The Spelling Lesson
Robert Braithwaite Martineau (1844–1930)
Oil on panel
25 ⅝ x 20 ⅛ inches (65 x 51 cm).
Collection of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, inventory number RF 1982 56.
This subject of this painting continues the theme of literacy and the need for education among the disadvantaged sections of community that Martineau had earlier explored in his painting Kit’s Writing Lesson of 1852. Both paintings are in the bright colours and detailed style of his early Pre-Raphaelite phase. The scene is set at twilight with dramatic use of light and shade. The meticulous handling of the foliage in the foreground and the wall in the background is on a level with that of the best early P.R.B. works of Hunt and Millais. This painting was one of Martineau’s most exhibited works and one of the few Pre-Raphaelite paintings to sell during the American Exhibition of British Art in America tour in 1857-1858 — Dennis T. Lanigan
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