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Alice Gertrude Waugh, Mrs Thomas Woolner (1845 - 1912)

Arthur Hughes II (London 1832 - Kew 1915)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

1864 - 1865

Materials

Oil on canvas

Measurements

860 x 445 mm (rounded top)

Place of origin

England

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Collection

Bradley Manor, Devon

NT 830873

Caption

Thomas Woolner (1825– 1892) was the only sculptor to have been a member of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood. He married Alice Waugh and commissioned this beautifully delicate painting from Arthur Hughes, the Victorian artist, known for the celebrated, April Love in Tate Britain. It was paid for by his friend, Sir Francis Turner Palgrave (1824–1897), a civil-servant poet, as a wedding present. It remained in the family until it was accepted by HM Treasury in lieu of tax on the death of Diana Firth, Mrs Woolner (1908 - 1999), the donor of Bradley Manor to the National Trust in 1938.

Summary

Oil painting on canvas (rounded top), Alice Waugh, Mrs Thomas Woolner (1845 - 1912) by Arthur Hughes (London 1832 - Kew 1915), 1864-65. A full-length portrait of a young woman, turned to the left, gazing over her left shoulder to the right, woodland setting. "I recollect my lady in a wood, Keeping her breath and peering - (firm she stood Her slim shape balanced on tiptoe - ) Into a nest whch lay below, Leaves shadowing her brow." (From 'My Beautiful Lady' by Thomas Woolner, 1863)

Full description

The painting depicts the wife of the only sculptor to have been a formal member of the original pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, painted by a later adherent of the movement, who for a time shared a studio with its other major sculptor, Alexander Munro. Alice was the youngest but one of eight daughters of ‘Dr’ George and Mary Waugh, and one of the three who married pre-Raphaelite artists. Two of them, Fanny and Edith, were successively married to Holman Hunt. Originally Fanny had been courted by Woolner; but the Woolners ceased to have any connections with the Hunts after Holman had married his deceased wife’s sister in defiance of law and convention. The portrait was commissioned by Thomas Woolner (Hadleigh 1825– London 1892), known to be the inspiration for Ford Madox Brown’s The Last of England (1855; Birmingham) stimulated by Woolner’s previous emigration to Australia in 1852. It was begun in September 1864, the month of his marriage, and paid for with the £100 that civil-servant poet, Sir Francis Turner Palgrave (1824 - 1897), had given him to furnish his marital home. Woolner and Palgrave had previously shared lodgings in London. Palgrave’s celebrated anthology, A Golden Treasury of Songs, for which Woolner designed the vignette of the title-page, first appeared in 1861 and in the same year Woolner had made a sculpture portrait of his father. It had provoked a major scandal, however, when The Times revealed that the extraordinarily partial Handbook to the sculpture exhibited at the International Exhibition, excoriating Marochetti and Munro, but praising Woolner’s works to the skies, had been written by one sharing the address of 29 Welbeck Street with this “British Phidias”. The portrait of Alice Waugh was finished a year after it was begun, when Woolner wrote to Palgrave to say: “I think it looks lovely, only that the red of the shawl attracts from the countenance… My wife has always been saying she wanted me to get something beautiful that your name might [be] associated with, and now I do not think I can do better.” It is indeed a beautiful painting; the combination of the tall, slender young woman and the lovingly delineated vegetation irresistibly recalling Hughes’s most celebrated painting, April Love (1855-56; Tate Britain), originally bought by William Morris and was in his home, Red House (NT), though the parallels with the later, but undated oil study called Amy (Birmingham City Art Gallery) are even closer. It was offered in lieu on the death in 1999 of Diana Firth, Mrs Woolner, FSA, the donor in 1938 of Bradley Manor.

Provenance

Commissioned in September 1864, the month of the marriage of Thomas Woolner (Hadleigh 1825 - London 1892) to Alice Gertrude Waugh (1845 - 1912) by the couple as a wedding gift from Francis Turner Palgrave (1825-97); [thence by descent to Maj.-Gen. Christopher Geoffrey Woolner (1893 - 1984)]; Commander Alexander 'Sandy' Woolner (b.1914), husband of Diana Helen Firth (1908 - 1999) of Bradley Manor, Devon; accepted by HM Treasury in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the National Trust, Bradley Manor, 2002

Credit line

Bradley Manor, The Woolner Collection (accepted by HM Treasury in lieu of Inheritance Tax and transferred to The National Trust in 2002)

Makers and roles

Arthur Hughes II (London 1832 - Kew 1915), artist

References

Woolner 1917 Amy Woolner, Thomas Woolner, R.A. Sculptor and Poet: His Life in Letters, London 1917, pp.253-4 & p.264 Holman Hunt 1969 Diana Holman Hunt, My Grandfather, His Wives and Lovers, New York: Norton 1969, p. 59(repr. between pp. 272 and 273) Roberts 1997 Leonard Roberts, Arthur Hughes, Woodbridge 1997, pp.166-7, Cat. 73 Athenaeum, 9th September 1865, p. 349 Athenaeum, 16 December 1865, p. 850 Athenaeum, 19 May 1866, p. 675 Athenaeum, 29 April 1871, p. 533 Art Journal, 1866, p.165 Times, 1866, 22 May 1866, p. 12

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