Of all the exponents of what might be called 'Edwardian baroque', Fred Appleyard is one of the most forgotten. A brilliant student at the Royal Academy Schools, he went on to enjoy a successful career, having pictures bought for the Chantrey Bequest and for museums at Bath, Bristol, Rochdale, Doncaster and Grahamstown, South Africa. Such was his promise as an R.A. student that an admiring Council, headed by the president, Poynter, commissioned him to paint a mural over the entrance to the Refreshment Room; yet although this is still in situ today, there can be few among the thousands who use the restaurant who even know the artist's name.
Unlike such fellow products of the academic system as Frank Dicksee, E.A. Abbey, Arthur Hacker and H.J. Draper, all of whom were somewhat older, Appleyard was not included in the Last Romantics exhibition at the Barbican in 1989, which examined the survival of literary romanticism in British art from the end of the nineteenth century until the Second World War. It is true that the focus was on artists who maintained an interior or private vision, and that this tended to give prominence to those who, in one way or another, developed the Pre-Raphaelite and Symbolist traditions. But as heirs to the Grand Manner, academic artists also dealt in powerful emotions expressed in terms of literary or historical themes. The present picture is a remarkable example, and would have made an invaluable contribution to the exhibition.
Fred Appleyard (he seems to have dropped the more formal Frederick at a very early age) was born on the 9 September 1874 at Middlesborough, Yorkshire, the son of Isaac Appleyard, an iron-merchant. Having received his formal education at Scarborough, he attended the town's art school, where he was taught by the genre and landscape painter Albert Strange. He then proceeded to the National Art Training School at South Kensington and from there to the Royal Academy Schools, which he entered on 27 July 1897 at the late age of twenty-two. He was recommended to the R.A. by John Sparkes, the dymanic principal at South Kensington and of the Lambeth School of Art who figures in the early history of many artists of the period, from Wallace Martin to Charles Ricketts. Frank Cadogan Cowper and E.H. Shepherd, the illustrator of Winnie-the-Pooh and The Wind in the Willows, enrolled on the same day, while Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale and the sculptor Gilbert Bayes were among the more established students. During his five years at Burlington House Appleyard encountered three successive Professors of Painting, William Blake Richmond, Hubert von Herkomer and Val Prinsep. Those who taught him in the Life School or the School of Painting included Abbey, Fildes, Dicksee, Waterhouse, Yeames, Clausen and Sargent.
As a student, Appleyard carried off all the prizes, the Landseer Scholarship, the Turner Gold Medal, the Creswick Prize for landscape and others. In 1899 he also won the competition, instituted in 1881 to encourage mural painting and bearing a premium of £40, 'for a design in watercolour or tempera for the decoration of a public building'. The subject that year was Spring driving out Winter. Appleyard made his debut at the summer exhibition of 1900 with the award-winning design, and it was this composition that he was commissioned to paint full-scale in the restaurant, a room that formed part of extensions to the Academy carried out by Norman Shaw in 1885. Completed in 1902, the mural is a pendant to another, Autumn, that Harold Speed had executed in 1898.
Although Appleyard was never even an Associate of the R.A., somewhat suprisingly in view of his early success, he continued to exhibit there for thirty-five years, showing a total of forty-one works. He was also represented at the regional exhibitions in Glasgow and Liverpool, and was a member of the Royal West of England Academy from 1926. From 1910 to 1912 he worked in South Africa, which is no doubt why there is a picture by him at Grahamstown, and during the First World War, though too old for active service, he was employed at Woolwich Arsenal, probably on camouflage. His early years were spent in London, and he seems to have maintained a studio in Kensington until the 1920s. In 1910, however, he settled at Alresford in Hampshire, and it was there that he died on 22 February 1963 at the age of eighty-eight.
Appleyard's career follows the usual pattern of artists of his generation who were brought up to paint subject pictures only to find that they were no longer in vogue. One or two early works of this kind are in his Witt Library file, including a dramatic Saul and the Witch of Endor and a St Cecilia, shown at the R.A. in 1903, which attempts a Waterhouse-like sythesis of Pre-Raphaelite subject and academic form. He even managed to execute a few more murals. One was in the General Hospital at Nottingham, another at St Mark's Church in North Audley Street, Mayfair, a third (perhaps commissioned because of his local connections) at the Church of SS Peter and Paul at Pickering in Yorkshire. None of these, however, is mentioned by Pevsner, suggesting that, due to changing taste, they no longer survive.
Even the Royal Academy mural was nearly obliterated. On 12 December 1934 the then Secretary, Sir Walter Lamb, wrote to Appleyard to ask if he would mind if it was painted over as it was 'rather dark in tone and not in accord with modern ideas of mural decoration'. Appleyard's reply is not recorded, but the survival of the painting suggests that he did not agree to the proposal. Indeed, this may be why he ceased to show at the Academy after 1935.
Like so many of his contemporaries marooned by changing fashion, Appleyard was forced to diversify, moving into the more accessible areas of portraiture and landscape. His later landscapes are attractive works in a quasi-impressionist style. Most contain figures, and many hedge their bets by introducing an element of symbolism; the figures are vaguely religous or mythological, the backgrounds based on the ruins of Beaulieu Abbey, not far from the artist's home at Alresford. A Secret (Tate Britain), his Chantrey picture of 1915, is a good example of this genre.
'Lay not thine Hand upon the Lad' treats the well-known subject of Abraham prevented by an angel from sacrificing his son Isaac (Genesis, chapter 22, verse 12). Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1913, the work is a glorious anomaly, a full-blown history picture executed on the eve of the First World War but looking back in scope and spirit to Lord Leighton, already dead when Appleyard had entered the R.A. Schools, and beyond him to the Grand Manner of the eighteenth century and the old masters who had inspired it. War was not to be declared for another year, but it is tempting to see the picture as a reference to the coming hostilities and the sacrifice of the country's youth that would inevitably be involved. If this was Appleyard's intention, however, no-one seems to have recognised the allusion, at least not in print. Not a single mention of the picture in reviews of the R.A. exhibition has been traced.
We are grateful to the staff of the Library at the Royal Academy for their help with this catalogue entry.