English-born landscape and portrait artist, Charles Haigh-Wood, was born 160 years ago, on 9 May 1854 in Bury, Lancashire. As a child he attended Bury Grammar School, before graduating in 1870, at the age of 16, to the Manchester School of Art where he was awarded a Bronze Medal. After this, he went to the Royal Academy of Arts where, during his time, displayed forty-two works of art.
In 1880, Charles presented his first one-man exhibition held at the Athenaeum and featured a portrait of Mayor John Heap, founder of the Bury Times. Several other works went to Manchester City Art Gallery and Liverpool’s Walker Gallery. An exhibition of Haigh-Wood’s work was held in 1909, at the Bury Art Gallery (since renamed the Bury Art Museum). Most of the items were on loan from their owners who included the Sheriff of London, Raphael Tuck publishers, and the Dewar Family of the Dewar’s distillery fame.
- Less than 20 years later, Charles Haigh-Wood died in Hastings on 25 March, 1927 and was buried in Eastbourne’s Ocklynge Cemetery.
As an interesting aside, in 1915, twelve years before he died, Charles became the father-in-law of renowned essayist, publisher and playwright, T. S. Eliot (Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats), through the marriage of his only daughter, Vivienne (born 28 May, 1888). As a young married couple they lived in a flat which they shared with philosopher, Bertrand Russell. Theirs was a stormy marriage, where Vivienne ended up having an affair with Russell This became major fodder for Brian Gilbert’s 1994 film ‘Tom & Viv‘ which featured the tempestuous relationship and triangular love-affair. Eliot left Vivienne in 1932 and six years later she became an involuntary patient in Northumberland House Sanatorium, Finsbury Park where she died in 1947, at the age of 58. Another interesting fact about Vivienne stems back to her childhood, when she became ill and was sent to hospital and was operated on by Doctor Frederick Treves, who later became physician to the Royal family and also helped John Merrick, ‘The Elephant Man’.
- Considering these amazing stories about Charles’ daughter Vivienne, I wonder…
…Is the subject of this oil on canvas painting (featured above) which is entitled: “The Picture Book” (1893) really a portraiture of a young Vivienne aged 4-5 years, reading a story to her “dollie”?… and if this is the case, then it won’t be… “The Song of the Jellicles”, or “Old Deuteronomy” from the “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.”
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