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John Ritchie (fl. 1857-1875)
John Ritchie (fl. 1857-1875)

Winter, St James's Park, London

Details
John Ritchie (fl. 1857-1875)
Winter, St James's Park, London
signed and dated 'Jon Ritchie 1858' (lower right) and indistinctly inscribed 'J Ritchie....' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
30 x 50 ¾ in. (76.2 x 128.9 cm.)
Provenance
with The Cider House Galleries, Bletchingley, Surrey, by November 1978.
with Owen Edgar Gallery, London.
Literature
London Daily News, 8 February 1858.
Morning Post, London, 12 February 1858.
Illustrated Times, London, 27 February 1858.
J. Saunders and W. Marston (eds.), The National Magazine, vol. III, London, 1858, p. 342.
Letters of Thomas Carlyle, 1826-1836, vol. 2, London, 1888, p. 386.
M. Cowling, Victorian Figurative Painting: Domestic Life and the Contemporary Social Scene, London, 2000, pp. 140-3, illustrated in colour.
C. Stanton, 'A closer look at A Winter's Day in St. James' Park by John Ritchie, 1858', The Newsletter of the Social History Curators Group, issue 66, December 2010, pp. 18-20, illustrated.
Exhibited
London, British Institution, 1858, no. 281 (£350).
London, Museum of London, Looking at London, July - October 1980, number untraced.
London, Riverside Studios, Victorian Painting at Riverside, March - April 1981, no. 38.

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Clare Keiller
Clare Keiller

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Lot Essay

During the first half of the 19th century the population of Britain doubled, with London particularly noticeable for its expansion. This change was soon reflected in contemporary literature and art, which drew on the increasing diversity of the population. This interest in ethnology was also reflected in the new scientific discipline of Anthropology, which looked at physical, psychological and cultural differences in people around the world. An early proponent was George Cruickshank Senior (1792-1878) whose London in 1851 showed a bustling crowd on Regent’s Street heading to the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park.

Working concurrently with Frith, Ritchie chose two London views for his 1858 Royal Academy submissions. Both A Summer Day in Hyde Park (Museum of London) and our painting illustrate a variety of London inhabitants united in their simple enjoyment of the city: from aristocratic young gentlemen to street vendors; from policemen to pickpockets; rowdy children to stately gentlewomen. The varied characters in our painting create a seemingly idyllic panoply of winter entertainment in which the young and old, rich and poor come together, but Ritchie has, at the same time, added a tiny note of contemporary commentary in the form of a bundle of papers under the arm of the gentleman to the far left of the canvas inscribed ‘Suit of Chancery’. Charles Dickens had heavily criticised the chancery system in Bleak House (published in instalments between 1852 and 1853), satirising the length of process in the fictional case Jarndyce vs Jarndyce.

Skating on the pond in St James’s Park in front of Horse Guards was a popular annual event. The Morning Post of February 1853 reported that the London parks were ‘crowded with persons anxious to enjoy the exhilarating exercise of skating’. St James’s Park recorded the highest numbers, believed to have exceeded 15,000.

Both of Ritchie’s 1858 paintings were well received by the press with comments made on Ritchie’s ‘undeniable merit, much diligence, and promise’ (London Daily News, 8 February 1858), the figures being ‘varied and natural in action, well-drawn and well-introduced’ (Morning Post, London, 12 February 1858). The National Magazine thought Ritchie's paintings contained a ‘good deal of humour’ (J. Saunders and W. Marston (eds.), loc. cit.).

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