STUDY OF A RECLINING NUDE WITH FURTHER FIGURE STUDIES
Pencil and black & green chalk heightened with white on buff paper
28 x 37cm
Christopher Wood Gallery, New Bond St., London
Thomas Matthews Rooke first studied art at evening classes in London, before becoming a pupil at the School of Design in South Kensington and then the Royal Academy Schools. In 1869, he applied to work at Morris & Company, and was seconded to work as a Studio Assistant to Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones. Rooke came to regard the older artist 'a Demi God or kind of Divine Creature,' with Rooke in turn affectionately called 'little Rooke' by his teacher. Rooke became ma close friend of Burtne-Jones', and wrote down many of their conversations during his last few years in the studio with him, creating a lasting record of his master's thoughts and character, and showing the extent of Rooke's involvement in the creation of many of Burne-Jones's works. After Burne-Jones' death, Rooke gave these records to the artist's widow Georgiana, who used them as reference in her memorial to her husband.
Although he is best-remembered for his architectural watercolours, Rooke began his artistic career as a typical Pre-Raphaelite: he painted a number of figure subjects in oils, often mythological or classical in subject, mainly during the early part of his career when he was Burne-Jones's studio assistant. Few artists embodied the Bedford Park spirit more completely than Rooke, who was not only closely associated with Burne-Jones, William Morris and Ruskin throughout his career, but lived in the area from its earliest days until his death at the age of ninety-nine in 1942.
From 1878-1893 Rooke worked for John Ruskin (who hired him from Morris & Co. directly), recording distinctive continental achitecture throughout Europe that Ruskin feared was at risk, alongside half a dozen other artists employed for Ruskin's project. The founding of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings by William Morris and other members of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood in 1877 provided ample opportunity for Rooke, whose attention to architectural detailing was meticulous.