Primrose Hill School

Primrose Hill School, by Unknown artist, 1893 -NPG 4405 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue Search

Primrose Hill School

by Unknown artist
Charcoal and white chalk with touches of pink on brown paper, stuck down, 1893
21 3/4 in. x 27 1/2 in. (551 mm x 699 mm)
NPG 4405

Inscriptionback to top

Inscr. in vertical panels Japanese-style on right: ‘PRIMROSE . HILL. SCHOOL / JAN.ry 1893.’

This portraitback to top

There is no record of a Primrose Hill art school in London in the 1890s and this caricature is probably a skit on the famous St John’s Wood Art School, but featuring the artist community of the Primrose Hill Studios. In the drawing the ‘school’ is a classroom full of adults dressed as children (in pinafores, ankle socks, etc.) seated on crates at a semicircular bar facing a model on a dais. On the left stands Sydney Prior Hall, his features dissolved in a halo of light, holding out a figure drawing, its academic rigour a deliberate contrast to the giant, claw-toed model the ‘children’ are drawing. [1]

Primrose Hill Studios, built in 1877, was a development of twelve artist houses in a mews off Fitzroy Road, Regent’s Park. It was a popular address: ‘a total of 39 artists worked at Primrose Hill Studios from 1878 to 1899’. [2] Some also lived there with their families and ‘the courtyard around which the houses were built inspired a camaraderie reflecting the egalitarian art-worker ideal promoted by Ruskin and Morris’. [3] Many went on to become members of the St John’s Wood Arts Club (inaugurated 1895), which explains how the drawing came to the National Portrait Gallery with other club material in 1964. [4]

Of the eight figures identified at least two had, or had exhibited from, Primrose Hill Studios addresses in 1893. [5] Maurice William Greiffenhagen (head-and-shoulders, profile to right with dark hair) worked at No.3 and Ernest Albert Waterlow (head-and-shoulders, profile to left wearing spectacles) exhibited from No.6. This studio was actually occupied by John William Waterhouse from 1888 to 1900. Waterhouse is at the centre of the composition, seated and wearing a child’s dress. As an Associate of the Royal Academy and tenant of various Primrose Hill studios since 1878, he was a leading member of the community. From 1892 he had also been a monthly visitor to the St John’s Wood Art School. [6] He became a member of the St John’s Wood Arts Club in 1900. The flower painter Esther Kenworthy Waterhouse (1857–1944), his wife,[7] is shown seated between him and Arthur Hopkins.

Of the other figures in NPG 4405, Waterlow and Walter Dendy Sadler were both founder members of the St John’s Wood Arts Club in 1895; Greiffenhagen joined in 1896. Also identified, at extreme right, is the wildlife painter Joseph Wolf (1820-99), who had lived at one of the studios since the mid-1870s. The unidentified woman at centre top might be Maria Isabel Naylor or Rose McKay, artists who lived at No.7 Primrose Hill Studios in 1893. [8]

The drawing was originally accepted as a caricature by an unidentified artist of ten unnamed members of the St John’s Wood Arts Club. It is a large, boldly handled work, and eventually it should be possible to identify the artist as well as each one of the sitters.

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) The sheet with the figure drawing is apparently inscribed ‘180’ or ‘SC OL’.
2) Trippi 2002, p.37.
3) Trippi 2002, p.38.
4) See NPG 4388–4392 and NPG 4404. See also NPG Report of the Trustees 1964–5, p.23, NPG Archive.
5) For a list of some of the other artists who had addresses in the Studios between the 1870s and 1900 see Trippi 2002, p.37; and the essay by Robert Upstone in Lincoln 1994, p.28.
6) Hobson 1989, p.76.
7) Exh. RA 1885–9. See Trippi 2002, pp.56–7; and Graves 1905–6; repr. 1970, vol.2, p.319.
8) Kelly’s London Post Office Directory 1893 (sub Fitzroy Road, the Studios). The occupants are all listed as artists: No.1 Carl Schloesser; No.2 Matthias Wolff (later changed his name to Joseph Wolf); No.3 Maurice Greiffenhagen; No.5 Collier Smithers; No.6 John William Waterhouse ARA; No.7 Miss Maria Isabel Naylor and Miss Rose McKay; No.8 William Patrick Whyte; No.9 Arthur T. Nowell; No.10 Geo. Denholm Armour; No.11 William Mouat Loudon; No.12 Charles I’Anson. Kelly’s does not list the occupant of No.4 but we know it was William Logsdail (see Graves 1905–6; repr. 1970, vol.3, p.83). See G.D. Armour’s memoir ( Armour 1937) for life at Primrose Hill Studios.

Referenceback to top

Armour 1937
Armour, G.D., Bridle and Brush: Reminiscences of an Artist Sportsman, London and New York, 1937.

Graves 1905–6
Graves, A., The Royal Academy of Arts: A Complete Dictionary of Contributors and Their Work from its Foundation in 1769–1904, 8 vols, London, 1905–6; repr. in 4 vols, Bath, 1970.

Hobson 1989
Hobson, A., J.W. Waterhouse, Oxford, 1989.

Lincoln 1994
William Logsdail 1859–1944, exh. cat., Usher Gallery, Lincoln, 1994.

Trippi 2002
Trippi, P., J.W. Waterhouse, London, 2002.

Walkley 1994
Walkley, G., Artists’ Houses in London 1764–1914, Aldershot, 1994.

Provenanceback to top

Given by Colonel A.C.B. Clayton on behalf of the St John’s Wood Arts Club, 1964.

Reproductionsback to top

Walkley 1994, p.197, fig.160

View all known portraits for Arthur Hopkins

View all known portraits for Walter Dendy Sadler

View all known portraits for John William Waterhouse