Sir Max Beerbohm

Miss Cornforth: ‘Oh, very pleased to meet Mr Ruskin, I’m sure’


Not on display

Sir Max Beerbohm 1872–1956
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 330 × 248 mm
Bequeathed by Sir Hugh Walpole 1941

Display caption

The ideas of the young Burne-Jones were given definition and substance by his contact with Rossetti. But he also responded to John Ruskin's pronouncements on aesthetics. The two men first met in 1856 and became good friends, travelling to Italy together in 1862. Ruskin is seen here making the acquaintance of Fanny Cornforth, a prostitute who became Rossetti's model and mistress - surely an uneasy introduction. Although Beerbohm exaggerates the contrast between the frail art critic and the robust lovers, his humour is based on contemporary recollections. Indeed, the portly Rossetti's own pet name for Fanny was 'Elephant', while William Bell Scott described her as 'that three waisted creature'.

Gallery label, July 1993

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Catalogue entry

A01042 [from] ROSSETTI AND HIS FRIENDS (TWENTY-THREE DRAWINGS) 1916–17 [A01038-A01060; complete]
Bequeathed by Sir Hugh Walpole 1941.
Coll: Mrs Charles Hunter; from whom purchased by the Leicester Galleries; from whom purchased by Sir Hugh Walpole 1921.
Lit: Lynch, 1921, pp.146–50.

A series of twenty-three drawings, variously dated 1916 and 1917. Fifteen were lent by Mrs Charles Hunter to the Modern Loan Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, November 1917 (98); the complete series was first exhibited at the Leicester Galleries, September 1921 (1), in the order in which they are given here, again as Rossetti and his Friends. They were published in book form by Heinemann in 1922 as Rossetti and His Circle, possibly an allusion to Rossetti's Dante and His Circle, the second edition of his translations from the early Italian poets, published in 1874. The complete series of drawings was further exhibited in Paintings and Drawings of the 1860 Period, Tate Gallery, April–July 1923 (336), and was on loan to the Tate Gallery from June 1938. For further details, see below (artists represented in the collection will be fully discussed in the appropriate section of the catalogue).

(v) Inscr. ‘Miss Cornforth: “Oh, very pleased to meet Mr Ruskin, I'm sure.”’ b.r. and ‘Max 1916’ c.l.
Pencil and watercolour, 13×9 3/4 (33×24·5).
Exh: Grosvenor Gallery, November 1917 (98, 3); Leicester Galleries, September 1921 (5); Tate Gallery, April–July 1923 (336, 5); on loan to the Tate Gallery from June 1938.
Repr: Rossetti and His Circle, 1922, pl.7 (in colour).

Fanny Cornforth was, with Elizabeth Siddal and Jane Burden (Mrs William Morris), one of Rossetti's chief models, but, unlike them, failed to adapt her manner to that of his circle.

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

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