An intriguing early 20th-century ink drawing depicting five nereids emerging from the waves. In Greek mythology, nereids are sea nymphs - the female spirits of sea waters. They were known for their beautiful voices and often accompanied Poseidon, the god of the sea.
The drawing is signed ED Hill and we believe this probably relates to the painter, sculptor and illustrator Vernon Hill (1887-1953). It’s dated 1927, which is the year that Vernon Hill exhibited a work titled ‘Sea Frolic’ at the Leicester Galleries. Sea Frolic is recorded as depicting three entwined mermaids, which could be one way to interpret this piece.
Interestingly, the drawing is titled ‘Nereids’ as this is a name more akin to Hill’s usual conventions. ‘Sea Frolic’ feels commercial and unlike his usual approach so perhaps the gallery suggested a more ‘saleable’ name.
The work feels like a preparatory drawing ahead of an etching or lithograph. There’s an underdrawing in pencil which has been mostly drawn over in ink. If it was part of Hill’s process, it would be a very rare find indeed.
However, we also accept that it’s not signed in the usual way (although that’s not uncommon for preparatory drawings) so can’t give the piece an attribution. Either way, it’s still a fabulous example of early 20th-century illustration.
The drawing is housed within a later frame.
Learn more about Vernon Hill in our directory.
Medium: Pencil and ink drawing on paper
Overall size: 16½” x 20½” / 42cm x 52cm
Year of creation: c. 1927
Condition: Areas of light foxing. Frame with some age-related wear.