Albert Rutherston

1881–1953

Biography

Sir Max Beerbohm, ‘The New English Art Club’ 1907
Sir Max Beerbohm
The New English Art Club 1907
© The estate of Max Beerbohm

Artist biography

Albert Rutherston (fig.1) was a member of the talented, artistic Rothenstein family, but he anglicised his surname in 1916 during the First World War as a declaration of patriotism for the country of his birth. Born on 5 December 1881, he was the youngest of the six children of Moritz and Bertha Rothenstein, German-Jewish immigrants who had settled in Bradford in Yorkshire in the 1860s. Rutherston’s father worked in the wool cloth trade in the city and Rutherston was educated at Bradford Grammar School. His elder brother was the artist and director of the Royal College of Art, Sir William Rothenstein (1872–1945), while two of his other elder siblings, Charles Rutherston and Emily Hesslein, both accumulated impressive collections of modern British and French art. His nephew Sir John Rothenstein (1901–1992), son of William, was director of the Tate Gallery between 1938 and 1964, while William’s younger son, Michael (1908–1993), also became a distinguished artist.
In 1898, aged only sixteen (fig.2), Rutherston moved to London to study at the Slade School of Fine Art, following in the footsteps of his elder brother. Rutherston’s time at the Slade brought him into contact with a number of the most talented artists of the day, including Ambrose McEvoy, Spencer Gore, Harold Gilman and Wyndham Lewis. His particular friends during this period, however, were the slightly senior and extremely gifted artists Augustus John and William Orpen. The trio became known as the ‘Three Musketeers’ and worked, socialised and holidayed together, indulging in what might be called typically precocious and extrovert ‘Sladey’ behaviour. In 1899 they organised a protest campaign against the installation of decorative mosaics in St Paul’s Cathedral by the Royal Academician Sir William Richmond (1842–1921). Among his contemporaries, the short-statured Rutherston was known variously as ‘Little Rothenstein’,1 ‘Little Albert’,2 or ‘All-but’.3 Although not considered an artistic prodigy like his two friends, Rutherston progressed well at the Slade. In 1900 he had two paintings admitted to the New English Art Club and in 1905 he was made a full member.

Nicola Moorby
November 2003

Notes

Wikipedia entry

Albert Daniel Rutherston (1881–1953) was a British artist. He painted figures and landscape, illustrated books and designed posters and stage sets.

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