Stone the artist

<em>Married for Love</em>

M. Stone, Married for Love, 1881. One of many paintings set in Stone's own garden in Melbury Road.

Marcus Clayton Stone

Marcus Clayton Stone, by Lucas Bros., 1863–65.

"Pip Waits on Miss Havisham"

M. Stone, "Pip Waits on Miss Havisham," illustration for Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, 1862

Marcus Stone wished to be referred to as Marcus “Apollo Belvedere” Stone, a lofty name suited to a man who commissioned a stately home of his own design from the architect Richard Norman Shaw.[1] At the time of the publication of Artists at Home, Stone was known for his intuition, his dedication to study, and his varying artistic phases. He broke into the arts scene with illustrations for the novels of Charles Dickens. He displayed an affinity for history painting with military themes, then moved to sentimental scenes, which were successfully reproduced and sold as engravings.[2] Scenes of women reading love letters, displays of courtship, friendship, and “beauty women”--all set in lush garden scenes -- were common, sympathetic themes in his oil paintings.[3]

At sixteen, Marcus Stone dedicated himself to painting, and F. G. Stephens described him as prolific. Although Stone never received formal training, he picked up the profession from his father, the respected painter Frank Stone, adopting his astute understanding of the “delicacy of colouring and refinement of line to depict feminine graces,” and an affinity for painting from models.[4] His father’s home was a meeting place for prominent artists of the day, which allowed Marcus to absorb knowledge of the art world that may not have been as readily accessible to his contemporaries. Frank Stone worked alongside William Powell Frith, William Mulready, Augustus Egg, and William Holman Hunt, friends of his father’s who became Marcus's friends as well. Because of this, Marcus was viewed by his contemporaries as a “link between two worlds of thought and art.”[5]

At the age of seventeen, Marcus Stone exhibited at the Royal Academy for the first time; his father died the following year, in 1859. Unfortunately for the young Stone, most of his father’s friends, and Marcus’s supportive teachers, soon passed away as well. The death of his father forced Stone into a position where his family depended on him for support. Dickens was an advocate for Stone’s merits as an artist and won him several jobs as an illustrator, but Stone eventually stopped drawing to focus his talents on painting the popular pictures that were bringing him recognition. He was praised for his “methods of expression” and for possessing “the best decorative basis” that a Victorian audience could desire in his pictures of “great clarity and inevitability.”[6]

In an 1899 “Illustrated Interview” published in the Strand Magazine, Stone names Charles Dickens as an early and enduring influence: “As a man, Dickens influenced my life enormously. . . .  A great deal of the origin of my effort to deal with human sympathy in the way I have done is due to him . . . . There never was a man who gave himself more trouble and took more infinite pains in the pursuit of his art than did Dickens.”[7]

Marcus Stone was tall, athletic, and sturdy, with a vigorous mind and personality, who had the carriage of a military man. He lived in Kensington in a custom-made studio home, a testament to his diligence and productive artistic habits, which A. L. Baldry describes in his 1896 biography: “Surrounded though he is with all the evidence of his own success, he has remained modestly aware of the necessity for keeping, in his artistic practice, a constant watch upon himself, and he never forgets to what a life of endless endeavor a painter is committed to the very end of his days.”[8] This speaks to the character of a man who exhibited at the Royal Academy every year from 1858 to 1920. He became an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1877, and a full Academician two years after the publication of Artists at Home, in 1886. In 1882 his painting A Prior Attachment was purchased by the Royal Academy with the Chantrey Bequest Fund, suggesting that Stone was on the brink of his highest successes around the time the Mayall photograph was taken.

Anna Mahony


[1] Giles Walkley, “Establishment Kensington: Melbury Road,” in Artists’ Houses in London 1764–1914 (Aldershot, Hants, England; Brookfield, VT: Scolar Press, 1994), 61.

[2] Alfred Lys Baldry, The Life and Work of Marcus Stone, R. A. (London: The Art Journal Office, 1896), 4,

[3] Wilfred Meynell, The Modern School of Art (London: Cassell, 1886), 3:127-28.

[4] Baldry, Life and Work of Stone, 9-10.

[5] Meynell, Modern School of Art, 3:122. 

[6] Baldry, Life and Work of Stone, 11 and 26-27.

[7] “Illustrated Interviews LXVI: Mr. Marcus Stone, R.A.,” Strand Magazine: An Illustrated Monthly 18, no. 104 (August 1899):127, British Periodicals.

[8] Baldry, Life and Work of Stone, 31.

<em>Claudio, Deceived by Don John, Accuses Hero</em>

M. Stone, Claudio, Deceived by Don John, Accuses Hero, 1864. According to F. G. Stephens, this painting "showed how much progress the painter had made under those conditions," a reference to his father's sudden death, which "left him dependent on his own efforts for guidance."

<em>A Lovers' Spat</em>

M. Stone, A Lovers' Spat, 1884

I believe that the best and most valuable art work is done by the man who treats his own period. He knows his subject as, in a general way, he can know no other. He sees his people, he knows their thoughts, their feelings, and, in addition, everybody else knows what he knows. It is, of course, impossible in England, from what I may call the hourly change of fashion, to paint men and women in the costume of a given year. The dress would be out of fashion before the picture was finished. I therefore determined to get, if I could, some period in which the fashion would remain constant, while the thoughts and sympathies of the men and women would be sufficiently close to be readily sympathized with by the public. I saw this in the early days of the century, the days of our grandmothers, and so I adopted that for my general work.

Marcus Stone, quoted in "Illustrated Interviews. LXVI--Mr. Marcus Stone, R.A.," The Strand Magazine 18 (August 1899), 129.

Stone the artist