|Self Portrait (1863) Frank Holl|
In many ways, Frank Holl is much like Thomas Hardy. Both seem to carry around a reputation of being unrelentingly bleak and miserable doom-pushers, but that reputation is ill-gained in both cases. Certainly Holl supplied some of the classic knuckle-biters of the Victorian era but Frank Holl: Emerging From the Shadows attempts to give a more complete picture of an artist who packed a great deal into his relatively short life. The Watts Gallery at Compton has given us the first major retrospective for more than 100 years and it is a brilliant chance to see arguably the best social realist and portrait painter of his generation.
|Francis Holl (the artist's Father)|
|No Tidings From The Sea|
|The Lord Gave and the Lord Hath Taken Away (1868)|
|The Wide Wide World|
|Head of a Welsh Fisherwoman|
1879 was a turning point for Holl. He did his first serious portrait of an engraver called Samuel Cousins and this started a second career as a very successful portraitist.
|Samuel Cousins (1879)|
|William Schwenck Gilbert (1886)|
As some of you will know (and I will elaborate in a later post, I promise) I am a huge fan of G&S or Gilbert and Sullivan, the creators of some fabulous light operas of the Victorian period. Arthur Sullivan did the music and William Gilbert did the libretto, or 'the words' (I was using a posh word to impress you). I have done a fair number of them in my time from Pirates of Penzance (I was the daughter who had a homely face and bad complexion) to an over-excitable fairy in Iolanthe. I started when I was really quite young so consequently I have quite an impressive lung capacity (I'm just flirting with you now). Anyhow, William Gilbert always struck me as a bluff old codger full of mad ideas and that's how Holl makes him look.
There is one portrait I found while searching out the images for this which I wish they had used, but of course you can't have all of his portraits and maybe they asked and it wasn't available or maybe they thought they shouldn't pander to me and my problems. I've put it in here because I have never felt so frightened and rather curious all at once while looking at a picture. I better not say any more, here it is, make your own mind up and don't judge me. Only God and my close friends can judge me (because they have to spend time with me, so really, that's their pay off)...
|Major General Sir Herbert Stewart (1886)|
One of the most touching image has to be Gone...
Frank Holl: Emerging From the Shadows is on at the Watts Gallery until 3rd November.