‘The Gypsy Tent’
Lots of figures, a little tatty around the edges but a mount would remedy this.
Size: 48.5cm by 57cm
Morland was born in London, the 3rd son (of 6 children) of Henry Robert Morland (c. 1719–1797), artist, engraver and picture restorer. His father had once been a rich man but fell into reduced circumstances - his pictures of laundry-maids, reproduced in mezzotint, and representing ladies of some importance, were very popular in their time. His mother was a Frenchwoman who possessed a small independent property of her own. His grandfather, George H. Morland, was a subject painter.
At a very early age Morland produced sketches of remarkable promise, exhibiting some at the Royal Academy in 1773, when he was but ten years old. He continued to exhibit at the Free Society of Artists in 1775 and 1776, and at the Society of Artists in 1777, then at the Royal Academy in 1778, 1779 and 1780. His very earliest work, however, was produced even before that tender age, as his father kept a drawing which the boy had executed when he was but four years old, representing a coach and horses and two footmen.
He was a student at the Royal Academy in early youth, but only for a very short time. From the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to his father for seven years, and by means of his talent appears to have kept the family together. He had opportunities at this time of seeing some of the greatest artists of the day, and works by old masters, but even then a strange repugnance for educated society showed itself, and no persuasion, for example, could ever allure him within reach of the Angerstein gallery, where he would have been a welcome visitor.
Before his apprenticeship came to an end, George Romney offered to take Morland into his studio for three years, with a salary of £300 a year, but the offer was rejected, and as soon as his freedom came, he left his dull, respectable home, with its over-strict discipline, and began a career of reckless prodigality which has hardly a parallel in art biography. In 1785, he was in France, whither his fame had preceded him, and where he had no lack of commissions, and in the following year he married Anne (the sister of engraver William Ward and artist James Ward) and settled down in High Street, Marylebone, London.
Morland's chief characteristic was that he painted the life that he knew. His pictures were of the everyday life of his time, and of the experiences of the folk with whom he mixed, depicted with purity and simplicity, and showing much direct and instinctive feeling for nature. His coloring is mellow, rich in tone, and vibrant in quality.
His work necessarily has the defects of his qualities and of his life - in his haste he often seems to have sacrificed some of the power which a more deliberate method might have imparted. Yet, in spite of all, he was one of the greatest masters of The English School, uniting in his work the magic of Gainsborough with the delicacy of an old Dutch painter. Though he made a speciality of horses, he painted life on the high road and scenes of rural life with marvellous insight and skill, If his women are not great ladies, they still possess a charm and grace of their own; and if his fame rests mainly upon his power of painting animals, his best attributes are shown in the social scenes which he portrayed so faithfully.
The finest of Morland's pictures were executed between 1790 and 1794, and amongst them his picture The inside of a stable (Tate Britain, London) may be reckoned as a masterpiece. In the last eight years of his life Morland produced some nine hundred paintings, besides over a thousand drawings.
He had a supreme power of observation and great executive skill, and he was able to select the vital constituents of a scene and depict even the least interesting of subjects with artistic grace and brilliant representation. His pictures are never crowded; the figures in them remarkably well composed, often so cleverly grouped as to conceal any inaccuracies of drawing, and to produce the effect of a very successful composition. As a painter of English scenes he takes the very highest position, and his work is marked by a spirit and a dash, always combined with broad, harmonious coloring. He exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy from 1784 down to 1804. Amongst these was the remarkable 1788 picture Execrable Human Traffic or the Affectionate Slaves. Two years later he exhibited a companion picture showing Africans caring for shipwrecked Europeans. They were subsequently published as prints and served to promote abolitionism.
Morland was a close friend of fellow artist, William Armfield Hobday 1771–1831) who painted a portrait of the artist which is still intact. William Collins was an informal pupil and later wrote a biography.