Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Picture of the week No.23 - William Rothenstein

We are now in the middle of installing the new exhibition The Unknown Artist - Stanley Lewis & his Contemporaries. You'll be able to see the finished results on Saturday 12th June and as well as all the previously unseen works by Lewis, it contains a selection of works from our own collection of his tutors and contemporaries such as Augustus John, Stanley Spencer and the head of the Royal College of Art when Lewis studied there, and the subject for this week's picture - William Rothenstein. As a young man Rothenstein trained at the Slade School of Art and then under Alphonse Legros in Paris, where he associated with Toulouse-Lautrec and Camille Pissarro. His paintings are notable for their romanticism and dramatic tension, none more so than The Doll's House, which featured his wife Alice and Augustus John in an enigmatic composition that echoes the tension and stillness of Henrik Ibsen's play, after which the painting was named. Throughout Rothenstein's career he was known for his portraits and completed English Portraits, a book of drawings and biographical sketches in 1898. The crisp study below was executed towards the end of a life and career devoted to the highest principles of drawing and his teaching at the RCA epitomised those principles. KP
The Right Rev. Dom. Wilfrid Upson, O.S.B., Abbott of Prinknash, Glos, 1940
red chalk on paper, 54.3 ´ 38.9 cm
on reverse: portrait sketch of a man’s head in red chalk.
Accession no.: P.187

Drawn in 1940; the sitter was Abbott of Prinknash (pronounced ‘Prinnish’) Abbey in Gloucestershire and head of the Benedictines of Great Britain.

Rothenstein studied at the Slade School and in Paris where he made friends with Whistler and Edgar Degas (1834-1917). Back in England he became known for his portrait drawings chiefly of the famous. Head of the R.C.A., 1920-35 and a trustee of the Tate Gallery 1927-33. He was knighted in 1931 and a memorial exhibition was held at the Tate in 1950.

His correspondence and memoirs are a rich source of information on his times.

PROVENANCE: Sir John Rothenstein, from whom purchased by Gallery, April 1958.
EXHIBITIONS: Watercolours and Drawings from The Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford, London, Thos. Agnew & Sons Ltd, 1962, no.81; Portrait Painting and Drawings, Rye, Rye Art Gallery, 1967, no cat.

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