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James Pryde
20th century oil painting entitled The Unknown Corner




Collections: Robert Isaacson; James Draper, New York, 2014. Exhibited: Cambridge, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Beggarstaffs: William Nicholson and James Pryde, 2019, no. 57. Framed dimensions: 23.50 x 19.50 inches Pryde began his career as a graphic artist, working on advertising campaigns in partnership with William Nicholson. In 1893 Nicholson married Pryde’s sister, Mabel and the couple moved to an old inn, the Eight Bells, at Denham, Buckinghamshire. British poster design underwent significant changes in the 1890s. The old-fashioned bills with dense wording gave way to posters with a greater pictorial input, showing the influence of Toulouse-Lautrec and Japanese prints. In 1894 Pryde and Nicholson prepared several designs for an exhibition at the Westminster aquarium. Using paper cut-outs on rolls of brown paper their designs relied on striking, uncluttered silhouettes. They employed flat colours, strong outlines, and the spare use of lettering to create apparently easy yet memorable designs. They named themselves the Beggarstaff Brothers, the partnership lasted until 1899. Although it was never a financial success it had a profound influence on graphic art world-wide for many decades. After the termination of his partnership with Nicholson, Pryde began to paint imaginative landscapes and architectural subjects. Often melancholic, they show a knowledge of the work of Velázquez as well as memories of the architecture of Edinburgh. The purchase of his Guildhall with Figures (1905) by J. S. Sargent was a landmark in Pryde's career, and from then on he exhibited regularly at the International Society, of which he eventually became vice-president, and at the Goupil Gallery. His most important exhibited compositions belong to the series he called The Human Comedy, a title which consciously evokes that of Balzac’s famous series of novels (La Comédie humaine). The first in the series, The Doctor, introduces the motif of the four-poster bed: frequently identified as a bed at Holyroodhouse, associated in the early twentieth century with Mary Queen of Scots, it acted as the principal motif of the series. Whilst implying a narrative, Pryde never gave his pictures a specific text, instead relying on the drama of the composition itself to convey effect. Artistically, Pryde’s work is similar to his friends and contemporaries, particularly Glyn Philpot and William Orpen, both of whom were experimenting with grandly theatrical effects and a dark, old masterly palette around 1910. The artistic sources for Pryde’s rich and evocative style are various. The use of an extremely course canvas, thickly applied paint and rich, dark palette suggest his interest in Spanish painting, particularly of Velazquez.


  • Creator
    James Pryde
  • Creation Year
  • Dimensions
    Height: 18.50 in. (46.99 cm)Width: 14.50 in. (36.83 cm)
  • Medium
  • Movement & Style
  • Period
  • Condition
    Preserved in good condition.
  • Gallery Location
    London, GB
  • Reference Number
    1stDibs: LU150727730152

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    Ships From: London, United Kingdom
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    A return for this item may be initiated within 14 days of delivery.

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