Mowing Bracken by Henry Herbert La Thangue (1859-1929). 1903. Oil on canvas, 131 x 147 cm. Collection: Guildhall Art Gallery, London. Accession no. 771. Photographs by Jacqueline Banerjee, reproduced by kind permission of the City of London Corporation. [Click on both images to enlarge them.]

Mowing Bracken is one of the pictures illustrated in a contemporary anthology of famous paintings, with commentaries, in which La Thangue's work in general is described as "deserving of study because of its individuality." It is said to "reveal an originality of treatment which has gained him many disciples." The commentary continues:

Like the artists of the Newlyn School to which Stanhope Forbes belongs, La Thangue is an open-air painter; indeed, all his pictures are painted out of doors, and in many cases not a touch has been added to them under cover. He paints direct from nature, by placing his model in the actual scene of the picture. "Mowing Bracken," which may be regarded as a study in autumn tints, was exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1903, and was purchased for the Guildhall Art Gallery the same year. [Famous Paintings, 18]

Here, the large and striking figure of the mower is the focus, occupying the foreground; wholly engaged in his physical work, he has taken off his jacket, which lies on the ground behind him and to the side. A loaded cart of already harvested bracken disappears in the upper right, like a vignette of the more usual kind of gentle rural scene. It throws the workman's own strenuous, individual contribution into high relief. The frame, with its richly-carved leaf pattern, complements the autumnal scene and is so appropriate here that it really is a shame not to show it in a reproduction of the painting. — JB


Famous Paintings selected from the world's great galleries and reproduced in colour. Introduced by G. K. Chesterton. London: Cassell, 1913. Internet Archive. Contributed by Kelly, University of Toronto. Web. 1 October 2016.

Created 1 October 2016