Friday, March 6, 2020

Reimagining the Regency, Part 1: Charles Haigh-Wood

We are so blessed to have access through the internet to thousands of paintings from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Through them, we gain insights into clothing, accessories, buildings, and accomplishments. But later in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, several painters began recreating scenes from those years. While their work might be better termed a reimagining rather than accurate depiction, the paintings nonetheless convey that elegance and romance that defined the period for those of us who love it.

One of those painters was Charles Haigh-Wood. When he was born in 1856, the Regency was far behind him. But his father built picture frames and eventually began selling paintings to go in them. When Charles showed an aptitude for painting himself, his father enrolled him in Manchester Art College. By the time he was 17, he had been accepted to study art at the Royal Academy in London. He was elected a member at 21.

He promptly set off for a three-year tour of the Continent, studying Renaissance masters in Italy. When he returned, he set about doing commercial painting, creating works that had instant appeal. While portraits were his bread and butter, his scenes of polite society vaulted him into popularity. With names like "Love Will Triumph" and "The Keepsake," each painting told a story. I’m sure you can see why they were so popular.

He exhibited his paintings at the Royal Academy from 1874 to 1904. They found their way onto greeting cards and into galleries and collections around the world. His income grew sufficiently that he could devote himself to more “serious” works. This appears to be scenes of villagers laboring. Those paintings earned him more critical acclaim.

Though Charles Haigh-Wood passed away in 1927, in recent years, some of his paintings have come up for auction, one fetching above $70,000. 

People love the Regency, even reimagined!

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