How the Other Half Live: paintings of stately homes 2

Willard Metcalf (1858–1925), May Night (1906), oil on canvas, 99.5 × 91.7 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

In the first of these two articles looking at paintings of palaces, mansions and other stately homes, I looked at a selection up to 1864. This article shows further views until well into the twentieth century, in which artists developed new themes featuring these wonderful old buildings.

Gustave Courbet (1819–1877), Chillon Castle (1874-77), oil on canvas, 73 x 92 cm, location not known. Wikimedia Commons.

During Gustave Courbet’s tormented final years of exile in Switzerland, he became particularly obsessed with the island château at the eastern end of Lake Geneva, Chillon Castle, here in this view painted from 1874-77. This castle’s origins are ancient, but much of what is seen here was the result of expansion in the thirteenth century. It was used intermittently as a prison, and for a period as a munitions depot. Shortly after Courbet’s death, a major restoration programme was launched, and it’s now claimed to be the country’s most visited historic monument.

John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836–1893), Autumn Gold (1880), oil on cardboard, 47 x 38 cm, location not known. Wikimedia Commons.

John Atkinson Grimshaw’s emotive Autumn Gold (1880) is set outside what appears to be a country manor house somewhere in England. Leaf fall is well under way, and at the top of stone steps is a maid from the house. There are no other signs of life.

Camille Pissarro (1830–1903), Church and Manor-House at Éragny (1884), oil on canvas, 54 x 66.8 cm, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD. Wikimedia Commons.

When Camille Pissarro moved to Éragny and started to paint extensive series of the neighbouring countryside, he frequently included this very familiar view of the fine spire of the Church and Manor-House at Éragny, here in 1884.

Friedrich Eckenfelder (1861–1938), Zollernschloss in Balingen (1895), oil on canvas, 48.5 x 38.5 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

Friedrich Eckenfelder’s local stately home was the Zollernschloss in Balingen, here painted in 1895. Although it might appear a little run-down, its original construction started in about 1255, and it has now been extensively restored and opened as a museum.

Jean-François Raffaëlli (1850-1924), The Fletcher Mansion, New York City (1899), oil on canvas, 60.3 x 81.3 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY. Wikimedia Commons.

During Jean-François Raffaëlli’s second visit to the US, when he served on the jury of the Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh in 1899, he painted The Fletcher Mansion, New York City. This mansion was the private residence of Isaac D Fletcher and his family, and stands on the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and East 79th Street.

The building was only completed in 1898, and Fletcher died there in 1917. He had been an art collector, and left his collection and the house to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which sold the house on to the oil magnate Harry F Sinclair. It’s now better known by his name, but is owned and has been restored by the Ukrainian Institute of America.

Frits Thaulow (1847–1906), A Château in Normandy (date not known), oil on canvas, 82 x 102 cm, location not known. Wikimedia Commons.

Frits Thaulow painted this undated view of A Château in Normandy, with his characteristic combination of rippled river and snow.

Painters in the early nineteenth century had started using remote monasteries and other buildings, often in rugged terrain, to explore darker themes, perhaps in response to Mary Shelley’s popular novel Frankenstein, which was published in 1818. Stately homes appeared rather later, though.

Victor Borisov-Musatov (1870–1905), Phantoms (1903), tempera on canvas, dimensions not known, Tretyakov Gallery Государственная Третьяковская галерея, Moscow, Russia. Wikimedia Commons.

After Victor Borisov-Musatov returned to Russia from three years in Paris, he started painting scenes featuring affluent ladies in imaginary country estates, based on the country seat of contemporary Russian princes. Phantoms, from 1903, shows the ghosts of young women drifting serenely in front of the steps of a grand country house. This work was popular with some of the major Russian Symbolist authors of the time.

Marie Spartali Stillman (1844–1927), Kelmscott Manor: Feeding Doves in Kitchen Yard (1904), watercolor and gouache on paper, 34.3 × 52.1 cm, Kelmscott Manor, The Society of Antiquaries. Wikimedia Commons.

Marie Spartali Stillman painted many views of Kelmscott Manor, the residence of William and Jane Morris, and centre of the British Arts and Crafts Movement. The Manor was originally built in stone in about 1600, and nestles in countryside near the River Thames, to the west of Oxford. Among its many features is a walled garden, which Stillman found secluded and peaceful.

Kelmscott Manor: Feeding Doves in Kitchen Yard (1904) is possibly her finest view of the house, with a woman on one knee on the crazy paving slabs, her right arm held up to feed one of the white doves from its flock.

Marie Spartali Stillman (1844–1927), Kelmscott Manor: The Long Walk (1904), watercolour and gouache on paper mounted on backing, 38.1 × 54.6 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

Kelmscott Manor: The Long Walk (1904) is another wonderful view. The woman shown is clutching lilies in her left hand, as a symbol of purity, and her head is covered as if she was from mediaeval times, not the early twentieth century.

One of the best-known mansions in American art in the early twentieth century is in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

May Night
Willard Metcalf (1858–1925), May Night (1906), oil on canvas, 99.5 × 91.7 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

Many artists enjoyed the support of Florence Griswold (1850-1937), a resident of Old Lyme who encouraged artists to stay in her house there, so founding the Old Lyme Art Colony. During the early part of his visit in 1906, Willard Metcalf painted this unusual nocturne of Griswold’s house, May Night. This is now a museum containing the largest public collection of Metcalf’s paintings.

When Gustav Klimt was on holiday each summer on the Attersee Lake, he took to painting views through a telescope.

Gustav Klimt (1862–1918), Castle with a Moat (Unterach Manor on the Attersee Lake, Austria) (1908-09), oil on canvas, 110 × 110 cm, Národní galerie v Praze, Prague, Czech Republic. Image by Ophelia2, via Wikimedia Commons.

Castle with a Moat shows Unterach Manor on the Attersee Lake, and was probably painted in 1908 or 1909. It incorporates his almost Divisionist dotted foliage with contrasting smooth-textured walls of buildings, all softened in the reflected image. Given the water between the motif and the artist, this must have been painted through a telescope, or possibly from a boat on the lake.

In 1910, the former Nabi Maurice Denis started renting a large building in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, which had originally been a general hospital when it was built in the eighteenth century.

Maurice Denis (1870–1943), Self-Portrait in Front of the Priory (1921), media and dimensions not known, Musée départemental Maurice Denis, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France. Wikimedia Commons.

Just on the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Denis bought the building, which he decorated and called The Priory, and now houses the largest collection of his works.

The best-known image of Denis himself is his Self-Portrait in Front of the Priory from 1921, when he had just entered his fifties, and is stood in front of the large mansion.