Her First Dance by W. Q. Orchardson, ARA. 1884. Oil on canvas, 1016 x 1384 mm. Courtesy Tate Britain N01519. Presented by Sir Henry Tate 1894. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Tate Britain commentary

The popularity of the Scottish artist Orchardson grew steadily until by the 1880s, he was regarded as one of the greatest modern painters. He specialised in depicting failures of communication between people on social occasions. Here, this failure is between an experienced young man and a novice (detail) who are asked to open the dancing at a ball. The setting recreates a scene of about 1820, so Orchardson imagined actors of about the generation of his parents, a time which the people who first saw this painting could just remember. The wide format and empty space of his pictures emphasises the distances between people. He was much praised for his delicate colouring, often near monochrome.



Hardie, William R. Sir William Quiller Orchardson R.A.. Edinburgh 1972.

Wood, Christopher. Victorian Painting. London 1999.

Last modified 7 July 2018