Shilly Shally

PRE-RAPHAELITE (founded 1848) Biography

Shilly Shally (United Kingdom, 1863)

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Pencil and watercolour heightened with white on paper
Signed, inscribed and dated 1863


35.60cm high
23.30cm wide
(14.02 inches high)
(9.17 inches wide)
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Description / Expertise

Smallfield was a painter of genre scenes in oil and watercolour. He was a student at the Royal Academy Schools in the late 1840's with the members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, but he was probably not close to them then, for he is not mentioned in their diaries. However by the late 1850's his works display a distinct Pre-Raphaelite influence. Early Lovers, an oil painting now in Manchester City Art Gallery, is the best known. It shows a young couple against a meticulously observed background of flowers and leaves, a Pre-Raphaelite format first used in John Everett Millais' popular Huguenot of 1852.

In 1858, Ruskin praised Smallfield's watercolours in Academy Notes. Smallfield became best known as a watercolour painter, although he continued to exhibit occasional oils at the Royal Academy until the late 1870's. He was elected Associate of the Old Watercolour Society in 1860 and chiefly exhibited there although he also sent works to the Royal Academy, and the Grosvenor Gallery.

In 1862 he contributed illustrations to Willmott's Sacred Poetry and Passages From Modern English Poets, but these were his sole contributions to the illustration revival of the 1860's. No less than three of his children became artists and exhibited from the 1880's onwards. Smallfield is still a little known artist, and there is no substantial printed study of his work.