Monday, May 20, 2013

Dead Artist Feature: Julian Russell Story (b.1857- 1919)

Let me tell you about Story. No, not a story, the Story--Artist Julian Russell Story.

I first came across the work of Story at the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia. The museum is very stately with its handsome statues of well-known artists in the front.

I proceeded into a room with several large oil paintings. One held my attention much longer than the others.

Erik S. Lesser for The New York Times

It was a massive 135  ½ x 205  ¾ in. painting of what appeared to be a knight and a fallen king. I imagined there must be story behind this one. I soon found out there is a Story and a story behind this painting. The painting is titled The Black Prince at Crécy (1888) and features the "Black Prince", also know as Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, and Prince of Aquitaine. The painting depicts the Black Prince paying his respects to King John of Bohemia at the aftermath of the Battle of Crécy. Story does exceedingly well creating a sense of movement in a sombre moment. The appearance of wind blowing the knight's ragged clothing, the black birds arriving to get their share of the spoils, the agitated stance of the prince's steed, and the looseness of brush strokes liven up the scene. One of my favorite parts of the painting as far as rendering goes is the dead horse. You can almost see its last heartbeats as it fades away. I also love how Story reservedly kept the dead king in the same tonal range as the horse, which for me at least kept him hidden until I wondered what the knight was looking at.

This small image does no justice to the painting and makes me more aware of how important it is to view traditional art in person. Just like with music recordings, you are only getting a fraction of the experience as opposed to going to a live concert. 

Back to Story. It is interesting that Story chose to depict Edward of Woodstock in an act of sensitivity when, historically, the Prince was infamous for his brutality, such as burning and pillaging villages. On the other hand, it would be hard for anyone to disrespect the death of a king who fought in battles despite being blind. 

Julian Story studied under American artist Frank Duveneck in Venice after his graduation from Eton and Brasenose college, Oxford University, England. Story became known for his portraiture upon moving to Paris where he studied under Henri Gervex, Ferdinand Humbert, and Jules Lefebvre. His being friends with the likes of John Singer Sergeant and the cumulative influences of his instructors may have played a part in in Story's approach with his brush work. Story continued to travel throughout his life, submitting award-winning work to exhibitions in Paris, Berlin, San Francisco, Chicago. The Black Prince at Crécy was painted for the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1890 where it received a silver and was subsequently purchased by Carl Brandt, the first director of Telfair.


  1. I recently viewed this painting while on vacation. I was so moved that I purchased the print and an antique frame in which to display the print. I sat for 30 minutes in the museum staring at the work. At home I find myself staring at it often.