Arthur Hughes

The Woodman’s Child

1860

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 610 x 641 mm
frame: 851 x 908 x 72 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Mrs Phyllis L.Holland 1958
Reference
T00176

Summary

This is one of several genre scenes painted by Hughes in the 1860s. It shows a small girl asleep in the foreground, watched by a squirrel and a bird, as her parents work in the distance. Hughes's daughter probably posed for the little girl in the picture. The forest setting has been painted with painstaking attention to detail, in adherence to Pre-Raphaelite ideals. The artist worked on it at the same time as a larger companion picture, Home from Work (1861, Forbes Magazine Collection, New York), which depicts a woodman arriving home to be greeted by his two young daughters. Both paintings were commissioned by the collector James Leathart.

Although Hughes greatly admired Millais's work and often borrowed from his compositions, The Woodman's Child bears no evident relationship to Millais's Woodman's Daughter of 1850-1 (Guildhall Art Gallery, Corporation of London) or to Coventry Patmore's poem on which Millais based his painting.

Further reading:
Robin Ironside and John Gere, Pre-Raphaelite Painters, London 1948, p.43
Allen Staley, The Pre-Raphaelite Landscape, Oxford 1973, pp.86-7
Leonard Roberts, introduction by Stephen Wildman, Arthur Hughes: His Life and Works, a Catalogue Raisonné, Woodbridge, Suffolk [to be published 1997]

Terry Riggs
December 1997

Display caption

A child sleeps while her parents are at work in the woods beyond. Such a scene is a development of the genre paintings of Wilkie and Mulready, who had been pre-eminent in establishing the Victorian taste for depictions of everyday life. The Pre-Raphaelite virtue of truth to nature is thoroughly honoured in this picture, where the various elements are painstakingly observed as if they were a still life. The soft autumn colours perhaps suggest ideas of mortality. However, the child is in no immediate danger, watched over by a squirrel and a robin. Hughes very probably used his own daughter as the model for the sleeping girl.

Gallery label, September 2004

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