William Lee-Hankey

British, b.1869, d.1952

"We’ve been in the meadows all day"

  • Presented by the Canterbury Society of Arts, 1932
  • Watercolour
  • 1320 x 1015mm
  • 69/310
  • c. 1904

In 1904 leading English watercolourist William Lee-Hankey built a house at Le Touquet, northern France, and acquired a studio at nearby Étaples, which was then a thriving artist colony filled with British, American and Australasian artists. Inspired by the work of French painter Jules Bastien-Lepage, and the aesthetic potential of the region’s inhabitants, he painted industriously – rustic market scenes, workers and paupers, women and children – in a bold, individualistic style. This work was first shown in Lee-Hankey’s 1906 solo exhibition in London. An article on the artist published at this time applauded how strongly he felt ‘both the picturesqueness and the pathos of the peasant’s struggle for existence’, finding ‘in the simplicity and unaffected naturalism of the workers in the fields a degree of poetic suggestion which is discoverable nowhere else.’ Further nailing the attractions of France, the review went on to note that ‘The British peasants have lost the character which made them formerly worthy of the artist’s attention’.

(The Weight of Sunlight, 16 September 2017 - 16 September 2018)

earlier labels about this work
  • This large watercolour of a peasant woman out in the fields with her sleepy child is a good example of the Victorian taste for sentimental figure studies. It is also the kind of intimate portrait for which William Lee-Hankey is best known and was produced at the high point in his career, when he commanded high prices for his work. It was first exhibited in New Zealand at the ‘International Exhibition’, Christchurch, from 1906 to 1907. Lee-Hankey was a member of the British Newlyn School which favoured a naturalistic style of painting. He was also influenced by the French artist Bastien Lepage (1848 -1884), who painted peasant life in an Academic Realist manner. Lee-Hankey was born in Chester, England. Following art studies there, he went to the Royal College of Art, London, then to Paris. Back in London by 1893, he began exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1896. In the early 1900’s, however, he returned to France.

    (Label date unknown)