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2018-03-27-2018-12-18 --- 2018-12-18 13:39:04--18
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LOT :57
Richard Doyle (1824 - 1883)
Pied Piper of Hamelin
Watercolour, 51 x 77cm (20 x 30¼")
Estimate EUR : €10,000.00 - €15,000.00
Auction Date : 27-03-2018

Description

Richard Doyle (1824 - 1883)
Pied Piper of Hamelin
Watercolour, 51 x 77cm (20 x 30¼")
Signed

Exhibited: The works of Thomas Gainsborough, R.A., and a collection of drawings by the late Richard Doyle, The Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1885, no. 287 in the catalogue, lent by A. H Christie, esq of East Runton, Norfolk.

 

From an early age Richard Doyle or Dickie Doyle as he was affectionately known, showed a natural ability for creating original and humorous designs. A consummate draughtsman, during his teenage years he kept a manuscript journal, now housed in the Print department of the British Museum, which consists of 156 pages of pen and ink sketches. He developed a successful career as an book illustrator with William Thackeray declaring on the advent of a new translation of Brother Grimms fairytales The Fairy Ring in 1846, that he was the new master of the fairyland supplanting the artist George Cruikshank. (The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle by Russell Miller, 2010). Doyle also worked for many years as an illustrator for the satirical magazine Punch (1841 - 2002), designing their first cover and masthead and producing more than one thousand drawings during his seven years of employment.

 

A staunch Catholic all his life, his relationship with Punch came to a drastic end in 1850 when he resigned due to their hostility towards the current Pope. From this point onwards there is a significant shift in the trajectory of his artistic career. Although he continued to provide fantastical illustrations for books, such as his celebrated 'In Fairyland' (1869), by the mid-1870s, he had begun to experiment with larger scale works in watercolour, such as the present example. It is important to note he never had any formal training in the medium; these works were therefore technically experimental. This unconventional approach, lends itself to these mythological subjects in which he imbued them with a surreal or dreamlike quality. He exhibited in 1868 and 1871 with the RA and two years following his death in 1883, the Grosvenor Gallery in London exhibited a collection of his drawings in which The Pied Piper of Hamelin was included.

 

The Pied Piper of Hamelin is a particularly interesting subject to depict, as there are numerous contradictory endings to the story. The legend dates back to the Middle Ages, and tells the tale of people of Hamelin, Lower Saxony, whose city is suffering from a plague of rats. The Pied Piper is hired by the mayor to lure the rats away with his magical instrument, in return for payment. However, when he has accomplished his task, the mayor reneges on their agreement. It is at this point that the sequence of events becomes confused. In certain versions, the piper takes revenge on the town by returning and in the same manner and luring all of the children, bar three, from the town to the Weser River, to their death. In others, again he transfixes them with his music but leads them instead to the beautiful lands surrounding the Koppenberg Mountain. In this more pleasant account, once his debt has been paid he returns all of the children unharmed.

 

It is difficult to ascertain from Doyles work which version of events he has decided to depict. What fate lies just beyond the frame for the innocent children of Hamelin? The two figures closest to the Piper seem to belie a more sinister turn of events, as they hold onto one another turning away from the music in fear. Their newfound understanding is visually contrasted with the hoards of smiling children behind them, blindly following the Piper. They have not yet crossed the towns threshold, here a physical as well as metaphorical space, that seems to illustrate the moment in our lives in which our childhood innocence is lost to the cruel adult world. This is further heightened by the anguish and torment of the parents in the distance calling in desperation after their lost children.

 

It could be argued that Doyles resignation from Punch, due to his dislike of their contemporary politics, made him outdated for the period in which he was working, a time of great turmoil and change in British and Irish society. His commitment to depicting the fantastical, through traditional forms of story telling, could be read as mere romantic folly. However, to a higher degree, mythology had been used for centuries by societies to make sense of the world in which they lived. Doyles work was concerned with awakening the viewer's imagination and challenging conventional ways of seeing by drawing their attention to the ambiguity of everyday experience. Contemporary European and Anglo-Irish literature was often a vital resource for artists of a Romantic tradition, which celebrated the natural over the rational. Worlds represented in the stories and poems in which Doyle illustrated were not ordered, they were filled with wonderful and at times, in the case of the town of Hamelin, terrifying phenomena.

 

Niamh Corcoran

 

Hammer Price : €10,000.00
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