OULESS (Walter William, 1848-1933, Portrait Painter, RA. 1881)

Fascinating series of 27 Autograph Letters Signed to Frank F. Mewburn, (born 1820 or 1821, Solicitor & Collector, of Larchfield, Darlington), and 1 autograph envelope, with many insights into the values of a fine young artist, his growing portrait practice, (including Charles Darwin's, 1875), good and bad hanging at the R.A., many comments on older painters including Holman Hunt and what his own contemporaries are doing, leisure snatched in a busy life, and the effect of London fog, with much gratitude for Mewburn's continuous support and introductions to his friends in the North, often in racy language, "I am sorry the portraits seem to them cross looking but all my portraits are more or less so. I cannot do the smile fearing a smirk ... I am furious at their hanging my Chemist above the line and that odious Mayor of Newcastle on the line ... I was delighted to receive your kind congratulations" (on being elected A.R.A.), with a Checklist of extracts, 146 sides 8vo, the envelope from Utrecht, 1st October 1880, the letters nearly all from 43 Bloomsbury Square, London, 1872-1875, 1877 & first 4 sides only present of 2 letters, some cross-writing (easily read), some a trifle dusty but generally in good condition

1. 20th November 1872. 43 Bloomsbury Square, London. Thanking Mewburn "for again interesting yourself so kindly on my behalf" and discussing Mewburn's suggestion of painting Mr Barmingham of Darlington, once he has got further for the next Academy submission in April, and of painting Edmund Backhouse, (1824-1906, Banker & M.P. for Darlington), as a companion to Macbeth's portrait, extolling the virtues of 50" x 40" against "full-length ... with our confounded modern costume" at a much higher price. 7 sides 8vo.
2. 1st December 1872. Expressing his regret at the "alarming attack of illness" of Mrs Mewburn, (Mewburn's mother Elizabeth), he yet hopes he "may be able to do something that would afford you pleasure" and will be delighted to paint Mr Backhouse. 4 sides 8vo.
3. 14th December 1872. Thanking him for the photograph of Mewburn's father (Francis, Promoter and Solicitor, 1819-1828, of the Stockton & Darlington Railway), but explaining in great detail why a posthumous portrait would be unsatisfactory, "the colour, the freshness and vigour of each touch and all the little accidents which working from nature enable me to get ... can never be got from a photograph", asking in a P.S. "May I keep the Carte of your father? ... It is so full of strong character". 7 sides 8vo.
4. 4th April 1873. His picture "was not finished enough to send in ... a succession of infernal fogs ... clean knocked me out ... I shall make a very much finer thing of it", but it was "deuced hard lines", he will "turn it to the wall" and have a week "down to the coast and through the New Forest", he had a Private View of John Phillips' pictures - by Jingo for ... strength of colour they lick all modern work out and out". and praising 'old Marks' pictures" in similar language. 6 sides 8vo.
5. 30th April 1873. "You will be glad to hear I am well hung at the R.A. - three in No. 1 and one on the line in No. 2", he talks enthusiastically of their placing and of members' compliments, "I tell you all this unhesitatingly", Mewburn's "kind interest ... makes me feel sure you will be 'joyous in my joy'", he is giving his large picture 'Love & Duty' a rest. 4 sides 8vo.
6. 6th May 1873. "That notice in Saturdays Times was ... a jolly good lift.- for what Tom Taylor writes must influence thousands", talking of the Macbeth family's submissions, "This R.A. business is a terrible lottery", he regrets "the unpleasantness between yourself and Marks", to see Haddon Hall one day "is one of my dreams", he describes the visit of Jozef Israëls (1824-1911), "I started him with palette and brushes and in an instant he was off ... he is about the size of a tin-tack and somewhat of a similar shape .. he bangs away like a blacksmith ... though a severe doctor his suggestions were most valuable". 8 sides 8vo.
7. 20th June 1873. Thanking him "more in thought with all my heart than I can in writing" for the "kind letter and the papers", but saying of Mewburn's article in the 'Northern Echo' that he fears "friendship has led you into too much warmth at the Sacrifice of discretion", explaining that the Lord Chancellor's commission is not yet decided and "the proposed pendant to George Grote ... has fallen through ... I am not a modest man but ... I have a half-guilty feeling" reading "such a eulogy ... too evidently that of a friend", he knows he can talk to Mewburn "straight from the shoulder", with more on the 'pendant' portrait and his current work "entre nous". 6 sides 8vo.
8. 8th August 1873. Part letter, explaining why he has delayed Backhouse's portrait following his return from Paris, but will begin at the M.P.'s "earliest convenience". First 4 sides 8vo.
9. 13th October 1873. On further commissions via Newburn, "You work for artists like one of us as I am proud to think you are. I am sure Walker and Stacey ... could not be in better hands ... Radcliffe Walker ... will get on all right ... and increase in wisdom though he may have ceased ... in stature. It takes long sometimes for 'art-students' to realize that it is a difficult art - and long - and time is fleeting". 6 sides 8vo.
10. 20th October 1873. Arranging to meet Mewburn and dine with Mr and Mrs Charlesworth (of Chapelthorpe Hall, near Wakefield), and if possible begin their sittings. 4 sides 8vo.
11. 2nd November 1873. Part letter, "Pray do not trouble about ordering a frame for my little landscape ...", at "the Deschamps exhibition" (Charles William, 1848-1908, art dealer), he saw again "several pictures that were in the Salon this year. Your Antony Serres pictures are excellent. Coming out I ran into a Darlington man Mr John Morrell", and saying he prefers talking of sitters as "victims" to Mewburn's "patients" or "clients". First 4 sides 8vo.
12. 7th November 1873. Arts Club, Hanover Square. "You will be delighted to know Symons has got his money from Padwick ... the Academy paper he had signed was one too many for him", he begins "Captain Gassiot's picture" (Sebastian, 1841-1902, brother of connoisseur Charles) "tomorrow and Mrs. Gassiot's on Monday ...". 4 sides 8vo.
13. 19th November 1873. 43 Bloomsbury Square. Asking how he might explain to Mrs Charlesworth, whose invitation for Christmas he had "impulsively accepted", that "my people in Jersey are very much cut up ... I have not been to Jersey for a very long time ... I blame myself ... for having forgotten ... I hope it can be managed without ... appearing ungracious". 7 sides 8vo.
14. 9th December 1873. "The last week has been fearfully dark ... and there is a fog on ... work is quite out of the question ... It may clear ... but I do not expect Mrs Charlesworth unless it should ... Holman Hunt's picture" ('The Shadow of Death', showing Christ and His mother in the carpenter's shop, begun in Jerusalem in 1870), "is a great subject of conversation - but ... it belongs to a style I do not much sympathize with ... If that style is right a great many great painters must be wrong ...". 4 sides 8vo.
15. 14th December 1873. "Yesterday" with the fog "I shut up shop and went for a long walk ... northwards - it was very fine and bright as soon as I got to Highgate" even though friends there told him it was "the dullest day ... all week! ... Was Miss Maggie Cox a student in my time?", and praising "the decoration" in Marks' sketches as "his strong suit". 4 sides 8vo.
16. 23rd March 1874. "My picture has unfortunately had to be again shunted" owing to "a commission which Millais sent me to paint the Mayor of Newcastle ... I was then recovering from a sprained ancle" and then "at last I heard from Lord Selborne", reporting progress on other portraits, "Captain Gassiot's ... must be entirely recommenced for he has shaved off his beard and moustache", that of the President of the London Salvage Corps will have a small replica "which entre nous I will give to Stacey to start for me ...". 6 sides 8vo.
17. 2nd May 1874. "The R.A. excitement is over now for the present. I am all right, all in and three on the line ... My Manchester lawyer is where Millais' Mrs Heugh was. The Chancellor where Paget was two years ago", and talking of Millais, Pettie, and Tadema as "very strong" and Marks and Hodgson as "very good ... Fildes' picture will be a great success ...", and talking of employing the engraver James Faed (1820-1911). 6 sides 8vo.
18. 27th May 1874. He has been away "on the Thames, rowing - .. very jolly ... notwithstanding the heat ...", and discussing fitting in Mr Charlesworth for an hour when next in town before Ouless goes to Paris, he is exceeding sorry Mr Charlesworth is displeased at having been "looked over" earlier but Ouless only finished work for the Academy "by the skin of my teeth" and hopes he might understand. 6 sides 8vo.
19. 29th June 1874. "When I tell you I have been having three sitters a day you will understand .. However, many of my sitters will be going away soon and I shall be more free", he will gladly alter "anything really amiss" in Mr Charlesworth's portrait, "they should have it with them at home for a while and try to discover what it is that is wrong", he discusses "the Pamphlet" which will "not do much towards righting the grievances of outsiders", addressed as it is "to seven R.A.s" making "so many others conspicuous by their absence", he names eight such "and other undoubted good men. Then its admiration of Holman Hunt's portrait is. I think a weakness, though generally its attacks are aimed in the right direction", promising to let Mewburn know its author when he finds out, some photographs "Barnard and I had done were ... spoiled with touching up. He had a moustache where none was, and my wrinkles, moles and other eccentricities were all smashed off". 6 sides 8vo.
20. 11th September 1874. Busbridge Hall, Godalming. Talking of his many travels for commissions, and progress on others, "I am taking no regular holiday this year but going away for a few days at a time ... Saturday to Monday". 4 sides 8vo.
21. 18th October 1874. 43 Bloomsbury Square. "I am still busy but can screw time out of the next ten days to finish three of the Chapelthorpe portraits ... though someone comes every day ... Thank Goodness I was not near Regent's Park. Many painters have suffered dreadfully" (from the explosion of gunpowder and petroleum on the barge 'Tilbury' on 2nd October). 6 sides 8vo.
22. 23rd Ocrober 1874. "I shall be here on Sunday morning, hard at work, and glad to see you if you are strolling about and not afraid of my stairs", and if not then or Monday "on Tuesday 7.45 at the Conservative", with a P.S. about "a presentation to Mr Bouverie ... one of the most delightful sitters I have had". 4 sides 8vo.
23. 28th October 1874. Suggesting Saturday for tickets to the Prince of Wales's Theatre, as he may be meeting his brother at Liverpool from North America on the Friday, he has "put in the eye-glass" in Mr Charlesworth's portrait, "I am sorry the portraits seem to them cross looking but all my portraits are more or less so. I cannot do the smile fearing a smirk ... Sometimes they look grave and even serious". 4 sides 8vo.
24. 29th April 1875. "I am furious at their hanging my Chemist above the line and that odious Mayor of Newcastle on the line ... I asked him to let me off my promise as I was sending so many in but he had not the grace ... I am sure my Chemist is my best portrait and it is the least well hung", going into details, "Marks' is one above the line in No. 1, [Charles] Darwin in No. 2 but well hung ... my little child (4 years old)" is "on the line in No. 5 room ... a daughter of Lord Dunraven ... I ran over ... to Ireland for 5 days to finish the portrait. Scotchmen abound at the R.A. Faed and Pettie being hangers. Macs all over the shop ... The Members are generally feeble except Millais ... Miss Thompson is very good altogether but bad in colour & poor in light & shade ... Stacey is skied ...". 8 sides 8vo.
25. 3rd August 1875. "I fear I shall have to take advantage of your kind offer to let me off the Backhouse portrait ... very reluctantly, and not ... because of the difference between the 'honorarium' of two years ago and ... now ... I shall still consider myself under promise ... but your suggestion of Mr. Scholderer" (Otto, 1834-1902), "seems ... excellent", he is thinking of sending Marks' portrait to Liverpool and Pochin's to Manchester, now they are back from the R.A. 5 sides 8vo.
26. 2nd February 1877. "I was delighted to receive your kind congratulations" on being elected A.R.A., "and am ever grateful to you", in addition "to my work ... absorbing at this time of year I have had to call on R.A.s, and have about 200 letters to answer ...". 6 sides 8vo.
27. 28th May 1884. 12 Bryanston Square, London, W. "I have been abroad for a short holiday ... I am so distressed to hear your sale was not more successful ... the best things ... so thrown away ... I shall always remember" Mrs Mewburn "with a sincere appreciation, the kind interest she took in my progress", hoping to "come to Darlington some time this year ... the [R.A.] Exhibition is interesting ... but ... dreadfully disappointing ... Pictures ... so closely packed cannot be seen fairly, and skied pictures are not only ... wickedly wasted but they injure the others. If we, every one of us, only sent two pictures each" with "one row above 'the line' we should have finer work, and more instructive Exhibitions". 6 sides 8vo.
28. 1st October 1880. Postmarked Utrecht. Autograph envelope to F. Mewburn.

Item Date:  1884

Stock No:  54691      £775

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