Edward Atkinson Hornel (1864-1933) Skipping 61 x 40.7 cm. (24 x 16 in.)

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Lot 21
Edward Atkinson Hornel
(1864-1933)
Skipping 61 x 40.7 cm. (24 x 16 in.)

Sold for £ 37,750 (US$ 53,403) inc. premium

Scottish Art

13 May 2021, 11:00 BST

Edinburgh

Edward Atkinson Hornel (1864-1933)
Skipping
signed and dated 'E A Hornel/96' (lower right)
oil on canvas
61 x 40.7 cm. (24 x 16 in.)

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    J.B. Bennett & Sons, Glasgow
    Private collection, UK

    This painting is an important discovery and illustrates the four key influences on Hornel's work from this period; George Henry (1858-1943), Les XX, the art of Japan and photography.

    Hornel and Henry moved away from the Glasgow Boys' realism of the 1880's to a more decorative form of painting. Often working side by side, or together in projects such as their 1890 The Druids Bringing in the Mistletoe (Glasgow Museums), they developed a new colourful and distinctive style. Their ten-year long association produced a series of pictures that are regarded as the essence of the Glasgow School. In this picture, dating to 1896, Hornel uses a high key of colour, with punchy reds, greens and oranges predominating. This creates a strong sense of pattern. The figures of the children, their limbs caught in motion, both break up the landscape and become part of it, pinafores and hair adding their own colour to the scene.

    This painting also has a distinctive Pont Aven air to it. In 1893, Hornel exhibited with Les XX, a progressive Belgium art group, which he had been aware of since his time studying in Antwerp. Each year Les XX invited a few international artists to exhibit with them, such as Pissarro, Monet, Seurat, Gaugin, Cezanne, and van Gogh. Hornel's training in Belgium, under Charles Verlat, was part of a wider movement in European art, where several artists were changing the way they painted in direct response to their exposure to Japanese art.

    The Glasgow art dealer Alexander Reid recognised how Hornel had embraced the most dynamic, Japanese-inspired aspects of Post-Impressionism and became his supporter and dealer. Reid, along with the wealthy shipping merchant William Burrell, agreed to fund Hornel and Henry's trip to Japan. In 1893–94 the two artists spent a year and a half expedition in the country, where they learned much about decorative design and spacing. This picture was painted just a few years after his return. Typically for Hornel, it demonstrates a tightly restricted view, very close to the picture plane. It has a steep and flattened perspective, often seen in Japanese prints.

    It is a painting full of energy, colour and twisting movement, giving a real sense of the gaiety and exuberance of youth. It is similar in subject matter to that of his early works from 1981, Dance of Spring (Glasgow Museums) and Summer (National Museums Liverpool), but here Hornel uses his latest techniques in composition, perfected during his time in Japan. Kite Flying of 1894 (National Galleries of Scotland) uses a similar S shape placement of figures on the canvas. Where Hornel uses the string of the kite to break up the canvas in the Japanese scene, the skipping rope creates the same affect in this Galloway example.

    The impact of photography on Hornel's work is also evident here. The focus of the camera lens was the most modern way of viewing a subject at that time. Imitating the eye of the camera, Hornel focusses on the girls' faces, whilst the surrounding areas appear slightly out of focus. It encapsulates Hornel's approach to painting from the late 1890's onwards. Photographic sharpness dissolves into the blurriness of his thick impasto backgrounds, sometimes verging on abstraction.

    Skipping represents Hornel at his best. It is joyful, daring and, above all, modern. These stylish and sophisticated works of the late 1890's are very rare and important. After 1900 Hornel seemed to give up on experimentation and settled into a more formulaic style of painting landscapes of pastel tones with figures, one that brought him widespread popularity and commercial success.

    This painting has hung on the same walls of a private home for the past 50 years, and was owned by the previous generation of the same family for a similarly long period of time.
Contacts
Edward Atkinson Hornel (1864-1933) Skipping 61 x 40.7 cm. (24 x 16 in.)
Edward Atkinson Hornel (1864-1933) Skipping 61 x 40.7 cm. (24 x 16 in.)
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