The Mancorbo Canal in the Picos de Europa by Carlos de Haes (1876)

The Mancorbo Canal in the Picos de Europe by Carlos de Haes (1876)
The Mancorbo Canal in the Picos de Europe by Carlos de Haes (1876)

My Daily Art Display blog today incorporates the two things I enjoy most in art; landscape paintings and discovering a painter I had, up till now, never heard of.   Today I am featuring the nineteenth century Belgian born Spanish landscape painter Carlos de Haes.

Carlos de Haes was born in Brussels in January 1826.  He was born into a dynasty of merchants and financiers and was the eldest of seven children.  When he was nine years old his family moved to Malaga where he grew up and went to school. His initial artistic training was under the tutelage of Luis de la Cruz y Ríos, the Spanish miniaturist painter, who had once been the court painter of King Ferdinand VII.    In 1850, at the age of twenty-four, he returned to Belgium and studied for five years under the Belgian landscape painter Joseph Quineaux.  It was the influence of Quineaux which drew de Haes into the world of landscape painting and sketching and painting en plein air.  During his five year stay in Brussels he managed to travel to France, Holland and Germany constantly sketching the varied landscapes he came across.  It was also around this time that he became interested in the works of the contemporary Realist artists.    In 1855 after completing his art course he returned to Spain and went to live in Madrid and became a naturalised Spaniard.   In 1856 he put forward a number of his landscape works for exhibition in Madrid’s Exposición Nacional, where they were very well received.   The following year, 1857, at the age of thirty-one, Carlos de Haes won the competition for the chair of landscape painting at theReal Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (Royal Academyof Fine Arts of San Fernando), with his work entitled Royal Palace from the Casa de Campo.  The Academy was an establishment which would half a century later be home to the likes of Dalí and Picasso.   In 1861 de Haes was made Académico de mérito. 

During his tenure at the Academy, de Haes set about putting together a set of regulations for his students governing landscape painting and rules for future landscape competitions.  He was insistent that his students mastered the art of en plein air sketching and painting instead of just producing historical landscapes which they had conjured up in the studio.  This, he believed prevented the true study of nature, and he asserted that the en plein air aspect was of paramount importance when contemplating a landscape work.   Haes encouraged his students to interpret nature directly and by working out in the open he insisted that they understood how the changing light changed how they viewed the vegetation and the terrain.  He did however countenance using the studio to fine tune the painting and make final adjustments.  Haes’ insistence that his students should produce a truthful depiction of the landscape, captured by painting en plein air, points towards his interest in the new Realism form of art, which claimed that artists should represent the world as it was, even if it meant breaking artistic and social conventions.   

During the next ten years Haes spent most of his time painting landscapes which featured the Spanish Pyrenees and the Guadarama mountains in central Spain.  One of his students who accompanied him on his sketching journeys was Aureliano Berruete who would become one of the foremost Spanish painters.

Carlos de Haes became ill in 1890 and died in Madrid in 1898.  He bequeathed his mostly small-format paintings to his pupils, who gave them to Spanish museums, the majority of which are now housed in the Casón del Buen Retiro, part of the Prado Museum in Madrid.

My featured painting today by Carlos de Haes was one which I saw when I recently visited the Prado in Madrid.  It was completed by him in 1876, although the preparatory sketch for the work was dated in situ in 1874.  It was exhibited at that the 1876 National Exhibition in Madrid and was subsequently purchased by the Spanish state.  Carlos de Haes had been travelling with Aureliano Berruete around the wild and rugged Cantabrian rural area of Liébana when they came across this spectacular view.   The oil on canvas painting, measuring 168cms x 123cms is entitled The Mancorbo Canal in the Picos de EuropeThe Picos de Europa is a range of mountains 20 km inland from the northern coast of Spain and this landscape painting by de Haes depicts the awesome and craggy vista of the mountain range which was one of Carlos de Haes’ favourite type of spectacular and breathtaking views.   At the bottom of the painting, although it somewhat difficult to pick them out, there are three cows and their herder.

I stood before this beautiful painting and was awestruck by its beauty and its realistic quality.  So, if you ever make it to the Prado be sure to find this work.

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The Health of the Bride by Stanhope Alexander Forbes

The Health of the Bride by Stanhope Alexander Forbes (1889)

My Daily Art Display today features Stanhope Alexander Forbes, an artist of the Newlyn School.  The term “Newlyn School” refers to the artist colony located in and around the fishing village of Newlyn, in Cornwall, from the 1880s until the early 20th century, which specialized in landscape painting.  Like the Continental artist colonies of the Barbizon School near Paris, and Pont-Aven in Brittany, artists gathered in Newlyn to paint landscape scenes in a purer setting, with strong natural light. Newlyn’s plein air painting followed the Impressionist doctrine of naturalism, which is a true-to-life style which involves the representation or depiction of nature with the least possible distortion or interpretation.  The artists of the Newlyn School would work directly in nature, using subject matter drawn from rural working life, especially that of the fishermen.  Newlyn provided the perfect setting for artists with the long hours of strong natural light, a climate which was much milder than the rest of the country and the seaside town was surrounded by coastal and inland areas of natural beauty.  For the impoverished artist, Newlyn was, in those days, a cheap place to live and following new rail connections between Cornwall and London it proved very accessible.

Forbes was born in Dublin in 1857.  His father worked as a railway manager and his mother, Juliette, was French.  His uncle, James Staats Forbes, was a noted art collector who also worked for the railways.  The family often used to make trips to France and it was whilst on vacation there that young Stanhope developed an interest in art.   The family moved from Ireland to London when his father was transferred and it was at this time that Stanhope attended Dulwich College and later became a student at the Royal Academy Schools where he staged his first exhibition in 1878.  Two years later he and his friend and fellow artist he had met at Dulwich College, Henry La Thangue, went to Paris where they studied art under the French painter, Léon Bonnat.  In 1881, having become familiar with the plein air paintings of the French naturalist painter Jules Bastien-Lepage, he decided to travel to Brittany, staying at Cancale where he painted A Street in Brittany.  This painting met with great acclaim when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1882 and  the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, purchased it that same year.  Forbes was greatly encouraged and he described the success of the painting as a turning point in his career.  He once again returned to Brittany in 1883 staying this time at Quimperlé.   He visited Pont-Aven in October and met many fellow artists there.

In 1884 he arrived in Newlyn and soon became a leading figure in the growing colony of artists.   His national reputation was established with the acceptance of his A Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach which he painted in 1885 and exhibited at the Royal Academy in London.  In 1889 he painted The Health of the Bride which is today’s featured work.  It was with the money he received from the sale of this painting to Henry Tate, the wealthy English sugar merchant and philanthropist that enabled him to marry Elizabeth Adela Armstrong, a fellow artist who had moved to Newlyn in 1885.   Canadian-born, she was one of the leading women artists of her day.  In 1886 Forbes became a founding member of the New English Art Club

Ten years later in 1899, as the number of artists in Newlyn dwindled, Stanhope and his wife Elizabeth founded their own Newlyn School of Painting.  Her marriage to Stanhope Forbes was a partnership of equals, and their School of Painting was very much a joint enterprise.  In 1910 he was elected to the Royal Academy.   His wife Elizabeth died of cancer in 1912 and three years later in 1915 Stanhope Forbes remarried, this time to Maudie Palmer, a former pupil of the school and close friend of the family.  Sadly, in August 1916, his son Alec died, killed fighting in the front line in France.

Stanhope Forbes died in Newlyn in 1947, a few months short of his 90th birthday.   In 2000, some fifty years after he died, his painting The Seine Boat which he completed in 1904, sold for £1.2 million and was a world record price for one of his works.

Today’s painting entitled The Health of the Bride was completed by Forbes in 1889, the year of his own marriage.  According to Cook, Hardie & Payne’s book on Forbes, entitled Singing from the Walls, Life & Works of EA Forbes, Forbes wrote about his painting to Sir Henry Tate the purchaser of the work.  In the letter he wrote:

“…I myself will be rather occupied down here – no less a matter than my own wedding.   It was inevitable after painting this picture…”

As to why Forbes should prefer such an indoor subject we need to go to Caroline Fox’s book Stanhope Forbes and the Newlyn School in which she quotes the comments of the artist about the reason behind the painting:

“…Standing in one of these inn parlours I had first thought of a painting of an anglers’ meeting – you will notice one or two cases of fish on the wall – but it occurred to me that a wedding party could be much more picturesquely grouped, even though one had to paint them in the smarter, more conventional Sunday clothes…”

In his painting we have members of different generations of a family seated around a table in an inn for a wedding breakfast.  Standing up, to the right, is a sailor, toasting the bride who avoids his gaze and the gazes of the other celebrants.  She just shyly looks down at her bouquet.  The painting is lit from different angles.  Although this is not an open air scene which was the norm for the Newlyn School of Painters, Forbes has stuck closely to their modus operandi.  The sitters are locals and not professional models and the setting for the scene is a recognisable place – in this case the local inn at Newlyn.   The local fishing industry which played a big part in Newlyn life is not forgotten as in the picture, on the rear wall of the inn, we can see a painting of a ship and if we look through the window of the pub we can just make out the mast and rigging of a ship.

The painting was bought by Sir Henry Tate for £600 and it became part of a collection which the philanthropist gave to the nation when the Tate Gallery was founded in 1897.  The painting was well received and was highly praised when exhibited at the 1899 Royal Academy.  It now hangs in the Tate Britain in London.