This lot is offered by Christie Manson & Woods Ltd
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Painted in 1902 and exhibited that year at the Royal Academy, Forest Lovers is an enchanting scene representative of the profound influence that the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood had upon John Young-Hunter. Indeed, the art critic and painter A.L. Baldry described Young-Hunter and his wife, Mary, as the ‘new Pre-Raphaelites’. This phenomenon of a late flowering of this style, half a century after the Brotherhood was founded, was celebrated in a landmark exhibition staged at the Barbican in 1989, entitled The Last Romantics. Rendered in exquisite detail, the present scene is rich with the sense of clandestine romance so typical to the work of artists such as Sir Edward Burne-Jones and Sir John Everett Millais. The adoring soldier, his pole and shield discarded nearby, reclines in serenade before his lover who, dressed in a luminous cerulean blue gown, gazes directly at the viewer. The composition is rich with symbolic intimations, from the single magpie perched among the foliage of the abundant orange tree, to the rosary beads clasped in the hands of the female figure. A comparable work by the artist titled, Vanity Fair, was sold in these Rooms, 29 July 2020, lot 37 for £125,000. Vanity Fair is a reprise of Young Hunter’s Royal Academy exhibit of 1899 (no. 997) entitled In My Lady’s Garden. This was so well received when exhibited that it was purchased by the Chantrey Bequest and is now in the collection of the Tate, London. Critics of the time thought it was one of the 'typical examples of the modern spirit … marking plainly the direction in which youthful fancy is disposed to tend’. The artist’s wife modelled for the figure, and the garden belonged to Holland House in Kensington. The rich colours and romantic nature of the work is reminiscent of the present lot. As the son of the marine artist, Colin Hunter (1841 – 1904), it is thought that Young-Hunter’s imaginative and romantic scenes of this kind were perhaps created in reaction to his father’s incessant realism. However, following a period living and working in London at the turn of the century, Young-Hunter sailed for America to pursue his fascination with Native American culture. His later work centred on scenes of Native American life painted between Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico.
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The canvas is unlined and is on its original stretcher, which is providing good support. There are some frame abrasions, particularly to the upper and lower edges, with some associated paint losses, along the lower edge. There are scattered areas of craquelure and paint shrinkage and some surface dirt. The picture might benefit from a light clean.
Under UV pigment some of the pigments fluoresce slightly, but these appear to be consistent with the artists original paintwork. The dirty varnish also fluoresces, which makes reading the picture slightly difficult.
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