Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Henry George Hine

H.G. Hine (1811-1895) watercolourist was father to two of the key Peasant Arts members: Ethel Blount (nee Hine) and Maude Egerton King (nee Hine).  Hine "defined himself as a 'country creature' with a deep-seated love of the Sussex landscape" (Towner Art Gallery, Henry George Hine: The South Downs in Watercolour, 2003).  Hine was born in East Street, Brighton, his father ran a coach company in Brighton, operating between Brighton and London.  The tales he told his children about his time there are retold in Maude's 'Round about a Brighton Coach Office' (King, 1896).
H.G.Hine by William Walker Hodgson, 1891 from The National Portrait Gallery

Hine began working in London in the 1830s as an apprentice draughtsman to Henry Meyer the mezzotint and stipple engraver, at the time a prominent exhibitor of engraved portraits.  However he gave up this position and spent two years living in Rouen where apparently he had family connections, and painted some works such as The Interior of the Cloister of Rouen Cathedral which was exhibted at the Royal Academy.  In 1841 he joined Punch, then newly launched, making black and white illustrations, about a year later he transferred to Puck a rival publication.

Punch, Jul-Dec 1843

Punch, Jan-June 1843
It is said that Hine was refused membership of the two main watercolour societies, The Society of Painters in Water-Colours and the New Society, before he was elected in 1863 as an associate of the New Society.  The New Society renamed itself as the Institute of Painters in Water-Colours, in 1887 Hine was appointed Vice President.  At some point the Institute became the 'Royal Institute'.

Dog Cart and Gentleman

In the 1850s Hine specialised on beach scenes with boats.  It was only in 1860s that he began to produce downland landscapes which his built his reputation.  "Clearly he had known the Sussex Downs all his life, but only in his middle age did he begin to explore the artistic possibilities of that most glorious part of England.  Hine's calm contemplation of the 'great trats of upland pasturage, the thin sweet herbage of chalk lands: swelling hills that the light rested on, and that radiant skies passed over' led to what may be regarded as the defining artistic evocation of the Downs." (Towner Art Gallery, 2003).

Fire in Drury Lane by the Cock and Magpie
A particular aspect of Hine's work is the lightness and subtlety of colour, "his watercolours appear more strongly coloured than they really are, because of the way he found to convey the brightness of the landscape." (ibid).

The Fish Market and Leaf Hall, Eastbourne, Sussex

Greville MacDonald was an admirer of Hine's work before he met Maude and Ethel.  Around 1863, when Greville was 7 years old,  he recounts the 'old home of delight' being taken to "the Polytechnic, to see the "dissolving views' of Christmas Fairy Tales" (MacDonald, Reminiscences of a Specialist, 1932) by Lewis Carroll.  He notes that his attraction to these pictures was not surprising "seeing that these lantern slides were painted by that consummate revealer of the South Downs glory, H.G.Hine, V.P.R.I., in his early days".

Near Steyning

In describing Maude Egerton King in Reminiscences of a Specialist, MacDonald says "so illuminating is heredity that the first step, I think,  towards understanding her may well be the realization of her father's genius.  My first intimacy with H.G.Hine, though not personal, was yet deep.  A few years later than my first meeting with Miss Maude Hine, and alreadyoverwhelmed with work, I had to visit frequently a patientwho owned a dozen or more of her father's poetic water-colourdrawings.  

The South Downs Sussex 1881

Although he was vice President of the Royal Institute, I had not till then fully realized his genius.  But the wonder of these few drawings now so gripped me that then and there, I was swept into the South Downs' loveliness which H.G.Hine, like none before, or since has portrayed.  One somehow shared their limners tread over uplands redolent with thyme's sweet pungency; one understood his tender, colloquial handling of sheep and shepherds, inviting all to join in their converse.  Only magic could make these pigment harmoniesdeclare the sheep-bells tinkling, the wheat-ears' timid songs, or, maybe, the ploughman's call to his horses down away, there, in the wide Weald.  more; only such magic could tell us this rare secret: that Beauty waits with open door and greeting for everyone.  
from the 2003 Exhibition

Later, Maude King told me how her father once avowed that no picture was worth much if it failed to point the way out of itself.  And I think this is the secret of his work, whether with South Downs or ruined castles, mossy dells or wastes of desolate ocean.  This it was, rather than his perfect technique or fadeless colouring, that made me, certainly no critic, know how near he stood to Turner, Constable, David Cox - even to Samuel Palmer, that gentle-souled pupil of William Blake."

See also my further post on the Hine family artists.

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