O'NEIL, Henry Nelson (1817–1880), historical genre painter. Autograph letter signed to Philip Westcott, 2 sides of a bifolium, 8vo, 6 Garway Road, Bayswater, May 30  thanking him for his note “by all means stick the Picture in a sale and let it go – but I should scarcely like to take less than £20 for it – surely that is low enough …….. there seems to be little news stirring in art here – except Mr. Ruskin’s row with his wife, and his letters on the beauty of Hunt‘s pictures – I think the critique on them from the Examiner much nearer the truth. …….. I heard from Brickall that he was off for Dublin, and he asked me to join him, but I have been already sufficiently idle and must now work hard”. Old mounting marks on edge of blank leaf.
Henry Nelson O'Neil was born in St Petersburg, Russia, of British parents. He entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1836, and with Alfred Elmore, Richard Dadd, Augustus Egg, William Powell Frith, and John Phillip founded the Clique sketching club. He exhibited his first pictures in 1838 at the Royal Academy and at the Society of British Artists, after which he exhibited widely in London galleries, and published a number of books on art (ODNB). His correspondent was the portrait painter Philip Westcott (1815-1878) whose career as an artist began in Liverpool before moving to London.
The reference to Ruskin’s marital problems and his letters regarding Holman Hunt’s pictures allow us to date this letter to 1854 when Ruskin’s marriage to Effie publicly came to an end, and when Ruskin wrote to The Times on the subject of Holman Hunt's Royal Academy pictures The Light of the World (5 May 1854) and The Awakening Conscience (25 May 1854).