Birket Foster did his outdoor work, at home or abroad, on blocks which he could slip into his pocket, or in sketch-books containing papers of different tints. His colour-box, now belonging to the Royal Water-Colour Society, was small and of comparatively limited palette. Beginning life as a wood-engraver, he was used to drawing with pencil or pen, sometimes with a slight wash, on a box-wood block which always had a coating of white over its highly-polished surface. His familiarity with this method during twenty years, in addition to the example set by Hunt, may have encouraged him to work in colour over the smooth and brilliant surface given by Chinese White laid upon paper. Unfinished work by him shows that he made a careful pencil drawing, often covered parts of it with transparent colour, and then applied patches of Chinese White, over which he worked with stipple or hatched strokes of pure colour. His method was much the same as that of Hunt and Lewis. All of them could finish their work piece by piece, making and mending as they carried it to completion. His body-colour mixture of white made the blue of his skies sufficiently tacky for the hair strokes of his brush to show quite clearly. . . . For a moment I thought there was a touch of malice when Sickert wrote: 'Oh for one hour of Birket Foster! Birket Foster, with his darling little girls playing at cat's cradle, or figuring on their little slates.' But he was sincere in his admiration, and wrote later that Birket Foster's children, like Stothard's, 'bear the imprint of truth in every lovely gesture9.


Hardie, Martin. Water-colour Painting in Britain. III. The Victorian Period. Ed. Dudley Snelgrove with Jonathan Mayne and Basil Taylor. London:R. T. Batusford, 1968.

Last modified 26 February 2012