Monday, 10 March 2014

William Holman Hunt on Clive dale farm

Hunt’s famous painting Our English Coasts

In mid-August 1852 Holman Hunt joined his new friend Edward Lear at Clive Vale Farm, between Fairlight and Hastings, in order to paint ‘Our English Coasts’, 1852 (‘Strayed Sheep’) (Tate Gallery, London) and to begin‘Fairlight Downs - Sunlight on the Sea’ (Peter Nahum, A Celebration of British and European Painting of the 19th and 20th Centuries, London, 1987, pages 12-17, reproduced in colour page 13; private collection). Bad weather delayed Hunt’s progress, for most of the work had to be executed out of doors, and he did not return to London until the third week of November. 

In mid-September Millais spent a weekend at Clive Vale Farm and met Lear for the first time. According to Hunt’s memoirs, the three artists made an excursion to Winchelsea (nine miles from Hastings) and Rye, and: were all delighted with the locality we had walked to see. We were able to examine the church and the country about, which made such an impression upon Millais, that two years later he returned, with Mike Halliday as his pupil, and painted“L’Enfant du Regiment” and “The Blind Girl” while he superintended his pupil in painting the background of“Measuring for the Wedding Ring”. Both Thackeray and Leach were guests at different times. I took occasion soon after to go again to Winchelsea, and made a pencil drawing of the city gate and the hillside, which I gave to Coventry Patmore. 

Relations between Hunt and the Patmores were close at this time. In June 1852 Hunt wrote to the poet from Oxford about an unfinished portrait of Milly he had commissioned (present whereabouts unknown), while another letter, written by the artist shortly after his arrival in Fairlight, asked F.G. Stephens to get his studio ready for a visit by Mrs. Patmore and the Brownings. Patmore visited Hunt at Clive Vale Farm in mid-November 1852, and may have been given the drawing ‘The City Gate, Winchelsea’ on that occasion. 

To be included in Judith Bronkhurst’s forthcoming catalogue Raisonne on the artist.

1862 May 31 - Clive Vale Farm was sold for £7,900 to the Freehold Land Society. The farm consisted of 60 acres of land between Old London Road and the western boundary of Fishponds Farm (within the parish of All Saints). It had been the property of the late John Mercer Durrant Esq and his ancestors for a century and a half, up to 1832, when it was sold to the late John Samworth Esq for £3,500.

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