The verdant bank depicted in Leafy June represents a rare departure from Tuke’s Cornish beach scenes, although many of the features, such as the bathing boys, the dappled sunlight reflected on the lake's surface, and the thick impasto of Tuke's brushstrokes remain the same. Painted in the summer of 1908 at Shillinglee Park in Sussex, the country seat of the Earl of Winterton, Leafy June demonstrates Tuke at his impressionistic best, with a freedom of movement expressive of a subject executed purely for the artist's enjoyment as a form of relief from the commission that had taken him to Shillinglee in the first place.
In 1908 Tuke was invited to Shillinglee in order to paint a portrait of Ranjitsinjhi (1872–1933) the famous test cricketer who had just become Prince Jam Sahib of Nawanagar, and who had rented Shillinglee Park for the season. Tuke had a great love of cricket and had met Ranjitsinjhi through his friend the cricketer and pioneeer sports photographer George Beldam (1868–1937), who introduced him to A.C. Mclaren (1871–1944), Ranjitsinjhi’s private secretary. However, it was difficult to get Ranji to pose all the time for the portrait, which depicted him in his full princely attire, so Tuke had to employ substitutes including one of his favourite models, Charlie Mitchell from Falmouth.
It is Charlie who features in this painting for both the clothed and nude figures set by the large lake in the grounds of Shillinglee. The painting exemplifies artist and model enjoying some respite from both the heat of a summer's day and the sometimes onerous portrait commission. The summery mood is heightened by the standing figure's white long-sleeved shirt and trousers, which suggests the game of cricket, a frequent event at Shillinglee during the summer of 1908.
In May 1908 Dr W. G. Grace, Ranji’s former teammate, brought a side to Shillinglee to play some high-class but light-hearted country house cricket. Tuke recorded in his diary on 19 May ‘At dinner Ranji-Singi bound a turban, red and gold, on old W.G., who looked magnificent in it for the rest of the meal’, and the following day, ‘After lunch W.G sat for me for º hour in turban until he had to go in’ (to bat)’ (M. Tuke Sainsbury, Henry Scott Tuke; A Memoir, London, 1933, p. 144). Tuke obviously made a strong impression on Ranji and the rest of the party at Shillinglee. In her memoir the artist’s sister cites a letter written by Ranji to the artist’s family in later years: ‘’Very soon we all called him Tuko, for he had a most delightful personality and was a man well beloved by all of us... He will always remain in my remembrance as one whom it was a privilege to have known’’ (ibid., p.143).
Leafy June was shown at the Royal Academy in 1909 along with Tuke’s Portrait of Ranjitsinjhi. The latter went to India where it probably remains, whereas the former went to Berlin where it was exhibited in a commercial gallery, came back and was shown in Shepherd’s Bush at the Coronation Exhibition in 1911. The painting was then sold the following year at the Carnegie Institute exhibition in Pittsburgh, where it has remained in private hands for the past 105 years.
We are grateful to Catherine Wallace for her assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.