Foreign Airs and Native Graces
Oil on board; signed and dated 1860.
15.5 x 11 inches
EXHIBITED: Liverpool Society of Fine Art, 1860, no. 92
LITERATURE: Deborah Devonshire, All in One Basket, London, 2012, p. 45
Huggins, who loved chickens and often painted them, used subtle anthropomorphic tricks learned perhaps from seventeenth-century Dutch painters of the farmyard. Fancy cockerels often derive from the Continent and here the artist casts one as a strutting dandy of a chicken, with a distinctly Gallic dash, brooding like Napoleon on Elba amongst his English hens. The late Duchess of Devonshire, who also loved chickens and owned this painting, wrote: ‘I have fallen for paintings of hens too ...William Huggins, taking time off from painting lions, is the artist responsible for another group of poultry, in which the iridescent green and black tail feathers of the cock are brilliantly painted’.