Credited as the founder of the artistic community at Newlyn, Walter Langley is renowned for his dedicated depiction of the town's fisherfolk. He grew up in Birmingham, the son of a tailor, where he was apprenticed as a lithographer. Elected a member of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists he was instrumental in the foundation of the Birmingham Art Circle in 1881. In the same year he made a short trip to Brittany. After visiting Newlyn in 1880, he settled there in 1882.
Langley championed watercolour, a medium which he mastered and exhibited at the Royal Institute between 1883 and 1891. Roger Langley explains how this set his grandfather apart from his contemporaries, 'A major difference between Langley and his fellow artists at this time was that he painted only occasionally in oils and never exhibited in the medium, while they, in the main, gave watercolours a wide berth'. The decision to paint primarily in watercolour may in fact have put Langley at some disadvantage with London's Royal Academy which made no secret of its disdain for the medium, but he was undeterred. William Wainwright, who at one time shared a studio with the artist, commented in 1923 on Langley's choice of watercolour as his primary medium, 'To a person of Langley's sensibility this could not be a matter of indifference and I am inclined to see in that decision a distinct choice formed by personal preference and artistic conviction that for him it was the medium in which he could reach his highest expression' (see R. Langley, op. cit, pp. 69-71).
An Interesting Story shows a young woman reading to two children in a typical Newlyn interior draped with fishing nets, a second book lying discarded on the floor. It was was executed in 1886 at which time Langley was engaged in a series of large watercolours. These included, Waiting for the Boats, painted the previous year, which was sold in these Rooms, 10 June 1999, lot 22 for £109,300, a record price for a watercolour by the artist. Such works were attracting considerable praise and in September of 1886 the recently opened Birmingham Art Gallery held a small exhibition devoted to paintings by Langley. This was a great honour to bestow on the artist since it was only the second exhibition to be held at the gallery, the first being devoted to the work of G.F. Watts and E. Burne-Jones.
The show met with an enthusiastic response, the Birmingham Post critic commenting, 'The ten drawings [including the present work] together exhibit with remarkable force the high quality and the variety of Mr Langley's works, its marvellous execution, admirable drawing, fine colour and powerful, yet tenderly felt sentiment. As a painter of homely pathos the artist stands unrivalled amongst our watercolour men and there is evidence in this collection he has also a keen sense of humorous character. No-one who cares for art should fail to study the collection' (see R. Langley, op. cit., p. 77).