Childhood innocence was one of Harvey's persistent themes. He marvelled at the pleasure children derived from the seemingly insignificant things which nature provided. In Gathering Gulls, Mevagissey, 1909 and Spoils of the Hedgerow, 1913 (both Private Collections) for instance, Cornish boys and girls, the free spirits of the region, when not working alongside their parents, roamed the fields and coves in the late summer, combing the hedgerows and orchards for fruit, berries and birds' eggs.
By 1920 however, changes had begun to occur and Harvey's children in Blackberry Gatherers, 1921 (fig. 1, sold Christie's, London, 8 March 1990) have seen the influx of contemporary fashions, brought from distant cities by holiday makers.
For girls, felt hats, knee-length frocks and stout black cuban-heeled shoes have replaced the bonnets, long skirts and button boots. Unkempt Edwardian tresses have been cropped and straightened. Modern fashion trends reflected the new freedoms, as the young women in Harvey's Outside the Gaiety Cinema, Newlyn 1925 (Private Collection) suggest. Although he had always presented the peninsula as an arcadia, the painter now grappled with contemporary modishness. Innocents were not so innocent and in his frequent allusions to religious symbolism, Harvey embraced the rounded sculptural forms adopted by Dod and Ernest Procter. Thus when he painted Two young girls with a butterfly in 1929, a kind of devotional solemnity has replaced the former playfulness. In a world of strikes, hunger marches and economic 'depression', running barefoot in the meadow has suddenly ceased, as with reverent concentration, the children kneel to examine the most ephemeral of earth's creatures.