T02110 THE EMIGRANT'S LAST SIGHT OF HOME 1858
Inscribed ‘Richd Redgrave 1858’ b.r.
Oil on canvas 26 3/4 × 38 3/4 (67.9 × 98.4)
Purchased from Roy Miles Fine Paintings (Grant-in-Aid) with the assistance of an anonymous donor 1977
Prov: by descent to R. N. Marshall, great-grandson of the artist; sold Sotheby's Belgravia 27 March 1973 (48, repr.in colour), bt. Roy Miles Fine Paintings.
Exh: RA 1859 (218); A Century of English Paintings, Roy Miles Fine Paintings 1973 (repr. in colour); People and Places, Roy Miles Fine Paintings 1975 (repr.); Victorian Panorama, Alexander Gallery 1976 (37, repr.).
Lit: Art Journal, 1859, p.165; Christopher Wood, Victorian Panorama: Paintings of Victorian Life, 1976, p.222, repr. in colour pl.236.
Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1859 with the following lines printed in the catalogue under the title:
‘Have we not seen, round Britain's peopled shore,
Her useful sons exchanged for useless ore?
Forced from their homes, a melancholy train,
To traverse climes beyond the western main.’
The theme of emigration was topical in the years around 1850, during which a great number of people left Britain intending to make their fortunes overseas. The subject was debated in journals such as The Edinburgh Review (January 1850) and Household Words (30 March and 24 August 1850), and was also dealt with in literature, the most famous fictional emigré being Mr. Micawber in Dickens's David Copperfield (published 1850). Between 1848 and 1858 several paintings were shown at the Royal Academy which recorded the interest in emigration, by artists including Frederick Goodall in 1848 (‘Departure of the Emigrants’), W. S. Burton in 1849 (‘An Irish Emigrant’), James Collinson in 1850 (‘Answering the Emigrant's Letter’; he also exhibited ‘The Emigration Scheme’ at the Liverpool Academy in 1852), Thomas Webster in 1852 (‘A Letter from the Colonies’, now Tate T00046) and William Callcott in 1857 (‘Emigrant's Ship weighing Anchor’). The most famous emigration picture was not an Academy exhibit: Ford Madox Brown's ‘The Last of England’ (1852–5 and 1859, City Art Gallery, Birmingham; small replica of 1860, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; watercolour replica of 1864–6, Tate N03064). Redgrave's painting may owe something to W.S.P. Henderson's ‘The Last Look of Home’ (RA 1856 no.1199; present whereabouts unknown), particularly in view of the lines of poetry appended to the title in the catalogue:
‘Upon the hill he turn'd,
To take a last fond look
Of the village and the village church,
And the cottage by the brook.’
Redgrave's son noted that his father's later works were predominantly landscapes, ‘partly from his great love of Nature, and partly because his other duties [as an administrator of the South Kensington Museum] allowed him leisure only in the summer for working at his easel ...’ (F.M. Redgrave, Richard Redgrave: A Memoir ..., 1891, p.47). He went on to say that these landscapes ‘were painted mostly on the spot, and were true to Nature in the smallest details. As such, they were almost the only contemporary landscapes which the rising school of the “P.R.B.s” were ever known to speak well of’. The present landscape was probably painted in Surrey, where in 1856 Redgrave bought a cottage at Abinger, ‘a charming Surrey village on the slopes of Leith Hill, and the remaining summers of his life were spent in that lovely spot’ (Redgrave, 1891, p.71). Ruskin admired the ‘beautiful distance of the painting’ (Academy Notes, 1859; Library Edition XIV, 1904, p.229), and the Art Journal also remarked on the landscape: ‘In comparing the landscape portion of this picture with the figures, it appears that Mr Redgrave throws himself into the former with a fervency of devotion rarely witnessed. We press the hand of the honest emigrant, and pray God speed him on his voyage to his new home ... The severe truth that prevails throughout the description of this material ... cannot be too highly eulogised’.
The Tate Gallery 1976-8: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1979