Jessica Hayllar (1858-1940)
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Jessica Hayllar (1858-1940)

A Coming Event

Jessica Hayllar (1858-1940)
A Coming Event
signed and dated 'Jessica Hayllar/1886' (lower left)
oil on canvas
22½ x 18½ in. (57.1 x 47 cm.)
Anon. sale, Sotheby's Belgravia, 23 April 1974, lot 97, when acquired by the present owner.
C. Wood, 'The Artistic Family Hayllar', Connoisseur, Part II, May 1974, p. 5.
S. Casteras, Images of Victorian Womanhood in English Art, London, 1987, p. 101, pl. 74 and illus. in colour.
London, Royal Academy, 1886, no. 926.
The Royal Academy (1837-1901) Revisited, 1975-6, no. 23.
32 Victorian Paintings from the Forbes Magazine Collection, 1981.
The Substance or the Shadow, 1982, no. 39.
The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Times, 1985, no. 70.
Virtue Rewarded, 1988-90, no. 13.
A Struggle for Fame, 1994, cat. p. 60.
Ladies of the Brush, 1994-5, no. 19.
The Defining Moment, 2000-1, no. 18.
Special notice
No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis

Lot Essay

Jessica was the eldest daughter of James Hayllar (see lot 100) and with her sister Edith (see lot 104) was the most talented of her artistic siblings, who also numbered Mary (see lot 262) and Kate (lot 263). She was also the most prolific and exhibited at the Royal Academy for twenty five years, from 1880 to 1915. However following an accident around 1900, (family tradition has it that she was crippled after being knocked down by a carriage), she turned to flower pictures, especially the azaleas which feature in so much of her earlier work. She died unmarried in 1940, in Bournemouth, the resort to which she and her father had moved in 1899.

As with the rest of her sisters, Jessica derived her main inspiration from the happy and contented domestic life enjoyed at Castle Priory, on the banks of the Thames, near Wallingford, where the Hayllars lived from 1875 to 1899. The house was full of halls, corridors, and rooms leading into one another, each of which had long windows looking out on to the garden and the river beyond. It was undoubtedly the setting for the present picture, which is remarkable for the clever recession through which the eye is led as the enfilade continues. In each room a stage on the marital journey is represented. In the first are the accoutrements of the coming event, with gown, slippers and flowers, described in wonderful detail. In the second a man and woman converse while in the third, a widow, in black, is glimpsed. The painting recalls the recession of rooms in Velasquez's group portrait Las Meninas while the still life follows the conventions of Dutch 17th Century painting, and Jan Vermeer in particular. Each would have been familiar to Jessica through reproduction, and the thorough artistic training instilled in her by her father, James.

The picture was amongst her most popular, and was followed at the Royal Academy by other similar examples: Fresh from the Font (R.A. 1887), The Return from Confirmation (R.A. 1888) and Fresh from the Altar (R.A. 1890). Most of these remain in private collections.


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