Victorian Dundee

Guest blog: Henry Harwood & the artist’s profession in Dundee

In the late 19th century, Dundee became one of the major art centres of Britain. When the Dundee Graphic Arts Association was founded in 1890, many of Scotland’s most notable artists wrote from Edinburgh or London to express their opinions of the city in the most enthusiastic terms. John Pettie claimed that “Dundee has been and is one of the art centres of the North”, while William Darling McKay proposed it as “perhaps the most vital centre of art appreciation in Scotland.”

At the beginning of the 19th century, Dundee was a small but reasonably prosperous town noted for its shipbuilding and linen production. The rapid development of the jute industry saw the population quadruple and an extraordinary amount of wealth generated for the factory owners, many of whom turned to art collecting as a way of showing off their new-found prosperity. They sought out and befriended leading painters of the day such as William McTaggart and George Paul Chalmers, commissioning them to create pictures for their ever-increasing mansions. But they also began to encourage local talent for the first time.

Before the mid-19th century, even the most talented Dundee artist had to travel to make a living – to Edinburgh and London in the case of the Simson brothers (George, William and David); to Italy and India for George Willison; and to Paris and Rome in the case of John Zephaniah Bell. Writing in 1906, the architect and art collector T S Robertson recalled those painters that stayed in Dundee and tried to make ends meet: “There were three artists in Dundee 50 years ago who were all portrait painters – Harwood, Stewart, and Macgillivray [sic]… Dundee in those days was not able to support three portrait painters, and although Harwood, as far as I know, never painted out of Dundee, the others occasionally had to find employment in neighbouring towns.” Of these three painters, George McGillivray is better known for his topographical paintings; John Stewart is known only through a few surviving medical portraits; but the best-known and most intriguing character is Henry Harwood.

 

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Untitled etching by Henry Harwood (University of Dundee Museum Services)

 

Born in Ireland in 1803, Harwood was the son of Lieutenant Coleshurst, who had retired from the Royal Navy and married an actress, changing his name to Harwood when he too took to the stage. He died when young Henry was still in infancy and his widow came to Dundee seeking work in the theatre (another increasingly popular profession at the time). Harwood soon earned a reputation as a painter, his first major commission being a monumental frieze for the Shoemakers’ Room in the Trade House, representing the procession of St Crispin (now on permanent display in The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum).

In 1821 he achieved considerable notoriety when he created his best-known work, a caricature of Dundee worthies called The Executive, which was widely reproduced as an engraving. Satirising the town’s most influential men was not an obvious route to success – indeed it had already seen the end of another artist’s career. Robert Mudie came to Dundee in 1808 as drawing master at the Academy. His interest in politics led him to join the Town Council, but when he began writing satirical accounts accusing his fellow councillors of corruption, they took a dim view of his sense of humour and he was forced to resign his post and flee to London (where among other things he became editor of the Sunday Times).

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The Executive, engraving after a painting by Henry Harwood (University of Dundee Museum Services)

 

Unlike Mudie, Harwood seems to have been forgiven, since he later received various commissions by members of the Town Council for more flattering portraits. These included Provosts William Lindsay and Alexander Lawson, and his clients also included the local aristocracy – Lord Kinnaird commissioned him to paint “Whistle o’er the lave o’t”, a humorous scene of a hen-pecked husband. It was later acquired by the dentist Dr John Stewart and was singled out by the Dundee Courier as a particular highlight of his extensive art collection.

Harwood’s early success was not sustained. “His admirers were thus encouraged to expect him to rise to greater eminence than he did,” T S Robertson recalled. Financial problems were not helped by a struggle with alcoholism, and he died “in straitened circumstances” in 1868. Robertson felt that his ultimate failure was caused by “his not being able to come into contact with associates at least as capable as himself.” But, as was later reported in the City Echo, “several of those who appreciated his genius erected a memorial over his grave in the Eastern Cemetery. The [site] is enclosed with a railing – a portion … having been set aside as a burying ground for artists who may die in Dundee, having neither friends nor relatives to afford them a last resting-place.”

This magnanimous scheme was led by Robert Cowie, owner of the Theatre Royal in Castle Street. Cowie had previously worked as a painter and decorator and was known for his extensive knowledge of art. He had sat for a portrait by Harwood (as had various other theatrical figures in Dundee) and owned several other examples of the artist’s work. A group calling themselves “Robert Cowie Inst. Artists” purchased three lairs in the Eastern Cemetery, Harwood being interred in the first. As it transpired, only one other person was ever buried in one of these lairs – a decorative painter called John P Jerome who died aged 24 in 1873, leaving a widow and child.

Harwood is an interesting example of the precarious nature of the artistic profession, both financially and socially. Although he struggled to maintain respectability during his lifetime, Harwood’s paintings became fashionably collectible in the decades following his death, and many are now in the city’s permanent collection. Later critics did not hesitate to sing his praises – in Dundee Celebrities of the Nineteenth Century, William Norrie described Harwood as “an artist whose presentiments were such as only genius could give.” By the end of the Victorian era, Dundee would be home to dozens of professional artists, working as painters, sculptors, printmakers and newspaper artists. The rapid growth of art education in the city, and the establishment of membership bodies such as the Graphic Arts Association, helped professionalise the art workers of Dundee – but it all came too late for Henry Harwood.

 

By Matthew Jarron,

Curator of Museum Services,

University of Dundee

 

References

Part of this text is drawn from my forthcoming book Independent and Individualist: Art in Dundee 1867-1924 (Dundee: Abertay Historical Society, 2015).

 

Other sources:

Anon, ‘Dundee Artists’, Celtic Annual 1918-9, pp15-17.

The City Echo May 1908.

Dundee Courier 13/4/1877.

Dundee Courier 8/3/1886.

Dundee Graphic Arts Association Annual Report 1890 (Dundee Central Library, Local History Centre).

A H Millar, ‘Sketch of Art in Dundee in the Nineteenth Century’, Graphic Arts Association Annual Report 1900 (Dundee Central Library, Local History Centre)

A H Millar, Illustrated Catalogue of the Pictures in the Dundee Corporation Collection, Albert Institute and other Departments of the Dundee Public Libraries Committee (Dundee: 1926).

William Norrie, Dundee Celebrities of the Nineteenth Century (Dundee: Wm Norrie, 1873).

T S Robertson, ‘Reminiscences of Old Dundee – Its Fine Art’, Dundee Courier 17/12/1906.

 

See the Your Paintings website at www.bbc.co.uk/yourpaintings/ for many fine examples of Harwood’s work.

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New Exchange and Shipping from West Dock Gate (1836)

Beyond Jute: dynasty and diversity in Dundee

The diversity of the British Isles has continually engaged politicians, analysts and academics, fuelling fierce debates. Recently, the Scottish referendum on independence highlighted the contrasts and commonalities between, particularly, England and Scotland. Moreover, it raised the issue of intra-regional dissimilitude; the depth of difference within Scotland itself. There were variations in voting and opinions about independence that manifested in distinct preferences within certain places, such as Dundee; a city with a population that voted with a relatively strong majority for Yes. What those voting trends mean for present-day Scottish politics and society is beyond the ambit of this historical project about Victorian professions. Nonetheless, the emotive politics give an immediate indication of the regional challenges facing our study, which also underpins the subject of this post: Dundee.

Over one hundred Dundee professionals have been drawn from the 1851 census (a full list of the Dundee cohort can be seen here . We have then attempted to trace their parents (and grandparents where possible), together with their children and grandchildren. Subjects and themes become apparent as networks and family trees are formed. However, given the national and regional contrasts, described above, a central question immediately bubbles to the surface: Does our Dundee cohort reflect wider trends in the Victorian professions – and, if it does, to what extent? We need to know if the Dundee cohort of professional men, taken from the 1851 census, is emblematic of (or contrastive with) wider British, Scottish, Angus or Dundee trends. Distinctly Scottish themes need to be teased apart from those of England and Wales. We therefore need to garner information and data on the local, national and international ties of Dundee professionals.

New Exchange and Shipping from West Dock Gate (1836)

New Exchange and Shipping from West Dock Gate (1836); copyright unknown, reproduced with the kind permission of ElectricScotland

 

The history of Dundee is a fascinating mix of seafaring, politics, industry and manufacturing. A historical tour of the Victorian landscape would not be complete without making reference to the jute industry, which – forgive the pun – is weaved throughout our Dundee cohort. To name but a few of the interested parties, fortunes were made by merchants, bankers and entrepreneurs. Yet, an over-focus on the jute industry can block out the range of professional life within Dundee City and its suburban conurbations. As such, a future post will discuss the long shadow of the jute industry on the professions in Dundee. This post will instead focus on professional life beyond the oft-lamented mono-history of employment in this important Scottish city. The joining of the Brodie and Paul families in 1855 therefore provides an unusual glimpse into professional life in nineteenth-century Dundee.

In this post, George Brodie (1802-1860) is our cohort member. The son of a Harbourmaster (John Brodie), the censuses of 1841 and 1851 denote George’s occupation as ‘Auctioneer’. This reflects a surprising fluidity across generations of Dundee professionals. Tight circles of movers and shakers influenced Dundee, with some families forging effective dynasties, but they and their offspring pursued a wide variety of careers. While not strictly a profession, auctioneers were part of a growing commercial class, of which some sections were moving towards professional status. The Dundee Directory of 1850 describes George as ‘auctioneer, appraiser and commission agent’. His business address was in Reform Street, but he and his family resided in Union Street. Between the 1841 and 1851 censuses, George moved the family to Edinburgh, while he lodged at Union Street in Dundee. He died in 1860, but seems to have left a comfortable annuity for his widow, Elisabeth, and their seven surviving children. Elisabeth (maiden name, Winlack), became head of the family. Their servants decreased from three to one, but Elisabeth managed to retain a single servant over the three decades of her life as a widow. According to the censuses, the family moved several times, before settling in Lanarkshire between 1871 and 1881. Two of the daughters, Cecelia and Georgina, remained with their mother. They had no occupation and died as spinsters – although Cecilia became head of the household after Elisabeth’s death, and remained so for the next two decades. Their income came from George’s legacy (possibly increased by investment) and regular boarders in their house. Three further daughters, Jessie, Margaret and Helen, are presumed married; but, as yet, we have not identified their husbands, nor traced their married lives. The two remaining children, George and Elisabeth (to confuse matters), brought the family’s fortunes into a new era, under the wing of an old and established profession: the law.

George Brodie (junior) also lived with his mother until her death. He then migrated to London, where he was documented as a lodger in the censuses of 1891 and 1901. He had veered away from the more risky commercial exploits of his father (and the seamanship of his grandfather) to pursue the relative financial security and assured status of a legal career. George was educated at home, before taking an appointment in a ‘lawyer’s office’ in Edinburgh at the end of the 1850s. His career then progressed from a legal clerk to ‘writer and notary’, before he emerged in London as a fully-fledged solicitor in the 1891 census. The contrasts between migration to and from Scotland remain to be seen in this study, but Dundee does not seem to present a brain-drain. George seems to be going against the traffic of migrating professionals into the city in the mid- to late-Victorian period. His ambitions seem to have taken precedent. He remained a bachelor, with no known children.

George’s elder sister, Elisabeth, had meanwhile married Archibald Paul (1829-1885) in 1855. It is not clear if this marriage aided George’s career, but it seems reasonable to assume that it was not an impediment, given Archibald’s success. In 1850, Archibald was a writer for a legal firm in Castle Street, Dundee. Ten years later, he had progressed to solicitor, working at another office in the same street. By 1871, Archibald was a ‘Procurator Fiscal’ and Elisabeth’s occupation was named as ‘Procurator’s Wife’ in the census of that year, hinting at the status of this role. We have no image of Archibald, but there are many extant paintings of various procurators fiscal, including John Boyd Baxter, who we will return to in a subsequent post about the powerful Baxter family.

 John Boyd Baxter (1796–1882),

John Boyd Baxter (1796–1882), Procurator Fiscal of Farfarshire by Daniel Macnee, 1881;reproduced with the kind permission of Dundee Art Galleries and Museums Collection (Dundee City Council)

 

The procurator fiscal is a uniquely Scottish post. Although the term itself has origins in Roman law and Latin, the Scottish legal system and use of the procurators is something altogether different. For our Victorian professionals, it compounds the importance of local context. Scottish law differs greatly from its English counterpart. For example, there is no coroner in Scotland. The Procurator Fiscal is the public prosecutor responsible for the investigation of crime, and all sudden, suspicious or unexplained deaths. There is no equivalent in England and Wales. Scotland has led the Western world in legal medicine, creating a whole spectrum of legal practice within its borders in the nineteenth century. For example, the Edinburgh professor, Andrew Duncan (1744-1828), coined the term ‘medical jurisprudence’. Moreover, in 1856, knowledge of forensic medicine became essential for entry to the Faculty of Advocates (one of the most important professional bodies in Scottish legal practice). The use of medicine and forensic expertise in the courts impacted on the education and career structures of legal professionals in Scotland. It also created a range of legal fees, and a salaried post, that provided income for legal practitioners that would not have been available elsewhere. This rich and complex history has left a legacy. Today, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee have become centres of expertise in forensic medicine.

The Dundee directory of 1882 further underpins the success of Archibald, who served as Procurator Fiscal and become a partner in one of the city’s legal practices, Paul, Dickie & Paul. Small wonder, then, that by the 1880s his health had become a growing concern. What kind of physiological ailment – whether it was mental or physical morbidity – is unclear from the 1881 census, but it lists Archibald as a boarder in a hydropathic centre in Stirlingshire, along with Elisabeth and two of their children. Their choice of care provider provides an insight into another aspect of nineteenth-century Scotland that interplays with our professional cohort. Given the district (Logie) we can surmise that Archibald stayed in the Bridge of Allan hydropathic centre, notable for Robert Louis Stevenson’s annual visits. It was also listed in Dr Thomas Linn’s international guide to hydropathic centres.

 Bridge of Allan Hydropathic

Bridge of Allan Hydropathic; reproduced from Library of Congress, no known restrictions on reproduction

 

Hydrotherapy was a semi-medical experience for much of the nineteenth century. As Janet Oppenheim has said, ‘hydropathic practitioners stressed the inextricable links that bound the nervous system to every bodily tissue’. It thus became the treatment of choice for professionals suffering from mental breakdown, depression and nervous disorders. These were places of rest and convalescence, generally associated with healthy living and abstinence (particularly, from alcohol and pharmaceuticals). Nonetheless, hydrotherapy was big business. It evolved into an indulgence of the professional and middle classes. Hydro-centres became forms of conspicuous consumption and health tourism; expensive and lavish hotel complexes set in beautifully bucolic landscapes. Turkish (Roman) baths, steam rooms and plunge pools typically formed the internal workings of a complex, while days were spent on scripture reading, religious attention, walking in fresh air and socialising.

Although the Paul family’s experience at Bridge of Allan would not have been a uniquely Scottish phenomenon, the industrial scale of hydrotherapy in Scotland was unusual. It was constructing water therapy centres disproportionately for its population size and in comparison to the rest of the British Isles. By 1891 there were 63 hydro centres in Britain, 20 of which were in Scotland. James Bradley, Marguerite Dupree and Alistair Durie observed of Scotland, ‘…between 1875 and 1884 over half of the total capital mobilized in the service sector can be attributed to the fourteen hydropathic establishments that were limited liability companies.’ Archibald and Elisabeth were therefore archetypal consumers for a health and leisure industry, which was at the height of its provision. Yet, over-investment and over-expansion was to lead to the rapid decline of the hydropathic industry in Scotland within a few years of their stay.

Whatever the reason for their hydrotherapy, Archibald died of heart disease in 1884 aged 56 years old. Elisabeth lived a further 16 years before her death at the age of 65. Together, they had 10 children. Of their three surviving sons, two went into law and the third became a commission agent. It seems to have been a life well-lived for Archibald, the son of a coachman and, Elisabeth, the daughter of an auctioneer. Nonetheless, despite a shaping of their own destinies, the experiences of the Brodie and Paul families reflect an intricate relationship with Scotland and Dundee.

 By Dr. Kim Price

 

Further Reading and Sources

 

Bradley, M. Dupree and A. Durie, ‘Taking the Water-Cure: The Hydropathic Movement in Scotland, 1840-1940’, Business and Economic History, 26, 2 (1977): pp. 426-37.

 

Bridge of Allan Hydropathic, Library of Congress http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2001703595/ [Accessed 29/01/2015]

 

Dundee Directories, transcribed and hosted by Friends of Dundee City Archives http://www.fdca.org.uk/Dundee_Directories.html [Accessed 29/01/2015]

 

Dr Thomas Linn, Where to Send Patients Abroad for Mineral and Other Water Cures and Climatic Treatment (George S. Davis: Michigan, 1894), The Internet Archive https://archive.org/details/wheretosendpati00linngoog [Accessed 29/01/2015]

 

New exchange and Shipping from West Dock Gate, from Charles Mackie’s, Historical Description of the Town of Dundee (1836) http://www.electricscotland.com/history/dundee/ [Accessed 29/01/2015]

 

Oppenheim, ‘Shattered Nerves’: Doctors, Patients, and Depression in Victorian England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991).

 

Photographs of Nineteenth-Century Dundee, http://photopolis.dundeecity.gov.uk/ [Accessed 29/01/2015]

 

D.J. Pounder, ‘Law and Forensic Medicine in Scotland’, The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 14, 4 (1993): pp. 340-49.

 

K.D. Watson, Forensic Medicine in Western Society: A History (Routledge: London, 2011).