Joseph Edward Southall Cinderella 1893–5

Artwork details

Artist
Title
Cinderella
Date 1893–5
Medium Watercolour on paper
Dimensions Support: 543 x 384 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Purchased 1974
Reference
T01930
Not on display

Catalogue entry

T01930 CINDERELLA 1893–95

Inscribed ‘JES’ (monogram) 1893–5 b.l.
Watercolour on paper laid on card, 21 1/2×15 1/8 (54.3×38.5)
Purchased at Sotheby's (Grant-in-Aid) 1974
Coll: Elizabeth Baker, Cheltenham; sold at Sotheby's, Belgravia, 5 November 1974 (45); bt. Fine Art Society Ltd. for the Tate Gallery
Exh: R.A., 1895 (962); Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, 1896 (634); Summer Exhibition, Walsall Art Gallery, 1904 (83); 12th Spring Exhibition, Cartwright Memorial Hall, Bradford, 1905 (447);? Tableaux à Tempera et d'Aquerlee de M. Joseph Southall Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, March 1910; Paintings by Joseph Southall, Manchester City Art Gallery, July 1922 (13); Memorial Exhibition of Works by the Late Joseph Edward Southall, R.W.S., N.E.A.C., R.B.S.A., Birmingham City Art Gallery, March–April 1945 (72) and subsequent showing at the R. W. S. Galleries, London, June 1945; N.E.A.C., October–November 1945 (300)

After studying architecture from 1878 until 1882, Joseph Southall decided to devote himself to art. He was largely self taught and much influenced by Ruskin's ideas and early Italian paintings, notably Carpaccio's. He was helped first by Sir William Blake Richmond, and later by Burne-Jones who was born in Birmingham where Southall spent all his life from the age of one.

During the 1880's and early '90's Southall taught himself to paint in tempera. It was during the course of the necessary research that he painted T.1930, a watercolour, the first work he exhibited at the Royal Academy.

In painting ‘Cinderella’ Southall took his subject from what is probably the most popular fairy story in Britain. (See Iona and Peter Opie, The Classic Fairy Tales, London 1974). In T01930, as in many Italian quattrocento paintings, more than one action is depicted in the same picture. Cinderella is shown, dressed in kitchen clothes, waving goodbye to her step-sisters, who are departing for the ball, from a first floor window in the house in the right background. She is also depicted in the left foreground after her kitchen rags have been transformed into fine clothes suitable for a ball.

Burne-Jones painted a watercolour of ‘Cinderella’ in 1863 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) in which she is seen in a kitchen among a large number of blue and white pots. This work is quite unlike T01930. However, Burne-Jones' gouache ‘The Goldfish Pool’ 1861–2 (Bottomley Bequest, Carlisle Art Gallery) is close to T01930 in composition. In both works a girl in a full dress sits in the left foreground, with one foot showing (the right in Burne-Jones' and the left in Southall), and in both the girls have trees behind them and a building in the right background. It is not known whether Southall could have seen the Burne-Jones picture which was in the collection George Boyce from 1861 until 1897.

When ‘Cinderella’ was exhibited at the Royal Academy summer exhibition in 1895, the catalogue entry included the lines:

‘Little Tree, little tree shake over me
That silver and gold may come down and cover me.’


The compiler has been unable to trace the source of this quotation.

The popularity of the Cinderella story on the stage may have been a factor in Southall's decision to paint T01930. Stage versions date from the beginning of the 19th century (see George Nash ‘Cinderella’ in About the House (Friends of Covent Garden Ltd.) I No. 12, Christmas 1965, pp.4–9). Cinderella's dress in T01930 is of a vaguely medieval ‘historical’ type worn from the late 1870's in artistic circles, and at the same time has certain characteristics of high fashion of the 1890's, e.g. the short puffed sleeves, low square decolletage; as too are the hairstyle, shoe and cape on the grass. The artist's use of such an undefinite style of dress of Cinderella- neither entirely fashionable nor accurately historical-could be the result of his wish to appeal to contemporary taste, while hinting at what would then have seemed the more attractive details of earlier modes; or of his wish to keep his picture free of any precise period, and so emphasise the ‘timelessness’ of fairy tales. (Information and comment on Cinderella's dress by Mr. Geoffrey Squires of the Victoria and Albert Museum, letter of October 1976 to the compiler).

According to Dr. Bernard Verdecourt, Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, the motif on Cinderella's dress is imaginative.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1974-6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1978

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