T03699 Belgium Supported by Hope 1918
Tempera on canvas 12 1/2 × 16 1/4 (318 × 410)
Inscribed ‘EJS 1918’ b.r. and ‘COLOUR BEGUN VIII 1918’ on canvas turnover and ‘Marian E. Longford/Christmas 1918/HGL [in monogram] With Love’ on reverse
Purchased from Fine Art Society (Grant-in-Aid) 1983
Prov: Marian E. Longford 1918;...; Fine Art Society
Lit: George Breeze, Joseph Southall 1861–1944, Artist-Craftsman, exhibition catalogue, City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham, 1980
A cartoon for ‘Belgium Supported by Hope’ (whereabouts unknown) was exhibited at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, 1919 (342); Alpine Club Gallery, 1922 (55), Manchester City Art Gallery, 1922 (4), RBSA, 1933 (103) and Dudley Art Gallery, 1934 (75). T03699 appears never to have been exhibited.
Southall did very little painting during the First World War, devoting most of his time to the cause of Pacificism. He was a member of the Independent Labour Party and at the outbreak of the First World War was Chairman of the Birmingham Auxiliary of the Peace Society; in the same year he was one of the two Vice-Presidents of the Birmingham and District Passive Resistance League. He produced a series of illustrated fables (1915–18) in which the political message is very clear; in T03699 it is much more subtle.
After German troops entered Belgium in August 1914 King Albert of Belgium appealed for help from the other signatories of the 1839 Treaty of London. He received support from France and Britain. Allegorical posters and prints in support of Belgium were made at this time, although generally they were more impassioned than T03699. E.R. Frampton's ‘A Maid of Bruges’ exh. 1919 (repr. in col. in Sotheby's sale of 19th century European paintings and drawings, 21 June 1983, 101) is more comparable to T03699; it shows a large scale female figure in profile against a Belgian scene.
In ‘Belgium Supported by Hope’ Southall seems to be encouraging Belgium to renew and rebuild her country despite the ravages sustained during the war. The figure on the right personifies Hope, one of the three theological virtues, and the left hand figure personifies Belgium. Hope is pointing towards an idyllic scene, unspoilt by war, while Belgium holds in her hand ears of wheat, a symbol of rebirth.
Southall's sketch books contain careful studies of costumes and Lot 155 in the sale of Mrs Southall's estate (6 April 1948) was ‘a box containing a quantity of fancy clothing for studio posing purposes’ (George Breeze, op.cit., p.15).
Southall first used tempera after his visit to Italy in 1883. He became a firm admirer of early Italian art and resolved to study tempera techniques. He wrote:
I saw Carpaccio's pictures in St Giorgio degli Schiavoni in Venice and read in Ruskin's St Mark's Rest that they were painted in tempera. I resolved then to paint in tempera, but I knew no one who could instruct me and had only Sir Charles Eastlake's ‘Materials for a History of Oil Painting’ as a guide.
(‘Notes on the Revival of Tempera Painting by Joseph E. Southall’ found in the front of Maxwell Armfield's own copy of his A Manual of Tempera Painting (coll: Alexander Ballard) George Breeze, op.cit., p.18).
The frame is original. With the assistance of his wife, Anna Elizabeth, Southall made many of his own frames. He usually carved the frame and she was responsible for gilding and decoration.
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986