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Chapter Four

A Network of Foreign Artists

Degas and Cazin used to meet with each other at the Café Guerbois in Paris; they were friends. Sometimes, they also met with other artists such as Alphonse Legros and James McNeill Whistler. It is possible that these artists also met Manet there. This was an artistic circle that had links to London, Sussex and Dieppe, and Henry Hill.

This network, or group of artists, is an important aspect in the development of Impressionism. The ‘Master Artists’, Alan Bowness suggests in his 1989 lecture, make the museum art.[170] These are not, however, the lonely geniuses of modern myth, but can be recognised through an identifiable pattern and that their breakthrough work evolves out of artistic competitiveness and group activity; that the evolution of the new developments in painting and sculpture is largely a chain of artists, working and talking together in artistic centres. [171] From these groups and supportive networks, the exceptional stand out.

These networks may vary, crossover, cross-pollinate ideas. George Moore, the Irish writer and critic met Degas at the Café de la Nouvelle Athènes, ‘a haunt of Impressionist painters and naturalist writers during the 1870s’.[172] They also move places. Bowness posits that the artistic centre moves, and has done from Paris at this moment, to America and back again. Moore, writing in 1890, remembered that after the death of Manet ‘the centre of art shifted from the Nouvelle Athènes to the Café de la Rochefoucauld. Degas followed it.[173] At a time in England where there was, from the gallery going public, a ‘demand for narrative,’[174] the concept of supportive artist network is a critical aspect of the development of Impressionism in the late nineteenth century, and for the English schools which followed.

Whistler, Legros and Fantin-Latour created the Société des trois in 1858. They put on a private show, the Atelier Flamand at the studio of François Bonvin as a Salon des Refusés.[175] Landscape with Cattle in a Meadow represents Bonvin in Hill’s collection. The provenance for this picture does not provide records about how Hill acquired it. It is possible that Hill bought this painting directly from the Mosselmann sale in 1875, or through his connections in Paris.[176]

This network of artists from Paris also spent time in Dieppe. There is some evidence of a crossover between Hill’s two circles of artist friends. Artists such as Phil Morris painted Procession of First Communicants at Dieppe mentioned by Meynell in her A Brighton Treasure House Article, as part of the Hill collection, likely to be The First Communion.[177] Sickert described his teaching from Scholderer that he had at Dieppe as a young man as ‘excellent preparation for the reception of the teachings of Degas.’[178] This network produced an exchange of new ideas and stretched across the channel. Many of them came to London, and some to Sussex.

It is likely that Hill met with Fantin-Latour on one of his visits to London, and it is likely that he had a personal association with the painter, to have bought so many of his paintings. Fantin-Latour was very good friends with the German painter, Otto Scholderer (1834 – 1902), who settled in England in 1871. Their network of friends across borders in France, England and the wider continent, which includes Whistler, Legros and Cazin, is revealed through correspondence between these two artists. [179] Without the personal connection it is difficult to reconcile the existence of three Scholderer still life paintings of dead game in the Hill collection, which otherwise seem thematically out of place.[180] It is possible that Hill became familiar with the work of Scholderer at the Gallery of French Artists, where he did exhibit. He also exhibited at the Royal Academy regularly from 1875 – 1896.[181] Scholderer and his wife did however, spent the summer of 1876 and 1877 at Littlehampton in West Sussex, on the South coast of England.[182] This was a small town 20 miles west of Brighton, connected by this time to the town by the Brighton-Portsmouth Line. It is possible during this stay that he met with Hill.  Letters from Scholderer to Fantin-Latour show that he met with his friend Cazin in England.[183] He, Cazin and Fantin remained close. A letter from Fantin to Scholderer in 1880 says that he is seeing Cazin and his wife more often, and that they speak of Scholderer.[184] In many of their letters to each other, they ask after Legros, Whistler and Cazin.

Hill owned two pictures by the Dutch painter David Adolph Constant Artz (1837 – 1890). Artz lived in Paris from 1866 to 1874, and hosted musical evenings for his friends (who included Scholderer and Fantin-Latour) at his studio.[185] Hill also owned a number of terracotta sculptures by Jules Dalou. Dalou was curator of the Musée du Louvre under Gustav Courbet before taking refuge in England in July 1871, where he stayed with Legros and taught at the South Kensington School of Art. Ionides also bought work by Dalou. It is likely that as collectors of the same artists and network, Ionides and Hill knew each other.

In London, Frank Holl and his circle were making a name for themselves through their Black and White woodblock prints for the Graphic and producing from these paintings of social realism. Hill owned two paintings and one drawing by Frederick Walker, Holl’s companion in his night-time walks. Walker often worked up subjects from his prints for the Graphic into oil paintings. Maas suggests that he was an artist of tantalizing promise.[186] Meynell identifies Hill as a patron of Phil Morris who also worked for the Graphic. Others published included Robert Macbeth, Charles Green and William Britten, all represented in the Hill collection. [187]

At the other end of the thread, in Paris, was the school of Millet and Courbet and their French realism. Courbet knew Scholderer, who was a friend of Oswald Sickert (Walter Sickert’s father). Scholderer was part of a mixed group of artists who studied under Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudron (1802-1897). This group included Whistler, Edwin Edwards, Fantin-Latour, Léon L’ Hermitte, J. M. Cazin, Jules Dalou and Legros.[188] This group of painters and sculptors were a network of associates. Many of them were represented in Hill’s collection and most of those represented spent time in London, Sussex, Dieppe or Paris, those towns strung like pearls on a thread of artistic exchange.

The personal connections between the artists in Hill’s collection and Hill himself can explain some of the seemingly disparate elements of Hill’s collection. Pickvance seemed surprised by its scope, but if it evolved through associations with artists and then friends of those friends, the collection starts to have a logic. To reference back to Hill’s ‘Old Friend’ writing his obituary, he said artists guided Hill in his choices about what art to collect. It sheds light on Hill’s early collecting of challenging artists. He was collecting as a peer to a circle of artists, rather than as a collector, and was therefore on the cusp of collecting.

The absence of work by Alphonse Legros is something that does not fit this proposed model for the collection. Legros was influential on Ionides and his collection, and as part of the circle of artists who Hill did collect, one might expect to see him represented in Hill’s collection. There is a suggestion in the Meynell article that cost could explain this absence. She writes that the collection ‘would be all the better, no doubt, if it comprized examples of […] the austere and dignified sincerity, the deep imaginative melancholy, the consummate facture of Legros’ amongst others. She continues that as ‘in these days of high prices and aesthetic lunes, when works of art are all but worshipped,’ that the collection is at once so excellent and complete.[189] This suggests that works by Legros were too expensive for Hill to buy, should he have wanted to.

In the preface to his book From Manet to Manhattan, Peter Watson cites a lecture by Sir Alan Bowness.[190] In this, the former director of the Tate distinguishes an identical four-stage process for an artist’s rise to fame. Watson quotes ‘The first is peer recognition. Other artists come to regard a particular colleague as significant. The second stage is recognition by the serious critics. The third stage is recognition by collectors and dealers, and the last is recognition by the general public.’[191] This, Watson identifies ‘mean that what the artists in any particular group think of each other is important’. This is particularly pertinent in the case of Henry Hill and his collection. The pattern of his collection seems to suggest that he was buying his art at an earlier stage of the four-stage process identified by Bowness, by buying at the suggestion of his artist friends who were recommending work to Hill at the peer recognition stage. Hill therefore, came to own one of Whistler’s Nocturnes when critics were still shocked, and Degas at a time when his work was not understood in England.

Bowness distinguishes between art for the museums and art for the market, describing producers of the latter as ‘artist as journeyman’. Hill mostly collected these journeyman artists. His collecting, his commissioning work, the promotion of exhibitions for the sale of work of living artists, and his support for the educating of inspiring artists and craftsmen places him as patron of them. Maybe he could recognise himself in their approach, working hard to establish themselves in the business and to gain recognition as associate academicians. Bowness describes these artists as having served an apprenticeship and providing ‘honest, decent work for the market.[192] Seen in this way, Hill was an investor in the business of art, and his collection reflects this. Hill also has in his collection those artists who Bowness defines as a major talent whose art was ‘for the museums’. Degas was one such major talent forged from the artistic centre of Paris.  Bowness states that the ‘third stage of recognition’ is that of a collector or dealer.  ‘Almost every major talent attracts one or two important collectors at an early stage in his career, and these collectors almost always appear on the scene because of their friendships with artists, whose advice they take.’[193] Henry Hill was certainly a patron for Degas early in his career, but he did not seem to be an important enough collector to influence the English public about his work.

Hill was buying Degas well before Bowness’s ‘second stage of recognition’, which is the recognition from critics necessary for the creation of a verbal language for that art, and a critical consensus about it.  The controversy at the time of L’Absinthe being sold at Christie’s in 1892 and then exhibited in 1893 shows the language of the critic in England only being established at that time, almost twenty years after Hill had bought his pictures.[194] Other than the Meynell article on the Hill collection and some reviews of the Brighton Loan Exhibition in 1876 where Hill showed L’Absinthe, it had largely gone unnoticed.[195]  It would appear that in this instance, these circles of recognition are not quite so straightforward. It is possible that this is due to the differences in national temperament between Parisian and English collectors. The peer network was exchanging artistic ideals, but the public was slower to catch on. Daubigny introduced the dealer Durand-Ruel to Monet in London in 1871, and Hill bought from Deschamps, but Impressionism did not take hold in England until almost 30 years later.[196] Hill was not an important enough collector in terms of influence and of marking the trajectory of an exceptional talent. He was not the third stage of recognition for this artist. He did, however, appear on the scene because of his friendships with artists, whose advice he took, and therefore takes the position of a peer / friend collector.[197]

This pattern of collecting is clearest when Hill buys multiple examples of an artist’s work. Multiple examples seem to reflect an element of patronage and personal connection. Evidence for this is identified through the Fine Arts Sub Committee data. The pattern suggests that Hill collected painters rather than paintings. He used this network to expand both his own knowledge and connoisseurship, but also that of the public of Brighton and interested visitors, as part of his public service or civic duty. Choosing to lend familiar favourites as well as controversial cutting-edge work, he had confidence in his collection because of his social network of artist friends. It is not a linear or thematic collection. It weaves a path through Paris, Dieppe, Sussex and London.

Degas’ place in the Hill Collection

Most of the limited literature on Hill stems from his collecting of seven paintings by Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917) during the mid-1870s. These represented the largest collection of Degas in either England or France at that time. It is because of these paintings that Hill is described as an important collector of his time, without which his legacy is unlikely to still be recognised. In particular, his acquiring of L’Absinthe is often the focal point for any review of Hill as collector. In his writing on Degas, Sutton writes that ‘Degas found an enthusiastic patron in Captain Henry Hill (1812 – 1882). This unique figure in the annals of English collecting, after service as Quarter-Master in the First Sussex Rifles Volunteers, had settled at No. 53 Marine Parade, Brighton in 1860 and began to form a large collection of modern art’.[198]

Pickvance suggests a personal connection between Degas and Hill. He writes ‘it seems almost certain that he [Hill] acquired the seventh picture, L’Absinthe, directly from Degas. Degas himself certainly visited Brighton, most probably in the mid-70s, when, in his surviving letters to Tissot, he frequently spoke of his intention of coming to England. It is more than likely that, whilst in Brighton, he would have been Hill’s guest’.[199] Gruetzner Robins and Thomson present circumstantial evidence that Degas may have visited Hill through Sickert’s reminiscence of Degas that ‘He would now and again, in compliment to my nationality, recite the legend that appears to have impressed him most at Brighton: “Ond please (with great emphasis and an air of pathetic entreaty) hadjust yure dress biffore leaving”’.[200] Sutton states that ‘it is probable that he [Degas] would have met his patron there, all the more so as they had mutual friends in the Cazins.’[201] It is clear that Degas was familiar with England. He writes, of his ‘Anglo-American’ trip, to Tissot in 1873 ‘I should have been in London or Paris about the 15 January (such a distance has become immaterial to me, no space must be regarded as great except the ocean). But I remained and shall not leave until the first days of March.’[202]

Patry suggests that all seven Degas paintings were bought from Durand-Ruel, ‘Another buyer at the London branch of the Durand-Ruel gallery was Captain Henry Hill of Brighton […], who in 1874 purchased the first of seven Degas’s he was to acquire from Durand-Ruel in London in the next two years […]’[203] or through Deschamps. The provenance record for L’Absinthe at the Musée d’Orsay states that in 1876 it was ‘in the collection W. Deschamps, London (delivered by the artist)’. This confirms that Degas visited London and does not discount Degas visiting Brighton to see his pictures in the Hill collection.

The Impressionists in London catalogue relies heavily on Durand-Ruel’s stock books and archival documents. Although it is tantalising to think that some psychological insights may still exist which help to explain Hill’s collecting choices in the Durand-Ruel archive, the archives do not hold any ‘homely details’ and it is more likely that Hill’s relationship was with Deschamps rather than Durand-Ruel.[204]

An unsigned review of Degas from 1881 shows the critical reception of Degas, during the time when Hill was choosing to become a patron to him. ‘Can art descend lower? Can any one calling himself an artist more hopelessly degrade what he ought to reverence and love? This is ‘Realism’ so called; this is in art what M. Zola is in literature. Such being the case, let us make a big hole and bury all our ideals; do not let us drag them through the mire till they become suitably soiled to suit the new schools.’[205]

Fantin-Latour’s place in the Hill Collection

In 1859, Fantin-Latour came to London and stayed in Sloane Street, in Seymour Hayden’s house (Whistler’s brother-in-law). During the 60’s and 70’s Fantin developed a strong friendship group in London, where Whistler secured him commissions from the ‘Greek Colony’ in London.[206] His still life paintings were popular (although he also painted members of the avant-garde in pictures such as the Homage to Delacroix, 1864).

The introduction by Denys Sutton to the 1984 Loan exhibition catalogue of Fantin-Latour paintings suggests that an ‘examination of the various groups that supported Fantin during the 1860s and 1870s would provide information about the nature of patronage in Victorian England.’[207] Sutton lists Bowes, C.E. Fry, John Phillip, T Barnes as well as the Ionides family, but there is no mention of Hill who owned at least fourteen paintings by Fantin-Latour (Feb 20th 1893 Lots 84-96), including 13 still-life flower paintings and one Head of a Lady.

It is likely from the amount of paintings that he bought, that Hill knew Fantin-Latour, possibly through Whistler and possibly in the same circles as the Ionides family, who had similar collecting patterns to Hill.

The Christie’s sale records show that French dealers bought back many of the continental paintings in the Hill collection. In the case of the Fantin pictures, Obach, (on behalf of Goupil) bought four of them, and Montaignac for the Galerie d’art, Paris, another.  An unknown ‘Green’ (although it may have been the artist Charles Green) bought four of them and the Bonvin at the sale. At least one of these fourteen paintings ended up in Scotland, where Fantin-Latour had a resurgence of popularity with Scottish collectors. A contemporary description by Meynell of Hill’s painting of chrysanthemums by Fantin-Latour (bought at the Christie’s sale by ‘Richardson’) specifies a ‘strongly painted bouquet of chrysanthemums in a tall blue and white vase against the usual dark background.’[208] This description of Hill’s painting by Meynell matches the painting in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow. It has been confirmed that this is Chrysanthemums Jeune (Fig. 13) in the Oeuvre Complet by Mme Fantin Latour.[209]

Stepping down from civic duty

The circumstances in which Hill stepped down from his position as chair of the Fine Arts Sub-Committee are unclear. There was certainly a degree of controversy at the time. The minutes show an increasing level of challenge to the authority of the old guard, who had led the development of the exhibitions programme for such a long time. Phil Morris had stepped down at the previous meeting and there had been arguments about the placement of a large marble statue of Nausicaa in the gallery that had been recorded in the minutes in unusual detail.[210]

A pointed mention of Clem Lambert in the obituary for Henry Hill in the Argus is a clue that the younger generation were keen to take charge. ‘It is no disrespect to Clem Lambert to say he owes much of his present position to Captain Hill’s encouragement. It is well known that a difference of opinion led to the Captain’s resigning his position on the Committee, but it is not generally understood that to the last he did his utmost to assist the Picture Gallery by loans and advice.’[211] Gruetzner Robins suggests that Hill thought of leaving the Degas paintings to the Brighton Art Gallery.[212] Perhaps it is due to Mr. Lambert if Hill changed his mind.

There was some consternation amongst committee members when Hill resigned his position. A delegation was sent to Hill to determine if he (such a large-hearted and kind-hearted gentleman) would reconsider his position.[213] He did not. The General Joint Minutes of the Pavilion Committee in 1881 records their extreme regret that Captain Henry Hill has resigned his seat on the Fine Arts Sub-committee and their:

desire to convey to him their deep sense of the eminent services which he has rendered during the past eight years, not only in the discharge of his duties as Chairman and as a member of the selecting committee, but also by the loan of valuable works of art, by substantial assistance to the Art Unions, by untiring energy in the promotion of sales, and liberal encouragement of artistic talent.[214]

The committee ‘engrossed on Velum’ this resolution, to present to Hill. Edward Hill thanked the committee on June 27th 1881 on behalf of Henry Hill stating that ‘at the earliest opportunity he [Henry Hill] will send a suitable response to the kind feelings expressed towards him.’ Contemporary reports suggest that by this time his health was in decline. The Argus reported that his demise ‘will occasion little surprise; for his condition had for months past been such as to excite the concern of his friends. The cause of death was melancholia […].[215] Captain Henry Hill died, in April 1882, in his gallery of pictures.

Footnotes for Chapter 4:

[170] Alan Bowness, The Conditions of Success, Walter Neurath Memorial Lecture 1989 (London: Thames and Hudson, 1989).

[171] Bowness, The Conditions of Success, p. 51.  

[172] George Moore, Walter Sickert, intro. by Anna Gruetzner Robins, The Painter of Modern Life: Memories of Degas (London: Pallas Athene, 2011), p. 9.

[173] Moore, Sickert, Degas: The painter of Modern Life, p. 43.

[174] Kate Flint (ed.), Impressionists in England: The Critical Reception, (London: Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1984). p. 1.

[175] Sutton, Degas p. 63. Melissa Berry unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Victoria, 2005. https://dspace.library.uvic.ca/bitstream/handle/1828/6137/Berry_Melissa_PHD_2015.pdf?sequence=5&isAllowed=y

[176] I am grateful to Sarah Herring (Curator of Post-1800 Paintings at the National Gallery) for confirming in a personal email 14/08/2018 the known provenance. It ‘was in the Mosselman sale, Paris, 7-8 December 1875, lot 163; it next appears in the sale of Henry Hill, 20 February 1893, lot 29, where it was bought by Green […]‘we do not know how it came into Hill’s collection. It might well be that he bought it from the Mosselman sale, but I have not been able to find a sale catalogue which is annotated with the names of buyers’. Mrs Edwards donated this to the National Gallery in 1895.

[177] Christie’s Sale record (Feb 20th 1892, Lot 264).

[178] Moore, Sickert, Degas: The Painter of Modern Life, p. 69.

[179] Correspondence entre Henri Fantin-Latour et Otto Scholderer: 18581902, 2011.

[180] These are painting listed in the Christie’s sale record for Feb 20th 1893, Lots 133, 134 and 135.

[181] https://chronicle250.com/index/exhibitors/Sa-Sc .

[182] Jutta M. Bagdahn ‘Otto Franz Scholderer 1834 – 1902 Monographie und Werkverzeichnis’, unpublished PhD Dissertation Universität zu Freiburg, 2002, p. 97. Scholderer’s wife was pregnant during the summer of 1876, but lost the child at birth. Correspondance, p. 249.

[183] Arnoux, M., Gaehtgens, T.W., Tempelaere-Panzani, A., (Sous la direction de) Correspondance entre Henri Fantin-Latour et Otto Scholderer 1858-1902 (Paris: Éditions de la Maison des sciences de l’homme, 2011), p. 208.

[184] Correspondance, p. 334.

[185] Correspondence, p. 145.

[186] Maas, Victorian Painters, p. 235. Hill owned paintings The Old Gate and The Right of Way and a framed drawing A Lady in a Garden.

[187] Meynell, A Brighton Treasure-House, p. 2, writes that Hill had all of his major pictures.

[188] The Dieppe Connection, p. 10.

[189] Meynell, A Brighton Treasure-House, p. 121.

[190] Alan Bowness, The Conditions of Success Walter Neurath Memorial Lecture 1989 Thames and Hudson, London, 1989.

[191] Peter Watson, From Manet to Manhattan: The Rise of the Modern Art Market Vintage, London 1993. p. xxvi.

[192] Bowness, The Conditions of Success, p. 9.

[193] Bowness, The Conditions of Success, p. 39.

[194] Flint (ed.), Impressionists in England and Greutzner Robins and Thomson, Degas Sickert Lautrec both identify and track this controversy in detail.

[195] L’Absinthe: Hill loaned this painting to the Third Annual Loan Exhibition on Modern Pictures in Brighton in 1876. One review said of Preliminary Steps and L’Absinthe that they were ‘two pictures whose peculiar merits we have not been able to discover […] except their extreme ugliness and carelessness of execution’ The Brighton Gazette 3rd October 1876.

[196] Bowness, The Conditions of Success, p. 42.

[197] Bowness, The Conditions of Success, p. 39.

[198] Sutton, Edgar Degas, Life and Work Rizzoli, New York 1986, p. 119.

[199] Pickvance, Henry Hill, p. 790.

[200] Gruetzner Robins and Thomson, p. 26 from Obituary published in Burlington Magazine, November 1917, published in Degas: The painter of Modern Life p. 83.

[201] Sutton, Degas, p. 119.

[202] Edgar Degas, To Tissot, De Gas Brothers, New Orleans 18 Feb. 1873 Letters 1947, p. 29.  

[203] Sylvie Patry (ed.) Inventing Impressionism, p. 182.  

[204] A personal email from Flavie Durant-Ruel 08.08.2018 confirms that Paul Durand-Ruel mentions a Mr. Hill in his memoirs but that this was the American railroad magnate of the same name. I am grateful to Chris Riopelle at the National Gallery for an insight into the Durand-Ruel archives.

[205] Flint (ed.) Impressionists in England, Unsigned Review, ‘Artist’ 1 May 1881, ii, 153, p. 43.

[206] Henry Fantin-Latour: A Loan Exhibition in aid of the National Art-Collections Fund 10 Oct – 21 November 1984 Wildenstein & Co. London. p. 7. It is referenced here that Whistler had become acquainted with Alecco Ionides in Paris in the 1850s.

[207] Henry Fantin-Latour catalogue 1884, p. 8.

[208] Meynell, A Brighton Treasure-House, p. 7

[209] Glasgow Museums ID number 1795, No.953 of the Catalogue de l’Oeuvre Complet de Fantin Latour by Mme F.L., Paris, 1911 p. 98 The archival catalogue record for Chrysanthemums (catalogue ref.1795) states:

Works by Fantin-Latour were very popular with Scottish collectors and there are 12 examples in Glasgow’s collections. Chrysanthemums was the first to enter the collection and it was also the first French painting bought by the Hamilton Trustees.  A letter from Anne to Paul Brame on 3rd September 1965 confirms that no. 1795 Chrysanthemums was sent for sale to Christies 17/5/1912 by a Miss F. Douglas (5, Vernon Chambers, Southampton Row, London). The trustees of our Hamilton bequest […] purchased Chrysanthemums in 1929 from a former Glasgow Art Dealer James Connell and Sons.

[210] Marble Statue of Nausicaa, presented by James Asbury. Full transcript of this account is available in the FASC minutes.

[211] The Argus 3.4.1882 Death of Captain Hill.

[212] Gruetzner Robins (Intro.) Degas: The Painter of Modern Life, Memories of Degas.

[213] A full record of these minutes which appeared in the Brighton Guardian 26th Jan and 18th Feb 1881 are transcribed and available at https://henryhill.net/publications/newspaper-extracts/ .

[214] General Joint meeting of the Pavilion Committee and the sub-committees (Library, Museum and Fine Arts) held in the Curators Rooms – 25th January 1881.

[215] The Argus 3.4.1882 Death of Captain Hill.