Robin Hood entertaining Richard the Lionheart in Sherwood Forest
Daniel Maclise’s (1806-1870) large painting, titled Robin Hood entertaining Richard the Lionheart in Sherwood Forest (1839) is probably the most well-known interpretation of the legend on canvas. Versions of this colourful work of art have appeared on countless book covers about the outlaw down the years.
As you can see Robin Hood, centre stage, is wearing a scarlet tunic. This is a direct reference to the ballad, Robin Hood and Queen Catherine. Maid Marian is seated in a bower, a reference to the May Games and her role as the Queen of the May. In the background you can just about make out the targets being moved closer; a reference to the Geste and how the targets were too far away for King Edward's men. Little John stands on the left of the picture holding one of the king's deer. Friar Tuck is seen slouching in front of an oak tree.
Maclise was born in Cork, in 1806 from a humble background which he later tried to conceal. He was the eldest of seven children and was educated at a local English School where he developed a talent for drawing and caricature. His creative ability attracted attention from several influential patrons and in 1822 he became one of the first students and the newly established ‘Society for Promoting the Fine Arts’. When Sir Walter Scott visited Cork in 1825, Maclise made a sketch of him that was lithographed, and that inaugurated his public career.
Once he left Cork in the late summer of 1827 Maclise spent nearly all the rest of his life in England where he felt completely at ease and eventually lived in a beautiful house in 4 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, in London.
In 1828, Maclise was enrolled as a student of painting in the Royal Academy (RA) and a year later was awarded the Silver Medal for antique drawing and in 1831 the Gold Medal for History Painting. His fascination with history would become the foundation of his later career.
Maclise travelled to Ireland a year later and painted two famous works associated with his Irish material: All Hallows Eve (or Snap Apple Night) and The Installation of Captain Rock. From the 1830’s to 1840’s Maclise was prolific as an illustrator, which included fantastical work for Thomas Crofton Croker's Fairy Legends in 1826 , Thomas Moore's lavish Irish Melodies (1845), Lord Tennyson's Poems (1857). He also produced designs for Charles Dickens’s Christmas Books and during the early 1830s he executed a series of portraits of literary and other celebrities of the time, including his friend Dickens, as well as caricatures, which were afterwards published as the Maclise Portrait Gallery (1871).
In 1839 he completed his oil on canvas (72 in. x 144.1in.) Robin Hood Entertaining Richard the Lionheart in Sherwood Forest (re-touched in 1845).
In 1843 Queen Victoria purchased his Scene from Undine to present to Prince Albert on his birthday. The Prince in his turn commissioned Maclise to execute one of the frescoes in the Garden Pavilion at Buckingham Palace. . . This was followed by commissions for two frescoes in the New Palace of Westminster: The Spirit of Chivalry completed in 1848 and The Spirit of Justice completed in 1849.
In 1857 he agreed to paint two huge frescoes in the Royal Gallery in the new Parliament buildings, and in 1859 he began The Meeting of Wellington and Blucher on the walls of Westminster Palace. It was begun in fresco, a process which proved unmanageable, and he asked if he could resign from the task. But after being encouraged by Prince Albert, Maclise travelled across to Berlin to study ‘the new medium of water-glass painting.’
So he carried on with his project and its pendant, The Death of Nelson, but it was not completed until 1865 and the effort completely undermined his health. Maclise’s spirit seemed to have been broken and he turned his back on public life. He refused a knighthood and presidency of the Royal Academy and sadly passed away of acute pneumonia on the 25th April 1870.
Labels: Images of a Legend