Around 1892 when Far Away Thoughts was painted, a new model appeared in Godward’s pictures and her mass of wavy brown hair, pouting rose-bud mouth and classical profile dominated his paintings of the next few years. She is recognisable in The Betrothed of 1892 (Guildhall Art Gallery, London), Reflections of 1893 (private collection), A Priestess of 1894 (Sotheby’s, New York) and Yes or No? (Hessiches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt). Her name was Rose Pettigrew, one of a trio of artist’s models, who recalled her fame in her autobiographical notes; ‘We posed to every great artist in the land, Whistler, Poynter, Onslow Ford… Leighton… Holman Hunt, Princep [sic], Gilbert, John Tweed… Sargent etc, in fact we became the rage among the artists, and it was most difficult to get sittings from us; many of them tried to bribe us, but we were much too proud to have anything to do with bribery. Every exhibition had at picture of at least one of the ‘Beautiful Miss Pettigrews’, as we were called.’ (Bruce Laughton, Philip Wilson Steer, 1971, p.116)
Rose became an artist’s model in 1885 when she was only nine and moved to London with her brother and two sisters, following the death of their father Joseph who was a West Country foundry worker. Her mother’s needlework did not pay enough for the family’s upkeep and she was advised by a local art-master that the three sisters Rose, Lily (Lilian) and Hetty (Harriet) could make money posing for artists. One of the first artists they met was John Everett Millais who they adored, after their first meeting when he ordered a silver tray of chocolates cakes to be brought into his studio. Their lively and free-spirited characters suited life as artist’s models and Rose loved the Bohemian atmosphere of the London art scene where she was introduced to Princesses and Lords in Millais’ studio and the likes of Oscar Wilde at Whistler’s home. All three sisters posed naked for the cartoonist Lindley Sambourne and were clearly uninhibited and proud of their good looks. Rose modestly described herself as ‘…the ordinary little one, tiny, with bushels of very bright gold hair, a nose which started straight but changed its mind, by turning up at the tip, a rose-leaf complexion, and a cupid’s bow mouth, which most of the big sculptors have cast.’ (ibid Steer, p.114)
Rose was closest to the Impressionist painter Philip Wilson Steer and can be seen in Jonquils of c.1889-90 (sold in these rooms), Girl on a Sofa (sold in these rooms, 15 December 1963, lot 53) and The Sprigged Frock of 1891. Steer fell in love with Rose and planned on making his wife but following an argument over a velvet coat that he intended to wear at a dance, the engagement was terminated and she never saw him again. It seems that it was soon after this that she started to pose for Godward and became his muse. Like Steer, Godward also found Rose’s profile enchanting and painted a series of pictures which showed it at its most striking. In Far Away Thoughts is wearing the same blue and purple gown tied with golden ribbons, that she wore for The Playground painted in the same year (Sotheby’s, New York, 23 October 1997) and At the Garden Shrine, Pompeii (sold in these rooms, 6 November 1996).
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