Saturday, April 6, 2013

Pea Blossoms

signed with monogram and dated 1890 l.r.
oil on canvas
69 by 57 cm. ; 27 1/4 by 22 1/2 in.

The model for this delicate study of youthful feminine beauty, was the same girl that appeared in many of Poynter's paintings of the late 1880s and early 1890s, including Under the Sea Wall (unlocated) and Sweet is the Breath of Morn (unlocated) of 1888, On the Terrace (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool), A Roman Boat Race (private collection) and The Corner of the Villa (private collection) of 1889. Her elegant neck, 'English-rose' complexion and gamine features, resemble those of the young women that appear in the work of Poynter's brother-in-law, Edward Burne-Jones whose images of tall, slim women became the Aesthetic archetype in the later half of the nineteenth century. The simple subject of a girl carrying a basket of sweet-peas is close to that of a series of pictures depicting shoulder-length portraits of female models that Leighton painted in the 1880s and early 1890s, including A Venetian Woman (Leighton House Museum).

Pea Blossoms was exhibited in the same year as Poynter's major picture of the 1890s, The Queen of Sheba's Visit to King Solomon (Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney) and the same year as On The Temple Steps (Bury Art Gallery and Museum), another study of a Grecian maiden, in this case a vendor of temple offerings. In each of these pictures, Poynter expressed his great ability to capture textures and surfaces which work in harmony with one another to create a balance of composition and colour. Monkhouse described this harmony thus; 'It is sufficient to say that these little pictures of Sir Edward, so carefully arranged, so exquisitely wrought, charm by their daintiness and refinement, and often also by the delicate opalescence of their colour. Nothing that is not beautiful is allowed to enter into their composition.' (Cosmo Monkhouse, Sir Edward John Poynter, P.R.A., His Life and Work, in The Art Journal Easter Annual, 1897, p. 23). The Magazine of Art in 1890, also expressed its admiration for these smaller 'cabinet pictures'; 'These charming little pictures are certainly very bright and pleasing in character, and if on that ground alone the painter has laid the greater public under a debt of gratitude.' (The Magazine of Art, 1890, p. 82)

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