after Frederick Walker

The Old Gate


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
After Frederick Walker 1840–1875
Engraving on paper
Image: 347 × 447 mm
Purchased 2020


This nineteenth-century wood-engraving was published on 29 January 1876 in The Graphic, the weekly illustrated newspaper founded in 1869 by the engraver William Luson Thomas. It was published as a tribute to the artist Frederic Walker shortly after his death in 1875 and was engraved after one of his most famous oil paintings, The Old Gate exhibited 1869 (Tate N03514). The Old Gate depicts the crumbling gate of Halsway Court at Crowcombe in Somerset, where the artist stayed in 1868–9. The narrative is deliberately ambiguous, leaving the viewer to construct their own stories. Walker usually painted from nature, although in this case he abandoned the canvas he originally worked on in this way (the unfinished study is now in the collection of Birmingham Museums). Instead, back in his studio, he transferred his composition onto a larger canvas, and this became the finished work which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1869 and is now in Tate’s collection. Some years later, in 1874–5, Walker returned to the subject, painting a small watercolour version of the picture which is also in Tate’s collection (Tate N03525).

The print is one of a group of wood-engravings in Tate’s collection that were published in The Graphic and were exhibited at Tate Britain in 2019 in the exhibition Van Gogh and Britain, where they were displayed alongside works by Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) (see also Sunday at Chelsea Hospital 1871 after Sir Hubert von Herkomer, Tate P82583, Houseless and Hungry 1869 after Luke Fildes, Tate P82584, and ‘Gone’ – Euston Station. Departure of Emigrants, 9.15 p.m. Train for Liverpool, September, 1875 1876 after Frank Holl, Tate P82582). Van Gogh worked in the London print trade between 1871 and 1873 and was a prolific collector of British engravings from the period, The Graphic in particular. He owned impressions of these prints and commented on each of them in his letters. The original engravings, which reflect on social issues, represent the world-leading renaissance of print illustration in Britain during the late nineteenth century, as well as the growth of an alternative popular art form.

Further reading
Donato Esposito, Frederick Walker and the Idyllists, London 2017, pp.29–30.
Carol Jacobi (ed.), Van Gogh and Britain, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2019, p.64.

James Finch
February 2020

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