The Green Shawl
Oil on canvas; labelled.
24 x 18 inches
The artist's Studio Sale, Christie's 24 June 1927; bought by Gooden and Fox for Sir Jeremiah Colman (1859-1942)
Fildes made his name at the Royal Academy in 1874 with his Applicants for Admission to a Casual Ward..., a harrowing scene of Victorian poverty from Dickens that was so popular it needed a rail for protection and policemen to control the crowds. His career seemed launched upon scenes from everyday life, and in 1883 he followed up with The Village Wedding, which became famous all over the Empire after Agnew bought the picture for the vast sum of 2,500 guineas, and published an engraving of it.In the mid 1880s, about the time this picture was painted, Fildes was much in Venice. There he met Whistler, and then Sargent, who arrived later from Paris. Although the British contingent of artists working there were initially unimpressed with the Americans, Fildes spent some time with Sargent in his studio, and was soon captivated by his 'impressionist' style. As his son put it it in the artist’s biography, ‘he had abandoned himself to a new method, an experiment in pure colour and technique’ (LV Fildes, Luke Fildes..., 1968).
Fildes was over eighty when he painted this study of the same girl who modelled for Naomi, his Academy picture of 1915. According to his son’s biography, Fildes ‘always lived in the present and it was the gradual supplanting of Victorian Art by Modernism... which was uppermost in his thoughts’ at the time this was painted; he ‘was quick to suspect any sign of it’, and took it personally – for instance, when his most famous painting, The Doctor, was relegated to a cellar from the walls of the Tate Gallery.