Description: Portrait of Mrs Louisa Jenner, full-length, in a blue dress against an Edinburgh landscape
signed and dated 'ARTHUR HUGHES/1867' (lower left)
oil on canvas
31 1/2 x 19 3/4 in. (77.5 x 50.2 cm.)
Artist or Maker: Arthur Hughes (1832-1915)
Literature: L. Roberts, Arthur Hughes: His Life and Works, Woodbridge, 1997, pp. 170, 304.
Provenance: Commissioned in 1866 by Charles Jenner,
and by descent to his brother-in-law; by descent to his daughter;
by descent to her daughter; gifted to her nephew,
and by descent to the present owner.
Notes: Arthur Hughes was first exposed to Pre-Raphaelitism in 1850 when Alexander Munro lent him a copy of the group's journal, The Germ. Soon afterwards Munro introduced him to Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown, and Hughes began his career as one of the most talented of the Brotherhood's younger members. During the 1850s and early 1860s he produced some of the most memorable Pre-Raphaelite paintings, including April Love (1855-6; Tate London), The Long Engagement (1854-9; Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery) and Home from Sea (1863; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford). He is also noteworthy as being one of the few who maintained life-long friendships with the movement's founding members.
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By 1866 Hughes was enjoying success as a portrait painter, having recently gained considerable acclaim for Mrs James Leathart and Children (fig. 1; 1863-65, Laing Art Gallery) and Mrs Thomas Woolner (fig. 2; 1866, National Trust, Bradley Manor). In the spring of that year, Hughes wrote to his patron James Leathart: 'I hope soon to be northward again...about the portrait of Mrs Jenner' (see L. Roberts, Hughes, p. 170, therein mistranscribed as 'Mrs Jesmer'). The artist had only recently returned from Gateshead, where he had been working on yet another portrait, A Birthday Picnic (1866-67; private collection, see Christie's, The Forbes Collection of Victorian Pictures & Works of Art, 19 February 2003, lot 11). Judging from Hughes's words it seems apparent that the agreement with Charles Jenner regarding his wife's portrait had already been reached.
It would have been entirely characteristic for Hughes to paint a small study (fig. 3; private collection) from life, and to execute the large scale portrait on his return to the London studio. The half-length study, here reproduced for the first time, reveals that Hughes altered Mrs Jenner's attitude for the finished oil. While her dress, cross-shaped pendant, and necklace remain the same, her shawl, more elaborate and colourful than that pictured in the study, is now draped over her forearms rather than her shoulders.
When taking into account the similarities between Mrs Thomas Woolner and Mrs Louisa Jenner, we can assume that Charles Jenner was aware of the former and wished to possess a similar likeness of his young wife (she was her husband's junior by 23 years). Both portraits place the sitter standing, full-length, in a highly-detailed part-wooded landscape; her arms draped with a scarf and her head turned aside. Further evidence of this connection derives from comparing Mrs Woolner's portrait to the early study for Mrs Jenner. They reveal near- identical attitudes: both women standing to the right whilst facing to the left, with their right arms across their midriffs. It is also interesting to note that the pigeons at Mrs Jenner's feet are reminiscent of those depicted in Mrs James Leathart.
Although no documentation appears to survive, Hughes's price for this portrait was likely to be £100, which at the time was 'his charge for a portrait in that style [i.e. Mrs Thomas Woolner], finished up like it' (Thomas Woolner to Francis Turner Palgrave, 2 September 1865; see Roberts, Hughes, p. 167). Portrait of Mrs Louisa Jenner is representative of Hughes' work of the mid-1860s; the intense shades of blue-lilac and green had become a trademark, and every detail is highly wrought.
In 1838 Charles Jenner and Charles Kennington opened a drapery business after the two men had been sacked from another store for skipping work to attend the races at Musselburgh. Jenner assumed full ownership of the business when Kennington retired in 1861, and in 1874 changed the name to Charles Jenner & Co. The store went on expanding and growing in success, and in 1911 the store was awarded a Royal Warrant. Now one of Britain's oldest department stores, Jenners maintains its original location in Princes Street, Edinburgh.
We are grateful to Leonard Roberts for providing this catalogue entry.
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