James Smetham (1821-89) was a reclusive 19th century artist, poet, and teacher, best known as a follower and friend of Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
During the bicentenary year of his birth, Radnorshire Fine Arts is offering over 220 drawings and watercolours by the artist including this small 4 x 3in (9.5 x 7cm) self-portrait of a brooding, slightly menacing-looking Smetham priced at £300.
All originate from an album compiled towards the end of the artist’s life by his daughter Edie and her siblings when he was battling depression in the late 1870s. They inscribed the album Scraps from Sketch Books – Jas. Smetham.
The gallery’s Clayton Sanders said by the end of 1877 Smetham had “succumbed to a final debilitating attack after which he withdrew from the world, he became delusional and virtually ceased talking”. He added: “Seven years had passed before the album reached Smetham and although he must have been very ill it would be nice to think the album had given him some moments of pleasure during his final years.”
The group, which has been conserved onto sheets of blue laid paper ready to be framed, includes a variety of subjects in pencil, pen and ink and chalk ranging from animal studies and landscapes to figure sketches and compositions for pictures, including scenes from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
Many are offered individually or in groups of up to six sheets, except for three accomplished miniatures mounted in a single frame priced at £600. The first works will go live via the gallery’s website on November 9.