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 James Clarke Waite  (1832 - 1921)

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Lived/Active: United Kingdom/England/Australia      Known for: portrait, history, figure and genre painting

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
The Robin's Egg 1868
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.


Born in England and active in London from 1863 until 1885, James Clarke Waite likely acquired his meticulous genre style at the Royal Academy, where he often exhibited. A member of the Royal Society of British Artists, he showed more than 117 works at Suffolk Street. He also exhibited at the British Institution and the Old Watercolour Society. Around 1885, Waite emigrated to Australia, where he remained for the rest of his life, finding additional success as a portrait and history painter.

The subject of a convalescing Confederate officer is a curious departure for the artist, who specialized in scenes of children with pets, such as Feeding the Kitten, or elderly people, as in The Widow's Consolation and A Rest Well Earned. It was probably inspired by accounts of the war that appeared in the British press. Waite would have been familiar with the illustrations of Winslow Homer and Alfred Waud, and must have also seen the paintings of George Lambdin, who developed themes that represented the domestic trials of the conflict, such as that presented here.

Waite's ability at painting still-life detail and his vibrant sense of color are evident in this rare example from his early career. Indeed, so exacting is the detail that it is possible to identify the soldier's rank and unit, and to date the scene early to mid-war, as the blue trim embellishing the uniform was thereafter discontinued. The inclusion of the Richmond Daily Sun suggests that the soldier served under Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. Waite may have painted the scene for a patron. In the early years of the war, Great Britain and other European countries were inclined to favor--or at least to sympathize with--the Confederacy. The upper classes looked upon the Southern planter as an aristocrat with whom they had much in common, while Robert E. Lee was admired for his gallantry and military brilliance.

In 1901, Waite was commissioned by the Australian government to produce one of the country's most historically important artworks, The Opening of the First Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, for the Melbourne Exhibition Building. The contract required him to include correct representations of 269 various political leaders and aristocrats. Sixty-nine years old and in frail health, Waite was unable to begin the project, and the contract was given to Tom Roberts.

This essay is copyrighted by the Charleston Renaissance Gallery and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission from Hicklin Galleries, LLC.

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