English Artists: Frederic George Stephens (1827–1907)

Figure 1.--'Mother and Child' which Stephen's painted in 1854 is surely Frederic George Stephens best surviving work. He destroyed most of his other works, disatisfied with his efforts. At first look the child appears to be a girl, but given the toys on display, Stephns is suggesting that the cild is a boy. The Tate has the work on its website, but offers no interpative text. I am not sure that 'Mother and Child' is how Stephen's named the work. They are the two main characters, but if one looks carefully we see a letter in mother's hand which may explain her detached expression. Put your cursor on the image for a an enlarged view of the child and toys.

Frederic's parents were Septimus Stephens of Aberdeen and Ann (née Cooke) of Walworth, London and grew up in Lambeth, a nearby London neighborhood. Frederic was disabled as a boy in an accident (1837). As a result, he was educated privately at home. He later attended University College School, London. He aspired to be an artist and with his talent he entered the Royal Academy Schools (1844). Here he met John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt. He subsequentky joined their Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (1848). He is known to have modeled fir them and other Pre-Raphaelites. He is described as the only non-painter among the Pre-Raphaelites. This was because he was so disapointed with his own paintings that he decided to stop painting and bcome an art critic. He destroyed his paintings (1850). Only three survive. 'The Proposal' and 'Morte d'Arthur' do not seem of great artistic value. 'Mother and Child' on the other hand seems a competent work. The mother's face seems radically diffrent then the Pre-Raphaelites he so admired. Certainly not the epitome of idealized femanine beauty that was the cornerstone of the movement. We are not sure if this was beyond Stephens or a stylistic epiction he aimd at. We do not know who the sitters were. It was not a commissioned portrait. One curious aspect of the portrait is that while the child looks to be a girl with long hair and wearing a dress, the toys on display are more boy toys. Thus we are given the impression tht th child is a boy. While Stephens abandoned his painting, he became an important art critic and champion of Pre-Raphaelites. In fact he had an important role in explaining the Pre-Raphaelites’ ideals to the art loving public.


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Created: 5:55 AM 10/24/2017
Last updated: 5:55 AM 10/24/2017