Vern Swanson has dated this picture to 1885-1886, shortly before Godward's first entry at the 1887 Royal Academy. Although little is known about Godward's early training, our painting can be understood within the tradition of the 19th century, certifying pictures in which students illustrated their proficiency by incorporating figure, flora and animal in an integrated composition before receiving their diploma. Seen in this context, A Shepherd drawing on a Tablet appears to be based on an Italianate model from the 1840-1860s. Doctor Swanson has located only fourteen other pictures with the same monogram as found on our picture, all of these works dating to the 1880s.
This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné being prepared by Doctor Vern Swanson.