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

Nine figure studies of a girl with a jar

Henry Herbert La Thangue, R.A. (1859-1929)
Nine figure studies of a girl with a jar
charcoal on paper, unframed
17 5/8 x 12½ in. (44.8 x 31.7 cm.); and smaller (9)
Purchased from the artist by Moses Nightingale by 1930; thence by descent to the present owner.
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Harriet Drummond
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Lot Essay

In his introduction to the catalogue of La Thangue's memorial exhibition in Brighton, George Clausen declared that:

'So far as I know, he never made studies or sketches for his pictures, but planned them out on the actual canvas; rarely, if ever, making any alteration in his design.'

Whilst it is true that compositional studies are exceptional, the survival of a series of rapid sketches of a girl carrying or drinking from a water jar indicate that La Thangue did indeed make rapid notes of the figure. In each case these were done at speed, using the shaft of the charcoal, rather than its point, to express the staccato effect of movement. In the 1890s, the perspicacious critic of The Speaker likened La Thangue's figures to those of a Kinetoscope, for their jerky, off-balance positions.1 They were seldom seen in repose and classical poise was an anathema.

This does not detract from the spontaneity of La Thangue's compositions. While his contemporaries often resorted to detailed planning, he saw the whole picture from the outset. Such was the preliminary order of his mind that execution was never a pre-planned procedure. On this basis, Clausen likened La Thangue to Vermeer. 'Hardly any of Vermeer's drawings exist', he declared,

'Yet his pictures have every evidence of being carefully planned to the smallest detail before being painted; another point of resemblance is that Vermeer's figures are definitely posed.'2

That La Thangue posed his figures has never been in doubt; that he considered the widest possible range of variation is clear from this important suite of drawings.

1 The Speaker, 1 May 1897, p. 483.
2 George Clausen, 'H H La Thangue RA', in Brighton Art Gallery, Memorial Exhibition of Works by the Late H H La Thangue RA, 1930, (exhibition catalogue), p. 5.

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