Saturday, September 11, 2010
George Elgar Hicks - A Cloud with a Silver Lining
Price Realized £20,315
signed and dated 'G.E. Hicks.1890.' (lower left) and inscribed 'Cloud with a Silver Lining' (on the reverse prior to relining)
oil on canvas
50 x 40¼ in. (127 x 102.2 cm.)
C. Wood, Victorian Panorama, Paintings of Victorian Life, London, 1976, p. 108, pl. 108.
London, Royal Academy, 1890, no. 786.
Melbourne, Australia, 1890.
Hicks is best known as an exemplary painter of genre, and a rival to Frith in his depictions of crowd scenes: Dividend Day, Bank of England, 1859 (National Trust) and The General Post Office, One minute to 6, 1860 (private collection) ensured his reputation, and enabled him in his later career to establish a lucrative portrait practice. His oeuvre also encompassed a few religious paintings while an obituary notice in the Art Journal revealed him to be a 'strict churchman of the Evangelical School'.
Mortality, especially among infants, was ever present in Victorian society, and having lost two sons, Frederick, aged five, and Charles at one month, Hicks was moved to paint this picture as a comfort for others. The composition derives in part from the Old Masters. The child reclines in the mother's arms like the dead Christ in a Pièta, while the father kneels over him recalling the adoration of the shepherds and the magi. The title of the picture, and the literal depiction of the proverbial 'cloud with a silver lining', denotes Hicks's belief that death offered a 'blessed release' from the sins of the world, and that the child's soul would be reborn, healthy and happy, in heaven.
The picture is one of several in the Forbes collection on the subject of sickness and mortality, reflecting the fact that many pictures in each Royal Academy exhibition throughout the Victorian period were pre-occupied with this theme. Fred Walker's At the Sick Man's Door and Faed's Worn Out, offer some hope of redemption, while Thomas Brooks's Resignation again suggests the comfort of religion to the bereaved. However, the nineteenth century also saw growing expressions of religious uncertainty, exacerbated by the theories of Charles Darwin, and finding pictorial expression in works such as Henry Bowler's The Doubt - Can these dry bones live?, R.A. 1855, (Tate Gallery).
at 6:00 AM