Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale (British, 1871-1945) Boticcelli's studio: The first visit of Simonetta presented by Giulio and Lorenzo de Medici 29 1/2 x 49 3/4in (75 x 126.5cm)

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Lot 58
Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale
(British, 1871-1945)
Boticcelli's studio: The first visit of Simonetta presented by Giulio and Lorenzo de Medici 29 1/2 x 49 3/4in (75 x 126.5cm)

US$ 200,000 - 300,000
£ 160,000 - 230,000
Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale (British, 1871-1945)
Boticcelli's studio: The first visit of Simonetta presented by Giulio and Lorenzo de Medici
signed 'E.F. Brickdale' (lower right)
oil on canvas
29 1/2 x 49 3/4in (75 x 126.5cm)

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Montague Rendell, commissioned from the artist, 1922.
    With Coolings Gallery, London.
    Private Maryland Collection, acquired from the above, circa 1981.
    By descent to present owner.

    Exhibited
    London, Royal Academy Exhibition, 1922 (no. 246).
    Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Jubilee Autumn Exhibition, 1922 (no. 443).


    While the new century saw the emergence of Modernism, Victorian painting, particularly Pre-Raphaelism, continued on in the wake of Edward Burne-Jones, and attracted new talent until the beginning of the Great War.

    Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale gladly embraced her calling as one of the last neo Pre-Raphaelites from a very young age. Like many ladies of the Victorian era, she acquired a proficiency in watercolor painting early in life. Watercolor was the domain of women artists, and many remained talented amateurs, often exhibiting their works in public. With the support of the family, Brickdale studied art at the Crystal Palace School of Art and the St. John's Wood School, and by the time she entered the Royal Academy in 1895, she had already forged a budding professional practice as a black-and-white artist for various magazines. Country Life commissioned her regularly until 1909, and further book illustrations established her reputation as a designer and illustrator.

    While working in watercolor, Brickdale was on her way of making strong claims as an oil painter as well, with annual Royal Academy exhibits starting in 1899. Her themes were symbolic and allegorical, with historically-clad figures against medieval architecture. Around the same time, Dowdeswell Gallery commissioned her for a show of watercolors titled Such stuff as dreams are made of! to which she contributed 45 works with romantic subjects drawn from the Bible, Shakespeare or Robert Browning, all highly detailed, interlocking patterns in jewel-like colors. Success was immediate, forever linking her to the Pre-Raphaelites, whose torch she was to carry into the 20th century. The sale of her works allowed Brickdale to acquire her first studio in Holland Park near Leighton House. It was at Leighton House that she had her second solo show in 1902.

    Her stunning success at the age of 26 elicited debate in the contemporary press, categorizing her as a traditional woman artist while accusing her of drawing imagery from her male friend Byam Shaw and the Pre-Raphaelites. Nevertheless, together with Shaw, Brickdale was considered as one of the up and coming British artists of the new century, and was the first woman to be elected to the Society of Oil Painters.

    Throughout the following decade, she continued to receive commissions for book illustrations of Tennyson's poems of Arthurian themes, while expanding her repertory by designing stained glass windows and sculpture, thus ensuring a constant visibility in the public's eye. Adding to her constantly growing work load, was her new teaching position at Byam Shaw's school of art in 1910.

    The First World War marked the end of the Victorian era and with it that of Pre-Raphaelite painting. However, Fortescue-Brickdale was much in demand in the post-war years, being commissioned for stained glass war memorials by the families of war victims. The repertoire of winged figures and knights she developed over the years appealed to the bereaved. In 1919 she also gained membership to the Royal Watercolor Society to which she continued to send work until 1927.

    During the early 1920s, her health and eyesight began to fail, which lead her to favor large-scale compositions over small watercolors. Thus, some of her commissions were altarpieces for various churches and larger compositions, such as The Forerunner from 1920, an homage to Leonardo da Vinci, now in the National Museums Liverpool. The sequel to that painting was the present painting, Boticelli's Studio, a commission from 1922 by her long time patron, Montague Rendall, a former headmaster of the Winchester College for Boys. Both paintings celebrate the artist as a lynchpin of civilized society and echo the true pre-Raphaelites, such as Perugino and other early Italian artists, of whom she and Rendall were very fond (Pamela Gerrish Nunn, A Pre-Raphaelite Journey, The Art of Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale, Liverpool, 2013).

    Fortescue-Brickdale continued working on stained glass windows and altar pieces until 1938, when a stroke brought the career of the last Pre-Raphaelite to an abrupt end.
Contacts
Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale (British, 1871-1945) Boticcelli's studio: The first visit of Simonetta presented by Giulio and Lorenzo de Medici 29 1/2 x 49 3/4in (75 x 126.5cm)
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