George Sheridan Knowles

British, b.1863, d.1931

Glasgerion

  • c. 1897
  • Oil on canvas
  • Presented by the Canterbury Society of Arts, 1932
  • 1565 x 2180mm
  • 69/565

Treading a path well established in the 1850s by the Pre-Raphaelites, George Sheridan Knowles’s Glasgerion takes its direction from the tragic medieval romance in a lyric narrative of the same name. It was one of 305 English and Scottish popular ballads collected by Francis James Child and published between 1882 and 1898. Sheridan Knowles was among many late Victorian illustrators and painters inspired by the ballads. His large-scale depiction of the eager, soon-to-be betrayed lovers was widely admired when hung on the walls of the Royal Academy in 1897.

Glasgerion was one of six paintings brought to Christchurch from London in 1903 by the Canterbury Society of Arts, which set about raising funds to buy them. This was the first painting purchased, through a gift by local politician and businessman, John Thomas Peacock.

(The Moon and the Manor House, 12 November 2021 – 1 May 2022)

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 4 December 2016

    The Manchester-born painter and illustrator George Sheridan Knowles specialised in romantic history pieces and genre scenes. This work – exhibited at the Royal Academy, London in 1897 – was based on a tragic medieval ballad, in which Glasgerion, a king ’s son, has cast his troubadour spell over the court of the King of Normandy, in pursuit of his fair daughter. The story doesn’t end well.

    This was one of six paintings imported from England to Christchurch by the Canterbury Society of Arts in 1903 for consideration to purchase; its acquisition was generously funded by the businessman and politician John T. Peacock (1827–1905). Glasgerion was presented to the city’s new gallery in 1932.

    (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)

  • 'Glasgerion' is a visual interpretation of a passage from an old English ballad about the travelling troubadour Glasgerion, a king’s son who fell in love with the daughter of the King of Normandy. In the early verses of the ballad, which can be read at the bottom of the frame, Glasgerion’s music has lulled the king and his courtiers into a deep sleep, leaving the couple alone to embrace:

    And many’s the sigh and the loving word that passed between the two. (Label from 2011)

  • According to an old English ballad, the troubadour, or travelling poet and musician, Glasgerion, was a king’s son who won the favour of the daughter of the King of Normandy. This work illustrates the early verses of the ballad when Glasgerion’s music has lulled the king and his courtiers into a deep sleep, leaving the couple free to embrace. Romantic history pieces of scenes from Britain’s past were very popular in late Victorian England and George Sheridan Knowles used the legend of Glasgerion in a number of works. Knowles was born in Manchester and studied at the Manchester School of Art and then at the Royal Academy Schools in London. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1885 to 1919, as well as with the Royal Society of British Artists and the New Watercolour Society. Knowles also worked as an illustrator for the Quiver and the Illustrated London News from 1894 to 1899. He obtained an honourable mention at the ‘Universal Exposition’ in Paris in 1900. (Opening Gallery hang, May 2003)