On 14 December 2017 John Roddam Spencer Stanhope’s Penelope will form part of the Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite and British Impressionist Art sale. The painting depicts in exquisite detail the story of Penelope from Homer’s famous epic poem the Odyssey. For millennia Penelope’s tale has represented marital fidelity, and she was a heroine that many Pre-Raphaelite painters chose to represent: not just for her famed morality, but also for her particular relevance to Victorian craftsmanship.
A generation of Victorian artists brought antiquity to life and captured the imaginative appeal of its mythology. The following paintings of classical subjects by Lord Frederic Leighton, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and George Frederick Watts helped them to earn their fame as the modern Olympians. These artists were joined by other titans including John Everett Millais, Solomon J. Solomon and John William Godward. Click ahead to discover some of their iconic compositions, being offered in our November 21 auction of European Art. European Art 21 November | New York Art Treasures of America: The John F. Eulich Collection 21 November | New York
With his poetic spirit and rich, ethereal works, one cannot deny; there’s something about George Frederic Watts. The son of a pianoforte maker and tuner, Watts was born into a house of music, in February of 1817. Growing up in Victorian London, amongst the dusky alleyways and twisting streets of west Marylebone, Watts was neither affluent, nor strong. Instead, his wealth and strength lay in his extraordinary gift, the gift of art. Through ill-health, the young Watts discovered and honed his talent, often sketching late into the early hours, whilst cooped up in his little room. His pencil never tired. At the age of ten, Watts entered the studio of William Behnes, the eminent English sculptor, famed for his carved, marble busts, where he studied informally before enlisting at the Royal Academy in the spring of 1835. Precisely two hundred years after his birth, his visionary works continue to bewitch and enchant us: a testimony to the enduring quality of his work. As the world reacts to the bicentury of Watts’s birth, one thing is startlingly clear: Watts lives on. As England’s very own ‘Michelangelo’ turns 200, Watts gallery, home to some of the artist’s finest works, is alive with celebration. At the heart of this commemoration lies the Watts 200 programme, a series of compelling exhibitions, showcasing Watts at his very best. No matter the medium, be it classical frescoes or striking Symbolist works, upon the walls of the Watts gallery, hangs something for everyone. Whilst A Life in Art centres around Watts’s sketches and drawings, England’s Michelangelo presents a series of visionary paintings, including Love and Life, The Hope and The Sower of the Systems which returns home after more than a century away. A third exhibition, entitled Monumental Murals completes this trinity of three remarkable shows, reflecting the scope and breathless variety of Watts’s exquisite oeuvre.
Sotheby’s Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art Department brings together the finest drawings, watercolours and oil paintings from a wide selection of artists from the mid-19th century to the early 20th. Our long-standing relationships with collectors and specialists, together with our knowledge and experience have resulted in high-profile international auctions and world-record achievements.