This correspondence between the leading art agent of the mid-Victorian period, known as 'The Owl,' and the family of his chief client, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, may be the most complete record of the artist-agent relationship. The letters also provide much new information about a leading artist-poet, the Pre-Raphaelite circle, and the leading London artists and writers beyond that circle, from Madox Brown to Swinburne.The then new role of artist's agent was defined in many respects by Charles Augustus Howell, flamboyant yet cultivated son of an English artist-wine merchant and an aristocratic Portuguese lady. Starting as an international man of mystery with some involvement in railways, Howell emerged in 1866 as Ruskin's secretary with a sideline as art salesman and interior decorator. During the 1870's he became the friend and business associate not only of D.G. Rossetti but also of Whistler, G.F. Watts, and Burne-Jones, Sandys, and other principal artists. His consummate salesmanship was most evident in the case of Rossetti, who refused to exhibit his works or even allow them to be seen unless the viewer was a certain buyer.Dubbed 'Owl' by Burne-Jones, Howell was described by Whistler as 'the wonderful man, the genius, the superb liar, the Gil-Blas, Robinson-Crusoe hero out of his proper time, the creature of top-boots and plumes.' The letters from the Rossettis to Howell are published here for the first time, having been sold by Howell's estate to a family that subsequently sold them to the University of Texas. The whole correspondence--together with Professor Cline's introduction, notes, and index-- 'alters all existing catalogues and bibliographies and critical studies of D.G. Rossetti,' says Stanley Weintraub, author of Whistler and Four Rossettis.
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