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Webster was a painter of narrative genre in the tradition of David Wilkie and William Mulready. Such pictures, generally modest in size and ostensibly representing scenes of everyday life, were popular with the public and acclaimed by many critics. Although contemporary commentaries tended to focus on their realism and painterly technique, these images also expose a preoccupation with the themes of education and discipline among the lower classes. When this picture was exhibited in 1835 a critic proclaimed it ‘a charming little composition; characteristic in every object, and painted with a true feeling of the art’.

February 2016