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    Sale 5402

    Victorian & Traditionalist Pictures

    3 September 2008, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 146

    William Quiller Orchardson, R.A. (1832-1910)

    Background for 'The First Cloud'

    Price Realised  


    William Quiller Orchardson, R.A. (1832-1910)
    Background for 'The First Cloud'
    signed with initials (lower left) further signed and inscribed 'BACKGROUND FOR 'THE FIRST CLOUD'./ by SIR W.Q.ORCHARDSON R.A.' (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas
    22¼ x 33¼ in. (56.5 x 84.5 cm.)

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    The painting is a study for the 'The First Cloud' which now resides in the Tate Collection. Orchardson produced a number of works in the second half of his career addressing tensions within upper class society, perhaps most famously in 'The First Cloud and 'The Marriage of Convenience'. The canvases depict elegant interiors with couples dramatically posed to expose conflict within the relationship. In the 'The First Cloud' we see a middle-aged gentleman planted resolutely before the fireplace; we also see the back of his younger wife who from the direction of his gaze has recently vacated the space directly in front of him, disappearing briskly through the curtains at the end of the room, her skirts sweeping behind her. When it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1887 it was accompanied by the Tennyson lines:

    It is the little rift within the lute
    That by-and-by will make the music mute (Merlin and Vivien, Idylls of the King)

    The interiors of Orchardson's paintings were always important, forming part of the psychological framework of the drama. The rooms are often vast, engulfing the protagonists and accentuating the tensions depicted, in his characteristically muted palette and delicate glazes. It is no surprise then that he would fully work up an interior without figures. This work was exhibited in 1911 a year after the artist's death and subsequent sale of his studio (Christie's, 27th May 1910).

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    London, Royal Academy, Winter Exhibition, 1911.
    Scottish National Exhibition, 1911.
    Whitechapel 1939.