Friday, 25 January 2013

FAIRY ARTISTS ~ Thomas Bromley Blacklock

 "Red Riding Hood" 1899, by Thomas Bromley Blacklock (1863-1903).
Oil on canvas, 66 x 91.5cm. London Art Market, Sotheby's, 26th August 1997, Lot 1445
Although we are continuously drawn towards the familar and much loved images and artists we know, we also like to pay tribute to lesser known talents from the past - and the present. No matter how old we are it remains a great delight to discover something new which becomes a treasured favourite. No one has said it better than John Keats, "A thing of beauty is a joy forever".

Today the internet and the plethora of magazines make thousands of images available to us without having to go to a gallery or a library. We are able to enjoy so much more, but often the paintings are posted or printed without the artist's name or story attached. When we use images we always try (sometimes in vain) to find out who created them and add a link to further information. 

We have a few images saved which have charmed and beguiled us, and never cease the search for their story. The name of Thomas Bromley Blacklock was unknown to us until recently when we were researching some of these images and found them on A Polar Bear's Tale enchanting and informative journal.    Here   We owe her a great debt for two reasons, the beauty which she shares with her readers, and the archive of information she has accumulated on art and artists. Without her we would never have known who painted these images of The Fairies Wood, or The Snow Queen and been able to then identify Little Red Riding Hood as being by the same artist.

The story of Thomas Bromley Blacklock ends tragically, but his spirit must have burned brightly to have been able to paint so vibrantly.

Thomas Bromley Blacklock

Thomas Bromley Blacklock was born in 1863 in Kirkcudbright, Scotland, and tragically died in 1903 at the young age of 40 when this handsome and extremely gifted man drowned himself in The Clyde.

The son of the English teacher at Kirkcudbright Academy, Thomas was trained in painting in Edinburgh, working mainly in pen and ink and later in oils in East Lothian before returning to Kirkcudbright. He was inspired by the local landscapes which feature in much of his work and he captures their haunting beauty perfectly.  At some point he began to include children and fairies in the scenes and some of his later works allude to Galloway folklore. This does not detract from the landscapes but only adds to the enchanting quality. It is easy to imagine that he felt happy in such places and was cheered by the presence of the children and fairies while working alone in solitude. 

His last residence was at Church Place, Kirkcudbright which became well known as something of an artist's community with William Stewart MacGeorge and  E A Hornel also working there.

There is little recorded about Thomas and we know almost nothing of what torment drove him to end his life when he was at the height of his artistic development. Apparently he suffered a severe spinal ailment which is believed to have made his life intolerable. He lies buried in Kirkcudbright Cemetery.

His work was exhibited Royal Academy; Royal Scottish Academy; Aberdeen Artists' Society; Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts; Liverpool.

"In the Fairies Wood", 1903. Oil on canvas, 60 x 72.5cm. London, Sotheby's. Lot 856, 8/83

Probably the picture shown as 'Fisher Girls' at the RSA, 1903, and RGI 1904.
sold at Bonhams Edinburgh 'Scottish Sale' in 2009 for $75,471

Bo Peep

A delightful little oil very much in the style of Hornel and full of dappled light and shade.
A real collector's piece for anyone enthusiastic about Scottish paintings. Acquired from an estate in the United States and sold by James Alder Fine Art.

On the BBC website you can see a slideshow of 17 works by Thomas. Do have a look, they are stunning. His remarkable spirit lives on in his paintings.

Thomas Bromlety Blacklock on the BBC website

Thank you to James Alder Fine Art for some of the information used in this post.

James Alder Fine Art

Wednesday, 16 January 2013


Icicles on a thatched cottage nearby

As most of England is covered in a hard frost and snow is foretold for this weekend it is not surprising that thoughts have turned to the character Jack Frost, or Father Frost as he is sometimes known.

Father Winter by ~alexson1 on deviantART,
Ivan Bilibin's watercolor illustration, "Father Frost" from Tales of Russian Grandmother,
Jack Frost by Arthur Rackham

Folklore on Jack's character is mingled with that of Father Winter and St Nicholas. The story has some origin in Russia folktales where Father Frost is in fact the same as St Nicholas, known to us as Santa Claus. But this Santa is quite different from the jolly fat man in a red suit who shimmies down our chimneys on Christmas Eve. This one is more of a pagan forest figure.

A Russian illustration of Father Frost, a Pixie rendition by unknown artist
and Jack casting his frosty fingers over all,  by Arthur Rackham.

Jack Frost is also seen as a kind of sprite in a pointy hat who mischieviously paints frost on Autumn leaves thus bringing winter to the land. He's close to being a male version of The Snow Queen, but perhaps not as evil as she is usually portrayed, as in Narnia. Although some versions of him are quite scary and spiky!

Spiky Jack, artist unknown to us. 

There is nothing to do but, stay warm,

Enjoy the art of Jack Frost,

Settle down with a good book,

Girl with a Book. Pietro Antonio Rotari (1707-1762).

And don't forget to feed the birds! 

1929 Louis Icart (French, 1888-1950) ~ Les Frileux (The Chilly Ones)

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