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UAL Research Online

Size Matters: the extraordinary collection of Alfred Morrison, Victorian Maecenas

Dakers, Caroline (2012) Size Matters: the extraordinary collection of Alfred Morrison, Victorian Maecenas. In: Picturing the Nineteenth Century (INCS 2012), 22-25 March 2013, University of Kentucky, USA.

Type of Research: Conference, Symposium or Workshop Item
Creators: Dakers, Caroline

H.W.B.Davis’ painting of charging cattle, A Panic, was acquired at the Royal Academy in 1872 by Alfred Morrison (1821-1897), one of the wealthiest of Victorian collectors. It was hung in a purpose-built gallery at Fonthill House in Wiltshire where, in 1892, Philip Burne-Jones painted Morrison’s portrait.

Burne-Jones wrote to an aristocratic neighbour of Morrison:
'Their gallery of pictures was the most depressing thing of all. I had never quite realised what unlimited wealth – combined with bad taste – could achieve. Do you remember that vast canvas, of life-size cows coming full tilt at one, with a thunderstorm raging in the background? It got on my nerves - & I wondered whether my portrait wd look like the Cow picture when it was done. But they were kind & hospitable - & everyone needn’t have good taste, need they?'

To Morrison, the son of a millionaire textile merchant, size and quantity mattered just as much as quality. He was an addict, surrounding himself with paintings, engravings, medals and autographs of royalty, aristocrats and distinguished politicians, suggesting his collecting was linked to a desire for status. But he also commissioned the designer Owen Jones to transform his London house, 16 Carlton House Terrace into an unparalleled palace of art.

This paper will focus on one painting (now of questionable quality) and one eccentric collector to examine nineteenth century class, taste and display; to consider both how Morrison ‘pictured’ his age and how he was ‘pictured’ by his (mostly) critical and envious peers.

Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed: 19th century art collecting, wealth, nouveau riche, taste
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > Central Saint Martins
Date: March 2012
Event Location: University of Kentucky, USA
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2014 17:40
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2014 17:40
Item ID: 6680
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/6680

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