When the last major exhibition of the work of Frank Holl was held, his paintings were shown beside those of JMW Turner and both were described as “deceased masters of the British School”.
As it turned out, that exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1889, the year after the artist worked himself to death at the age of 43, was almost the last the world heard of Holl – until this week, when Watts Gallery in Surrey attempts to drag him back into the light.
The collapse of Holl’s reputation was swift and spectacular. Soon after his death in July 1888 of heart failure, a memorial fund was set up with the intention of buying a major work for the national collection and building an imposing monument in St Paul’s Cathedral. The appeal was abandoned after just six months when only £600 had been collected – though it