1763 - 1804
George Morland was the son of the pastel portraitist, dealer and restorer Henry Robert Morland and the grandson of the genre painter George Henry Morland. He was taught by his father and first exhibited at the Royal Academy at the age of fifteen. Until the age of twenty-one, he devoted his entire existence to his work, his only friend being the painter and engraver Philip Dawe. In 1784, George Romney offered him a position as his assistant, but Morland refused, because he wanted to enjoy his freedom. In any case, the young artist had already produced works that had met with great success, such as The Angler’s Repast, which had been painted when he was barely seventeen years old and was reproduced by William Ward. At first Morland painted portraits in Margate and at St-Omer in France. In 1876 he went back to London, where he married the sister of the engraver William Ward. Shortly afterwards, Ward married Morland’s sister, and this double alliance cemented a collaboration which provided the English School with a considerable number of attractive and interesting prints.
At the start of his career, Morland was mainly a painter of childhood. He depicted an English ideal of childhood in all its prettiness, with a pleasant, even witty touch. He had the gift of working with great ease and produced a large number of paintings in this genre. In the years 1788 and 1789 alone, no less than 59 engravings after Morland appeared. They were mezzotints of elegant scenes of childhood, executed by the finest artists.
From 1790, Morland broadened his range, painting a greater variety of subjects. Though children still appeared in some of his pictures, they rarely played the principal part in the way they had previously done. On the other hand, horses, sheep, pigs and poultry feature in a large number of canvases. It was also around this time that he produced his series of recruits and deserters, and his gypsies, fishermen, and scenes of inns and public coaches. He was earning a lot of money, but he was spending even more, and he was obliged to retreat to a country dwelling in Leicestershire. This stay in the country had a considerable influence on his talent and sharpened his taste for landscape.
When Morland returned to London in around 1792, he suffered the consequences of his past follies, as his creditors had obtained warrants for his arrest, and he lived in hiding for several years in order to avoid imprisonment. In the end he grew tired of this and in 1799 he took refuge in a cottage near Cowes on the Isle of Wight, which had been lent to him by a friend. He remained there for almost a year, living among the sailors and fishermen, where he found many typical faces he could use in his paintings. His return to London early in 1800 was swiftly followed by his imprisonment for debt. Briefly released in 1802, he was imprisoned again following an apoplectic fit, which left him unable to work. His wife survived him by only a few days.
Morland is an interesting figure in the English School, an artist full of charm and verve. He left a considerable body of work. According to his family, during the last eight years of his life, he produced around eight hundred paintings and more than a thousand drawings.
Museum and Gallery Holdings
Bath (Holburne Mus. of Art): Horse and Dog in a Stable (1791, oil on canvas); The Deserter Pardoned (1792, oil on canvas)
Birmingham (Mus. and AG): Pigs (oil on canvas); Shooting Sea Fowl (oil on canvas)
Bristol: Interior with Sheep
Bristol (City Mus. & AG): Quarry Scene (two); Gypsies in a Landscape (oil on canvas); Man Grooming Horse; Boy Seated on a Drinking Horse
Dublin: Landscape with Figures and Cattle
Glasgow: Smugglers on the Shore; Storm and Shipwreck; Seascape
Leeds (City AG): Coast Scene (oil on canvas)
Leicester: Calm Sea off the Isle of Wight
London (National Portrait Gal.): George Morland (c. 1775-1780, oil on canvas); Henry Robert Morland (pencil, father of the artist); George Morland (c. 1795, chalk)
London (Tate Collection): Inside of a Stable (exhibited in 1791, oil on canvas); Outside the Ale-House Door (1792, oil on canvas); Door of a Village Inn (oil on canvas); Rabbiting (1792, oil on canvas); The Fortune Teller (oil on canvas)
London (Victoria and Albert Mus.): Farmer Paying his Bill to the Innkeeper; Horses in a Stable; Fishermen; Fishing Boats with Figures; Girl Stroking a Pigeon; Johanny Going to the Fair; Hunting Scene; Farmyard; Cottage, Farm Cart and Dog
London (Wallace Collection): A Visit to the Boarding School (1789, oil on canvas)
Montreal (Learmont Collection): Village Brewery
New York: Town-Country
Nottingham (Castle Mus. & AG): The Wreckers; The Artist in his Studio; Sportsman Resting; Two Horses in the Snow; Four Horses in a Landscape; Two Pigs in the Straw; Landscape with Figures; Woman, Child and Dog Going to the Village; Two Horses, a Cart and Figures
Paris (Louvre): The Stop; Interior of a Stable
Sheffield: The Village Inn