Sir Frederic William Burton R.H.A., R.W.S. (British, 1816-1900)
Yelitza signed with monogram u.l. watercolour heightened with bodycolour 33 x 23.5 cm. (13 x 9 1/4 in.)
Frederic Burton was born at Clifden House on Inchiquin Lake, Corofin, in Co. Clare, Ireland. In 1826 the family moved to Dublin, where he received some artistic training from the Brocas brothers and the landscape painter and antiquary George Petrie. Burton however, soon outstripped his friend and established his reputation as a painter of miniatures and watercolours. In 1839, at the age of only twenty-three, he was elected a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy.
Burton's intelligence and charm gave him ready access to Dublin society and local intellectual circles. Among his early portraits were likenesses of George Elliot, the Galway Piper, Sir Samuel Ferguson and Sir Lucius O'Brien. Indeed there were few Irish celebrities of the period he did not paint or draw.
Contact with Dublin's intelligentsia developed Burton's historical sense, and in 1851 he settled in Munich to begin a six year study of German art. Burton worked on Old Masters as well as making sketches and studies for future use, and when he took up residence in London, he used many of the later for his exhibits at the Royal Academy and the Old Watercolour Society.
In 1874, Gladstone appointed Burton Director of the National Gallery of London. During his twenty-year regime, his knowledge and connoisseurship were fully deployed. The Gallery acquired 450 pictures, including some of it's best-loved masterpieces and process was also made on the arrangement, cataloguing and classification of the collection.
The present work reflects Burton's connection with the Pre-Raphaelites. Half-length female figures were common in Rossetti's work from the late 1850s and were also a favourite subject of Burne-Jones and other artists who felt the strong influence of Rossetti. Yelitza demonstrates Burton's gift as a colourist and the strength of his talent as a watercolourist. The art critic on the Illustrated London News in 1862, on visiting the Royal Watercolour Society, was struck by Burton's ability to give watercolour the density and richness of oil.
'Of the few figure subjects (in the exhibition), none leaves a larger impression than two large Oriental studies by Mr Burton...These heads have a force scarcely inferior to the finest paintings in oil. The modelling, the strength of effect, the powerful tone, and the rich variety of colour, deserve the very highest praise.'
Illustrated London News,3 May 1862.
The present work is rich in colour and tone and gives one the impression of an oil painting. Yelitza's face is beautifully modelled and Burton magnificently captures both the girl's handsome features and her pensive thoughtfulness. Watercolour remained Burton's favourite form of painting throughout his life and his exceptional command of the medium is evident in this striking picture.