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Henry Woods (1846-1921)

"Rivals" Signed and dated 1891

Oil on canvas | 86.2 x 116.5 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 405394

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  • Three young Venetian women are engaged in animated conversation outside a church; one of the girls leans back on her chair and points at her friend opposite; on the right, a young man, wearing a beret, is seated beside them, smoking.

    This painting was bought by Agnews from the artist in April 1891 and was sold to the Lord Mayor of Manchester on 29 July 1893 for £1,050, as a wedding gift to the Duke and Duchess of York, later King George V and Queen Mary. It was exhibited at Agnews in Manchester from 10-16 August, before travelling to London

    Money was raised by public subscription; although an article in the Manchester Guardian of 29 June suggested that the amount collected to date was not as high as had been hoped. In an article from the same paper of 15 August, it appears that the reviewer did not merit the painting very highly: 'The incident of coquetry depicted by Mr Woods is interesting in a light way, the painting of the figures bright, facile, fairly spirited and a little crude'.
    The Lancashire born artist Henry Woods, trained at Warrington and then at the South Kensington Schools. He first worked as an illustrator on 'The Graphic'. In 1876, encouraged by his brother-in-law, Luke Fildes, Woods travelled to Venice in search of new subjects. Here he was so taken with life, that he settled permanently and devoted the rest of his life to painting everyday life in the streets and canals. His style was influenced by other members of the foreign colony in Venice, including Cecil van Haanen and Eugene de Blaas. A work of a very similar subject, entitled 'The Rivals' of 1886 by Eugene de Blaas, was on the art market in 1995 (Christies, New York, 2 November 1995 (168). In this scene, three Venetian ladies look over a balustrade at a gondolier.

    Other influences include William Logsdail (see RCIN 406572) who worked in Venice from the 1880s onwards and Frank Bramley, who went on to found the Newlyn School. During the 1880s there was great enthusiasm by British collectors for pictures of Venice. This may partially be due to the influence of John Ruskin's 'Stones of Venice', a treatise on Venetian art and architecture, published 1851-3. Woods continued to regularly exhibit Venetian genre scenes at the Royal Academy until the end of his life.

    The painting was possibly exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1891, (172).

    Presented by the citizens of Manchester to the Duke and Duchess of York on their marriage, 6 July 1893

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas


    86.2 x 116.5 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    121.4 x 151.5 x 12.0 cm (frame, external)