Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Victorians for Sale in King Street

Next week Christie's will hold a sale of Victorian drawings, paintings, and decorative arts from the collection of renowned dealer and scholar Christopher Wood.

Approximately 300 lots will feature works by some of the most significant artists of the nineteenth century, including Sir Edward Burne-Jones; John Atkinson Grimshaw; Frederic, Lord Leighton; Sir John Everett Millais; Dante Gabriel Rossetti; and John William Waterhouse.

Scanning through the online sales catalogue of “Christopher Wood: A Very Victorian Eye,” one is lulled into a glassy-eyed stupor by the sheer banality of much of Victorian still life and landscape painting (an exception are William Fraser Garden’s quiet woodland scenes), then jolted awake by the beauty of a single nude sketched from life in chalk.

A few narrative paintings are included in the sale, including a version of The Crossing Sweeper by William Powell Frith, R.A. (1819-1909), shown here (read more about this painting). Wood's biography of Frith, William Powell Frith: A Painter and His World, was published last autumn by Sutton Publishing.

Frith is, coincidentally, the subject of a major exhibition through March 4 at the Guildhall Art Gallery, making this a very good time indeed for Londoners to see a range of Victorian artistic endeavor. The Guildhall exhibit is accompanied by another new book on the artist, William Powell Frith: Painting the Victorian Age, edited by Mark Bills and Vivien Knight and published by Yale University Press.

The Christie's sale is previewed in an article in the February 17 issue of The Economist, which also notes Christopher Wood's steadfast faith in the enduring cultural value of nineteenth-century British art and manufacture.

The results of this auction are the subject of a later post (March 4, 2007).


Don B said...

Your readers may like to know that the Frith exhibition at the Guildhall to which you referred in this blog moves on to The Mercer Art Gallery at Harrogate in North Yorkshire on 23 March to 15 July 2007. Frith had many associations with part of England so it will be fascinating to see whether The Mercer Gallery have other items about the background to his time there on display.

I went to the exhibition at the Guildhall and after two and a half hours my wife had to drag me away to go to a play at the National Theatre. I had only covered two thirds of the exhibition so I am tempted to go Harrogate as well. (I'm about three hours by train from both London and Harrogate but each is in the opposite direction).

With best wishes,

Don Barton
University of Worcester
19th Century Studies Post-graduate Student

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