• Victorian & British Impression auction at Christies

    Sale 7788

    Victorian & British Impressionist Pictures Including Drawings and Watercolours

    16 December 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 16

    Henry Herbert La Thangue, R.A. (1859-1929)

    In the Orchards, Haylands, Graffham

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Henry Herbert La Thangue, R.A. (1859-1929)
    In the Orchards, Haylands, Graffham
    signed 'H.H. LA THANGUE' (lower right), and inscribed by the artist 'H.H. La Thangue' (on the stretcher)
    oil on canvas
    40 x 35 in. (101.6 x 88.8 cm.)


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    Alfred Munnings records a disconsolate Henry La Thangue when they met in Chelsea Arts Club in the early years of the century. The rural idyll was fast disappearing in England, and the painter wondered where he could find 'a quiet old world village' with 'real country models'.

    '...Again and again when we met ... there was the same question - and a tinge of sadness in his voice.'

    La Thangue, Munnings believed, never achieved his goal.1

    To some extent, this story is apocryphal. While it is true that he spent much of his time in Provence after 1901, throughout the Edwardian years La Thangue retained his base at Haylands, Graffham in Sussex. For the travel writer, EV Lucas, his presence in the village was one of its chief distinctions. Surveying the area in 1904 he wrote,

    'Graffham is interesting as being the home of one of our most truthful of living painters, Mr HH La Thangue whose scenes of peasants at work ...and studies of sunlight spattering through trees are among the triumphs of modern English art.'2

    The local farms and surrounding orchards of Lavington Down and Petworth continued to provide the stimulus he required - particularly in the unmechanised activities of fruit-picking. Apples and plums were in abundance during September each year and their processing inspired a long series of works, beginning with the monumental A Sussex Cider Press, shown at the Royal Academy in 1898 (Private Collection, sold Christie's, 9 June 2004).3

    Here was a Hardy-esque celebration of an old country tradition. Itinerant labourers in the old gang system were paid in part with cider, and there are instances of their refusing wage increases if the cider allowance was to be cut. The drink was frequently consumed in the fields during harvest times, and larger farms in West Sussex maintained orchards expressly for this purpose. The commercial production of cider was yet in its infancy. Collecting and storing the fruit to await the arrival of a travelling press was a labour-intensive activity often involving wives and children during the weeks of autumn, and cider-making lasted, in some instances, up until December.4 La Thangue was interested in the whole process from gathering wind-falls to loading laden baskets on to carts - activities shown in Cider Apples, 1899 (Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney), A Sussex Orchard, 1905 (Private Collection), and A Sussex Autumn 1907 (Toi o Tamaki, Auckland Art Gallery, Mackelvie Trust Collection). Because it involved women and men, young and old working in collaboration to garner nature's bounty, fruit picking was a metaphor for rural harmony in the face of industrialisation. Unlike their pale city counterparts, La Thangue's yeomen apple gatherers were strong and healthy.

    The present example extends this general theme. In its deployment of foreground and background figures - a classic La Thangue arrangement - it complements the works of 1899 and 1907. In his memorial exhibition of 1930, In the Orchard, Haylands, Graffham was particularly admired when a local reviewer, invoking lines from a popular rustic poem by Whittier, remarked

    'The most wistful thing in the exhibition is the face of the young girl carrying red apples gathered in the orchards of Haylands, Graffham. Perhaps, like Maud Muller, she was yearning 'for something better than she had known'.5


    1 Sir Alfred Munnings, An Artist's Life, 1950 (Museum Press), pp.97-8; quoted in Kenneth McConkey, A Painter's Harvest, HH La Thangue, 1859-1929, 1978, (exhibition catalogue, Oldham Art Gallery), pp. 13-14.
    2 EV Lucas, Highways and Byways of Sussex, 1904 (1923 ex, MacMillan), p. 21.
    3 A later variant on this theme, Milling Cider Apples, (National Trust, Standen), was shown at the Royal Academy in 1905. See McConkey, 1978, no. 24.
    4 Giles Winterborne, the hero in Hardy's The Woodlanders operated a travelling press.
    5 Anon, 'The Late Mr HH La Thangue - A Memorial Exhibition', Sussex County Herald, 19 September 1930. Maud Muller was the heroine of celebrated verses by the New England Quaker poet, John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), in which a fieldworker gives sustenance to the local Judge and as he departs she pines for a better life.

    KMc.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Provenance

    Purchased from the artist by Moses Nightingale by 1930; thence by descent to the present owner.


    Saleroom Notice

    After the present catalogue went to press it became apparent that Edward Nightingale of Rotherham had no connection with Moses Nightingale of Crawley, Sussex, whose son was 'Percy' Edward Nightingale. La Thangue, it appears, had two seperate patrons - both called Nightingale.


    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from the Nightingale Collection of Works by Henry Herbert La Thangue

    A Painter and his Patron - Henry Herbert La Thangue and Moses Nightingale

    Back in the 1870s, Henry Herbert La Thangue, then 'a slim boy in an Eton suit', drew the classical Discobolus to prove his talent and gain admission to the Royal Academy Schools. He was, according to his friend George Clausen, 'brilliant'. Hailing from Croydon and of French Huguenot descent, La Thangue attended Dulwich College and the Government Art Training School before arriving at the Academy. He wassoon spotted by Frederic Leighton, and armed with the President's letter of introduction, he passed to the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1879 where he studied under Jean-Léon Gérome. In Paris in the early 1880s he was part of a large contingent of British art students including Clausen, Stanhope Forbes, John Lavery, Philip Wilson Steer and many others, all of whom were influenced by the great French Naturalist master, Jules Bastien-Lepage. This led Le Thangue to paint in Brittany with Forbes and in the Rhone valley alongside the sculptor, Harvard Thomas.

    When he returned to Britain, La Thangue's work bore all of the hallmarks of his French training. These were obvious in In the Dauphiné (sold Christie's, November 2003), a painting which provoked strong reactions when it was shown at the first New English Art Club exhibition in 1886. Fuelled by Ruskin's xenophobia, critics objected to its 'square brush' method of painting across forms to give breadth and solidity. To a lesser extent all the New English painters did this. Seized by the revolutionary moment, La Thangue advocated that they should initiate a 'bigger movment', and extend the club to a much wider membership. This idea of rivalling the Royal Academy, although supported by Clausen, was rejected by the club's more conservative members and La Thangue retreated to a studio in Norfolk,close to the Broads. His move to Sussex in 1890 signalled a change of heart and with Clausen he returned to exhibiting at the Academy, submitting large naturalistic scenes of rural life. In 1896 his The Man with the Scythe (Tate Britain) was purchased for the nation by the Chantrey Bequest.

    The twentieth century ushered in a new phase in La Thangue's work. In 1901 he returned to France and with works such as December in Provence (Christie's Images), found a more congenial landscape and a lighter palette. For the next ten years the hill towns of the Cote d'Azur featured regularly as his work became more impressionistic in style.

    His solo exhibition at the Leicester Galleries in 1914 was warmly praised by Walter Sickert for its original take on modern painting - while speaking 'to many generations to come', it avoided 'the gamut of Monet, or, to be fin-de-décade, of Cezanne'.

    Moses Nightingale, the fourth in his family to be so named, appreciated the arts. His father, Moses Nightingale III, was a brick maker in Crawley. Moses Nightingale IV established his own business as a corn merchant, and pursued his interest in music by establishing the Hazeldene Orchestra, named after his house. At the same time he formed a large art collection, filling his house with works by Hector Caffieri, Lucy Kemp Welch, Stanhope Forbes and many others. La Thangue however, was his favourite artist and he lent 31 pictures to the artist's memorial exhibition at Brighton Art Gallery in 1930. Most of theselater works glowed with the intense colour and strong sunlight of northern Italy, Spain and the south of France, where La Thangue had a winter studio at Bormes-les-Mimosas. 'No painter can get everything of what is before him', Clausen wrote, 'he can only ... get the things that move him ... And so for La Thangue, it was primarily, the beauty of things in sunlight that excited him ...' Such beauties passed, in all their richness, to Nightingale and his family.

    We are grateful to Kenneth McConkey for his assistance in the preparation of the catalogue entries for Lots 16 to 22.


    Literature

    Sussex County Herald, 19 September 1930.


    Exhibited

    London, Royal Academy, 1919, no. 3 (?)
    Brighton Art Gallery, Memorial Exhibition of Works by the Late HH La Thangue RA, 1930, no. 34.
    London, Royal Academy, Commemorative Exhibition of Works by Late Members, 1933, no. 187.


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