Walter Goodman's "The Printseller"

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This weekend will mark the 170th anniversary of the birth of Walter Goodman to the portrait painter Julia Salaman Goodman and her husband, Louis Goodman. Walter Goodman grew up to be a fairly well-known painter, illustrator, and author in his time, but in recent years he has not been as well-known, partly because the present whereabouts of most of his works of art are unknown. Some flossy facts to get you acquainted with this talented British artist and his 1883 painting, "The Printseller"...

1. Goodman was reputedly the first English artist to receive a commission from a Chinese. In 1878, the Chinese minister to the Court of Berlin, Liu Hsi-Hung, commissioned Goodman to copy Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato's "Madonna in Prayer," which was in the National Gallery.

2. "The Printseller" is a tromp l'oeil, or "trick the eye," painting of a printseller's window, so the objects appear to be three-dimensional. The printseller himself is included in image, along with books, coins, vases, a teacup, a necklace, statues, and photographs, six of which depict great Victorian painters.

3. Goodman was a fan of the theater, and had even staged a play with his siblings in 1859 that received glowing reviews. Many of Goodman's portraits are of Mary Anne Keeley, an English actress, whom Goodman highly admired and with whom he appeared in an 1884 production at the Prince of Wales theater. In 1895, Goodman published an appreciation of the whole theatrical Keeley family entitled The Keeleys on the Stage and at Home; it contained engravings of several of his portraits of Keeley.

4. With his wife, Clara Isabel, Goodman had five children: Walter Russell, Joaquin, Reginald, Julia, and Keeley. Presumably, Joaquin was named after Goodman's good friend and fellow artist, Joaquín Cuadras, Julia after Goodman's mother, Julia Salaman Goodman, and Keeley after the Keeley family.

5. Goodman contributed a weekly essay, "People I Have Painted," to Sala's Journal for several months in 1893. In each essay, Goodman described the often humorous circumstances surrounding a specific painting, including those of Napoleon III, Prince Leopold, His Excellency Kuo Sung Tao, Mary Anne Keeley, and Jack Sheppard.

6. The Jewish Chronicle commissioned Goodman to draw a study of his own mother, the portrait painter Julia Salaman Goodman, for her 90th birthday in 1902.

A larger, zoomable version of "The Printseller" is available here.

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May 8, 2008 - 11:17am
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