(London 1822 - 1885 Hastings)
(1847 - 1927)
English genre artist, born in Pentonville, north London. Morgan studied at the School of Design, London and also trained in Paris under Thomas Couture (1815-1879). Whilst living in Aylesbury in 1861, he found fame with his paintings "Gentlemen of the Jury" and "The Country Auction." A member of the Society of British Artists (S.B.A.), his work was influenced by Thomas Webster and William Powell Frith.
His son Frederick Morgan was an equally popular artist, most noted for "His Turn Next", famously used by the Pears Soap advertising campaign.
John Morgan had moved from London to Guildford in 1871. The success of his rural genre landscapes featuring children and adults inspired his son and daughter-in-law to change direction. They too left their London home and rented Edmond's Farm in the Surrey village of Gomshall, in the summers of 1875, 1876 and 1877. This part of Surrey was a poor, rurally depressed area which attracted numerous artists to paint around the area. Around this time titles like "The Surrey Hills" feature regularly in exhibition catalogues.
Morgan and Havers set about painting large canvases depicting agrarian toil and the plight of the rural peasantry. Foremost among these paintings were Morgan's "The Emigrant's Departure", R.A. 1875, and After the Reaper's Work Is Done RA 1878, whilst Havers's contributions included The End of Her Journey RA 1877, and The moon is up, but yet it is not night. R.A., 1878. All their canvases were painted around Gomshall, Abinger, Shere and Godalming. These new subjects were a great success at the Royal Academy and many of them were bought, prior to the exhibition, by the leading art dealer William Agnew.
Morgan spoke fluent French which he had learned as a child while living in Paris for two years 1854-1855, when his father was studying there. The Morgan family left Surrey and spent the Autumn of 1878 and 1879, painting in the countryside around Varengeville-sur-Mer in Normandy. In 1879, Havers exhibited French titles including their location, but Fred gave less specific titles. These French works show a more romanticised view of agricultural labour.
"Not of the Fold" was painted when Morgan was 33 years old, during his first successful period. The setting is the village of Shere, a short distance from where the Morgan family had previously stayed. The footbridge is over the Tillingbourne River, which flows through the valley, and the distinctive tower and spire of St. James Church, Shere, can be seen in the distance. Morgan most likely returned to Surrey in late autumn 1880, to paint this work, but Havers appears to have remained in their London home due to their marital difficulties, plus she was pregnant with their third and last child Reginald Frederick, born 3 January 1881.
Morgan may have stayed at the White Horse Inn which is the other side of Shere church from the scene in the painting. It was a popular 'watering hole' for artists, and an album of signatures and sketches by visiting artists was sold at Sotheby's
This is a well constructed, multi-figure, classic composition which Morgan would have learned while working in the studio of his father. Morgan greatly admired the work of Frederick Walker, A.R.A. (1840-1875), and the peasant woman and child pay homage to the figures in Walker's first R.A. exhibit, "The Lost Path", (1863).
["... in his earlier life he fell under the influence of Fred Walker, and essayed combination of peasant life with landscape." "Pictures of Children" by Fred, The Lady's Magazine Vol. 2, September 1901.]
The elderly squire, with his walking stick, also appears in Alice Havers's "Caught" R.A., (1875). This work, also painted in Surrey, shows a boy being brought before the squire after being apprehended scrumping apples.
The mixed-breed dog is well painted and anatomically correct, unlike Morgan's own attempts at canine portraiture, which would suggest he asked his friend Allen Culpepper Sealy (1850-1927) to paint it. Sealy painted the dogs in Morgan's "Love Me, Love My Dog", R.A., (1879), and "Rival Families", I.PO., (1885).
Morgan and Havers regularly included their children in their works. Their son Valentine (born 13 Feb. 1873) aged 8, and their daughter Lillian (born 5 Jan. 1875) aged 6, appear to be the children crossing the footbridge. Morgan's other Royal Academy exhibit in 1881, "Nature's Mirror"; two girls by a stream looking at their reflection, was also 'hung on the line.' Strangely Agnew did not buy either of Morgan's 1881, R.A. paintings. but he did purchase Havers's exhibit "The First Arrivals". "Not of the Fold" has been unrecorded since its exhibition in 1881.
© Copyright Ownership: bonhams.com, /auctions. [content will willingly be removed upon request from source URL)
View artist's work: John Morgan (1822-1885)