Friday, September 24, 2010

Mr. Punch in the Arts: John Anthony Puller’s “Punch and Judy”

English genre and landscape painter, John Anthony Puller, was born in London in 1799. Puller showed at the Royal Academy at the young age of twenty-two, and from 1825 to 1867 exhibited over eighty paintings at the Royal Society of Artists. Known for his sensitive and colorful scenes, Puller always demonstrated an easy manner in depicting everyday life. His particular forte was showing natural scenes of the way people really lived.

This circa 1850 painting entitled, Punch and Judy, shows observers of a small village, “Punch” show. Young and old of varied classes have gathered to watch Mr. Punch and his wife. Even a dog sits passively by to watch. To mirror the mischievous Mr. Punch, Puller has included children sneaking a look into the rear of the performance tent in an effort to see the puppeteers. This sort of painting is what set John Anthony Puller apart—his skilled hand was able to combine the human-themes genre scenes that he so loved with the beauty of landscape painting.

Puller’s painting dates around the same time that Lord Julian and Robert would have departed England in Punch’s Cousin. I find this work particularly enjoyable. It gives us a sense of the visual style of a “Punch” show of the era. Julian would have seen a similarly styled show near Fallbridge Hall, or, perhaps even in its city counterpart in London.

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