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Sir William Quiller Orchardson RA, Two anatomical drawings of a left foot

Two anatomical drawings of a left foot, 1840s or 50s?

Sir William Quiller Orchardson RA (1832 - 1910)

RA Collection: Art

William Quiller Orchardson attended the Trustees' Academy in Edinburgh between 1st October 1845 and 1855. At the beginning of Orchardson's course, 'life, colour and the antique' were taught by John Ballantyne while Alexander Christie, the 'Head Master', taught design and ornament. However, in 1852, the Directorship was given to Robert Scott Lauder, an enthusiastic teacher who also encouraged students to paint at an early stage of their training. Orchardson had already finished the official course by this point but he returned to the Academy specifically to study with Lauder.

The artist claimed that on his first day at the Academy he had insisted on drawing from the human figure rather than the Antique and that he was allowed to do this because of the high quality of his work. However, this group includes drawings after casts which suggest that he did study the Antique to some extent. Orchardson later remarked that Lauder was a good teacher because 'he never tried to teach them anything' comparing this to the 'wise neglect' famously practiced by Henry Fuseli at the Royal Academy in the early 19th century. Orchardson recalled that Lauder would look at his work, say 'Ye-es, Ye-es', and then go on to talk about the weather. As Lindsay Errington points out, however, this should not be taken too seriously as 'Orchardson was then a mature student who had finished the course and taken all the prizes under Ballantyne, but had come back again to see what Lauder could offer'. As Errington notes, Orchardson had already won first prize for life drawing and third prize for life painting.

Orchardson's student and early drawings generally conform to the contemporary ideals of close observation, expressed through line and meticulous shading. However, from the 1860s onwards he developed a much less finished, almost frenetic drawing style. Contemporary critics also discerned a 'sketchy' quality in his paintings, a feature - along with his muted palette and unusual spatial compositions - which they attributed to his training under Lauder.

At the Trustees' Academy, Orchardson also established a circle of artist friends including William McTaggart, John Pettie, Thomas Graham and John and Alexander Burr. The group of Orchardson's drawings in the RA collection also includes examples by some of his friends, indicating that they swapped drawings amongst their circle.

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Object details

Title
Two anatomical drawings of a left foot
Artist/designer
Date
1840s or 50s?
Object type
Drawing
Medium
Black chalk on buff wove paper
Dimensions

542 mm x 380 mm

Collection
Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
05/3877
Acquisition
Given by Lady Orchardson 1916
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