Art Term

The Clique

The Clique was an informal society formed in around 1837 by a group of friends while they were students at the Royal Academy Schools in London

William Powell Frith, ‘Dolly Varden’ c.1842–9
William Powell Frith
Dolly Varden c.1842–9
Tate
Augustus Leopold Egg, ‘Scene from ‘The Devil upon Two Sticks’’ 1844, exhibited 1844
Augustus Leopold Egg
Scene from ‘The Devil upon Two Sticks’ 1844, exhibited 1844
Tate
John Phillip, ‘The Promenade’ 1859
John Phillip
The Promenade 1859
Tate

The group had no specific aim other than to improve their work, although they favoured literary and historical subjects. Weekly meetings were held at which a subject was chosen and each made a monochrome sketch. A session of criticism followed and the best sketch of the evening chosen.

The artists in The Clique were Richard Dadd, Augustus Egg, Alfred Elmore, William Frith, Henry O’Neill and John Phillip. In 1841 Dadd, Frith and Egg were also involved in an attempt to set up an exhibiting society for young artists in opposition to the Academy. They were dubbed ‘the malcontents’ by the painter William Bell Scott and nothing came of the scheme.

In 1843 Dadd murdered his father and was incarcerated in Bethlem Hospital for the insane, and then Broadmoor, for the rest of his life. He continued to paint, producing some of the most extraordinary imaginative works in British art, including key Fairy painting, The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke.

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