Quebec - R. J. Wickenden
( Originally Published 1907 )
WHENEVER the great art school of this continent is founded, Quebec will be its seat. The yearly increasing numbers of artists seeking Quebec in summer both for material for their canvasses and the repose and atmosphere of an old world city, will yet result in many of them permanently locating in Quebec and establishing schools of instruction. Mr. Walter Griffin, of Boston, had a summer school here for several seasons. Mr. J. B. Hance has set up his studio in our midst. Mr. Horatio Walker is yet working on the Island of Orleans. Mr. Winslow Homer's recent work about Quebec and Lake St. John is yet exciting the favourable notice of the New York critics. H. W. Ranger, who seems destined to succeed Innes as the strongest and most individual of American landscapists, finds in our province part of the material for his brush. Last, but by no means least, we have had with us for several winters one of the most distinguished pupils of the great French master Daubigny, a member of that famous coterie at Barbizon which included Corot, Rousseau and Millet. Mr. R, J. Wickenden, to whom we refer, was singled out to come from France to paint a series of official portraits in Quebec. Cardinal Taschereau, Archbishop Begin, Monseignor Marois, Sir Adolphe Chapleau, His Honor Mayor Parent, Abbe R. Casgrain and several other well-known citizens have sat to Mr. Wickenden. But it is not alone as a portrait painter that Mr. Wickenden has achieved fame, His versatility has carried him into the realms of landscape and genre, and auto-gravure, and in these separate departments of art he takes high rank.
Although the personality of Mr. R. J. Wickenden is well-known to Quebecers, yet we feel that some particulars of his life and career as an artist will be of interest to our readers. Mr. Wickenden was born in the historic old city of Rochester, Kent, England, on July 8th, 1861, coming of a family that had resided in Kent since the earlier invasion of the northmen,—tradition leading to a Danish origin. On his mother's side was French emigré stock and to those who believe in heredity, from thence probably came his love for literature and art. He was educated first at Sir Joseph Williamson's school and was one of the youngest boys in England to pass the Oxford Local Examinations at Rochester in 1873. His taste for drawing and painting was, however, quite as strong as his love for the classics, and he soon turned towards the study of the fine arts. After several years of travel, and soon after coming of age, he took up his residence at Paris, drawn thereto by a great love for the masters of the Barbizon School—Millet, Corot, Rousseau and Daubigny. He, however, desired a good academic basis, and studied for some time at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts under Ernest Hebert, Luc Olivier Merson, and other eminent professors. In 1884 his picture "La Glaneuse en Foret," painted in the forest of Fontainebleau, was received and well placed at the Paris Salon, and thence-forward for some ten or twelve years he exhibited in various national and international exhibits, gaining at that highest of art tribunals, the Salon, a "Mention Honorable," besides various recompenses and diplomas else-where. He was married in 1885 to Miss Ada Louise Ahier, of Longueville, Gronville, Isle of Jersey, and spent several summers amid the charming surroundings of the Channel Islands.
At this picturesque country-house at Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris, he was the neighbor and friend of the Daubigny family, having written the biography of the great landscapist Charles Francois Daubigny, whom he so much admired. Here he was visited by many men famous in literature and art. Among the former was Philip Gilbert Hamerton, the celebrated art critic and philosophic writer. whose portrait Mr. Wickenden painted. Rajon, the etcher, and Checa, the Spanish master, were among the intimates, and several Quebecers also paid visits to Mr. Wickenden at this rustic retreat with its roomy library and studio. Later on, successful exhibitions of his works were held in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and other American cities, where a number of his works found permanent homes in some of the principal collections, as well as in France and England.
For some years past Mr. Wickenden has had a studio at 7 East 39th St., New York, but his home is at Bethel,Connecticut, one of the most picturesque spots about New York, an ideal country for an artist to paint in.