In Victorian England, the popularity of sentimental genre pictures, filled with incident and detail, was well established. This fascination with, what were called 'cabinet domestic pictures,' was in part a reflection of the growth and patronage of the middle class, for such narrative art found a sympathetic and ready market. Accordingly, recognizable truth of sentiment - whether of pathos or humor - was a paramount consideration for the acceptance of this genre.
Within this 'truth of sentiment,' one of the most universal themes in 19th Century Britain, was that of the child and in many respects the Victorian era (1837-1901) heralded a golden age of childhood. Although children were often important protagonists in Victorian literature and art, adult values clearly underlie the material and reinforce prevailing social and domestic values. It was the true proliferation of adult-like children that permeated the Victorian family life.
Frederick Morgan was the eldest child of John Morgan (1823-85, a member of the Royal Society of British Artists) from whom he learnt his trade. His mother Henrietta did not want the young Fred to follow the precarious life of an artist so he was sent to London to seek office employment in the City. Very soon he returned to his family in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire and fortunately he found work as a portrait artist attached to a photographer, where for three years, he developed his wonderful portrait skill.
He began to exhibit large canvases at the Royal Academy in the early 1870s and soon found a patron in the London and Liverpool art dealers Messrs. Agnew & Son to whom he sold most of his works. These canvases were of special realism showing rural toil and struggle, but even then his sympathetic portrayal of children was evident.
By the 1880s, Morgan had found his niche and, as with Norman Rockwell's observations of mid 20th Century American society, Morgan will always be remembered for his masterful portrayal of the scenes of late Victorian and Edwardian family life.
In the present work, the children gather up in excitement in order to view and cheer the first tooth of their youngest sibling, a new addition to the family. A sense of closeness amongst the members of the core family as well as shared values such as love and caring, are praised.