Sir Max Beerbohm

Mr William Bell Scott Wondering What It is Those Fellows Seem to See in Gabriel


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Sir Max Beerbohm 1872–1956
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 292 × 394 mm
Bequeathed by Sir Hugh Walpole 1941

Display caption

In his series of watercolours evoking 'Rossetti and his Circle', Beerbohm investigated the varied associates attracted by Rossetti's magnetic personality. This watercolour gives the impression that the artist William Bell Scott remained aloof from Rossetti's influence, an assumption based on the shortcomings in Rossetti's character that Scott recorded in his autobiography of 1892. In fact, Scott was one of Rossetti's close friends, along with Ford Madox Brown, Burne-Jones, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Walter Pater and William Morris, who are all depicted in this scene. As the snarling wombat and the well-mannered kangaroo suggest, Rossetti kept a strange and exotic menagerie in his garden at Cheyne Walk.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

A01056 [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).

(xix) Inscr. ‘Mr. William Bell Scott wondering what it is those fellows seem to see in Gabriel’. b.l. and ‘Max 1916’ b.r.
Pencil and watercolour, 11 1/2×15 1/2 (29·5×39·5).
Exh: Grosvenor Gallery, November 1917 (98, 10); Leicester Galleries, September 1921 (19); Tate Gallery, April–July 1923 (336, 19); on loan to the Tate Gallery from June 1938.
Repr: Rossetti and His Circle, 1922, pl.14 (in colour).

The figures admiring Rossetti in his garden at Tudor House, Cheyne Walk, are, from left to right, Ford Madox Brown (?), unidentified, Burne-Jones, Swinburne (kneeling), Theodore Watts (?) and William Morris; also shown are three animals from Rossetti's large and varied menagerie (of. ‘Dante Gabriel Rossetti in his Back Garden’, repr. Max Beerbohm, Poet's Corner, 1904, pl.19, and 1943 ed., pl.23). A drawing by Bell Scott of 1871 showing ‘Rossetti's Wombat seated in his Lap’ is in the Tate Gallery (N04630).

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

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