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Philip Connard (1875-1958)

An Exterior View of Holyrood and the Gatehouse at Hampton Court   c.1927-9

Oil on plaster? | RCIN 408582

Queen Mary's Dolls' House Display Area, Windsor Castle

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  • In the late 1920s artist Philip Connard (1875-1958) painted a series of murals to decorate the four walls of the room which contains Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House at Windsor Castle (RCINs 408579, 408580, 408581, 408582).  The House, which was designed by the leading British architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) for Queen Mary was shown at the Empire exhibition at Wembley in 1924, before being installed at Windsor Castle in July the following year (RCIN 231999). Extending across all four walls, the decorations are executed in the soft, calligraphic, impressionist style that epitomises Connard’s painterly style of the 1920s. He has taken as his subject exterior views of royal residences, including Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace, Hampton Court and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The inclusion of elegantly dresses figures, who promenade, play music or relax in the foregrounds, add a liveliness to the tableaus echoing the fête galantes of eighteenth-century artists such as Fragonard and Watteau.

    Connard, who during the 1920s was best known for his romantic and decorative landscape paintings, was engaged in the project from October 1927, and by May 1929 the decorations were complete. A contemporary review of the murals recorded that the residencies were represented ‘in character and atmosphere’ rather than strict topography and praised the skilful blending of the subjects. It was noted that ‘Each of the places is immediately recognisable. Each has its addition of characteristic or sympathetic detail in the foreground – deer and swans at Windsor, pelicans at Buckingham Palace, and fencing figures at St James’s. Hampton Court, which is the most charming of all, has the addition of a rococo panel enclosing a view of the Sunk Garden, in which the statues have come to life to pay court to Venus’ and … ‘upon the lawns there are Watteauesque groups of figures.’ The reviewer also complimented the ‘restrained playfulness’ of the panels (The Times, 9 July 1928).

    By June 1929 Connard had completed scenes around the embrasures of the three windows on the north wall (RCIN 408582); these were ‘graced with representations of Holyrood and Kensington Palace, scenes in Windsor Great Park, including “Herne the Hunter” and the Belvedere Tower at Hampton Court and decorative plans of that palace and Windsor Castle, with heraldic ornaments in the foreground.’ It was also recorded that the subjects were painted upon the actual plaster with a wax medium which allowed for washing (The Times, 7 June 1929).  The artist presumably worked from sketches, although a request for a photograph be taken to aid his depiction the garden façade of Buckingham Palace was made in 1927.

    The decorative plans of Hampton Court and Windsor resemble the swooping bird’s eye views of royal residencies painted by Leonard Knyff (1650-1722) in the early eighteenth century, albeit rendered in a modern idiom. The Hampton Court view is inscribed to look like a book cover with ‘Plan of Hampton Court, 1929' by 'W.E.B. Hardman’; the plan of Windsor Castle is inscribed:'seen and pictured by Dorothy Cohen'. It is probably that the artists responsible for these views were A. Dorothy Cohen (1887-1960) and Winifred Elizabeth Beatrice Hardman (1890-1972) and that they assisted Connard with his commission.

    Born in Southport, Lancashire, the son of a house painter, Connard attended evening classes and eventually won a scholarship in textile designing which took him to the National Art Training School, South Kensington in 1896. He exhibited in London, including at the New English Art Club, in first decade of the twentieth century. During the First World War Connard served in the Royal Field Artillery as a captain, although he was invalided out after the battle of the Somme in 1916. Towards the end of the war, he worked as official war artist to the Royal Navy and numerous works by him painted in this capacity are in the Imperial War Museum. These lyrical decorations can be compared with his pastoral and sometimes mythological paintings completed in the 1920s. For example, Summer, a river scene with bathers (c. 1922, Tate) and Apollo and Daphne, accepted as a diploma piece when he was elected a Royal Academician in 1925.

    In the following decade he executed a decorative panel on the theme of ‘Merrie England’ for the ocean liner Queen Mary (launched 1936). He was appointed keeper at the Royal Academy Schools in 1945, a position held until 1949, and in 1950 was awarded a CVO.

    Presumably commissioned by Queen Mary

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on plaster?

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