Vlaho Bukovac and Samson Fox

Formal portrait painting of a man with a long beard

'Samson Fox' (Copyright of Mercer Art Gallery)

Bukovac first visited Fox in Harrogate in 1888. An art collector and a great lover of music, Fox had made his money as a mechanical and chemical engineer in Leeds, where his companies were responsible for many innovations in manufacture, notably in steamships and railways. In Harrogate, where he was elected Mayor for three years in a row between 1888 and 1891, Fox lived in palatial style at Grove House, a mansion that survives to this day.

Bukovac’s portrait of Fox exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1891, was one of a series of pictures of family and friends that the artist painted as Fox’s guest in Harrogate. But Fox also collected many other paintings by Bukovac. They included medium sized, sentimental works such as 'Scandal', but also several of the exhibition pictures which had made Bukovac’s reputation, including 'The White Slave' and 'Potiphar’s Wife'. Both of these are visible in photographs of the gallery at Grove House. Since the posthumous auction of Fox’s paintings in 1911, which included a total of 17 works by Bukovac, neither has been traced.

The most important of all Fox’s purchases from Bukovac was the huge 'Suffer the Little Children', which the Fox family presented to St. Robert’s church in Harrogate. Shown at the Paris Salon in 1888, it epitomised the unique blend of French academism and Central European exoticism that defined Bukovac’s appeal to British patrons.