[ British Artist ] The papers of Robin Wallace (1897-1952), twentieth-century Westmoreland landscape painter
Robin Wallace (1897-1952) was a well-known British painter in oils and watercolours, particularly noted for his landscapes. He was born in Kendal, Westmoreland, descended from a long line of hand-loom weavers. After working for local nurserymen, he served in the Royal Marines in the First World War. Soon after the war he set off for London, where he showed his work to Vicat Cole, principal of the Byam Shaw Vicat Cole School of Art in Kensington, who offered to teach him for nothing. His scholarship was renewed until 1926, the year of his first show, at the Rembrandt Gallery in Liverpool. This was followed by a highly-successful exhibition at Barbizon House in London, whose proprietor, Croal Thompson, was, as Wallace's obituarist 'J. S. N.' states, 'the leading London dealer of his day: he was the man who had introduced successfully the French impressionists to Glasgow and to London, so the quality of the backing was important and nearly every painting was sold. This exhibition was followed by another - also at Barbizon House. From that time representative work by Robin Wallace was generally to be seen each season in the galleries of a few London dealers and in organised exhibitions like the Royal Academy. [...] The war closed Robin Wallace's career as a painter for eight years. [...] It was in this period that he followed Vanessa Bell at Langford Grove. Later he worked at the Channing School in Highgate, London. [...] For the last two years, in the intervals of teaching and completing a small number of portrait commissions, Robin Wallace had been accumulating work for another one-man show in conjunction with Colnaghi's, of Bond Street. The exhibition was a substantial success and half the paintings were sold. The effort had been too much: a week later he collapsed, lay for a few weeks, tired and resting, and then died. [...] His work is in many of the national and provincial collections, including the British Museum, the Welsh National Collection, the Rutherston Collection, Manchester, and he was a member of the Royal Society of British Artists. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1922, and at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, the Royal Institute of Watercolour Painters, and with the Lake Artists' Society.The present collection of around 120 items provides fund of valuable information regarding the London mid-Twentieth Century art scene, from the point of view of a talented landscape painter rooted within the English tradition, on the verge of achieving his potential at the time of his death. Of particular interest is the material relating to the Barbizon House art dealers David Croal Thomson (1855-1930) and his son Lockett Thomson Barbizon House and the art historian James Byam Shaw (1903-1992) of Colnaghi's. Among the other correspondence are letters by Wallace's teacher Reginald Rex Vicat Cole (1870-1940), the artist and President of the RSBA John Copley (1875-1950), the Scottish artist and lithographer Archibald Standish Hartrick (1864-1950), Slade Professor Reginald Gleadowe (1888-1944), Keeper of Prints at the British Museum Arthur Mayger Hind (1880-1957), and landscape artist and etcher Oliver Hall (1869-1957). Wallace receives a fan letter from the Scottish artist Emily Murray Paterson (1855-1934), and is admonished by Cole for considering not attending his own private view. There are also testimonials by Cole, Hartrick and Hall, supporting Wallace's application for the post of drawing master at the Ruskin College in Cambridge, together with a letter from John Arthur Ruskin Munro (1864-1944), Rector of Lincoln College, explaining the reasons for rejecting Wallace's application. Among the other material is an autobiographical account by Wallace, and material, including catalogues and newspaper reviews, relating to shows at the Rembrandt Gallery in Liverpool, Barbizon House and Colnaghi's. Also of interest is the correspondence of James Stewart Nicoll (1896-1985), relating to his attempt to promote Wallace in the north of England.The collection is in fair condition, with light signs of age and wear.The following description is divided into:A. Letters to WallaceB. Wallace's show at the Rembrandt Gallery, Liverpool, 1926C. Barbizon House, 1928-1940D. Ruskin Drawing School application, 1929E. Royal Society of British Artists, 1948-1952F. P. & D. Colnaghi, 1949-1952.G. Westmoreland material, 1922-1953H. Miscellaneous notes and drafts by WallaceI. Artworks and photographs by various handsJ. Miscellaneous material--A. Letters to WallaceONE: Rex Vicat Cole (for whom see Oxford DNB). Three ALsS to Wallace, the first two (1919 and 1929) on letterheads of the Byam Shaw and Vicat Cole School of Art, Kensington, the third (undated) J. Miscellaneous material J. Miscellaneous material letter on letterhead of 9 Hillsleigh Road, Campden Hill. In the first (undated) letter Cole writes: 'We should like to offer you a scholarship here (I mean no fees) for 6 months. I believe it would help you to draw & to see the best pictures. Whaht do you say?'. He intends to show Wallace's drawings to 'the man who writes the articles in the "Studio"', and asks what price he should ask for them. The second letter (16 January 1919) begins: 'We are glad you can come up, & shall be pleased for you to begin as soon as you like.' He continues by discussing Wallace's drawings and the price of London lodgings. In the third letter (undated, but presumably from the time of Wallace's 1930 Brabizon show) Cole writes: 'Dear Robin | I have been told you think of not being at your Private View. | As your old tutor I shall be very disappointed if I do not see you there, and I am sure your friends will expect you also. | I very much hope you will change your mind and be there from the opening hour until the close and that Marion will be with you in the afternoon. | You can be proud of your show, and it may help sales your being present.' Also present is a printed cart for an 'Exhibition of Students' Work' at the School, without year but presumably Wallace's degree show, with ANS by Cole on the reverse: 'Int still life Painting judged by Sir David Murray RA PR.I | Wallace | All good luck to you | Rex Vicat Cole'.TWO: Reginald Gleadowe, Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford. ALS to Wallace. 13 May 1929. Writing that he has recommended him for the position of art master at Eastbourne College.THREE: Archibald Standish Hartrick. ALS, 1930, and ACS, 1937. Both from 75 Clancarty Road, Parson's Green, Fulham. In the letter (2pp., 8vo, closely written) he expresses approval of the work in Wallace's 1930 Barbizon Exhibition: 'I think you have improved remarkably since I last looked at your work - they have got more definite meaning, as if you had something to say of your own & were saying it with some confidence.' He proceeds to give a detailed analysis of the exhibition.FOUR: Arthur Mayger Hind, Keeper of Prints at the British Museum. Three ALsS, 1937, 1940 and 1946. The first on letterhead of the Contemporary Art Society Print Fund, the other two from the British Museum. Three letters of encouragement (the last two addressed to 'My dear Robin'), with Hind buying a piece of Wallace's and describing his efforts to sell another to 'Mr Smart of Tooth & Son (Bruton St)'FIVE: James Stewart Nicoll (1896-1985). Twelve TLsS (one incomplete) and two ALsS, 1939 and 1940. Most on letterheads of Far Park, Staveley, Kendal. Totalling 22pp. Working as chief accountant with the firm of Somervell Brothers, was founder of the 'K Shoes' brand. From his correspondence he appears to have assisted Wallace by dealing his paintings in Westmoreland. The thirteen letters give meticulous information regarding the sales, with other advice, encouragement and assistance. On 11 December 1939 he gives a list of five purchasers, adding: 'I have a number of other people interested, but before I can make much further progress I will need some more drawings. | I want you to go through all your old drawings and pick out any there may be that are easy. As you can see, the record to date is that the cheaper ones are sold and the easier ones are sold. In general, drawings I have left are just a little too advanced for Westmoreland.' Postscript to same letter: 'I forgot to add that Mrs. Derek Willink said three guineas was too little for the Looe drawing and that resulted in an Auction with Alfred as the under-bidder at £5 and Derek the buyer at five guineas.' On 18 December 1939 he gives financial advice: 'I don't know if you have ever paid Income Tax, but it occurs to me that if you have you have probably paid too much. As a painter with a studio you are entitled to very considerable expense charges. [...]' On 29 December 1939, he describes a meeting with Sir Samuel Scott, who 'fell for your etchings but was frankly flummoxed by your drawings [...] It ended with Scott buying a couple of etchings and agreeing to commission a drawing or a painting for £20 to be given to the town'. On 11 March 1940 he describes the circumstances of his sale of one of the watercolours of the architect Raymond McGrath [(1903-1977)]. On 11 June 1940 he thanks Wallace, on behalf of his wife Lysbeth and himself, for 'a lovely painting [...] I know you have sent it to us with your love and we send you very much love for the happiness you have given us.SIX: Herbert Stuart Pakington (1883-1962), 4th Baron Hampton. Two ALsS to Wallace. Both on House of Lords letterheads, and one as from the Old Stables, Strawberry Vale, Twickenham. 18 and 25 March 1952. Regarding his invitation for Wallace and his wife to lunch with him at the House of Lords ('I have asked an old friend of mine to make a fourth. She is Mrs. Nation, widow of a General Nation'), Wallace's show at Colnaghi, a debate on foreign affairs, and a painting tip from Wallace.SEVEN: Emily Murray Paterson (1855-1934), Scottish artist. ALS to Wallace. On letterhead of 5A Warwick Avenue, London. 18 November . 2pp., 12mo. She was 'so charmed' by the show at Barbizon House that she meant to write and congratulate him. 'I don't know whether you are young or old, but your work charmed me, & especially one of tulips, & I know from experience, how one likes to be told if work pleases.' She feels that from his name he 'ought to be Scotch', and writes that she also paints 'Flower & Landscape, as you see from the enclosed card, [not present] but I doubt if you will have time to see my show before it closes on Friday'. Also letters from: Wallace's father ('Dad'); Westmoreland artist Graham Hoggarth; the wood engraver Ethelbert White (1891-1972); Julian S. Lousada; O. Furnival Jones of the Channing School (at which Wallace was art master, regarding a donated painting of his); Phillip J. Martin (regarding his magazine 'Fugue'); the designer Michael Wickham (1909-1995); Ina Mary Harrower; Kenneth G. Hollebone; 'Hubert
'; 'Elizabeth'; and a postcard by 'Matthew'.B. Wallace's show at the Rembrandt Gallery, Liverpool, 1926. Four items relating to Wallace's first show, at Charles Walker & Co.'s Rembrandt Gallery, 4 Fazakerley Street, Liverpool, in 1926. Comprising the catalogue, an invitation card, and cuttings of reviews from the Liverpool Post and Liverpool Echo.C. Barbizon House, 1928-1940. ONE: Printed catalogue for Wallace's first London show, at Barbizon House on November and December 1930. Inscribed by Wallace ('Robin') with the date 19 November 1930, and containing five newspaper cuttings of reviews: the Sunday Observer ('Konody', finding Wallace's paintings 'somehow akin to Thomas Hardy's writings'), Sunday Times ('Frank Rutter'), the Lady (with illustration), Westmoreland Gazette, Yorkshire Post (titled 'In the Constable Tradition'). Also a cutting from the Observer, reproducing a drawing of Corfe Castle. The catalogue's foreword, by Gui St Bernard, ends: 'Several of the exhibits suggest a mature and sophisticated author, whereas Mr. Wallace was born in Kendal, Westmoreland, only in 1897. He is a new exhibitor, but is not without keen collectors whose number will surely increase.' TWO: Printed catalogue for show by Wallace at Barbizon House, November 1934. Inscribed by him ('Robin'). THREE: Printed invitation cards to the 1930 and 1934 shows, the second made out by Wallace to 'Mr. & Mrs. R Everson'. The following 19 items (grouped Four to Nine) are all on Barbizon House letterheads. FOUR: TLS from D. Croal Thomson to Wallace, 18 December 1928: 'I have been told by Mr. Julian Lousada [solicitor and prominent art collector] that you have some pictures you would like to let me see and when it is convenient for you to bring one or two examples I shall be pleased to look at them. I may say that, generally speaking, paintings in oil are more acceptable to my clientele than water colours.' FIVE: Eleven TLsS from Lockett Thomson to Wallace, 1930 to 1932. Four of the letters relate to the November/December 1930 show, with Lockett Thomson stating the terms (dates, list, invitation card, catalogue, prices, pictures, etchings, commission, expenses, frames) and discussing sales. On 10 October 1930 he states that the firm have 'practically arranged for Mr. Gui St. Bernard to write your Foreword and I feel that he will do it excellently. He is also an Art Critic for some of the newspapers. | I also feel that Mr. Rutter has written for us so often that it would be better to make a change. Mr. Bernard is ringing up on Tuesday to make arrangements to see the pictures in the studio.' Other letters concern purchases by 'Mrs. Lindley Scott', 'Miss Tindal' and Preston Art Gallery, with Thomson explaining sales terms. The first of Lockett Thomson's letters carries a pencil note, not by him, regarding 'the trade mark of Barbizon House.' SIX: ALS from Lockett Thomson to Wallace. 19 October 1934. 4pp., 12mo. Having been entertained to tea at the Wallaces, he writes: 'I enjoyed our talk and appreciate your interest and good wishes in my affairs. Friendship is a tremendous help and I know you also have experienced the shadows. | Its a great blessing that sunshine always follows for those who are sincere. [...] My love to the little girl with a large name, Elizabeth'. He ends by wishing Wallace good luck for his November 1934 show. SEVEN: Unsigned itemised statement of account for Wallace's show at Barbizon House, November and December, 1930. In manuscript. Dated 8 January 1931. EIGHT: Four TLsS to Wallace from Arthur Buck of Barbizon House, 1929-1931. Buck writes regarding: 'a client who is considerably interested in your work', the sale of two of Wallace's paintings, 'The River Swale' and 'Grange Bridge, Borrowdale' ('it is pleasant to think that its new owner, who already has one of your paintings, is as enthusiastic about it as I am!'). NINE: TLS to Wallace from Percy W. Salter of Barbizon House, 1931, and ALS from Salter to Wallace's wife. In the latter (19 March 1940) he writes: 'The Director of the National Museum of Wales, who purchased Robin's drawing, asked me to write a little account of the artist. I fear I am very short of facts beyond the date & place of his birth. Can you help me in the matter. Robin refuses to blow his own trumpet.'D. Ruskin Drawing School application, 1929. Material relating to Wallace's application for the post of Drawing Master at the Ruskin Drawing School in Oxford. ONE: Envelope carrying note by Wallace, 'Testimonials and papers re Ruskin Master of drawing Oxford. May 1929.' Containing testimonials by Vicat Cole, Oliver Hall and A. G. Hartwick. Cole states (23 March 1929) that he has 'known Mr Wallace intimately for over twelve years. He was brought to my notice as a lad, and on seeing his admirable drawings of plants & flowers I gave him a scholarship [...] He fulfilled my expectations and passed through the school with distinction. Since then he has steadily gained ground in his art every year. [...]' Hall writes (21 March 1928 [sic]) that he is 'an admirer of his work. He is a man of stirling [sic] character, & to be relied upon for conscientious work, both as a teacher & water colour painter.' Hartwick writes on 23 March 1929: 'I have known Robin Wallace for five or six years. He worked in my class at the Byam Shaw & Vicat Cole School, when I was teaching there, for two or three years. He is a competent figure draughtsman and from the first showed he has a real instinct for handling paint. Since leaving school, he has devoted himself mostly to landscape painting, for which he has a real call, both in oil & water colour: building rather on the traditions of the English school, Richard Wilson & Constable.' He feels Wallace has 'the right sort of confidence'. TWO: Three ALsS from John Arthur Ruskin Munro (1864-1944), Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford. The first two concern the details of Wallace's application. The third (14 May 1929) offers consolation on the failed application: 'Let me repeat, that the Trustees were much impressed by your work, and very seriously considered you for the Mastership. You were unfortunate in having to meet so formidable a competitor as Albert Rutherston, and that qualifications other than artistic had to be taken into account in making the appointment. I am confident you have a future before you in which you will "make good", and I shall follow your achievements with interest.' THREE: Three ALsS from Adolph Max Langdon (1861-1949). Informing Wallace of the vacancy and providing advice and encouragement. Two written out for him by his daughter Beatrice Langdon (one of them incomplete), and one with a postscript by her. FOUR: ALS to Wallace from Hartrick. FIVE: ALS to Wallace from Ian Robertson of the Ashmolean Museum. SIX: Publicity leaflet regarding the Ruskin Drawing School, with cutting regarding the Henry Francis Pelham Studentship, 1929.E. Royal Society of British Artists, 1948-1952. Three items, all on the Society's letterheads. ONE: John Copley (for whom see Oxford DNB), President. ALS inviting Wallace to join the Society 'without the paraphernalia of election'. January 1948. 'The R.B.A. has its own special function, not to stand for any cult but to represent the whole broad front of English art, from the extreme right to the extreme left; so that our exhibitions, at any given moment, shall be the epitome of the best painting being done.' TWO: ALS to Wallace's wife from Hesketh Hubbard. 'I am very distressed to hear that your husband is dangerously ill in hospital and that he is likely to be an invalid all summer. [...] His exhibition, which I thought was excellent, I do hope was a success from every point of view.' THREE: ALS to Wallace's wife from Gilbert B. Solomon, Vice-President. 4 October 1952. Asking to borrrow three pictures: 'We would so much like to hang a memorial group of pictures by one whose work was always outstanding in our exhibitions and whose early death we all so much regret in every way.'F. P. & D. Colnaghi, 1949-1952. ONE: James Byam Shaw (for whom see Oxford DNB). Five ALsS, the first four to Wallace and the last one to his wife, 1949-1952. All on Colnaghi letterheads. A total of 8pp., 8vo, in a close hand. In the first letter (10 January 1949) he writes that he is 'rather depressed' about Wallace's 'proposed exhibition', 'because I shewed [sic] the paintings & drawings to Mr. Mayer [Gustavus Mayer (1873-1954)], the senior partner here, after Christmas, and his reaction was not very encouraging - that is to say, he made various objections, with which I do not at all agree, but which create a situation rather difficult to handle'. He is finding it 'difficult to arrange modern exhibitions here at all. It is simply the difference in taste, which comes out much more strongly in judging modern things [...] Mayer is 75, and though very young for his age in many ways, he is inclined to consider things "modernistic" (as he calls it) which seem to me to be in a perfectly sound tradition.' Two years later (29 December 1951) he informs Wallace that he has again discussed the matter with Mayer, who has agreed to let the exhibition go ahead: 'I don't suppose there is much hope that Mayer will understand or like your work, for the reasons I have suggested - but I am sure that others will, including myself. And in fact he does not occupy himself with modern exhibitions at all, so I do not think that will matter. We had a rather similar case, when we had an exhibition of Welsh mountain paintings by Kyffin Williams [(1918-2006), Welsh landscape artist], which was a success; and on that occasion, too, we had to go rather a long way round to get the show here at all!' On 8 May 1952 he writes to express his sorrow at the news ('through Bell') of Murray's illness. 'I had no idea that you had had all this trouble so soon after the exhibition closed, and I am afraid it must have been a most anxious time for your wife and family.' He is 'glad that the pictures were appreciated as I hoped they would be', and gives news of the likely sale of a drawing. In the last letter (29 May 1952) he informs Wallace's wife that a drawing has sold to 'John Eccles [...] the elder son of the Minister of Works - he asked his father's opinion of it, and it was most warmly approved.' TWO: Printed catalogue for Wallace's exhibition at P. & D. Colnaghi, 14 Old Bond Street, March 1952. With printed invitation card.G. Westmoreland material, 1922-1953. Five items, including an ALS from William Gardner (Wallace's old headmaster at Kendal Green Grammar School), 14 May 1922: 'The Telegram telling of your great success in having two Pictures on the line was sent to me & I can assure you, you had a very enthusiastic clap from the Scholars in the top classes. [...] We are proud of you. You have your feet on the first step in the ladder.' Also: an ALS from Neil Taylor (of the Lake Artists' Society); a typed carbon copy of letter to 'Derek' from an unnamed writer, regarding 'sketching class or classes in Westmoreland in June , with Robin Wallace as the instructor'; a TLS to Wallace from H. B. Greenwood of Westmoreland County Council, regarding 'Mr. Tipper's Portrait'; and a copy of the printed catalogue of the 1953 Lake Artists' Society annual exhibition, including 'Memorial Exhibition of the late Robin Wallace R.B.A. (former member of the L.A.S.)'H. Miscellaneous notes and drafts by Wallace. Eleven items, including an unsigned corrected draft of autograph autobiography, sent in response to the 19 March 1940 letter to Wallace's wife from Percy W. Salter of Barbizon House. 2pp., 8vo. Begins: 'Robin Wallace was born in Kendal on -, and comes of a stock who helped to make the weaving of carpets world famous. Apprenticed as a youth to a seedsman his leisure was spent in sketching the country he loved and in making searching drawings of the plants he daily handled.' He states that Cole 'advised the young painter to take up art as a profession, & mutual love of trees and the fact that one of Mr Cole's books had come his way may have helped in his decision to give up a certain means of living for the unknown [...]'. Also present are the concluding 6pp. of an undated letter, on letterhead of 71 Campden Street, Kensington, to an unnamed recipient, in which Wallace gives an impassioned assessment of his artistic career: '[...] I would gladly pay the price again - the great thing was I became a painter. How good or how bad - this question must be left in the lap of the gods - official recognition even is only half the story - Fortunately I early learned - the first qualifications of a painter should be to think little of fame - but rather to train oneself to stand a
Montague who loved our hills in such a lovely beautiful way taught me that [...]'. He discusses the work of fellow Kendal artist James Bateman (1893-1959): 'The real & final test of greatness is when the artist & his work is stripped of those elements that gives [sic] it time & place. Bateman will undoubtedly stand that test'. He has been in Sussex, 'that lovely county with a silver light & a lyrical beauty all its own - I have been painting portraits there - such interesting heads. A naval Comd., his face stamped & hall-marked with the sea & navy - He is a nephew of Lord Jellicoe with connections in the navy on both sides going back to Nelson! [...] I shall exhibit it & the other portraits at my exhibition here in the autumn. [...]'. The other items are: two sets of autograph records of sales by Wallace from the November/December 1930 show at Barbizon House, the first dated 18 March 1931 and the second undated; a similar set of accounts, headed 'F - prices of pictures'; two pages of undated autograph titles of oil paintings; a two-page typed list of 27 numbered paintings, with emendations in pencil and ink; two autograph lists of songs, for a recital, one dated tentatively (by Wallace's wife?) to 1943, and both stating that the accompanist is to be 'Jeppy'; 4pp. of dimensions for frames for oil paintings and watercolours; 3pp. of pencil notes for a letter.I. Artworks and photographs by various hands. ONE: Small unsigned watercolour of man digging on hillside beside large tree. On 14 x 9 cm piece of card. TWO: Small unsigned drawing of labourers bringing in the hay, captioned 'Harvest on High Colp Farm '. THREE: Engraving of 'The River', signed in pencil 'Robin Wallace'. 23 x 29cm. Lightly creased. FOUR: Pencil portrait of Wallace by his wife, inscribed: 'Robin. Just for you | Aug 19th 1921 | Marion'. FIVE: Unsigned pencil portrait of Wallace by his wife, inscribed 'Robin. Aug 3rd'. SIX: Two small linocuts of flowers, in black ink. SEVEN: Four small photographs, one showing a man (Wallace?) in a garden, painting, another showing a woman posing for a picture, draped in a blanket, the third showing pictures set out on a bench in a grand hall, awaiting judging (for the Royal Academy show?), the fourth showing a full-length drawn portrait of a girl with eyes closed, face turned upwards, with reproduced signature 'John' (i.e. Augustus John).J. Miscellaneous material. 17 items, including: itemised receipt from Kensington Art Framers; letter of condolence to Wallace's widow from James Bourlet & Sons Ltd; circular letter from C. W. Musgrave of Bright Public Libraries, Museums and Art Gallery; two invitation cards and form for the Royal Academy of Arts; ten newspaper cuttings, 1926-1952, including a long obituary ('Robin Wallace, R.B.A. | An Appreciation') by 'J. S. N.', from an unnamed newspaper.