Philip Hermogenes Calderon, RA (British, 1833-1898)
Captain of the Eleven signed and dated 'PHCalderon-1882-' (lower right) oil on canvas 153 x 94cm (60 1/4 x 37in).
PROVENANCE: with The Fine Art Society Collection of A. & F. Pears, by 1898 Purchased by Lever Brothers as part of the acquisition of A. & F. Pears in 1916, one of 147 paintings; hung in Lord Leverhulme's home at Rivington Hall Sale, Knight, Frank & Rutley at the Bungalow & Rivington Hall, Horwich, Lancashire, 16 November, 1925 (inv. no. WHL2975) Presented to the present owners by Councillor W. D. Halsted, June 15 1926
An entry in the School's log book reads: 'Councillor W D Halstead today presented a valuable picture (Captain of the Eleven by P H Calderon R.A) to the school. An interesting ceremony of presentation (& thanks) took place from 11.30 to 12.20 attended by the Managers. To mark the occasion, a half holiday was given in the afternoon.'
EXHIBITED: London, Grafton Gallery, Fair Children, 1895, no. 318 (as Property of the Fine Art Society) London, West Ham Free Picture Exhibition, Ninth Annual Exhibition, Easter 1903 (as property of A. & F. Pears) London, Bermondsey Settlement Picture Exhibition, date unknown (as property of A.& F. Pears) Blackpool, Grundy Art Gallery, Illustrations, 1927, no. 50 (probably) Fine Art Society, 1907 London, Sotheby's, Childhood - A Loan Exhibition of Works of Art, 2-27 January 1988, no. 229.
'The model for the 'Captain of the XI' is cherubic, and his complexion was deemed sufficiently flawless to warrant the appraising patronage of A & F Pears. Thus Calderon's young cricketer, like 'Bubbles', became one of the best-loved images of late Victorian England, still to be found (if creased and grubby) playing his forward defensive on the walls of rural inns.' (Note to the Childhood exhibition catalogue, 1988)
Born in France, Calderon was the son of a renegade Spanish priest who converted to Protestantism and became Professor of Spanish Literature at King's College, London. Having studied in London and Paris, Calderon began exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1853; his output was prolific, his subjects including biblical, historical and literary narratives as well as portraiture. As one commentator noted, Calderon 'painted much, the list of his pictures exhibited at the RA is a long one-most of them at a fairly large size, belonging to the class of genre subjects, sometimes modern, sometimes antique... he had a grace of line and a gift of selecting subjects which would show it, a feeling for colour, a happy art'.1
Calderon's name was made with his 1857 RA exhibit Broken Vows (Tate Britain), which Maas describes as 'a sharp essay on Pre-Raphaelitism' 2. He was elected ARA in 1864, aged only 31, and became a full Academician three years later, the same year in which he became the first English artist to be awarded the ribbon of the Legion d'Honeur at the Paris Exhibition. In 1887 Calderon was appointed Keeper of the RA and manager of the RA schools.
Calderon was the leading light of a group of artists who termed themselves the St John's Wood Clique- adding the location to differentiate themselves from 'The Clique', a group formed by Sir William Powell Frith RA (1819 1909), Henry Nelson O'Neill ARA (1817-1880) and Augustus Leopold Egg RA (1816-1863), who determined to revitalise the stuffiness of the Royal Academy. Formed in the 1860s, the St John's Wood Clique comprised of Calderon, John Evan Hodgson RA (1831-1895), George Dunlop Leslie RA (1835-1921), Henry Stacy Marks RA (1829-1898), Valentine Cameron Prinsep RA (1838-1904), George Adolphus Storey RA (1834-1919), Frederick Walker ARA (1840-1875), William Frederick Yeames RA (1835-1918) and David Wilkie Wynfield (1837-1887). The group would meet each Saturday, hold informal sketching classes based on a chosen theme, and then criticise each other's work.
According to some commentators, the group 'seemed to lack any clearly defined directional impulse'3. To others, their common goal was to demonstrate 'a fresh attitude to History paintings, and a determined preference for subjects dealing with the British Civil Wars...They strove to depart from the tradition of depicting a particular specific historic event by creating instead imaginary situations which captured the mood of bygone times. Childhood themes particularly appealed to them'4. This ethos is perhaps best demonstrated in Yeames' masterpiece, And when did you last see your father? (Royal Academy 1878, now in the collection of the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool), an imaginary scene in a Royalist House which deals with childhood innocence and a young boy's moral dilemma, which would have resonated to Victorian audiences, who saw children as the models of truth and honesty.
Whatever the artistic intentions of the group, they were well known for their excellent sense of humour, Maas noting that the group's 'unifying bond [was] a fondness for practical jokes'. 5. They enjoyed dressing up, singing and reciting mock sermons, with Calderon again at the forefront. As Bevis Hillier notes, Calderon 'Looked like a Spanish hidalgo, and was nicknamed 'the fiend'. His party piece was Mephistopheles' song from Gounod's 'Faust' and what he lacked in voice, so he made up in satanry, making his entrance on one occasion, in a flash of blue flame!'. 6
Calderon's popularity amongst his peers is clearly demonstrated in a Times obituary following his death, of influenza, in 1898. The author notes that 'another very considerable loss has befallen the RA in the death of its Keeper...his decease cast a gloom over the banquet, every artist feeling that he had lost a friend... his kindliness of heart and geniality making him a general favourite.'7
Painted in 1882, by which time Calderon would have been very well established as an artist, the present lot is a triumphant depiction of Victorian childhood. The work was not exhibited at the RA but soon found its way into the collection of A & F Pears, whose Managing Director Thomas J. Barratt had an eye for spotting marketable works; Barratt purchased Sir John Evert Millais' iconic Bubbles from the Illustrated London News in 1886, and the subsequent advert became one of the most recognisable images of the late 19th Century, creating a storm of controversy in the art world, but making Millais a household name throughout the world.
Not only did Pear's use famous Victorian images to advertise their soap, they also brought art to a wider audience by the production of the Pear's Annual, which was first published in 1891, and would include large lithographs for framing. Captain of the Eleven was one of 3 presentation plates issued with the Annual in 1898. The image was reproduced in many formats throughout the 20th Century, appearing on posters, postcards and presentation cricket bats.
1 The Times, Monday May 2nd 1898. 2 Jeremy Maas, Victorian Painters, London, 1969, p.234 3 ibid, p.12 4 Lionel Lamplough, Victorian Painting, London, 1999, p.144 5 Jeremy Maas, Victorian Painters, London, 1969, p.334 6 Bevis Hillier, 'The St John's Wood Clique' Apollo, June 1964 7 The Times, Monday May 2nd 1898.