Original Egerton Sketches made on the spot in Mexico
in the 1830s

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125. EGERTON, Daniel Thomas. Three original sketches, as listed below. Mexico, 1830s. Provenance: All three sketches are from the collection of a descendant of Egerton (accompanied by a letter from the owner stating such and describing the three sketches).

[1]       “San Miguel del Soldado May 1835. D.T.E.” Original finished sketch, sepia wash, black ink, and pencil on paper, signed by Egerton with initials; title and date in his hand, verso with old ink note: “Mexico, D.T. Egerton.” Image: 23.2 x 31.9 cm. Some minor spotting and edge browning where formerly framed. Attached to old acidic paper. [Mexico], 1835. Expertly delineated is a village with handsome church, thatched hut, and lean-to in mid-ground, team carrying a litter in the foreground, and backdrop of majestic mountains. This finished sketch done in Mexico evolved into one of Egerton’s finished oil paintings on canvas dated 1836 (“San Miguel del Soldado above Jalapa, Mexico”; 18.4 by 25.7 cm), which sold for $50,000 at Sotheby’s on November 19-20, 2012 (Lot 102, Sale NO8907). Upon his return to England in 1836, Egerton held an exhibition at the Royal Society of British Painters of oil paintings created from his sketches made during his travels in Mexico. Likely the painting sold at Sotheby’s was part of that exhibit, and the present sketch represents preliminary work for the finished painting.

[2]       “Distant View of San Agustin from the Rd leading to the Cañada de Madelena.” Original on-the-spot landscape sketch, sepia wash and pencil on paper, on old mounting paper, unsigned, but with pencil title in artist’s hand as indicated; verso with old ink note: “Mexico D.T. Egerton.” [Mexico, 1830s]. Image: 17 x 22 cm; image including mounting paper: 20 x 25.3 cm. Very light mat burn to edges, verso of mounting paper browned. Possibly this sketch was a preliminary encompassing landscape for Egerton’s lithograph Sn. Agustin de las Cuevas (see herein).

[3]       “Bledos.” Original on-the-spot landscape sketch, sepia wash, pencil and ink, white chalk, on original board, unsigned but with title in artist’s hand. Image: 17.6 x 26.1 cm; image with blank borders: 21.5 x 29.7 cm. Mild browning to image; adhesive residue where formerly adhered to mat (not affecting image). This rapidly executed landscape sketch possibly illustrates the the region of Bledos in San Luis Potosí.

     Egerton’s paintings, sketches, and lithographs provide a first-hand account of an exotic and fascinating country, then comparatively little known in Britain. English artist Daniel Thomas Egerton (London, 1797-Tacubaya, Mexico, 1842), son of an Anglican priest and a pupil of Thomas Monro, was a landscape painter, draughtsman, and engraver. A founding member of the Royal Society of British Artists, Egerton in his early career created satirical illustrated works under the name Peter Quiz, such as The Necessary Qualifications of a Man of Fashion (London, 1823), Borough Election: A Serio-Comic Poem (Huntington, 1824), and Fashionable Bores or Coolers in High Life (London, 1824). Inspired by Humboldt, in 1830 he travelled to Mexico, where he met his métier and gained fame for his paintings illustrating Mexican life and scenery in the British Romantic tradition. Like many other English artists of the time, Egerton incorporated the theories of Burke and Gilpin, for which the vast, untamed landscape of Mexico was an ideal model. He followed Humboldt’s order to create landscapes, types, and costumes of these new lands onto canvas or paper. “Egerton [was] one of the best of the English landscape painters to visit Latin America” (Ades et al, Art in Latin America: The Modern Era, 1820-1980, p. 73).

     Egerton was one of the first travelling artists to arrive in Mexico after the country’s independence in 1822. His travel in Mexico may have been tangentially related to his desire to speculate with his brother, William Henry Egerton, who came from New York to Texas, surveyed the lands owned by the Rio Grande and Texas Land Company, discussed the feasibility of steamboating on the Rio Grande, and secured an empresario grant to settle 800 families in Texas (see Handbook of Texas and Lundy’s Life, Travels, and Opinions, pp. 85-90). The friction between the Republic of Texas and England resulted in the Egerton grant not being recognized.

     During his first visit to Mexico (1830-1836), Egerton’s tour included Veracruz, Aguascalientes, Guadalajara, Zacatecas, Guanajuato, Puebla, and Mexico City. In the company of Baron Jean Baptiste Louis de Gros, he ascended Popocatepetl and created an incomparable rendering of that wonder. In his travels, Egerton constantly made sketches like these, which he used for the basis of finished oil paintings back in London. His series of twenty-five paintings and more than a hundred watercolors and drawings were the basis for his album of twelve Mexican views published when he returned to Mexico (Views in Mexico, London, July 1, 1840). Egerton’s work depicted elegant architecture, abundant and varied landscapes in Mexico, prosperous towns, and the people of Mexico dressed in traditional costume (“costumbrismo”). While in England, Egerton organized exhibits of his finished oil paintings of Mexico, which were enthusiastically embraced by the English and Europeans. His work was incorporated into some panoramas of Mexico. Sandweiss, Stewart & Huseman,Eyewitness to War: Prints and Daguerreotypes of the Mexican War, 1846-1848 (p. 7), relate Egerton’s influence on prints relating to the Mexican-American War, noting that Egerton’s accurate topography was a template on which subsequent painters and printmakers could superimpose military action and events of the Mexican-American War. Egerton’s beautiful, skilled landscapes of Mexico are considered a precursor of landscape art in Mexico by Velasco and others. “The delicate way in which Englishman Egerton dealt with Mexican landscapes has, in spite of the style, certainly exercised a considerable influence on Velasco” (Images of Mexico: An Artistic Perspective from the Pre-Columbian Era to Modernism: Selected Works from the Banamex Collection, p. 7).

     Ironically, the bucolic landscapes and peaceful, welcoming urban views which Egerton depicted encapsulated an element of violence that the artist did not survive. Having previously shed his wife in England, he returned to Mexico in 1841 and settled in the outskirts of Tacubaya with his very youthful female companion, Agnes Edwards. In circumstances which never have been fully clarified, Daniel and Agnes were both tragically murdered on April 27, 1842, near the outskirts of Tacabaya. The crime created a sensation in Britain.

     For more on Egerton, see El paisaje Mexicano en la pintura del siglo XIX y principios del XX (plates 7-22); Artes de Mexico 5:28 (August 1959), pp. 9-10; and the following five entries in this catalogue.


Auction 23 Abstracts

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