This drawing belonged successively to three of the most distinguished collectors of British drawings, spanning what now seems a golden age of connoisseurship. Herbert Horne was originally an architect and designer. However, he soon began to concentrate on writing about literature and on art history, as well as starting to collect and to deal in art. In the 1890s Horne began to collect English drawings and watercolours, concentrating especially on Alexander Cozens, who was then practically unknown. Commissioned to write a book on Botticelli (published in 1908, and still a standard monograph), Horne began to spend most of his time in Italy, where he bought and restored the Palazzo Corsi in Florence – now the Museo Horne – and died there in 1916. In order to finance his initial years in Florence, he decided to sell the collections he had formed in England, and in 1904 Robert Ross (Oscar Wilde’s close friend and executor) arranged the sale of his English works on paper to Sir Edward ‘Eddie’ Marsh.
Sir Edward Marsh was a distinguished civil servant and patron of the arts. He began to collect English drawings and watercolours in the mid 1890s, soon forming a remarkable group. The acquisition of Horne’s collection in 1904 made him a major collector. In later years, his taste broadened to champion the work of contemporary British artists, including Mark Gertler, Stanley Spencer, John and Paul Nash and Duncan Grant. As a civil servant, he had a particularly close relationship with the young Churchill, whom he served as Private Secretary for over twenty years.
Leonard Gordon Duke was born in India but educated in England. From the mid 1920s until the late 1960s, he amassed a comprehensive collection of British watercolours and drawings that, at its height, numbered 'between three and four thousand drawings.'1 We are grateful to Lindsay Stainton for her help when cataloguing this lot.
1. J. Edgerton, ‘L.G. Duke and his Collection of English Drawings’, The Old Water-Colour Society’s Club, London 1974, p. 11
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