Saturday, 5 March 2005

The Search for Forgotten Artists - Chapter 3

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by Christopher Proudlove©

Regular readers of this column - and they are spread far wider than I ever imagined - will know how keen I am to learn more about the work of forgotten artists and craftsmen.

Sometimes, like Liverpool's Herdman family of watercolourists, (the subject of Chapter One of these missives) they are well known and feature prominently in the art history of the region.

Even so, an airing does no harm to any of them. Otherwise people like Jeanette might feel they were on their own.

She emailed me from New Orleans to say that she owns a watercolor/pen drawing by Stanley Herdman dated 1883 or 85 which she purchased when she lived in Dunoon, Scotland.

Her message went on: "I have been unable to find a reference to Mr. Herdman until I read your column [on the internet] tonight. I am thrilled that someone at least knows about him!

"How may I learn more about Stanley Herdman, and in particular, the charming pastoral scene I own? Any information you may share will be immensely appreciated."

I've suggested Jeanette email me an image of the picture and I've offered to help in any way I can.

Then there was Chapter Two of The Search: all about eccentric Edwardian artist Harry B. Neilson, the man who painted those charming watercolours of foxes dressed as huntsmen riding foxhounds and chasing men as their quarry.

As far as I was concerned, the artist was something of an unknown, but I was soon proved wrong.

Several readers responded, including one from Harry's home town of Birkenhead who put me in touch with a member of Harry's family now living in New Zealand.

It turns out that the New Zealander had written a book about the family's history and I was sent the copy now sitting on my bookshelf.

That's the great thing about collecting and appreciating antiques. By doing so, you become part of an international community, the members of which are only too keen to help others.

I learned a good deal of what I know from other collectors who were only too happy to pass on their knowledge, even though it might have taken them personally a lifetime of study and research. Sadly, that selflessness is all too lacking elsewhere.

Which brings me to Chapter Three of The Search.

An email arrived the other day from a Mr Hugh Dodgson, a member of the Crown Service now retired, who tells me he had also "tripped over" my Herdman and Neilson columns whilst doing research on the internet "to keep the grey matter from total atrophy".

He wrote: "I am pursuing an equally elusive Liverpudlian artist, George Haydock Dodgson (1811 - 1880). He is a relative of mine and research through the family papers and the Liverpool Museums - particularly the Walker and Williamson Galleries - is beginning to put a bit of flesh on the few bones of which I know.

"There is much yet to be discovered about his life which remains the objective of my current research. If you come across anything about GHD, I would be very grateful to hear - all help gratefully received!".

So, in an appeal to readers of this column - wherever in the world they might be - in the quest for knowledge and in the spirit of the collecting community, anyone with any information about the artist is asked to make contact with me and I will be happy to put them in touch with Hugh Dodgson.

So who was George Haydock Dogdson?

Hugh Dodgson has a good deal of background information about his relative and was happy to share what he already knows with
WriteAntiques readers.

He writes: George Haydock Dodgson was born at 38 Castle Street, Liverpool. on August 16, 1811. He was the eighth child of Pearson Dodgson and Hannah Haydock who had been married in 1796.

Pearson was born in 1774 and from at least 1800, ran a linen drapery and haberdashers at 38 Castle Street, Liverpool.

This business was maintained until at least 1910 by later members of the family with shops at various dates at St George's Crescent; 192 Grove Street; 28 Duke Street; 2 Lord Street; Cork Street and 40 and 48 Castle Street, Liverpool.

The shop at 192 Grove Street was run by my grandfather, Fred Pearson Dodgson, grand nephew of George Haydock. Although Grandfather met Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and regarded him as a dead bore no connection has yet been uncovered between the Bridekirk Dodgsons (my family) and the Daresbury Dodgsons (Lewis Carroll'™s family). The name, in any case, is not uncommon in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and there may some connection but it is at best distant.

George was educated locally (I don't know where) and on July 1 1826, was apprenticed to the well-respected Liverpool surveyor, Jonathan Bennison. He completed his indenture on July 1 1831 and left with a glowing report from Bennison. (I have the original indenture).

Many supposedly authoritative sources claim that he was then apprenticed to George and Robert Stephenson, the railway engineers. I have found no evidence that this is so, although there is plenty of evidence that he was employed by them.

His training under Bennison and his obvious artistic abilities led to a number of tasks under the Stephensons involving the surveying and layout of projected rail lines and the production of drawings of the scenery along the routes. He also produced sketches of the various stations, bridges etc associated with the completed lines.

George may have done work on the Liverpool and Manchester after its opening in 1830, but the first line upon which he worked (as far as I can find) was the Whitby and Pickering Railway, which received Royal Assent in 1833 and which was opened in 1836.

He produced several drawings of the beautiful countryside through which the line passed and these appeared as engravings in a book published in 1836 to celebrate the opening of the line.

He appears to have suffered some ill-health during this period and by 1835, he had moved to North London and was living in Mornington Place, Camden.

His main work continued to be for the Stephensons and largely associated with Robert's construction of the London to Birmingham railway. These were published as engravings in a book on the line by Roscoe in 1839.

Like most artists, he seems to have had financial trouble and wrote a neurotic letter to his parents in 1839 asking for money. However, he was increasingly drawn to freelance work and by 1840, he was producing extremely detailed architectural drawings and water colours of buildings in London.

One of these, a very fine painting of St Paul's Cathedral from Blackfriars Bridge, was presented to the Mayor of Liverpool by George's brother Thomas in 1877. It is now in the Walker Art Gallery.

George continued to live in London but travelled quite widely in England producing romantic water colours of scenery in places as far apart as Norfolk, Lancashire and the Gower Peninsula.

Some of his most atmospheric paintings date from the period after 1850, and he appears to have been particularly prolific between about 1860 and 1880.

He was a member of the Royal Water Colour Society from 1848. Several of his works were reproduced in the Illustrated London News, the Graphic and the Cambridge Almanac.

He was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy, The British Institution, The Royal Institute, The Society of British Artists, The Liverpool Academy, The Liverpool Society of Fine Arts, and The Liverpool Autumn Exhibition.

In 1877, he was living in at 28 Clifton Hill, St John's Wood, and died there on June 4 1880.

Denby BridgeNewton DaleCattle

Pictures show:
The Brook. A good water colour by Dodgson painted in 1862. This picture has always been owned by Dodgson's successors, having been given to Dodgson's brother, Thomas

Denbigh Bridge - on the London and Birmingham railway near Bletchley. An engraving by Radclyffe after a painting by George Haydock Dodgson 1839.

Newton Dale near Pickering, Yorkshire - a typically romanticised view along the Whitby and Pickering Railway. An engraving from a Dodgson drawing dated 1835

Cattle in a farmyard. An early pencil sketch by Dodgson found being used as packing behind another Dodgson painting when it was reframed. The drawing dates from about 1830.



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