Studies of a Seated Woman Reading by Charles Hazelwood Shannon RA ARPE. 1890s. Black, red and white chalk, signed with initials 'C H S': 14 3/4 x 20 1/4 inches, 36.5 x 51.5 cm
Exhibited: London, J.S. Maas & Co., 1961, Pre-Raphaelites and their Contemporaries, number 94; London, J.S. Maas & Co., 1965, Pre-Raphaelites to Post-Impressionists, number
Commentary by Hilary Morgan
The present drawing may be dated on stylistic grounds to the 1890s. Similar studies of seated reading women are in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. However the full skirted and sleeved dress does not relate to the fashions of the 1890s but to Pre-Raphaelite clothes of the mid-Victorian era. The drawing therefore pays homage to the illustrations of the 1860s and to Rossetti's drawings of Elizabeth Siddal which Ricketts and Shannon so much admired. Much later, Ricketts recorded their pleasure in buying two of these drawings: 'we have all, when young, been in love with Miss Siddal'(Lewis, 1939).
The drawing is also a homage to Watteau, whose delicate drawings Ricketts and Shannon also admired, and whose three-colour chalk technique Shannon emulates here. The febrile grace of Rococo art was reassessed in the 1890s by Charles Condor, Beardsley, Shannon and others. 'Les Marmitons', Shannon's masterpiece, completed in 1899 and exhibited in Paris at the Exposition Universelle in 1900, is a Watteauesque fantasy. The Ricketts and Shannon collection contained at least five Watteau drawings, but all of these appear to have been bought after 1900 (Fitzwilliam Museum, 1979).
'All for Art'. The Ricketts and Shannon Collection. Catalogue of the exhibition by Joseph Darracott), numbers 204-208. Cambridge: Fitzwilliam Museum, 1979.
Lewis, Cecil (ed.). Self Portrait: Letters and Journals of Charles Ricketts. London: Peter Davies, 1939.
Morgan, Hilary and Nahum, Peter. Burne-Jones, The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Century. London: Peter Nahum, 1989. Catalogue number 169.
Peter Nahum Ltd, London has most generously given its permission to use in the Victorian Web information, images, and text from its catalogues, and this generosity has led to the creation of hundreds of the site's most valuable documents on painting, drawing, and sculpture. The copyright on text and images from their catalogues remains, of course, with Peter Nahum Ltd.