This humoristic small scene shows you that Victorian painting and society were not always that serious and dull as most of us think. The subject is a mystery.
As to the Japanese screen and bowl they testify of the huge interest for Japan, a country that remained closed for two hundred years until 1854.
About Alfred Holst Tourrier
London 1836 – 1892 London
Genre and figure painter.
Also known as Turban Alfred Holst Tourrier.
His father Jean Furcy Tourrier was born in Paris in 1800. He arrived in London before 1830 and settled here as a professor of drawing and of French (he wrote many books about learning French). During the 1830s and 1840s he exhibited his drawings at the Royal Academy in London. Our painter and his little-known brother Gustave Leon Furcy both studied under their father. All children seem to have had rather sophisticated names.
Their mother Constantia Eleonora von Holst (1805 – 1877) was born in London in 1805. Her German father, a musician attached to the Imperial Russian Court in Saint Petersburg, had moved here via Riga in Latvia in the early 1800s. Constantia’s brother, Theodor (1810 – 1844), the uncle of our painter, was a British Romantic, literary painter who had trained under Henry Fuseli in London.
Alfred married an 18 years younger woman of Scottish origin; the couple had no children.
About our painting
Tourrier’s style and taste was typical of the Victorian period: he loved Medieval and Renaissance subjects which he depicted with a lot of seriousness.
Our painting seems to be the only one in which he actually went for a humoristic, caricatured approach. It is a funny, witty, theatrical, small gem, in which he used a most unusual green-blue colour.
Its subject is a mystery to me: the pompous gentlemen seem 18th century, but the Japanese screen at right is firmly rooted in his own contemporary society. Until 1854 Japan had closed its borders for twohundred years, remaining in a splendid isolation. European artists got obsessed with Japanese prints and the general public was addicted to Japanese screens, fans, umbrellas, porcelain and lacquer objects.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it proves that Victorian society was not as serious and dull as many want us to believe. Tourrier was a rather boring craftsman who surpassed himself in this one bright and exciting little painting.
Might the gentleman sitting at the far right in front of the screen actually be a self-portrait? There is a fair chance.