THE CLIQUE


Where shall I start? I’m going to start AWAY from Hospitalfield, then work my way back to it. As Patrick did.

Leaving his home town of Arbroath, Patrick Allan enrolled at the Trustees Academy in Edinburgh. This is what evolved into Edinburgh College of Art. Whose influence did he come under? What kind of work did he do there? Let’s leave that for now as I don’t know the answers and my first surge of curiosity takes me further into Patrick’s life.

After Edinburgh, he went to Rome - then an important centre of the art world - where he was acquainted with the Scottish painter Robert Scott Lauder, an artist who survived by painting portraits. Patrick himself specialised in views of fashionable places. This example is in the collection at Hospitalfield:

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Patrick Allan-Fraser, An interior of the Colonna Gallery, Rome

How long was Patrick in Italy? I don’t know, but it looks as if he also spent time in Florence. How else is he likely to have been able to come up with this copy of a Rembrandt self-portrait? At the time, the original was hanging in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, having been acquired by the Grand Duke Ferdinand of Lorraine in 1818.

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Patrick Allan-Fraser, Self-portrait (copy after Rembrandt)

The original was painted in 1634, when Rembrandt was 28. It was copied two-hundred years later, in 1838 or 1839, when Patrick Allan was 25 or 26. What did Patrick see while he was painting the copy? A Seventeenth Century Dutchman with a completely different upbringing to his own? Or a young man intent on developing his talent, as he was?

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Patrick Allan-Fraser, Self-portrait.

Was the above self-portrait by Patrick Allan painted before or after copying the Rembrandt? Am I right in thinking the sitters share things in common?

“Ah, Rembrandt. I knew him well. Eyes to see with, nose to smell with, mouth to talk with and eat via, and hair for general embellishment.”

“Ah, Patrick Allan, I knew him too. Eyes with which to see what Rembrandt saw, nose to smell what Rembrandt smelled, mouth out of which came words in praise of Rembrandt, and ...er... muttonchop sideboards.”

The picture below is a copy of
Flora by Titian. It is housed in the Uffizi gallery, Florence, which is where I assume it was when Patrick Allan copied it.

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Patrick Allan-Fraser, Flora (copy after Titian)

The original of the self-portrait below is also in the Uffizi, Florence. It was painted in 1664, when Rembrandt was 58. Again I wonder what was going through Patrick’s mind as he copied it:

“So this is how man changes from his twenties to his fifties. Thirty years does
that to nose, cheeks, sense of style? Perhaps I had better find my own Flora sooner rather than later.”

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Patrick Allan-Fraser, Self-portrait (copy after Rembrandt)

One begins to get the impression that Patrick spent a lot of time skulking - sorry, painting - indoors when he was in Italy. Now, the great JMW Turner, for example, was thunderstruck by the light in Venice when he was first there in 1819. And I’ll be coming back to that before the end of this page. But for now let’s follow Patrick from Rome to Paris, where we know he stayed for a while. This is a scan from
My Autobiography and Reminiscenses by William Powell Frith, a book published in 1887.

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The picture below may have been the painting that Patrick was engaged in when Frith befriended him. Certainly, Titian’s original of The Entombment is to be found hanging in the Louvre.

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Patrick Allan-Fraser, The Entombment (after Titian)

An outside scene this time, but still a gloomy one, despite the blue sky. The pallor of Christ’s skin brings to mind a trivial question. Could Patrick Allan have arrived back in Britain after his a year or two in Rome, Florence and Paris without any trace of a tan?

On the map below I’ve marked with a green pin the location of Patrick’s London digs. The other pins represent the locations of other members of the clique. From north to south: William Powell Frith (turquoise), EM Ward (blue), Augustus Egg (yellow), Henry O’Neill (purple) and Richard Dadd (maroon). John Philip is usually included in any list of members of the clique, certainly before Ward, but Phillip did not have work in the 1841 exhibition at the Royal Academy, the catalogue for which is the source of the addresses I’ve used. Meetings of the Clique, both a sketching club and a group crit and discussion set-up, were often held at Richard Dadd’s lodgings. Dadd, a rising star of the art world, had the largest rooms, apparently. He also had rooms closest to the Royal Academy Schools, then the east wing of the National Gallery (marked with a red tack) on Trafalgar Square. Most of the members of the Clique were enrolled at the Royal Academy, whose inadequate teaching was one of the reasons of the need for a sketching club cum talking shop.


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In the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, the suggestion is that Dadd’s lodgings were at 66 Great Queen Street, and that the meetings of the Clique were there. So I’ve marked that with a second maroon pin (the one furthest to the right in the above map).

So who were these young men? (In these days, by and large, being a painter was a male affair.) They were all born between 1816 and 1819, except Patrick, slightly older, who was born in 1813. John Philip came from a poor family in Aberdeen, but a wealthy patron meant he could go to the Royal Academy Schools in 1837, where he was in the same year as Frith (son of a hotelier) and Dadd (son of a chemist). Egg (son of a wealthy London gunsmith) and O’Neill (from St Petersburg) had entered the Schools the year before, in 1836, and it was those five who formed the nucleus of the Clique.

Why have I used a pin symbol to represent the artists in the above map? Oh, no reason. I might have used their portraits, say, but the portrait below of Augustus Egg, painted by Richard Dadd in 1839, the year after The Clique was set up, is the only face I have a contemporary picture of. Of course, we know what most of these individuals look like in middle age, courtesy of Patrick Allan-Fraser commissioning self-portraits from his one-time pals and colleagues, but let’s leave those revealing riches for a later page. Let’s take this one biographical step at a time.

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Richard Dadd, Portrait of Augustus Egg, 1839.

In 1841, most of the members of the by-then-slightly-enlarged Clique succeeded in having work accepted for the summer show at the Royal Academy. Patrick Allan showed The Bridal Morn, but we don’t know what this looked like, or at least I don’t. The phrase crops up in a poem, Harold the Dauntless, by Walter Scott, so the painting may have been an illustration of that, because, as we’ll see, the treatment of literary subjects was common at the time. Nor do I have a reproduction of the Augustus Egg painting that was hung. It was called Scene from Romeo and Juliet, and the catalogue for the show quotes the line:

Romeo: “Ah, dear Juliet. Why art thou yet so fair.”

Richard Dadd’s accepted painting was also an illustration of a scene from Shakespeare, from
A Midsummer’s Night Dream. The painting was called Titania Sleeping, and again lines are quoted in the all-text catalogue:

There sleeps Titania some time of the night
Lulled in these flowers with dances and delight.


So far, so romantic. Perhaps because Dadd already had a growing reputation, this picture is not lost to the world. Here it is courtesy of the internet:

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Richard Dadd, Titania Sleeping, 1841

One of Henry O’Neill’s two pictures had a literary theme:
Theckla at the Grave of Max Piccolomini, which draws on Schiller’s Wallenstein. EM Ward’s Cornet Joyce seizes the King at Holmby, June 3 1647, may be a History painting, but the catalogue does include a quote from Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion, to give it literary credentials. While William Powell Frith’s picture too draws on literature and history, being The parting Interview of Leicester and his Countess Amy after one of his stolen visits to Cumnor, a wordy title that is accompanied by a 5-line quote from Walter Scott’s Kenilworth:

“‘You will not grant my request then,” said the countess, ‘Ah, false knight! did ever lady with bare foot in slipper seek boon of a brave knight, yet return with denial?’
“‘Anything, Amy, anything thou canst ask, I will grant,’ answered the Earl - ‘always excepting that which might ruin us both.’”

Were the Clique a particularly literary lot or was this a common interest of painters of the day? The latter, I think. Even Turner was not immune to this bookishness. The two circular pictures hanging in the West Room at the Royal Academy, firstly:
Dawn of Christianity (Flight into Egypt) is accompanied by a quote: “That star has risen,” from Rev. T. Gisborne’s Walks in a Forest.

This picture is not just literary, it’s biblical. Mary is fleeing with her child into Egypt to escape King Herod. Turner presents sky, water, trees, distant mountains, ruins and - most of all - light from on high. Yes, the good news is that a shaft of light gets to baby Jesus long before the snake ever could.

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JMW Turner, Dawn of Christianity (Flight into Egypt), 1841

Turner contributed six pictures in all to the Royal Academy show in 1841. Obviously Patrick Allan would have seen them, even if primarily en route to checking out the attention being given to The Bridal Morn! Here is one of the two paintings of Venice that must have shone like Mediterranean windows on the walls of the East Gallery. Surely the image below would have pursued Patrick as he scuttled back to his lodgings in Euston Square to regroup. “Italy, Italy, Italy: how could I have so badly missed the obvious?”

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JMW Turner, Giudecca, la Donna della Salute and San Georgio, 1841

But one has to give credit to Patrick Allan. A painting that he made of the Louvre in 1841 now hangs in that great gallery. As recently as March, 2013, the painting was admired by Terry Phelps as he reports in his blog: ‘1001 Paintings - or die trying’. Below is the painting in question. Compositionally, it’s very similar to the painting right at the top of this page. What’s different about it? Light and colour. Did Patrick return to Paris in 1841 to paint it? Or did he already have a sketch that he was able to turn into a gleaming gem simply by tapping into the light and colour he’d seen in the rippling waters of
Giudecca, la Donna della Salute and San Georgio?

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Patrick Allan-Fraser, A View of the Grand Gallery of the Louvre, 1841

I like to think that the figure in the foreground is Patrick Allan, sporting the muttonchop whiskers that contribute to a would-be air of worldly wisdom. And what is he saying?

“The work on display here is all very well, but did you seen the Turners at the Royal Academy in London this May? Knock a man’s hat right off his head, they would. Unless, of course, that man had first taken the precaution of studying the Rembrandt self-portraits in Florence. Mocked mercilessly for it as he most assuredly was at the time.”

Patrick thinks about what he’s just said and feels he could improve on it:

“Let me put it this way. Augustus Egg, Richard Dadd, William Powell Frith, John Phillip, Henry O’Neill and sundry other members of the Clique walked jauntily into the summer show sporting hats as tall as would impress many a fine lady. But, to a man, they all walked back out again, bare-headed, with no choice but to scuttle back to their lonely digs, trousers metaphorically flapping around their ankles, pulled down as they most assuredly had been by the outrageous talent of The Master.”

Patrick again thinks about what he’s just said, and this time knows it can’t be bettered.

William Payne, director of Hospitalfield from 1975 to 2012, told me that
A View of the Grand Gallery of the Louvre came up for sale in 1987. The Fine Art Society alerted Willie, asking if he’d like the Society to buy the painting on Hospitalfield’s behalf. Willie declined the invitation as he knew - given how difficult it was just to keep the place going, such are the running costs - he wouldn’t be able to raise an extra £8,000 to meet the asking price. So the Fine Art Society bought it for someone else in the UK. Shortly after, the Louvre paid £140,000 for it.

Did Hospitalfield lose out on that occasion? Well, the painting echoes the curved ceiling of the gallery at Hospitalfield in a resounding way. It could certainly have been hung to bring out the elegance of the architecture, the materials and the workmanship of the interior...

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A View of the Gallery at Hospitalfield, 2012

But having said that, Hospitalfield already has 64 paintings by Patrick Allan Fraser in its possession (
The Entombment is the most prominent canvas in the above hang), and I am just so glad that one of OUR PATRICK’S PAINTINGS has ended up on the walls of the Louvre!

Anyway, here we are back at Hospitalfield, as promised. As I finish this page on May 6, 2013, the list of artists who have been awarded residencies this summer has been made official. Apart from me, the individuals are Samantha Donnelly, Catrin Jeans, James Langdon, Shona Macnaughton, Laura Mansfield and Michael Mulvihill. A biographical note for each can be found
here.

Will we be forming a new Clique? Perhaps we might try setting up a sketching club that could meet one evening a week for the month of our residency. I feel I should send round the link to this page so that this summer’s artists get a chance to think about where they might place themselves relative to Patrick, Hospitalfield, the Clique, themselves and me. No pressure, hopefully. Just the opportunity to engage, communicate and collaborate.

In the meantime, I aim to get another page up on this site before the residency begins. One that I feel especially motivated to write.








Thanks to Willie Payne for precise information and general perspective.