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Record Image
Hicks, George Edward (British, b.1824, d.1914)
Guide of Childhood
Sketch for Woman's Mission I
oil on wood
254 x 200 mm board size
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Given 1969 by Mr N Reid of Wellington.
In Britain, a popular domestic image of the Victorian woman was that of loving mother, supportive wife and devoted daughter. These three small works are studies for larger paintings that were described in The Art Journal (1863) as:
‘a young mother…leading a child tenderly along a woodland path, turning aside a mischievous bramble which besets his steps. In the second, we see a wife in the act of giving solace to her husband under a severe blow of affliction. The last scene of all that ends life’s strange, eventful history…is a dying father, sedulously watched and waited on by a daughter’s affection.’
In the central section, ‘Companion to Manhood’, a supportive wife consoles her grief-stricken husband, who has received bad news. The wife’s support is also seen in the careful arrangement of spring flowers not far from the man’s elbow and the meticulously set table with its pristine white cloth. As popular manuals for new wives would point out, it was a ‘Woman’s Mission’ to provide a welcome refuge for her husband who, after a day’s industry, would return gratefully to the comfort of his hearth.
This triptych was painted during a period when Hicks focused on ‘modern life’ in London. From the 1870s he became a successful society portrait painter, but the topical themes of contemporary London life such as Woman’s Mission are of interest to historians and theorists alike.

not on view

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