Circle of Robert Dighton, Peasant Mother & Children, c.1785 watercolour painting


An original c.1785 watercolour painting, Circle of Robert Dighton Peasant Mother & Children.

This charming and spirited image of a ruddy-cheeked peasant woman and her children bore a historic possible attribution to Robert Dighton (1751-1814) on its old backing board. The watercolour certainly bears resemblance to Dighton's work: the strong treatment of fabric, the layered wash background and figures' caricatural quality. The mother's buxom physique and exaggerated features, and the cherubic podgy child atop her shoulders, present an idealised yet gently satirical vision of rural life.

In watercolour on wove paper.

The paper is inscribed verso '1[8]th cent. (circa 1785)' and illegibly '[?]veston'.

The painting comes hinge-mounted onto a backing sheet and presented with its historic wash line window mount. The painting is unframed but is accompanied by the frame backing board which gives the historic attribution.

There is a repaired loss to the paper at the lower right corner, as shown, above which there is a collection of what appear to be small surface burn marks. There is also a tiny closed tear to the lower edge of the paper towards the left corner. The upper right edge of the paper is cut slightly irregularly. Otherwise, overall, the painting is in good condition for its age. Please see photos for detail.
23cm x 16.5cm.

Robert Dighton (1751-1814) was the eldest in a dynasty of artists and the son of London printseller John Dighton. He was a portrait painter, printmaker and caricaturist, and was also an actor and singer in plays at the Haymarket Theatre, Covent Garden and Sadler’s Wells. His work is noted as being less savage than that of his contemporaries, James Gilray and George Cruickshank.

Dighton entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1772, and exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Free Society of Artists. He set up as a drawing master and miniature portrait painter, producing drawings of actors in character for John Bell's edition of Shakespeare (1775–76). He is credited with creating the genre of coloured prints of actors in their favourite roles.

He gained consistent employment with the publisher Carington Bowles (fl.1752–93), producing large numbers of droll mezzotints, executed in watercolour then engraved. Much of Dighton’s early work was issued anonymously, but in the 1790s he began publishing under his own name. In 1793, Dighton brought out his first Collection of Portraits of Public Characters, which proved so successful that he focused increasingly on caricature and, in the following year, moved to 12 Charing Cross to open his own shop.

In 1806 it emerged that Dighton had stolen and copied works from the British Museum to sell at his shop. He escaped prosecution by cooperating with the investigation, but this precipitated a move from the capital to work as a caricaturist in Oxford (1807-8), Bath (1809) and Cambridge (1809-10). Returning to London in 1810, Dighton reopened his studio, where he worked with his sons until his death in 1814.

His work is represented in the Royal Collection, and numerous public collections, including the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Text copyright © 2018 Somerset & Wood Fine Art Ltd. All rights reserved.

Product code: JM-750

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