Lot 124: BENJAMIN WILLIAMS LEADER, R.A. (1831-1923)

Christie's

March 29, 1996, 12:00 AM EST
London, United Kingdom
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Description: A RELIC OF THE PAST signed and dated "B.W. Leader 1897" (lower left) and signed and indistinctly inscribed "Relic of the... B.W. Leader" on the reverse; oil on canvas 36 1/4 x 57 3/4 in. (92 x 146.6 cm.) PROVENANCE Sold by the artist to Thos, Agnew & Sons for L500 in December 1897 With Leggatt Bros., London, 1898 Joel sale, Knight, Frank & Rutley, London, 7-12 December, 1931 F.J. Lawes; Christie's, 11 December 1942, lot 101 (65 gns. to Thompson) LITERATURE F. Lewis, Benjamin Williams Leader, R.A., 1831-1923, 1971, p. 46, no. 406 The picture shows an old sixteenth-century house on the edge of the village of Gomshall in Surrey, a short distance away from Burrows Cross where Leader lived from 1889 until his death in 1923. The house, known as Malthouse Cottages, still stands, and its ornate timber framing is little changed today. The subject matter is unusual for Leader in that buildings do not usually play such a dominant role in his landscapes. Stylistically, however, the picture is characteristic of his later work, in which his early "Pre-Raphaelite" manner gives way to a freer and more robust idiom, influenced by his knowledge of Corot and the Barbizon school. A view of distant countryside to the right of the house was cut off at some stage after the picture appeared at the Lawes sale at Christie's in December 1942, when its measurements (probably including the frame) were given as 43 x 71 inches. The picture's original appearance can be gauged from another version, reproduced in Country Life on 24 February 1966, p. 418. Entitled An Old Surrey House and probably a sketch for our picture, this version was sold by Leader to the dealer Arthur Tooth in March 1897 for L200. Out painting was sold for L500 to Agnew's nine months later. We are grateful to Ruth Wood for her help in preparing this and all the B.W. Leader entries. The paintings will be included in her forthcoming catalogue raisonne of the artist's work.
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