Frontispiece in George Clausen, in Contemporary British Artists series, ed Albert Rutherston, with introductory essay by “D.H.”, Dyneley Hussey, and 34 black and white plates, Ernest Benn, London, 1923; Charles Scribner, New York, 1923. Oil.
The last four images (if you are viewing posts chronologically) – the three of schoolgirls and The Student – show GC’s very different styles in 1880, 1889, 1909 and (perhaps) 1932.
The best of these pictures, for me, is The Student. It has the fine sobriety which comes into some of his work around 1908-9, which could be said to mark the beginning of late Clausen and even the beginning of the truest Clausen, although for the purpose of the categories shown on the right I take “late” as beginning around 1918. The 1932 picture (if that is the date) is not in that manner: there are no simple divisions into periods.
The market hasn’t yet understood late Clausen, as is shown by the dramatically different prices fetched by pictures in the 1889 style (even more than the 1880 style) compared with the “late” work.
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.
More schoolgirls, though rather mature ones, with milkmaid and flower-seller, from 1880, at the Yale Center for British Art. This is one of a series of pictures of women in London streets done mainly in 1880 and early 1881, though we see one even in the watercolour Flora of 1883. The series includes Winter Afternoon, London and In the Street, and the major statement in this vein, A Spring Morning, Haverstock Hill. They look straight at us in a dead-pan way, painted by a still single young man. He married in the summer of 1881 and left London. By 1882 the interest would have been entirely with the milkmaid or, in Spring
Morning, with the road-diggers.
This picture, like Spring Morning, is good classroom material. What do we see here? What does this picture tell us about Victorian social divisions? Illustrated in Judith Flanders’s The Victorian House, Harper Collins, London, 2003.
Clausen isn’t really a painter for galleries. His pictures look better in houses. Even when you think from an illustration that they are going to be large, they often turn out to be small. Whatever its size, this oil at Napier, New Zealand, I presume at the Hawke’s Bay Museum, would look wonderful in a child’s playroom. TD was hardly a gallery artist at all.
I’m not sure of the date of The Roadside Tree. The tree reminds one of his style around 1906 and Building the Rick. The road and the early morning setting suggest the 20s. The schoolgirls look Edwardian – but the one in the white socks looks later. The background promises a hot day, and has some of the spread and serenity of the Wycliffe mural in St Stephen’s Hall. So I’d go for a date in the 20s. The blue circle on the lower left of the photograph indicates damage either to the original picture or the photograph.
Afterthought: this may be the 1932 Royal Academy painting The Road to School. Royal Academy Pictures could confirm that. Done, in that case, around the age of 80. Kenneth McConkey has commented that The Roadside Tree is 50.3 x 60.7 cms.
Back to the late 1880s. This was sold at Christie’s a year or two ago and is the kind of Clausen that fetches the money. I think (not all agree) that this is his daughter Meg (1884-1946), though it might be the only time he showed her as a child outside the family or not in a pure portrait.
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.