Social history - Victorian Art and Artists (1)
This page contains images of some Victorian painters and a sculptor, some of whom had works in the 'McCulloch Collection of Modern Art', which featured at the Royal Academy Winter Exhibition in 1909. The images come from an old photograph album. Information is known about some of the photographs, while others remain a mystery to us, so if you can identify any of the artists or paintings we would love to hear from you.
Subsequent pages in this section describe some of the many works of art purchased by the Victorian collector George McCulloch. In recent months we have discovered a lot more about him and the most significant sources are listed on our page review of books about George McCulloch and Broken Hill.
Click the 'Index' button above to view the list of associated 'Art' pages.
Contents of this page
In Victorian times, while the 'water cure doctors' in Great Malvern were selling restorative cures to the well-off, painters and sculptors in London were busy creating and selling modern works of art to affluent merchants and businessmen.
While Victorian and Edwardian art has never been especially popular or as valuable as the old masters, there are still many paintings people appreciate. For example, we came across a greetings card in Barnards Green Post Office and on the cover was a copy of a painting named 'On His Holiday' by American artist John Singer Sargent circa 1902.
Besides many other works, Sargent also made a charcoal drawing of Lady Lettice Mary Elizabeth Grosvener, Countess Beauchamp of Madresfield Court in 1911, and circa 1922 painted the famous WWI General Henry Sinclair Horne (1861 - 1929) who had been educated at Southleigh prep school in Albert Road, Great Malvern.
The original oil painting of 'On His Holiday', which measures 53 by 95 inches, is now in the Lady Lever art gallery in Port Sunlight. You may have glimpsed it on the BBC programme 'The Antiques Roadshow'. We also found the painting listed in the catalogue of the Royal Academy of Arts Winter Exhibition of 1909, (ref 1) along with many other works of art.
Inspired to dip into the world of Victorian painters, we found two books by Jeremy Maas, who was born in Penang, Malaysia, about 1928, who was an authority on Victorian art; we have been reading his books in order to find out a little more (see references 2 and 3 below).
The painting 'On his Holiday' was once part of the 'McCulloch Collection' which was formed by Scottish born George McCulloch who made his fortune at the Broken Hill mine in Australia. In retirement he amassed a collection of, what were then, modern paintings, which he displayed in his house in London at 184 Queens Gate (ref 3).
The Royal Academy Winter Exhibition of 1909 was held at Burlington House in London. The exhibition featured the modern paintings and sculptures which had once formed the collection of the late George McCulloch who had died in December 1907 aged 59 years.
An associated publication, a Special Edition of the Royal Academy Art Journal was published the same year, devoted to the McCulloch Collection of Modern Art. Copies of the Journal, which contained 140 illustrations, are no longer readily available in antiquarian bookshops, but copies can be viewed at the Victoria and Albert Museum and British Library in London, and the Art Gallery of South Australia (ref 4).
Apparently, according to the Times newspaper, the exhibition caused some controversy. Many people saw it as an opportunity to view an amazing collection of then modern paintings while critics thought it a cynical opportunity for McCulloch's widow Mary and her third husband James Coutts Michie to advertise the paintings prior to sale.
We were interested to find out more about the McCulloch collection and found a copy of the exhibition catalogue on the Royal Academy website, which we have transcribed.
In the Victorian photograph album are photographs of well dressed men and women, some possibly artists or dealers, sitting in front of paintings listed in the McCulloch Collection.
We attempted to capture these old photographs with our two Megapixel digital camera. The quality of the digital images was not very good, but we thought some historians of Victorian art might be interested to see them as it seems to us that while images of paintings can be found on the Internet, sadly there are few photographs of the painters, patrons and fine art dealers themselves; though the book 'The Victorian Art world in Photographs' (ref 3) does contain images of some Victorian painters and patrons, and has helped us identify one or two of the people below.
We guessed that the original photographs were taken between 1894 and 1900 or thereabouts, possibly by McCulloch himself. In some cases we now know who the person is; in other cases we have made an educated guess, but stand to be corrected; whilst there are others, especially women, unidentified.
If you can provide missing information about any of the sitters or paintings we would love to hear from you.
(You may observe that the people in these photographs are rarely smiling; the probable reason for this was that in those days you had to sit very still for about one minute while the exposure was made).
The first photo in the album (see below) is thought to be David Croal Thomson (1855-1930), a Scottish born art dealer, critic, and editor of the Royal Academy Art Journal (ref 5).
Croal Thomson sold McCulloch a painting by James Abbott McNeill Whistler signed with the monogram of a butterfly. McCulloch requested that the painting be signed with Whistler's name, but being arrogant, Whistler refused!
It is likely that David Croal Thomson helped McCulloch with many of his acquisitions.
The man in the portrait is Dagnan's patron George McCulloch. The Winter Exhibition catalogue (ref 1) lists painting number 104 thus:-
Portrait of the late GEORGE McCULLOCH ESQ
PJA Dagnan-Bouveret HFA
Three quarters portrait standing facing the spectator; his right arm leaning on a table; brown coat; grey background. Signed and dated PAJ Dagnan-B 28th April 1898. Canvas 50 X 88 inches.
McCulloch bought many of his paintings (ref 1).
We identified the sitter below from his portrait by Scottish painter James Coutts Michie which is in the Aberdeen Art Gallery.
During the whole of his life in London, David Murray, who was born in Glasgow, occupied the same bachelor's quarters - the studio of Millais in Langham Chambers, Portland Place. McCulloch bought several of his paintings (ref 1).
Edward Onslow Ford was well known for his nude bronzes. In the photo below he is pictured with his sculpture named Echo which we believe is now in the Lady Lever art gallery. The young man on the left of the photograph, could be his son Wolfram Onslow Ford.
The listing in the Winter Exhibition catalogue (number 355) simply reads:-
STATUE - Bronze. Echo. Nude female figure, standing with upraised arms.
E. Onslow Ford RA
Below is another photograph which we believe is of Edward Onslow Ford.
We identified James Coutts Michie (1859 - 1919) in the photograph below from his painting by John Pettie in the Aberdeen art gallery. In this photograph he is sitting on the edge of a table in front of part of a painting named The Daphnephoria by Lord Leighton (1830 - 1896) that is now in The Lady Lever art gallery. The Daphnephoria is a very large painting. The canvas measures 89 by 201 inches.
We wondered if the sitter in the photograph below might be the painter Stanhope Forbes. What do you think; can you identify the painting behind him?
We don't know who the man in the photo below is, but the painting behind him is 'The Miller's Daughter' by Yeend King. Nine of his paintings were exhibited at the Winter Exhibition of 1909 and he used this title for other paintings.
Catalogue number 151
THE MILLER'S DAUGHTER
'It is the miller's daughter,
and she has grown so dear, so dear'.
A man is talking to a girl close to a weir; the mill is in the background.
Signed Yeend King. Canvas 45 by 65 inches.
Another photo (see below) shows a younger man in front of the same painting, with the Star of David on a chain on his waistcoat. Possibly being Jewish that made us wonder whether he might be Alfred Elias (1846 - 1912), the brother of Miss Annette Elias who was a member of the Society of Women Artists; two of her paintings were in the McCulloch collection:-
Their father Hyam Elias, who was a wealthy silk merchant, is buried in Balls Pond Road Jewish Cemetery, London.
Alfred Elias, who was a soldier and painter, married Emily Wilde Wynn who was born in the USA. We wondered whether her ancestors could be traced back to the American War of Independence?
Other possibilities are that the man above might be either the Jewish art dealer Charles Davis MVO (1849 - 1914), the Jewish art dealer Asher Wertheimer (1844 - 1918) or his eldest son Edward Wertheimer also a picture dealer who was born Marylebone 1873 and died at Paris on 2nd January 1903; some say on his honeymoon, after eating a bad oyster.
Sadly Edward's brother Alfred Wertheimer, a Chemical Engineer, educated Harrow and Trinity College Cambridge, died only the year before in Johannesburg, South Africa aged 25 years; possibly weeks after the end of the Second Boer War. Earlier, Alfred had worked in the laboratory of the Stirling Chemical Works in London.
The American artist John Singer Sargent painted several portraits of Asher Wertheimer and his family.
Charles Davis's brother Frederick Davis (1825 - 1899) was also a prominent art dealer and you can read more about both men in 'The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History' (ref 6).
We wondered if the man in the photo below might be Frank Bramley ARA (1857 - 1915) but of course he could be a slightly older 'double'. What do you think?
Only one of Frank Bramley's paintings was in the McCulloch Collection, but it was a famous painting which is now in the Auckland Art Gallery of New Zealand.
OF SUCH IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
The funeral of a small girl in a fishing village; the coffin is borne by four girls dressed in white, and in front are several little girls singing.
Signed and dated Frank Bramley 1891.
Canvas 71.5 by 99.5 in.
From the Winter Exhibition catalogue we identified the painting behind him as 'The Sculpture Gallery' by Lawrence Alma Tadema.
Catalogue number 5
THE SCULPTURE GALLERY
Sir L Alma-Tadema RA
A slave is turning round a great vase that stands on a pedestal, so as to show it to the two visitors, a gentleman and a lady, seated near; beyond them stand another lady and two children.
Signed L Alma-Tadema op cxxv
Canvas 88 by 66 inches
A contemporary of George McCulloch, who also collected works of art, was the successful civil engineer Sir John Aird (1833-1911), whose firm built the Aswan Dam. John Aird exhibited his collection at his London home at 14 Hyde Park Gardens.
John Aird's obituary which appeared in the Times on 7th January 1911 included a brief overview of his art collection; however we have found little else published about Aird's collection on-line.
Robert Henry Benson (1850 - 1929), a merchant banker, was another art collector and patron of the artist John Singer Sargent.
Please email suggestions for corrections or additions to this page to the webmaster
Last updated 25th September 2015