Victorian England welcomed images of the domestic life, children at play and the happy family. Frederick Morgan was one of the greatest British genre painters of his time specializing in sweet childhood scenes. His works were very popular as indicated by the large number of reproductions created and sold during his lifetime. John Oldcastle wrote:
'An artist of his era in his choice of child-subjects, he is also of his generation in his methods, reminding us in his sympathies now of this contemporary, now of that. Yet, he has kept to his own chosen way with the vigilance of a palmer, the shrine of childhood always before him as his goal. Where is the child, his Holy Land is there. On that heavenly city he has kept a single eye.' (The Art of Mr. Fred Morgan' The Windsor Magazine, June 1905, p. 18)
Morgan was born in London to John Morgan, who was an artist and took his son out of school when he was just fourteen years old to begin his artistic instruction with him. The young artist was sent to Edinburgh to begin his career, although his greatest influence remained his father. At the young age of sixteen, Fred sent a painting entitled The Rehearsal to the Royal Academy, which much to his surprise, was accepted and purchased by a private collector.
Subsequently Morgan was hired by a photographic firm in Aylesbury to paint family portraits. His work in the photography studio coupled with his innate talent drew in numerous portrait commissions, bringing fame and popularity to the young artist. From the income at the studio, he was able to paint what he was best known for: idealized peasants and happy childhood scenes.
This charming subject is reminiscent of William Bouguereau in the way Morgan finds beauty and grace in an apparently everyday subject. A girl and her sibling have been gleaning in the fields. The younger child has fallen asleep and is carried by her sister, who holds some corn and a hat in her other hand. The day is drawing to a close, and it is time to go home.
Morgan was drawn to such subjects, and usually found a market for them, if not in London, then in the provinces. Birmingham, Liverpool and Glasgow each had scores of dedicated picture buyers, and artists often chose to exhibit there as an alternative to showing at the Royal Academy.
We are grateful to Terry Parker for his help in preparing this catalogue entry.