William Robert Colton

The Springtide of Life


Not on display

William Robert Colton 1867–1921
Object: 1359 × 635 × 610 mm
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1903

Display caption

As a sculptor, Colton specialised in representations of female nudes, lovers and children. The finely-cut marble is used here to convey the pure essence of childhood. It also introduces a note of fancy with the figures resting on water, an idea which might have been suggested by Charles Kingsley’s novel The Waterbabies of 1863.

The unselfconscious postures of the children, especially the stance of the crouching boy, introduce a hint of realism into what is otherwise a subject of  tender affection.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Inscr. ‘Colton 1903’ on top of plinth, at back on right.
Serravezza marble on a separate base of Siena marble, 53 1/2×25×24 (136×64×61) excluding base.
Chantrey Purchase from the artist 1903.
Exh: R.A., 1903 (1880).
Lit: W. T. Whitley, ‘W. Robert Colton, A.R.A.’ in Art Journal, 1911, p.178, repr. p.180; A. L. Baldry, ‘Modern British Sculptors: W. Robert Colton, A.R.A.’ in Studio, LXVI, 1915, p.96, repr. p.94.
Repr: Royal Academy Pictures, 1903, p.94.

A plaster version of this group was exhibited at the R.A., 1902 (1724), repr. Royal Academy Pictures, 1902, p.179. The sculptor's daughter (Mrs Kerr, letter of 9 December 1956) recalled that this was always one of his most popular works. The models were two little girls, one of whom was transformed into a little boy in the finished work. The allusion is that the two children are playing by the seashore, the elder and more responsible of the two gently restraining her younger brother, who is balanced on a rock entranced by the waves.

A bronze version (27 in. high) was exhibited at the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, 1906 (878), and again at the Beaux Arts Gallery in 1929.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I

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