Friday, February 13, 2015

Masterpiece of the Week: “The Fairytale,” by James Sant, 1845

The Fairytale
James Sant, 1845
The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

A favorite painter of Queen Victoria’s, James Sant enjoyed painting landscapes, but was better known as a portrait painter. This member of the Royal Academy was welcomed into the most prominent homes in England, including the Royal residences, where his prestigious sitters were delighted by his beautiful canvases and marveled at his exceptional work ethic. The collections of many of England’s stately homes include portraits and landscapes painted by Sant.

Every so often, Sant combined his two loves—landscape and portraiture—into genre paintings, domestic scenes and historical or literary groups with strong compositions and delicately painted figures. He especially thrilled in painting mothers and children. One of his more famous paintings is a portrait of a mother and child in a allegorical composition entitled “The Fairytale.” 

Now housed in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, the painting is at once tranquil and tender as well as urgent and mysterious. On the surface, it is simply a scene of a mother telling her young child a fairytale, but look closer. This is a study of Victorian-era ideals. Examine the painting and see what it says to you. 

Click on the image below for a super big copy:

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