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Rowland Holyoake (probably born between 1855 and 1860), was the son of William Holyoake (1834-1894), a genre painter from Birmingham (UK) and frequent exhibitor at the Royal Society of British Artists. Under Whistler as president, William Holyoake served briefly as vice-president of the Royal Society of British Artists and William was named Curator of one of the Academy schools. The National Gallery in Glasgow has William Holyoake’s Front Row of the Opera and another of his paintings, The Sanctuary hangs in the Chapels of Westminster Abbey. Rowland continued in the Victorian genre tradition of his father but he also painted landscapes, portraits and interiors. He began exhibiting at the R.S.B.A. in 1880 with A Bit of the Dessert and Fruit, obviously two still-lifes. His genre pictures appeared there by 1883: The Greek Girl, Knitting, and A Classic Beauty. He illustrated a scene from Hamlet (III, 4) in the painting For the Banquet. Through 1893-94 his paintings were on display at that prestigious annual exhibition. Holyoake’s address was Hayter House, the family home on Marylebone Road in London.
Most recently, Rowland Holyoake’s canvases have come to light at auctions and galleries, for instance, The Connoisseur (24 x 29 in.), which shows a husband leafing through portfolios of prints, with his back turned to his patient wife, who stands on the other side of the fireplace, holding a cup of tea. Various prints have been carelessly scattered on the floor. A statue of Venus de Milo tops the mantelpiece. Another painting, Out for the Day (20 x 24 in.), is a clearly lit landscape with couples about to take a boat ride on the river. In the distance is a picturesque covered bridge. Most popular in available reproductions of Holyoake’s works is George and the Dragon, which shows three figures seated on the beach: a young woman, guarded by a dour old lady and a poodle, sits aloof and guarded on the right, while on the other end of the bench we see a young man dressed in an early nineteenth-century costume with tights and a bicorn hat, who clearly would like to see the young lady alone. Reflection (20 x 24 in.) is a clever still-life of a mantelpiece and mirror, which reflects a young woman’s face. Objects such as glazed Japanese ceramic vases have been beautifully rendered.
Wood, Christopher. Dictionary of Victorian Painters. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Baron Publishing, 1971, p. 68; A Dictionary of Artists Who Have Exhibited Works in the Principal London Exhibitions from 1760 to 1893. Compiled by Algernon Graves. Bath: Kingsmead Reprints, 1973, p. 142; Works Exhibited at the Royal Society of British Artists, 1824 - 1893. Compiled by Jane Johnson. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Baron Publishing, 1975, p. 239.
Submitted by Michael Preston Worley, Ph.D.