The Art of Mr. Fred Morgan

by John Oldcastle

Popularity was not long ago alluded to in the language of paradox as an "insult" -- the only "insult" not then offered to Mr. Whistler -- an artist whom, bythe way, Mr. Fred Morgan, with far different methods and aims, very heartily admires. But since all the world and his wife and daughter have flocked to Regent Street, not even Whistlerians -- and everybody is now a Whistlerian -- can speak of public appreciation as a stigma. One is quite sure that an artist like Mr. Fred Morgan never needed any persuasion on that point. He did not flout appreciation. He never wished for a public to astonish, only for a public to please. That he has succeeded in finding what he wanted is daily attested by the groups that gather before his canvases in exhibitions and, above all, before the reproductions of his works that hail the passer-by from the windows of the printsellers in the city's surging thoroughfares and in those havens - the streets of country towns.

Not long ago, civic authority raised a finger of menace against the outer shelf of the second-hand booksellers in Charing Cross Road. Their trespass on the street was an admitted offence against the by-laws; but it was one which the public easily condoned. Defenders of the threatened trade recalled how, in the past, one celebrity after another had found his first academy of literature in the book-barrow; and how, in the present, the offered books upon the outer shelves in Charing Cross Road were weekly handled by authors of mark, by students to whom library fees and hours were prohibitive, by the Prime .Minister of England himself! Assuredly the printseller seconds his neighbour, the old-bookseller, as an educator, and with a more immediate appeal to the emotions. The early history of American art shows us, moreover, liow all-influential was a single imported picture of merit in the formation of a nation's school. If it was at sight of a Cimabue that Giotto cried: "I, too, am a painter!"and if our own Sir Joshua's powers were evoked by a visit to Venice, it is no very far cry to say that the window of the printscller in a provincial town may become the magic mirror in which the draughtsman of to-morrow discovers himself. The artists whose works predominate those windows can thenceforth include themselves among veritable Masters of Arts; and of that lucky number is the painter whose name stands at the head of this article.

Mr. Fred Morgan was "born in u studio," as the adapted saying goes; for his father was an artist, and from his father he learned all that he knows. That father's training was, therefore, in some sense his son's; and it was gained in Paris. Couture, the master of so many pupils, was the master of Morgan pere among the rest. John Morgan was a member of the Society of British Artists, as well as a constant exhibitor at the Royal Academy. He was popularly known as "Jury .Morgan," owing to his success with a picture, "The Gentlemen of the Jury," published as an engraving by Messrs. Henry Graves.

Born in London, Fred Morgan spent his youth in County Bucks. His father had a strong belief that an artistic career must be begun early, if at all, so he took his son away from school at fourteen and himself suiterintended the boy's studies from the antique.

Morgan the elder decided to give Morgan the younger a chance at the Arts. He put him on his mettle to produce something that would justify the choice. The youth entered into the spirit of the thing. He saw his opportunity and lie took it. He had never worked so hard before; he has never since worked so hard; and no Dickens, dropping his first article into the letter-lwx of a newspaper, awaited the result with greater anxiety, with more hope at one moment, more fear at another, than this young artist awaited the verdict of his father, a verdict to be governed by the traditions -- no mean ones -- inherited in the studio of the classic Couture. The decision was in his favour; and his serious apprenticeship to the craft of painter began. A course of lessons in Edinburgh was taken: but that it had no great influence on his career may be judged by the abounding measure of his acknowledgment to the training he had from his father: "He taught me how to make pictures, Mr. Fred Morgan has said: and that, one may add, is just what many a student of the Academy, for instance, leaves the Schools without having learned to do. The father lived to see how well the lessons he gave had been taken to heart -- happy father and happy son!

The next stage in his career is thus recalled by the artist: "My father hoped to make me an engraver, and with that object he consulted his friend Siininoiids, who reproduced 'The Light of the World,' by Holman Hunt; but Simmonds required £400 with an apprentice, which put the matter quite out of consideration. So I was taught painting, and at the age of sixteen I sent a picture to the Royal Academy, the subject being 'The Rehearsal'—two old musicians prae tising for the village choir. To my astonishment and delight, this first effort was hung; and well I r e member the foggy morning of the Varnishing Day, as I accompanied my father to the old gallery in Trafalgar Square. Th e elderly artists at the entrance asked if 1 had brought my pap - spoon. Still, there in one of the small rooms, on the wall, near the ground, was immodest production, looking, I thought, so tiny, but very careful as to finish. This was long before the days of the much-discussed Dado at Burlington House. Still greater was my delight when the news c a m e t h a t m y picture was selected by a collector, for purchase at the Private View, for £20. With such an encouraging success at so early an age, I ought to have made more progress than I did: but, perhaps, being the only boy in the town of Aylesbury following the profession, thus lacking emulation, and also not being very robust in health, I seemed to lose heart, and was hardly surprised when at nineteen my father decided that I should never be worth my salt at painting, and intimated that I had better try some other occupation."

With this end in view. Mr. Morgan's father sent him to town, after giving him his dot —a five-pound note: and the youth, while it lasted, hunted the advertisement columns of newspapers and haunted the warehouses and offices in which there was a hint of a vacancy. Somehow, there was no room for him in the City. When he joined the queue of applicants, the attitude of those about him proclaimed him an alien: and, as he ascended the steps down which others were retreating, they shook their heads at him and exclaimed: "No use your climbing up there." Looking back now, Mr. Fred Morgan can no doubt bless the hands that rejected him; for to him it was given, in his own measure, to exercise the Napoleonic faculty of evolving a victory out of a defeat.

But defeat it seemed to be for the moment. The young man had to return home as one of the unemployed, and at a family council it was decided that he must once more try to become a successful artist. And then a small opening arose out of local circumstance. A photographer in Aylesbury wanted some portraits painted for clients who were not content with family photographs only. The young artist was offered the work, and eagerly accepted it. This led to his early return to London with specimens of his work, which he showed to various photographic firms, with the happy result of many remunerative portrait commissions. For three years he found a busy life and sufficient income in this work, and at the same time was was hardly surprised when at nineteen my father decided that I should never be worth my salt at painting, and intimated that I had better try some other occupation."

With this end in view. Mr. Morgan's father sent him to town, after giving him his dot -- a five-pound note: and the youth, while it lasted, hunted the advertisement columns of newspapers and haunted the warehouses and offices in which there was a hint of a vacancy. Somehow, there was no room for him in the City. When he joined the queue of applicants, the attitude of those about him proclaimed him an alien: and, as he ascended the steps down which others were retreating, they shook their heads at him and exclaimed: "No use your climbing up there." Looking back now, Mr. Fred Morgan can no doubt bless the hands that rejected him; for to him it was given, in his own measure, to exercise the Napoleonic faculty of evolving a victory out of a defeat.

But defeat it seemed to be for the moment. The young man had to return home as one of the unemployed, and at a family council it was decided that he must once more try to become a successful artist. And then a small opening arose out of local circumstance. A photographer in Aylesbury wanted some portraits painted for clients who were not content with family photographs only. The young artist was offered the work, and eagerly accepted it. This led to his early return to London with specimens of his work, which he showed to various photographic firms, with the happy result of many remunerative portrait commissions. For three years he found a busy life and sufficient income in this work, and at the same time was able to paint sundry "subject" pictures as well as the portraits.

Gradually he was to relinquish the work for the photographers, but to this day he has never looked upon those three years as wasted time. The work in hand taught him to observe closely and to give the greatest attention to detail, and the successful artist of today considers that he could hardly have had a better training at that age, since he does not agree with the engraver, Thomas Landseer, that "photography is the foe to graphic art."

In 1874, Mr. Morgan received the kindest encouragement from Messrs. Agnew and Sons, who purchased all he could do for several years; and during this period he produced many of his most appreciated pictures, "The Haymakers," " Emigrants' Departure," "After the Reapers' Work is Done," ".School Belles," "Charity." These were all painted in or near the village of Shere, near Guildford, a favourite artists' haunt. Here he had the good fortune to meet such men as Frank Walton, P.R.I., John Reid, John White, and J. L. Pickering.

Since those days he has painted in Norm andy, p rod u c i n g "Midday Rest," "An Apple Gatheri n g,'' and "Mead owSweet." He has lived three years at Ventnor, in the Isle of Wight, where he painted "The Sunshine of his Heart," "The First Birthday," "Don't be Frightened," "Steady," "A Willing Hand," " Off for the Honeymoon," and many others; but for the most part the geography of his pictures, sea-s ho re, woodland, or village green, has been the result of assimilation rather than of actual reproduction.

Old age and youth are extremes that often meet, and always in amity, on the canvas of Mr. Fred Morgan. The burden of the tears of children is one of the bitterest to be borne in contemporary life: there are those among social workers who hear even in their dreams the wail of uncared-for infancy.

And well may the children weep before yon;
They are weary ere they mu;
They have never seen the sunshine; nor the glory
Which is brighter than the sun.

Is it well or ill that no echo of Mrs. Browning's poem comes to us from the studios that witness the making of such pictures as "Meadow-Sweet," "Oranges and Lemons," "Hide and Seek," or "Watching and Waiting"? -- all pictures of happy child life. Mr. Fred Morgan's "Tired Gleaners" are not tired in heart or brain: and his "Heavy Load" is nothing more burdensome than a basket of apples. The art that is idyllic may have its weak point in ethics; it may be conceived in that Paradise that is the Fool's. But another reading is perhaps the truer. The ideal of the shop-window may become the reality of the street. Such pictures may at least set a fashion; they may be a declaration of the child's right to happiness far more eloquent than any that is made by the dull people who want to go to Parliament and are punished by getting there. We may hold our belief in this apostolate of the printseller's window firmly and yet sanely, though the theory has its obvious pitfalls.

Mr. Fred Morgan does not come out as a conscious combatant; his studio is not already a camp at Armageddon. But nobody can mistake the ensign he flies in the marketplaces of Art, or doubt to which army it belongs. If evil can be ultimately best described in the line of Wordsworth, as, " all that is at enmity with joy," we have in liis pictures only such good as is on terms with happiness. The gardens of his choosing are not those wherein the serpent lurks; in his "Roses and Thorns," it is but the unsentient raiment of the maiden that is pierced ; and such canvases as "The Willing Hand," or "Grandfather's Birthday," show old age with no terrors, and youth as the heir of ages that leave no legacy of regret. We get enough of the reverse of the medal in our art, in our literature, in our lives, to be grateful to the painter who will put up for the popular eye a very different pattern. Of old, the balladmaker, no great poet either, was the maker, too, of the emotions of men. The balladmaker is banished from modern pavements; in every direction we see that the appeal is made now to the eye rather than to the ear; the thing seen prevails and is influential, rather than the thing heard.

Of all the great discoveries -- or rediscoveries -- of the last century, the child is surely the greatest. The eighteenth century saw his cenotaph in literature; but the child was not really buried; he sallied forth in the poetry of Wordsworth and of Blake. Art— the art of Gainsborough and of Reynolds— had led the way; and the children who bloomed upon their canvases have proved to be the parents of an immortal brood. They were the first of "the darling young " in English art; but their race is still renewed on the earth. The child is the favourite model, despite his disqualifications as a sitter. Mr. Fred Morgan has found sitters among his own children, and he has found them outside his own circle wherever he has worked—in town, at Norwood once, and now at Broadstairs. An artist of his era in his choice of child-subjects, he is also of his generation in his methods, reminding us in his sympathies now of this con temporary, now of that. Yet he has kept to his own chosen way with the vigilance of a palmer, the shrine of childhood always before him as his goal. Where is the child, his Holy Land is there. On that heavenly city he has kept a single eye. And the painter who acknowledges his debt to his own father has to-day the satisfaction of seeing one of his own sons emerge from the role of model in his father's pictures into that of successful artist. For the painter known as Val Havers, who has been represented by several idyllic landscapes and figure subjects at the Royal Academy, is none other than the eldest son of Mr. Fred Morgan.

Though a member of the Society of Oil Painters, Mr. Morgan's successes have been made mostly at Burlington House. Towards the Royal Academy he looks with more hope and appreciation than is common. And he has exhibited no less than fifty-seven pictures on its walls.

Mr. Morgan much admires the work of Mr. Clausen and Mr. La Thangue, the latter being the best talker on art that he knows. The artist "lives by admiration" quite as much as on it; and two of Mr. Fred Morgan's special admirations are given to Raphael and Lndwig Knaus. Some of the paintings of children made by the Director of the German Academy, Mr. Fred Morgan considers equal to anything of the kind that Raphael himself ever did. The Knaus influence on his work is apparent -- if not to ethers, at any rate to Mr. Morgan himself.

The Windsor Magazine - an Illustrated Monthly for Men and Women. Vol XXII. June to November, 1905. London. Ward Lock & Co., Limited. Warwick House, Salisbury Square, E. C.



Frederick Morgan (1847/1856 - 1927), was an English painter of portraits, animals, domestic and country scenes. He became famous for his idyllic genre scenes of childhood.

Morgan was born in London. He was commonly known as Fred Morgan and was the son of John Morgan, a successful genre artist sometimes known as 'Jury Morgan' (after one of his paintings "The Gentlemen of the Jury"). At the age of fourteen he was taken out of school by his father who then tutored him in art. At the age of 16, while still studying with his father, his first picture, "The Rehearsal," was exhibited at the Royal Academy, and, after a hiatus of several years, his paintings were shown there regularly. For a while he worked as a portrait artist for an Aylesbury photographer, this training proved to be crucial as it "taught him how to observe closely and to give the greatest attention to detail."

Eventually he turned to other subjects for his art, in particular idyllic genre scenes of country life and childhood. For many years, starting in 1874, Thomas Agnew & Sons' purchased all the work he produced. Over this period he painted some of his most popular works such as "The Doll’s Tea Party" (1874), "Emigrants' Departure" (1875) and "School Belles" (1877). Most of his painting was done in the village of Shere close to Guildford, a well-known retreat for artists. He also painted in Normandy, including "Midday Rest" (1879) and "An Apple Gathering" (1880).

Although an excellent portrait artist, Morgan had problems in depicting pets and barnyard animals -- he enlisted the aid of either Arthur John Elsley or Allen Sealey (1850–1927) when such problems needed resolving.

He is known mostly for his romantic and sentimental paintings of children in the same style as his contemporary Arthur John Elsley. His paintings achieved great popularity in his lifetime and were widely published. He exhibited with the Royal Academy and was a member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI).

In 1872 he married another painter, Alice Mary Havers (1850–1890); they had three children. Their eldest son, known as Val Havers, also developed into a painter. Frederick Morgan married twice more, producing two children from the second marriage.

Morgan's paintings are exhibited at many art galleries and museums including the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and the Russell-Cotes Museum in Bournemouth. "His Turn Next," was used to advertise Pears' Soap and is in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight. --

Frederick Morgan, R.O.I. (1847-1927) was the eldest son of John Morgan, R.B.A. (1823-1885). He married a talented fellow artist named Alice Havers, S.W.A. (1850-1890) on 13 April 1872. Initially they both exhibited small canvases of urban London, domestic, and mainly interior scenes. After the opening of the Royal Academy Summer exhibition, in early May, many London-based artists left the metropolis in search of settings for their future works.



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