Edmund Bristow

Travellers In A Wood

Edmund Bristow

Travellers In A Wood

This mid-19th-century oil painting by British artist Edmund Bristow (1787-1876) depicts a travelling family within a woodland setting.

Bristow was an extraordinary talent yet, due to his stubborn independence, he died in relative obscurity. His rugged rural scenes were popular with the aristocracy but led to malaise due to the vigorous demands of his patrons. Sir Edwin Henry Landseer RA (1802-1873) proclaimed that noone could paint a better horse - high praise indeed.

Bristow’s popularity was in part due to his location - he was born in Eton and worked predominantly in Windsor. But also it reflected his precocious mastery of capturing the rustic environs of rural working families. Here, we see a family of travellers dining in a wood. In the foreground, a dishevelled father peels vegetables alongside a fire. His dog looks on, waiting patiently for occasional scraps. Mother sits behind, smoking a pipe as the dinner cooks.

Bristow’s scenes are often accompanied by animals, which tend to carry expressions to communicate a general mood. Note the donkeys by the tree, both exhausted and forlorn.

Travellers were oft the source of Victorian paintings but it’s wrong to assume that depictions of ‘gypsy’ encampments were in any way derogatory. The Victorian upper classes were generally straight-laced, withheld, and constrained by rigmarole. So hence, they longed for scenes that conveyed a sense of unbridled freedom as a tonic for their suppressed emotions. They certainly stereotyped the travelling community as free-spirited and romantic, yet, for them, this was an idealisation which suited the societal backdrop.

Bristow’s patrons included Royalty and several of his works are held in the Royal Collection. His career was effectively cut short when he withdrew from public life for fear of further patronage.

Signed lower left and held within a later frame.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 38” x 32” / 97cm x 81cm
Year of creation: c. 1840
Condition: Artwork presents well. Fine craquelure but the paint is stable. Canvas relined. Frame with some light wear.
Artist’s auction maximum: £29,000

Edmund Bristow

Edmund Bristow

Bristow exhibited numerous times at the Royal Academy, British Institution, and the Society of British Artists. His works are held in various public collections including at the British Museum, Royal Collection Trust, Walker Art Gallery, Royal Museums Greenwich, Denver Museum, and the National Trust.

Learn more about Edmund Bristow in our directory.

Conservation & History

We care profoundly about our role as custodians and every piece in the collection has been assessed by our conservator. When required, we undertake professional restoration carefully using reversible techniques and adopt a light touch to retain the aged charm of each work. We also restore frames rather than replace them as many are original and selected by the artists themselves.

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