Search

sold = sold     reserved = reserved     private collection = private collection

Victor Hume Moody (1896-1990)

"Victor Moody’s distinctive voice has yet to find a large, enthusiastic and appreciative public. He is not alone. He is in good company with other British artists from the period, whose work is strikingly recognizable and yet at the same time almost permanently out of vogue: Robert Weir Allen, Harry Morley, William Strang, Charles Sims, Charles Shannon, Ambrose McEvoy, Stanley Lewis, Albert Victor Wood.
All displayed remarkable technical skill - grounded in a profound and thorough training in draughtsmanship, combined with acutely observed narratives. They are infused with humour and idiosyncrasy. While the skill might be beyond dispute, the subject matter and composition can make the work inaccessible to a modern day audience.
There is a sense of melodrama, a distortion of beauty, a heightening of colour which unsettles. Most viewers are drawn to conclude, sometimes reluctantly, more often readily, that the work produced by such artists does not merit serious consideration. But what today is seen, at best, as an enchanted backwater, might well be understood by future generations to represent a more mainstream current of the art of its day.
The inherent quality of their work and the originality of their vision begs a reassessment of their individual and collective place in twentieth century British Art. All of the works in this catalogue have come from the Estate of Catherine Moody and represent the most important body of Victor Moody’s oeuvre to have ever come on the market.

We are especially grateful to Stephen Whittle for the introductory essay to this catalogue. As the culmination of two decades of research it provides an excellent context for Victor Moody’s work".
Paul Liss

Essay by Stephen Whittle:
Victor Hume Moody created timeless images of an Arcadian idyll at a time when most artists had turned their backs on the classical tradition. The centuries old heritage of Western art was too inspiring and too valuable for him to simply abandon. Over a working life of nearly 70 years he tirelessly researched and worked to revive traditional painting techniques. At the same time he created a unique fusion of classical figure composition and the pastoral English landscape. Very little survives of Victor Moody’s thoughts on art and he published nothing to explain the evolution of his distinctive and idiosyncratic style of painting.

His daughter Catherine Moody, who took over from him as Head of Malvern School of Art, felt that he had expressed “...all that he wished to convey through his brush and not with the supplement of verbal statement.” We do know that Moody’s approach to art originated and was largely formed at Battersea Polytechnic of Arts and Crafts during and immediately after the Great War. Enrolling in 1913, Moody studied for a lengthy seven years.
In a rare interview 1 he recalled life drawing classes under the direction of the artist Henry Cogle, who instilled in him a taste for imaginative figure compositions. Moody also became a good friend of the artist Anna Airy, the wife of another tutor Geoffrey Buckingham Pocock. Airy painted portraits in the grand manner but it was the elaborate arrangements that she made in her studio for figure compositions that most impressed him.
At Battersea there was a strong focus on technique, self-reliance and learning “good and useful skills” 2. Groups of fine art students as well as those in the ‘trade classes’ were taken each week to study in the Victoria & Albert Museum and the National Gallery. The foundations of Moody’s style were laid down in these early years; life drawing, study from the antique cast, a thorough grounding in perspective followed by classes in monochrome under-painting, teaching him to create a convincing illusion of solid form.
Moody could hardly have failed to be aware of the changing face of British art in the early years of the twentieth century but his growing familiarity with the great works of Western art instilled in him a strong conviction that the modernist avant-garde held little interest for him. He was instead fascinated by the animated portrait style of Van Dyck, making a copy of the National Gallery’s ‘Cornelis van der Geest’, as well studying the works of Reynolds and Raeburn very closely. ‘The Flapper Dress, Portrait of Miss Willoughby’ (Cat. 3) is one of Moody’s most charming early portraits and must have been made shortly before he married the sitter in 1919.

May Olive Willoughby was a fellow student at Battersea Polytechnic. She helped Victor Moody to design the college’s stage productions and would support him in what Catherine Moody described as his “missionary impetus” to communicate a love of art through painting and teaching. Despite picking up a number of portrait commissions in the early 1920s, Moody could not see a place for himself in the London art world. Quiet and self effacing, he had little taste for the growing confrontation between the academic old order and the emerging modernist mainstream.
He decided to get away from the noise and bustle of the city, left his house in Clapham and bought a smallholding in Walliswood, Surrey. Moody moved to Little Meadows in December 1922 with his wife and his younger brother Arthur where they lived on a small private income from his father who had been a successful brewer in Lambeth. Catherine later described this period of rural retirement as “...a William Morris-like Earthly Paradise.” Victor Moody continued portrait painting and gave private tuition to the children of local landowners.
This time of retreat was very important to Moody who had always held a deep attachment to the English countryside stretching back to his early childhood. Many years later he would paint ‘Milking Time’ (Cat. 4) entirely from memory, an evocation of family visits to rural Wiltshire at the turn of the century. Moody established a good reputation locally and he was persuaded by a deputation of local artists to think about renewing a full-time career as an artist.

At the end of 1926 he returned to London with his family and enrolled at the Royal College of Art. The experience wasn’t entirely satisfactory however. As we can see from the self-portraits painted in the late 1920s (Cat. 17-19), Moody wore extremely powerful spectacles to combat his short-sightedness and he struggled to see the model in the life drawing classes from the regulation distance imposed by his tutors. Consequently many of the paintings and drawing from this time were made at home and were based on studies of his family, notably the drawings for ‘The Annunciation’ and ‘Crossing the Red Sea’ (Cat. 35-38 and Cat. 13).

The great advantage of studying at the RCA for Moody was the opportunity it afforded him to renew his study of Renaissance and later paintings in the national collections, particularly the work of the Baroque artist Stanzioni and the Mannerist portraitist Agnomo di Cosimo, better known as Bronzino. The geometric compositions and simplified forms of Georges de La Tour, then only known to Moody through reproductions, were also a key early influence. If much of his study was self-directed, Moody did benefit greatly from the support of the College Principal William Rothenstein. As well encouraging Moody to research the history of classical composition, Rothenstein offered him the opportunity to assist with his mural commission at St. Stephen’s Hall in the Palace of Westminster, a 4.4 metre wide painting of ‘Sir Thomas Roe at the Moghul Court’.
It was not until Moody left the RCA in 1929 that he began to develop that very distinctive combination of elements which characterises his most important body of work. Settling in Stroud, he began teaching at two schools during the day and at the School of Art during the evening. He also began work on the first of his major classical compositions ‘Perseus and the Nymphs’ (Cat. 12), in which he drew heavily on his study of Greek vase painting and Egyptian antiquities in the British Museum. Like ‘The Pleading Chryses’, Moody’s first Royal Academy exhibit in 1930, ‘Perseus and the Nymphs’ is a dramatic and sensual re-imagining of classical myth.
The landscape elements are pared down and heavily stylized, adding to the sense of dynamic tension, of motion arrested at a critical and decisive moment. Colour is heightened by Moody’s use of a gesso panel, prepared using Cennino Cennini’s early 15th century instruction manual ‘Il libro dell’arte’. Shortly after settling in Stroud, Moody struck up a close friendship with Charles March Gere R.A., a well established artist and illustrator who famously designed the frontispiece for the Kelmscott Press edition of William Morris’s ‘News From Nowhere’. Gere and Rothenstein welcomed Moody into the Cheltenham Group of Artists in 1934.
As well as confirming Moody’s passionate belief in the importance of the arts & crafts ethos, Gere’s atmospheric Italianate landscape style also had a marked effect on the subject-matter and mood of Moody’s paintings. A number of key works from the 1930s combine an idealised Cotswold landscape with arrangements of draped figures, notably ‘Crossing the Brook’, bought by the Harris Art Gallery in Preston from the Royal Academy in 1934, ‘The End of Summer’, bought from the R.A by Lord Fairhaven in 1935 and ‘Youth is Nimble’ (Cat. 8), shown at both the Royal Academy and the Paris Salon.
Rather than focusing on a dramatic narrative turning point, these works are set in a deeply personal, imagined idyllic world and communicate calm and poise, rhythmically arranged or interlocking figures harmonising with a responsive landscape backdrop. No single influence ever dominated in Moody’s work and the artist returned to classical narrative painting in major exhibition pieces such as ‘The Vengeance of Diana’ and ‘The Judgment of Paris’ (Cat. 10 and Cat. 14).
Moody went to extraordinary lengths to develop appropriate landscape settings that would heighten the drama of these compositions. ‘The Vengeance of Diana’ features an entirely imaginary landscape setting inspired by Charles Darwin’s description in ‘The Voyage of the Beagle’ of the beech woods at the foot of the glaciers of Tierra del Fuego.

In 1935 Moody had taken up the post of Head of Malvern School of Art, giving him the opportunity to create his own centre of excellence for arts and crafts in emulation of Charles Gere’s work at the Birmingham School of Art in the 1890s. Moody remained as Head until 1962, introducing classes for silversmithing, book binding and letterpress printing as well as traditional painting techniques. ‘The Bathers’ (Cat. 7), shown at the Paris Salon in 1937, was a true arts & crafts production. The textiles in the painting were designed and printed by Moody’s students and for many years after they adorned the lay figure in his studio (Cat. 24). He supervised the production of the poker-work frame and made numerous figure and nature studies, recording in his diary how he was resolved “...to paint my new picture giving close attention to nature”.

Moody produced much of his best work in the 1930s and ’40s, alternating subjects from the Greek myths with pastoral figure compositions at the R.A. annual exhibitions as well as exhibiting at the Royal Society of British Artists and the New English Art Club.
Towards the end of the ’30s his career was gathering momentum and in 1939 he was given a one person exhibition at the Goupil Gallery which featured most of the important compositions as well as a group portrait commissioned for the Malvern Literary Festival. Individual sitters included George Bernard Shaw, J.B. Priestley and Ernest Thesiger.

In 1940 Moody’s painting simply titled ‘Nude’, also known as ‘The Bellini Nude’ (Cat. 5), was initially hung on the line at the R.A. but was later re-hung in another part of the building when the gallery suffered bomb damage. At this time ‘Youth is Nimble’ was missing somewhere in France having been sent to the Paris Salon for the 1939 exhibition, only to be returned after the war.
The approaching war also had a more direct effect on his work, prompting Moody to paint a small number of unusually topical subjects. ‘The End Of Summer’ and ‘Europa and the Powers’, both bought by Lord Fairhaven from the Royal Academy, and ‘The Return of the Hunting Goddess’ (Cat. 9) all make veiled reference to the approaching conflict and the eventual restoration of peace. ‘The Vengeance of Diana’ was Moody’s last exhibit at the R.A. in 1956 and was shown again at the Paris Salon in 1958. The painting had been substantially complete in 1947 and although Moody continued to paint classical compositions well into the 1980s the later works invariably took years, if not decades, to complete.

After the war most of his exhibited works were commissioned or family portraits, a number of which were shown at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. Since Victor Moody died his work has been widely seen and his reputation has steadily risen. The Harris Museum in Preston held a retrospective exhibition, ‘The Last Classicist’, in 1992 and more recently his work featured in the 2010 exhibition ‘Counterpoint - Modern Realism 1910-1950’ held at the Fine Art Society. The dispersal of works from the Estate of the artist’s daughter, which has made this present catalogue possible, represents a further important moment in the rehabiliation of Victor Moody’s reputation. It is hoped that his work will, as a result, continue to become more widely seen and better understood. Stephen Whittle July 2012

For full information download our catalogue here.

READ MORE >

Artist Victor Hume Moody: Drapery study, possibly for The Vengeance of Diana, c. 1946
Victor Hume Moody
Drapery study  For sale
£325
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Half length seated nude, profile view
Victor Hume Moody
Half length seated nude, profile view  For sale
£265
Artist Victor Hume Moody: On Old Couch at Mitcham (?), London 1926
Victor Hume Moody
On Old Couch at Mitcham (?)  For sale
£350
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Still life with Echinacea
Victor Hume Moody
Still life with Echinacea  For sale
£975
Artist Victor Hume Moody: The Judgement of Solomon, circa 1930
Victor Hume Moody
The Judgement of Solomon, circa 1930  For sale
£975
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Study of a cloth, hanging over a chair, circa 1942
Victor Hume Moody
Study of a cloth  For sale
£370
Artist Victor Hume Moody: A Corner of the Artists Studio, circa 1930
Victor Hume Moody
A Corner of the Artist's Studio  For sale
£2510
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Sheet of Studies
Victor Hume Moody
Sheet of Studies  For sale
£875
Artist Victor Hume Moody: The Art Class
Victor Hume Moody
The Art Class  For sale
£580
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Nude, seated on blanket, right hand held up, left arm raised
Victor Hume Moody
Nude, seated on blanket, right hand...  For sale
£700
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Portrait Study 1930
Victor Hume Moody
Portrait Study 1930  For sale
£730
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Drapery study, possibly for The Judgement of Paris, circa 1936
Victor Hume Moody
Drapery study  For sale
£260
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Portrait of a young girl, circa 1920
Victor Hume Moody
Portrait of a young girl, circa 1920  For sale
£1950
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Drapery Study, possibly for The Judgement of Paris, circa 1936
Victor Hume Moody
Drapery Study  For sale
£290
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Study of a Woman with Arms Raised
Victor Hume Moody
Study of a Woman with Arms Raised  For sale
£650
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Study of branches and flowers
Victor Hume Moody
Study of branches and flowers  For sale
£440
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Study of Hands
Victor Hume Moody
Study of Hands  For sale
£430
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Horse and trees
Victor Hume Moody
Horse and trees  For sale
£430
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Study of an interior with folded mattress and stacked bins, circa 1940
Victor Hume Moody
Study of an interior with folded...  For sale
£630
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Fishermen with Gallion
Victor Hume Moody
Fishermen with Gallion  For sale
£480
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Self-Portrait, 1929. Diploma portrait painted at the end of his studies at the Royal College of Art.
Victor Hume Moody
Self-Portrait  For sale 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Study for Crossing the Red Sea, 1928
Victor Hume Moody
Study for Crossing the Red Sea, 1928  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Study of a standing nude, hand on her hip, circa 1930
Victor Hume Moody
Study of a standing nude  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Study of a standing and reclining nude, May 1940
Victor Hume Moody
Study of a standing and reclining nude  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Portrait of Catherine Moody (the artists daughter), 1921
Victor Hume Moody
Portrait of Catherine Moody (the...  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: The Day War Broke Out , Mom 1939
Victor Hume Moody
The Day War Broke Out , Mom 1939  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Nude leaning forward, arm stretched out
Victor Hume Moody
Nude leaning forward, arm stretched out  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Malvern landscape
Victor Hume Moody
Malvern landscape  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Still life with Blue Chequered Table Cloth, circa 1920
Victor Hume Moody
Still life with Blue Chequered Table...  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: The Bellini Nude
Victor Hume Moody
The Bellini Nude  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Still Life with Apples on a White Cloth
Victor Hume Moody
Still Life with Apples on a White Cloth  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Crossing the Red Sea, 1928
Victor Hume Moody
Crossing the Red Sea, 1928  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Dudbridge Mills
Victor Hume Moody
Dudbridge Mills  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Girl with a Cittern - Portrait of Catherine Moody, c.1934
Victor Hume Moody
Girl with a Cittern - Portrait of...  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Annunciation Study, 1928
Victor Hume Moody
Annunciation Study, 1928  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: The Bathers, 1936-37
Victor Hume Moody
The Bathers, 1936-37  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: The Judgment of Paris, 1936
Victor Hume Moody
The Judgment of Paris, 1936  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Study for ‘Youth is Nimble’, 1937
Victor Hume Moody
Study for ‘Youth is Nimble’, 1937  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Study for ‘Europa’, Kneeling Bull, c.1928
Victor Hume Moody
Study for ‘Europa’  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Annunciation Study, May Moody, c.1928
Victor Hume Moody
Annunciation Study, May Moody, c.1928  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Milking Time
Victor Hume Moody
Milking Time  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: George Bernard Shaw Writing, 1938
Victor Hume Moody
George Bernard Shaw Writing, 1938  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Youth Is Nimble, 1937
Victor Hume Moody
Youth Is Nimble, 1937  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Perseus and the Nymphs, 1929
Victor Hume Moody
Perseus and the Nymphs, 1929  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Study for ‘Crossing the Brook’, c.1934
Victor Hume Moody
Study for ‘Crossing the Brook’  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: The Artist’s Wife, May Olive Moody, 1926-27
Victor Hume Moody
The Artist’s Wife  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Self-Portrait, c.1941
Victor Hume Moody
Self-Portrait, c.1941  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: The Lay Figure, 1942
Victor Hume Moody
The Lay Figure, 1942  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Self-Portrait, c.1928
Victor Hume Moody
Self-Portrait, c.1928  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: The Vengeance of Diana, c. 1946-55
Victor Hume Moody
The Vengeance of Diana, c. 1946-55  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Self-Portrait, c.1930
Victor Hume Moody
Self-Portrait, c.1930  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Portrait of Catherine Moody, c.1935
Victor Hume Moody
Portrait of Catherine Moody, c.1935  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: The Flapper Dress, Portrait of Miss Willoughby, c. 1919
Victor Hume Moody
The Flapper Dress  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Study en plein air - The Malvern Hills, circa 1920
Victor Hume Moody
Study en plein air - The Malvern Hills  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Self Portrait, c.1920
Victor Hume Moody
Self Portrait, c.1920  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Study of a partial nude, standing, left arm raised
Victor Hume Moody
Study of a partial nude  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Naked torso, rear view
Victor Hume Moody
Naked torso, rear view  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Seated Nude
Victor Hume Moody
Seated Nude  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Woman standing, hand on her hip
Victor Hume Moody
Woman standing, hand on her hip  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Drapery study for Icarus
Victor Hume Moody
Drapery study for Icarus  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Chair with Drapery
Victor Hume Moody
Chair with Drapery  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: The Malvern Hills, circa 1930
Victor Hume Moody
The Malvern Hills, circa 1930  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Malvern landscape
Victor Hume Moody
Malvern landscape  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Profile portrait of a girl
Victor Hume Moody
Profile portrait of a girl  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Study of legs and drapery for an Allegorical composition
Victor Hume Moody
Study of legs and drapery for an...  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Portrait of a girl in pink
Victor Hume Moody
Portrait of a girl in pink  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Centaur and mermaid
Victor Hume Moody
Centaur and mermaid  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Boat in a pond
Victor Hume Moody
Boat in a pond  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Portrait of a girl looking to the right, head and shoulders
Victor Hume Moody
Portrait of a girl looking to the right  Sold 
Artist Victor Hume Moody: Study of head
Victor Hume Moody
Study of head  Sold