Whistler and Sickert seem to have influenced many British artists during the last couple of decades of the nineteenth century. Among them was Paul Fordyce Maitland (1863–1909), many of whose paintings are now in the Tate Gallery and provincial collections in England. Despite that, little seems to be known about him.
Maitland had a spinal deformity from birth which apparently made him reclusive. He trained at what was then known as the National Art Training School in South Kensington, London, now part of the Royal College of Art. Following that he was taken on as a pupil by the French painter Theodore Roussel, who had been in London since 1870. It was Roussel who introduced him to Whistler, and he joined the New English Art Club soon after its formation.
Maitland must have painted his floral still life of a Hyacinth while he was still a student in about 1883. Even at this stage, before his involvement with British Impressionism, his style is painterly.
Many of Maitland’s surviving paintings are small oil sketches which he made of the buildings on the banks of the River Thames in London. Battersea Boat Houses from about 1888 is representative of these. The artist appears to have been limited in the distance of his travel, perhaps by his back, and probably travelled by bus, painted his small sketches on wood panels which fitted in his pochade box, in front of the motif, then returned home.
Barges, Chelsea Riverside, the ‘Eighties (c 1885-90) is a larger and more detailed oil sketch showing the waterfront in fashionable Chelsea, London. Like Whistler and Sickert, he uses a limited palette of softer colours than was usual in French Impressionism.
Riverside Industries (c 1889) is a more distant view of some of the more industrial areas on the Thames.
The Gardens, Chelsea Embankment, also from about 1889, shows one of the small public gardens besides the Thames in Chelsea.
A few of his paintings use higher chroma and a more open palette, including this view of The Three Public-Houses, Morning Sun Light from about 1889. This shows Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, and looks east towards Battersea Bridge over the Thames. The house at the far left, which is green with ivy, is next door to a house in which JMW Turner once lived.
In 1889, Maitland’s paintings were included in an exhibition of British Impressionists at the Goupil Gallery. There is some confusion as to which gallery, though, as at about that time, the Goupil Gallery in London showed the work of the London Impressionists, a group which may have included Maitland. Other sources give the date as 1899, which is even more puzzling.
A select few of Maitland’s paintings show views outside London. In about 1890, he managed to escape the city and paint this In Buckinghamshire.
Also from about 1890, Cheyne Walk in Winter is more typical again, with its limited palette and soft colours.
Maitland’s more detailed and undated painting of Cheyne Walk: The Corner of Beaufort Street probably dates from around this time.
In about 1896, Maitland travelled to the east of London, to the Isle of Sheppey in the mouth of the River Medway in Kent, where he painted A Yacht off Sheerness.
Most probably the following year, he travelled to the Royal Naval dockyard and port of Chatham in Kent, where he painted The Sun Pier, Chatham (c 1897). The pier itself is at the right, and as the name suggests was intended for sunbathing. It was completed in 1884, blew down the following year, and was rebuilt the next. The chimney on the left is part of a flour mill, and to the left of that is a timber wharf. It’s thought that Maitland painted this from a static barge, intended for bathers, in the middle of the River Medway. Roussel had a country house near Rochester in Kent, and may have travelled here in company with Maitland to paint.
Around the turn of the century, Maitland painted a number of views in Kensington Gardens, London, which complete this brief survey of his work.
He painted this view of The Flower Walk, Kensington Gardens in about 1897. This appears to have been in the summer, judging by the light dress and exuberant hats of the people.
The Lady’s Mile, Kensington Gardens shows the edge of the gardens, as painted by Maitland in about 1900.
Kensington Gardens: Vicinity of the Pond, from about 1907, shows a more central area in which people appear to be engaging in sports and activities. The Oval Pond is in the middle of the gardens, to the west of the Serpentine Lake in the adjacent Hyde Park.
Paul Maitland died in London on 13 May 1909, at the age of only forty-five. It appears that the British dramatist Sir Terence Rattigan (1911-77) (or one of his close friends) developed a taste for Maitland’s paintings, and many of those now in the Tate in London were presented by an anonymous donor in memory of Rattigan. Had it not been for that collection, I suspect that Maitland’s paintings would have all but vanished by now.