The Spring Tide of Life

W. Robert Colton


Serravezza marble on a Siena marble base (life size)

Source: Royal Academy Pictures, p. 93

[Click on image to enlarge it.]

In his brief commentary on this popular work, Marion Speilmann writes, "Mr Colton's 'Spring-Tide of Life' is an exquisite group, but it has suffered somewhat in the carving, seeming to have acquired a curiously Italian savour which the plaster did not possess" (ii). Indeed, the plaster version, exhibited the previous year, was quite markedly different, in that both the figures there were girls. In this marble version, one girl holds on to a younger boy, no doubt her younger brother, as he stands rather precariously on the rock beside her at the seashore. This brings to mind the maritime artist James Clarke Hook's even more popular work of twenty years before, his Catching a Mermaid. For all his implied criticism of the new version (note his use of the work "suffered"), Speilmann seems generally pleased with Colton's achievement here, concluding, "Yet when we reflect what was the technical level of this gallery twenty years ago, and what it is today, we have every reason to congratulate ourselves on the younger school" (ii).