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The Art of the Narrative

Daniel Goddard, Head of the Pictures Department, discusses the art of the narrative by looking at two exponents of the genre: the 19th century Dutch artist Johann Bernard de Hoog (1867-1943) and the English painter George Goodwin Kilburn (1839-1924) of the same period.

A cottage interior with a woman peeling vegetables (FS29/424) (oil on canvas, 30.5cm x 41cm)
        by Johann Bernard de Hoog (1867-1943), which sold in January 2016 for £780.

A cottage interior with a woman peeling vegetables (FS29/424) (oil on canvas, 30.5cm x 41cm) by Johann Bernard de Hoog (1867-1943), which sold in January 2016 for £780.

One function or purpose of a picture is to tell a story and in western art the heyday for narrative or genre painting was through the 18th and 19th centuries. History painting, with important narrative purpose, is high-up in the hierarchy of painting genres, and some way down comes story painting of everyday life. What could be more everyday than peeling vegetables in a cottage interior?

This 19th century Dutch painting by Johann Bernard de Hoog (1867-1943) shows a relaxed young woman quietly completing a daily chore and if we look carefully she is also minding her child who is having an afternoon nap in a crib on the floor. Beyond this, a traditional Black Forest clock ticking away with the dual purpose of marking out the time for the subject, but also reminding the viewer that this is a captured moment upon which we are voyeurs.

The Next Dance (waterolour, 36cm x 53cm) by George Goodwin Kilburn (1839-1924), which is estimated at £3,000-£5,000 (January 2016).

The Next Dance (waterolour, 36cm x 53cm) by George Goodwin Kilburn (1839-1924), which is estimated at £3,000-£5,000 (January 2016).

George Goodwin Kilburn (1839-1924), born in Norfolk in 1839, was one of the most sought after and well known British genre artists of his generation. Leaving school at 15, he went to work in London as an apprentice wood engraver with Dalziel Brothers, quickly earning a reputation as one of their "most satisfactory pupils ever". This time served him well and he was able to hone his skills for accuracy and detail, characteristics of his closely observed paintings, until he left the firm at 22 to become a professional painter. Living at addresses in Hampstead and Swiss Cottage, Kilburn had seven children, his namesake becoming a well-known painter of animals, figures and sporting subjects.

Kilburn's paintings often described the young ultra-fashionable upper classes and here is a prime example titled The Next Dance. This is bursting with narrative and innuendo depicting six beautiful young ladies, each wearing a carefully chosen silk dress being lead away by their male escorts up a flight of stairs to hopefully a ballroom. The other Kilburn watercolour is slightly smaller and contains fewer figures, but the narrative is probably even more direct and immediate; two beautiful coy and giggly girls watching a dandy young man parade himself along a path in fine garden setting.

Marks out of 10…? (waterolour, 24.5cm x 34.5cm) (FS29/420) by George Goodwin Kilburn (1839-1924), which realised £820 in January 2016.

Marks out of 10…? (waterolour, 24.5cm x 34.5cm) (FS29/420) by George Goodwin Kilburn (1839-1924), which realised £820 in January 2016.

To tell a story is a great reason to make a picture

Tags

  • Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood
  • Fine Art Auctions
  • Johann Bernard de Hoog (1867-1943)
  • George Goodwin Kilburn (1839-1924)

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About the Author

Daniel GoddardDaniel Goddard
Pictures

Daniel Goddard is a Director of Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood. He is also Head of the Picture Department.

Daniel Goddard was educated at The Kings Grammar School, Ottery St Mary and The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. He was commissioned in 1982 serving in Northern Ireland, The Falklands and Canada and in the 1990s completed an Open University degree in Art History and Humanities.

In 1988, he worked in Australia, Hong Kong and New Zealand and attended The Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. On his return to East Devon, Daniel joined Lawrences in Crewkerne as a saleroom porter and progressed to valuation and rostrum work.

In 1996, Daniel joined Bearne's in Torquay to head the Works of Art Department and transferred to Head of the Picture Department in 2000. He continues to run this busy department in the merged firm of Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood.

Daniel Goddard has been a director of the firm since 1999 and is an experienced valuer and auctioneer with a good broad range of knowledge and specialist expertise in paintings. He was responsible for the organisation and cataloguing of the two major sales of paintings by Robert Lenkiewicz (1941-2002), which raised in excess of £3 million.