Sir William Blake Richmond [1842-1921]
Study of Young Woman (?Jane Burden Morris – wife of William Morris), c. 1862
Pencil on paper
5-1/2 x 5-1/4 inches (sight-size)
Framed | 14 x 14 inches
Drawing was exhibited. Possibly depicting Jane Burden Morris – the wife of William Morris.
Original gallery matting/framing with label verso
William Blake Richmond English painter and decorator, was born in London. His father, George Richmond, R.A. [1809-1896], himself the son of a successful miniature painter, was a distinguished artist, who painted the portraits of the most eminent people of his day, and played an important part in society. He was part of the artists’ group known as the Ancients, because of their reverence for William Blake. Richmond was, in fact, at Blake’s deathbed in 1827, closing his eyes and taking a death mask. Such was his reverence that he named his second son after the artist. William was a precociously talented artist and at age fourteen he entered the Royal Academy schools, where he worked for about three years. A visit to Italy in 1859 gave him special opportunity for studying the works of the old masters, and had an important effect upon his development. His first Academy picture was a portrait group (1861); and to this succeeded, during the next three years, several other pictures of the same class. In 1865 he returned to Italy, and spent four years there, living chiefly at Rome. To this period belongs the large canvas, A Procession in Honour of Bacchus, which he exhibited at the Academy in 1869 when he came back to England. His picture, An Audience at Athens, was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1885. He became Slade professor at Oxford, succeeding Ruskin, in 1878, but resigned three years later. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1888 and Royal Academician in 1895; he received the degree of D.C.L. in 1896, and a knighthood of the Bath in 1897, and became professor of painting to the Royal Academy. Apart from his pictures, he is notable for his work in decorative art, his most conspicuous achievement being the internal decoration and the glass mosaics of St Paul’s Cathedral.
This exquisite drawing of a Pre-Raphaelite woman, possibly Jane Burden Morris, belongs to Richmond’s early work, which was strongly impacted by his close friendship with members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones were fellow students at Oxford with Richmond’s elder brother Tom, and he met them in 1854 while visiting and would become lifelong friends with both. He would also form friendships with John Millais, William Holman Hunt, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Later in life, he would paint Morris’s portrait (National Portrait Gallery, London) and do a drawing of Morris on his deathbed. In fact Millais’ criticism had a strong impact on the first significant painting sold by Richmond, entitled Enid and Geraint; which was painted in a Pre-Raphaelite style. This early portion of Blake’s oeuvre is described by Richmond’s biographers as his Pre-Raphaelite period.
Jane Burden, the daughter of a stableman and laundress who lived in Oxford, was discovered by Burne-Jones and Rossetti when attending a play and subsequently became a model to the circle of young pre-Raphaelite painters. Morris developed an infatuation for Burden and in 1859 they were married. It is not yet known the circumstances of Richmond’s drawing or the reason for the inscription “Study for Jonathan,” as no paintings with this title and relevant female subject are known by Richmond. Richmond did have a brother named Jonathan. However a number of works by Richmond are unlocated, particularly several of his early works. In 1862 he exhibited “A Study” at the British Institution, and this may refer to the current drawing. Stylistically it compares to known portrait drawings by the artist from the same time period, notably a drawing of his future wife Charlotte Foster.