Thursday, December 9, 2010
Benjamin Williams Leader - The Cottage Homes of England
signed and dated l.l.: B.W. Leader 1862; inscribed with lines from The Cottage Homes of England on the remnants of an old label attached to the reverse
oil on canvas
76 by 132cm.; 30 by 52in.
ESTIMATE 60,000 - 80,000 GBP
The cottage homes of England!
By Thousands on her plains,
They are smiling o'er the silv'ry brooks,
And round the hamlet fanes.
Through glowing orchards forth they peep,
Each from its nook of leaves,
And fearless there the lowly sleep,
As the bird beneath their eaves.'
Poem by Felicia Hemans.
Leader's diary for 1862 contains scant information, with only three entries, dating from January and February. Therefore the exact location of The Cottage Homes of England is not known. However it is likely that it was painted in Worcestershire, like A Fisherman's Haunt completed in 1864 (collection of Lord Lloyd Webber). Leader's home at Whittington in Worcestershire was surrounded by fields of wheat and picturesque cottages like the ones depicted in the present picture. A picture entitled English Cottage Homes was exhibited at the Academy in 1873 but was
slightly larger than the present work (36 by 54in.) and as it is unlikely that Leader would have exhibited a picture at the Academy nine years after it was painted, it seems that this picture was not the same as the present work. A
smaller version of The Cottage Homes of England, with variant details was sold in these rooms, entitled Harvest Time and dated 1861 and 1904 (9 July 1974, p.160) implying that Leader reworked the picture many years after it was first painted.
The Cottage Homes of England is a celebration of the glory days of agriculture, shortly before the economic depression of the 1870s, partly caused by vast quantities of low-priced wheat from America which led to a decline in British agriculture. The painting is a rural idyll of golden wheat fields punctuated by red poppies and bindweed, divided by hedgerows and farm lanes where a farm girl flirts with a drover.
at 6:00 AM