Henrietta

Note This is a revised version of the original post, corrected and reposted under the same date on Aug. 11th 2011.

You may remember that in my post on July 21st, In Manus Tuas Domine, I explained how I rediscovered a picture that I had known during my childhood. It was by the painter Briton Riviere (1840-1920).

The painting shows a knight in armour on a white horse in a sinister forest about to enter a dark cave, holding up his sword so as to form a cross. I don’t know what the anecdote behind the painting is or even if there is one, but the painting stands by itself. We were not allowed to take photos in the art gallery but you can see a version of the picture here.

Having come across the painting in the Manchester Art Gallery and celebrated my discovery, I thought little more of it. I assumed that Briton Riviere (who spelt his name without the accent, in case you are wondering) specialized in such allegorical and romantic paintings. Perhaps I should have looked further but I did not.

We recently went on a day-trip to Bath and while there visited the lovely Victoria Art Gallery. Once again, we were not allowed to take photos and had to content ourselves with viewing the paintings and other works of art.

As we went around, one painting struck me in particular. In fact, I found it so attractive that I afterwards bought a postcard of it in the gallery shop. I then forgot about the postcard until yesterday when I found it in my bag where it had unfortunately become a little creased.

I found the painting – a portrait of a young woman – quite charming. The colours are muted and the pose natural. The lines are soft, almost impressionist, and behind the sitter is a hint of sea and flying gulls. When I peered at the card beside the painting I was surprised: it was by none other than my old friend Briton Riviere!

The portrait is entitled A Study in Black and White and was painted around 1905. The painter was then 65 years old and was suffering from failing eyesight. The sitter is named as "Mrs Henrietta Riviere", and she is the artist’s daughter-in-law. Born in 1872 to Briton Riviere and his wife Mary Alice, Clive Riviere studied medicine and became internationally renowned for his work on thoracic diseases. He married Henrietta Maria, daughter of Thomas Osler of New Zealand, and it is she who is the subject of this beautiful and sensitive portrait.

A Study in Black and White
A Study in Black and White
Briton Riviere c. 1905

The only copies of the painting I could find on the Web were in monochrome which, despite the painting’s title, does not do it justice. I decided to scan my creased postcard and show it to you. Perhaps you would like to compare this delicious painting with that of the knight in armour – such a different subject and approach.

This has increased my affection for Briton Riviere and I hope to follow this up by looking at other paintings of his and reading about him. I hope the picture impresses you as it does me.

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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4 Responses to Henrietta

  1. Catz says:

    Oh that is a beautiful picture! It is really soft and lovely. Makes you wonder about the mind of the painter when you compare it to the other one!

  2. WOL says:

    I like the pose of the picture, and the dog. This work seems to be less detailed and a bit more impressionistic than the other one. Perhaps this is due to his failing eyesight. However, it still is a very pleasing picture.

    • SilverTiger says:

      He perhaps deliberately chose a more “lyrical” style here. His paintings do show a range of styles.

      Many Victorian painters who enjoyed popularity in their day came to be seen as sentimental and “old hat”. Recently, there has been revived interest in them both for the historical aspect (they often show social conditions or industrial scenes) and for the painterly excellence of their work.

      Briton Riviere often appears in catalogues simply as a “painter of animals” but I think he is more than that. Perhaps he too is due for a revival of interest.

      Incidentally, his wife, appearing variously as Mary Alice Riviere and Mary Alice Dobell (Dobell being her maiden name) was a painter in her own right and works of hers appeared in the Royal Academy 1869-70 though she is now quite elusive. I would like to track some of her works in order to redress the balance.

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