9 June 2004
Frank Holl, R.A. (1845-1888)
signed and dated 'Frank Holl 1879' (lower left)
oil on canvas
30 x 43 1/8 in. (76 x 110 cm.)
Purchased from the artist by R. Curwen of Bickley, Kent, for £250.
Henry Curwen; Christie's, London, 18 March 1911, lot 85 (unsold).
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Art Journal, 1879, p. 175.
Times, 2 June 1879, p. 5.
A.M. Reynolds, The Life and Work of Frank M. Holl, London, 1922, p. 167-8.
London, Royal Academy, 1879, no. 1385.
A fugitive on the run from debtors is depicted seated in the railway carriage that will bear him away to hopeful obscurity. Described in the Art Journal of 1879 as 'one of the most startlingly powerful individual figures in the whole exhibition', Holl's picture was also praised by the Times: 'Criminals in the act of absconding, we should have supposed, kept some control over themselves even in the solitude of a first class carriage. If all this outside agitation be admitted, the picture is a very powerful piece of work'.
The painting is typical of the 'social realist' pictures executed by Holl during the early part of his career. He was to gain repute both for these stark yet strangely poetic portrayals of urban discontent; and for his society portraits. Holl's daughter, A.M. Reynolds, records how Absconded met with a favourable reception at the Academy in 1879 - the year after her father's election as an Associate - and inspired a flurry of portrait commissions. These however drained him physically and creatively, and he died at the early age of forty -three.
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