Octavius Oakley RWS

Harvest Girl

Octavius Oakley RWS

Harvest Girl

This fine mid-19th-century watercolour by accomplished British artist Octavius Oakley RWS (1800-1867) depicts a harvest girl leaning in a cottage doorway. It was shown at the Academy of Arts, Liverpool, in 1856 and referred to in the Art Journal.

With a sickle resting upon her right arm, she looks wistfully into the yonder. A quiet moment of rest following a long day in the fields. She’s not a hired model as Oakley painted from life - and it’s plausible they knew each other. The details are exquisite and underpinned by exceptional draughtsmanship.

A precocious talent, Oakley taught himself to draw by candlelight against the wishes of his father. In a biography, a close associate recalled that, as a boy, he’d gather candle ends and take these to his room to illuminate the pages of sketchbooks while his family slept.

His father, a wool merchant, sent him to Yorkshire in the hope he’d enter the same trade. Yet, determined to pursue an artistic career, he produced portraits of local farmers and colleagues to hone his skills. And before long, he was working for the aristocracy under the kind guidance of the Earl of Shrewsbury.

But despite the ample array of noble commissions, he preferred to paint humbler subjects - particularly the travelling community and those who worked the land. He became famous for it, exhibiting over 200 works at the Old Water Colour Society where he was a member. This charming depiction of a young harvest girl is a particularly good example of his abundant talent.

Signed (on the door)/dated and held within a gilt frame.

Medium: Watercolour on paper
Overall size: 21½” x 25” / 54cm x 64cm
Year of creation: 1855
Labels & Inscriptions: Gallery labels and framer’s label on reverse.
Provenance: Moss Galleries, Cumbria / Private collection, England.
Condition: Artwork presents well. Frame with some light wear.
Artist’s auction maximum: £6,650

Octavius Oakley RWS

Octavius Oakley RWS

Octavius Oakley RWS was an accomplished British painter of portraits, figure subjects and landscapes. He exhibited for over 30 years at the Royal Academy and was elected a member of the Old Water-Colour Society. Highly regarded during his day, various nobles sat for him including Prince George, Princess Augusta of Cambridge, and the Duke of Devonshire. His works are held in numerous public collections.

Learn more about Octavius Oakley RWS in our directory.

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