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Sunday, April 07, 2019

Sydney Prior Hall

SYDNEY PRIOR HALL
by
Robert J. Kirkpatrick

For collectors of children’s books, Sydney Prior Hall is best-known for his illustrations, alongside those of Arthur Hughes, in the first illustrated edition of Tom Brown’s Schooldays, published in 1869. But in his time he was best-known as an illustrator for the weekly paper The Graphic between 1870 and 1910. He was also a noted painter and portrait artist.

He was born in Newmarket, Suffolk, on 18 October 1842, the first of eight children of Henry Hall (1815-1882), a noted painter of horses and sporting subjects, and his wife Ellen Anne, née Payne (1823-1905). (Note that his name is often incorrectly spelt as “Sidney” – he is also often referred to as “Sydney (or Sidney) P. Hall”, which is how he usually signed his work. However, he occasionally used “S.P. Hall” or “S.P.H.”).

He was educated at Newmarket Grammar School and then, from Easter 1855, at Merchant Taylor’s School, London – at the time of the 1861 census he was living as a boarder (and described as a scholar) at 18 Guilford Street, St. Pancras. He was then awarded a scholarship to Pembroke College, Oxford, where he obtained second classes in classical and modern moderations in 1863 and a first in literae humaniores in 1865. He was later awarded an MA in 1871.

Whilst at Oxford he produced a series of 100 “Oxford Sketches”, caricatures of local people and events, which were privately circulated before Hall had them published by James Ryman, an Oxford printseller and photographer, in 1870. From Oxford, having ignored his father’s desire for him to establish a career in the church, he entered the Royal Academy Schools, and he subsequently exhibited at the Royal Academy 15 times between 1875 and 1910.

In 1870 he joined the staff of the newly-launched The Graphic, established as a rival to The Illustrated London News, after sending in a couple of sketches of Oxford sports and a large drawing of the University Boat Race. His first major commission was to cover the Franco-Prussia War (1870-1871) – famously, his drawings of the siege of Paris were sent to London by balloon. He also wrote about his experiences in a series of articles. A selection of his work from France was later published in Sketches from an Artist’s Portfolio in 1875. (An earlier selection of his Graphic drawings had appeared in 1873.) He subsequently undertook several foreign tours as a Graphic artist, for example accompanying the Prince of Wales on a trip to India in 1875; the Duke of Argyll (better-known as the Marquess of Lorne) on his trips to Canada in 1879 and 1881; and the Duke and Duchess of York when they sailed on the Royal Yacht H.M.S. Ophir to Australia in 1901-1902. Immediately prior to this last trip, he was appointed a Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MOV) in March 1901.

Throughout much of the first half of the 1870s Hall lived, at 39 Birkbeck Road, Islington, with Emma Dinah Holland, born in 1845 in St. Pancras and the daughter of John Holland, a cellarman. They had a son, Henry Reginald Holland Hall, born on 30 September 1873 (although he was not baptized, at St. Mary’s Church, Harrow, Middlesex, until 19 January 1884). Sydney and Emma subsequently married on 14 January 1877 at Islington Register Office, when they were living at 3 Pyrland Villas, Calverley Grove, Archway. (Henry Reginald, usually referred to as Harry Reginald Hall, went to become Keeper of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquaries at the British Museum, and undertook several archeological excavations in the Far East. He received the MBE, and died in 1930.)

Sydney and Emma moved to 10 Lilyville Road, Fulham, and in the mid-1880s moved again to 20 Manor Mansions, Belsize Park Gardens, Hampstead. Between around 1876 and 1885 Sydney had a studio at 7 The Avenue, 76 Fulham Road, having earlier had a studio at 39A Queen’s Square, Bloomsbury. In 1889, the couple moved to 13 Chalcot Gardens, Belsize Park, and Sydney also moved to another studio at 5 Wychcombe Studios, Belsize Park.

As well as being on the staff of The Graphic, where he continued to focus on Royal, political and other major events, Sydney Prior Hall also occasionally worked for other periodicals, such as The Quiver, Dark Blue, London Society, Cassell’s Family Magazine, Harper’s Magazine, Belgravia, The Girl’s Own Paper, The Million, The Golden Penny, The Art Journal and The Sketch. As a book illustrator, he was mainly associated with travel books, several of which contained his illustrations from The Graphic. He also illustrated a handful of children’s books, beginning with the first illustrated edition of Tom Brown’s Schooldays (dated 1869 but actually published in December 1868) in partnership with the illustrator Arthur Hughes. (Hughes was best-known as a Pre-Raphaelite painter and illustrator – he received his art training at the School of Design at Somerset House and then, from 1847, at the Royal Academy Schools.) Hall’s contributions to Tom Brown were a mixture of small sketches of Rugby School and scenes from the novel, 14 drawings in total (whereas Hughes supplied 43).  He went to illustrate the sequel, Tom Brown at Oxford, in 1870. He also illustrated Recollections of Eton (published anonymously in 1870 but written by Charles Frederick Johnstone), a handful of boy’s adventure stories, and a couple of books for younger children.

Emma Hall died at 13 Chalcot Gardens on 6 April 1894. Eight years later, on 4 August 1906 at All Saints Church, Finchley Road, St. John’s Wood, Hall married Mary Lightbody Gow. Born in Islington on 25 December 1851, she was herself an artist and the daughter of James Gow, another artist. (In addition her brother Andrew Garrick Gow was also an artist, who became a member of the Royal Academy in 1891 and later Keeper of the Royal Academy.) Having been trained at Heatherley’s School of Art, Mary Gow had exhibited widely since 1869, with the Royal Society of British Artists and at the Royal Academy. She had also been a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour between 1875 and 1903.

In the 1911 census she and Sydney were recorded at 36 Grove End Road, St. John’s Wood, living with Charles Gow, Mary’s brother who was a widowed bank manager. Between 1910 and 1916 they were also recorded as having a home at 7B Elm Tree Road, St. John’s Wood (the address he gave when he exhibited at the Royal Academy in those years – he went on to exhibit there in 1918, 1919 and 1920).

Sydney Prior Hall died at 36 Grove End Road on 15 December 1922, leaving an estate valued at £1,700 (around £85,000 in today’s terms).  His wife died on 27 May 1929, leaving £28,529.

As an illustrator, Sydney Prior Hall was always referred to in very positive terms. The Graphic commissioned numerous pencil portraits from him, most notably during the hearings of the Parnell Commission (a judicial inquiry into allegations of criminality by the Irish parliamentarian Charles Stewart Parnell in 1888-1889). Hall was present every day, producing over 200 drawings, with The Art Journal later observing (in 1905) that “The fighting figure of Parnell fascinated him, and he brought out the Irish leader’s personality very remarkably. This rendering of character in action necessitates a sense of humour, and in Mr Hall’s sketches appear frequent gleams of that faculty.” The journalist and author George Augustus Sala (in his 1896 autobiography) called him “that prince of rapid sketchers, and master of impressionist effects.”

He was also a prolific painter, in both oils and watercolours, and was a member of the Society of Portrait Painters and The Pastel Society, As well as exhibiting at the Royal Academy, he also exhibited widely elsewhere, including with the Dudley Art Society, the Grosvenor Gallery, and at the Paris Salon in 1904. Many of his portraits are held by the National Portrait Gallery. He was a founder member of the Arts and Literature Dilettetante Society in 1880, and in the mid-1890s he became a member of the International Society of Wood Engravers. He was also a member of the Savage Club.


PUBLICATIONS

Books written and illustrated by Sydney Prior Hall
Oxford Sketches, James Ryman, 1870
The Travellers’ Sketch Book: Pictures of People and Places in Europe, “The Graphic”, 1873
Sketches from an Artist’s Portfolio, Sampson Low, Marston, Low & Searle, 1875
Key Book to “Oxford Sketches”, Oxford Union, 1909

Books illustrated by Sydney Prior Hall
The Comic Aldrich: An Attempt to Induce Oxford Men to Chop Logic Instead of Cutting It by H.D. Traill, T. & G. Shrompton, 1866
Tom Brown’s Schooldays by Thomas Hughes, Macmillan & Co., 1868 (with Arthur Hughes) (re-issue)
From London Bridge to Lombardy by a Macadamised Route by W.R. Richardson, Sampson Low, Son & Marston, 1869
Recollections of Eton by Charles Frederick Johnstone, Chapman & Hall, 1870
Lost, or What Became of a Slip from “Honour Bright” by John Christopher Atkinson, Sampson Low, Son & Marston, 1870
Tom Brown at Oxford by Thomas Hughes, Macmillan & Co., 1870 (re-issue)
Old Town Folk by anon. (Harriet Beecher Stowe), Sampson Low, Son & Marston, 1870 (re-issue)
All Round the World: Adventures in Europe, Asia, Africa and America by Parker Gillmore, Chapman & Hall, 1871
Ben Burton, or Born and Bred at Sea by W.H.G. Kingston, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1872
Clara Vaughan by R.D. Blackmore, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1872
The Parisians with a prefatory note by Edward Bulwer Lytton, W. Blackwood & Sons, 1873
The Law and the Lady by Wilkie Collins, Chatto & Windus, 1867 (with other artists)
The Princes of Wales’ Tour: A Diary in India etc. etc. by Sir Howard Russell, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1877
Adventures in Many Lands by Parker Gillmore, Marcus Ward & Co., 1879
Canadian Pictures, Drawn with Pen and Pencil by John Douglas Cambell, Religious Tract Society, 1884 (with other artists)
Old England’s Story in Little Words for Little Children by “Brenda”, Hatchards, 1884 (with other artists)
Round the Ring: Stories, Pictures and Poems for All the Year, Worthington & Co., 1887
Our Little Dots’ Picture Scrap Book, Religious Tract Society, 1890 (with other artists)
Charles Stewart Parnell: An Illustrated Biography, “The Daily Graphic”, 1891(?) (with other artists)
Artistic Travel in Normandy, Brittany, the Pyranees, Spain and Algeria by Henry Blackburn, Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1892 (with other artists)
Parliamentary Pictures and Personalities, Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1893 (with other artists)
Czar and Sultan: The Adventures of a British Lad in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 by Archibald Forbes, J.W. Arrowsmith, 1894
The King’s Reeve and How He Supped with His Master by Edward Gilliat, Seeley & Co., 1898
The Web of Empire: A Diary of the Imperial Tour of their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York in 1901 by Donald Mackenzie Wallace, Macmillan & Co., 1902 (with Eduardo de Martino)
Cassell’s History of England, Cassell & Co., 1902 (part-work) (with other artists) (re-issue)
Western Odyssey 1881 by John Douglas Campbell, Public Archives of Canada, 1975

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