William Rothenstein (Bradford 1872 - Far Oakridge, Gloucestershire 1945)

Portrait of Charles Haslewood Shannon, R.A. Sold

Pencil and coloured chalks on light brown paper.
Signed, dedicated and dated WMR to ClH.S / Jan. 96 at the lower left.
380 x 298 mm. (15 x 11 3/4 in.)

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A portrait of the printmaker, draughtsman and book illustrator Charles Haslewood Shannon (1863-1937), at the age of thirty-three. Shannon was a key figure in the London art world between 1890 and 1930 and, together with his lifelong partner Charles Ricketts, designed and illustrated a large number of books, published an art journal entitled The Dial, and in 1894 established the Vale Press, named after their home in Chelsea. It was through Oscar Wilde that Rothenstein first met Shannon and Ricketts in 1893, soon after his return to London from Paris. As he recalled in his memoirs, ‘Oscar Wilde had taken me to the Vale to see Ricketts and Shannon before I came to live in Chelsea, when I was charmed by these men, and by their simple dwelling, with its primrose walls, apple-green skirting and shelves, the rooms hung with Shannon’s lithographs, a fan-shaped watercolour by Whistler, and drawings by Hokusai – their first treasures, to be followed by so many others.’ Ricketts and Shannon formed an impressive collection of Old Master drawings and paintings, antiquities, Persian miniatures and Japanese prints. In 1894 Rothenstein and Shannon shared a joint exhibition of their drawings and lithographs at E. J. van Wisselingh’s Dutch Gallery on Brook Street, London. This was to be Rothenstein’s first major London exhibition, and included thirty-one of his works, mostly portrait lithographs as well as some drawings and pastels.

As William Rothenstein further noted, ‘But in those early Chelsea days I was especially attracted by Ricketts and Shannon – they were so different from any artists I had met hitherto. Everything about them was refined and austere...Shannon was as quiet and inarticulate as Ricketts was restless and eloquent. He had a ruddy boyish face, like a countryman’s, with blue eyes and fair lashes; he reminded me of the shepherd in Rossetti’s Found. Oscar Wilde said that Ricketts was like an orchid, and Shannon like a marigold...I revered these two men, for their simple and austere ways, their fine taste and fine manners. They seemed to stand apart from other artists of the time; and I was proud of their friendship, so rarely given, and of the encouragement they gave to my work.’

Rothenstein produced a number of portrait drawings and lithographs of Shannon, including examples dated 1894 and 1897, as well as a drawing dated 1903 and also in coloured chalks, which is now in the British Museum. A double portrait drawing by Rothenstein of Ricketts and Shannon together, dated 1894, appeared at auction in 1993. An 1897 lithograph of Shannon is in the British Museum, while of the same year is a lithograph of Ricketts and Shannon together, an impression of which is also in the collection of the British Museum.

Provenance:
Presented by the artist to the sitter in January 1896
Charles Haslewood Shannon and Charles Ricketts, London
Wyndham T. Vint, Bradford, Yorkshire.

William ROTHENSTEIN

Portrait of Charles Haslewood Shannon, R.A.

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