Nut Brown Maids, by George H. Boughton (1834-1905). c.1880. Oil on canvas. H 41 x W 51. Walker Art Gallery, Accession no. WAG 769. gift from George Audley, 1925. Kindly made available by the gallery via Art UK on the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial licence (CC BY-NC). Commentary by Jacqueline Banerjee.

Boughton has been described as, "first and foremost, a landscape painter" ("The Art of G. H. Boughton, RA," 9), and he shows his skill here in evoking this rutted, grassy slope dotted with wild flowers. The same anonymous critic also finds in his work a "natural gaiety, which is charmingly dainty" (18) and that too comes out in the painting, as the young women in their pretty pastels walk down through the grass. One carries sticks, and something quite heavy over her shoulder, the other, with her apron and basket, seems to have been picking something (perhaps they have been nutting). But they look companionable, fresh, beautifully integrated into their surroundings. The title of the painting itself suggests happiness. The old English ballad entitled "The Nut Brown Maid" is (unusually) a happy one, in which the maid shows herself to be utterly faithful and undaunted in her love for someone apparently facing dire circumstances — but who turns out to be an Earl's son, who loves her in return.


Monkhouse, Cosmo. "Some English Artists and Their Studios." The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine. Vol. XXIV. Century Company, 1882: 553-68. Internet Archive. Web. 30 December 2021.

Created 30 December 2021