Tag Archives: william rothenstein

Exhibition: Rothenstein’s Relevance


The exhibition ‘Rothenstein’s Relevance: Sir William Rothenstein and his Circle’ will open at the Ben Uri Gallery on Boundary Road in London on September 11th. It will be Ben Uri’s first exhibition on this hugely influential figure and is a partial tour of the Bradford exhibition, From Bradford to Benares: the art of Sir William Rothenstein (Cartwright Hall Gallery, 7 March – 12 July 2015), reconfigured for its London showing.

The exhibition comprises approximately 40 works including paintings, works on paper and archival material and aims to re-examine the significance, influence and continuing importance of Rothenstein’s artistic achievements. The exhibition will examine major themes from Rothenstein’s career including Jewish subjects, portraiture and figure studies (in Paris, London and Gloucestershire) and the First and Second World Wars. These will be contextualised by work on similar themes by a number of mostly younger contemporaries including Barnett Freedman, Mark Gertler, Eric Kennington, Jacob Kramer, Albert Rutherston and Alfred Wolmark, who were all either influenced directly by, or worked alongside, Rothenstein. Continue reading

From Bradford to Benares: William Rothenstein in Context

'The Browning Readers' by William Rothenstein, 1900

‘The Browning Readers’ by William Rothenstein, 1900

‘The recent memorial exhibition at the Tate Gallery of works by the late Sir William Rothenstein, held five years after his death, poses a problem that can no longer be avoided. Where exactly does Rothenstein stand in the account of English painting of the first quarter of this century?’ (Home Affairs Survey, August 15th 1950)

On March 14th, The Cartwright Hall Gallery in Bradford will hold a one-day symposium dedicated to the life and work of the artist Sir William Rothenstein (1872-1945), coinciding with the first major exhibition of his work since 1972. The discussion will focus on the question posed above: Where does Rothenstein fit within the narrative/s of late nineteenth and early twentieth century art?

Particular attention will be paid to a series of important cultural encounters that changed the direction of the artist’s life and work. These include: his early training in Paris, turn-of-the-century visits to Spain and Germany, years spent painting in the Jewish East End, his 1910 trip to India, interwar years living in rural Gloucestershire, experiences as a war artist in two World Wars, and his ongoing, sometimes fraught relationship with his home city, Bradford. Although Rothenstein’s life ‘beyond the easel’ will also be discussed (including his roles as critic, collector, patron, gallery-founder and professor), the main aim of the discussion, like the exhibition, will be to put the spotlight on his achievements as a painter, draughtsman and print-maker. Continue reading

Ten Restful Ladies (1900-1904)

Ambrose McEvoy, 'The Letter', c.1904

Ambrose McEvoy, ‘The Letter’, c.1904

‘For the past few years the New English Art Club has been dominated by the personalities of a few members who have made the domestic picture the dominant note of the club’s exhibitions. I do not mean the millinery-baby domestic picture of the Royal Academy, rather the home picture of the Dutch School. The explanation is simple enough. Mr. Orpen, Mr. Rothenstein, Mr. Russell, Mr. Muirhead have chosen to paint the rooms in which they live, and the choice and simple possessions that an artist gathers about him. This example of dogged hard work has been infectious’ (C L H, The Academy and Literature, Nov 15th, 1902)

In light of this review, and this short article, here is a selection of ten early Edwardian representations of the domestic interior (or, as Max Beerbohm once put it, ‘restful ladies in dim or sunny rooms’). All artists featured were regular exhibitors at the New England Art Club at the turn of the century.

Please feel free to put forward your own suggestions/favourites in the comments!

1. William Rothenstein, The Browning Readers, 1900

2. William Orpen, The Mirror, 1900

3. Henry Tonks, Rosamund and the Purple Jar, 1900

4. Philip Wilson Steer, Hydrangeas, 1901

5. Mary MacEvoy, Interior: Girl Reading, 1902

6. Francis Dodd, Afternoon in the Parlour, 1902

7. Ambrose McEvoy, The Letter, 1904

8. David Muirhead, Night Shadows, c.1900

9. Walter Sickert, La Nera, 1903

10. Harold Gilman, Grace Canedy, c.1904


The Last Word in Impossibility


‘Nude Study’ by William Orpen, 1906

‘…when I am not at portraits I am painting nudes […] and my word – can a nude ever go well – it seems to me the last word in impossibility. I struggle and struggle and the things get worse and worse – I spent the afternoon in the Louvre looking at Nudes and there are none in the least like a woman – Rembrandt’s seated one is of course a marvel – but its not like a woman – Manet’s nude after all is a poor show – as a woman – and Courbet’s one in the Louvre is a shocker – though I remember seeing photographs of some nude woman of his a long time ago which looked wonderful – Forgive me writing all this stuff – I’ll have a drink and forget it’ (William Orpen, letter to William Rothenstein, 22nd November 1921)

Leeds Talk: The Jewish and Yorkshire Identities of William Rothenstein


Crossing the Threshold: The Jewish and Yorkshire Identities of William Rothenstein

Talk by Dr. Samuel Shaw (University of York)

Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds

22 May 2013; 5.30-6.30pm

Using works featured in the exhibition, ‘Jewish Artists in Yorkshire’, this talk will explore the career of the influential British artist Sir William Rothenstein, who grew up in the large German-Jewish community based in nineteenth-century Bradford.

Though Rothenstein spent most of his career in London, he returned to Yorkshire frequently, and remained an important figure amongst Yorkshire-based artists, from Jacob Kramer to Henry Moore. He had, however, a complex relationship with his roots – one which extended to his Jewish identity.

Despite his liberal beliefs, which distanced him from many London-based Jews, between 1902-1908 he painted a series of works in the Jewish East End that would confirm him as one of the most important Anglo-Jewish artists of the period.

For more see the Leeds website.

Crinoline, Chenille Nets, and Pork-Pie Hats

Irene Vanburgh in 'Trelawny of the "Wells"', costume notes.

Irene Vanburgh in ‘Trelawny of the “Wells”‘, costume notes.

‘At last I have seen Pinero’s ‘Trelawny of the “Wells”’ and am not converted to crinoline, chenille nets, and pork-pie hats. How beauties in ‘the early sixties’ contrived to appear beautiful in such deforming costumes one is at a loss to imagine… The plot is slight, but interesting.’ (E E B. Harper’s Bazaar, April 30th 1898)

Arthur Wing Pinero’s almost-Edwardian play ‘Trelawny of the “Wells”’ is being revived by the film director Joe Wright at the Donmar Warehouse in London this month. First performed in 1898, it not only spawned an interest in 1860s’ fashions, but two paintings starring actresses Hilda Spong and Irene Vanburgh by leading artists Walter Sickert and William Rothenstein.

‘When Pinero’s Trelawny of the Wells was put on at the Court Theatre, I went with Sickert to see this enchanting piece. Here was a play which seemed written for our delight. What fun it all was; and how enchanting the costumes! And such a chance it provided that Sickert asked Miss Hilda Spong – a magnificent creature who acted a part – to sit for him; while I approached Irene Vanbrugh. Miss Vanbrugh took infinite trouble, and endured many sittings. Sickert had Miss Spong photographed, and from a small print and with few sittings he achieved a life-size portrait. Miss Vanbrugh’s portrait I sent to the first exhibition of the International Society.’ (William Rothenstein, Men and Memories, Vol I, p.335)

Sickert’s portrait, appropriately enough, was titled ‘The Pork Pie Hat: Hilda Spong in the Trelawny of the “Wells”’. See Wendy Baron, Sickert, Paintings and Drawings (New Haven 2006), p.215 for more information. See more on Hilda Spong here.

Composer, Lover, Enigma

Delius by Rothenstein

Frederick Delius, by William Rothenstein (1919)

On Friday 25th May the BBC will air a new documentary on the life of the influential composer, and key Edwardian cultural figure, Frederick Delius (1862-1934). This boldly titled programme – Frederick Delius: Composer, Lover, Enigma – aims to explore the ‘multiple contradictions of his colourful life’, not least the contentious issue of his British identity.

The programme also forms part of a wider celebration of Delius’s life and work, marking 150 years since his birth in Bradford. For a comprehensive list of events, including live performances of Delius’s work, please see the Delius Society website.