Joseph Henderson R.S.A., R.S.W. (1832-1908)

Figure 1. The Sweep’s Land, Stockwell Street by Thomas Fairbairn © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.

‘The gifts include a water colour, “The Sweep`s Land, Stockwell Street” by James (sic) Fairbairn, presented by Mr Joseph Henderson, R.S.W., Glasgow, and this sub-committee resolved that a special vote of thanks be accorded him for the gift’. 1

Joseph Henderson was born on 10 June 1832 in Stanley, Perthshire, He was the third of four boys. When he was about six, the family moved to Edinburgh and took up residence in Broad Street. The two older boys joined their father, also Joseph, as stone masons. 2 Joseph’s father died when Joseph was eleven leaving his mother, Marjory Slater, in straightened circumstances. 3 As a result, Joseph and his twin brother, James, were sent to work at an early age and the thirteen-year-old Joseph was apprenticed to a draper/hosier. At the same time, he attended part-time classes at the Trustees’ Academy, Edinburgh. At the age of seventeen, on 2 February 1849, he enrolled as an art student in the Academy.4 From the census of 1851, Marjory, Joseph and James were living at 5 Roxburgh Place, Edinburgh. Marjory was now a ‘lodging housekeeper’ with two medical students as boarders. James was a ‘jeweller’ while Joseph was a ‘lithographic drawer’.5 In the same year Joseph won a prize for drawing at the Academy enabling him, along with fellow students, W. Q. Orchardson, W. Aikman and W. G. Herdman, to travel to study the works of art at the Great Exhibition in London, which he found to be a very formative experience.6

He left the Academy about 1852-3 and settled in Glasgow. He is first mentioned in the Glasgow Post Office Directory for 1857-8 where he is listed as an artist living at 6 Cathedral Street.7 The census of 1861 confirms this address where he is a ‘portrait painter’ living with his wife Helen, daughter Marjory aged four and his mother Marjory who is now his ‘house keeper’.8

Joseph Henderson’s first exhibited work was a self-portrait which was shown at the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) in 1853.9 He painted several portraits of friends and local dignitaries including a half-length portrait of his friend John Mossman in 1861. His painting, The Ballad Singer established his reputation as one of Scotland`s foremost artists when exhibited at the RSA in 1866.10 Throughout his career he continued in portraiture. He executed portraits of James Paton (1897) a founder and superintendent of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (this portrait was bequeathed to Kelvingrove in 1933) and Alexander Duncan of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. 11 He also painted Mr. Scott Dickson, Sir Charles Cameron, Bart., DL, LLD (1897), RGI and Sir John Muir, Lord Provost of Glasgow (1893). 12 His portrait of councillor Alexander Waddell (1893) was presented to Kelvingrove in 1896.13

However, it is probably as a painter of seascapes and marine subjects that he became best known. His picture Where Breakers Roar attracted much attention when exhibited at the Royal Glasgow Institute (RGI) in 1874, ‘as a rendering of angry water’.14

Figure 2. Joseph Henderson, The Bailie, No. 277, 6th Feb. 1878. (Mitchell Library).

Henderson was in part responsible for raising the profile and status of artists in Glasgow and was a member of the Glasgow Art Club (he was President in 1887-8), the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts (founded 1861) and the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolour.15 Between 1853 and 1892, he exhibited frequently at the RSA and at the RGI and between 1871 and 1886 he had twenty pictures accepted for the Royal Academy in London. In 1901 he was entertained at a dinner by the President and Council of the Glasgow Art Club to celebrate his jubilee as a painter. He was presented with a solid gold and silver palette. An inscription on the palette read: ‘Presented to Joseph Henderson, Esq., R.S.W. by fellow-members of the Art Club as a mark of esteem and a souvenir of his jubilee as a painter, 8th January 1901’ 16

Joseph Henderson was married three times. On  8  January 1856 he married Helen Cosh (d. 1866) with whom he had four children including a daughter Marjory who became the second wife of the artist William McTaggart. On 30 September 1869 he married Helen Young (d. 1871) who bore him one daughter and in 1872 he married Eliza Thomson with whom he had two daughters and who survived him.17 Two of his sons, John (1860 – 1924) and Joseph Morris (1863 – 1936) became artists; John was Director of the Glasgow School of Art from 1918 to 1924.18

By 1871 he had moved with his family; wife Helen, daughter Marjory and sons James, John and Joseph and his mother Marjory from Cathedral Street to 183 Sauchiehall Street. He also employed a general servant. He is described in the census as a ‘portrait painter’.19 In 1881, Joseph was living at 5 La Belle Place, Glasgow with Eliza, two sons and four daughters.20 He later moved to 11 Blythswood Square, Glasgow. 21 In the 1901 census he was still at this address with his wife Eliza, sons John and Joseph and daughter Mary and Bessie. His occupation is ‘portrait and marine painter’.22

Figure 3. Joseph Henderson in 1894. Painted by his son-in-law William McTaggart. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (http://www.artuk.org)
Figure 4. Joseph Henderson, The Bailie, No. 1472, 2nd Jan. 1901. (MItchell Library)

Joseph Henderson painted many of his seascapes at Ballantrae in Ayrshire. At the beginning of July 1908, he again travelled to the Ayrshire coast. However, he succumbed to heart failure and died at Kintyre View, Ballantrae, on 17  July 1908 aged 76 and was buried in Sighthill cemetery in Glasgow. 23  A commemorative exhibition of his works was held at the RGI in November of that year. 24 A full obituary was published in the Glasgow Herald. 25

As well as his devotion to art, Joseph Henderson was a keen angler and golfer. A contemporary account states that he was ‘frank and genial, with an inexhaustible fund of good spirits and a ready appreciation of humour, of which he himself possesses no small share’. 26

A comprehensive account of the life and works of Joseph Henderson has been written by Hilary Christie-Johnston. 27

Thomas Fairbairn (1821 – 1885) was an older contemporary of Henderson and both were friends of John Mossman and Robert Greenlees.  A series of his drawing were acquired by Glasgow Corporation. 28 It is possible that the painting The Sweep`s Land, Stockwell Street was given to him by the artist.

References.

  1. Glasgow Corporation Minutes, 6 July 1898, p 642.
  2. Scotland’s People, 1841 Census, St. Cuthbert’s Edinburgh
  3. glasgowwestaddress.co.uk/1909
  4. J. L. Caw, rev. Elizabeth S. Cumming. ‘Henderson, Joseph (1832–1908)’. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.
  5. Scotland`s People, 1851 Census, St. Cuthbert`s Edinburgh
  6. glasgowwestaddress.co.uk/1909
  7. Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1857-1858, National Library of Scotland
  8. Scotland`s People, 1861 Census, St. David`s, Glasgow
  9. Baile de Laperriere, Charles (ed.) Royal Scottish Academy Exhibitors, 1826 – 1990, Vol II,  Hillmartin Manor Press, 1991
  10. https://www.markmitchellpaintings.com/joseph-henderson-1832-1908
  11. Billcliffe, Roger, Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts 1861-1989. Vol 2, Roger The Woodend Press, 1991
  12. Glasgow Herald, 18th July 1908, p9
  13. Art UK/ Glasgow Museums Resource Centre
  14. Waters, Grant M., Dictionary of British Artists, (1900 – 1950),  Eastbourne Fine Arts Publications, 1975.
  15. glasgowwestaddress.co.uk/1909
  16. Glasgow Herald, 18 July 1908, p9
  17. Caw, J. L.  rev. Elizabeth S. Cumming. ‘Henderson, Joseph (1832–1908)’. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.
  18. Glasgow School of Art, archives
  19. Scotland`s People, 1871 Census, Glasgow, Barony
  20. Scotland’s People, 1881 Census, Glasgow
  21. Scotland’s People, 1891 Census, Glasgow
  22. Scotland`s People, 1901 Census, Blythswood, Glasgow
  23. Scotland`s People; Death Certificate.
  24. Billcliffe, Roger, Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts 1861-1989. Vol 2, Roger The Woodend Press, 1991
  25. Glasgow Herald, 18 July 1908.
  26. The Bailie, Mitchell Library, Glasgow, GC 920.04 BAI., No. 277, Feb. 6th, 1878; No. 1472, Jan. 2nd. 1901.
  27. Christie-Johnston, Hilary, Joseph Henderson: Doyen of Glasgow Artists, 1832 – 1908,   Macmillan Art Publishing, Melbourne, Australia, 2013
  28. https://electricscotland.com/art/artinscotland18o.htm

 

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