Samuel Butler – Painter

This canvas was painted by Samuel Butler in 1874 and its title is: “Mr Heatherley’s Holiday: An Incident in Studio Life”. The work was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1874, and now hangs in the Tate Gallery in London.

It is his largest and most impressive oil painting, an ‘important’ work, as Butler referred to it, which was however based on a joke

It satirizes the dusty London art studio he had attended for some years, in the mornings, a jumble of objects “out of which grand style Victorian classicism was expected to arise”, as the Tate caption says.
The owner was the man pictured here, Thomas Heatherley, portrayed fixing a human skeleton that was regularly damaged by the students who would dress it up or dance with it.
The ‘holiday’ mentioned in the title is the second part of the joke: Mr Heatherley was notorious for never taking a vacation, preferring to stay in London and take care of his studio.

This painting pinpoints Butler’s rejection of Heatherley’s academicism and artistic training model which followed the long programme of copying from engravings, prints, drawings, casts, and only ultimately from live models.

Questo quadro a olio fu dipinto da Samuel Butler nel 1874, il suo titolo è: “Mr Heatherley’s Holiday: An Incident in Studio Life”.(“La vacanza di Mr Heatherley: un incidente nella vita dello studio”)
L’opera fu esposta alla Royal Academy nel 1874 e ora si trova alla Tate Gallery di Londra.

È il suo lavoro più grande e imponente, un quadro “importante”, come lo definì Butler, ma basato su uno scherzo. Ironizza infatti sul polveroso studio d’arte di Londra che frequentava da alcuni anni: un’accozzaglia di oggetti “da cui ci si aspettava che sorgesse il grandioso classicismo vittoriano”, come dice la didascalia della Tate.
Il proprietario era l’uomo rappresentato qui, Thomas Heatherley, ritratto mentre ripara uno scheletro umano che veniva regolarmente danneggiato dagli studenti che lo vestivano o ballavano con lui .
La “vacanza” di cui parla il titolo è la seconda parte dello scherzo : Mr. Heatherley era infatti noto per non concedersi mai una vacanza, preferendo rimanere a Londra e occuparsi del suo studio.

Questo dipinto evidenzia come Butler rifiutasse l’accademismo e il modello di formazione artistica di Heatherley che seguiva il lungo programma di copiatura da incisioni, stampe, disegni, calchi e solo alla fine da modelli dal vivo.

47 thoughts on “Samuel Butler – Painter

  1. Personalmente questo quadro mi piace molto, oserei dire che ha una notevole tridimensionalità, e direi oltresí che non è poco❣❣❣ Grazie carissima Luisa di condividere sempre con noi la tua conoscenza 🥀❤

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  2. I went straight to steampunk with this too! The colours and the random objects everywhere lend themselves heavily to the wonderful peculiarity that is steampunk. As shehannemoore said, way before its time!
    The detail is delightful, there is so much to take in! I see the position of the male model behind Mr Heatherley’s head is perfectly positioned, not to mention the positioning of the bust on the floor behind him, along with the intricately portrayed pile of bones at the base of the skeleton stand. The fine detail allows us to see into the past, you could be stood in the room with Mr Heatherley, everything is so realistic! Thank you Luisa, I found this fascinating!

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      1. Ah I have no expertise in fine art, I just know what my eyes show me and when something speaks to my senses.
        Butler’s attention to the very tiny details speaks to the creative perfectionist in me.
        This particular painting made me want to step into it. The storytelling aspect in it is so strong I felt connected to it.
        A lot of artwork I see, I have no connection to at all, it feels flat on the surface of the canvas, it isn’t alive for me. This painting tells a story and comes to life! Beautiful, thank you again for sharing it with us.

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  3. Samual Butler – painter very inspiring post and very interesting 🌷🙏👍🏻
    I never read his life history in English , but in Hindi translation still and
    Some main writers in world literature , still teaching schools and colleges 🌷🙏
    Have a nice Wednesday 👏♥️😊

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