Saturday, March 8, 2014

THE GENIUS OF ROBERT LEE KEELING (born Baltimore c. 1864)

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Robert Lee Keeling was born in Baltimore, USA.  His father, Robert James Keeling, was a clergyman.  His mother was Elizabeth Bend Polk (1830-1874) and her son's miniature of her is now in the New York Historical Society Museum.  He had a sister, Rose, who married Stilson Hutchins, the founder of the Washington Post, and the couple became well known in the newspaper Society columns.   

By the time he was 16, Keeling's family had moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and the 1880 Census reveals that he was still at school at that time.  In June 1891 the New York Times reported that a sketch performed at the Lyceum Theatre called 'A Lesson in Acting' featured a young Robert Lee Keeling 'hitherto unheard of, was the real thing....'   Although Keeling started his career as a stage actor, by the time he was in his 30's he was a miniature painter of great repute.   It is not known where he trained as an artist.   

In  March 1893 the New York Times announced that Keeling was to marry Nannie Key Michell (nee Tyson), a widow some 20 years older than him, previously married to a wealthy auctioneer.

Keeling's reputation as a miniature painter soon took on near legendary status on both sides of the Atlantic.  American newspapers made much of his Royal commissions  to paint Queen Alexandra in 1901, and King Edward VII the following year.  He painted many a famous family in both Europe and America and gossip about his personal life featured in a clutch of newspapers in 1897, when his first wife, Nannie Key Keeling , from whom he was estranged, aged 'in her fifties', was found dead in her home.   Apparently the marriage was unhappy and the couple had soon separated, with Nannie living most of the time in New York and Keeling living in Washington.  Even the New York Times ran the story in its September 19th 1897 edition.

Keeling was a frequent visitor to England and exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1905. He mixed with the cream of society with families like the Vanderbilts and Stuyvesants and his comings and goings were dutifully recorded in the Social Pages - what parties he attended, where he was staying, who he was seeing.  




This miniature by him dated 1903 may possibly be his second wife, Caroline.  Originally in a gold frame and kept in its Tiffany leather travel case purchased from Bond Street, London, the suggestion is that it was painted in London.  The romantic and superb setting of the miniature attest to it being a gift of love.  








There were still newspaper reports of him living with Caroline Weldon in New York in 1910 but in January 1912, his personal life again became a 'cause celebre' when Caroline divorced him, citing that 'he had failed to provide her with the necessaries of life for the past year... and had deserted her'. Much was made of the fact that she was a great beauty.  Having been granted the divorce, tongues wagged again when she remarried with indecent haste.... to her lawyer.  





New York Times June 18th 1916 showing an image of a miniature by Keeling of Mrs. William A. Hamilton



The dodgy reputation did not appear to harm his career or his  ' invitability' and Keeling was still regularly appearing in the newspaper Social Columns, often accompanied by his married sister, Rose.  His frequent trips to Europe continued with a report in the New York Times October 7th 1922 announcing his recent return and giving his address as 135 East Thirty Fourth Street, New York, an address used by him for some years.  

Keeling miniatures are rare.  He signed his work 'Keeling' with a flashy flourish.  Please let us know if you have one of these miniatures as we would love to see more of his work.  





Saturday, March 1, 2014

MINIATURES BY ADA WHITING

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Although born in Tasmania, Ada Whiting's work appears to turn up just as frequently in England and America as in Australasia.  During her career as a photographic colourist and later as a miniature painter, Ada painted many of the foremost families of her time, both Australian and visiting British and American dignitaries from her Collins Street, Melbourne studio.  

Two charming portraits of the same sitter, Margaret 'Peggy' Woolrabe (1876-1909) recently came up for auction around the same time; one in Australia and one in England. Peggy Woolrabe, nee Leask, was born in Scotland and married Frederick William Woolrabe in 1902, an Edinburgh-trained doctor ten years her senior.  Peggy died tragically young and the two miniatures, one a head and shoulders and the other a three quarter portrait, were probably both painted after her death.







Ada Whiting usually signed her work in monogram, but it is often overlooked.




Several members of the prominent Ross-Soden family were painted by Ada Whiting around 1906. The miniatures of two charming daughters of Isabel Ross-Soden went out of the family and appeared in an Australian auction at Charles Leski on 30th March 2005.  Lots 84 and 85 at estimates of Aus. $300-400 and Aus.$400-600 failed to find buyers, despite looking so charming. 




 Their mother's portrait, too, Lot 82 and described as 'oil on card' was passed in.  The descendants of this family would love to know what happened to these miniatures.  







Tuesday, February 18, 2014

EARLY 20TH CENTURY PORTRAIT MINIATURES Miss Ann ('Annie') Underwood (1876-1942)

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There must be many miniatures from the early 20th Century hidden in drawers and boxes, and families have now forgotten which relatives they portray and haven't a clue who painted them... and so they end up in auctions labelled 'English' school!
Many of these are often initialled, and sometimes one can be lucky enough to find an exhibition label hidden behind the felt backing pad, which would reveal the name and address of the artist, and perhaps even the identity of the sitter.  It is always best to look!  Most of the frames from this era are the pinchbeck type with little pins holding everything together. 





Faced with this monogram signature,  how many would guess it is AU 1913 with the year divided around the initials?  This is the work of Ann Underwood. 







Although this lady is not a beauty, the miniature is exceptionally well painted, in the traditional way, on ivory.

Ann Underwood lived and worked in Brighton.  She studied initially in Brighton and then under the famously blunt Sir Hubert Herkomer in Bushey, Herts.  Her father was a publican but she preferred the description 'Hotel Proprietor'.  She exhibited at the Royal Academy and Royal Miniature Society from 1911 - c1932.  (details from Dictionary of Miniature Painters 1870-1970 ISBN 9782953662511).






A later miniature by this artist, again with the same monogram, shows an exquisite painting of a young girl, in one of the hardest poses to 'pull off', painted on ivorine c. 1932 









The label on the reverse reveals a price tag of £950!  A veritable fortune in those days!!

A few miniatures by this exceptional artist have appeared for sale in the last couple of years - perhaps you have one tucked away in YOUR attic?  










Tuesday, February 4, 2014

HUGH NICHOLSON - AN IMMENSELY TALENTED WANDSWORTH ARTIST (1865-1932?)

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Hugh Nicholson was born in 1865 in Wandsworth, London.  His mother was Elizabeth Waterer and his father was David Nicholson, a locally well- known and initially very successful builder.  Little is known of Hugh's early life, other than his parents appeared to split up following the financial difficulties with his father's building firm, and then his father's early death.








Mrs. Charlotte Augusta Goodday (nee Field) (1817-1902)
Wife of Dr. Horatio Goodday, Surgeon and Author

Painted on Porcelain c.1890

By 1871 Hugh's mother and siblings had moved to 5 Middleton Terrace, Merton Road, Wandsworth, London.  

Twenty years later, Hugh was working as an artist/miniature painter and living at 8 Thurleigh Road, Balham.
It is a mystery why work by this brilliant artist does not come to light.  He appears to have always signed his work on the front and used his full name rather than a monogram.  He was a founding member of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters and exhibited at their exhibitions and elsewhere.







Mrs. W G Pirrie dated 1896
(the year Hugh emigrated to the USA)

Through his sister, Florence, he was uncle to 'Miss Marple' actress, Margaret Rutherford.


Like a number of accomplished Brit artists of the time, In 1896 he emigrated to America, where his work - miniatures in particular - would command a much higher price.  He settled in Baltimore, Maryland at one time living at No. 415 and later No. 417 West Fayette Street.


At some point after 1911, he returned to England, and was thought to have settled in Brighton, Sussex.  It seems likely that he died in Brighton in 1932 at 14a Stone Street, at the time a converted 'fly' stables and since then, a listed building.  It is thought that he was practicing as an artist and photographer. 

  


If you have a miniature by this artist, or members of your family lived nearby,  we would love to hear from you.



Wednesday, December 4, 2013

MUST SEE, MUST SEE!

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The WARTS AND ALL Exhibition is an historic exhibition of works by the 17th Century Master, Samuel Cooper, and his contemporaries, held at the Philip Mould Gallery in Dover Street, London W.1.  Arranged in a museum-like setting within the Gallery, this superb exhibition is curated by Emma Rutherford, their in-house miniature specialist.  


Although none of the exhibits is for sale, there is an extensive range of miniatures for sale from the gallery’s own collection.


The exhibition runs until 7th December, and is open 10.00-5.00p.m. and on Saturday 12 – 4.00p.m.  Entrance is free.


For those unable to go, there is an accompanying catalogue featuring all the miniatures on display with a lot of additional information – more of a reference book than a catalogue, it is available from Philip Mould at £25 (www.philipmould.com). 





Monday, October 21, 2013

2013 RMS Exhibition - Two for One!

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The Exhibition was opened by the Rt. Hon. Michael Portillo who did a wonderful job and set the pace for the first exciting few days.

An extra bonus is the retrospective exhibition of miniatures by Michael Bartlett PVPRMS (1922-2008), curated by the well known art critic, Anthony Lester.  This gives a fascinating insight into Michael's life with some of his famous 'soldier' miniatures on show, which he loved painting and made something of a speciality. 

  
With an exceptionally high standard of entrants, there are many 'highlights', but  here are a few of our favourites.  If you happen to be in London, why not go and see for yourself?  





Francesca Resta by Pauline Denyer Baker (no. 211)







The Cape Gooseberry by Benjamin Hope (No. 333)




Lady in a Bird Hat by Markissia Touliatos (no. 511)





Mrs. Jill Stevenson by Elizabeth Meek (no. 391)





Val by Elizabeth Meek (no. 391)





Garganey Drake by Philip Nelson (no. 41)


The Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers Annual Exhibition runs from 15th October to 27th October, open 10am to 5 pm daily and closing at 1 pm on the final day.  Entrance is free.
  If you happen to be in London, why not go and see for yourself?  You might pick up some wonderful and original early Christmas presents or some fantastic, unique and well priced Christmas cards from a large selection.


Friday, February 8, 2013

European Portrait Miniatures - Conference in Celle

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The Fifth Exhibition of the Tansey Collection was opened on 25th
January 2013 in Celle, Germany at the wonderful Bomann Museum. 




Bomann Museum






At the
same time, an International Conference was held at the nearby Celle
Castle Residence Museum, open to all, free of charge, through the
generosity of Mrs. and Mrs. Tansey. 




Celle Castle


The couple live in Celle, Mrs.
Tansey's home town, although her husband is American.  They have been
collecting miniatures for over 30 years.  In 1997 they created a
Foundation to preserve their collection and make it available for
anyone to see, either physically at the Bomann Museum or online in
English at www.miniaturen-tansey.de/en.





Mr And Mrs Tansey (on the left) attending the conference


Celle is an ancient town in Lower Saxony, filled with timber framed
houses and dominated by the grand Celle Castle.  It has a population
of about 71,000.  The romantic setting of the castle, almost
surrounded by water, was frozen and children were skating on the ice.





With freezing temperatures of -11C and below in Celle itself, Europe
was gripped in an icy hand and participants swapped horror stories of
delayed travel, with one of the speakers stuck for two hours on the
runway, whilst the wings of the aeroplane were de-iced manually by a
man with a scraper on the equivalent of a hydraulic stepladder!  He
arrived in the early hours of the morning.

The Conference was packed with miniature enthusiasts, curators,
conservators, art historians and other specialists and the atmosphere
was very exciting, as participants were able to hear presentations
from some of the most knowledgeable experts in the world and see
images of collections not readily available to the public.  It was
also an occasion to meet and talk to others with a shared interest in
miniatures during the many opportunities during the two days of the
Conference.  The event was brilliantly organized by the well known art
historian/conservator/author Bernd Pappe, Juliane Schmieglitz-Otten,
Head of the Residence Museum at Celle Caste, and Dr. Gerrit Walczak,
Art Historian, Berlin.  Bernd and Juliane wrote the beautiful
catalogue 'Miniatures from the Time of Marie Antoinette in the Tansey
Collection' to accompany the Fifth Exhibition,  which helpfully
includes an English translation.
This book can be ordered online from the Tansey website or from Amazon
and is also available from large bookstores.







The papers from the Conference will be published later this year and
will be available to purchase.