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Douglas Percy Bliss (1900-1984)
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Douglas Percy Bliss (1900-1984)

Rossetti painting 'lovely guggums'

Details
Douglas Percy Bliss (1900-1984)
Rossetti painting 'lovely guggums'
inscribed 'Rossetti painting 'lovely guggums'' (below the artist's wash-line border)
pencil, watercolour and bodycolour and scratching out on paper
10 ½ x 12 12 ¼ in. (46.7 x 31.1 cm.)
Provenance
with The Maas Gallery, London, where purchased by the present owner in 1989.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Brandon Lindberg
Brandon Lindberg

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Lot Essay

Bliss was a protean artist. Inspired by Paul Nash, Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious, all of whom he knew, he was a prolific painter of landscapes. He also wrote extensively about wood-engraving and for eighteen years (1946-64) was an inspirational director of the Glasgow School of Art and a tireless champion of the city’s architectural heritage.

The present drawing represents yet another aspect of his talent, showing him as a caricaturist with a vivid sense of art history. It is clearly inspired by Max Beerbohm’s Rossetti and his Circle, a famous series of cartoons published in 1922. In fact it may well have been part of a series itself. A drawing similar in scale and style, The Morrises, the Rossettis and the Burne-Jones at the (sic) Red House, Upton, was on the London art market in 1989.

In the present drawing, Rossetti sits hunched over an easel, drawing or painting Lizzie Siddal, known familiarly as ‘Guggums’, the cutler’s daughter who inspired so much of his early work and whom he eventually, after a long and fraught engagement, married in 1860. An interesting artist herself, albeit heavily influenced by Rossetti, she died from an overdose of laudanum in February 1862, almost certainly taking her own life.

The pair are surrounded by a collection of artefacts that betrays a detailed knowledge of Rossetti’s art and life. On the far wall hangs one of the female half-lengths of which he painted so many from the late 1850s on. The composition apes Regina Cordium (Johannesburg Art Gallery), an example of 1860 for which Siddal herself posed, while the title, Bocca Venefica, parodies that of Bocca Baciata (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), the painting of 1859 that initiated this style. Bocca Baciata is a likeness of Fanny Cornforth, the voluptuous beauty who replaced Lizzie Siddal as Rossetti’s principle muse, and Bliss highlights the sensuousness which he sought to capture under her influence. If ‘Bocca Baciata’ means simply ‘kissed mouth’. ‘Bocca Venefica’ implies something more dangerous, describing the mouth as ‘bewitching’ or even 'poisonous’.

Other objects seen in the drawing are either taken from Rossetti’s paintings (hairbrush and comb, bottle, convex mirror) or are generally evocative of the Aesthetic movement that he did so much to define (gothic furniture, wallpaper, blue-and-white porcelain, Japanese fans, painted screens, etc.).
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