’ (emphasis mine). Ross’s omission of ‘great’ is not authorized by the copy text, but the transcription ‘full’ is, even though the original is slightly defective at the beginning and at the end of the word: but the vowel in the middle is unmistakably ‘u’. (Cf. ‘Collation.) – Ref.: Miscellanies, 25.
45-49 [and 217 n.]: The draped figures of men and women in his [Charles Fairfax Murray’s]“Garland Makers” (38) and “Pastoral” (39), some wrought in that single note of colour which the earlier Florentines loved, others with all the varied richness and glow of the Venetian school, show what great results may be brought about by a youth spent in Italian cities.
Wilde’s eulogy agrees well with what the PMG put in the words: ‘... by far the ablest among the imitators [of Watts and Burne-Jones] is Mr. C. Fairfax Murray, whose pictures (38, 39) remind one, in grouping and colour, of Mr. Rossetti’s early Dante subjects.’ – The two works by which Fairfax Murray was represented at the Exhibition were described in the Grosvenor Notes as ‘a panel in three compartments’ (The Garland Makers) and ‘ten seated figures in rich costumes’ (A Pastoral). The triptych was bought on the spot by Antony Gibbs (1841-1907), son and heir of William Gibbs (1790-1875), the founder of a prosperous business at Tyntesfield, North Somerset, which dealt in guano. Tyntesfield and its art collection were kept in the family until 2002 when, after the death of George Richard Lawley, 2nd Baron Wraxall (1928-2001), the property was put on the market and acquired by the National Trust. – Murray’s A Pastoral is still in private hands: it was last auctioned by Sotheby’s (London) on May 30, 1985 (lot 429). – Ref.: ‘The Grosvenor Gallery. (Second Notice.)’, Pall Mall Gazette, 26 May 1879, 4; Grosvenor Notes. Summer Exhibition, ed. Henry Blackburn, (London: Chatto and Windus, May 1879), 18; James Miller, Fertile Fortune. The Story of Tyntesfield, (London: National Trust, 2003), 125, plates 127; Oil Paintings in National Trust Properties, in: National Trust I: West, (London: Public Catalogue Foundation, 2013), 282, 381; Blouin Art Sales Index (online).
50-51: that most powerful of all our living English artists, Mr. G. F. Watts.
Wilde’s high regard for George Frederic Watts was common consent at the time. Not surprisingly, it was bound to change over the years: asked in 1897 by the Norwegian landscape-painter Frits Thaulow whether he didn’t think ‘Watts the greatest English painter’, Wilde replied: ‘No, Whistler, far and away.’ – Ref.: Christian Krogh, ‘Fritz Thaulow and Oscar Wilde at Dieppe, 1897’, The New Age (London), 10 Dec. 1908, 132 f. (repr. in Oscar Wilde. Interviews and Recollections, ed. E. H. Mikhail, vol. 2, [London: Macmillan 1979], 349).
57-60: The white body of the dying girl [...] and the clinging arms of her lover [...] forms a melancholy and wonderful note of colour [...].
Not surprisingly, Ross has ‘form’ rather than ‘forms’. – Ref.: Miscellanies, 26.
63-68 [and 218 n.]: a little child called “Dorothy” (143), who has all that sweet gravity and look of candour which we like to associate with that old-fashioned name: a child with bright rippling hair, tangled like floss silk, open brown eyes and flower-like mouth; dressed in faded claret, with little lace about the neck and throat, toned down to a delicate grey – the hands simply clasped before her.
Watts’s ‘little child called Dorothy’ was the darling of both public and critics alike. In a preview, published four weeks before the opening of the Exhibition, the Athenaeum had already found no end in praising the painting to the sky: ‘Mr Watts will contribute to the Grosvenor Gallery Exhibition one of the most beautiful and artistic of his pictures, the charming portrait of a little damsel, at three-quarters length, standing, with her arms extended downwards before her, the fingers interknit. The face is delightful in the ingenuousness and sweet seriousness of its character and the expression of childlike grave inquiry; her long honey-coloured tresses fall on the child’s shoulders in light curling masses, and, in the flowing of their lines, assist the graceful action of the figure, which stands a little sideways to our left, while the head, leaning slightly forward, is poised to our right. A rich but sober-tinted frock of dark marone, with lace of a warm white, assorts well with the carnations and the neutral tone of the background.’ And when, a month later, the Grosvenor opened its doors, the Athenaeum again went into raptures: ‘We have recently described that picture which, more than any other by this artist, will charm the world this year. It is No. 143, Dorothy, the three-quarters length of a child with pale flossy hair and dressed in marone frock, standing with her hands clasped before her, and facing us. The sweet and ingenuous expression of that unconsciousness of self which is proper to childhood would alone reward a visit to this gallery.’ The Grosvenor Notes, finally, which contained a sketch of the picture, reproduced in facsimile, summed it up in a nutshell: ‘A child in claret-coloured dress with a glory of fair hair; perhaps the most charming portrait in the gallery.’ – At the end of the Grosvenor Exhibition on 2 August 1879, ‘the most charming portrait in the gallery’ seems to have vanished into thin air, but luckily not before an etching of it was executed by the French painter and print-maker Paul-Adolphe Rajon (1843-1888). It was published in Philip Gilbert Hamerton’s ‘artistic periodical’ The Portfolio for August 1880 and is reproduced below. Complementing the etching, was a short note from the art critic J. Beavington Atkinson (1822-1886), who related the following amusing anecdote: ‘When the picture of little Dorothy, tenderly and lovingly painted, became the admired of all beholders, it was a pretty sight to see the girl herself enter the Gallery and walk in front of the canvas, exclaiming, in full glee, “Oh, here is my portrait!”’ – With regard to Wilde’s characterisation of little Dorothy and her ‘sweet gravity’, cf. his description of Virginia in ‘The Canterville Ghost’, ‘who at times had a sweet Puritan gravity, caught from some old New England ancestor.’ – Ref.: ‘New Pictures’, Athenaeum, 5 April 1879, 445; ‘The Grosvenor Gallery Exhibition. (Second and Concluding Notice.)’, Athenaeum, 10 May 1879, 607; Grosvenor Notes, ed. Henry Blackburn, Summer Exhibition 1879, 40, No. 143; J. Beavington Atkinson, ‘Etchings from Pictures by Contemporary Artists. XXVIII’, The Portfolio, vol. 11, (London: Seeley, Jackson, and Halliday, 1880), 125-126 and plate facing p. 125; Complete Short Fiction, ed. Ian Small, (London: Penguin, 1994), 223; Centenary Edition, 196.
68-70 [and 218 n.]: This is the picture; as truthful and lovely as any of those Brignoli children which Vandyke has painted in Genoa.
There can be no doubt that the editors have a thorough knowledge of the art collection of the Palazzo Rosso, as they amply demonstrated in their annotation of Wilde’s reference to ‘Guido’s St. Sebastian in the Palazzo Rosso at Genoa’ [‘The Grosvenor Gallery’ (1877)]. So their unwillingness to accept any of its Van Dyck paintings as Wilde’s point of reference cannot be lightly dismissed. Not acceptable, though, is their conjecture that ‘Wilde may have been thinking of the Van Dyck painting of “The Balbi Children,” also painted in Genoa, but now in the National Gallery, London.’ This cannot be, since throughout Wilde’s life The Balbi Children had been under lock and key: sold by the Balbi descendants in 1824-5 to William Noel-Hill, later 3rd Lord Berwick (d. 1842), the picture passed from him to Thomas Philip, Earl de Grey (d. 1859), next to Baroness Lucas, Countess Cowper (d. 1880), and ultimately to Lady Lucas (d. 1991), who sold it to the National Gallery London in 1985 (inv. no. 6502). There is thus no alternative, or so it seems to me, but to return to the treasures of the Palazzo Rosso. And indeed, unless one persists in looking for a group portrait by all means and is not prepared to content oneself with the picture of a single Brignoli child, a likely candidate would seem to me to be Van Dyck’s portrait Geronima Sale with her Daughter Maria Aurelia Brignole-Sale (inv. no. 116) because the posture of the girl is similar to that of Watts’s little Dorothy. See the image on the internet. – Ref.: Review No. 1, l. 188 f. and Commentary, 202 f.; David Hewson, ‘Van Dyck is first Getty buy for National Gallery’, The Times, 21 Nov. 1985, 3; National Gallery (London), website; Susan J. Barnes et al., Van Dyck. A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, (Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Arts), New Haven & London: Yale UP, 2004, p. 186 & pl. II.42, p. 200 & pl. II.59; Palazzo Rosso website.
70-73 [and 218 n.]: Nor is his [Watts’s] own picture of himself – styled in the catalogue merely a portrait (44) – less wonderful, especially the luminous treatment of the various shades of black as shown in the hat and cloak.
The catalogue number cited (44) is a slip for 144. – As for the picture itself, it was the famous self-portrait which Watts had painted in 1862-63 and which had been lent by the owner William Bowman, a prominent English surgeon and histologist (1816-1892). Created a baronet in 1884, Sir William was later to bequeath Watts’s self-portrait to the trustees of the National Gallery. It is now one of the treasures of the Tate Gallery. – The self-portrait commissioned by the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, which Stokes & Turner introduce into the discussion, is an altogether different picture and does not fill the bill, as it does not show the artist in a dark velvet coat and slouch hat, but wearing a brown painter’s smock and dark skullcap, and standing, palette in hand, before his own work-in-progress Time, Death and Judgement. Besides, it should be noted that the Gallery in Florence did not approach Watts with its request until the autumn of 1879, and the first showing of the Uffizi self-portrait was at the summer exhibition of the Royal Academy in May 1880. – Ref.: The Grosvenor Gallery. Summer Exhibition 1879, 32, no. 144; ‘The Grosvenor Gallery Exhibition. (Second and Concluding Notice.)’, Athenaeum, 10 May 1879, 607; J. Comyns Carr, ‘Grosvenor Gallery. (First Notice.)’, Academy, 3 May 1879, 397; idem, ‘Les Expositions de la Grosvenor’, L’Art. Revue hebdomadaire illustrée, vol. 18 (1879), 178; ‘The Royal Academy. (First Notice.)’, Athenaeum, 1 May 1880, 571; ‘Royal Academy Exhibition. (First Notice.)’, The Times, 3 May 1880, 9; ‘The Royal Academy Exhibition’, Art Journal, June 1880, 187; Algernon Graves, The Royal Academy of Arts. A Complete Dictionary of Contributors and Their Work From Its Foundation in 1769 to 1904, vol. 8, (London: Henry Graves & George Bell, 1906), 176; Gli Uffizi. Catalogo Generale, (Firenze: Centro Di, 1979), 1038, A 1015 (black and white reproduction); Veronica Franklin Gould, G. F. Watts: The Last Great Victorian, (New Haven / London: Yale UP, 2004), 66 f., 147, 150, 397 n. 33 & 48; Barbara Bryant, G. F. Watts Portraits: Fame & Beauty in Victorian Society, (London: National Portrait Gallery, 2004), 142, 164, plates (colour) 48, 59.
75-76 [and 218 n.]: Richmond’s noble picture of “Sleep and Death Bearing the slain body of Sarpedon”.
Sarpedon was a son of Zeus and the leader of the Lycians, the best warrior among the allies of the Trojans. He was finally killed by Patroklus – a passage, ‘told with deep feeling’, as the Oxford Companion to Classical Literature finely remarks – and, lest the Greeks stripped him of his armour and disfigured his corpse, was, upon the order of Zeus, carried off to Lycia for burial by the twin brothers Sleep and Death. – For Sarpedon, see also Historical Criticism with its paraphrase of Plato’s Republic, Book III. 388: ‘Away with the tears for Sarpedon!’ Likewise ‘The New Helen’, l. 22: ‘It was for thee [Helen] that young Sarpedôn died.’ – Richmond’s mythological painting passed by descent to the artist’s son, Rear-Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond, who, shortly after he had come into his inheritance in 1921, sold it to 1st Viscount Leverhulme, by whom, in turn, it was donated in 1924 to the British Columbia Art League (together with six other pictures by various artists). After the dissolution of the British Columbia Art League in 1931, the ‘Leverhulme Seven’, as the seven pictures were nicknamed, were acquired by the Museum of Vancouver in 1932, but were deaccessioned in 2010 and disposed of. Richmond’s Sarpedon was sent to Christie’s (London) where it was put up for sale in an auction of ‘Victorian and British Impressionist Art’ (lot 16) on 31 May 2012. However, as the bidding did not reach the estimate of £ 200 - £ 300, it was left unsold or ‘bought in’, as the auctioneers’ jargon is. Still, it must have changed hands for all that, since it did not return to Vancouver. – Ref.: The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, comp. Sir Paul Harvey, (Oxford: OUP, 1984), 382; Iliad, XVI. 426-683; Criticism, 7.20 and 283 n.; Poems and Poems in Prose, 107; Centenary Edition, 828, 1201; Art Sales Index (online); information generously supplied by Jillian Povarchook, Collections Associate at the Museum of Vancouver, and by Cheryl Siegel, librarian at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
80-83 [and 218 n.]: a very wonderful picture entitled “The Gold Girl,” a life size study in amber, yellows, and browns, of a child dancing with a skipping rope, full of bird-like grace and exquisite motion.
Stokes & Turner give us a welcome summary of the history of the painting and also mention that Whistler’s model had been a certain Connie Gilchrist. No doubt for reasons of space, they had to content themselves with this scanty bit of biographical information. Since I am not restricted by such considerations, I would like to enlarge upon this point by quoting from Margaret F. MacDonald’s Catalogue Raisonné of Whistler’s drawings, pastels, and watercolours: ‘Constance MacDonald Gilchrist, the daughter of Matilda Maria (née Potter) and David Gilchrist, an engine-smith, was born on 23 January 1865 in the St Pancras area of London. From the age of 6 she posed regularly for [Frederic] Leighton, culminating as a whole procession of dancing girls in his Daphnephoria, which was shown at the Royal Academy in 1876 […]. She joined the company of the Gaiety Theatre at the age of 12 as a skipping-rope dancer. A highly successful career ended in 1892 when she married the seventh Earl of Orkney, Edmond Walter FitzMaurice [1867-1951], and retired to Leighton Buzzard. She died in 1946.’ – Besides, I think it should also be noted that Wilde’s unreserved praise of the picture was shared by nobody. True, the Athenaeum was quite appreciative, but only as far as the ‘objective’, i.e. purely artistic aspect was concerned: from the ‘subjective’ point of view, it criticized The Gold Girl mercilessly, saying: ‘As for the “portrait,” it must be admitted that the figure of the girl [...] is badly drawn and ill balanced; the neck is ill shaped, the eyes are cadaverous, and the jaws have the look of extreme old age.’ The Pall Mall Gazette was even more outspoken in its criticism, expostulating at length: ‘It is with some reluctance that we refer to Mr. Whistler’s picture triply denominated Harmony in Yellow and Gold, The Gold Girl, Portrait of Miss Connie Gilchrist (55). Miss Connie Gilchrist, if we are not mistaken, is a dancer at one of the theatres, and she accordingly appears attired in ordinary tights and a close-fitting jacket, and plying the skipping-rope, an accomplishment for which the young lady is said to be famous. That an artist of reputation should devote a large canvas to such a subject is surprising. But even to this subject justice has scarcely been done. The figure of the girl is ill drawn and not particularly graceful, and the colour is washy, and “harmonious,” if at all, in a very negative sense. Neither is the face remarkable for expression; and any ordinary photograph would show Miss Connie Gilchrist’s charms to greater advantage than Mr. Whistler has presented them by we will not venture to guess how many days’ labour.’ The Saturday Review expressed its disapproval by the other extreme, i.e. by refusing ‘to say anything [of it] but that it is as unfortunate for him [Whistler] as for anybody else that it occupies a prominent place on the wall.’ And, in a like vein, the University Magazine remarked briefly but sarcastically: ‘It is, at all events, something rather novel in portraiture to paint a young lady in tights playing with a skipping rope. But Miss Connie Gilchrist is accustomed to this costume, and, as she is a favourite little dancer, doubtless this picture, which is pretty enough, will be a favourite too.’– Ref.: Margaret F. MacDonald, James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels, and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, (New Haven: Yale UP, 1995), 259; ‘Lady Orkney, The Times, 10 May 1946, 7, where Gilchrist’s birth is post-dated seven years; ‘The Grosvenor Gallery Exhibition. (Second and Concluding Notice.)’, Athenaeum, 10 May 1879, 607; ‘The Grosvenor Gallery. (Second Notice.)’, PMG, 26 May 1879, 4; ‘The Picture Galleries. III’, Saturday Review, 17 May 1879, 619; ‘A Gossip on the Grosvenor Gallery’, University Magazine (Dublin), vol. 4, July 1879, 69.
83-85 [and 218 n.]: some delightful specimens of etching (an art of which he is the consummate master), and one of which called “The Little Forge,” entirely done with the dry point, possesses extraordinary merit.
The Little Forge (No. 269) was etched by Whistler early in 1875 on one of his last visits to Speke Hall, his patron Frederick Leyland’s place near Liverpool. The picture recalls the more widely known dry-point The Forge, etched in Brittany in 1861, with which the editors have confused the work shown at the Grosvenor. In the Descriptive Catalogue of the Etchings and Dry-points of Whistler, the etching under consideration is characterised in the words: ‘The interior of a forge in which men are at work. One, in front, bends over an anvil; two stand near a furnace in the background; a fourth is seated at a bench at the left, near an open window through which there is a glimpse of a landscape with trees. Slightly indicated in the background at the extreme right, is a seated figure. Beams at right angles to a long cross-piece support the roof.’ – For Whistler’s fondness of working in dry-point, see, incidentally, also Wilde’s letter to his artist friend, written during his American lecture-tour, in which he humorously addressed Whistler as ‘you dear good-for-nothing old Dry-point!’ – Ref.: The Grosvenor Gallery. Summer Exhibition 1879, 59, no. 269; Katharine A. Lochnan, The Etchings of James McNeill Whistler, (New Haven: Yale UP, 1984), 165; Howard Mansfield, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etchings and Dry-points of James Abbott McNeill Whistler, (Chicago: Caxton Club, 1909), 89 f., no. 145; Edward G. Kennedy, The Etched Work of Whistler. Illustrated by Reproductions of the Different States of the Plates, (New York: Kennedy Graphics, 1974 [first published 1910]), vol. II, No. 147, I-VIII; Complete Letters, 173.
87-90 [and 218 n.]: a “Harmony in Green and Gold,” I would especially mention as an extremely good example of what ships lying at anchor on a summer evening are from the “Impressionist point of view.”
There is no need for being tentative (‘possibly’) about the identification of the painting as Crepuscule [Twilight] in Flesh Colour and Green: Valparaiso. Signed, inscribed and dated ‘Whistler / Valparaiso. 66’, the picture was first exhibited in the winter of 1866-7 and was described on this occasion at great length in the column ‘Fine-Art Gossip’ of the Athenaeum: ‘The Winter Exhibition at the French Gallery, Pall Mall, has recently received several new pictures. The best of these is by Mr Whistler, whose voyages to and in the Pacific have been so fruitful of interest, and represents dusk in a harbour of the great ocean, probably the port of Valparaiso, although there is not enough of land represented to enable one to identify the locality. The painter’s theme was rather the greyish green of twilight sinking on the sea, and ships becalmed, at anchor, or gently moving, than a topographical one of the ordinary sort. He has succeeded in admiration in giving an aspect of sleepy motion to the vessels, and, by what are apparently the simplest but really the subtlest means of execution, conveyed to the spectator the rolling, seemingly breathing, surface of the sea with a power that is magical. In its way, this is a poem in colour and in tone worthy of attentive study by all who care for originality in landscape Art.’ At the Grosvenor in 1879 the painting was catalogued as The Pacific: Harmony in Green and Gold (No. 56), to which the Grosvenor Notes, confusing Valparaiso with San Francisco, added the grotesque comment: ‘A view in the bay of San Francisco; ships at anchor off shore; one of the best of Mr. Whistler’s works.’ And to make it even more absurd: the blunder was promptly adopted by the Athenaeum of all periodicals, which parroted: ‘Very beautiful indeed is that view of the roadstead of San Francisco which supplied a subject for the Harmony in Green and Gold – the Pacific (56), a picture well known as one of the best of Mr. Whistler’s productions.’ Fortunately the howler did not outlive the Grosvenor Exhibition: when, in 1890, the painting was auctioned by Christie’s (London), it went by the title The Pacific: Valparaiso. The buyer was Graham Robertson, who gave it to the Tate Gallery in 1940. The present title apparently dates from an exhibition in Paris 1905. – Ref.: Andrew McLaren Young et al., The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, vol. 1 (Text), (New Haven: Yale UP, 1980), 42-43, no. 73; vol. 2 (Plates), Plate 57; ‘Fine-Art Gossip’, Athenaeum, 5 Jan. 1867, 22-23; The Grosvenor Gallery. Summer Exhibition 1879, 16, No. 56; Grosvenor Notes, ed. Henry Blackburn, Summer Exhibition 1879, 24, No. 56; ‘The Grosvenor Gallery Exhibition. (Second and Concluding Notice.)’, Athenaeum, 10 May 1879, 607; Complete Letters, passim (for information on Graham Robertson).
90-97 [and 218 n.]: Mr. Eugene Benson, one of the most cultured of those many Americans who seem to have found their Mecca in modern Rome, has sent a picture of Narcissus (218), a work full of the true Theocritean sympathy for the natural picturesqueness of shepherd life, and entirely delightful to all who love the peculiar qualities of Italian scenery. The shadows of the trees drifting across the grass, the crowding together of the sheep, and the sense of summer air and light which fills the picture, are full of the highest truth and beauty.
The entry of the picture in the Exhibition Catalogue was supplemented by the note: ‘A lover of solitude, of brooks, of hill-sides, of sun-lit mountain slopes, of the shade of tufted trees, places where reverie and self-love are undisturbed.’ – To the best of my knowledge Wilde was the only one who took notice of Benson’s picture in his review. This, and even more so, the amount of space which he devoted to his discussion make one wonder whether there was not perhaps more to it than meets the eye. And sure enough: Benson was the stepfather of the aspiring young novelist Julia Constance Fletcher (pseud. George Fleming) to whom Wilde dedicated Ravenna (1878) and who, in 1887/8, would contribute the serial story ‘The Truth about Clement Ker’ to the Woman’s World. Wilde had made the acquaintance of both Benson and Miss Fletcher in the spring of 1877 in Rome and had met them again in Oxford in June 1878. – Ref.: The Grosvenor Gallery. Summer Exhibition 1879, 46, no. 218; Robert J. Scholnick, ‘Between Realism and Romanticism: The Curious Career of Eugene Benson’, American Literary Realism 1870-1910, vol. 14, no. 2, (Autumn 1981), 242-261; idem, ‘Benson, Eugene’, American National Biography (online Feb. 2000); Complete Letters, 58 and n., 68.
100: a portrait of Mr Hermann Vezin (49).
In the original text the number in brackets was preceded by a blank space (cf. ‘Collation’), which suggests that a digit was lost in the printing process. The suggestion is confirmed by the Exhibition Catalogue which registered the portrait of Vezin as No. 149. – A sketch of the picture, supplied by Johnston Forbes-Robertson, was reproduced in facsimile in the Grosvenor Notes. – Ref.: Grosvenor Gallery. Summer Exhibition 1879, 32; Grosvenor Notes. 1879, 42.
102-105 [and 219 n.]: Miss Stuart Wortley’s view on the river Cherwell, taken from the walks of Magdalen College, Oxford – a little picture marked by great sympathy for the shade and coolness of green places and for the stillness of summer waters.
Mary Caroline Stuart-Wortley was born in 1848 and was the eldest child of James Archibald Stuart-Wortley (1805-1881), who was Recorder of London from 1851 to 1856, and in 1856-57 Solicitor General in Lord Palmerston’s Government, and his wife Jane Lawley (1820-1900), daughter of the first Lord Wenlock. ‘The large family included,’ as the Times put it in its obituary in 1941, ‘the first and last Lord Stuart of Wortley [1851-1926], the late Lady [Margaret Jane] Talbot [1854-1937], widow of Major-General the Hon. Sir Reginald Talbot [1841-1929], the Hon. Lady [Katherine Sarah] Lyttelton [1860-1943], widow of General the Hon. Sir Neville Lyttelton [1845-1931], and the Hon. Mrs. Norman [Caroline Susan Theodora] Grosvenor [1856-1940], the authoress, widow of the Hon. Norman Grosvenor [1845-1898]. These young people, very well known in London society, were all gifted; and the eldest daughter, like her brother Archibald, who [born in 1849] died in 1905, was a promising painter. She studied at the Slade School and elsewhere, and her portraits, romantic figure studies, water-colour landscapes, and the rural paintings in the south hall at Ockham Park [near Woking, Surrey] show that her talent was genuine and seriously cultivated.’ To this should be added that Mary Caroline was friends with Edward Burne-Jones and that she is believed by some to have been depicted by the artist in the procession of beautiful damsels in his famous Golden Stairs (1876-1880). – One and a half years after the end of the 1879 Grosvenor Exhibition, when she was thirty-two years of age, Mary Caroline Stuart-Wortley replaced Eugene Benson’s stepdaughter Julia Constance Fletcher, who was ten years her junior, in the matrimonial deliberations of Byron’s grandson, the thirteenth Baron Wentworth (1839-1906), whom she married as his second wife on 30 December 1880. The marriage caused quite a stir in Society. Witness Robert Browning, who, on 27 November 1880, wrote to his ‘Learned Lady’, Mrs Thomas FitzGerald (1809-1899): ‘I had a letter from Lord Wentworth yesterday informing me of his approaching marriage with Miss Stuart-Wortley: a charming person in every way. When I spoke of her to him at Venice last August, – in the presence of Miss Fletcher, – he affected to have forgotten her, – thought she was married, &c. I am a little surprised in this case, at the efficacy of a title in actuality with another in prospect, – but ainsi va le monde!’ (Wentworth was to succeed his father as second earl of Lovelace in 1893.) The story was given out at the time, as Marie Belloc Lowndes (1868-1947) reports in her autobiography The Merry Wives of Westminster (1946), that Wentworth broke off his engagement with Miss Fletcher after learning that her parents were divorced: a statement which certainly does not tell us all there was to it. – But to return to Wilde’s sympathetic appraisal of Evening on the Cherwell, as the ‘little picture’ was called which Miss Stuart-Wortley exhibited at the Grosvenor in 1879: it was a nice generous gesture towards a minor artist with whom Wilde was personally acquainted, as we learn from the letter cited above, and will no doubt have been received all the more gratefully as Miss Stuart-Wortley’s ‘view’ had gone virtually unnoticed. – Ref.: ‘Mary Lady Lovelace’, The Times, 21 April 1941, 6; Anne Anderson, ‘A Golden Girl: Burne-Jones and Mary Stuart Wortley’, Journal of the William Morris Society, vol. 13, no. 1, (autumn 1998), 65-71; Edward C. McAleer, ed., Learned Lady. Letters from Robert Browning to Mrs. Thomas FitzGerald. 1876-1889, (Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard UP 1966), 107; Marie Belloc Lowndes, The Merry Wives of Westminster, (London: Macmillan 1946), 66-67; The Grosvenor Gallery Summer Exhibition 1879, 40, no. 191; Complete Letters, 79.
105-107 [and 219 n.]: Mrs. Valentino Bromley’s “Misty Day” (307), remarkable for the excellent drawing of a breaking wave, as well as for great delicacy of tone.
For the correct transcription of the reference, see section ‘Collation’ above. – The position of Mrs Valentine Bromley, née Ida Mary Forbes-Robertson, in the many-headed artistic Forbes-Robertson family can be stated precisely: born in 1856, she was a sister of Johnston (b. 1853), Ian (b. 1857), Norman (b. 1859), Eric (b. 1865) and Frances (b. 1866), with all of whom Oscar was soon to become friends. Her marriage to Valentine Walter Bromley – or ‘Val Bromley’, as he was familiarly known among artists – was cut short in less than a year by the sudden death of her husband from an attack of smallpox. – Of her painting A Misty Day the Art Journal observed in its review of the Grosvenor Exhibition that it showed ‘a simple and truthful bit of sandy sea coast, with a warm mist brooding over the horizon’. – Ref.: Richard Garnett, ‘Bromley, Valentine Walter (1848-1877)’, rev. Chloe Johnson, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford: OUP, 2004), online; ‘The Late Valentine Bromley’, Illustrated London News, 19 May 1877, 470; ‘Forbes Robertson’, ancestry (online); Complete Letters, passim; Grosvenor Catalogue. 1879, 43, No. 207; ‘The Grosvenor Gallery’, Art Journal, July 1879, 135.
112-120 [and 219 n.]: Three pictures of his [William Gorman Wills] are exhibited here, the “Spirit of the Shell” (No.21), which is perhaps too fanciful and vague in design; the “Nymph and Satyr,” where the little goat-footed child has all the sweet mystery and romance of the woodlands about him; and the “Parting of Ophelia and Laertes” (20), a work not only full of very strong drawing, especially in the modelling of the male figure, but a very splendid example of the power of subdued and reserved colour, the perfect harmony of tone being made still more subtle by the fitful play of reflected light on the polished armour.
The second picture, to be exact, was called Nymph and Young Satyr (No. 25), and the third picture (No. 20) simply Ophelia and Laertes. (Attached to the latter was a legend with the two lines from Hamlet [IV. v]: “Here is rosemary, that’s for remembrance: / Pry’thee, love, remember.”) – In his biography of the artist (1898), Freeman Wills, William Gorman’s brother, made only brief mention of Nos. 21 and 25, remarking of the first that it represented ‘a sea-nymph in an iridescent shell receiving the visit of a goggle-eyed gurnet’, and of the second that it showed ‘a wood-nymph music-bound by a baby-satyr’s pipes’; but with regard to No. 20, Ophelia and Laertes, Freeman went to great lengths and described the genesis and history of the famous painting in every detail: ‘From a very early period “Ophelias” began to appear. Always a great student of Shakespeare – every page of Bell’s twenty-volume edition, on my shelves now, was familiar to him [William Gorman] –, the distraught beauty of Ophelia haunted his imagination. I can remember four Ophelias all more or less alike, and with a reminiscence of one sweet face – a young relative who died in early life, and of whom Willie was very fond. “Here’s Rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Prithee, love, remember,” is the legend of the picture. The finished edition of Ophelia and Laertes is in Mr Irving’s possession, and hangs in the vestibule at the Lyceum. He never could recover the face that he had painted in the early study for the picture, and at last adopted the strange expedient of cutting it out and inserting it in the larger canvas. The picture, in style and colouring, reminds [one] of Watts; but although overloaded with colour, it is to be doubted if anyone who was a mere painter, however admirable, could have painted its equal, for it is a dramatist’s realisation of a dramatic conception. The sweet madness in the eyes contrasts with the sad intensity of manly grief with which Laertes contemplates his distraught sister; the wild-flowers and herbs she has gathered drop from one listless hand, while the other proffers the sprig of rosemary. The pose of the figure is wonderfully graceful, and expresses dazed and hapless waywardness. If not as a work of high art, yet as a dramatist’s poetic realisation of Shakespeare’s sweetest creation the picture will always be extremely interesting.’ – There was no reason, incidentally, for Freeman Wills to feel uneasy about the artistic merits of Ophelia and Laertes, as the following incident shows which occurred at the Royal Academy (1874), where Wills’s painting was first exhibited, and which Johnston Forbes-Robertson recorded in his autobiography: ‘Several painters were admiring his Laertes and Ophelia [sic] on the varnishing day at the Royal Academy – all thought it was by Watts, and congratulated him, upon which he said, “No, it is not by me; I wish to Heaven it were.”’ – On the death of Henry Irving, Ophelia and Laertes was sold by auction on 16 December 1905. – Ref.: The Grosvenor Gallery. Summer Exhibition 1879, 9-10, nos. 20-21, 25; Freeman Wills, W. G. Wills. Dramatist and Painter, (New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1898), 67-69; Johnston Forbes-Robertson, A Player Under Three Reigns, (London: Fisher Unwin, 1925), 207; Algernon Graves, The Royal Academy of Arts. A Complete Dictionary of Contributors and Their Work From Its Foundation in 1769 to 1904, vol. 8, (London: Graves and Bell, 1906), 302; Catalogue of the Collection of Ancient and Modern Pictures: [...] the property of the late Sir Henry Irving [...] which will be sold by auction [...] Saturday, December 16, 1905, (London: Christie, Manson & Woods Ltd., 1905), 18, no. 101.
‘It is worth while to take some steps forward,
though we may not go still further.’
Horace, Epistles, I. i. 32. (Trans. Fairclough.)