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Sir William Rothenstein | Portrait painter

Sir William Rothenstein (1872-1945) was an English painter, printmaker, draughtsman, lecturer and writer on art.
Emerging during the early 1890s, Rothenstein continued to make art right up until his death.
Though he covered many subjects - ranging from landscapes in France to representations of Jewish synagogues in London - he is perhaps best known for his work as a war artist in both world wars, his portraits, and his popular memoirs, written in the 1930s.
More than two hundred of Rothenstein's portraits of famous people can be found in the National Portrait Gallery collection.

The Tate Gallery also holds a large collection of his paintings, prints and drawings.
Rothenstein served as Principal at the Royal College of Art from 1920-1935.
He was knighted in 1931 for his services to art.

In March 2015 'From Bradford to Benares: the Art of Sir William Rothenstein', the first major exhibition of Rothenstein's work for over forty years, opened at Bradford's Cartwright Hall Gallery, touring to the Ben Uri in London later that year.

Personal life

William Rothenstein was born into a German-Jewish family in Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire where he was educated at Bradford Grammar School.
WHis father, Moritz, emigrated from Germany in 1859 to work in Bradford's burgeoning textile industry.
Soon afterwards he married Bertha Dux and they had six children, of whom William was the fifth.

William's two brothers, Charles and Albert, were also heavily involved in the arts. Charles (1866-1927), who followed his father into the wool trade, was an important collector - and left his entire collection to Manchester Art Gallery in 1925.

Albert (1881-1953) was a painter, illustrator and costume designer.
Both brothers changed their surname to Rutherston during the First World War.

He married Alice Knewstub in 1899 with whom he had four children: John, Betty, Rachel and Michael.
John Rothenstein later gained fame as an art historian and art administrator (he was Director of the Tate Gallery from 1938 to 1964 and was knighted in 1952).
WMichael Rothenstein was a talented printmaker.


Rothenstein left Bradford Grammar School at the age of sixteen to study at the Slade School of Art, London (1888-93), where he was taught by Alphonse Legros, and the Académie Julian in Paris (1889-1893), where he met and was encouraged by James McNeill Whistler, Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
While in Paris he also befriended the Anglo-Australian artist Charles Conder, with whom he shared a studio in Montmartre.


- Artist

In 1893 Rothenstein returned to Britain to work on "Oxford Characters" a series of lithographic portraits, eventually published in 1896.
Other portrait collections by the artist include English Portraits (1898), Twelve Portraits (1929) and Contemporaries (1937).
In Oxford he met and became a close friend of the caricaturist and parodist Max Beerbohm, who later immortalised him in the short story Enoch Soames (1919).
During the 1890s Rothenstein exhibited with the New English Art Club and contributed drawings to The Yellow Book and The Savoy.
In 1898-9 he co-founded the Carfax Gallery (or Carfax and Co) in St. James' Piccadilly with John Fothergill (later innkeeper of the Spread Eagle in Thame).

During its early years the gallery was closely associated with such artists as Charles Conder, Philip Wilson Steer, Charles Ricketts and Augustus John.

It also exhibited the work of Auguste Rodin, whose growing reputation in England owed much to Rothenstein's friendship.

William Rothenstein | Portrait of Auguste Rodin | Metropolitan Museum of Art

Rothenstein's role as artistic manager of the gallery was abandoned in 1901, whereupon the firm came under the management of his close friend Robert Ross.
Ross left in 1908, leaving the gallery in the hands of longtime financial manager Arthur Clifton.
Under Clifton the gallery was the home for all three exhibitions of the Camden Town Group, led by Rothenstein's friend and close contemporary Walter Sickert.

In 1900 Rothenstein won a silver medal for his painting The Doll's House at the Exposition Universelle.
This painting continues to be one of his best-known and critically acclaimed works, and was the subject of a recent in-depth study published by the Tate Gallery.

The style and subject of Rothenstein's paintings varies, though certain themes reappear, in particular an interest in 'weighty' or 'essential' subjects tackled in a restrained manner.
Good examples include Parting at Morning (1891), Mother and Child (1903) and Jews Mourning at a Synagogue (1907) - all of which are owned by the Tate Gallery.

Between 1902 and 1912 Rothenstein lived in Hampstead, London, where his social circle included such names as H. G. Wells, Joseph Conrad and the artist Augustus John. Amongst the young artists to visit Rothenstein in Hampstead were Wyndham Lewis, Mark Gertler and Paul Nash.
During this period Rothenstein worked on a series of important paintings in the predominantly Jewish East End of London, some of which were included in the influential 1906 exhibition of Jewish Art and Antiquaries at the Whitechapel Gallery.

Another feature of this period are the celebrated interiors he painted, the most famous of which is The Browning Readers (1900), now owned by Cartwright Hall gallery, Bradford. Most of Rothenstein's interiors feature members of his family, especially his wife Alice.
Reminiscent of Dutch painting (particularly Vermeer and Rembrandt), they are similar in style to contemporary works by William Orpen, who became Rothenstein's brother-in-law in 1901, marrying Alice's sister Grace.

Other notable interiors include Spring, The Morning Room (c.1910) and Mother and Child, Candlight (c.1909).
Rothenstein maintained a lifelong fascination for Indian sculpture and painting, and in 1910 set out on a seminal tour of the subcontinent's major artistic and religious sites.

This began with a visit to the ancient Buddhist caves of Ajanta, where he observed Lady Christiana Herringham and Nandalal Bose making watercolour copies of the ancient frescoes.
He subsequently contributed a chapter on their importance to the published edition.
The trip ended with a stay in Calcutta, where he witnessed the attempts of Rabindranath Tagore to revive the techniques and aesthetics of traditional Indian painting.

Sir William Rothenstein and Rabindranath Tagore

He was a member of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers.

Royal College of Art

Chalk drawing of Francis Derwent Wood, inscribed 'To F Derwent Wood – Homage from W Rothenstein, 1921'. Wood was Professor of Sculpture at the Royal College of Art when Rothenstein was Principal.
Rothenstein was principal of the Royal College of Art from 1920 to 1935, where he encouraged figures including Edward Burra, Evelyn Dunbar, U Ba Nyan and Henry Moore.
Moore was later to write that Rothenstein "gave me the feeling that there was no barrier, no limit to what a young provincial student could get to be and do".

Rothenstein was a master of lobbying and advocacy for his students, notably when Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious were commissioned to paint a mural in the dining room of Morley College thanks to his efforts.
After being appointed, he introduced greater informality and was permitted to appoint practising artists, including Paul Nash and Edward Johnston as visiting lecturers. In due course, those students who built successful careers were invited back to the college to lecture.

- Writer

Rothenstein wrote several critical books and pamphlets, including Goya (1900; the first English monograph on the artist), A Plea for a Wider Use of Artists and Craftsmen (1916) and Whither Painting (1932).
During the 1930s he published three volumes of memoirs: Men and Memories, Vol I and II and Since Fifty.
Men and Memories Volume I includes anecdotes about Oscar Wilde and many other friends of Rothenstein's, including Max Beerbohm, James Whistler, Paul Verlaine, Edgar Degas and John Singer Sargent.


Rothenstein was knighted in the New Year Honours in 1931.
Rabindranath Tagore dedicated his Nobel Prize winner poetry collection Gitanjali to William Rothenstein.
In 2011 the BBC and the Public Catalogue Foundation began cataloguing all of his paintings in public ownership online. | Source: © Wikipedia


Rothenstein lasciò la Bradford Grammar School all'età di sedici anni per studiare alla Slade School of Art di Londra (1888-93), dove gli fu insegnato da Alphonse Legros, e all'Académie Julian di Parigi (1889–1893), dove incontrò e fu incoraggiato da James McNeill Whistler, Edgar Degas e Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Mentre era a Parigi fece amicizia anche con l'artista anglo-australiano Charles Conder, con il quale condivise uno studio a Montmartre.

Sir William Rothenstein (1872-1945) è stato un pittore, incisore, disegnatore, conferenziere e scrittore Inglese.
Emerso all'inizio degli anni '90 dell'Ottocento, Rothenstein continuò a fare arte fino alla sua morte. Sebbene abbia trattato molti argomenti, dai paesaggi in Francia alle rappresentazioni di sinagoghe ebraiche a Londra, è forse meglio conosciuto per il suo lavoro come artista di guerra in entrambe le guerre mondiali, i suoi ritratti e le sue memorie popolari, scritte negli anni '30.
Più di duecento dei ritratti di personaggi famosi di Rothenstein si trovano nella collezione della National Portrait Gallery.

La Tate Gallery ospita anche una vasta collezione dei suoi dipinti, stampe e disegni. Rothenstein prestò servizio come preside al Royal College of Art dal 1920-1935.
Fu nominato Cavaliere nel 1931 per i suoi servizi all'art.
Nel marzo 2015 "Da Bradford a Benares: l'arte di Sir William Rothenstein", la prima grande mostra del lavoro di Rothenstein da oltre quarant'anni, è stata aperta alla Cartwright Hall Gallery di Bradford, in tournée al Ben Uri a Londra nello stesso anno.

Nel 1893 Rothenstein tornò in Gran Bretagna per lavorare a "Oxford Characters", una serie di ritratti litografici, pubblicati infine nel 1896.
Altre raccolte di ritratti dell'artista includono English Portraits (1898), Twelve Portraits (1929) e Contemporaries (1937).
Ad Oxford conobbe e divenne amico intimo del caricaturista e parodista Max Beerbohm, che in seguito lo immortalò nel racconto Enoch Soames (1919).
Durante il 1890 Rothenstein espose con il New English Art Club e contribuì con disegni a The Yellow Book e The Savoy.

Nel 1898-99 ha co-fondato la Carfax Gallery (o Carfax ando) a St. James' Piccadilly con John Fothergill (poi locandiere dello Spread Eagle a Thame).
Durante i suoi primi anni la galleria fu strettamente associata ad artisti come Charles Conder, Philip Wilson Steer, Charles Ricketts e Augustus John. Espose anche il lavoro di Auguste Rodin, la cui crescente reputazione in Inghilterra doveva molto all'amicizia di Rothenstein.

Il ruolo di Rothenstein come direttore artistico della galleria fu abbandonato nel 1901, dopodiché l'azienda passò sotto la direzione del suo caro amico Robert Ross.
Ross se ne andò nel 1908, lasciando la galleria nelle mani del manager finanziario di lunga data Arthur Clifton. Sotto Clifton la galleria è stata la sede di tutte e tre le mostre del Camden Town Group, guidato dall'amico di Rothenstein e stretto contemporaneo Walter Sickert.

Nel 1900 Rothenstein vinse una medaglia d'argento per il suo dipinto La casa delle bambole all'Exposition Universelle.
Questo dipinto continua ad essere una delle sue opere più note e acclamate dalla critica, ed è stato oggetto di un recente studio approfondito pubblicato dalla Tate Gallery.
Lo stile e il soggetto dei dipinti di Rothenstein variano, anche se alcuni temi riappaiono, in particolare un interesse per argomenti "pesanti" o "essenziali" affrontati in modo sobrio.
Buoni esempi includono Parting at Morning (1891), Mother and Child (1903) e Jewish Mourning at a Synagogue (1907), tutti di proprietà della Tate Gallery.

Tra il 1902-1912 Rothenstein visse ad Hampstead, Londra, dove la sua cerchia sociale comprendeva nomi come H. G. Wells, Joseph Conrad e l'artista Augustus John.
Tra i giovani artisti che hanno visitato Rothenstein ad Hampstead c'erano Wyndham Lewis, Mark Gertler e Paul Nash.

Durante questo periodo Rothenstein lavorò a una serie di importanti dipinti nell'East End di Londra, prevalentemente ebraico, alcuni dei quali furono inclusi nell'influente mostra del 1906 di arte ebraica ed antiquari alla Whitechapel Gallery.

Un'altra caratteristica di questo periodo sono i celebri interni da lui dipinti, il più famoso dei quali è The Browning Readers (1900), ora di proprietà della galleria Cartwright Hall, Bradford.

La maggior parte degli interni di Rothenstein presenta membri della sua famiglia, in particolare sua moglie Alice.
Ricordano la pittura olandese (in particolare Vermeer e Rembrandt), sono simili nello stile alle opere contemporanee di William Orpen, che divenne cognato di Rothenstein nel 1901, sposando la sorella di Alice, Grace.

Altri interni degni di nota includono Spring, The Morning Room (1910 circa) e Mother and Child, Candlight (1909 circa).
Rothenstein ha mantenuto un fascino per tutta la vita per la scultura e la pittura indiana e nel 1910 ha intrapreso un tour seminale dei principali siti artistici e religiosi del subcontinente.

Ciò iniziò con una visita alle antiche grotte buddiste di Ajanta, dove osservò Lady Christiana Herringham e Nandalal Bose mentre realizzavano copie ad acquerello degli antichi affreschi.
Successivamente ha contribuito con un capitolo sulla loro importanza all'edizione pubblicata.

Il viaggio si conclude con un soggiorno a Calcutta, dove assiste ai tentativi di Abanindranath Tagore di far rivivere le tecniche e l'estetica della pittura tradizionale indiana.
È stato membro della Società Internazionale di Scultori, Pittori e Gravers. | Fonte: © British Wikipedia