The product of an intensely cultured family, this is an exceptionally beautiful visual memoir of two European tours compiled by the artist Ellen Brooker Beale, her sister the portraitist and writer Sarah Sophia Beale together with Ellen Beale’s husband the writer and antiquarian William Watkiss Llloyd.
Large bespoke oblong folio album (40x32x7cm spine) bound in half pebbled morocco over green pebbled cloth covered boards, repairs to top and tail of spine which bears the initials of Brooker Beale and Watkiss Lloyd: ‘E.B. & W W. Ll.’ The couple appear in a little sequence of albumen photographs mounted on the first flyleaf, together with their wedding notice. The couple are pictured in a studio and with Ellen on a donkey with William walking alongside. Opposite is a note from a ‘Miss Thornley’ asking to keep this ‘delightful book’ on loan for a little longer. The album proper is made up of 125 watercolour paintings, the images being mostly c25x15cm in size. These plot the couple’s travels from Dover (March 1868) across Europe, concentrating on Italy for the first part, a return to England and then back to southern Italy. The images are interspersed with overlaid explanatory diary entries on blue paper which explain where and when the watercolours were executed together with occasional pressed flowers and plants mounted alongside the images.Brooker Beale’s diary entries add much to the album. So, for example, the note to a Lake Como view records: ‘11 Jun/ 68 Bellagio Sketch of the view of the lake of Como seen to the right from the terrace of the Hotel Grazziani. There was not time to sketch the view intermediate between this and the preceding otherwise it would have made a very good subject in itself besides completing the illustration of the beauty of the panorama, The lake this day was perfectly smooth after being for two days too rough to be safe for small boats.’ Watkiss Lloyd published his own architectural diary for the trip in The Builder magazine with many of these entries bound in. Additionally Ellen’s more famous sister contributed to the album an 1877 gouache of Venice across the lagoon, ‘Lucerne Mrs Fenton’s House’ and a south coast vista.
Ellen Brooker Beale and her sister Sarah Sophia Beale (1937-1920) attended Queen’s College London and during the 1860s had a studio on Long Acre in London’s Covent Garden, collaborating closely. Sarah may have travelled with her recently married sister in 1868, diverting to Paris to study in the studio of Charles Joshua Chaplin in 1869 and opening an art school near Regent’s Park in London on her return, subsequently publishing widely. William Watkiss Lloyd (1813-1893) was even more extensively published, with strong artistic and antiquarian interests and it seems likely that his wife will have contributed anonymously to his many publications. The couple’s trip in summer 1868 which begins this album seems to have taken place soon after their wedding.
The album is distinguished by Ellen Brooker Beale’s numerous watercolours: many of the most successful images were executed around the Italian lakes Garda and Como an include views such as ‘From railway station - Desenzano - 1868’ (unrecognisable today as we noted on a recent visit!) and long distance land and waterscapes at ‘Sermione - Lago di Garda’ and from ‘a house on a height to the left & in front of the Castle of Desenzano that is seen in the view dated 8 May’ looking north towards Manerba. From the Lakes the album charts the couple’s onward trip to Verona (pictured) and then east to Venice which was painted repeatedly. The couple made a return trip to Italy in April 1871 with Ellen painting views of Florence that include a striking view ‘taken from high ground above the new road completed from San Miniato...’ and in mid April they moved to Rome, painting watercolours of a distant view of the Appian Way and a sequence of images of Rome itself including St Peters ‘From the wall of the park of the Villa Doria Pamfili; late in the afternoon. 24 April 1871’, the Colosseum ‘From the edge of a terrace on the Palatine Hill - site of the palace of the Caesars.’ Finally in June 1871 they moved on to paint Naples, Vesuvius, Capri, Ischia, the Acropolis of Cumae, concluding with Genoa and Heidelberg.
The middle part of the album concerns more domestic English scenes, depicting late summer in England, August 1868, ‘The lawn Fryson Hall - (Lord Houghton’s) Augt /68’ (country house in Yorkshire), Whitby scenes, Congleton and Glastonbury in Somerset. From 1869 there are fine watercolours of Minehead on the south coast, expansive coastal scenes and a beautiful image of Lynmouth. From 1870 comes a chill wintry scene at Hastings ‘from window of lodgings’ that precedes Kings College Cambridge seen across the Backs, Swanage Bay, Corfe Castle and Poole Harbour.