Thursday, 7 October 2010

the fishing monks of dendy sadler*


This is a headline in the current Classic Angling. If I thought I was agog when I read this then I didn't know what agog was, because the strapline underneath reads:
The pictures of monks by Dendy Sandler have captivated more than just anglers. But as David Beazley points out in this extract from his book Images of Angling, the pictures were probably never part of a set, and his fishing monks are actually friars
Wow! Dendy Sadler sounds like an idiot!

There is a Saki story, one of my favourites, about a painter whose irritating neighbour demands he 'do something' about an ox that has got into her living room. He paints a picture of it. It is a sensation, and thereafter, all he ever sells is pictures of large animals indoors. Well, in 1875, aged about 20, he exhibited Steady, Brother, Steady!, a picture of fishing monks. I haven't been able to find a copy of it online, but it has a big pike in it.

Beazley writes,
If Steady, Brother, Steady! Had given Sadler his first taste of fame, his next depiction of monks fishing consolidated it. Thursday is probably his most famous picture. Painted in 1880 and exhibited at the Royal Academy later that year, it was acquired by Sir Henry Tate and was one of the first three pictures that he bought in anticipation of his Tate Gallery, which he opened in 1897.
Needless to say, 'Further paintings of monks fishing followed.'

But, a Canadian Professor called Hoffman says, Dendy Sadler is very misleading about monks. The habits are those of friars, who did not live in walled communities as shown in the backgrounds, and who wouldn't have been allowed to fish for food as a leisure activity. An art historian friend of his adds, the picture 'can say no more about medieval monks and their fishponds than Asterix can say about ancient Gaul.'

* This sounds like the title of a Morse episode from the classic period.

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