Harold Harvey (1874-1941)
Harvey was a prominent member of the Newlyn School, an artist colony established in the 1880s which predominantly focussed on themes of everyday life in coastal and rural villages...
Youth and innocence were themes which fascinated Harold Harvey throughout his career, and the present work, painted in 1916, sensitively captures the moment between childhood and adolescence.
Harold Harvey was born in Penzance in Cornwall and was a prominent member of the Newlyn School, an artist colony established in the 1880s which predominantly focussed on themes of everyday life in coastal and rural villages. Harvey’s early works follow the Newlyn School tradition of working-life narrative with typically sombre colouring, although by 1910 his palette brightened and subjects were painted in an increasingly simplified manner.
It wasn’t until the 1920s when Harvey began to exhibit interior scenes at the Royal Academy that his talents as a figurative painter became widely recognised, and these later works are characterised by bold, saturated colouring and a smooth, almost sculptural treatment of the human form.
Although this portrait was previously thought to have been painted in 1926 due to an indistinct inscription, stylistic analysis instead confirms it was painted in 1916, and was one of a number of studies of children undertaken by Harvey around that date. Another slightly larger work also painted on wood panel titled ‘A Cornish Boy’ [private collection], was painted the same year as the present work and is a likewise a study of youth, as opposed to a formal portrait of a named subject.
A study of Harvey’s work from this date suggests the young subject seen here was one of his regular models, and her distinctive appearance with bright blue eyes and long, thick plaits are highly reminiscent of the young girl in Harvey’s celebrated work Winding Wool [private collection] painted in 1914.
At some stage in the past natural degradation of the oak panel support had encouraged overzealous restoration, resulting in sizeable areas of disfiguring and unnecessary overpaint on the smock, plaits and face. These later additions have now been removed, revealing in areas like the smock, dynamic passages of original sketchy brushwork.
 Sotheby’s, London, 14 December 2006, lot 186 (£54,000)