The Farmyard, Evening
signed and dated 'G.CLAUSEN.1897.' (lower right)
oil on canvas
20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 61 cm.)
Purchased by the previous owner's grandfather, and by descent until
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 28 November 1996, lot 146, where purchased for the present collection.
'The International Gallery', Morning Post, 19 May 1898, p. 8.
K. McConkey, George Clausen and the Picture of English Rural Life, Edinburgh, 2012, pp. 124-5, fig. 203, illustrated.
London, International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, 1898, no. 64, illustrated in catalogue.
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Lot Essay

In 1898 Clausen exhibited a picture which had its origins in a royal visit. Two years before, Prince Eugen of Sweden, a talented painter, had come to Widdington to confer with him. The two men clicked, and as they walked around the village and its environs, they visited a local farmyard, containing an impressive Essex barn. The prince was fascinated by what he saw. These were subjects Clausen was about to tackle, and in the ensuing correspondence, the artist reminded the prince that although he could get the facts ‘working direct from nature’, […] the “envelope” – the sentiment – the feeling of surprise that a beautiful thing always gives you: that always has to come from within.' (Letter dated 24 June 1896, Waldemarsudde, Stockholm; quoted in McConkey, 2012, pp. 124-5)
What followed were at least two studies leading to a pastel in which an ancient thatch-covered feeding trough acts as the central motif. (Of the studies, one is in the collection of the National Trust and one is privately owned. The pastel, 40.5 x 51.5 cm., was sold in March 2009.) This venerable structure draws the viewer's eye in the present, oil version of The Farmyard. In this case the trough has been moved to the left and a boy carrying a winnowing fan loaded with fresh animal feed approaches the cows. He is likely to be the same lad who posed for The Farmers Boy, (1895, Tate, London), a figure that re-appears in many later barn studies.
The view to the right of the trough opens up to reveal a horse, a clump of trees and the roofline of a house or barn. The composition is unforced and the colour harmonies are rich and deep in the golden ochres and pale umbers of straw and thatch.
The work was smaller than those he would normally send to the Academy, and its perfection made it suitable for the new International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, to which Clausen had been invited to submit (on 5 May 1898 Clausen wrote to the exhibition organizers indicating that he had succeeded in retrieving The Farmyard from Goupil (Boussod, Valadon et Cie) to whom it had been consigned. His contract with the company was coming to an end and its London branch would soon be bought by William Marchant. In addition to the present picture, Clausen also exhibited A Girls Head (no. 108)). Billed as an ‘Art Congress’ with an impressive list of honorary members, the International Society exhibition was held at Prince’s Hall in Knightsbridge, an ice-rink converted for the occasion. Organised by a group of Glasgow School painters, headed by John Lavery and Edward Arthur Walton, and with James McNeill Whistler as their president, the society’s aim was to display the best British art in a truly international context, such that when the Times critic entered the show, he found that he had ‘stepped out of a London street into the Salon of the Champ de Mars’ (‘Exhibition of International Art’, The Times, 16 May 1898, p. 12). If an enormous commercial risk, it was nevertheless regarded as an ‘artistic success’ (‘International Art at Knightsbridge’, The Art Journal, 1898, p. 249).
As a recently elected Associate of the Royal Academy, Clausen may not have expected to be invited to exhibit. Whistler had insisted that no Academicians be included. However, an exception was made in his case, partly because of his promotion of progressive painting and his consistent demand for Academy reform. Without his support, it is doubtful if the Glasgow Boys, for instance, would have attained their Europe-wide status quite so resoundingly. In selecting The Farmyard to represent his recent work, Clausen made an important aesthetic decision. The work was tonal rather than colouristic and as such would appeal to the new society’s president. When the show opened, he found himself in good company. The exhibition included works by Manet, Degas, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rodin and eight paintings by Whistler. With its measured tonalities, sense of space and interval, the picture was well-placed.
We are grateful to Professor Kenneth McConkey for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.

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