James Charles
In the Orchard
signed 'Charles' (lower right)
oil on canvas
33 x 23 in. (85 x 59 cm.)
(+) Mildred Topp Othmer.

Lot Essay

Writing in Painters of the Victorian Scene, Graham Reynolds noted that Charles was 'one of the first to practise plein-air painting in England. His unpretentious and often charming studies of country life in England have never attained the reputation they deserve.'

Charles received affectionate praise from fellow painters in an obituary notice in the Art Journal. 'Mr Clausen recognised him as a 'dear leader and master' of the younger school, as an honest, serious and thorough worker, free from conventional sentiment, but possessed of a sympathetic and profound insight. Mr La Thangue, again, holds that twenty or thirty of his pictures cannot be excelled in any period or any country, and must remain as one of the glories of the English School. James Charles, was, indeed, one of those rare beings who could communicate his enthusiasms, based on a clear apprehension of the actual, to other men. He was too honest to be satisfied with cloistered beauty; the air and light of common day must be about him. He kept himself apart from cliques...'. (Art Journal, 1906, p.350.)

Charles's style was influenced by his training at the Acadmie Julian in Paris. (He had previously trained at Heatherley's, and at the Royal Academy Schools). Whilst he exhibited at the Royal Academy betwen 1875 and 1906, he continued his links with France, exhibiting at the Paris Salon between 1897-1905. He also visited Italy in 1891 and 1905.

He exhibited most frequently at the New English Art Club, though he never became a member. A memorial exhibition was held at the Leicester Galleries in 1907, a year after his death, which established his reputation. Again, the critic of the Art Journal, (1907, p.135), wrote: 'The Art of James Charles suffered in extraordinary measure, as seen at the average exhibition. He was too honest to paint at exhibition pitch, too loyal to the inward voice that uttered authoritatively in his sunny, courageous personality to vociferate and gain applause. He loved Nature with all that was best in him; in her service he knew no bondage. He was not attracted by the pseudo-picturesque or the pseudo-impressive, for the positive and sufficient reason that an inner sense of the beauty and significance of things was his abiding possession. Before Nature, Constable tried to forget that he had ever seen a picture; nor did James Charles carry about with him, ready to impose, this or that formula. He seems at times to have perceived Nature as a supreme self-expression, a kind of summation of experience, from which every man who straight forwardly identifies himself with her can distil immortal essences. He was too modest, or rather, too wise, to strive after 'individuality of expression' for at his best the language flowed from communion between him, his material and his theme'.

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