Robert Brough

Fantaisie en Folie


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Robert Brough 1872–1905
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1022 × 1257 mm
frame: 1330 × 1585 × 125 mm
Bequeathed by the artist 1905

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A woman with a haughty poise and striking profile looks down on a laughing Buddha, touching the statuette with her pendant. The title is best translated as ‘Unbridled Fantasy’. The picture’s misty brushwork and harmonious, neutral palette and the woman’s mysterious gesture suggests mood rather than narrative. The work was praised internationally, and it was widely exhibited. Brough was a successful portrait painter, but died young, aged 34, after a train accident. He seems to have regarded Fantaisie en Folie as his artistic testament, as he left it to the Tate Gallery in his will.

Gallery label, September 2020

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Catalogue entry

N01956 FANTASIE EN FOLIE c. 1897
Not inscribed.
Canvas, 40 1/4×49 1/2 (102×126).
Bequeathed by the artist 1905.
Exh: R.A., 1897 (138); R.S.A., 1898 (419); Autumn Exhibition, Manchester, 1899 (147); Exposition Internationale Universelie, Paris, 1900 (British Pavilion, 28); (?) St Petersburg, c. 1900 (catalogue not traced); International Exhibition, Glasgow, 1901 (518); Preston Guild Art Exhibition, Preston, 1902 (15).
Lit: Edward Pinnington, ‘Robert Brough, Painter’ in Art Journal, 1898, p.148, repr. p.147.
Repr: Tate Gallery, Illustrated Catalogue, 1912, p.8.

The composition is close to, and is probably derived from, that of ‘The Present’ by the Belgian artist Alfred Stevens (National Gallery, London, NG3270) which was shown in an exhibition the previous year, Loan Collection of Modern Painters, Grafton Galleries, January–March 1896 (158). Another almost contemporary work by Brough, ‘Sweet Violets’, exhibited at Glasgow in 1897, is also similar in composition but in reverse.

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


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