Sir Charles John Holmes

The Red Ruin


Not on display

Sir Charles John Holmes 1868–1936
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 457 × 812 mm
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1917

Catalogue entry

Inscr. ‘C J H 07.’ b.l.
Canvas, 18×32 (46×81).
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1917.
Coll: Presented by the artist to the C.A.S. 1912.
Exh: N.E.A.C., May–June 1907 (65), as ‘Red Ruin: Lucerne’; C.A.S., First Public Exhibition in London, Goupil Gallery, April 1913 (26), as ‘Red Ruin’; C.A.S., Modern Paintings, Belfast, November 1914 (11).
Lit: Holmes, 1936, pp.250–1.
Repr: C.A.S. Report 1914–19, 1920, pl.2.

The artist visited Italy in April 1906 and on the way back sketched this view as well as the view on the Reuss, Lucerne (repr. Baker, 1924, pl.9), from the train. He wrote (loc. cit.): ‘Night was falling when the train stopped outside Lucerne for a few minutes in a snowy wilderness, as desolate and impressive as a winter scene by Hokusai. “Red Ruin, Lucerne”, now at the Tate Gallery, was one of the indirect results.’ He goes on to describe how he took the first version of the picture to the N.E.A.C. in May 1907: ‘Steer happened to be in the Gallery ... and on seeing the “Red Ruin” remarked, “That must have been a pretty cold place. It makes me shiver to look at it.” Interpreting the words as a kindly criticism of the picture's tone, I waited till Steer had gone, chartered a cab and took the thing away. It was late on Saturday afternoon, and Fred Winter, our kind and experienced secretary, assured me that if I returned it quite early on Monday morning it would not be too late for the Selecting Jury. Retouching would do the picture no good; it was already too heavy. It would have to be copied.... I found it easy enough on that Sunday morning (my only time for painting) to make a copy of the “Red Ruin”, the same size as the original, using turpentine as a medium to help quick drying. This copy went to Dering Yard [the N.E.A.C.], was subsequently chosen by Robbie Ross for the Contemporary Art Society and, under their patronage, passed into the Tate Gallery. My wife, with her customary insight, preferred and claimed the first version. This, when I see it at Appleby, appears to have acquired a weight, a substance and a grimness which the replica at Millbank does not possess.’

Holmes had published a book on Hokusai in 1899. The first version of the Tate Gallery picture was included in the artist's first exhibition at the Carfax Gallery in January 1909 (19) as ‘Red Ruin, Lucerne No. 1 - 1906’ and subsequently passed to his son Martin Holmes.

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

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