that you get to spend some time doing things which seem just slightly frivolous when you are fit and well. So, as I have been trying to recover from what I am reliably informed is seasonal ‘flu (a bit like the baby version of the full thing) I have finally turned my attention to thinking about catalogues raisonnes. The reason for this is that I think I might present my EdD in this format – something which I have not discussed with my supervisor, so let’s hope she isn’t reading this. I will discuss why I want to do this in a subsequent post, but for the moment, it’s probably enough to say that a catalogue raisonne is a complete scholarly list of a an artist’s work with a critical essay and some rudimentary biographical information. If it’s not in the catalogue the artist probably didn’t make it and it is probably a fraud. I find the whole minute scholarship of them fascinating and off-putting at the same time. Anyway, in order to produce one, I thought I should have a look at some, and so I went to the University of Bristol library and picked some out at random. In this post, I will have a look at two which take me back to my guilty passion for the Pre-Raphaelites.
The first was Arthur Hughes (1832-1915). Hughes was a later Pre-Raphaelite, not considered one of the very greatest, but a wonderful painter of children. His major works were April Love (1855) and The Long Engagement (1853-5).
I really rather enjoyed having a potter around the catalogue, looking at how it was done, getting ideas for how I could do mine. I quite liked him. He seems to have defied the stereotype of the Dangerous Romantics of the first generation of Pre-Raphaelites and to have had quite a long happy marriage. The fun started, though, with Frederick Sandys, who was next on my reading list.
Sandys (1829-1904) was the complete opposite and had a string of liaisons with lady friends, including one with whom he had ten children, plus, a wife. I really love his bonkers exoticism and couldn’t help loving his ultra-seductive women – most of whom he seems to have had affairs with. So we get some fabulously pouty Pre-Raphaelite stunnahs:
and the glorious Proud Maisie, who was indeed the mother of his ten children:
There are any number of these difficult looking women although he was a notoriously slow painter and mainly produced illustrations for magazines. But when I was looking through the catalogue, there are some gorgeous drawings and here are some details of things I liked:
A quite beautiful drawing of a dog in the corner of a much larger portrait. Here I loved the way that he had drawn the details:
here, the wallpaper and here the cravat:
There’s some dramatic sorcery going on:
and some lovely lace painting:
and some appallingly angelic looking children with a dashing dachshund:
and some lovely sketchbook pages:
Plus there is the high camp of this:
But, it’s the overblown vision of life lived operatically to say the least that I love about him. Here is an admittedly cropped Morgan Le Fay:
But who wouldn’t want to approach their sewing machine or computer with as much gusto as she manages here? Or who wouldn’t want just a couple of self-regarding minutes as intense as this one here:
And there is definitely something a touch more important that wondering if you will make the last post with that expenses claim form going on here:
All marvellous stuff.
So, I have a couple more modern ones to look through next, but I doubt they will be as entertaining as these fabulous Victorian gentlemen, who richly deserve their catalogues, and to be better known.
Roberts, Leonard (1997) Arthur Hughes: His Life and Works, Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Antique Collectors’ Club.
Elzea, Betty (2001) Frederick Sandys, 1829-1904: A Catalogue Raisonne, Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Antique Collectors’ Club.