the pre-pre-raphaelite


Most of what we associate with Victorian art is condensed into this picture: story-telling, social nuance, naturalism down to the last detail (“all the red-headed boys in Finchley” took turns sitting for the tousled ginger-haired child, for example, who appears as a mere fragment), humour (the cabbages dangling from the boat’s edge) balancing sentimentality, with the whole animated by vivid, piercing colour – the woman’s brilliant bonnet ribbon, fuchsia, crimson, mauve, magenta, fluttering across the picture; the deep maroon skeins of the deck rope – set against the grey wintry light and swell of a dull green sea. For the first time since this painting left Brown’s studio in 1855 it is shown here alongside a delicious preparatory oil sketch that reveals significant differences: the faces are finely featured, delicate as ivory and porcelain, rather than weather-beaten; textural details – an elaborate green and red embroidered shawl rather than the plain grey, for example – give a sumptuous surface sheen redolent of a Flemish miniature.

more from Jackie Wullschlager at the FT here.