[Matthew Ridley Corbet, ARA, neoclassical English painter.] Three Autograph Letters Signed (‘M. R. Corbet’) to John Macallan Swan, with regard to Giovanni Costa in Italy, Alfred Gilbert, William Cosmo Monkhouse and Edwin Freshfield.

M. R. Corbet [Matthew Ridley Corbet] (1850-1902), ARA, neoclassical painter [John Macallan Swan (1847-1910), RA, painter and sculptor; William Cosmo Monkhouse; Alfred Gilbert; Edwin Freshfield]
Publication details: 
ONE: 28 October 1896; Casa Costa, Marina di Pisa, Italy. TWO: 4 December 1898. THREE: 18 March 1902. Items Two and Three on letterhead of Crow’s-nest, 54, Circus Road, St. John’s Wood, N.W.
SKU: 25448

An interesting glimpse into the late-Victorian world of English art. Corbet and Swan were close friends - one of Corbet’s paintings remained in Swan’s family until the 1990s. See the two men’s entries in the Oxford DNB. The three letters are addressed to ‘Dear Swan’ and signed ‘M. R. Corbet’. All three on grey paper, lightly aged and worn, with creasing to Letter One. With regard to the first of the three letters, Corbet’s entry in the ODNB explains how in the 1880s Corbet became a member of the so-called Etruscan School, centred around the Italian painter Giovanni Costa, and that in 1885, after Costa settled at Bocca d’Arno in Tuscany, Corbet paid frequent visits, staying with Costa or lodging at the Albergo Ascani at Marina di Pisa. In reference to the second letter, Corbet’s outrage at the sculptor Alfred Gilbert’s high-handed behaviour in 1898 is explicable by the fact that around 1882, in the countryside near Perugia, Corbet ‘shared a rented farm house with Gilbert and his family’. ONE: 28 October 1896. From Pisa. 4pp, 8vo. On bifolium. After describing the climate (’10 days of divine heat’ and also ‘vile bad weather’ and ‘an awful season of wind & wet’) he gives news of ‘My picture’, which is ‘going on well, so far, but the difficulties are yet to come’. Five years before Corbet had married Edith Jane Murch, née Edenborough (1846-1920), ‘the widow of the painter Arthur Murch and herself a landscape painter and an Italophile’ (Oxford DNB), and he reports that his ‘wife’s picture is going very smoothly - I wonder what you will say to her sheep!’ His own ‘bovi’ have been ‘taken out (for the present) & the picture cut down a good deal & I am still uncertain whether they will go back or no - / Things are just the same here - Vittorio is much fatter - Arno also thrives - they send their saluti to you.’ After the Costas have gone they will ‘go on to Florence for a week & then settle somewhere for the winter - I am not quite sure where, very likely Asolo near Venice, which took our fancy very much, three years ago.’ He reports on the health of his nieces and his own: ‘I am quite fit again, but I was wretchedly seedy when I left town & very thankful to get away.’ He asks to be remembered to ‘Ford’, and wonders ‘who your new President [at the Royal Academy] will be’, before ending in the hope that Swan’s ‘estate in the Isle of Wight is a success!’ Items Two and Three on St John’s Wood letterhead. TWO: 4 December 1898. 4pp, 12mo. On bifolium. After commiserating with Swan on his indisposition, and sending best wishes on his approaching birthday he writes: ‘I have little or no artistic news for you. I went to a smoke at Monkhouse’s last week, [i.e. the home of the art critic William Cosmo Monkhouse (1840-1901)] & very slow it was; there was hardly anyone there whom I knew. / Monkhouse asked me if I knew anything about you as he had had no answer to his invitation I think he said. I told him you were away & would be away for some time.’ He has ‘seen nothing of Gilbert’ [the sculptor Alfred Gilbert (1854-1934)] despite ‘many attempts’, and ‘think I shall give it up, as I am getting a little sick of it. Mrs. Gilbert was here a few weeks ago & I said something to the effect that I could never find Gilbert at home & she said the only thing to do was to write & make an appointment!!!’ He hopes ‘all the family are going strong’, and sends Christmas greetings. THREE: 18 March 1902. 2pp, 12mo. Writing three months before his death, he states that ‘Freshfield [the artist and solicitor Edwin Freshfield (1832-1918), presumably in his business capacityr] has been abroad & just after I got your note I got one from him saying he was coming up here.’ He will try and take Freshfield to Swan, and if he can’t he will send him, ‘but will write & tell him what you want first so that he may be prepared’.