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Lot 354: Edward William Rainford (fl.1850-1864)

Est: £50,000 GBP - £70,000 GBP
Christie'sJune 08, 2006London, United Kingdom

Item Overview


Celia telling Rosalind that Orlando is in the Forest
signed with monogram (lower right)
oil on panel
30 x 21 1/2 in. (76.2 x 54.5 cm.)


London, Royal Academy, 1853, no. 1288
(?) Manchester, City Art Gallery, Loan Exhibition of Works by Ford Madox Brown and the Pre-Raphaelites, 1911. This exhibition is listed in the Thornton Manor sale catalogue, but the picture does not appear in the copy of the exhibition catalogue in the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Port Sunlight, Lady Lever Art Gallery, Centenary Exhibition of Works by the Pre-Raphaelites - their Friends and Followers, 1948, no. 148, as by John Everett Millais (lent by Lord Leverhulme).


Athenaeum, no. 1333, 14 May 1853, p. 592.
Art Journal, 1853, p. 151.


with Thomas McLean, 7 Haymarket, London; Christie's, London, 15 November 1902, lot 69, as Rosalind and Orlando, by John Everett Millais (48 guineas to Shepherd).
James Gresham, Gallery House, Woodheys Park, Ashton-on-Mersey, by 1911; (+) Christie's, London, 12 July 1917 (first day), lot 97, as by John Everett Millais (100 guineas to Gooden & Fox on behalf of William Lever).
William Hesketh Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme (1851-1925), who hung it at his London house, 'The Hill', Hampstead.
By descent to the 3rd Viscount Leverhulme; (+) Sotheby's, Thornton Manor, Wirral, Merseyside, 26-28 June 2001, lot 397.


Rainford is one of a number of artists who were powerfully influenced by the ideas of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in the years following its formation in 1848. Like many of these figures, he only produced a handful of works in the intensely demanding style and is now largely forgotten, but he does have the distinction of playing a cameo role in the PRB Journal, William Michael Rossetti's chronicle of events in the life of the Brotherhood between 1849 and 1853.

On Wednesday, 6 March 1850 Rossetti recorded visiting Holman Hunt and their fellow PRB James Collinson. Collinson had recently 'made up his mind to cut the Wilkie style of art for the Early Christian', and was about to embark on a new painting, to be called The Novitiate, which would manifest this ambition. He was a convert to Roman Catholicism, and a month or two later would give up membership of the Brotherhood and break off his engagement to Christina Rossetti on the grounds that neither was compatible with his religious convictions. As for Hunt, he, William Michael noted, had been working on his picture A Converted British Family Sheltering a Christian Missionary from the Persecution of the Druids (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford), which was to be shown at the Royal Academy this summer. He had 'just finished the wolf-skin on the foremost savage at the door'. He had also been entertaining his friends with stories of how ' "Sloshy" comes to see him frequently, and is beginning to look on himself as quite a PRB - talking of "we", and saying that Collinson seems quite one of "us". It seems, however, that he is really labouring to free himself somewhat from the slough of slosh Hunt found him in at first, and has in consequence quite offended some amateur London son... to whom he showed one of his recent attempts'.

In a footnote to this passage, added when the Journal was published in 1900, William Michael identified 'Sloshy' as 'a painter named Rainford, whom Hunt and my brother had found in the house where they took a joint studio in 1848. He was then a slap-dash (or, as we called it, sloshy) painter, but got converted to the minute details of the P.R.B. movement'. The house where Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti took a studio in 1848 was 7 Cleveland Street, on the corner of Fitzroy Square. Rossetti had previously been working with Ford Madox Brown, but, finding Brown's conventional teaching methods irksome, had begged Hunt to share a studio with him and give him instruction. They had moved to Cleveland Street in August 1848, and their joint tenancy, though short-lived, had led to the formation of the P.R.B. a month later.

Rainford had evidently had a studio in the house when the couple moved in, and they had converted him to their ideals. Given the qualifications (or lack of them) of some members of the Brotherhood, it is perhaps surprising that they failed to enlist him too. Perhaps at the time he seemed too unregenerate to be considered; after all, he was not 'really labouring' to free himself from his 'sloshy' ways for another eighteen months. This was a word that was often on the Brothers' lips, the best-known example being their nickname for Reynolds, 'Sir Sloshua', to express their disdain for the man who epitomised not only the broad-brush technique but every other aspect of the academic tradition against which they were in revolt. Rainford's conversion, when it came, must have been not unlike that of Collinson to which William Michael refers in the same entry, a move from 'the Wilkie style' to a so-called 'Early Christian' idiom. Many artists were to follow this route in the 1850s as the Pre-Raphaelite doctrine spread. Rainford was simply an early example who enjoyed contact with the founders of the movement themselves, rather than having to rely, like others, on seeing their work at exhibitions. In upsetting 'some amateur Lord's son' by his artistic apostasy, he was also one of the first to experience the hostility that Pre-Raphaelitism aroused. The forthcoming R.A. exhibition for which Hunt was painting his Converted British Family would also see the unveiling of Millais' Carpenter's Shop (Tate Britain), a picture destined to evoke a particularly vitriolic attact by Dickens in Household Words. By the following year the ferocious reaction of the critics had reached such a pitch that Ruskin came to the artists' defence. In fact it was largely due to his intervention that the tide was turned and the movement gained so many adherents during the following decade.

Rainford makes one other appearance in contemporary annals. Henry Stacy Marks records in his autobiography that he was a fellow student when he, Marks, returned to J.M. Leigh's art school in Newman Street after a few months study in Paris. This was in June 1852, more than two years after the entry in the P.R.B. Journal, when Rainford was already an exhibiting artist; but then Leigh's was like that, somewhere you came back to from time to time to brush up your life drawing and hobnob with kindred souls. Marks himself was an example, and by 1853 he too was exhibiting; in fact Rainford negotiated the sale of his picture at that year's Academy, the first sale Marks had made. Marks's account tells us other things that enhance our picture of Rainford. He recalls that Leigh's was full of students eager to adopt the Pre-Raphaelite style. That again included himself, a fine example being Hamlet, Horatio and Osric, a picture he showed at the National Institution in 1854 which was sold in these Rooms on 8 November 1996, lot 69. He also notes that the selection committee at the British Institution was largely composed of 'noblemen and gentlemen amateurs'. Perhaps it was one of these that Rainford had annoyed.

Apart from these references, the only information we have about Rainford is what can be gleaned from exhibition catalogues. He seems to have exhibited a mere six pictures, three at the Royal Academy between 1850 and 1864 and three at the British Institution between 1852 and 1864. Three Shakespearian subjects and An Interior (British Institution 1854) were shown in fairly quick succession. There was then a ten-year gap until 1864, when a view in Sicily was shown at each venue. After this all signs of activity cease. Clearly the spark of inspiration ignited by his meeting the Pre-Raphaelites had burnt itself out within a few years, while a visit to Sicily had perhaps done no more than briefly revive a flagging ambition to pursue an artistic career. Throughout this period Rainford lived a nomadic existence in central London. Both the studio in Cleveland Street that he occupied in 1848 and the one in Charlotte Street to which he had decamped by 1850 were in early Victorian London's bohemian quarter, Bloomsbury. In 1852 we find him at the more upmarket address of 7 Grafton Street, Mayfair, but by 1864, after two further moves, he had retreated to a less salubrious area, finding rooms at 35 Princes Street, off Leicester Square.

Only two works by Rainford have actually been identified, although fortunately each is a major example. One is the present picture, an illustration to As You Like It that was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1853. The second is another of the artist's three Shakespearian subjects, Hotspur and the Courtier, which had appeared at the British Institution the previous year. This too is a picture well known to Christie's, having been in the Forbes Collection which was sold in the Rooms in February 2003 (fig. 1). Rainford's third Shakespearian theme, a scene from Cymbeline, remains untraced. This in fact was the earliest of the three and his first exhibited picture, marking his debut at the Royal Academy in 1850.

Hotspur and the Courtier takes its subject from Henry IV, Part I. It shows the encounter, described in Act I, Scene 3, between the fiery warlord and a popinjay who has been sent by the King to demand that he surrenders prisoners taken during the suppression of an insurrection in the north. This incident, so rich in opportunity to portray contrasting temperament and character, had been treated by Alfred Elmore in a painting exhibited at the RA in 1851, and this may have inspired Rainford to attempt it a year later. His interpretation, however, leaves no doubt of his adherance to the Pre-Raphaelite programme. Betraying all the hallmarks of the style - attention to detail, unyielding outline, brilliant colour, an interest in psychology and a certain deliberate quaintness - it is a textbook case of what were perceived as the movement's eccentricities, and it is not surprising that the critics slated it. The Athenaeum, for instance, thought it 'the worst example' of the Pre-Raphaelite 'mania' on the British Institution's walls. 'There could', its reviewer concluded, 'be no more effectual comment on the absurdity' of the young painters' aims.

In our scene from As You Like It (Act III, Scene 2) Rainford tackles a very different type of subject. The two heroines are seen in the Forest of Arden. Rosalind, on the right, has been banished from the court by her uncle, Duke Frederick, who has usurped her father's throne. Her close friend Celia, Frederick's daughter, on the left, has accompanied her, and the two girls are disguised for their protection, Celia as a country wench and Rosalind as a man. Rosalind has been in love with Orlando, the youngest son of her father's old friend Sir Rowland de Boys, ever since she saw him win a wrestling match at her uncle's court, while he, who, unbeknown to her, is also in the forest, fleeing the evil intentions of a jealous older brother, returns her love. He carves her name on trees and pins love poems to their trunks.
Rainford shows the moment when the girls meet, having both found examples of these effusions. Rosalind holds hers in her left hand, Celia hides hers behind her back. Rosalind wonders to whom they can be addressed, and the more worldly-wise Celia, amazed at her friend's naivety, eventually tells her.
Celia. It is young Orlando, that tripped up the wrestler's heels and your heart both, in an instant.
Rosalind. Nay, but the devil take mocking: speak, sad brow and true maid.
Celia. I'faith, coz, 'tis he.
Rosalind. Orlando?
Celia. Orlando.

The picture fared little better at the hands of the critics than the Hotspur of the previous year. The Art Journal thought the head of Celia 'a study of much merit', but found 'many objections' to 'the rest of the work'. The Athanaeum lumped it together with other pictures of a Pre-Raphaelite tendency that showed 'how valueless is manual dexterity when unaccompanied by elevation of mind'. The group of works under fire included Millais' Proscribed Royalist (Lloyd Webber Collection) and Holman Hunt's Claudio and Isabella (Tate Britain). Of the latter the reviewer wrote: 'Claudio is, after all, but a vulgar lout, and Isabella a homely creature who never could have inspired the passion of Angelo. If Mr Hunt will not give us beauty, at least let him refrain from idealising vulgarity'. In other words, Rainford could not have been in better company. Nonetheless, such negative criticism may well have been a factor in causing him to give up demanding figure subjects from now on, and soon, apparently, to give up painting altogether.

It is no accident that Rainford's picture is bracketted with Hunt's Claudio and Isabella, which shows a scene from Measure for Measure. The Pre-Raphaelites adored Shakespeare. Heirs to the Romantics who had found in him everything that answered to their highest aspirations - passion, horror, emotional intensity and keen appreciation of nature, they were also vividly aware of the competitions held in the 1840s to find artists capable of decorating the new Palace of Westminster with murals. Shakespeare was one of the prescribed subjects, and the exhibitions of the entries held in Westminster Hall, which many of the Pre-Raphaelites had seen as youths and in which some of their older associates had even been represented, teemed with the resulting designs. Even without these antecedents, however, the Pre-Raphaelites would almost certainly have looked to the Bard for those meaningful subjects, rich in psychological nuance, to which they were committed. All the leaders of the movement - Hunt, Millais, Rossetti, Madox Brown - found the plays a constant source of inspiration, while for such peripheral figures as Rainford himself or the short-lived Walter Howell Deverell, Shakespeare accounted for most of the subjects they attempted during their brief period of activity.

As You Like It has always been a favourite with artists; Fuseli, Blake, Constable, Maclise and John Pettie are among the diverse talents who have attempted to interpret it visually, and it inspired several Boydell pictures in the 1780s. The Pre-Raphaelites were no more resistent. Indeed Rainford's Celia and Rosalind is more or less contemporary with a whole group of other Pre-Raphaelite illustrations to the play, a circumstance that is surely more than coincidence. Deverell painted two As You Like It subjects, the first (Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead), being 'nearly finished' by October 1850, while the second (Birmingham Art Gallery) was in progress in the summer of 1852 and completed in time to appear, like Rainford's panel, at the R.A. the following year. Meanwhile Arthur Hughes had embarked on a series of sketches, some showing Rosalind and Orlando embracing, others Orlando carving his lover's name on a tree, out of which was eventually to evolve one of his most famous pictures, The Long Engagement (Birmingham Art Gallery). In fact for Hughes As Your Like It was something of an obsession, and he returned to it in the early 1870s both for a triptych (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool) and a smaller work, Audrey's Toilet, which was sold in these Rooms in October 1991. As for Millais, his contribution to the genre had been made a few years earlier, when he exhibited a Rosalind and Celia at the R.A. of 1868 (fig 2.). The picture shows the friends resting in the Forest of Arden with the jester Touchstone, a figure not common in Pre-Raphaelite accounts of the play but who features in those of Maclise, Pettie and others.

Anyone who looks at Rainford's two surviving pictures must be struck by the fact that, within the Pre-Raphaelite context, they are very different in style. Hotspur and the Courtier is all hard-edge and bright colours, whereas Celia and Rosalind, though only a year later, betrays a much softer and more romantic approach. The rather literal, almost heraldic interpretation that characterises the Hotspur has parallels in a picture like Berengaria's Alarm by Charles Allston Collins, a close friend of Millais and Hunt (fig. 3). This work must, indeed, have been known to Rainford since it was exhibited at the R.A. of 1850, the year he showed his scene from Cymbeline. On the other hand, Celia and Rosalind is obviously indebted to Millais, both in terms of emotional intensity and the atmospheric woodland setting. The Woodman's Daughter (fig. 4), one of Millais' R.A. exhibits of 1851, makes a particularly good comparison, anticipating Rainford's composition and mise-en-scène, athough a forest is also the setting for The Proscribed Royalist, one of the pictures associated with Rainford's in the Athenaeum review that is quoted above. Even Rainford's initials in the lower right corner of his picture bear a distinct resemblance to a Millais monogram.

Given all this and the fact that Millais later treated an As You Like It subject, it is hardly surprising that for many years Rainford's panel was attributed to Millais himself. The misattribution goes back at least to 1902, which was only six years after Millais's death. That year the picture came up for sale at Christie's as part of the stock of the dealer Thomas McLean of 7 Haymarket, who was giving up business due to a partnership dissolution. The picture was not only said to be by Millais but was called Rosalind and Orlando. If even the subject and title were wrong, it is hardly surprising that the attribution was too.

The picture was sold to a buyer called Shepherd, who was probably also a dealer, and is next heard of in the collection of James Gresham, who lived at Gallery House, Woodheys Park, Ashton-on-Mersey. Gresham's collection was a large one that would take three days to disperse at Christie's in July 1917, totalling no fewer than 424 lots. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was miscellaneous in character, encompassing both early and late Victorian art: Frith, Frost, Cox, Maclise, Linnell and Clarkson Stanfield rubbed shoulders with Albert Goodwin, Alfred East, Edmund Blair Leighton, J.W. Waterhouse, Stanhope Forbes and Lucy Kemp-Welch. The overall tone was fairly academic. Gresham clearly had a passion for Frith, owning an astonishing forty-three examples, while later Victorian classicism was amply represented by a group of major Poynters, including the iconic Cave of the Storm Nymphs (Lloyd Webber Collection), one of H.J.Draper's finest works, The Pearls of Aphrodite (private collection), and the occasional Leighton, Alma-Tadema and Albert Moore. Pre-Raphaelitism, however, was not ignored; there were examples of Madox Brown, Rossetti, Arthur Hughes and Burne-Jones, and in addition to the Rainford Gresham had two genuine Millais, a small version of the 1865 Esther and a watercolour version of one of the artist's book illustrations, The Finding of Moses.

Celia and Rosalind was bought at the Gresham sale by the dealers Gooden and Fox. They were acting on behalf of their most important client, the soap magnate William Hesketh Lever, who was raised to the peerage as Baron Leverhuhulme that year (the title was advanced to a Viscountecy in 1922). As one of the greatest collectors of his day and the founder of the Lady Lever Art Gallery at Port Sunlight, Lever needs no introduction here. Although his resources were no doubt much greater than Gresham's, their taste was in some ways similar, and he secured a total of thirteen works at the sale, including not only the Rainford but the genuine small version of Esther. It is conceivable that he had noticed these pictures at the great Pre-Raphaelite exhibition held at Manchester in 1911. There is some doubt as to whether the Rainford was borrowed (see the picture's exhibition history above), but Gresham certainly lent Esther and other works, while Lever lent a major Ford Madox Brown.

Whatever the case, Millais was one of Lever's favourite artists, and his new purchases joined a formidable array of previously acquired examples. These included Sir Isumbras, The Black Brunswicker, Spring (Apple Blossoms), a fine late landscape, Lingering Autumn, and others. Lever was a great haunter of the London salerooms, and Sir Isumbras and Lingering Autumn were among the pictures he had bought when the truly phenomenal collection of George McCulloch had come up for sale at Christie's in 1913. His raid on the Gresham collection four years later was an echo of that memorable event, undoubtedly the climax of his collecting career.

Celia and Rosalind was not to be given to the Lady Lever Art Gallery when this opened in 1922 as a memorial to Lever's wife. He kept it for his own enjoyment, hanging it at 'The Hill', his London house in Hamstead to which he had recently added a picture gallery, and bequeathing it to his son, the second Viscount, on his death in 1925. Latterly it hung at Thornton Manor, the family's country house in the Wirral, appearing at the sale of its contents in June 2001.

The picture was correctly attributed in the sale catalogue, but without acknowledgement to Hilary Underwood, who had identified its true authorship not long before, 'publishing' her discovery in the modest and self-effacing form of a note pencilled on a Witt Library mount. Up to this point the picture had continued to sail under false colours as a work by Millais. If it had simply been hidden in a private collection, this might have been understanable, but even if it had not appeared in the Manchester exhibition of 1911, it had certainly been included in the one held at the Lady Lever Art Gallery in 1948 to celebrate the centenary of the formation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. By now someone had tumbled to the fact that Millais had exhibited a picture called Rosalind and Celia at the Royal Academy in 1868, and had mistakenly concluded that this was it. 'Painted 1867, and exhibited RA the following year', the cataloguer wrote confidently, while reading the monogram as 'JEM' (for John Everett Millais). Evidently no-one had checked the reproduction of the real R.A. picture in J.G. Millais' biography of his father (fig. 2)), let alone been aware that Rainford's panel, while it might conceivably be mistaken for a Millais of the early 1850s, could not conceivably be one of the late 1860s. It took the revival of sympathetic interest in the Pre-Raphaelite movement, and the advent of modern scholarhip, to overturn nearly a century of muddled thinking and establish the correct attribution at long last.

No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.

Auction Details

Victorian & Traditionalist Pictures

June 08, 2006, 12:00 AM EST

8 King Street, St. James's, London, LDN, SW1Y 6QT, UK