National Geographic : 1949 Apr
Our Search for British Paintings BY FRANKLIN L. FISHER EARLY IN 1947 the NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC MIAGAZINE decided to present the highlights of Great Britain's con tributions to Western civilization. This amazing story follows naturally the earlier NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC portrayals of "Daily Life in Ancient Egypt," "Greece-the Birthplace of Science and Free Speech," and "Ancient Rome Brought to Life," which delved into the remoter sources of Anglo-Saxon and American institutions.* To search the British Isles for authentic paintings of the subjects decided upon, I took ship for London in July, 1947. There I first conferred with Sir Evelyn Wrench, founder of the English-Speaking Union, who had been invited by Dr. Grosvenor to contribute the lead article. Start of a Hunt for Pictures With Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Garner James, who had been helping Sir Evelyn collect data for his article, I visited museums and galleries, ferreted out private collections, and consulted experts in English history and historical paint ings. Among these was Sir Walter Lamb, Secretary of the Royal Academy of Arts, who introduced me to artists and paintings which seemed to him suited to our need. In London I met also Mr. Frank 0. Salis bury, R. P., whose famous murals of British historical subjects decorate the walls of the Royal Exchange. He has painted portraits of many important persons. I was received by Mr. Salisbury in his com bination residence, studio, and art gallery, which is one of the most extraordinary resi dences I have ever had the opportunity to see. The house faces Hampstead Heath in London and was built just before the last war. De signed by the architect to meet the artist's specifications, it has many unusual features, notably well-lighted wall space in all the main rooms for the exhibition of Mr. Salisbury's pictures. The entrance with its grand stairway sug gests a residence of a high government official. As might be expected, the color tones of rugs, walls, and decorations are combined for har monious effect. At the top of the stairway is the formal drawing room and down a few steps to another level is the studio, which is especially well lighted and contains racks and cases for the storage of sketches and canvases. Few pictures were in evidence here, but Mr. Salisbury brought out portrait studies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and President Truman and showed them one at a time on an elaborate easel. He also showed me a portrait study of the Princess Elizabeth for which he had been granted special sittings, but which at that time had not been completed. He was a most genial host. Mr. Salisbury's latest portrait of Mr. Churchill appears as page 540 and shows him in the "siren suit" he wore in World War II. A thumbnail description reads as follows: "The Rt. Hon. Winston S. Churchill, P. C., M. P., by Frank 0. Salisbury, painted during the strenuous war days in 1942. Exhibited at the Royal Academy, Royal Portrait Society's Exhibition, November, 1942. Presented by members of the Devonshire Club to Mr. Churchill as a token of admiration. Replica presented to Harrow School." In the Cavalry Club, 127 Piccadilly, I found the magnificent painting of Captain Oates, of Scott's South Pole expedition. The picture, carrying the modest title of "A Very Gallant Gentleman," was painted in 1913 by John Charles Dollman, R. B. C. (1851-1934), a prolific painter of historical subjects who ex hibited at the Royal Academy from 1872 to 1904. It is reproduced by courtesy of the Cavalry Club and Thos. Forman & Sons, Ltd., Nottingham, owners of copyright. Capt. Lawrence Edward Grace Oates was an officer of the Inniskilling Dragoons and a member of this club. No picture could illustrate more effectively the story of Britain's intrepid explorers who for centuries have searched out the secrets of geography. It is an admirable canvas of large dimensions (page 531). Another picture found in a London club was William Clarkson Stanfield's "Battle of Trafalgar," which hangs in the United Service Club at 116 Pall Mall (page 505). This artist (1793-1867), a sailor in youth, later painted theater scenery and eventually was elected to the Society of British Artists and the Royal Academy. He was commissioned to paint the picture for the senior United Serv ice Club in 1836, when the club, first of Lon don's organizations of this character, was 21 years old. This is a large canvas, occupying one side of a great stair well surmounted by a glass dome. A companion canvas on the opposite *See the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for October, 1941, March, 1944, and November, 1946, respectively.