James Turpin Hart

A Rustic Timepiece


Not on display

James Turpin Hart 1835–1899
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 533 × 432 mm
Purchased 1982

Display caption

This painting, exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1856, is typical of the sentimental view of rural life favoured by middle-class gallery visitors.

James Turpin Hart specialised in rustic and narrative scenes. Here, a group of country people are gathered by a stile; the little girl is blowing on a ‘dandelion clock’. According to tradition, the number of puffs it takes to blow away the downy heads will tell you what time it is. The implication is that simple country folk are quaintly ‘in touch with nature’.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry


Oil on canvas 21 × 17 (533 × 432)

Inscribed ‘Jas. T. Hart|1856’ b.r. and ‘The Rustic Time-|Piece|J.T. Hart|Upper Talbot St|Notting Hill’ on the back of the canvas

Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1982
Prov: ...; anon. sale, Phillips 26 April 1982 (146, repr.) £2,000 bt for the Tate Gallery
Exh: RA 1856 (1219)

J.T. Hart was born in Nottingham where he also received his initial artistic training before enrolling in the Schools of the RA. ‘A Rustic Timepiece’ was his first Academy exhibit and the first of a number of rustic genre scenes which constitute the most significant part of his output. His use of children in such scenes suggests the influence of more established painters like F.D. Hardy (1826–99) and W.H. Knight (1823–63). The landscape background of T03396 has obvious links with Pre-Raphaelite landscape; the presence of ears of corn found between the back of the canvas and the stretcher during conservation work possibly indicates that he painted this part of the composition on the spot. The painting seems to have gone unnoticed by the critics at the time it was exhibited. The compiler is grateful to Heather Williams for supplying details of Hart's background and career.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986


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