Monday 11 February 2013

Stock Shared

When I was researching the connection between Thomas Hardy and art, I had a look at some book covers. I love seeing what images are chosen for books, I think it would be one of my dream jobs, linking a visual image with a story, like making the world's shortest trailer.  Anyhow, one of the covers I wanted to use was this one...

Thank you Mr Amazon, but I don't want to look inside, I just want to look at the cover...
What a lovely image!  Try as I might, I could not find out who the artist was, so in the end I posted it up on Facebook and my best literature friend looked on the back of his copy of the book and revealed it was this image...

The Kiss (1894) Henry John Stock
Well, that's my new favourite painting.  From the odd angle to her pool of golden hair and blissful expression, it is a delightful image, and obviously I wanted to know more about Mr Stock.  That's when I hit a bit of a problem...

Dante (1882)
Off to trusty 'Your Paintings' on the BBC website...unfortunately this is the only oil in a public collection in this country (Kirklees Museum and Galleries) and it doesn't appear to be in a splendid condition.  However, look at the expression on Dante's face, pensive, considering us, while he is surrounded by a swirl of hell and madness that cartwheels over him.

There aren't exactly a shortage of Stock's work online but finding anything more about him is a bit of a trial, so this is what I have found...

This handsome fellow is Henry John Stock, born in 1853 in London to an artist father, also called Henry.  Henry Stephen Stock had a studio at 39 Dean Street, Soho and specialised in miniatures and portraits, possibly also photography.  The Stock family had returned briefly from America, Pennsylvania, when Grandpa Stock had married a young woman called Matilda from Gloucestershire.  Many members of the family had returned to Pennsylvania, but Henry Senior remained, building his business in London.  His son, Henry John, remained at home, presumably training and working under his father (they are both at the same address, listed as 'Artist' in the 1871 census), but he married in 1881 to Jane Mallet and they moved out to Fulham.

The Dryad
So what of Henry John Stock's art?  What I can find of it online, it would be easy to dismiss him as sub-Watts on the strength of works such as The Dryad and Heaven's Protection, although with far more sentiment (or sugariness) than you would expect from Watts...

Heaven's Protection
Possibly if I had come across these images first I would not have felt inclined to pursue Mr Stock further, but having encountered him first through The Kiss I knew he had more up his sleeve.  Turns out, I was not disappointed.

Ferdinand and Ariel (1880)
 Reminiscent of the composition of Dante, the single figure acts as an anchor for the supernatural swirl.  Obviously it doesn't have the train of green goblin-bats that Millais added, but I rather like the mischievous moppet that swims over Ferdinand's head and I swear you can see rather less pleasant faces formed in the folds of her ethereal skirts.

Flower Maiden
Less shiny and clear than de Morgan but with a similar feel, this canvas-filling personification of Spring strides through the landscape like a force of nature.  She is framed and backgrounded by flowers, as if she has magically appeared from amongst them, a flower made flesh.  Both the above paintings share the cool muted tones of blues and mustard-yellow, but his handling of red is delicious...

I would hazard a guess this might be one of his children, as he and Jane had 6 before her early death in 1898.  He then remarried at the turn of the century to Anna Dorothea Homer, with whom he had a further daughter, Iris in 1904.  It was painted during the 1890s (difficult to read the date on the image) so I wondered if it was his eldest son Leslie, who died in 1898.

Violet Clayton (c.1913)
Winifred Ianthe Clayton (1913)
The Clayton sisters, painted in 1913, were the daughters of John Clayton, member of the aristocracy, and these paintings were done before Violet's marriage in 1914 (her first marriage as both sisters managed about six marriages between them, which is quite impressive for a couple of Victorian lasses).  I find Stock treads a fine line between traditional and unusual in these portraits, especially Winifred's, with the intrusion of the flowers around the chair, nestling into the image.

Among the paintings I found were a few that took my breath away.  Possibly the key to why Stock is not valued more as an artist is that his output was not uniformally exceptional, because if he produced work like the following on a regular basis we would surely know him more intimately...

The Uplifting of Psyche
Day Banishing Night
My goodness me, Mr Stock does movement so well.  I especially like The Uplifting of Psyche, the complex pattern of limbs, folding, raising, moving across the canvas with such grace.  Day Banishing Night is slightly humorous, with naughty, nudey Day pelting horrible Night with flowers.  I wonder if it is also known as 'Sunshine and Showers' or the suchlike too, or even 'Mrs Walker Found Drunk at Covent Garden Again'.

Girl Surrounded by Ivy
I think it is a shame that Stock did not do more works like this one as it has a definite Symbolist/Khnopff feel to it and is the most common image of his that you will find online.  Henry and his wife Anna moved down to Bognor, where Henry died in 1930, leaving his widow £381 (or the equivalent of around £12,000).  That is not a bad sum, but his father had left the equivalent of £120,000 when he had died in 1902, so gives an impression that Henry Stock Junior had not found the success that he possibly deserved for some reason.  Mind you, I can't find anything by Henry Senior.

I would like to see more of Mr Stock, not least because The Kiss is one of the most romantic pictures I have seen for a long while, and during this Valentine's week, surely we should embrace a little more love in our art?

Later in the week I will look at a contemporary of Stock's, almost to the year, but whose career has suffered in recent years because he is too well known...


  1. Fascinating, really good post

  2. LOVE Girl Surrounded by Ivy ... Thanks for this post - never heard of Stock before! :o)

  3. No, I'd never heard of him either, but I work for Kirklees Museums so I'll try and get a look at Dante when an opportunity presents itself.

  4. Interesting post. I had never heard of Henry Stock. I think The Kiss is beautiful, but also like Girl Surrounded by Ivy very much.

  5. Thank you so much for posting this! I'd never heard of Stock before. So appreciative to have seen these on your blog tonight.

  6. That last sketch is just wonderful, in your usual educative and interesting post. Thank you.

  7. ... and then there was Henry's little-known, very cowardly brother... Chicken Stock.

  8. Thank you Marcheline, nice...

    Thank you everyone. I think we can agree to clasp Mr Stock to our collective bosom. I want to see more, especially if they are like the girl with the ivy.

  9. Wonderful work, meaning your research and Stock's paintings!

  10. Thanks. I thought everyone would be saying 'Oh yes, we've known about Stock for ages...' but I'm glad we all know about him now :)


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx