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    Scottish Artists’ Houses: Hornel at Broughton House, Kirkcudbright

     

    Kirkcudbright panoramic view © 2015 Scotiana

    Kirkcudbright panoramic view © 2015 Scotiana

     

    ‘I doubt if there be a more picturesque country town in Scotland. Small, clean, silent and respectable; it seems (subject, however, to one enormous deduction) the type of a place to which decent characters and moderate purses would retire for quiet comfort. The deduction arises from the dismal swaps of deep, sleechy mud, by which it is nearly surrounded at low tide… It is only at full tide, or nearly so, that Kirkcudbright is to be viewed… And then, how beautiful does it stand! With its brown ruin of a castle, its church spire, the spire of its old town-house, and the square tower of its new one, all seen above its edging of trees, and the whole village surrounded by wooded hills and apparently glittering sea. There is no point… at which it does not present the same appearance of picturesque peacefulness, of intermingled wood and water. From several aspects it is the Venice of Scotland.’

    (Lord Cockburn Circuit Journeys – David Douglas 1889)

    Kirkcudbright harbour © 2015 Scotiana

    Kirkcudbright harbour © 2015 Scotiana

    Distant View of Kirkcudbright from Janefield 1886

    Distant View of Kirkcudbright from Janefield 1886

    More than a picturesque and peaceful place to retire, Kirkcudbright has become a source of inspiration for poets and artists since a long time. E.A. Hornel, who was born in Australia but can be considered as a ‘native son’ since he spent most of his life here from a very early age, is the most famous of them. He is one of the most talented and well-known Scottish painters and he also was a leading member of the ‘Glasgow Boys’. His father, William Hornel, belonged to an old family of Kirkcudbright. In 1901, Edward Hornel bought the 18th-century Georgian house situated 10-12 High Street in Kircudbright and there he lived and worked up to his death in 1933. His sister Elizabeth, nicknamed ‘Tizzy’, lived in the house with him, helping him in the daily tasks. Since 1997, the house and its lovely garden, on the bank of the river Dee, are in charge of the National Trust of Scotland and we visited them with great pleasure in June, eager to go back there, not only to see the garden in different colours but also to take time to examine the many documents, books, objects, drawings and paintings displayed there.

    The Brownie of Blednoch 1889 Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

    The Brownie of Blednoch 1889 Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

    Hornel is a “magician of many colours” who expresses his talent in a number of different registers, some of them leading our imaginary to ancient and mysterious paths.  The Druids, a painting which is the result of a collaboration between E.A. Hornel and his friend George Henry is a striking example of that. In his biography of Hornel, Bill Smith gives us keys to understand it. He also devotes several pages to  The Brownie of Blednoch. 

    This painting which, like The Druids, is displayed in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, conveys a strange and eerie atmosphere, reflecting Hornel’s love for local myths and legends. As it is explained on a panel displayed in the Gallery, “Hornel was a keen amateur archeologist and scoured the Galloway landscape for cup-and-ring marks (…) Inspired by their patterns, he used similar curved motifs in his paintings’.

    Druids bringing in the mistletoe E.A. Hornel & G.Henry 1890

    Druids bringing in the mistletoe E.A. Hornel & G.Henry 1890

    ‘Whether intentional or not, The Druids is a fine early contribution to the Celtic Revival of the 1890s. Darin in conception, bold in execution and strong in colour, it ranks as one of the most important paintings by the Boys. The richly-vestured figures are superimposed against the hillside, forming an almost two-dimensional pyramid. The half-sphere of the moon in the background is reflected in the curve of the hill and the shapes of the priestly insignia, all echoing the cup-and-ring markings. The drama of the occasion is heightened by the use of gold leaf, laid on top of the paint layer.’

    (Bill Smith in Hornel  Chapter V – ‘The Persian Carpet School’ 1889-1891)

    The Life and Work of Edward Atkinson Hornel Bill Smith Atelier Books 2010

    The Life and Work of Edward Atkinson Hornel Bill Smith Atelier Books 2010

    ‘Hornel is one of the finest colourists Scotland has produced. More than sixty years after his death his Kirkcudbright paintings of children playing in Sendick Wood or among the burnet roses on the seashore at Brighouse Bay are as popular as ever with collectors and public alike. A ‘Hornel’ immediately brings to mind a quite specivic and very individual work of art. Yet his early work, which placed him at the forefront of progressive painting in Scotland in the first half of the 1890s and helped earn Scottish art international acclaim in cities as far apart as Munich and St Louis, is now largely forgotten. I hope to redress the imbalance with this book, the first biography of an artist who was an important member of the Glasgow Boys.'(Hornel – The Life & Work of Edward Atkinson Hornel – Preface 1st edition 1997 – Bill Smith – Atelier Books Edinburgh – 2010 )

    Hornel Bill Smith Hornel Bill Smith 2010 2nd edition Atelier Books Edinburgh © 2015 Scotiana

    Hornel Bill Smith Hornel Bill Smith 2010 2nd edition Atelier Books Edinburgh

    Our visit at Broughton House, last Spring, was a coup de coeur so,  hardly had we come back home, than I began to browse the Internet to try and know more about E.A. Hornel and his paintings. I fell upon Bill Smith’s biography and immediately decided to buy it. I’ve received it a few days ago and I’m still deeply immersed in the book, not having read more than one third of its pages so far though, of course, I’ve already looked at all its pictures with nearly the same pleasure as if I was visiting a gallery. This book is a gold mine, full of anecdotes and illustrations. Not only do we discover in it a lot of things about E.A. Hornel’s life, travels and career as a painter, his family and the time they  spent in Australia, his relationships and work with his friend George Henry, his fellow-students and the Glasgow Boys but we also learn much about the evolution of Scottish painting from the end of the nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century.

    Bessie Mac Nicol E.A. Hornel, 1896

    Bessie Mac Nicol E.A. Hornel, 1896

    Edward Atkinson Hornel and his twin brother William were born in Australia on 17 July 1864. In search of new opportunities, their parents, William and Ann Hornel, together with other members of their family, had left Kirkcudbright in Dumfries & Galloway eight years before to settle in Melbourne before moving to Bacchus Marsh, a small township about thirty-five miles from Melbourne. William was a prosperous Scottish shoe and boot maker and he probably followed his business in Australia also doing some farming there.

    In 1866, the Hornels decided to sail back to their native land with their three daughters and twins. They had not sold their family house in Kirkcudbright but after the birth of their last child in 1872 they settled in a bigger one at 18 Old High Street. During a journey to Australia in 1879 where he had come back to sell the farms still owned there by the family, William Hornel died of a stroke. Edward was aged fifteen and his younger sister only seven. At that time, all the children were at school except Elizabeth who was a teacher in Edinburgh and Margaret, the eldest child, who had married William Mouncey, a house painter and decorator who lived in Kirkcudbright and was to become a full-time landscape artist and a close friend of Edward.

     

    Broughton House Garden cat on the path© 2015 Scotiana

    Broughton House Garden cat on the path© 2015 Scotiana

    My last article was devoted to the wonderful garden Edward Hornel created with his sister Elizabeth at the rear of the house.

    I won’t embark on the task of writing a biography of Hornel, even a short one, but I’ve selected a few key dates of the artist’s life. Here again I’m much grateful to Bill Smith 😉

    • 1880 : Edward, aged 16, enrols as a student at the Edinburgh School of Art. He is not alone there for his sister Elizabeth, aged 21, is then teaching in Edinburgh.
    • 1883 : after almost three years spent at Edinburgh School of Art and rather dissatisfied with the teaching he received there, Hornel, now aged 19, chooses to go with some of his fellow-students, to the Academy of Antwerp. Antwerp’s Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts is one of the oldest academies of art (1664) and Charles Verlat, the future Director of the Academy who is teaching art there is an internationally reputed artist and teacher.
    Charles Verlat painter Wikipedia

    Charles Verlat painter Wikipedia

    “After the rigid and uninspiring regime at the School of Art in Edinburgh, the teaching at the Academy must have seemed like a blast of fresh air to the Scots. In contrast to Edinburgh, the whole aim of the training at Antwerp was to turn out good painters. Hornel later described Verlat as ‘the finest teacher that ever lived.’ In an article on Hornel in The Scots Pictorial in 1900 Edward Pinnington wrote:

    [he] used to awake with a feeling of delight that he was again going to school, and there, with an hour or two for meals, he worked for six days in the week from eight in the morning until nine at night. This was the happiest period of his life. He felt inspirited by the eager joy of progress, the buoyant confidence of forward movement.”

    (Hornel – Bill Smith Atelier Books first published  1997)

    Kirkcudbright Custom House  © 2015 Scotiana

    Kirkcudbright Custom House © 2015 Scotiana

    • 1885, aged 21, Hornel goes back to Kirkcudbright where he is going to stay up to the end of his life. He sets up his studio at 21 Old High Street, a single-storey building to the rear of the former Custom House, just across the street from the family home. The same year, he meets the painter George Henry who is six years older than him. Henry will become a close friend of him and artistic collaborator for the next 10 years. He was then living in Glasgow where he had enrolled as an art student at Glasgow School of Art (1882) and he also is a member of the famous group of young artists who became to be known as the ‘Glasgow Boys’.
    • 1890: Hornel collaborates with his friend Henry on the famous painting Druids bringing in the mistletoe 
    My Own Back Garden Edward Atkinson Hornel 1887

    My Own Back Garden Edward Atkinson Hornel 1887

    The Brook Edward Atkinson Hornel 1891

    The Brook Edward Atkinson Hornel 1891

    • 1891The Dance of Spring
    Hornel The Dance of Spring 1891 Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum © 2015 Scotiana

    Hornel The Dance of Spring 1891 Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum © 2015 Scotiana

    • 1891: collaboration with Henry on The Star in the East
    • 1891 : Summer
    Summer Edgar Atkinson Hornel 1892 Liverpool Museum

    Summer Edgar Atkinson Hornel 1892 Liverpool Museum

    • 1895: first one-man exhibition in Glasgow and exhibitions with the Glasgow Boys in St Louis, Chicago, Cincinnati and New York.
    • 1896: portrait of Hornel painted by Bessie MacNicol, a very close friend of him.
    • 1899: Hornel begins to make large use of photography in his painting.

    ‘Hornel was not a natural draughtsman and in the early years he used his camera in place of a sketchbook. It appears that he very rarely executed preliminary sketches; only a handful of student drawings have been uncovered.’

    (Bill Smith – Hornel  Chapter VIII – ‘The Music of the Woods’ 1895-1906)

    Wonderment E.A. Hornel circa 1900

    Wonderment E.A. Hornel circa 1900

    ‘The Kirkcudbright girls came from a number of local families. Rose, Edith and Maud Poland, the young daughters of a gamekeeper at Torrs Farm, appear in many of the photographs. Hornel would pose the girls, chaperoned by his sister, either singly or in groups, get the light as he wanted it and then have them photographed, usually by McConchie. In those days this did not present any problems or raise any eyebrows, as it would do today. Parents were delighted to allow their daughters to be photographed and painted by a much respected artist and it was very convenient for Hornel.’

    (Bill Smith – Hornel  Chapter VIII – ‘The Music of the Woods’ 1895-1906)

    • 1901: Hornel purchases Broughton House 10-12 High Street, Kirkcudbright
    • 1907: Edward visits Ceylon and Australia with his sister Elizabeth
    • 1909-1910: the architect John Keppie (1862-1945) is commissioned to build an addition for a gallery and studio at Broughton House.
    • 1919 : Hornel acquires Thomas Fraser’s book collection for his library. His ideal is to build ‘the perfect local library” which seems to have been fulfilled given the number (15,000) and quality of the volumes contained in his library, including one of the greatest Robert Burns collections in the world. He even draws up a trust deed ensuring that after his death and that of his sister Elizabeth, his garden, library and house would be made available to local people.
    • 1920-1921 : visit of Burma, Japan, Canada and America with sister Elizabeth.
    • 1923 : Hornel is elected Fellow of The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
    • 1925-1931 : Hornel is getting more and more involved in local activities.
    • 1932 : the artist suffers cerebral haemorrhage.
    • 1933: he dies at Kirkcudbright on 30 June.
    • 1950 : Hornel Trust comes into effect on death of Elizabeth.
    • 1997 : Broughton House passes into care of National Trust for Scotland.

     

    Broughton House façade © 2015 Scotiana

    Broughton House façade © 2015 Scotiana

    Broughton House is divided into three parts: the house itself which corresponds to the original house and includes the drawing room which shelters part of Hornel’s library and the window of which opens into the garden, the gallery with its glass ceiling where some of his paintings are displayed and the artist’s studio which were later additions commissioned by Hornel some time after he bought the house in 1901.

    Now let us visit the place…

    Broughton House drawing room © 2015 Scotiana

    Broughton House drawing room © 2015 Scotiana

    “This room was the original drawing room of Broughton House where the ladies of the house would have entertained guests and passed time during the day and after dinner. It later became the library and the centre of activity for Hornel’s book collecting.

    It is the only room in which the decor has been largely untouched since Hornel’s day.”

    (NTS brochure)

    Hardly visible on the right of the picture is a remarkable piece of furniture:  a Georgian-style four door breakfront bookcase with a central broken pediment dominating four astragal glazed doors mounted on a wooden cupboard part, a book-case probably commissionned by Hornel and well worthy of sheltering some of the most beautiful and rare books he collected all along his life.

    Brougthon House Hornel's writing table © 2015 Scotiana

    Brougthon House Hornel’s writing table © 2015 Scotiana

    Broughton House Hornel's bookcase © 2015 Scotiana

    Broughton House Hornel’s bookcase © 2015 Scotiana

    Broughton House Gallery © 2015 Scotiana

    Broughton House Gallery © 2015 Scotiana

    Here’s the gallery with its impressive Jacobean Renaissance fireplace which goes from floor to ceiling. Light comes from the glass panels in the ceiling.

    Notice the frieze, a plaster copy of the Parthenon, which runs all around the room above the wall panelling. This room served as a living room for the family as well as a place for the artist to display his paintings.

    Broughton House Hornel's gallery  © 2015 Scotiana

    Broughton House Hornel’s gallery © 2015 Scotiana

    “Hornel made two significant journeys abroad during his late career. Inspired by his travels, he chose scenes from life in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Burma (Myanmar) and Japan as subjects matter for a number of his paintings as well as local landscapes and Kirkcudbright children”

    (NTS)

    Most of the paintings on display within Broughton House were produced in the last two decade of Hornel’s life.

    Broughton House Brighouse Bay © 2015 Scotiana

    Broughton House Brighouse Bay © 2015 Scotiana

    Title: Brighouse Bay, Wild and Burnet Roses
    Date: 1923
    Medium: Oil on canvas
    Description: 48 x 60 inches (150 x 120 cm)

     

     

    Broughton House Hornel's Girls Picking Blue Flax © 2015 Scotiana

    Broughton House Hornel’s Girls Picking Blue Flax © 2015 Scotiana

     

    Title: Girls Picking Blue Flax
    Date: 1919
    Medium: Oil on canvas
    Description: 25 by 30 inches (63 cm x 76 cm)

    Brigg Bay is said to have served as a background for this painting for it is the only local area where the Blue Flax grows wild.

    Broughton House Gallery Memories of Mandalay 1923 © 2015 Scotiana

    Broughton House Gallery Memories of Mandalay 1923 © 2015 Scotiana

     

    • Memories of Mandalay
    • Date painted: 1923
    • Oil on canvas, 152.5 x 203 cm
    Broughton House studio © 2015 Scotiana

    Broughton House studio © 2015 Scotiana

    Hornel’s studio, a large and clear room provided with a fireplace and large gothic windows, is located in one of the additions to the house.

     

    Family group in front of the fireplace in the studio

    Family group in front of the fireplace in the studio

    Let us go back in time… here’s Edward and it must be his sister Tizzy on the left with a cat on her lap, leisurely sitting in front of the fireplace with friends or family and cats.

    Broughton House Hornel's studio © 2015 Scotiana

    Broughton House Hornel’s studio © 2015 Scotiana

     

    Broughton House focus on a studio painting © 2015 Scotiana

    Broughton House focus on a studio painting © 2015 Scotiana

    ‘Hornel had a very characteristic way of painting. The girls would pose for him, and his sister, and be photographed. He would then paint directly on to the canvas with no preliminary sketches and finishing his detailed backgrounds at the chosen spot.’

    (Source: SCRAN)

    Broughton House Hornel's easel © 2015 Scotiana

    Broughton House Hornel’s easel © 2015 Scotiana

    Edgar Atkinson Hornel was a multi-talented artist and we’ve been lucky to be able to visit his house and garden. He had a gift to make the colours sing, a deep sense of his native country, though he also drew much of his inspiration from his many travels abroad, especially in Asia. Most of all, he loved nature and the passing of the seasons which he expressed so well in the creation of his garden, a living work of art. Finally, his interest in the ancient history and folklore of Scotland including its Celtic past (he was himself a member of a local archaelogical society) gives more touches to his work. We love the artist, we love his paintings and I hope to have made you feel like going to Kirkcudbright and to the museums where his paintings are displayed.

    Enjoy!

    A bientôt.

    Mairiuna.

    Broughton House Hornel's palette © 2015 Scotiana

    Broughton House Hornel’s palette © 2015 Scotiana

    Hornel 1894 Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum

    The Fish Pool E.A. Hornel 1894 Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum

    The Music of the Woods E.A. Hornel 1906

    The Music of the Woods E.A. Hornel 1906

    Earth Awakening  E.A. Hornel 1912

    Earth Awakening E.A. Hornel 1912

     


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