This week we’re posting a short blog which gives an insight into a satisfying little discovery at Somerset & Wood. We recently acquired a delightful collection of graphite drawings, by a single hand, which are evidently very accomplished.
The collection is charming in its own right, with attractive coastal views and small landscapes populated by tiny, perfectly drawn figures and cattle. The drawings are just so good, and numerous, that we were convinced that they were by a known hand. But although various drawings are inscribed with locations, “Granville”, “Incheville”, “Blackheath”, “Greenwich”, and dates (mainly 1889), we had very little else to go on regarding their identity. These were evidently sketches, not formal pieces, and as such appeared to have no need for signature.
Leafing through all the drawings assiduously, we spotted that one drawing was in fact monogrammed:
A fancy monogram may indicate an established artist, but could simply be an experimenting amateur, and they are often difficult to decipher. We then came across one other drawing which was initialled, this time wholly legibly!:
So we have our artist, G.E.C., but where to go from here?
The collection was accompanied by a curious group of old mounted silver gelatin prints – slightly torn, creased, marked and heavily silvered, they initially looked like the kind of esoteric ephemera that is sometimes assembled together with works on paper from over a century ago.
Could these be a clue to the identity of our accomplished draughtsman? On close inspection, all the prints appear to be photographs of paintings. One is inscribed indistinctly below: “Sold…” Was this a dealer or were these the work of our artist?
At the bottom left of one of the paintings you can just make out a signature – the G and E and C are there – but the remaining letters are indistinct… Carter?...Corner?
Nevertheless, now we were really getting somewhere: a possible name, an apparently accomplished landscape, coastal and figure painter, dating to around 1889.
The graphite drawings are inscribed in English, so although a portion of them are views in Normandy, we were sure the hand was British. The English views are focused around the Blackheath area of south-east London: East Greenwich, Limehouse, East Peckham, Eltham - so it seemed likely this was the locale of the artist’s home.
At last the jigsaw puzzle was complete; the name G.E. Corner and Blackheath location revealed the artist George E. Corner (born c.1853), resident, member and exhibitor at Blackheath Art Club in 1890.
Corner specialised in coastal and figure paintings, exhibiting 1886-91. He exhibited ten works at the Royal Society of British Artists, at the time at which James Abbott McNeill Whistler was President. Operating in esteemed artistic circles, Corner was invited in 1889 to attend a dinner at the Criterion in Piccadilly to congratulate Whistler on being made an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Munich (for more information see here).
We had our man, and a hand and context to put to our charming drawings. We even found a colour image of the oil painting depicted in one of the silver gelatin prints - the sort of finished piece for which our graphites were likely preliminary sketches. In conclusion, we still love the drawings in their own right, but with the sense of possibility that comes from such ongoing discovery, we love them a little bit more!