The La Thangue Angle

‘An Autumn Morning’ [1897] by Henry Herbert La Thangue, Oil on canvas, 47.5 inches x 37.5 inches.

‘An Autumn Morning’ by Henry Herbert La Thangue features the prettiest young lady exerting herself in forestry work whilst an older male colleague is cryptically obscured in the background vista.

During the late 19th century photography had grown into a fashionable medium for societal sublimation and the cataloguing of everyday events.  Creative painting had already scribed itself into this cultural mechanism for millennia.  For instance, ancient Egyptians crafted pictorial ‘movie’ reliefs to affirm various belief systems to their populace.

The Mummy and her Children.

In ‘An Autumn Morning’ La Thangue’s attractive lady displays a determined working ethic.  We could take the painting at face value as merely a woman bending a stick.  Considering the political mindsets of her generation there is a plethora of social commentary going on within his innovative composition.  Along with an impressionistic focal merging to highlight the foreground.

Both subjects, man and woman, have their heads momentarily cast downwards in an equality of effort.

Let’s call this young lady Kirsty for the purpose of explaining my reasoning.  Kirsty is very strong.  Look at her hands bending the wood.  Her measured grip.  Kirsty is not shy of putting her knee into the work to muscle a stubborn obstacle in her path.

Would you agree that this painting represents an intellectualised struggle?

Dignified.  Independent.  Womanly strength with purpose and vigour.

Henry Herbert La Thangue absorbed modern cultural ideas and inventions to bring forward his unique perspective of art.

‘The Connoisseur’ [1887] by Henry Herbert La Thangue, Oil on canvas, 44.88 inches x 63 inches.

Abraham Mitchell can be seen, shown above, contrary to his family whilst socialising in this masterful composition entitled ‘The Connoisseur’.  Mitchell is seriously pondering a recently purchased painting, magnifying glass in hand.

‘Dear Mr Holmes, did you notice.. the year is 1887..

‘..and there is a simile of “Boat in an Estuary”‘ on the wall?!’

Here Mitchell’s art collection surrounds everyone present in his gallery area.  Abraham Mitchell is clearly engaged in his endeavours with absolute exclusivity.

La Thangue’s painting suddenly reminded me of the Hen and Chickens in Ludlow.  My dear paternal Gran with all her quality coffee consumptions had numerous footrests available throughout the guest rooms of the Hen & Chickens in Ludlow.  Now three decades past during my early teens.

Freshly caught rainbow trout from the river makes for a marvellous dinner.  Ludlow Castle.  Chocolate truffles.  True stories of her life in Saudi Arabia and Africa.  Visiting the cellar, beer barrels on tap.  Ice cold glass bottled Cola.  Darts.  The Garden.  Postcards.  Nostalgia.  Ye Olde English culture and architecture.

I’d like to mention that Mr R. H. La Thangue, father of the artist, is an extraordinary likeness of my Gran’s second husband.

Great art stirs emotion.

During research about La Thangue I found highly insightful information online about ‘The Connoisseur’ in a direct quotation, shown immediately below in bold.

With the kind courtesy of Dr Grosvenor’s enjoyable art blog:

“The Connoisseur” by Henry Herbert  La Thangue is actually of Mr Abraham Mitchell, aged 53 at the time, a Bradford textile tycoon and a Methodist of “reserved and retiring nature”.

He and his brother Joseph built neighbouring mansions (called “The Parks”), his with a picture gallery, which is the setting for this work. He was one of La Thangue’s principal patrons.

In the background are his wife and their two sons Tom (standing) and Herbert, and one of his daughters either Edith or Annie. Mitchell had been a local councillor, alderman, JP and refused the mayoralty of the town (see “A Painters Harvest”. Oldham Art Gallery catalogue 4 November -12 December 1978 Page 22 & 23).”

Many thanks also to a contributory reader of the ArtHistoryNews blog.

Artistic Analysis:

Like most exceptional artists La Thangue enjoyed particular focal references and the crafting of new compositional versions within a given theme.  Examples of this can be found in:

‘A Sussex Farm’ and ‘The Watersplash’ – a gathering of birds in a forced perspective, facing the camera.

‘Boy Filling Water Jars at Well’, ‘Ligurian Roses’ and ‘Winter in Liguria’ – a water well positioned right, standing or stooped singular character interacting with the well.

‘Gathering Bracken’ and ‘An Autumn Morning’ – two field forestry workers, one male, one female in complimentary working actions.  Intelligently contrived.

Studying La Thangue paintings further, as if with magnifying glass in hand, I noticed he uses favoured compositional arrangements to great effect.  Two distinct distances in contrast or harmony with each other to draw the eyes naturally to his intended descriptive. 

In ‘From a Ligurian Spring’ La Thangue repeats this structural arrangement of subjects/objects three or four times.  Tree branches, two carefully placed wooden posts, two adjacent stone walls and contrary ’emotional reflections’ of the painted characters foreground to background.

This structural observation can also be seen between the wheels of a cart; the outstretched shoulder-length arms of one person (there are exciting examples amongst his paintings of this inventive idea); two toy boats set to sail by a boy; general foreground to background character placements; person to working animal/s positionings and even two trees carefully framed to unify our attention.

My latter observation is clear to see in his painting ‘A Sussex Hayfield at Graffham’ [1912] shown immediately below:

‘A Sussex Hayfield at Graffham’ [1912] by H. H. La Thangue’, Oil on canvas, 25 ¢ inches x 29 1/4 inches.

From an online reference..:

..pages 20 to 27 is a treasure trove of art history about La Thangue.  Superlative publications like these are wondrously revealing to read.

La Thangue had residency in Chelsea – London, South Walsham – Norwich, Rye – East Sussex, Horsey Mere – Norfolk Broads and Bosham – West Sussex.  All prior to settling with his actress wife Kate Rietiker in Graffham – West Sussex whom he married in 1885.

Living in Graffham from 1898 to 1926, La Thangue clearly established his artistic influence following his early art apprenticeship with Jean-Leon Gérôme in Paris, France.  As previously stated regarding his admiration of Bastien-Lepage and Léon-Augustin Lhermitte, La Thangue’s connection to French art heavily influenced his work.

The sophisticated art sales platforms of Paris invigorated him into fine tuning British Art institutions and art communities in the UK.  Working on these worthwhile professional endeavours with much assistance from his highly accomplished artist colleagues.

The Graffham Parish News, hyperlink immediately above, specifically mentions The New English Art Club.  La Thangue also became an Associate Member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1912.

Without question La Thangue is a very important British artist.

Visits to Provence, France follow during the early 1900’s along with Liguria, Italy (paintings aforementioned) and the Balearic Islands.  Reference Wikipedia –

Let’s take a look at another Henry Herbert La Thangue masterpiece:

‘A Farmyard Scene’ [1905] shown immediately below – oh me, oh my – quite super.  Truly a charming painting par excellence.  La Thangue incorporates an honest application of sunlight in a natural residential setting.

‘Farm Yard Scene’ [1905] by Henry Herbert La Thangue, Oil on canvas, 73cm x 81cm.

Viewing this ‘Farm Yard Scene’ of Italy I’m picturing a past visit to Rhodes, recalling the Old Town chickens roaming freely between garden pathways – wild with their interactive noisy squawking.

With thanks to dear Henry Herbert La Thangue for his time honoured contribution to international art.

Next artist writeup is.. well you shall need to read my blog to find out.

Thank you dear Readers.