This watercolour is thought to be one listed in Tuke’s register of paintings called Bathing Group (R982) painted in 1921. Brian D. Price wrote in his notes on Tuke’s registers of paintings that he thought this was probably the nude version of the large oil painting called Noonday Heat (R382) (Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society/Falmouth Art Gallery) painted in 1902 with the models Georgie Fouracre and Bert White.
Previously it was thought the date on the painting was 1911. On closer inspection the pencil numbers 1921 can be discerned underneath Tuke’s painting. The connection with Leonard Duke who bought the painting in 1922, assuming it is Bathing Group shown at the Royal Watercolour Society, also makes sense.
Leonard Gordon Duke, C.B.E. (1889-1972) studied at Malvern College and then Oxford University. He served in the First World War as a Lieutenant in the Queen’s regiment, when he was wounded and taken prisoner. After the war he became an assistant to the Board of Education and according his obituary became 'a well known collector of English drawings'.
Leonard Duke came to know Tuke and his work as he was one of the ex-servicemen who became tenants of Tuke’s parents house, Lyndon Lodge in Hanwell, London from 1919-1922. Other tenants included Rowland Alston, Jack Hone, and Bernard Milling. Alston and Milling had met Duke in prison camp in Germany during the war. Alston was a talented watercolourist himself and H.B. Milling started the Squire Gallery in Baker Street specialising in watercolours and drawings. Tuke kept his studio and a room at Lyndon Lodge and would stay with his parents' tenants when in town. After the house was sold in 1922 the tenants stayed friendly with Tuke and would visit him in Falmouth. It was another military acquaintance, Colonel Sydney Frederick McIlree Lomer (1880-1926) who bought the large oil Noonday Heat in 1922. Duke must have seen this version in Tuke’s studio and apparently persuaded Tuke to create the nude watercolour version in 1921.
It is interesting to compare the watercolour version of 1921 with the oil version done nearly 20 years earlier. Clearly Tuke has used the original to copy from to make his watercolour – it is possible that he also had sketches and studies made in 1902 when he made the original painting as he spent from July until November that year working on it and he noted in his diary that he only 'painted the dungaree pants in the picture' on 9 November 1902. This suggests that for most of its period of making the oil painting of Noonday Heat was of two nude boys as in this watercolour of 1921.
We are grateful to Catherine Wallace for her assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.