Charles Altamont Doyle (British, 1832-1893), The Eavesdroppers, pen and watercolor over pencil,
Gift of Princess Nina Mdivani Conan Doyle with assistance from The Friends. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.
An undeniable air of mystery surrounds the life and work of Charles Altamont Doyle (1833-1893), whose talent as an artist is often overshadowed by his famous illustrator brother Richard Doyle and his even more celebrated son, the writer best known for Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Hidden by the family for his severe alcoholism and subsequent institutionalization in several asylums, Charles Doyle's art has often been regarded as the work of a madman. In actuality, Doyle's fantastical watercolors stem from a long tradition of fairy painting in Britain. Beginning in the eighteenth century with artists such as William Blake (1757-1825) and Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), the genre's popularity reached its peak in the mid-nineteenth century just as Doyle was beginning his artistic career. This exhibition presents sixteen drawings from The Huntington's collection, showing Doyle's unique and particularly illustrative treatment of this popular Victorian theme.