Wednesday, November 2, 2011

John Callcott Horsley - The Truant in Hiding 1870

Horsley was a successful painter of historical and contemporary narrative pictures. From 1875 to 1890, he served as Rector of the Royal Academy, where his prudish objection to the painting of nude models earned him the nickname ‘clothes-Horsley’.

His main claim to fame is probably that he designed the first ever Christmas card. Horsley’s brother-in-law was Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the engineer who built the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the SS 'Great Britain'. Like most of Horsley’s paintings, this one tells a story. The boy has run away from his lessons and now hides behind the maid as his angry tutor searches for him. The maid’s covert sideways glance shows that she sympathises with the boy and will not be telling the tutor where he is. Each person’s role is clearly defined; the tutor with his books and scholarly black clothes, the maid with her mending basket and the boy with his crossbow and grand clothes.

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