One of the benefits of being under the weather is…

Arthur Hughes
Arthur Hughes
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).
Arthur Hughes 'April Love'.
Arthur Hughes 'April Love'.
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:
Frederick Sandys, detail of 'Helen of Troy'
Frederick Sandys, detail of ‘Helen of Troy’
and the glorious Proud Maisie, who was indeed the mother of his ten children:
Frederick Sandys 'Proud Maisie'
Frederick Sandys 'Proud Maisie'
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.

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