Stokes, (Charles) Adrian Scott (1854–1935), artist
by Magdalen Evans

Stokes, (Charles) Adrian Scott (1854–1935), artist, was born on 23 December 1854 at 77 Hoghton Street, Southport, the third of the five sons (four surviving) of Scott Nasmyth Stokes (1821–1891), the first Roman Catholic inspector of schools, and his wife, Emma Louisa (1820–1896), daughter of Benjamin Walsh, publisher, of Worcestershire. His younger brothers were the architect and the engineer . Adrian was educated at home, in Rainhill, Lancashire, and at the Liverpool Institute, where he studied art. He worked briefly as a cotton broker but in 1871 his father's promotion meant the family returned to Kensington, London.

Encouraged by a fellow Catholic artist, John Rogers Herbert, Stokes placed some of his small watercolours for sale through the Society of British Artists. These were accepted for the winter exhibition of 1871 and, duly encouraged, he applied to study art full-time. In June 1872 Stokes enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools, where he was influenced by the academy's president, Frederic Leighton, whose studio he visited frequently. Visits were also made to the studio of James Whistler, and the American's stay at St Ives, Cornwall, in 1884 may have been a prompt for Stokes's first visit to the town two years later. Stokes was also strongly influenced by French landscape painters, most notably Jules Bastien-Lepage, and from 1876 he travelled to Fontainebleau and Barbizon. Despite this enthusiasm for plein-air painting, his early works for the Royal Academy, first accepted in 1876, were genre pieces influenced by Leighton, John Everett Millais, and the Parisian ateliers where he had studied under Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret. Mindful of the need to make a living, Stokes also began to accept commissions for portraits: in 1877 he drew, among others, the author Alice Meynell, who was later to write extensively about Adrian and his wife. In the decade after 1879 he exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin; at major regional galleries in Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham, and Nottingham; and from 1880 at Sir Coutts Lindsay's Grosvenor Gallery, London. In the same year he began to illustrate the books of Eliza Tabor, and later of Charlotte Yonge, for Macmillan.

In summer 1883 Stokes's large crystalline St Raphael Var—painted in winter over fifty-two consecutive sunny afternoons—was accepted by the Paris Salon. This may have been the occasion of his meeting with another first-time exhibitor, the Austrian painter Marianne Preindlsberger (1855–1927) [see Stokes, Marianne, under Pre-Raphaelite women artists]. A more likely place for their meeting was the Brittany coast, which was a popular location for travelling artists. Marianne had gone to Brittany to study, and her encounter with Stokes was recorded by the American writer Blanche Howard in the novel Guenn (1884). The couple married on 30 August 1884 at the city church in Marianne's native Graz and their honeymoon, in Italy, was recorded in Stokes's illustrated article ‘Capri’ for the Art Journal. In March 1884 Stokes had been one of the , based in London, from which he resigned after two years, resuming his membership between 1904 and 1912. The summers of 1885 and 1886 were spent in the artists' colony at Skagen in northern Denmark, where the couple painted alongside Peder Severin Krøyer, and established a firm friendship with the painters Michael and Anna Ancher.

Encouraged by artists they had met in Brittany, among them Stanhope Forbes, Adrian and Marianne Stokes settled in 1886 first at Lelant, and then a year later St Ives, where they kept a studio from 1889. This became a meeting place for other artists who settled in the area. Like many of their fellow St Ives and Newlyn painters, the Stokeses were elected (in 1887) to the New English Art Club; some of these artists also had associations with Hubert von Herkomer's art school at Bushey in Hertfordshire. These networks gave landscape and marine painters increasing confidence to liberate themselves from the idea of compulsorily going to France to train.

In 1888 the Tate Gallery, London, acquired Stokes's Upland and Sky (1886–8) with the aid of the Chantrey bequest. The purchase of the landscape, praised in The Times as ‘vigorous and brilliant’ (25 May 1888), was marked with a celebratory dinner at the St Ives Arts Club, of which—from August 1890—Stokes was a founder member and the first president. The inclusion of a work in the Grosvenor Gallery exhibition in Melbourne (1887) was followed by the purchase of Among the Sandhills, Jutland (1885) for the art gallery of Christchurch, New Zealand, and the award in 1889 of a silver medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition, for another painting of Cornish dunes. In the same year Leeds City Art Gallery purchased The Harbour Bar, a Whistlerian view of the Hayle estuary, and Stokes and his wife were elected to the Royal Anglo-Australian Society of Artists. Over the next decade he exhibited individually at the Venice biennale and Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, and with Marianne at the World's Columbian Exhibition, Chicago, and Whistler's International Art Exhibition, Knightsbridge. In 1899 the couple visited the Netherlands—the first place, according to Stokes, that suited them equally as painters—and a year later he provided illustrations for a long biographical essay on the couple by Wilfrid Meynell for the Art Journal. In 1898 Stokes moved his studio to Campden Hill, London, and then to Kensington in 1900, though two years later he and Marianne rejoined their Cornish colleagues for an exhibition at the newly founded Whitechapel Gallery in London.

In August 1905 the couple made the first of at least five trips to Hungary. These resulted in Stokes's magnum opus, Hungary (1909), which includes seventy-five colour plates. In the book Adrian wrote warmly of the country's hospitality while the illustrations celebrated the folk and religious traditions of a region rarely visited by artists from western Europe. As artists Adrian and Marianne Stokes were equally well represented in the book, with the former predominantly responsible for the landscapes and Marianne undertaking the distinctive portraits. A showing at London's Leicester Galleries, in 1907, was followed by an invitation from the Nemzeti Szalon, Budapest, to display illustrations from the book in 1910. The collection well conveys the compatibility of their relationship: Adrian a landscape painter with a keen eye for the intricacies of the natural world and Marianne an artist whose work often embodied vernacular and folklorist themes, drawn to the narratives of daily life. Their methods were quite different, though particular works were influenced by the adoption of a favoured technique—as for example in Stokes's Autumn in the Mountains (1903), which, painted in tempera, was a tribute to his wife's scientific interest in this revived medium.

In late 1909 Adrian and Marianne moved to Munich and in the following August they travelled to the Alps to meet John Singer Sargent, whom they had known since 1885. Despite a worsening international situation the couple travelled to Austria in 1913 and, with war declared, were interned in the Dolomites, where they continued to paint. Sargent's The Master and his Pupils (1914, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts) shows Stokes at this time working at an easel in the open air surrounded by three girls, modelled by Marianne's maid. From December 1914 the couple were at Vevey in Switzerland, spending the following summer there and at Gruyère. Stokes continued to exhibit at the Royal Academy throughout the war. An associate from 1910, he was elected as a full academician in April 1919, his diploma work being a peaceful, snow-bound Lago Maggiore in oil. By now Stokes was turning to watercolours as his preferred medium and in 1926 he was appointed to the Royal Watercolour Society, becoming its vice-president in 1932. Despite this move towards a new form he did not abandon work in oils. In 1924 four miniatures went on display in Queen Mary's dolls' house (designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens) at the British Empire Exhibition, several of them based upon his larger works, including In the Dunes (National Gallery of Canada) and Islands of the Adriatic (1906, Harris Art Gallery, Preston). Stokes followed this with the publication of Landscape Painting (1925), a generous teaching guide, reprinted in 1956 as Practical Landscape Painting.

After Marianne's death in 1927 Stokes continued to live at Grantham Place, Park Lane, London, to where the couple had moved in the early 1920s. Much of his time was now spent at the Arts Club, Dover Street, where he befriended a younger generation of Cornish artists including Laura Knight and Lamorna Birch. In 1930 he was elected as the Royal Academy's ‘senior academician’. Four years later, at the annual dinner, he attracted publicity by interrupting the prime minister, Ramsay Macdonald, during what Stokes considered a speech that paid too little attention to the current exhibition. In June he prepared his will, in which he requested an academician to destroy all of his works ‘that seem unworthy’ (Evans, Utmost Fidelity, 149), though in the event only ‘unfinished, unimportant works’ were disposed of (The Times, 21 Dec 1935). Stokes died of heart failure at 7A Grantham Place on 30 November 1935. After a service at the Jesuit church in Farm Street, London, he was buried on 3 December with his wife at St Mary Magdalen's Roman Catholic Church, Mortlake. The first of two Times obituaries noted how, best known for his ‘decorative landscapes’, Stokes had developed from ‘careful naturalism’ to a ‘poetical rather than intellectual abstraction’ (2 Dec 1935), while Reginald Blomfield recalled a ‘delightful painter with a vivid sense of the beauty of quiet landscape’ (4 December). In 2009 a touring exhibition of works by Adrian and Marianne Stokes was staged in galleries in Wolverhampton, Southport, Harrogate, Penzance, and Truro.



M. Evans, Utmost fidelity: the painting lives of Marianne and Adrian Stokes (2009) · W. Meynell, ‘Mr and Mrs Adrian Stokes’, Art Journal (July 1900) · W. Fred, ‘Marianne und Adrian Stokes: eine Maleeche’, Kunst und Kunsthandwerk, 4 (1901) · D. Béla, catalogue introduction, ‘Adrian és Mariane Stokes mináluk, Nemzeti Szalon, Budapest’ (1910) · M. Jacobs, The good and simple life: artist colonies in Europe and America (1985) · R. Ormond and E. Kilmurray, John Singer Sargent: the later portraits (2003) · ‘In praise of watercolour’, The Old Water-colour Society Club's ninth annual volume (1931), 65 · The Times (2 Dec 1935); (4 Dec 1935) · C. A. S. Stokes to Isidore Spielmann, 1915, V&A NAL · personal letters, priv. coll. · b. cert. · parish register, St Mary-le-Sands, Southport [baptism] · m. cert. [diocesan archive, Graz, Austria] · d. cert.


NPG, corresp. with Philip de László · Royal Institution of Cornwall, Truro, letters to Wellesley agent in St Ives · Wolverhampton Art Gallery, letters


M. Ancher, oils, c.1885, Ancher House Museum, Skagen, Denmark · E. Somerville, pencil, 1885, priv. coll. · photographs, 1885–6, Ancher House Museum, Skagen, Denmark · P. S. Krøyer, oils, 1886, Skagens Museum, Denmark · photograph, 1886, repro. in A. Cariou, Les peintres de Pont-Aven (1999), 45 · T. B. Wirgman, oils, 1888, Aberdeen Art Gallery · group portrait, photograph, c.1892, repro. in R. Langley, Walter Langley (1997), 185 · F. Mulnier, carte-de-visite, 1893, NPG · Elliott & Fry, photograph, 1900–09, NPG [see illus.] · J. S. Sargent, group portrait, oils, 1914 (Master and his pupils), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston · G. F. Jackson, watercolours, c.1916, Stapleton Collection, London · L. Knight, pencil sketch, c.1920, priv. coll. · F. D. Wood, pencil chalk and wash, 1922, RA · W. Orpen, pencil sketch, c.1930, priv. coll. · W. Stoneman, photograph, c.1930, NPG · T. Dugdale, oils, 1933, repro. in The Sphere (1935) · E. Whitney Smith, bronze bust, 1933, Arts Club, London · H. Vos, drawing, repro. in Magazine of Art, 13/201 (1890) · photograph, repro. in The Times (2 Dec 1935)

Wealth at death  

£1299: probate, 21 Dec 1935, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

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(Charles) Adrian Scott Stokes (1854–1935): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/67615