SMITH, John Raphael after George MORLAND
No. 9 Breaking the Ice
London: Published by John Raphael Smith, 20 October 1801. Mezzotint with roulette, coloured by hand. Image size: 17 1/4 x 21 1/2 inches. Sheet size: 19 x 23 1/8 inches approx. Gilt frame.
A touching scene after Morland: 'a master of genre and animal painting, an artist worthy to be placed in the same rank as the best of those Dutch masters whom he studied as a boy' (DNB)
This print is a wonderful example of the manner in which Morland perfectly conveys the hardships and beauties of country life, his depiction of a poor country family battling the hardships of winter shows the bitter side of the pastoral life with grace and sympathy. George Morland was one of the most successful genre painters of his time, creating, during his industrious career, some of England's most cherished paintings. At an early age Morland displayed his artistic genius, he learned to paint at three and exhibited his first work at the Royal Academy at the mere age of ten. Morland was a prodigious painter, producing more than 4000 paintings during the entirety of his career, and sometimes painting two or three works in a day.
His beautiful idealistic scenes were a favorite source of inspiration for contemporary engravers, and as many as 250 separate engravings were done of his paintings during his lifetime. One such engraver was John Raphael Smith, who throughout his career translated many of Morland's paintings to print. Smith was a highly influential figure in the late eighteenth-century British art world, he quickly became an impresario of the print-publishing trade producing nearly 400 prints during his lifetime, 130 of which were of his own design. This beautiful print refelects both the talents of the engraver and the genius of the artist, in its sentiment and execution it demonstrates the best of English genre.