Sunday, May 4, 2014

Painting of the Day: “The Center of Attraction,” James Hayllar, 1875

The Center of Attraction
James Hayllar, 1875
Purchased by Lord Leverhulme in 1891 from The Royal Academy.
The Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool

Apparently, Lord Leverhulme and Mary of Teck shared a passion for collecting. Each of them amassed huge collections of gorgeous objects and did so with a distinct purpose in mind. Queen Mary, it is presumed, did so in order to preserve Britain’s history through the Royal Collection. Lord Leverhulme did so because he thought he could use the images to sell soap. And, they did just that for him. After all, who among us—either in the U.S. or U.K.—hasn’t used Lever Soap at one point in his or her lives?

This painting from 1875 by James Hayllar fit in with Leverhulme’s love of domestic scenes as well as his good marketing sense. Genre paintings such as this were quite the fashion in the late Nineteenth Century. They appealed to a mass market and elicited thoughts of happy, healthy families. Perfect to sell soap! And, an attractive piece of artwork. This, like many others, was retired from advertising use after a time and given to Leverhulme’s wife to add to her collection. It remains part of the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Liverpool. 

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