George Morland, whose pictures can be seen in both the Lady Lever
and Walker collections,was arguably the most genuinely popular of
late eighteenth-century British artists. During his brief life,
according to his contemporary biographers he may have produced as
many as 4000 paintings. However this and many other highly-coloured
"facts" about him need to be treated
This painting is a fine example of Morland's characteristic rural
subjects - rustic life with plump animals and contented rosy-cheeked
peasants that presents an idyllic rather than accurate view of the
English countryside. Pigs have had a mixed place in art - appearing
as symbols of gluttony, sin or uncleanliness in religious art, or,
in contrast like here, as part of a scene of rustic plenitude.
It was the great eighteenth-century portrait painter and
landscapist Thomas Gainsborough who can be seen as popularising the
pig in British art by his inclusion of the animal in his famous
"cottage-door" paintings of the 1780's. Morland was a
great admirer of Gainsborough and apparently studied and copied his
work as part of his education. Also during the last two decades of
the eighteenth century peasant and rural subjects became fashionable
throughout Europe in poetry, opera, novels as well as pictures.
Morland's art fits in with this fashion.
Morland's paintings were much reproduced - as black and white
engraved mezzotint images printed from copper plates. So great
was the demand for prints that worn plates had to be reground and
recut to print more. One commentator wrote;
"the subjects of his pictures being adapted to common
comprehension the prints engraved from them had an unparalleled sale
not only in this country but abroad particularly in France and
Germany. Of those of "Dancing Dogs" and "Selling
Guinea Pigs" five hundred pairs were sold in a few weeks".
Morland made arrangements with London print dealers to display
groups of his pictures and to charge an entrance fee to view them -
with the opportunity to buy a print afterwards. There are
other contemporaneous examples of print-connected displays of
paintings in London (in particular the famous Shakespeare Gallery in
Pall Mall) but such a one-man commercial venture was unusual. Not
surprisingly Morland made a great deal of money.
to a recording of Frank Milner's talk on 'The Piggery' online now
(opens in a new window).
Horse and plough
The Bell Inn (many different Morland paintings share
Bell Inn, Kilburn
10 x 12 inches (25.4 x 30.5 cms)
Triumph of Benevolence
Strangers at home
The cottage door (there are two pictures with this name)