- Museum number
'The Amateur', or 'Coachman and Cabbage'; man standing amongst cabbages unfolding a penknife, dog sitting by gatepost to right. 1870
Watercolour with bodycolour
- Production date
Height: 177 millimetres
Width: 254 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Exhibited at RWS Winter 1870 as 'The Amateur'. Known by Cecil French as 'Coachman & Cabbage', the title it was exhibited under at Burlington House in 1891 and when it was sold at Lehmann's posthumous sale. Date given at registration.
When this watercolour was included in the 'Art of the Garden' exhibition at Tate Britain in 2004 (no. 33) Martin Postle (who wrote the catalogue entry) noted that Walker may have painted this watercolour of a kitchen garden during the summer and early autumn of 1870 when he was staying at Bisham, Berkshire, a manor house once belonging to the Earls of Salisbury and home of George Henry Vansittart at the time of Walker's stay. Hurley Priory is nearby and the gates visible in the watercolour are actually the gates to the Priory, rather than to Bisham Abbey, and the garden would seem to be inside the walls. This information has been kindly provided by Lady Redman (letter November 2004 and photo in file).
The following is the entry on this drawing in L. Stainton, 'British Landscape Watercolours 1600-1860', 1985
Fred Walker began his career as one of the most distinguished of the group of draughtsmen, including his friends G.J. Pinwell and J.W. North, who in the early 1860s specialised in making drawings for book illustration. He soon turned to painting, and evolved a highly-wrought and elaborate water-colour technique involving much use of bodycolour, denounced by Ruskin as "a semi-miniature, quarter fresco, quarter wash manner of his own". The term "painting in watercolour" is exactly applicable to these drawings, which are so like his oil-paintings in subject and treatment that in reproduction, when there is no indication of scale, the two cannot be told apart.
Inevitably, Walker was influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites. In accordance with their strict principle of absolute fidelity to nature, he did his best, in conditions of difficulty and often even hardship, to paint large-scale canvases out of doors (see George Marks, 'Life and Letters of Frederick Walker ARA', 1896), but he was never a pure landscape artist. Though natural appearances are always minutely observed and sensitively rendered - as J.W. North wrote, "his knowledge of nature was sufficient to disgust him with the ordinary conventions that do duty for grass, leaves and boughs" - the figures in his pictures are never subordinated to the landscape setting. In Pre-Raphaelite paintings the figures tend to be seen in some intensely charged moment of spiritual or moral crisis; in his, their action is usually incomplete and only vaguely definable. It might be said of him that he painted subject-pictures without subjects. Moreover, there is about his figures an element of poetic idealisation that sets his art apart from the obsessive truth-to-nature of the realistic wing of Pre-Raphaelitism. In his own personal and intensely English way Walker might be seen as a parallel to such Continental contemporaries as Giovanni Costa or Jules Breton: but unfortunately Walker died before he was able to resolve his stylistic contradictions. It is interesting that he should have been greatly admired by Van Gogh, who in a letter of 1885 says, of Walker and Pinwell: "They did in England exactly what Maris, Israels, Mauve, have done in Holland, namely restored nature over convention; sentiment and impression over academic platitudes and dullness . . . They were the first tonists".
A. Gruetzner Robins, ''South Country' and other imagined places', in Kim Sloan (ed.), Places of the Mind: British watercolour landscapes 1850-1950, London, 2017, pp. 92-117.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1870/1, London, Royal Watercolour Society, 'Winter Exhibition', no.379
1873, Vienna International Exhibition, no.116
1876, Jan-Feb, London, Deschamps Gallery, Frederick Walker, no.8
1878, Paris, 'Exposition Universelle', no.145
1891, London, RA, 'Winter Exhibition', no.157
1969, BM, 'Royal Academy Draughtsmen 1769-1969', no.148
1985, BM, 'British Landscape Watercolours 1600-1860', no.194
1993 Feb-May, Munich, Neue Pinakothek, 'Victorian Painting', no.89
1993 May-July, Madrid, Museo de Prado, 'Victorian Painting', no.89
1994/5 Sep-Jan, BM, 'Pre-Raphaelite Drawings', no.117
2004 June-Aug, London, Tate Britain, 'Art of the Garden' no.33
2017 23 Feb-27 Aug, London, BM, G90, Places of the Mind: British Landscape watercolours 1850-1950
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- This item has an uncertain or incomplete provenance for the years 1933-45. The British Museum welcomes information and assistance in the investigation and clarification of the provenance of all works during that era.
Lehmann owned this watercolour then titled 'Coachman and Cabbage' by 1885 and it was included in the sale at Christie's after his death.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number