Here is Meg as a mature student, aged around 24. There can be no doubt that she was the first of our schoolgirls if you compare it with the painting of 20 years earlier. The only colour version I have is low-resolution.
I’ll add a colour image later. The space between the artist and her
(plaster) model reminds one of an Annunciation.
The Student is the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery in the Royal Pavilion. It was shown at the Royal Academy in 1909. Meg was shown in Twilight: Interior or Reading by Lamplight in the same year. We’ve also met her in The Breakfast Table and in the portrait I call Unfinished Meg.
In private hands. Like a carcass in a desert or a prophecy of the desertion of the land. I’d guess the date as 1891-6. There is an OWCS watercolour of 1894 with this title. Is this that? I remember it from The Fine Art Society as an oil. It looks like an oil, but it’s hard to tell from the image and I don’t have its source. He had experimented with this type of low horizon in a watercolour, The Clover Field, in 1891 (1980, no 71), and it is a feature in many of the later watercolours.
Clausen knew Yoshijiro Urushibara (1888-1953),
who over many years, up to the start of the second world war, taught
Europeans the Japanese art of colour woodblock printmaking, living
mainly in England and France.
As well as making his own, he converted the drawings and watercolours of other artists into colour prints.
He travelled to London at the age of nineteen,
having grown up in Tokyo, and demonstrated Japanese printmaking at the
vast Japan-British Exhibition of 1910 at White City (we were allies),
which Clausen will certainly have visited.
He collaborated with Frank Brangwyn in various books and series of prints. The first was a portfolio of woodblock prints in 1919 called Bruges, designed by Brangwyn to illustrate some poems by Laurence Binyon (see post before last).
A colour print from woodblocks entitled Camblain l’Abbé “by Y. Urushibara after G. Clausen, RA” is in the V&A. According to the records (I haven’t seen it), it is signed with a seal (presumably Japanese) and, in pencil, Y. Urushibara and George Clausen, presumably in separate hands. The V&A gives the date as 1923.
This V&A print is illustrated in black and white in British Printmakers, A Century of Printmaking, 1855-1955, edited by Robin Garton, Scolar Press, 1992, where it is called Chamblain l’Abbé. Clausen’s signature is visible in the reproduction. Urushibara’s isn’t, nor is the seal.
The illustration suggests a snow scene. Garton doesn’t say what Clausen’s original was, but he suggests 1910, I would think wrongly, as its date. It is surely based on Camblain l’Abbé – Snow (RSPW 1920). I don’t have a scan of either the watercolour or the print to show here.
The picture with which GC returned to the Royal Academy in 1891 after his secession was called Portrait Group, but he cut it to exclude the unbalancing figure of his oldest child Arthur. It’s now called The Breakfast Table.
It shows breakfast at Widdington in Essex just after he moved there.
Here’s the revised version. In the foreground are his daughters, Meg, left, and Kit, right. His younger sons, Hugh and Raymond John, were babies and aren’t shown. On the table are a loaf of bread, flowers and a letter. Agnes presides. Behind her is the chest GC had bought on one of his visits to Holland in the 1870s.
In the next post is a photograph of a breakfast at 61 Carlton Hill in London, around 1909. On that table are a loaf of bread and flowers. Agnes is presiding and is looking with amusement at, we assume, a letter. Kit glances at her father with filial respect to see what he thinks. Click on the images to enlarge.
The Breakfast Table, 1891-2
RA 1906. This was supposed to be a comment on the last post, but I don’t have a good colour image, so here it is in black and white. McConkey, 1980, op cit:
The Academy echoed a familiar critical gambit which was also applied to Stott and La Thangue, in that it found “Millet’s subjects with Monet’s truth to natural colour” in this work of 1906. This underestimated Clausen’s genuine achievement. He was not a pasticheur and Winter Morning could not be mistaken for a work by Monet. At a time when Monet had given everything for effects of light and colour, Clausen retained a naturalist painter’s sense of the scene before him.
A Winter Morning
Here’s something strange. There is a watercolour Mowers,
shown below. I don’t know where it is now. It’s practically the same
picture as the oil, a bit clumsier, though the mower in the background is missing. The
main figure stands differently. Clausen was proud of having got the
stance exactly right in the oil. The grass in the left foreground is
wonderfully done. You need to enlarge it. This is obviously a watercolour sketch for the main
No, it isn’t. The next thing we notice is the date: 1885, clearly inscribed and I assume not faked. This is six years before the oil. So it’s not a “version” of it, nor by any normal definition a study for it.
Doesn’t this make nonsense of the idea that the 1891 Mowers represented a new departure, as all the critics felt, and I’ve been pointing out in the last ten posts?
Not either. It shows that in a watercolour Clausen was able to test ideas that he didn’t yet care or dare, or didn’t know how, to commit to canvas. Working quickly in watercolour, he could paint moving figures on a sunny day. Working slowly in oil, directly from nature, his method then, he chose grey days when the light was not changing, and painted static figures.
So The Mowers has its roots deep in another decade, when Clausen was painting in oil in a very different way. When he eventually changed his style in oil, he took up an idea from an old watercolour.
No 74 in McConkey’s 1980 catalogue, op cit, a pencil drawing lent to the exhibition by Plymouth Art Gallery, is surely not a sketch for the oil painting, as the catalogue says, but for the watercolour. The catalogue does not mention the watercolour.
A thought in passing: it must have been technically easier, when it came to landscapes, to be a simple impressionist like Steer than to adopt a modified impressionism which always had to be reconciled with attention to solid forms. Sometimes GC’s pictures fail, but he is setting himself difficult tasks.
One shouldn’t call The Mowers Clausen’s
first “impressionist” oil in too glib a way. He’d been experimenting
with colour already in some paintings in ways that left Bastien behind.
An oil sketch like Souvenir of Marlow Regatta is also highly impressionistic, though not typical.
Anyone would recognise some of the family child portraits done just before The Mowers as impressionist (whereas the sentimental A Little Child, Leeds City Art Gallery, had been Bastienish, with an impressionistic background). The orchard and blossom paintings of the mid-1880s had been impressionistic. There are impressionist influences in paintings that precede the Bastien era. There are no simple transitions or definitions, but Bastien was the main influence for a decade and he encouraged an interest in realism. And introducing movement and light together on the scale of The Mowers was new.