Full Details for Lot 994
Sale DEC10A Lot 994
Charlotte Wylie or Wyllie (nee Major) (fl. 1872-1893) "The Ballad of Sir David Graeme", watercolour laid down on canvas, 28" x 22.5" In traditional Pre-Raphaelite style, this water-colour depicts the story told in the ballad by the 19th century Scottish poet James Hogg, from his collection of writings, which he called "The Mountain Bard", dating from 1807.
Hogg's ballad imitation 'Sir David Graeme' is Hogg's literary ballad in response to 'The Twa Corbies', which had appeared in the third volume of the Minstrelsy. 'Sir David Graham' first appeared in the Scots Magazine September 1805, where it is presented straightforwardly as 'a border ballad'. The dramatic focus is on the 'lady fair' suggested in the narrative of 'The Twa Corbies', who in Hogg's ballad waits for her slain knight and eventually discovers his raven-pecked corpse.
The "fair lady" of the story watches from her window in vain for the coming of her "noble Graeme," who had vowed that the hate of her father and brothers would not keep him from coming to carry off his fair lady on St. Lambert's night.
The sun had drunk frae Kieldar Fell
His beverage o' the morning dew;
The deer had crouched her in the dell,
The heather oped its bells o' blue.
The lady to her window hied,
And it opened o'er the banks o' Tyne;
An' "O! alack," she said, and sighed,
"Sure ilka breast is blythe but mine?"
Her forebodings prove only too true, for her lover's faithful hound seeks her out, and, with mournful looks, induces her to follow him over Deadwater Fell, and guides her to a lonely spot where the raven-pecked body of the gallant Graeme, slain by her brothers, is lying.
A label on the reverse of the picture, in Charlotte Wyllie's hand, includes a verse from the ballad of the discovery of the Knight's body, as portrayed in the picture, which reads:
"She gae ae look she need it but one
For it left her sweet uncertaintye
She saw a wound through his shoulder bone
And in his brave breast two or three"
It is interesting to speculate that the "lady fair" in the watercolour is a likeness of Elizabeth "Lizzie" Siddall (1829-1862) who was painted and drawn extensively by artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, including Walter Deverell, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In 1852, she famously posed for Millais' Ophelia by floating in a bathtub to model the drowning subject of the painting. She married Rossetti in 1860 but became addicted to laudanum and died the following year. Charlotte Wyllie, was a friend of Lawrence and Laura Alma-Tadema and the Pre-Raphaelites who shocked stuffy Victorian society. Charlotte's work included portraits, genre scenes and symbolical subjects, but was never extensive and is rare. She exhibited at London's Grosvenor Gallery, a flagship for the Aesthetic Movement which launched in 1877 as a liberal alternative to the Royal Academy, and one of the few to encourage women artists. Laura Alma-Tadema was a fellow exhibitor at the Grosvenor. She had particularly close artistic connections with G F Watts and may have been envolved as a collaborator in some of his work.
An oil painting "A wanderer in the Elysian Fields" was sold at Christies lot 102 on 11th June 2004.
Charlotte Wyllie, (spelt Wylie by her,) née Major, (fl 1872-1893) was married to the artist Charles William Wyllie (1853-1923) and brother of the better known exponent of marine and shipping subjects, William Lionel Wyllie, R.A. (1851-1931).
Little is known about her, even her dates being uncertain. Her husband, Charles, was one of the artists who painted a series of 45 panels in the entrance hall of the Alma-Tademas' home and studio in St John's Wood and a small portrait that Alma-Tadema painted of Charlotte was almost certainly done in return for her husband's work.
Later, when her old friend, the popular Victorian painter and sculptor George Frederick Watts was leaving Little Holland House prior to it being demolished, Charlotte, dismayed at the thought of the destruction of all the frescoes, insisted she could have them removed from the walls at great personal cost. Watts offered them to Charlotte as a gift, but she declined and they were later presented to Leighton House, where they remain today
PROVENANCE; Label verso with extract of a poem by James Hogg, "Sir David Graeme", from the "Mountain Bard". Also inscribed "Mrs C Wylie, 3 Earls Terrace, Kensington" which is only a short distance away from George Frederick Watts home at Little Holland House, 6 Melbury Road, Kensington.
This water-colour was purchased in a small Bournemouth Auction about 6 years ago, without attribution. Nothing is known of its whereabouts in the previous 130 years. It is a rare and previously unrecognised painting by a mysterious woman painter associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
Estimate £ 3,000-5,000
A narrow strip has been cut down the whole of the right hand side and laid down on the canvas at the same time as the rest of the picture. Strip is approximately 1-1.5cm wide. Pin holes in corners. Few very small areas of paint loss. Wear around edges. Possible slight loss of colour. Actual picture colour is not as vibrant as front cover illustration.
Sold for £3000
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