The labourer's cottage - suppertime signed 'Edward Stott' (lower right), inscribed with title and 'New Gallery 1893' on the reverse oil on canvas 55 x 71cm (21 5/8 x 27 15/16in).
PROVENANCE: John Maddocks, Bradford his sale, Christie's 30 April 1910, lot 96 to Sampson Private collection, UK
EXHIBITED: London, New Gallery, 1893, no 72 (illus in catalogue, p. 39)
LITERATURE: 'The New Gallery', The Illustrated London News, 13 May 1893, p. 576 G[eorge] M[oore], 'The New Gallery', The Speaker, 20 May 1893, p. 572 J. Stanley Little, 'On the Work of Edward Stott', The Studio, Vol VI, 1896, p. 76 A.C.R. Carter, 'Edward Stott and his Work', The Art Journal, 1899, p. 297
Like many young British painters of his generation, Edward Stott was deeply influenced by the rural naturalism of Bastien-Lepage. In the 1880s he was a founding member of the New English Art Club and an early supporter of the New Gallery, which opened in 1888. Here he exhibited in the company of Edward Burne-Jones, George Frederick Watts and other second generation Pre-Raphaelites. Opposed to their grand rhetoric, Stott adopted an avant-garde stance as he successively modified the plein air painting of his youth in favour of a mature British Impressionist manner. In April 1893 he, along with George Clausen and Walter Sickert, was one of the respondents to The Art Journal when its editor sought the views of the art community on the subject, and he wrote:
'...to me in [Impressionism] has no relation whatever with any of the technicalities of painting. To me it means a combined impression of the artist's feeling with the [character] of the subject, whether light and delicate or strong and powerful; in short a recording of the impression of the artist's nature.'1
By this point Stott's work had already come to the attention of George Moore, the leading 'new' critic of the early nineties. Having spent his youth in Paris and gatecrashed the Impressionist circle at the Nouvelle Athènes, Moore was keen to promote work of Manet and Degas, along with the novels of Zola and the écolenaturaliste. He understood the idea that light, as Manet declared, was the main person in a picture, permeating the painter's entire spatial 'envelope'. As a result, Moore dismissed the counterfeit confection, the 'knights and languishing ladies', of Burne-Jones and his followers and having mused over the obscure symbolism of Burne-Jones's Pilgrim at the Gate of Idleness, he turned in 1893, to the 'charming picture by Mr Edward Stott The Labourer's Cottage Supper Time'. He wondered if:
'... Mr Stott has not already been dubbed the English Millet. His picture-poems are not so strong or soul-searching as those of the great Breton painter, but they are as true, and they are as spontaneous an expression of feeling. Their very weakness is a charm. That homely little cottage in the vague green evening a tree strangely green, the green meadows and the one window burning in the midst of this green! The children like little phantoms in the green dusk! A sense of home and of family. Tenderly felt and told in the simplest language; a love of humble things, and a desire to induce in the spectator the love that the painter felt for such things.'
Other critics were equally approving, but none so fulsome as Moore2. It was nevertheless clear to all that Stott's advanced techniques had developed from close contact with true English rustics following his move toAmberley in Sussex in 1889. Comparisons with Millet's retreat to Barbizon forty years earlier were apposite, although the circumstances were dramatically different. The rural population had been in steep decline in Englandduring the previous half century and with George Clausen, Henry Herbert La Thangue and others, Stott sought to record a way of life that was persistently under threat. The old thatched cottages with their adjacent vegetable patches became one of his classic subjects seen in A Village Street, 1894 (Bradford Art Gallery) and The Widow's Acre 1900 (Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, see fig.1).
It is not surprising to discover that the present picture found its first home in the distinguished collection of John Maddocks, a mill-owner and former Mayor of Bradford4. Maddocks was one of a new breed of self-made northern collectors cited by ACR Carter who, with no interest in mock medievalism, patronized contemporary Naturalism and Impressionism in the work of James Charles, Clausen, La Thangue and others. By 1898 he owned twelve works by Stott.5
Stott's setting the labourer's cottage on the left of the picture with children at the door - was enlarged to heroic proportions in La Thangue's The Man with the Scythe, 1896 (Tate Britain). But where La Thangue implied a narrative to do with human mortality, the Impressionist Stott insisted on atmosphere, developing a resonant palette of evening colours, seen most obviously in the work of later painters such as Henri Le Sidaner. For Laurence Housman this range of tone and hue was Stott's signature. He became essentially the painter of twilight, who '... shows me more beauty in twilight than I had discovered in it for myself', Housman remarked. For him the vivid viridians of the cabbage patch fluoresced in the velvet darkness and the crepuscular effect of children enjoying an alfresco supper as shadows falls around them, needed no further explanation because,
'Congruity is the consistent note in his pictures; but it is a congruity which comes of the merging of the human interest in his work to its rustic setting ...'6
This could only derive from a deep daily familiarity with the place and its people for '...beauty must be lived with and learned under all its aspects ...', and the experience of twilight becomes an accumulation of many dawns and dusks, mixing memory and experience to distill an essence that cloaks figures and setting alike.7
1'Some Remarks on Impressionism', The Art Journal, April 1893, p. 104. 2See for instance The Graphic ('The New Gallery', 6 May 1893, p. 495) which referred to 'figures and landscapes are depicted in their right relation to each other ...' while The Illustrated London News, ('The New Gallery', 13 May 1893, p. 576) described it and several other pictures as 'works which do credit to their painters'. 3A Village Street and The Widow's Acre were shown at the New Gallery in 1894 and 1900 respectively. 4John Maddocks (1842-1924) began his career in Manchester where he supported local artists before his move to Bradford in 1876. In 1887 he commissioned a spacious villa in Park Drive, Bradford, which he proceeded to fill with paintings. These went on public display in the town in 1890; see Butler Wood, 'The Maddocks Collection at Bradford', The Magazine of Art, 1891, pp. 298-306, 337-344. 5A.C.R. Carter, 'Edward Stott and his Work', The Art Journal, 1899, p. 297. 6Laurence Housman, 'Mr Edward Stott, Painter of the Field and of the Twilight', The Magazine of Art, 1900, pp. 530, 531. 7Ibid, p. 535.
We are grateful to Professor Kenneth McConkey for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.