Life at the Seaside (Ramgate Sands) (detail) (1854)
An Incident in the Life of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1872)
[who was Mary Wortley Montagu? find out here]
May Day Celebration
Measuring Heights (1863)
[a scene from The Vicar of Wakefield]
In the RA catalogue, the title was followed by a quotation from chapter 16 of Oliver Goldsmith's most famous novel (published 1766): 'It must be owned that my wife laid a thousand schemes to entrap him .... Then the poor woman would sometimes tell the Squire that she thought him and Olivia extremely of a size and mould, and would bid both stand up to see who was the tallest'. Mrs Primrose, the vicar's wife, is aiming to marry her daughter Olivia to their landlord, Squire Thornhill.
The RA painting was Frith's first great success. He wrote to Charles Hawker on 6 May 1842: 'I am sure you will be glad to hear that my reputation may now (I flatter myself) be said to be fixed, as I have a picture of some size and importance, containing 8 figures, in one of the centre places on the line/that is, at eye level/at the Academy - As you may imagine from its situation it was sold within half an hour of the first opening of the Exhibition -'. Frith also describes this success in his Autobiography.
The Art Union critic was enthusiastic: 'The main characters of Goldsmith's novel are here charmingly portrayed ... The author of this work studies profitably the characters he transfers to canvass. He is not a mere picture-maker; but thinks, and thinks long and deeply over what he does. His abilities to execute are not inferior to his powers to conceive ... [it] cannot fail of being appreciated by "the mass", while it will as certainly satisfy "the critic".' It did not satisfy the Athenaeum critic, who thought the facial expressions too exaggerated; noting Frith as 'a rising artist', the writer thought 'he has already risen to the heights of affectation'. This review inspired Frith in his Autobiography (I, p98) to 'here advise all artists, young and old, never to read art criticism. Nothing is to be learnt from it'. [from Measuring Heights: A Scene from the Vicar of Wakefield]
My Window in Boulogne
Poor Maria (ca. 1850)
Poverty and Wealth (1888)
[Frith clearly did not shy away from social commentary]
A Scene From Moliere's L'Avare (1876)