. Night, c. 1878. Oil on board, 40 x 253/4 inches (102 x 64.5 cm). Private collection.
This work was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1878 with its companion piece Morning of an identical size. Both paintings depicted allegorical figures against visionary backgrounds. Stanhope portrays Night as a female figure clothed in blue and red garments with her eyes closed. She is partially covered with a brown sheet and flying over a barren nocturnal landscape. A walled Italianate town is seen in the left foreground. The brown sheet that covers the figure of Night resembles a shroud.
Painters like Simeon Solomon and J. W. Waterhouse referred to the close relationship between sleep and death in their works and Stanhope appears to have at least contemplated this relationship as well. Morning featured a handsome rather androgynous young man with winged feet clad in a pink and blue classical costume that was swirling about him. He was portrayed standing in a rocky seascape pouring gold from a lamp into the palm of his left hand. The lighting in these works was perfectly harmonized with their subjects with Night being painted in dark sombre tones. These works shows Stanhope’s involvement in the British Symbolist movement with abstract allegorical figures reminiscent of works by his early mentor G. F. Watts. It was not uncommon for the second generation of Pre-Raphaelite painters to turn to Symbolist themes. Both Edward Burne-Jones and Solomon executed a series of pictures of The Four Seasons (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) as well as complimentary designs for Day and Night. Burne-Jones’s Day and Night are in the collection of the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University.
Stanhope in this painting was not influenced by the Old Masters so much as by his friend Burne-Jones. Two of Burne-Jones’s nocturnal pictures in watercolour and gouache on canvas, both in private collections, are remarkably similar in feeling and composition to Stanhope’s Night. Both paintings, Vesper [The Evening Star] and Night, were exhibited in the 1997 exhibition at the Tate Britain The Age of Rossetti, Burne-Jones & Watts<>. Symbolism in Britain 1860-1910. Vespers is a version of a subject entitled Hesperus that Burne-Jones had previously exhibited at the Old Water Colour Society in 1870 and his Night also dates to that same year. In Vespers an ethereal female figure draped in a blue shift floats over a landscape cloaked in twilight with a view of the sea in the background and an Italianate town in the left midground. It is highly likely that Stanhope would have seen these works by Burne-Jones.
Fiumara, Francesco. “A Painter Hidden. John Roddam Spencer Stanhope: His Life, His Works, His Friends. The British Period: 1829-1880.” M.A. thesis. Universita’ Di Messina, Anno Accademico 1992-93, 219-20.
Wilton, Andrew and Robert Upstone Eds. The Age of Rossetti, Burne-Jones & Watts. Symbolism in Britain 1860-1910. London: Tate Gallery Publishing, 1997, cats. 26 and 27, 129-31.
Created 20 October 2004
Last modified 7 May 2022