The Hon. John Collier

Mrs Huxley

c.1927–8

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 610 x 508 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Prof. H. Tonks and Col. W.E. Armstrong 1928
Reference
N04378

Display caption

This portrait is both a remarkable technical performance and a deliberately backward-looking souvenir. Mrs Huxley, the widow of the biologist T.H.Huxley, was the artist's mother-in-law (twice over, as after the death of his first wife he married her sister). In 1905 he had painted Mrs Huxley's portrait as a gift on her eightieth birthday. In 1927, when he was himself seventy-seven, he painted a replica at the request of Henry Tonks, who gave it to the Tate Gallery. The painting is in the manner of Holbein, even to the fabric of the dress and the panelling in the background. Tonks was a teacher at the Slade School, and his pupils had once been the avant-garde of London.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

N04378 MRS H.A. HUXLEY 1905/c. 1927–8
 
Inscr. ‘·Henrietta· Anne· Huxley· aetat· LXXX·’ along top, on cross-beam of panelling, and ‘John Collier. 1905’ b.l.
Canvas, 24×20 (61×51).
Presented by Professor Henry Tonks and Colonel W.E. Armstrong 1928.
Coll: A replica of the painting now in the collection of the artist's son, Sir Laurence Collier. This copy was apparently made specially for presentation to the Gallery c. 1927–8.
Repr: National Gallery, Millbank [Tate Gallery], Review of the Acquisitions, 1927–29, 1930, p.33.

An exact replica of a portrait of the artist's mother-in-law, Henrietta Anne Huxley (née Heathorn), widow of Professor Thomas Henry Huxley, F.R.S., whom she married in 1855. The original portrait, painted in 1905, was given her as a present on her eightieth birthday (repr. W.H. Pollock, ‘The Hon. John Collier’ in Art Annual, 1914, p.29). Collier had painted his father-in-law in 1891, four years before his death.

In a letter to the compiler, Sir Laurence Collier wrote (11 March 1960) that Tonks saw this portrait in his father's house, to which it had been returned after the sitter's death, and he and Colonel W. E. Armstrong persuaded the artist to paint a replica for presentation to the Tate Gallery. Tonks is said to have described it as ‘the best modern version of a Holbein that he knew’. Another replica belongs to Mrs Anne Cooke of Godalming, a niece of Colonel Armstrong.

Colonel W.E. Armstrong, R.A.M.C., a near neighbour of Tonks, was a well-known amateur landscape painter and an intimate friend of J.S. Sargent.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I