After a lengthy gap, we’re back with the artist and book illustrator Herbert Railton. I recently bought a copy of a book which combines three interesting characters: Railton, and blog favourite Hugh Thomson who both created illustrations for “Coaching days and coaching ways” (1893) by the entertainingly named W. Outram Tristram. It was he who wrote the final book Railton worked on, the fascinating, “Moated houses”, which was featured in the first post about him. I’m sure I’ll come back to the Railton/Thomson team-up in a future post but first I want to look at Railton’s Kensington connection.
One of his other projects was an illustrated edition of Leigh Hunt’s “The Old Court Suburb” (1855 / 1902) a rambling historical account of Kensington. Railton did most of the topographical pictures in the book. The Library possesses many of his original sketches for this project.
I have to say at this stage that Railton’s delicate and almost impressionistic pictures can be hard to scan. It is often easier to use the published versions, which have firmer lines. In this post I’ll use some of each. I’m concentrating on one location, Holland Park and Holland House.
If you’ve never encountered Railton’s work before this is a quite characteristic piece. The house is solid and rendered in some detail but at the same time it’s a little vague, glimpsed through some kind of summer haze, the foliage blending into the architecture. The one below is actually called “A peep at Holland House”
The house is even more indistinct. The focus of the picture is the sculpture of an urn, like a funery urn at the edge of the hedge frame.
If you know the park you’ll recognize the summer ball room turret, but perhaps not the wild trees and hedges which threaten to overwhelm it.
In the context of Hunt’s book, Railton’s illustrations work well in contrast to those of the other two artists, Claude Shepperson and Edmund J Sullivan, who were given the task of doing pictures of people from Kensington’s past.
Chloe and Delia admiring the flowers.
After which the ladies and gentlemen could go on to some picturesque spots in the grounds, such as the famous sundial.
(Some of the originals are on this coloured paper. I don’t think it’s any kind of age-related deterioration but it does add a pleasingly antique feel to the pictures).
Lord Camelford, memorialised with a Roman altar, perished in a duel conducted in the grounds. There is a view of the wild looking site of his death in the first post.
We can head back to the house via the Dutch Garden.
And see some more details
The Oriel front, and the Terrace.
Even when Holland House was a private house, the grounds had visitors who might not be guests of the family. After their tour they might stroll to a nearby tavern, like this conveniently located hostelry.
See how once again Railton brings the picture to a point with some birds, in this case some fairly free range chickens.
When he wrote the Old Court Suburb, Hunt was also not far away ftom the house.
Two girls stroll along next to the garden railings. Railton could manage figures well enough but he was sparing in his use of them.
When the illustrated edition of Hunt’s book was published, tourists were an established part of London life.
Note the editor, our old friend Austin Dobson, the go-to guy for scholarly introductions in those days.
Railton’s fellow illustrator Mr Edmund J Sullivan put a lady visitor (dressed in the fashions of the 1850s) in a couple of his pictures who doesn’t seem too happy.
Here she looks like she’d like to sit down if the sign permitted.
(Is she bracing her back with her right hand, completely ignoring the guide book in her left, and waiting for her companion to get on with it so they can get to the gift shop?)
And here she (or a similar lady) looks a little melancholy, perhaps remembering those she mourns herself.
These two pictures have intrigued me since I first looked at the book, so forgive me for letting Mr Sullivan squeeze a few pictures into Mr Railton’s post. I wish he’d been able to develop the theme as an interesting contrast with the topographical pictures but Railton was the headline act on this bill.
Posthumous apologies to Claude Shepperson I suppose for not including any of his pictures in the post. Unfortunately, they’re a bit dull. By contrast, I’d like to see more of Edmund Sullivan’s’ work.