Marks, Henry Stacey (DNB01)

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MARKS, HENRY STACY (1829–1898), artist, the youngest of four children, was born on 13 Sept. 1829 in Great Portland Street, West, and baptised in All Souls', Langham Place. His father, Isaac Daniel Marks, after practising for a time as a solicitor in Bloomsbury, took to his father's business of a coach-builder in Langham Place. The artist's father was a devoted student of Shakespeare, which accounts for the subjects of some of his earliest paintings. The firm, Marks & Co., prospered at first, and it was understood that Henry should carry it on. His talent for drawing was shown very early, and when he left school he studied heraldry, so that he might be able to paint the crests and coats of arms on carriage doors and panels. Sufficient employment of this kind was quickly found for him in his father's business, but at the same time he attended evening classes at the well-known art school in Newman Street of James Mathews Leigh [q. v.] In 1851, having failed in the previous year, he obtained admission to the Academy schools, but continued his studies with Leigh. A picture called 'Hamlet, Horatio, Osric,' painted in 1851, was hung in the Portland Gallery with Rossetti's 'Annunciation.' (Hatherley, Leigh's successor, sat for the Hamlet.) The possessor of much dry humour, and a good comic actor, Marks was deservedly popular and never wanted friends among artists. The closest in those early days were Philip Hermogenes Calderon, Mr. Val Prinsep, Mr. W. W. Ouless, Mr. G. A. Storey, and Mr. Alfred Parsons.

In January 1852 he stayed for five months in Paris with Calderon. He studied first with M. Picot, pupil of David, and afterwards in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. In his absence his father's firm failed, and from that time forward he had to depend solely on his own exertions.

In 1853 he exhibited for the first time at the Royal Academy. His work was a half-length of 'Dogberry.' 'With many other students,' Marks wrote, 'I was much influenced by the pre-Raphaelite school, and that influence was very evident in the picture.' It was placed next to Holman Hunt's 'Strayed Sheep,' had the advantage of being very well hung, and found a purchaser. Henceforth Marks was a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy, and he soon found a generous admirer in Charles Edward Mudie [q. v.], the founder of Mudie's Library. Before 1860 Mudie bought two of his most important paintings, 'Toothache in the Middle Ages' (1856), and 'Dogberry's Charge to the Watch' (1859). To the same period belonged the 'Gravedigger's Riddle,' which he also sold. Next in point of interest came the 'Franciscan Sculptor's Model,' a very humorous subject: the matter in hand a gargoyle; the model a country bumpkin, with features burlesqued to convey the idea of spouting. In 1860 Mudie invited Marks to accompany him to Belgium, and in 1863 he repeated the visit with his friends Yeames and Hodgson. In the 'Jester's Text,' painted in 1862, there are traces of Flemish influence.

In order to supplement his resources Marks did much besides painting pictures. He practised drawing on wood, contributed cuts to a paper called 'The Home Circle,' and illustrated some books. He also taught drawing for a short time, was largely employed by the firm of Clayton & Bell, the makers of stained glass, and did decorative work of all sorts. He designed the proscenium both for the Gaiety Theatre, London, and the Prince's Theatre, Manchester. The merit of his varied work attracted Ruskin's attention, and letters from Ruskin show how sincere was his appreciation of Marks's work. The studies in natural history, in which Marks in course of time specialised, particularly appealed to Ruskin, who saw in Marks's animals characteristics not unlike those which he discerned in Turner and Bewick. Marks all his life was a close observer of the ways of birds, and his excellent drawings of them came to be very popular. Though not altogether in sympathy with Marks's high spirits and humour, Ruskin would not have him repress it. 'Some very considerable part of the higher painter's gift in you,' he wrote to Marks, 'is handicapped by that particular faculty (i.e. humour), which nevertheless, being manifestly an essential and inherent part of you, cannot itself be too earnestly developed.'

In 1874 an introduction to Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, first duke of Westminster [q. v. Suppl.], resulted in commissions for the paintings in Eaton Hall, Cheshire. His first undertaking was a frieze representing the Canterbury Pilgrims, which occupies two walls of a large saloon. They are painted on lengths of canvas more than thirty-five feet in extent. The designs for the work, executed in water-colours, were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1875. The paintings, commenced in 1876, were completed in 1878. There followed a further commission for paintings of birds for the walls of a smaller room.

These birds (twelve panels in all) were exhibited at Agnew's Gallery in May 1880. Ruskin wrote of them: 'I must say how entirely glad I am to see the strength of a good painter set upon Natural History, and this intense fact and abstract of animal character used as a principal element in Decoration.' Marks executed similar decorative work for Stewart Hodgson's houses in South Audley Street, London, and Lythe Hill, Haslemere.

In 1862 Marks removed from Camden Town to Hamilton Terrace, St. John's Wood. With Regent's Park close at hand, he pursued his studies of birds, and he and some friends who lived near founded the artists' club known as the 'Clique.' Among his most intimate friends were Frederick Walker and Charles Keene. He had first met Walker at the Langham Society's Sketching Club, and Walker's twin-sister married Marks's younger brother.

In January 1871 Marks was elected, together with Walker and Woolner, to the associateship of the Royal Academy. He had exhibited there in the previous year 'St. Francis preaching to the Birds.' He was admitted an associate of the Water-colour Society in the following March. After the appearance of 'Convocation' in the summer of 1878 he was elected a full member of the Academy. His diploma work, 'Science is Measurement,' is one of his finest achievements. In 1883 he was elected a full member of the Royal Water-colour Society. The chief of his later works are 'The Ornithologist,' 1873; 'Jolly Post Boys,' 1875; 'The Apothecary,' 1876; 'The Gentle Craft,' 1883; 'The Professor,' 1883; 'A Good Story,' 1885; 'The Hermit and Pelicans,' 1888; 'News in the Village,' 1889; 'An Odd Volume,' 1894. In 1889 and again in 1890 he delighted the art-loving world with exhibitions of birds at the rooms of the Fine Art Society in Bond Street; but it is not only on these that his reputation depends. The best of the subject-pieces are equally good of their kind. All his oil paintings are in pure colour, and their freshness of hue shows at present no diminution. His land and sea scapes in watercolours also have notable serenity and breadth. His favoured resort was the Suffolk coast, and he painted many scenes round Southwold and Walberswick.

In 1896, on account of failing health, he joined the 'retired' Academicians. He died at St. Edmund's Terrace, Primrose Hill, on 9 Jan. 1898, and was buried in Hampstead cemetery. He was twice married: first, in 1856, to Helen Drysdale; and secondly, in 1893, to Mary Harriet Kempe.

A some what rambling autobiography which Marks wrote in his latest years appeared after his death, under the title 'Pen and Pencil Sketches,' 2 vols. 1894. His portrait was frequently painted. A half-length showing the profile painted by Mr. Ouless may be considered the best. Another portrait was by Calderon. A water-colour drawing by Mr. Herkomer, done at one sitting, is exact as a likeness and splendidly drawn.

[Marks's Pen and Pencil Sketches, 1894, 2 vols.; Times, 11 and 14 Jan. 1898; Life and Letters of Frederick Walker, by Marks's nephew, John George Marks, 1896; private information.]

E. R.