William Stuart was born in 1826 in Ratcliff, Stepney in London to William and Amelia Stuart. Both his parents were artists and the family lived at 22 Stepney Causeway. His brother Charles Stuart (1838-1907) was a landscape artist and his sister Teresa also became an artist.
He was taught by his parents and went by his middle names to avoid confusion with his father. He specialised in still life paintings often with the inclusion of game such as this fine example and also painted marine scenes. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1846 and also at the British Institution and Suffolk Street.
Enticed by the Gold Rush in Australia, he decided to emigrate there, arriving in Melbourne on the on 24 March 1859. He settled in Sandhurst (Bendingo) and after an unsuccessful spell as a gold digger, returned to painting to earn his living. He exhibited at the Victoria Academy of Arts and Intercolonial Exhibition in Melbourne as well as at local galleries. Stuart died in Sandhurst 1873 and was buried at the Sandhurst Cemetery.
Examples of his paintings are held by the Foundling Museum and the Preston Park Museum.
In this painting you can see the influence of the Dutch Masters and the ‘Pronkstilleven’ movement on Stuart. This style of sumptuous still life painting began in Antwerp during the 1640’s but fell out of favour in the 17th and 18th centuries. It became popular again with the rise of the Victorian middle class during the 19th century and artist’s such as Stuart helped meet the growing demand for still life works.
The quality, scale and subject matter of this particular work indicate this could have been painted as an exhibition piece or certainly a commission. It includes a peacock and a pineapple, both highly prized and expensive items at the time, as well as an ornate gold Dutch standing cup with a lid, a silver salver and gold mounted tankard. A painting entitled ‘The Rich Man’s Table was exhibited by Stuart at the Royal Academy in 1858. The title suggests this work could have been the same one or perhaps was commissioned by a patron after seeing it at the exhibition. An old label bears the inscription ‘Mr H Williams 10 Delancey Street' suggesting this is one of the owners, if not the original one. At the time of this painting Stuart was still living in London at 22 Arbour Square, Stepney.
The painting is housed in a new, English made gilt frame, which is in excellent condition.
|Image Size||30 inches x 47.5 inches (76cm x 120.5cm)|
|Framed Size||37 inches x 54.5 inches (94cm x 138.5cm)|