Alice Boyd – The Lost Pre-Raphaelite – At Bonhams 19hh Century Art Sale In London






Aspiring artist Alice Boyd was 36 when, in 1859, she met the 47-year-old Pre-Raphaelite painter William Bell Scott. The encounter changed both of their lives. She was eager for experience beyond the confines of her aristocratic background, he to escape the monotony of a loveless marriage. Alice and Scott quickly became inseparable and from 1860, they set up a menage à trois with Scott’s forbearing wife Letitia. Summers were spent at Boyd’s family seat at Penkill Castle in Ayrshire; the rest of the year they lived at the Scott’s house on Cheyne Walk in London. It was there that in 1875, Alice painted The Thames from Cheyne Walkthe charming picture which is to be offered at Bonhams 19th century and British Impressionist Art sale in London on Wednesday 31 March. It is estimated at £15,000-20,000.  

Alice Boyd (1823-1897) came from a wealthy, established Scottish family. On the unexpected death of her much-loved brother in 1865, she became 15th Laird of Penkill and set about transforming the castle into a centre for Pre-Raphaelite art. She built an artist’s studio in which she and Scott worked, and entertained prominent members of the Brotherhood such as Christina Rossetti, Algernon Swinburn, William Rossetti, and William Holman Hunt. While Scott decorated the castle tower staircase with murals based on The King’s Quair, a poem written by James I of Scotland, Alice concentrated on the turret room and the Laird’s bedroom.

Bonhams Head of 19th Century Pictures, Charles O’Brien said: “Alice Boyd has been overshadowed somewhat by her relationship with the better-known William Scott, but as The Thames from Cheyne Walk shows she was a considerable artist in her own right.  Admired by her contemporaries – Rossetti wrote that he believed her ‘to possess at least as much power in painting as any woman I know’ – her work is now ripe for reassessment.”

Other highlights include:

  • The Five Senses by Henri Guillaume Schlesinger (French, 1814-1893). Born in Frankfurt, Schlesinger studied at the Fine Arts Academy in Vienna before moving permanently to France. In Paris he exhibited regularly and successfully at the Salon between 1840 and 1890 and at the Salon of 1865, he exhibited the set of five canvases, Les Cinq Sens. The paintings were acquired by Napoléon III for his private collection for the impressive sum of 25,000 francs. Bonhams research suggests the paintings have a distinguished provenance and past owners include, the Empress Eugénie, Sir Richard Wallace and Bernard and Joyce Matthews to decorate Great Witchingham Hall, Norwich. Estimate: £70,000-100,000.
  • Works by painters of the Liverpool School including View near Sefton by John Newton (British, active 1835-1891) – estimate £10,000- 15,000; and Three a-penny by Joseph Worrall (1829-1913) – estimate £15,000-20,000.
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