Preface. It was in June, 2013, that I first researched and wrote about the Clique in the pages of this website. Come September, I realised I wanted to research the life of John Phillip, a leading member of the Clique, so I obtained permission to take photographs of the 20-odd letters that he sent to Patrick Allan Fraser in the course of his life. But it's not until now, February, 2014, that I find myself sitting down to put together this webpage. Why the delay? Oh, you know, competing projects and the perennial distractions of life. But I've finally got here and intend to make good use of the next few days. (I have to say that because I can feel Pat looking over my shoulder, urging me to get on with the job.) So here goes.

Self Portrait, John Phillip.

John Phillip was born five years after Patrick Allan-Fraser and fifty miles further up the east coast of Scotland. Although both came to painting pictures via house painting apprenticeships, John's talent seems to have been more obvious from an early age. He came into contact with William Mercer, a portrait painter, then James Forbes another portrait painter who had a studio in Aberdeen. A short visit to London when he was 17, allowed John to fall under the spell of David Wilkie's depictions of Scottish life. Back in Aberdeen, his portrait work was spotted by Major Pryse Gordon who wrote about art. He found the young painter sitters and introduced him to his wealthy friend, Lord Panmure, who was prepared to fund John's art education. John Phillip went to Edinburgh for a short time and then on to London in 1836. So that's four artists or patrons that JP impressed
en route to his art education, while there's no evidence that Patrick impressed anyone particularly.

John Phillip joined the Royal Academy Schools in 1837, the same year as Richard Dadd and William Powell Frith. This is what Frith wrote about him nearly fifty years later in his Autobiography and Reminiscences:

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Augustus Egg and Henry O'Neill joined the Academy Schools the next year and it was those five who were the nucleus of the Clique. Patrick became a member when he arrived in London in 1840 after his time in Italy and France. Finishing his studies, John kept a home in Fitzroy Square, exhibited at the Royal Academy, and divided his time between London and Aberdeen. But let's hear again from WP Frith:

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In September 1844, three months after Richard Dadd had been committed to Bedlam for life for killing his father, John married Maria Dadd, Richard's sister. That marriage was a year to the month after the marriage of Patrick Allan to Elizabeth Fraser. Slight difference though. While Patrick had married into money, John had married into mania, Maria already having experienced her first attack of the mental illness that had affected her brother catastrophically. The next painting, although called
The Artist and his Wife, brings to mind the artist's wife and brother-in-law. Or do I just mean that a certain trepidation seems to hang in the air?

The Artist and his Wife, John Phillip.

While Patrick Allan Fraser spent the 1840's putting his wife's estate in order and developing Hospitalfield House, John Phillip became master of their previously shared craft: painting. Meticulous, dignified Scottish scenes like the one below are influenced by the work of David Wilkie.

Screen shot 2013-10-23 at 22.09.48
A Presbyterian Catechising, John Phillip, 1847

Could the above painting be set at Hospitalfield? (Not that it was.) Yes, in that it's a large room, with more than 20 people gathered round for what's happening. And what is happening? A minister with a bible open on his knee is saying something of a biblical bent to the young woman standing in front of him in full bloom. I think Patrick would have approved of both the paternal atmosphere and the sense of family merging into community.

By 1849, after the success of
A Scotch Fair, another large narrative painting, John was able to move with his young wife to a grander home at 15 Westbourne Grove, Paddington. It was there that their first child was born, which may have been one of the inspirations behind Baptism in Scotland, a third large narrative painting that depicts the same four generations of a family shown in A Presbyterian Catechism, two years on.

Scotch Baptism, John Phillip, 1849

These two paintings (catechism and baptism) were sold for almost £300 each. That's the equivalent of a total of £60,000 in today's prices. So John Phillip was becoming a rich man, though his wealth was dependent on his continued success as a painter.

I expect Patrick and John remained friends because of their shared Clique experience, the fact that both had gone on to be successful in different ways, both had married, and because the train to Aberdeen from London stopped at Arbroath. When visiting his family in the north, it would have been easy for John Phillip to break his journey at Hospitalfield, either on the way there or on his return south.

By the time the first letters passed from the Phillips' in London to Patrick in Arbroath, their address was 39 Gloucester Road, Regents Park. Here is how that address looks today. Number 39 is entered via the left half of the entrance porch and extends four windows along and four floors high.

Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 13.33.38

Not exactly Hospitalfield, but a valuable house and in a good part of London. Did the Phillips own it? I don't know. Was the building similar then to how it is now? Pass.

The first letter from this address is from Maria to 37-year-old Patrick. The original is in the archive at Hospitalfield, and reads :

Dec. 9th [1850]
My dear Sir
Mr. Phillip being still too ill to write he has requested me to tell you of the safe arrival of the “Xmas” haddock(?) your very kind and substantial present and for which accept our warmest thanks. Xxxx to say Mr. Phillip has been very seriously ill ever since his return from Scotland from severe cold and inflammation of the
pleura and from which he is now slowly recovering. The Physicians think him doing well and I trust he may soon be able to resume his studies which have been xxxing xxxx past since the summer. Mr Phillip wishes me to tell you he has received your newspapers yesterday morning thanks for them they have been a source of much amusement during his illness. Will you kindly remember us to Mr. & Mrs. McDonald when you see them.
Mr. Phillip sends kind regards to Mrs. Allan, Mr Jeffreys and your self in which I beg to join, believe me my dear Sir
Yours very Truly
Maria Phillip

The mention of Mr and Mrs MacDonald suggests that the Phillips had been to stay with the Allan-Frasers at Blackcraig, the property in Perthshire which Patrick had bought in 1847. Robert MacDonald being the first gardener there, with his wife Jennie being in charge of the house. Both were on friendly terms with Patrick and Elizabeth according to
The Book of Hospitalfield, a friendship that clearly extended to guests.

Maria wrote again a week later telling Patrick that an arrangement had been made to send
The Times to Hospitalfield. The third letter is dated 5 May, 1851 and was written by John himself. There are a few unidentified words in the transcription of the letter. The reason for this being JP's handwriting is far from easy to read:

My dear Allan Fraser,
I would have written to you sooner but have been ill again. I hope xxx xxxx with the return of sunshine my health will be restored the past winter had so touched up my loose screws (?) that I dread crossing the border again until I have xxxetated for a season or two in the south of Spain. At present I purpose leaving England early in the autumn for Andalutia where I intend to combine the restoration of health with the study of human nature under a warmer sun and clearer sky than is usually found on the other side of the Grampians.
I hope Mrs Fraser and yourself are in the full enjoyment of health and as you are now so xxx may anticipate the pleasure of seeing you both soon.
The Academy opened today a very fine exhibition I believe. I sent three pictures one on the
line the other two completely D_______d.
An early grudge[?] of D. Roberts paid in full with interest, poor spite for so great a man.
I doubt much whether I shall be able to go today as the “wind blows snell and keen”.
I am sorry you have not had the Times of Friday last, it was never sent here owning to the demand I shall endeavour to get it for you, the Examiner I have long since given up taking seeing the Times every day I thought I could do without the other.
With kind regards to Mrs. Fraser and yourself
I am yours sincerely[?]
John Phillip

Which paintings did John exhibit at the RA summer show in 1951? I don't know. Should I come across the information, I'll insert it here.

On the 17th of July, John wrote to Patrick commiserating on the death of Mrs Fraser, Elizabeth's mother, who I expect he knew from his visits to Hospitalfield. Then on the 17th of August, Maria wrote with this news:

My dear Sir,
Mr Phillip left home last evening in company with a friend for Paris on their way to Spain he was in tolerable health and having secured an agreeable companion and many very useful introductions I trust he will enjoy his sojourn in the south. Mr Phillip regretted very much he could not get time to write to you before leaving but will do so when he is a little settled abroad. I should apologise for the irregularity of The Times but we have sometimes had a difficulty in getting it at all, owing I suppose to the number of xxxxtors new this season. I regret we shall not be able to continue it, as I am with my little girl going soon to Liverpool for a xxxx, Hoping Mrs Allan and yourself are in health with kind compliments xxxxx believe me Dear Sir
Yours very sincerely
Maria Phillip

There are quite a few gaps in our knowledge about John Phillip's first trip to Spain, which was from August 1851 to about May 1852. (I say 'we'. Much of my knowledge comes from the book
Phillip of Spain, written by Jennifer Melville, who in turn acknowledges the research and archive of George A. Mackenzie.) We don't know who John travelled with. However, he was living in Seville towards the end of his stay, as the Swedish artist Egron Lundgren mentions in his diary of 6 April 1852 that the pair were friendly and, although hard-working, spent some of their time surrounded by the 'rabble' rather than with 'good-natured but dull people'.

The following picture by John Phillip could almost be an illustration of this sentiment, the two northern artists clearly the centre of local attention. But it also shows how John Phillip had been struck by the light, the warmth, the colour, the outdoor life and something else about Spain. The outpouring of music, dance and conversation makes his Scottish pictures look dour and puritanical. You get the impression that the minister doesn't dictate what happens here: other forces dictate what happens on the hot and dusty streets of Seville.

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Life among the Gypsies, John Phillip, 1847

But did John get a chance to say to Patrick: "Come join me in my next expedition to the south. Warm those cold presbyterian bones of yours while you still can."? I don't know if he did get a chance to say that in person. But this is what JP wrote to PAF shortly after his return to London, when he'd bought one of four semi-detached South Villas, just below Tor Villa on Campden Hill Road, complete with luxurious studio space, locating him right in the heart of the established art world. I can't source a photo of this precise address, but Campden Hill Road is still there in the middle of Kensington.

30 June 1852
My dear Allan Fraser,
I want to apologise for not answering your kind letter. The fact is I have been so unwell since moving and one thing or another since my return that I have not been able to put pen to paper to any body.
Many thanks for your good wishes and commission which I shall gladly execute with the same merit in which you gave it. I can sincerely tell you how much our other brothers of the brush value your good feeling in this affair – It will be some time I fear before I shall be able to commence but when I do, it shall be
done well. I hope your good Lady has been enjoying the greatest of all blessings, health, and that you are both as well as when I last had the pleasure of seeing you. I am happy to say that the Spanish lodge has proven a great hit.
I now feel better than I have done for years and the new notions I have received are likely to bring
grist to the mill.
Tell Mr McDonald that I have a print of the “Washing” which I shall send him by the first opportunity – The newspaper came to ninepence a week. You can pay it when you think proper. xxxx my respects to your good lady and accept them for yourself in which I send to yours
I am – my dear Allan Fraser
Yours every sincerely,
John Phillip

Three things to flag up at this point. One, PAF has commissioned a self-portrait from JP. Two, JP has returned from his first visit to Spain full of inspiration. Three, another mention of the MacDonalds. I know that the painting
Scotch Washing was made into an engraving in 1850, so this must have been what JP was referring to. I haven't been able to trace a reproduction of the print, but here is the original painting. Maybe Scotland was not so dour after all.

Scotch Washing, John Phillip, 1850

Back in London, John Phillip worked up his Spanish studies into finished paintings. By this stage he was also being commissioned by members of the Royal family, including Queen Victoria. In 1852 or 1853 the Queen commissioned him to paint portraits of her niece Princess Feodora and another of Princess Charlotte. She also bought
The Spanish Gypsy Mother at this time. In 1854 his large painting A letter Writer, Seville was bought by the Queen. And in 1855, Victoria bought El Paseo.

At the end of 1855, Maria gave birth to a second child, a boy. However, a few months later, after a few disturbing incidents, she had to be stopped from strangling the crying baby. John, who owned a copy of Philip Burton's
The Anatomy of Melancholy, sought medical advice and Maria was hospitalised. He kept working through this no doubt worrying situation and in that year exhibited three Spanish subjects at the RA and embarked on a second visit to Spain, leaving his children with the wife of the man he travelled with, the painter Richard Ansdell.

JP's letters home revealed that, having left England for Seville by steamer in October, 1856, they travelled from Seville to Cadiz and on to Cartagena by boat. They then took horses and rode through Murcia to Valencia and on to Madrid. In Spain, JP was continually sketching and painting and even managed to send off a couple of finished pictures for exhibiting at the RA in May 1857. This is one of them:

The Prison Window, John Phillip, 1857

It's difficult not to read some autobiography into this painting. John Philip in exile from his child and wife and concerned about the welfare of both while not being able to do much about it. Apart from pursue his profession, that is.

As with the first trip to Spain, part of the idea was to miss the British winter for health reasons, and in June of 1857 John duly returned to London to discover that he'd been elected an associate of the Royal Academy. Aberdeen Town Council commissioned a portrait of Prince Albert, who, like the Queen, was an admirer of John Phillip's work. JP journeyed to Balmoral for the sittings. Did that involve stopping off at Hospitalfield or Blackcraig to see his old chum, Patrick? I don't know. There are no letters to suggest as much. John may have been too busy painting Albert's sporran. Too busy kissing the hem of the Prince Consort's kilt. Too busy painting himself into the picture as a lowly dog owned by his tartan highness.

Albert, Prince Consort, John Phillip, 1858

In August 1857, John was commissioned to paint the marriage of the Princess Royal, which committed him to be at Windsor for sittings in the summer and autumn of the following year. Below is the resulting picture, which involved sketching an overall composition on the date of the marriage, and painting 50-odd portraits of members of the royal family subsequent to the day. What a waste of JP's time (if I may say so), but of course he was paid a fortune for these royal pictures. Victoria and Albert bought four Spanish pictures between 1853 and 1858. And, according to William Rossetti, JP had sold a dozen Spanish paintings for £20,000. This is the equivalent of £2 million today.

The Marriage of Victoria, Princess Royal, 25 January, 1858. John Phillip, 1858/59

The above painting was still not finished a year after the royal marriage, such was the complexity of arranging sittings, and JP took the opportunity to fulfil other commissions in between times. He even found time to paint Patrick his picture. Given the above mentioned Royal commissions and the popularity of his Spanish pictures, it's clear that JP did not paint Patrick a picture for the money. Below is a photograph of the letter, held in the archive at Hospitalfield, with which he announced the good news. Pages 4 and 1 followed by pages 2 and 3. Though the whole letter is transcribed as best I can below the photos.

john phillip - Version 2
john phillip_0001

1 South Villas
Campden Hill
29 Dec 1858
My dear Allan Fraser
At last your kind commission is finished and in xxxx with the same xxxx with O’Neil’s. I hope when you see both pictures you will like them and live long to enjoy them. O’Neil’s I think excellent and very like what he is now. My own you will say is surely not like Jock but it is for time and xxx probably has made great havoc with your old friend. The subject is something I saw in the south xxxx xxxx excuse this hurried note and with the sincere wishes that you and your good lady will enjoy a happy new year.
Yours xxxx
John Phillip
(Expect to be in your neighbourhood soon and hope to see you.)

This is the painting in question. Not sure why JP is so defensive about his own appearance in the picture. After all, he's only a detail - albeit an important one - in the middle ground.


Now that I know some bare biographical facts I can't help interpreting this image accordingly. The man separated from his wife and children. The man more than a little concerned about the woman's state of mind. The toppled jug and spilt food: intimations of domestic disturbance. After all, while on his second trip to Spain, Maria was in hospital and her children were being looked after by someone else.

The next letter was sent on 14 May 1859:

My dear Allan Fraser
I have just received yours and rather to assure you that I will have very great pleasure in keeping my promise with your worthy[?] person[?]Old chums here are in a high state of preservation[?] we all had a very jolly day at Dulwich last Thursday. I shall deliver your kind remarks to them and your xxxage to Egg which by the xxxx I cannot make out I really think your pen is worse than mine or else I am improving in my penmanship.
I have very little to add about the Exhibition no new men have come out and many of the old favourites are absent which over course renders the show but so so or what is deamed [sic] an average collection however you will soon have an opportunity of judging for yourself.
Give my kind compliments to your good Lady and with my best wishes to yourself.
I am in yours sincerely
John Phillip.
[I shall post with this letter Egg’s book. I have been going to do so every day since I saw you in xxxxxxxx.]

Alas, I can't read that last word. Patrick was in London in 1858, when I think he and Elizabeth met Dickens and went to see Not so bad as we seem, in which Augustus Egg played the leading role. In Egg's own letter of 1858 he promised to send PAF a copy of the play and this may be the book of Egg's that JP refers to in his postscript.

John wrote again in November of 1859, from Graham's Hotel, to say that he'd arrived and intended to be in PAF's neighbourhood '
on Tuesday next when I hope to have the pleasure of finding you and your lady well'.

In January 1859, JP had just begun painting
The Early Career of Murillo which was eventually exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1865. That picture is shown being painted by John Phillip in the painting made by John Ballantyne in 1859.

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John Phillip in his Studio, John Ballantyne, 1859.

The luxury of the studio at 1 South Villas is evident, as is poor Maria. In December 1859, she was admitted to Otto House, Middlesex, having apparently attacked her husband. She claimed to having been tortured by her own doctor, a magistrate and Jesuits, all of whose behaviour she attributed to the Prince Consort. Perhaps Maria blamed Albert for taking her husband away from home. Maria understood why John had to spend time in Spain - for his health. But why did he spend so much time at Balmoral when she needed him at home?

Anyway, the disaster had happened: Maria's mental collapse. So John was left to get on with his life and work alone. I can't help feeling sorry for the talented rich man. I can't help feeling sorry for his wife, even though I haven't been able to get a rounded sense of Maria's character, just her unfortunate fate.

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John Phillip in his Studio, John Ballantyne, 1859.

Another letter to PAF in 1860 tells us that JP had just got back from a trip to Norway and that he and 'Johnstone' planned to call in on Patrick 'on Saturday next'. I expect they did. I expect John talked to Patrick and Elizabeth about the sadness surrounding Maria. His sadness. Her sadness. And I expect John told Patrick of his plans to visit Spain again. To cheer himself up. To restore his health. And to further his career.

This time he travelled further, visiting Madrid, Segovia, Toledo, Cordoba and Seville. Jennifer Melville in
Phillip of Spain, suggests John may have been accompanied by Edwin Longsden Long. JP returned to London in March 1861 with numerous pictures that he had begun on tour.

No doubt a busy man, he interrupted his work to reply to a letter or two of Patrick's:

1 South Villas
Campden Hill
21 May 1861
My dear Allan Fraser
I have been going to write to you every morning for the past ten day and not until yours is put into my hand just now have I had time to do it.
Our friend Egg returned on Saturday looking very well but the impression is among some of his friends that is not in a good way.
Hutchison called here the other night and left xxxxxx’s book I unfortunately was out and of course did not see him. He left a message with the maid to say that he was to leave for Scotland on Monday. I am very sorry I did not see him.
The Family Hotel is on the corner of Hollis Street, Cavendish Square.
With kind compliment to Mrs. Fraser.
I am yours xxx xxxxxxx
John Phillip
I have been sounding Frith out about the shooting but he seems afraid of the distance how ever we will talk it over when we meet.

On 31 May 1861, JP wrote again, enclosing the card of the hotel he mentions in the above letter. Does this mean that Patrick and Elizabeth were coming to London and intended to stay in this hotel? I don't know.

In September, John headed north to a cottage close to Bridge of Allan, near Stirling, accompanied by Thomas Brooks, the first ex-member of the Clique to produce a self-portrait for Patrick, a few years before. They were joined there by JP's children Amy and Colin, aged 11 and 5, who were by then living in Aberdeen with a family friend, Jean Isabella Ross. From the cottage, Thomas Brooks wrote two letters to Patrick as follows.

Wolf’s Crag Cottage
Bridge of Allan
Sep 6, 1861
My dear Frazer [sic]
I am staying here with our good friend Phillip for a short time and should not like to leave the neighbourhood without giving you a look in – We are going to have a little trip through the Trossachs next week and if convenient to you we shall be glad to visit you at Blackcraig the
beginning of the following week. Perhaps you will drop a line saying if this arrangement will suit you & I will then wish to say what train we will come by.
Phillip would wish that as he hopes so soon to have the pleasure of seeing you, he will then give you all the news.
Many thanks for the Birds you so kindly sent him – they were first rate.
With kind remembrance to Mrs Frazer[sic] & yourself in which Phillip writes
Believe me
My dear Frazer
Xxx faithfully yrs
Mr. Brooks

The meeting of old friends was to be at Blackcraig, which is where Patrick was always to be found from the start of the grouse shooting season (August 12) until some time after Patrick and Elizabeth's anniversary (September 13).

Wolf’s Crag Cottage
Bridge of Allan
Sep 15, 1861
My dear Frazer [sic]
Phillip & myself will xxx the greatest pleasure in being with you on Wednesday next & if all be well we hope to be at the Blairgowrie station by the train which reaches there at 1.35 – and as you have so kindly promised to meet us I need not say how glad we shall be to see you –
Phillip went into Edin. yesterday to hear Guthrie – he will return to-morrow. I hope he will be benefitted by the sermon –
I will not write further(?) as I hope to soon to have the pleasure of seeing you –
I may still add that I am getting on with Scotch in a first-rate-manner.
With kind regards to Mrs. Frazer & yourself.
Believe me
am faithfully yrs
Mr. Brooks

The above letter mentions Blairgowrie which would have been the nearest rail station to Blackcraig then. As an inhabitant of present-day Blairgowrie I can safely (and sadly) say that the station is long gone.

Clearly, Patrick and Elizabeth were back at Hospitalfield by the middle of November when JP wrote again:

Aberdeen, 17 Nov 1861
My dear Allan Fraser
I intend leaving this on Monday by the 12:20 train for Arbroath when I hope to arrive early in the afternoon. Hoping to find you and Mrs. Fraser quite well.
Yours ever
John Phillip

We don't know exactly when Patrick made this portrait of his friend, but it would seem to be within a year or two of the studio pantings by Ballantyne. It seems to me that Patrick's put a lot into this painting. And yet it says nothing directly of Spain or the Royal Academy or Balmoral. While on the one hand, John Phillip led a complicated life, split between London, Spain and Aberdeen. So also he was a middle-aged man who enjoyed the simple things of life, like reading a book.

John Phillip, Patrick Allan Fraser

In November 1862. JP sent Maria to Aberdeen as the Royal Asylum had opened Elmhill House, a separate building for private patients who could afford to pay. In June 1863 she was admitted at £200 a year for which she got her own bedroom and parlour and a separate table in the dining room and a personal companion or servant. Apparently the strain of Maria's illness had been affecting John badly. Below is a photograph taken of him back in London by David Wilkie Winfield, one of a set of portraits of artists in historical dress.

John Phillip, David Wilkie Wynfield, 1861

A neat counterpoint to the portrait by PAF. JP does not look like a happy bunny in this photograph. But then why should he? He may have had a glorious career and a luxurious house in Kensington, but his wife had been committed and his children were being raised in someone else's household.

Alone in London, John Phillip got on with turning the impressions and sketches he'd made into finished works. Or was he alone in London? In 1863, John Phililip was a rich man, in his mid-forties, a man of the world. In the painting below, a young bullfighter and an older man look on admiringly as a colourfully dressed, vivacious young woman, skilfully pours wine from a jug for them.

La Bomba, John Phillip, 1863

I think I can feel a passage from
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam coming on:

'Drink wine, you will lie long enough under the ground,
Without companion, friend or comrade.
Take care you tell no one this hidden secret,
"No lily that withers will bloom again."'

The Rubaiyat was first translated into English in 1859 by Edward Fitzgerald, who couldn't find a publisher for it and so had 250 copies printed privately. Rossetti, Swinburne, Morris, Burne Jones and Ruskin had all seen it by 1863, but I don't know if John Phillip had. In any case, here is another verse from the
Rubaiyat, again from the translation made by Peter Avery and John Heath Stubbs in 1979, that is very easy to connect to La Bomba:

'Look, the morning breeze has torn the rose's dress,
The nightingale is in ecstasy at the rose's beauty;
Sit in the rose's shade, for many such
Have come from earth and to it returned.'

There is a meticulously painted pot in
La Bomba. Omar Khayyam goes on about how the potter makes his pots from the flesh turned to clay of men and women who once lived. Hence:

'This jug was love-sick like me,
Tangled in a fair girl's locks;
This handle you now see on its neck
Was his hand on the neck of the girl.'

It's in these years, the 1860s, that John Phillip painted the pictures he will be remembered for. Drawing equally on his fleeting impressions of Spain and the deep-rooted memories and emotions of his inner life, he would paint through the winter and spring so that he was able to show the fruit of his labour at the Royal Academy's Summer Show. He would travel up to Scotland in the autumn to visit his children, his wife and his old friend Patrick Allan Fraser. Although the letter written in 1863 is not clear on certain issues:

Sunday [Aug. 1863]
My dear Allan Fraser
Many thanks for the box of grouse which arrived in prime condition yesterday and a brace are now brisling at the fire to be ready for my young folk by the time they come back from the Kirk. Tomorrow I leave for Braemar where I shall be for some days previous to the Gathering.
Give my kind regards to Mrs. Fraser and the same for yourself.

John Phillip rented a house near Ballater, roughly equidistant from Arbroath and Abrdeen but inland, for two years. And from there he probably visited Patrick and Elizabeth in 1863, as usual. When he got back to work in late 1863 it was to paint
La Gloria, which JP himself understood to be his finest achievement.

Screen shot 2013-09-16 at 18.05.51
La Gloria, A Spanish Wake, John Phillip, 1864

On the far left of the composition, almost a detail, a child lies dead in bed. In the foreground the mother grieves. But already she's being encouraged out to the dusty street where the living are enjoying their short time in the sun. See their singing, dancing and laughing. The message being: every one of us will end up on his or her back as the light fades from our lives, so enjoy the meantime. Or as Omar Khayyam said:

'Come friend, let us lose tomorrow's grief
And seize this moment of life:
Tomorrow, this ancient inn abandoned,
We shall be equal with those born seven thousand years ago!'

Jennifer Melville tells us that JP's friend, William Carnie, recorded how this painting increased Phillip's standing: "at a leap it placed him alongside the greatest of contemporary painters". It was hung prominently at the Royal Academy in May, 1864 and sold afterwards for £4400, which is about £400,000 today.

But life goes on. JP was as busy as ever and then suddenly he travelled north again. In autumn of 1864 there are three letters as he attempted to zero-in on Patrick at Blackcraig:

17 September 1864
My dear Allan Fraser
The old story awful swear to write or xx should have heard from me many a long time ago about the capital plan you sent me out from Glen Tilt.
I hope to hear your great accounts of your sports and good news of yourself and good Lady.
I think I shall be moving from this on Saturday next and I should like to have a crack with you on my way home let me know if it will be convenient for you to receive me for a night.
Yours, John Phillip.

22 Sept. 1864
My dear Allan Fraser,
I hope to be with you this day week Thursday. I will leave Aberdeen by an early train but at present cannot fix the hour of arrival at Blairgowrie but I will drop you another line on the subject
I am off to try a salmon pool. I had a first rate day at the “Trouts” yesterday. Give my kind regards to Mrs Fraser and believe me to be yours sincerely, John Phillip.

25 September 1864
My dear Allan Fraser
I have got two days fishing on the Ythan a famous river for trout and therefore I shall not be able to leave now til Saturday instead of Thursday.
I shall start by the mail train at 12+23 p.m. which arrives at Coupar Angus at 3+10. I hope the weather will continue fine and in the hope of finding you and Mrs Fraser quite well.
I am yours xxxxxly
John Phillip
We leave this tomorrow for Aberdeen.

Following his autumn break, JP was soon back to work. The painting that had been started back in 1859, shown unfinished in the studio in the painting by John Ballantyne, was now returned to. Unlike most of the other large Spanish paintings, The Early Career of Murillo is not owned by a public gallery and changed hands recently for £94,650.

Murillo is the young man standing in the darkness on the left. His small painting is being regarded by a hooded monk, a mendicant priest and by a gypsy woman holding a child. A muleteer eating and drinking as he sits astride his mule, also seems to be regarding the picture.

The Early Career of Murillo, John Phillip, 1865

Any of the characters I've mentioned (Except Murillo) could be reciting the following lines from
The Rubbiyat. But I fancy they come from the mysterious person in the background who is holding up a small object, which I like to think is a miniature scythe.

'Every now and then someone comes along saying, "It is I."
He arrives with favours, silver and gold, saying, "It is I."
When his little affair is sorted out for a day,
Death suddenly jumps out of ambush saying, 'It is I."'

The Early Career of Murillo received a rapturous reception when it appeared at the RA. in 1865. One critic wrote that the previous year, with La Gloria, John Phillip had surpassed himself. but that in the 1865 exhibition.he had out-topped his highest triumph. Comparable tributes were paid by the Times, the Athenaeum, the Illustrated London News and Blackwood's Magazine, which thought it a picture which could command a master position in any gallery in Europe. 'A work of this signal power and resource might serve as a landmark to show the goal whereunto contemporary art had reached.'

In a reference to the Pre-Raphaelites, the writer continued: 'This, the master-work of Mr Phillip, is specially to be commended for the bold breadth of it's handling, which stands out as a protest against the littleness of manner, that niggling detail in execution, which some years ago threatened to sink our English school into contempt. This picture will be remembered as one of the decisive triumphs of realism, strong throughout in graphic character, emphatic in local circumstance, and truthful in all essential features of time and place.'

I've just noticed that the heap of jugs, baskets and pots captured by John Ballantyne in the bottom left hand corner of his painting of John Phillip's studio in 1859 (Six images up), is the same (only slightly rearranged) as that shown in the bottom right of
The Early Career of Murillo. This emphasises that JP built up his Spanish pictures in layers, from first impressions caught in situ to realistic details added in the studio. The ideas behind the painting were no doubt fine-tuned over time also. In this case, Phillip may have been inspired by the notion of walking/working the street that Murillo had once walked/worked, but later turned it into a more general message concerning an artist, society and publics.

murilloJP Screen shot 2013-09-16 at 18.38.54

The above details of pots is surely a good enough excuse for me to take another dip into
The Rubaiyat:

'I passed by a potter the day before last,
He was ceaselessly plying his skill with the clay,
And what the blind do not see, I could -
My father's clay in every potter's hand.'

Come the autumn, John Phillip must have felt he deserved his now annual break up north.

Dhivach Cottage
13 Sept. 1865
My dear Allan Fraser
I have been going to write you every day as usual xxx since the grouse came which 'by the bye' proved to be first rate and now I offer you my hearty thank you for them as well as for your very friendly letter received last night. I can assure you that I look forward with much pleasure to having “a twa handed crack” with you before I cross the Tweed again for the World and all its trials and hard work. I have been enjoying this place immensely and I think my young folk have done the same, for it is a most delightful spot and all my neabours exceedingly agreeable and pleasant which has added much to the pleasures of a country life. You must really try and come this way next year that is to say if we are all spared.
Well as to my plans I think I shall be here until the 8th of Oct and probably a day or two at Aberdeen before getting to Edinburgh and should you be at Hospitalfield about that time I shall be delighted to spend a night with you.
So let me know when you are likely to be about the 10th.
With kind regards to your good wife and come from all here and xxxxx xxxx
John Phillip

I've looked up Dhivach Lodge and found out this: 'John Philip, Queen Victoria's favourite artist, leased Dhivach in 1865 and was responsible for the first leg of Dhivach's renovation. He improved the artistic light by adding tall north facing windows to the studio, a pulley device to the studio ceiling, a cellar, a first floor study with a balcony and two bedrooms.'

Here is a picture of the splendid holiday home:

Screen shot 2014-02-13 at 19.30.20

At this juncture, it might help to show a map of the north east of Scotland with a few relevant points marked. Hospitalfield is the red tack marked A.

Screen shot 2014-02-14 at 15.36.18

Thirty miles west of Hospitalfield is Blackcraig, where PAF stayed with Elizabeth in the autumn. Thirty miles further north is Balmoral (turquoise) and Ballater (pink) If those two are about torty miles west of Aberdeen, Dhivach Lodge is a further 60 miles west of Balmoral, on the shores of Loch Ness.

Question: What did John Phillip, Patrick Allan Fraser and the Queen have in common?
Answer: They each had a holiday home in the highlands where they would spend the autumn blasting grouse out of the sky.

A Chat Round the Brasero, John Phillip, 1866

As Jennifer Melville writes in her catalogue essay: 'It is possible that Phillip intended
A Chat Round the Brasero to be read as an allegory of the five senses. All of the elements are here - touch represented by the fur of the cat, sight by the flaming coals of the brasero, sound by the guitar, smell by the dog and taste by the food and drink that the maid is bringing into the room.'

As for me, I feel the Catholic priest could be saying something like this to his female listeners:

'How long, girl, will you chatter about the five senses and the four elements
What matters if the puzzles be one or a hundred thousand?
We are dust, strum the harp, girl
We are air, girl, bring out the wine.'

OK, holiday time has come round again. Again it needs three letters before Patrick and John are able to met:

Glen Urquart
September 8th 1866
My Dear Mr Fraser,
Papa desires me to write and thank you for the game which arrived all safely. He also is anxious to know when you are coming here as you promised.
Papa bids me say if you will write and say what way you are coming he will send for you. And if you
don’t come he is never to go and see you again – With kindest regards, Believe me ever Dear Mr Fraser. Yours very sincerely,
Amy Phillip.

So how old would the child Amy have been when she was put up to write this teasing note to Patrick? Sweet seventeen. Surely that would get Patrick and Elizabeth up to Glenurquahart.

Dhivach Cottage
Sunday (Sept 1866)
My dear Allan Fraser
I only received your kind note last night and I write this in the hope that you will get it in time before starting for this place. I cannot tell you how sorry I am that I have made arrangements to leave tomorrow morning to visit my friend Ansdale who is now living in Badenoch. I would put it off gladly if I could so as to meet you and our friend Marshall here but I find I cannot do so as I have been obliged to do so much before. Should you not receive this in time I can only assure you that you and Marshall will be made more welcome and comfortable by all my household and as I am only to be away for a few days I xx may still see each other in this charming Glen but if not I shall see you on my way South as I am to be at Brechin early in Nov.
With kind regards to your wife and Marshall.
Yours ever
John Phillip

Dhivach Cottage
Sunday (11 Nov 1866)
My dear Allan Fraser

I received your kind note but deferred replying until I could say when you might expect me on my way south – I intend to leave this week Wednesday for Aberdeen by way of Cullen House where I expect to be til Friday morning when I shall start for Aberdeen I shall likely remain there till the beginning of next week when I shall come on to you and probably then to Brechin the next day but as usual I am now most anxious to get down [home?] to work for the Academy.
I shall write again from Aberdeen fixing the day you may expect me in Arbroath – with kind regards to your wife and hoping to find you both well. Yours ever, John Phillip

Back in London, John got on with his work, but he hadn't been well for months and when visiting William Powell Frith's studio at Pembridge Villas, a short walk north from JP's own home on Campden Hill Road, while scrutinising a portrait of Charles I that Frith was engaged with... well, this is what Frith wrote in his Autobiography and Reminiscences:

Screen shot 2014-02-12 at 10.07.37

Screen shot 2014-02-12 at 10.08.05

A few months after John Phillip's death, six of his Spanish paintings made a great impression at the RA's Summer Show. But that was then and this is now. I travel to the MacManus Gallery in Dundee to see
Buying the Tickets. The Victoria Gallery boasts authentically period red walls. It's a dense hang as it would have been back in the middle of the Nineteenth Century. But rather than being on the line, JP's large Spanish painting couldn't be any higher on the wall or further into the corner of the gallery. In other words, it's well and truly D d. This is my own photograph of the situation:


Below is the view that can be got by standing away from the wall so that one is not straining the neck. Alas, strip lights become an integral part of the composition:


I obtain a better view of the painting by looking up Your Paintings on my iPad while standing in the gallery. So here is John Phillip's Spanish lottery picture,
Buying the Tickets, which was first exhibited at the RA a few months after his death:

La Loteria Nacional: Buying the Tickets, John Phillip, 1866

Note the priest carefully filing away his lottery ticket. Which presumably comes with a verse from Omar Khayyam's

'A religious man said to a whore, "You're drunk,
Caught every moment in a different snare."
She replied, "Oh, Shaikh, I am what you say,
Are you what you seem?"'

I get on a train and am whisked north to Aberdeen, just as Patrick and John were in their day. At Arbroath I give Hospitalfield a wave but don't get off. At Aberdeen I make my way directly to the city's grand old art gallery. The Victorian paintings here are hung against a green wall, but only two deep, so I get a pretty good look at the second Spanish lottery picture,
Reading the Numbers, the painting that is a pair to the Dundee one, again unfinished at JP's death and shown at the RA a few months later:

La Loteria Nacional: Reading the Numbers, John Phillip, 1866

The people in the picture - mostly the same individuals as in
Buying the Tickets - are almost certain to be disappointed. But I'm not disappointed with the way the jug has been painted, the hand that once held the brush clearly revelled in the materiality of paint and clay.

'From that wine-jug which has no harm in it,
Fill a bowl, boy, drink and pass it to me,
Before by some wayside,
A potter uses your clay and mine for just such a jug.'

Back on the train I do stop at Arbroath, as John Phillip did so often. And I make my way to Hospitalfield until I'm standing in front of this painting:

Evil Eye, John Phillip, 1858

I see it all now. John Phillip is in Spain, separated from his child and Maria Phillip, who is in an asylum. What is John writing in his notebook? Could it be this:

'Though the five cords of fortune support your prop of stability
And on your body life is a fine garment
In the tent of the body which is your shelter
Don't be secure, its four pegs are unstable.'

John turns the page on his notebook and goes on scribbling:

'Rise up my love and solve our problem by your beauty,
Bring a jug of wine to clear our heart
So that we may drink together
Before wine-jugs are made of our clay.'

Maria died in Elmshill House in Aberdeen at the age of 72 in 1893, twenty-six years after her husband.

'When your dear soul and mine have left the body,
They will set on our graves two tiles;
And then, for the tiles on others' graves,
They will set your dust and mine in a mould.'

P6102374 - Version 2

I'm kind of expecting Patrick to whisper into my ear by this stage, even if it's just to say he's had enough of Omar Khayyam. But I find it isn't happening. So I must look to myself for an overview. How strange it must have been for Patrick to bump into someone from his own background in the centre of the emerging art world in London. How intriguing that both of their lives took off after their very different marriages.


But then John and Maria had children, while Patrick and Elizabeth didn't. Moreover, John and Maria's relationship would seem to have foundered, while Patrick and Elizabeth clearly remained devoted to each other. John called on Patrick every time he travelled north, but how often did Patrick see John in London? For many years before his death, John ate a meal on Sunday with Egron Lundgren, the Swedish artist JP had first met on his first trip to Spain. And they met several times during the week over and above that. At least that's what Lundgren wrote in a despairing letter to a friend shortly after John Phillip's premature death.

Letters to friends, that may be the key to this. I think my next step will be to try and access the letters sent to Patrick by William Calder Marshall. That is, the 'Marshall' mentioned in the penultimate letter that John Phillip sent PAF. Perhaps I only say that because William Calder Marshall is responsible for the marble busts of Patrick and Elizabeth that sit below Patrick's painting of himself and his wife that I'm now considering. But I know Marshal wrote a lot of letters to Patrick and that he was based in London and may have met Patrick there as well as at Hospitalfield.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Right now I'm toasting John Phillip, a once talented and famous man, nearly forgotten today. He went to Spain a few times. He worked bloody hard in London and then came north in the autumn.

Jennifer Melville's book, Phillip of Spain, The Life and Art of John Phillip, 1817-1867, published to accompany the 2005 exhibition of the same name at Aberdeen Art Gallery, is available from the shop there.

Thomas Tantalon did the majority of transcribing of the John Phillip letters in the archive at Hospitalfield. He was mainly on the lookout for mentions of William KIdd, another correspondent of Patrick Allan-Fraser's. Thomas's book on WK, which looks to be a fascinating glimpse into how to make a success out of failure, is available

All the translations of The Ruba'iyat of Omar Khayyam I've used in the above text are by Peter Avery and John Heath-Stubbs, a Penguin edition I can't recommend too highly.

On 28 January 2014, Creative Scotland announced it was awarding Hospitalfield Arts £1 million towards the £12 million needed for A New Future for Hospitalfield, a project which will develop the facilities and conserve the collections and architecture left in trust by Patrick and Elizabeth Allan-Fraser. According to Pat, this is brilliant news and augurs well for both contemporary artists and the general public.