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Beer In Art #144: William Frederick Witherington’s The Hop Garland

This week’s work of art is by the English artist William Frederick Witherington, who was known for his landscapes and depictions of small incidents of everyday family life. One of these was The Hop Garland, painted in 1834 and today hanging at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Described on the V&A’s website simply as “[a]n oil painting depicting a girl in a hop garden placing a garland of hop blossoms on the head of a younger girl as a boy looks on,” but an art journal from 1851 adds additional details about the painting.

At the proper season, men, women, and children are employed in picking the hops, and preparing them for the market. Mr Witherington has selected for his picture a little episode in the day’s work, when the younger labourers are resting awhile from their tasks: a girl, who, from her superior style of dress, we should rather suppose to be a visitor to the garden than a ‘picker’, is decorating a younger child with a chaplet of the golden flowers. The idea is excellent; so also is the manner in which it has been carried out. The faces of the group are highly expressive, especially that of the little girl, so full of self-complacency at the honours bestowed upon her … this group, in all its parts, is admirably painted, and finished with great care; it is brilliantly coloured, yet with perfect harmony of tones … the picture is unquestionably one of the best ever painted by Mr Witherington …

And a contemporary newspaper account had this to say:

The Hop Garden presents an incident true to nature, in a little girl standing full of pride and delight, while an older one is decking her head with a crown of hops, and a lad sits in his basket laughing at the sport. The expression of the child’s face is not quite so pretty or rustically joyous as we could have wished, but it is arch and good. The boy and his drapery are perfect, both in the painting and character; the back-ground is well managed and the whole rich in harmony of colour and truth of effect.

The sitter for one of the girls was identified some years ago by a descendant as her great-grandmother, either Mrs Sarah Ancketill or Lady Selina Ker.

Witherington apparently liked the subject, because he painted it a second time, though ever so slightly differently. That Hop Garland is in the Tate Museum.

In addition, it was apparently a popular painting. An engraving based on Witherington’s painting was done for sale to a mass audience entitled the Youthful Queen of the Hop Garden by a James Posselwhite.

You can read more about Witherington at his Wikipedia page and there are some links to more of his works at ArtCyclopedia.

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