WARD, William (1766- 1826) after George MORLAND (1763-1804)
A Visit to the Child at Nurse
London: Published by John Raphael Smith, 20 August 1788. Colour printed mezzotint with added hand colour. In good condition. Image size (including text): 17 1/8 x 21 1/2 inches. Sheet size: 23 x 30 1/2 inches.
A lovely colour printed impression of this charming print by Ward depicting one of George Morland's famous domestic scenes.
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. He 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. His brother-in-law, William Ward, engraved a great number of his paintings reproducing in print his endearing paintings of English country life. Ward's engravings after Morland are some of the most beautiful prints of the period; they combine fine technical skill and inspired artistic imagination to create enduring images that speak of the taste and beauty of the age. Hiring a wet nurse was a common practice in both England and France during the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries. They were primarily employed by aristocratic women, the theory being that breast feeding mishape the figure and that lactating had a contraceptive effect, an undesirable consequence for a noblewoman--or any woman--expected to produce many children during the time of high infant mortality. As a result, parents often saw very little of their young children. Nurses did not live with the families they worked for and, in fact, frequently lived miles away. Even parents who sent their children to nurses who lived nearby did not routinely visit them. Morland's image captures the estrangement between mother and child, presenting a rather ironic depiction as the baby clings to his nurse in fear of the embrace of his mother. The mother and her sister's conspicuously fashionable attire sets them apart, portraying them as out of place and intruding upon the simplicity of pastoral life. Modern viewers are prompted to reflect on evolving attitudes and depictions surrounding motherhood and child care in bygone eras.
Le Blanc IV, p.177, no.116.