DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI (1828-1882)
Portrait of George Gordon Hake, conté crayon, 43 x 31.5cm
Exh: Royal Academy of Arts, London, Rossetti Exhibition 1973 No.75
Prov: By family descent
Lots 274 and 275 depict respectively the English physician and poet Dr Thomas Gordon Hake (1809-1895) and his son George Gordon Hake (1847-1903), both of whom were to become great friends of Rossetti in the artist's later years.
Rossetti first became aware of Dr T.G. Hake through publications of his poetry, which the artist admired greatly. They first met in 1869 and communicated by post for the next nine years, exchanging views and advice on the art of poetry.
Not long after their first meeting Rossetti's health deteriorated dramatically and Dr T.G. Hake became a great aid, companion and physician to him, even taking him into his own home in Roehampton in 1872. At the same time his son, George Gordon Hake, was visiting from Oxford and assisted in caring for Rossetti. Together with the artist and poet William Bell Scott they accompanied Dante Gabriel to a house in Scotland placed at his disposal to promote his recovery. From there they moved on to a farmhouse at Trowan, which is where these drawings were executed.
George had thoughts of pursuing a career in journalism but Rossetti persuaded him to stay on instead as his secretary and companion, first at Trowan and from September 1872 at Kelmscott. Their working relationship continued until 1877, when the artist's ferocious temper became too much to bear although George remained a helper and a friend.
George Gordon Hake went on to have a distinguished career as an archaeologist, working for the British colonial authorities in Cyprus, and many of his finds can still be seen in the British Museum. His later life, until his death, was spent in Mashonaland, East Africa, and his papers are to be found in the archives of Rhodes House, Oxford.
The drawings are unusual in their depiction of men rather than women and mark Rossetti's return to comparative normality after the complete breakdown of his health. They are an extraordinary feat of draughtsmanship at such a turbulent period in the artist's life. Indeed, excluding the portrait of Theodore Watts-Dunton, the artist's brother, William Michael Rossetti, believed them to be the best of Dante Gabriel's male portraits.
For further information please see William Gaunt 'Two Portrait Drawings by Dante Gabriel Rossetti' (The Connoisseur December 1942). A copy of this article is available for viewing at the saleroom.