Fig 1 Charles John Holmes, The Red Ruin, Lucerne, 1906, 46 x 81, Private Collection
Samuel Shaw is right to remind us of the neglected Edwardian and inter-war landscape painter, Charles John Holmes. As a clever artist occupying panjandrum positions in the art world his work was arguably hidden in plain sight. Rediscovering his pictures is a bit like finding, years from now, that Sir Nicholas Serota had been quietly exhibiting all along in the New English Art Club.
Holmes began to show at the NEAC in 1900 and continued every year thereafter until his death in 1936. In the mid-eighteen-nineties he was ‘discovered’ by Charles Ricketts and Charles Haslewood Shannon, a ‘power couple’ in the art world who published his early essays in the little magazines with which they were associated. Short books followed on Hokusai (1899) and Constable (1902), with a perceptive account of contemporary collecting (1903). Continue reading
‘Saddleback from the South-West’ by C. J. Holmes, 1911 [Ashmolean Museum, Oxford]
A standard art-historical reaction to an artwork (especially one by a modern British artist) is to make it out as little more than the sum of its influences. This might be expressed in terms of a mathematical equation: a + a + a + b ÷ c = d, where a = another work of art/artist, b = subject represented, c = the sensibility of the artist/wider artistic context and d = the original art work. In the case of Charles Holmes’s painting, Saddleback from the South-West
, we could flesh that out as follows:
(a) Constable and English landscape painting + (a) Hokusai, Korin and Japanese prints + (a) Gauguin and Post-Impressionism + (b) The Lake District ÷ (c) Charles Holmes in 1911 = (d) Saddleback from the South-West.
Or, in visual form: Continue reading