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Miss Flamborough was originally a portrait of William Holman Hunt’s daughter Gladys as little Miss Flamborough from Oliver Goldsmith’s novel The Vicar of Wakefield 1794. It was, according to the artist, a picture intended for the Grosvenor Gallery (1) and was inspired by chapter sixteen of Goldsmith’s novel. The passage was quoted in the accompanying Grosvenor Gallery exhibition catalogue: As for our neighbour’s family (The Flamboroughs) there were seven of them, and they were drawn quite out of taste– no variety in life – no composition in the World. The picture was specifically inspired by a reference later in the same chapter to the Vicar himself who, jealous of the Flamborough portraits, commissioned a painting in which his daughter Sophia was depicted as a shepherdess.
William Michael Rossetti recorded the painting in his diary 18th February 1882: His full-length of his little Gladys is nearly finished and for qualities of solidarity, strong drawing & c[olour] is noticeably fine ... The artist’s genuine perception of the child’s innocent beauty which was noted by The Portfolio critic on the painting’s exhibition in 1882. When the painting was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery, the colouring was commented on by the critics. The Athenaeum praised how: although every portion is intensely pure and brilliant in its proper tints, no part is in-harmonious in tone or colouring. The Portfolio also noted the hard outline, ceramic brilliancy of colour, and enamelling of surface… simply amazing.
Gladys, upon inheriting the painting in 1931, was unhappy with her likeness and several years later commissioned Hunt’s amateur pupil Charles Stanley Pollitt to repaint the whole figure. Using photographs of Gladys as a little girl and the four preparatory drawings, he scraped down Hunt’s paint and entirely repainted her at a different angle and wearing a turquoise silk dress which had belonged to Gladys and which Mrs Tompkin, her mother, still had in her possession. Pollitt’s repainting, however, was never brought to a conclusion. The landscape setting, the pet lamb and the little girl’s hands and the orange she holds remain completely untouched, representing a rare example of Holman Hunt’s style of oil painting in the early 1880s.
With the illustration of the painting in its original state printed in the 1913 biography and descriptions of Hunt’s original conception of the little girl in the back of his mind, Graham Ovenden has now repainted Gladys using his own model and unique vision. Graham explains how: I feel that by adding my `childhood' contribution to that of Hunt’s original conception (in particular as his work had been so crassly and cruelly used by his daughter) this process is both a reasonable, even necessary undertaking. It is also in the tradition practiced by numerous artists until comparatively recent times, thus the work proceeds with some fear and trepidation.(2)
1. From a letter written by Hunt to a dealer 21st March 1881
2. Graham Ovenden, 2005
William Holman Hunt; By direct descent to:
Marion Edith Holman Hunt, the artist's wife; and thence to:
Mrs Gladys Joseph, the artist's daughter
Bought circa 1960 by a private collector
Sold Sotheby's Belgravia, 18th March 1980, lot 197
Sold Sotheby's, 12th June 1985, lot 201
London, Grosvenor Gallery, 1882, number 89
London, Leicester Galleries, 1906, number 13
Manchester City Art Gallery, 1906, number 44
Liverpool Walker Art Gallery, 1907, number 9
London, Peter Nahum at The Leicester Galleries, The Brotherhood of Ruralists and the Pre-Raphaelites, June- July 2005, number 10
Devizes, Wiltshire Heritage Museum, Homage to Eve, May-July 2006
William Holman Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 1905, page 334, illustration of the study for Miss Flamborough
William Holman Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 1913, illustrated page 227, reproduction of the painting in its original state
Peter Nahum, The Brotherhood of Ruralists and the Pre-Raphaelites, 2005, The Leicester Galleries Exhibition Catalogue, illustrated, number 10
Judith Bronkhurst, William Holman Hunt, A Catalogue Raisonné, Volume I, number 137, illustrated in its two previous versions page 252, Yale University Press New Haven and London, 2006