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Sunday, 21 September 2014

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Carlisle-born talent spotted by Ruskin

To illustrate a Country Life article in June 2010, on Tintagel Castle and the Arthurian legend, Richard Lea chose an 1862 painting, The Death Of Arthur, by John Mulcaster Carrick.

Abbey Street photo
John Mulcaster Carrick was born at 14 Abbey Street, Carlisle

This was a favourite subject of the Pre-Raphaelites, a group of artists who Carrick emulated as a member of the Hogarth Club.

What was not said in the article was that JM Carrick was born in Abbey Street, Carlisle, where his father, Thomas Heathfield Carrick, was a chemist.

John’s middle name came from his mother, Mary Mulcaster, who had married Thomas at St Mary’s Church in 1829, the place where John was baptised on April 9 1833.

The family did not remain long in Carlisle, TH Carrick having changed his occupation to a miniature painter in 1833 and to further that career he moved to Newcastle in 1836.

After a short period there the Carricks moved in November 1839 to London and it was there that JM Carrick spent most of his life.

Nothing indicates where John received his art training and it must be assumed that he was a pupil of his father, but instead of miniatures he painted landscape and genre subjects. His career as an artist began, aged 21, by exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1854 with a view of Borrowdale.

In the same year he exhibited a figure study at the British Institution, both sent from the family address of 10 Montague Street, London.

The following year he exhibited, from the same address at the Academy, two views of Borrowdale, and again in 1856. This time his work, The Village Postman, was noticed by John Ruskin.

Ruskin stated: “There has been immense labour in this picture and it is very genuine throughout. The old stone-slated roof and ivy are first-rate and the figures of the child and its grandfather, coming out slowly to see if there is indeed a letter, are wrought with more than usual fidelity to rustic character.”

Ruskin was not the only critic to notice Carrick’s ability, the Spectator listing The Village Postman among 13 pictures at the Academy which were “either superior examples of their authors, or works of merit which might in haste be overlooked”.

The Athenaeum magazine thought the work “very promising”. In the following year Carrick had three works at the Academy, the Athenaeum noticing his view of Rydal. “It is so careful and truthful that a Rydal man could recognise every rock and bush.”

Another painting appeared there in 1858, the year Carrick illustrated a volume of poems for the Junior Etching Club of which he was a member.

There was a gap of a year when Carrick must have been on the continent because at the Royal Academy in 1860 was a view of Nice, A winter study.

The Athenaeum stated that this “is a very cleverly-managed picture that does the artist credit, representing as it does an effect that is rather novel upon these walls”, which the magazine said “will not fail to delight all lovers of nature”.

Two Spanish landscapes shown by Carrick at the Academy in 1870 featured in The Saturday Review, that magazine stating “here every brick, tree and rock are Pre-Raphaelite”, adding “these pictures are the best of their kind”.

He seems to have married one Louisa, from Brighton, when she was 19 in 1868, as their first son, John Thomas, was born at Dorking in 1869.

A second son, Arthur Mulcaster, was born at Kensington in 1872, both having a talent for drawing and becoming draughtsmen.

It may be significant that one of JM Carrick’s works at the Academy in 1871 was a view of the Cornish coast, he having a particular interest in that area.

While associated with the Newlyn artists’ colony, Carrick painted Newlyn Harbour in 1883, the picture being sold by Phillips of London in 1997.

There was also a Newlyn view by Carrick illustrated in Christopher Wood’s Victorian Painters but in that dictionary Wood admitted he knew little of Carrick’s career, merely stating “his pictures are usually small, detailed and of high quality, but in his later period he painted a number of rather repetitious coastal scenes”.

He died at his house on Belmont Grove, Chiswick on September 22 1896. The cause of death, at the age of 63, was given as “chronic cystitis asthemia”.

His occupation was that of an “artist, landscape painter” and his wife was there when he died.

One of those interested in the Newlyn colony, George Bednar, says that he has searched local newspapers in London for an obituary but has been unable to find one, nor was he able to locate Carrick’s grave.

In Artists Of Cumbria, Marshall Hall illustrates Carrick’s Lily Pond of 1877, which was offered for sale by Spink and Son in London, stating that Carrick travelled “widely throughout Britain and abroad, in search of subjects for his landscapes”.

His later seascapes and coastal views, said Hall, included Carrick’s The East Cliff Dover, 1884, sold at Sotheby’s in 1964.

Carrick’s pictures have been very much sought after, both during his lifetime and ever since.

One work by Carrick appeared on the BBC Antiques Roadshow and his Recruiting Sergeant sold in New York in 1992 for $49,500.

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