An exhibition has opened at the Guildhall Art Gallery on 11 February just past; Age of Elegance: 1890-1930.
This exhibition showcases many fine paintings in the City of London Corporation collection that have been hidden away in storage for decades. These works are now on display as intended and form an impressive collection.
One such painting has an enchanting story attached that boz has so far failed to find much about. The Garden of Eden (1901) Hugh Goldwin Riviere (1869-1956) centres on a young couple walking in the rain apparently in a London park, boz has thus far been unable to ascertain which particular London park is the setting for this work so it seems a visit to the Guildhall Library must be in order. A tale found on the internet suggests that the artist Hugh Goldwin Riviere created the painting to provide financial assistance for its subjects. He a City clerk and she ….. an heiress disowned by her family for choosing a suitor far removed from her social status. ‘Adam’s’ station in life is clearly conveyed through the absence of gloves and the turned up trousers. A depiction which, with the addition of the rain and folded umbrellas, puts one in mind of the moment the unfortunate clerk Leonard Bast meets Helen in E. M. Forster’s slightly later novel of 1910 Howard’s End. ‘Eve’ however does not conjure up a vision of a disowned heiress, sporting a prim hat, plain coat and woollen neck scarf in the manner of a respectable domestic servant on a half day holiday.
Hugh Goldwin Riviere was the son of Royal Academy painter Briton Riviere (1840-1920) and the family for some time resided at 82 Finchley Road and are listed at that address on the 1881 Census Return. So might the park in the painting be one Riviere was familiar with as a young man or perhaps a green space in the City near to where such a clerk might be employed. The everyday scene is illustrated with charm whilst the lucid green light that emanates from it is quite worthy of comparison to the Grimshaw collection that were very recently hanging in the same spot. It now has an added attraction of a real story and if any reader of this post can furnish further details of this it would be of great interest.
Although the Garden of Eden hangs in the central exhibiting space one of the enclaves is given over to paintings of London. This area includes a very fine example of the work of Sir Frank Brangwyn, Tower Bridge c and a romantic view over the City of London The Heart of the Empire (1904) Neils Moeller Lund. Another small glimpse of the City to be found, not with the London canvases but hung in the corner of the room showcasing portraits of Corporation dignitries is Guildhall Yard
A small unassuming painting attributed to William Luker Junior (1867-1948). The scene, of a bustling Guildhall Yard contains great attention to detail, being most taken with this painting boz is intriuged by the slightly vague provenance. William Luker Junior was, as one might expect, the son of William Luker Senior (1828-1905) and one time Royal Academy painter. William Luker II came from a family of artists. His mother Ada was an accomplished still life painter exhibiting at the then British Gallery, later to become the Royal Academy, until she married William Luker and was not to paint again. William was the eldest son in a large family and his sister became known as the portrait and miniature painter Louie Burrell (1873-1971)
William Luker Junior comes across as not the most worthy character and boz was a little disillusioned to find that the creator of this much admired painting was something of a disappointment in life. It will serve no purpose to relate a biography when the original story can be much better read here. http://philippaburrell.com/remarkable/index.html
Having read this family history boz has begun to hope that ‘attributed to’ might mean it is possible that the lovely Guildhall Yard could yet turn out to be from the hand of a somewhat different personality. There is another work on the subject known to be by William Luker printed in Paris for Leadenhall Press (1891).
Such is my admiration of the painting am most delighted that a small sketch by boz is now available in the Guildhall Art Gallery shop in card form:
The Age of Elegance: 1890-1930 has been beautifully executed by Sonia Solicari, Senior Curator at the Guildhall Art Gallery. The paintings described here are but a few of the many on display and well worth going to see, not least because this is the first time these works have been freely accessible in many years.
The central piece of the exhibition is a painting by artist Sir John Lavery (1856-1941) of his wife Hazel Portrait of Lady Lavery (1926)
From this painting contemporay designers have drawn inspiration in creating pieces to complement the exhibition. As such, boz & co. were very pleased to collaborate with good friend, colleague and accomplished jeweller Rosemay Lucas. http://www.rosemarylucas.com/
The Age of Elegance:1890-1930 remains open until 28 May and if you should find yourself in the vicinity of Guildhall Yard do go and have a look. If you are a little further than that it is certainly worthwhile making a special journey to see the exhibition. http://www.guildhallartgallery.cityoflondon.gov.uk/GAG/Exhibitions/CurrentExhibitions/Age+of+Elegance.htm