Painted on the eve of the First World War this picture is an evocation of a dinner held a century earlier, during which a toast is proposed to the young and beautiful hostess. A group is assembled in the dining room of a well appointed house, around a table laden with crystal. Secure in their prosperity, they are also saluting their good fortune. It is a depiction of a confident, and comfortable England.
The picture was executed at the height of Jack's career. The artist had made a name exhibiting portraits at the Royal Academy, and the previous year his Rehearsal with Nikisch had been presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest to the Tate Gallery. The following year, 1914, he was elected A.R.A, becoming a full Academician in 1921. While showing a debt to the style and props of portraits by Romney and Gainsborough a century earlier, Jack also assimilated the influence of contemporaries such as Sargent, Lavery and Orpen. Along with Collier, Solomon, Henry and Harcourt he was to provide the central consensus of Edwardian portraiture at the Royal Academy and New Gallery exhibitions during the opening years of the century.
Born in Sunderland in 1866, Jack first studied at the York School of Art before attending the South Kensington Schools. There he won a gold medal and in 1888 a travelling scholarship to the Academie Julian in Paris. In 1916 Jack accepted a commission in the Canadian Army to go to France and paint for the Canadian War Records: two vast canvasses of battle scenes at Ypres and Vimy now hang in the National Gallery of Canada, Ottowa. He was also to find royal favour: a portrait of King George V commissioned by the Royal Borough of Fulham was later bought by the monarch himself, and he subsquently painted a portrait of Queen Mary, and various interiors at Buckingham Palace. Jack closed his career in Canada, where he had emigrated in 1938, as a painter of landscape and several of his later works remain there. Paintings such as the present example, arguably a tour de force of British Impressionism, and executed on an unusually large scale for the artist, are rare to the market.