Born to a family with seven children, Charles Edmund Brock (C. E. Brock) was the eldest of four boys, three of whom became artists. However, he and his brother, Henry Matthew Brock (H. M. Brock) were the most successful of those who embarked on an artistic career.
At the young age of only 20, Charles received his first book commission. Later he went on to illustrate books for authors such as Jane Austen (our favorite), Charles Dickens, George Eliot, William Thackeray, and Jonathan Swift.
‘Pride and Prejudice’
I love this one with a big, pompous Lady Catherine.
Although he had little formal art education as he did not attend art school, he did study for a while under the sculptor, Henry Wiles. However, Charles and Henry had shown great aptitude for art from an early age. And the two brothers went on to work together and establish themselves as successful illustrators of historical subjects and especially of eighteenth and early nineteenth-century literature: Charles with Jane Austen’s works and Gulliver’s Travels and Henry with other classics including those by Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott. Charles was also a contributor to several magazines such as The Strand, Pearsons, and The Quiver.
Of the two men, Charles was the more versatile in technique, working in oils even on occasion and in watercolor for several illustrations in this article. Henry, though, worked with a wider range of subjects becoming well-known as an illustrator of adventure stories.
‘The approach of C.E. Brock’s work varied with the sort of story he was illustrating. Some was refined and described as “sensitive to the delicate, teacup-and-saucer primness and feminine outlook of the early Victorian novelists,” while other work was “appreciative of the healthy, boisterous, thoroughly English characters” – soldiers, rustics, and “horsey types.” Other illustrations were grotesqueries drawn to amuse children looking at or reading storybooks.’ Wikipedia.org
Charles produced illustrations that had delicate, and even broken lines, that set his paintings apart from Henry’s. Henry, on the other hand, had a strong sense of design that resulted in a large number of cartoons he did for Punch over 55 years from 1905 to 1960. He also illustrated posters in the 1920’s for the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company.
Apparently, Charles and Henry both endeavored to make their illustrations as accurate as possible for the time periods they were depicting.
‘He and his brothers maintained a Cambridge studio filled with various curios, antiques, furniture, and a costume collection. They owned a large collection of Regency era costume prints and fashion plates, and had clothes specially made as examples for certain costumes.’ Wikipedia.org
‘Sense and Sensibility’
When family and friends dressed in Regency costumes and were placed in appropriate settings, this assemblage of historical props enabled the brothers to develop a degree of historical accuracy more so than other illustrators including their model and competitor, Hugh Thomson.
Remarkably, though, the most famous paintings by C. E. Brock are golf paintings. Yes, you read that correctly. There were three golf paintings in a series: The Bunker, The Drive, and The Putt. The most valuable of the bunch is The Putt. This was actually repainted because the putter—who also commissioned the painting—wanted to be more to the forefront of the painting. Silly man. Anyway, the original unsigned painting is considered the more impressive of the two, and has been used for postcards and posters to be sold in many Golf Museums.
In spite of this popularity, the most well-known of the three is The Bunker seen below. It is thought to be one of the most renowned golf paintings in the world. So much so, that it has been called ‘the Mona Lisa of Golf Paintings.’
In 1991, a Japanese collector bought all three golf paintings for $1.5 million. Another of Brock’s paintings, The Queen Mother, sold for $150,000. Not too shabby. However, so few of his paintings have been found, that when offered for sale, they command very high prices.
As you look at each of these illustrations from Jane Austen’s main books, you can see not only the accuracy of the details, but you can also feel the sense of the Regency era. It’s not surprising that Charles Edmund Brock set the standard for Jane Austen Illustrations that hasn’t been equaled since.