John Samuel Raven

Study for ‘Saintfoin in Bloom’: View near Cobham in Kent


John Samuel Raven 1829–1877
Oil paint on card on wood
Support: 177 × 355 mm
frame: 440 × 615 × 70 mm
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1981

Display caption

This is a study for the finished picture exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1859 and described as a view near Cobham in Kent. Saintfoin (now usually spelled sainfoin) is a wild perennial herb with tall, conical pink flowers. Once cultivated as a fodder plant, its name is French and means ‘wholesome hay’. The influence of Pre-Raphaelitism can be seen in the rich colour and foreground detail.

Gallery label, November 2016

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Catalogue entry


Not inscribed
Oil on card laid on panel, 7 3/4 × 13 15/16 (18.3 × 35.4)
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1981
Prov: The artist; his widow; Henry Holiday (husband of the artist's sister, Kate Raven), by descent to Alfred Holiday, by whom sold, Christie's 16 October 1981 (77, repr.), bt Jocelyn Feilding Fine Art Ltd, from whom purchased and presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1981.
Exh: Collected Works of the late John Samuel Raven, Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1878 (46).
Lit: John Ruskin, ‘Academy Notes, 1859’, in The Works of John Ruskin, ed. E.T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, XIV, 1904, p.230.

This is a study for the painting exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1859 (574). Ruskin, commenting on a group of ‘minor landscapes’ in that exhibition and finding evidence of ‘uncontributive toil’ in several of them, commended ‘Saintfoin in Bloom’ as ‘more easy in touch, and very harmonious in the light and shade of the figures’. The finished painting (as well as this study for it) was also exhibited in the memorial exhibition held in 1878, the year after the artist's death, at the Burlington Fine Arts Club (39, lent by G.H. Simms, Esq.); its present whereabouts are unknown. Notes in the 1878 catalogue specify that the finished picture represented a ‘View near Cobham, in Kent’, and that the study for it was ‘painted in 1857’.

'Saintfoin’ (now usually spelled ‘sainfoin’, the word deriving from the French and meaning ‘wholesome hay’) is a perennial herb, native on limestone or chalky hills, and elsewhere cultivated as a forage crop. ‘In the sunlight of June and July, sainfoin flowers are exquisite, even startling. In bold, crowded recemes against a blue sky, the flowers have the pink of Quattrocento paintings or of pink stripes upon white silk’ (Geoffrey Grigson, The Englishman's Flora, 1958, p.139).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984


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