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Social history - Victorian Art and Artists

Paintings sold to Australian galleries in 1913

Most of the art collection of George McCulloch was sold, following his death in 1907, over three days towards the end of May 1913.

The sale of three of the pictures to Australian galleries was reported on page 19 of The Argus, Melbourne Saturday 31st May 1913. Here is a transcription (you may be amused by the 'flowery language' of the art critic).

McCULLOCH PICTURES

REALISE 80,000

PURCHASE FOR MELBOURNE

LONDON, May 29th 1913

The sale of the art collection of the late Mr George McCulloch, formerly of Broken Hill, produced a total of 77,000 guineas. Sir J F Millais' well known painting "Sir Isumbras at the Ford", brought 7,700 guineas; and Cecil Lawson's "Marshlands" 2,800 guineas. "Marshlands" was bought by the Felton trustees for the Melbourne National Gallery.

The Sydney Art Gallery purchased two works, Mark Fisher's "Hampshire Farm" and La Thangue's "Cider Apples".

The prices obtained were remarkably high. Abbey's "Richard the Third" brought 5,400, and "Lear and Cordelia" 4,800; while Burne-Jones "Love Among the Ruins" sold for 4,800. Other high prices secured were 4,400 for Orchardson's "Young Duke" and a similar price for the same artist's "Master Baby".

(The famous "Sir Isumbras at the Ford" was at one time included in the rich collection brought together by Mr R H Benson. It is the climax of Millais first manner, but also very near to the end of the moment of its decline and metamorphis. The splendour of the colour, the patient mastery of the execution, perfect naivete of the representation truly, and not affectedly pre-Raphaelite will always command admiration, even though the main group of the golden armoured knight and the two children supported on his charger comes dangerously near to being a caricature in the style of the child like pre-Raphaelite manner which originally distinguished the brotherhood. The autumn landscape which surrounds the picture is the most beautiful, the most pathetic in its intensity and splendour that Millais ever painted.)

Of Cecil Gordon Lawson's (the scottish painter) "Marshlands", Sir Claude Phillips wrote, "It is so abominably hung, so encumbered by the triviality of its surroundings, that it can be but imperfectly appreciated. It is its spiritual beauty, rather than technical accomplishment, that strikes one, together with the artist's intense earnestness and true nature worship". Lawson at one time painted under the influence of the Dutch school, but subsequently worshipped at the shrine of Gainsborough. "Marshlands" is an impressive poetical conception of nature of the same quality as "The Hop Gardens of England", "The Minister's Garden" and "The August Moon". Lawson may be said to have been self taught, and during the latter part of his life was a constant exhibitor at the Royal Academy; his two last works "Black Down, Surrey" and "Doone Valley, West Devon" being exhibited in 1882, the year he died. Some of his pictures have kept well, but others have perished, the intrinsic value of "Moorlands" depending greatly on its state of preservation.

La Thangue is a painter of brilliant dappled sunlight, and his "Cider Apples" is a worthy companion picture to the beautiful work "In a Surrey Orchard", which Mr Lake brought out for his last exhibition and was unfortunately permitted to go home again. As a depicter of rural life, Mark Fisher, who is a primitive amongst moderns, has no equals, and he combines the requirements of the higher and more dramatic genre with those of painting decorative in the higher sense. His picture purchased for the Sydney Gallery is a touching little poem of English Homestead life, splendid in repose, force, and truth, and strongly impressed with the intense and singularly sympathetic personality of the artist. He is also a consistent plein air artist. Other well known works of his are "The Potato Gatherers", "English Oaks", "Uplands", and a "Berkshire Mill".

~~~


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References

  1. Maas Jeremy, Victorian Painters, 1969
  2. Maas Jeremy, Victorian Art World in Photographs, 1984
  3. The Grosvenor Gallery, a palace of art in Victorian England, Yale University Press, edited by Susan P. Casteras and Colleen Denney.
  4. Dakers Caroline, The Holland Park Circle: Artists and Victorian Society, 1999
  5. Catalogue of the Royal Academy Winter Exhibition, 1909.

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