Thomas Matthews Rooke, R.W.S. (1842-1942)
Thomas Matthews Rooke, R.W.S. (1842-1942)

Apollo and the Muses

Thomas Matthews Rooke, R.W.S. (1842-1942)
Apollo and the Muses
signed and inscribed 'no II/Parnassus [crossed out] Apollo and the Muses/T.M. Rooke/7 Queen Anne's Gardens/Bedford Park/Turnham Green' (on the wooden backing)
oil on canvas, tondo
20½ x 20½ in. (52 x 52 cm.)
The original frame inscribed in relief 'Her royalties Polymnia lays down/dance on Terpsichore/Urania sees/the stars/go round/wan/dering sings Calliope/the pipes Euterpe culls from off the ground/Thalia mocks Melpomene who/arms herself for play/with weapons/of divin/ity/Erato's/lyre/Apollo sounds/Clio knows/all man's strange history'.
Mrs Charlotte Frank, London.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 15 June 1990, lot 133.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 28 November 2000, lot 57, where purchased by the present owner.
London, Royal Academy, 1889, no. 627.

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Lot Essay

Although Rooke is probably best known for his topographical watercolours, he painted a number of figure subjects in oils, mainly during the early part of his career when he was Burne-Jones's studio assistant. The theme of Parnassus had been treated by Burne-Jones in a small picture of 1871 (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge). Rooke's oil technique of glazing colours over a well-established underpainting - very evident in the present work - owed much to Burne-Jones.

Although he supported the Grosvenor and New Galleries, Rooke differed from Burne-Jones in being closely associated with the Royal Academy. He trained at the RA Schools in the 1860s and exhibited at the Academy from 1876, having a picture brought for the Chantrey Bequest the following year.

The picture is in its original frame, no doubt designed by the artist. The inscription on the back shows that he had second thoughts about the title, and the address too is significant. Bedford Park, the garden suburb between Chiswick and Acton which sprang up in the late 1870s, largely to designs by Norman Shaw, was one of the most famous expressions of the Aesthetic Movement.

No-one embodied the Bedford Park spirit more completely than T.M. Rooke, who was not only closely associated with Burne-Jones, William Morris and Ruskin, all leading figures in the development of the Aesthetic and Arts and Crafts Movements, but lived in the area from its earliest days until his death at the age of ninety-nine in 1942. In Apollo and the Muses he was clearly attempting to express this spirit through the classic image of artistic inspiration and enlightenment. It might be described as the ultimate Bedford Park picture.

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