Albert Joseph Moore. Part 2 – his portrayal of women.

Albert Joseph Moore (c.1870)
Albert Joseph Moore (c.1870)

At the end of my last blog I had reached the point in Albert Moore’s life with him travelling to Rome with his brother John Collingham Moore just after his twenty-first birthday.  Whilst travelling around the Roman Campagna he was able to observe the effects of colour which were presented to him under local conditions of light and atmosphere.  He travelled to Naples and Pompeii and throughout his stay he would copy classical statuary and Renaissance paintings.   His stay in Italy was cut short after five months when he received news about his mother’s death on the twenty-eighth of January 1863.  Albert returned to London in the Spring and set up home in a studio at 12 Newman Street in West London and immersed himself in the many commissions he received.

Elijah's Sacrifice by Albert Moore (1863)
Elijah’s Sacrifice by Albert Moore (1863)

It was also here that he held a one-man show featuring some of his works of art, including the newly completed Elijah’s Sacrifice (see previous blog).  One visitor to this show was Frederick George Stephens, an art critic, and one of the two ‘non-artistic’ members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.  He gave his approval to Albert’s paintings and expressed the joy of discovering new young artists.  He wrote in the February 1864 issue of the London literary magazine, Athenaeum, in his regular review of the Arts, Fine-Art Gossip:

“…a critic’s pleasantest office is to call attention to works, from their nature, do not catch the eye of everyone…”

The small exhibition in his studio proved a great success.  It was unusual for an artist to show works in their own studio but Albert needed the money and needed to market himself and attract buyers but it was also a declaration of his own independence.  Albert Moore knew that he could not solely rely on the Royal Academy to show his work as he was only too well aware of the vagaries of the RA Selection Committee, who had a penchant of choosing works by its own Academicians rather than featuring young artists who were not RA members.   Albert had first-hand experience of this when, in 1864, the Selection Committee had rejected his work Elijah’s Sacrifice.

The Marble Seat by Albert Moore (1865)
The Marble Seat by Albert Moore (1865)

Whether Albert altered the painting is not known but in 1865 it was accepted by the RA Selection Committee!   Along with that work he also had accepted into that year’s Academy exhibition his painting entitled The Marble Seat.   It was a turning point in Moore’s career as the critics loved his two works.  The Marble Seat tells no story and does not illustrate any incident in history.  It is merely a composition of four figures, one male and three females, all of whom are grouped around a flat stone seat.    The background comprises of flowers including red tulips, trees and through the trees we are able to see a flat hinterland which leads to a range of blue hills.  The nude male stands to the right of the picture and we see him pouring wine into a cup.  The three girls, all dressed in almost transparent white draperies, over which are thicker orange, green and scarlet wraps, sit or lean against the marble seat.  The seat is positioned on green lawn which seems to twinkle with small white daisies.

Leading magazines raved about the works of this up and coming young artist.  According to the critics Moore and some other young painters were breaking new ground in modern British painting by treating the human figure on a monumental scale unlike other older and well established artists who preferred to stick to small-scale homely themes.

However not to be deterred by the vagaries of the R.A., Albert Moore joined a group of artists, which included his brother Henry Moore, the Jewish pre-Raphaelite painter, Simeon Solomon, John Everett Millais and the historical painter, Edward Poynter.  Ironically, both Millais and Poynter would later become presidents of the Royal Academy.  This group chose the Dudley Gallery in London as the venue for exhibiting their paintings.

Dancing Girl Resting by Albert Moore (1864)
Dancing Girl Resting by Albert Moore (1864)

In 1864 Moore’s one-man show included his painting entitled Dancing Girl Resting.  It was noted that since returning from Rome, Albert Moore’s painting style and subject choice had changed.  The “new” Albert Moore can well be seen in this beautifully crafted 1864 painting.  Before us we see a tall girl, with a red scarf twisted around her head and shoulders, dressed in a full-length diaphanous shift standing on a leopard-skin rug which kept her feet away from the cold tiles.  She is leaning against a warm grey marble wall on which hangs a lyre and an ornamental woven mat.  The combination of the rug, the marble tiles and woven textiles adds an air of decadence.  The art critic, Frederick Stevens, in his Fine-Art Gossip column in the February 1864 edition of the Athenaeum described the girl’s somewhat erotic stance:

“…panting through parted lips, with heaving bust, her arms akimbo, and hands upon her hips…”

There is sensuousness and something erotic about this work.  Although she is not naked, we can see the contours of her naked body through the gossamer-like shift.  Look at the beautiful way Moore has executed the many folds of the shift which gives it a feeling of movement even though the dancer is at rest.  Although the title talks about the dancer resting, it is the small figure of the dark-skinned girl, who besides a strand of beads is naked.  She can be seen slumped limply on the floor besides the dancer who looks more at rest.

Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene by Simeon Solomon (1864)
Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene by Simeon Solomon (1864)

It is thought that Albert Moore was starting to be influenced by his friend Simeon Solomon whose paintings around this time showed a certain sensuousness such as in his 1864 painting, Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene.  In that painting we see Sappho embracing her fellow poet Erinna in a garden at Mytilene on the island of Lesbos. According to legend, Sappho was born at Lesbos in about 612BC. After having been exiled to Sicily she returned to the island and was at the centre of a community of young women devoted to Aphrodite and the Muses.

The Shulamite by Albert Moore (c.1865)
The Shulamite by Albert Moore (c.1865)

Philip Henry Rathbone was a Liverpool insurance underwriter and Liberal Council member.  He came from a very wealthy family of merchants.  He was also an avid art collector and one time was a member of the Hanging Committee of the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition.  Amongst his friends was James McNeil Whistler.  Rathbone bought both The Marble Seat and my next featured work of Albert Moore, The Shulamite. A  Shulamite is a female name in Hebrew and means peaceful.  The name corresponds to Solomon as Julia does to Julius. It is the figurative name of the bride in Solomon’s Song and the bridegroom is represented by Solomon which also means peaceful.  The large oil painting, measuring 210 x 96cms is now housed in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.  The painting appeared at the Royal Academy in 1866 but although it had been passed by the conservative Hanging Committee it, along with some other “audacious” paintings, were given an adverse hanging placement.  This and the other works, although placed in the prestigious North Room, were placed so high on the wall they were almost invisible to visitors.  Some would say a revengeful act by the Hanging Committee!  The May 22nd issue of the Times carried an article by the art correspondent, who reported on the exhibition and noted the poor positioning of Albert Moore’s work, writing:

“……..suffers more from its elevation, for its merits are of a more delicate and subtle kind……its exquisite draperies, clothing exquisite form [are] wholly out of sight…”

The Last Supper Wall painting by Albert Moore (1865-66)
The Last Supper Wall painting by Albert Moore (1865-66)

In 1865, Albert Moore received a commission to carry out some wall paintings for the Church of St Alban in Rochdale.  The commission had come his way through good auspices of his friend, the architect William Eden Nesfield, whom he had travelled with to Northern France, five years earlier.  These wall painings were painted in oils directly on to the plaster surface of the walls.  The commission took most of 1865 and 1866 to complete and to complete the commission, Moore had to move a large quantity of his materials from London to Rochdale by train.  His biographer, Alfred Lys Baldry, tells the amusing anecdote of the start of this journey from Albert’s studio to Euston Station:

“…so heavily did he load the cab which was conveying him from his studio in Russell Place to Euston Station, that in mid-journey the bottom came out, and he and his brother Henry, who was going to see him off, had to run along inside for some distance, until the attention of the driver could be called to the mishap….”

The wall paintings in St Alban’s Church occupy the whole of the upper chancel and consist of several separate subjects, two being The Last Supper and The Feeding of the Five Thousand. 

In the final part of my look at the life and works of Albert Joseph Moore I will showcase more works of art dedicated to female beauty.

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Again, most of the information I have used in this and the previous blog have come from  two books, biographies of Albert Joseph Moore. They are:

Albert Moore, his life and works, by Alfred Lys Baldry (1894)

Albert Moore by Robin Asleson (published by Phaidon)

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Albert Joseph Moore. Part 1 – his early life and his talented family

Albert Joseph Moore c. 1870
Albert Joseph Moore c. 1870

The nineteenth century Swiss painter, Paul Klee, once said of a woman’s beauty:

“…Beauty is as relative as light and dark. Thus, there exists no beautiful woman, none at all, because you are never certain that a still far more beautiful woman will not appear and completely shame the supposed beauty of the first…”

Maybe he, like today’s featured artist, was also always searching for the ultimate feminine beauty.  Let me introduce you to the Victorian painter Albert Joseph Moore.  In the first part of this blog I will look at Moore’s early life and his talented artistic family and in the next blog will look at his unique portrayal of beautiful women.

Unknown Man and his Dog by William Moore snr.
Unknown Man and his Dog by William Moore snr.

Albert Moore was born in York in September 1841.  He came from an extremely large family.     His father was originally employed by a firm in Birmingham to design japanned goods.  He gave up his commercial work to concentrate on portraiture which was very popular with London dealers.  The subjects of his portraiture featured people living in the northern counties.  His landscape works featured scenes from the northern districts and as such were very popular with the locals.  William Moore married Martha Jackson in 1812 and the couple had eight sons and a daughter.  Later, in 1828, after his first wife’s death, William re-married.  His second wife was Sarah Collingham, an amateur draughtswoman, who had a number of relatives involved in art.  Sarah gave William a further six sons

So, between William’ Moore’s two wives, he fathered fourteen children, thirteen sons and one daughter. Albert Moore was the youngest of William and Sarah’s six sons.  Many of Albert Moore’s brothers were artists.

A highland lake landscape, with figures by a cottage before, and fishermen in a boat, by Edwin Moore
A highland lake landscape, with figures by a cottage before, and fishermen in a boat, by Edwin Moore

Albert’s  oldest  step brother, was Edwin, who was a watercolourist and was interested in landscape work. He was twenty-nine years of age when Albert was born.   He was employed as an art teacher and taught drawing, perspective and painting at the Quaker School in York . He also supplemented his income by offering private drawing classes at his home.   In 1840 Edwin published a book, The Elementary Drawing Book which covered rules of perspective and was illustrated with sketches and geometrical diagrams.

As I Saw It by William Moore Jnr. (1891)
As I Saw It by William Moore Jnr. (1891)

Edwin’s brother William Moore jnr., who was born in 1817, was also a landscape painter and  an art teacher.  He, like Edwin, was taught art by his father and later in life assisted his father and tutored the younger siblings in drawing and painting

Stephen Langton Massingbird and his sister Mary Langton Massingbird by John Collingham Moore
Stephen Langton Massingbird and his sister Mary Langton Massingbird by John Collingham Moore

John Collingham Moore was the eldest son of William Moore by his second wife, Sarah, and was born at Gainsborough in March 1829. He initially received artistic training from his father and at the age of twenty-two studied in the schools of the Royal Academy. He was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy from 1853 to the year of his death in 1880.

Emily Massingberd by John Collingham Moore
Emily Massingberd by John Collingham Moore

His claim to fame as an artist was through his exquisite portraits of children and his watercolour paintings featuring landscape scenes of the Roman Campagna, the low-lying area surrounding Rome in the Lazio region of central Italy.  He also favoured scenes around the area of Florence.

Outward Bound by Henry Moore
Outward Bound
by Henry Moore

Henry Moore, born in 1831, was the third of the six sons of Sarah Collingham and William Moore  and he was a talented marine and landscape artist and etcher.

Storm Brewing by Henry Moore
Storm Brewing by Henry Moore

Albert as a child was surrounded by artists and it was not surprising that from a very early age he took delight in drawing and painting.  It is said that before he was able to write he had achieved a highly regarded expertise in drawing.   He was surrounded by critics, his brothers, who were always willing to advise him how to improve his drawings.  Even at an early age Albert Moore was self critical of his art and was somewhat of a perfectionist.   He would never settle for second best and would often question his brothers’ views on art.  To many he seemed to be inquisitive always willing to state his point of view on matters concerning his art.  Many found this trait to be bordering on precociousness.

Albert went to Archbishop Holgate’s School in York and later St Peter’s School in the same city, which was under the direction of the Dean and Chapter of York Minster.  But apart from this standard education he received regular art lessons from his father.  In October 1851, when Albert was nine years old, his father died.  His art tutoring continued, now with the help of his elder brother, John Collingham Moore.  His mother, Albert, along with three of his brothers remained living in York until 1855, at which time they moved to London and took up residence in Phillimore Place, Kensington.   On arrival in London Albert was enrolled at the Kensington Grammar School where he remained for just over two years. It was whilst attending this school that he had two of his watercolour drawings, A Goldfinch and A Woodcock, exhibited at the annual exhibition of the Royal Academy.  Quite an achievement for one so young!   In May 1858, aged sixteen, he was accepted into the Royal Academy schools.

Study of an Ash Trunk by Albert Moore (1857)
Study of an Ash Trunk by Albert Moore (1857)

Albert Moore developed a deep love of nature and would often go into the countryside to paint.  In 1857 he completed a wonderful painting, watercolour and gouache with gum Arabic, entitled Study of Ash Trunk,  which is housed at Oxford’s Ashmoleon Museum.

Waterfall in the Lake District by Albert Moore (c.1858)
Waterfall in the Lake District by Albert Moore (c.1858)

He went on a painting exhibition to the Lake District in 1858 and from that journey he produced a landscape scene entitled Waterfall in the Lake District.

Albert completed his art course at the Royal Academy schools and started to look for a way of making money other than from the sale of his art work.  He was offered a job as chief designer at a well known firm of stain glass makers but refused the offer on the grounds that it would take him away from his beloved art.  He even turned down the chance in 1876 of becoming headmaster of the Birmingham School of Art as it would mean leaving London and again would take up too much of his time.

The Mother of Sisera looked out a Window by Albert Moore (1861)
The Mother of Sisera looked out a Window by Albert Moore (1861)

In 1861 Moore completed a painting with a biblical connotation. It was entitled The Mother of Sisera Looked out at a Window .  This strange title of the painting comes from a passage from the Old Testament Book of Judges (5:28) and which was part of the Song of Deborah (Judges 5:2-31):

“…Out of the window she peered, the mother of Sisera wailed through the lattice: ‘Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why tarry the hoofbeats of his chariots?…”

Although we do not know the woman’s name, we know she is the mother of Sisera who was a Canaanite general and commander of the Canaanite army and was defeated by the forces of the Israelite tribes led by Barak and Deborah.  According to legend, Sisera, whose army had been routed, fled alone arriving at the settlement of the Kenites, He was invited by a Kenite woman, named Jael, into her tent. Sisera accepted the invitation.  He was given milk to drink and fell asleep.  When Sisera had fallen asleep, Jael took a hammer and drove a “nail,” or tent-pin, into his temple.  The story about Sisera’s mother appears to be based on the thoughts of Deborah who imagined how the mother of Sisera must have felt when her son had not arrived back home.

Elijah's Sacrifice by Albert Moore (1863)
Elijah’s Sacrifice by Albert Moore (1863)

At the end of 1862 he went to Rome with his brother John Collingham Moore where he stayed for five months, and it was whilst staying in the Italian capital that he completed another biblical painting which is entitled Elijah’s Sacrifice This work is housed in the Bury Art Gallery & Museum.  It was bought from Whitworth Wallis, a leading provincial curator in 1908 for £105.  The sum was raised from bequests and council grants.  The painting is based on the passage in the bible, 1 Kings 18 36:39:

“…At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.  Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again....then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.  When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!…”

The passage described the miraculous fire, called forth by the prophet Elijah on Mount Carmel.  The prophets of Baal had earlier been challenged by Elijah for their god to conjure up fire to light the sacrificial pyre but nothing had happened.  We see Elijah with his red turban and patterned robe.  There is a symmetry about the figures who are placed at the rear of the fire pit.  There is a clear differentiation between the praying Elijah on his knees and those in the centre and to the left.  On the left of the group there is a naked priest of Baal shrinking back violently from the leaping flames which is in total contrast to the reverential posture of Elijah.  Note the counterbalance of the followers of Elijah, to his right, who quietly kneel, hands clasped in prayer, to the followers and prophets of their god, Baal, on the left,  who has let them down by not being able to bring fire to their sacrifice.  In between the two groups are bowed figures who cannot believe what they have just witnessed.

In his 1894 biography of Moore, Albert Moore, his life and works, Alfred Lys Baldry, a contemporary  and  a pupil of Moore, said that the landscape background of the work was based on a desolate spot between Rome and Tivoli that Moore had sketched.  This area was a favourite of landscape artists.  Although the background is somewhat desolate, look at how much detail Moore has put into the vegetation in the foreground.

In the second part of this blog about Albert Moore I will give more details about his life and I will look at his portrayal of women for which he is best known.

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Most of the information I have used in this and the next blog have come from  two books, biographies of Albert Joseoph Moore. They are:

Albert Moore, his life and works, by Alfred Lys Baldry (1894)

Albert Moore by Robin Asleson (published by Phaidon)

 

Study for ‘Elijah’s Sacrifice’ by Albert Moore (c.1864)
Study for ‘Elijah’s Sacrifice’ by Albert Moore (c.1864)

There are two crayon and watercolour studies Albert Moore made for this painting which are now held at the Tate Museum in London.  The first is a full length sketch of the kneeling Elijah

Study for ‘Elijah’s Sacrifice’ by Albert Moore (c.1864)
Study for ‘Elijah’s Sacrifice’ by Albert Moore (c.1864)

and the second  comprises of two facial sketches of the prophet.

I started this blog talking about the beauty of women and in the next part of this blog I will look at Albert Moore’s portrayal of such beauty.