Stories from Hospitalfield: Letters from William Calder Marshall

Stories from Hospitalfield delves into the collections, archives and histories of Hospitalfield, an artists’ house and art organisation originally founded as an art school in 1901 upon the bequest of Patrick and Elizabeth Allan Fraser.

These stories tell of the collegiate foundations and setting of Hospitalfield, from its monastic origins to its Victorian history as an artist’s house and as an art school in the 20th century. From letters amongst artist friends and the artist copies, to the animals, paintings, photos and objects that inhabit the place and the grounds, these tales reveal some of the life of this place.

The collection of Artists Letters at Hospitalfield comprises 16 bundles, totalling 1107 pages of correspondence with over 40 individuals. They reveal the conversations of a close and industrious network of artists, collectors, antiquarians and philanthropists including Robert Scott Lauder, William Calder Marshall, Augustus Egg and William Powell Frith.

Every week we work with a dedicated volunteer group to undertake the slow but very interesting task of transcribing these letters one by one. These are significant primary source art historical materials and are yet to reveal all their stories.

We started with the correspondence of William Calder Marshall. This prolific sculptor met Patrick Allan Fraser as young students at the Trustees Academy in Edinburgh. They travelled together to Rome, Paris and London, in the company of Robert Scott Lauder where they made connections with a wide network of artists. The correspondence from Calder Marshall forms a large bundle in this collection, demonstrating their lifelong friendship.

This letter was sent to Patrick Allan Fraser from Calder Marshall’s home at 47 Ebury Street, Eaton Square, London on 29 May 1859. It describes the logistics of arranging the granite plinth beneath the sculpture of politician and social reformer Joseph Hume on the High Street in Montrose, Angus. The discussion is technical describing the colour, composition and weight bearing capacity of the materials, with measurements and a small sketch from one artist to another.

When the Hospitalfield Trust was established as an Art School, Patrick’s lifelong friend William Calder Marshall became the first Chair of the Board of Governors. It was one of Calder Marshall’s first acts as Chair to preserve all Patrick’s artistic correspondence for posterity.

1.William Calder Marshall in his studio at Ebury Street. Photo by Ralph Winwood Robinson, published by C. Whittingham & Co
platinum print, circa 1889, published 1892 Copyright National Portrait Gallery London. NPG x7378
2-4. Letter from Patrick Allan Fraser to William Calder Marshall. Courtesy of The Hospitalfield Trust.
5. Photo of sculpture titled Ruth the Gleaner by William Calder Marshall at Hospitalfield.
6. Photo © Ann Harrison (cc-by-sa/2.0)