Fair Quiet and Sweet Rest, by Sir Luke Fildes, Warrington Museum and Art Gallery

Fair Quiet and Sweet Rest, by Luke Fildes

Fair Quiet and Sweet Rest, by Luke Fildes - Credit: Archant

An appreciation of Fair Quiet and Sweet Rest, by Sir (Samuel) Luke Fildes

Sir (Samuel) Luke Fildes (1843-1927) was born in Liverpool, the son of a shipping agent. He trained as an artist in both Warrington and Chester before winning a scholarship in London at what is now the Victoria & Albert Museum, later progressing to the Royal Academy School when his prodigious talent shone through. He made a notable and very well-received debut at the Royal Academy show with this portrayal of an idyllic scene.

The month of May is named after Maia, the Greek goddess of fertility. What better way to celebrate the May Day weekend than by a wooing a loved one in the beautiful English countryside? Fildes was inspired to paint this scene based on a picnic and boat trip along the Thames with his great friend, the artist Henry Woods, and Woods’ two sisters Fanny and Annie.

Is it Fildes himself who is serenading Fanny with his lute, while Annie stands and sings along? Fildes clearly only had eyes for Fanny and he married her just two years later. His affection is evident from the signs contained within this painting. The lute was frequently used by Victorian artists to show the harmony of true love. The white lilies are used to signify youthful innocence and swans, once thought to mate for life, are a symbol of everlasting love.

Fildes’ friend Henry Woods developed into a very accomplished artist and his work can now be seen in Warrington hanging alongside this piece. Fanny also became an artist of some renown and was a model for other works by both Fildes and Woods. By 1887 Fildes turned his talents to portraiture. Starting with a well-received portrait of Fanny, the number of lucrative commissions he received increased beyond his ability to complete them. Unwilling to turn down work, the quality of his work regrettably suffered.

Warrington Museum and Art Gallery have several works by Fildes, some of which are in their recently opened Cabinet of Curiosities exhibition. This collection is located in the room where Fildes and Woods studied when the museum housed the Warrington School of Art. Admission is free. n

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Warrington Museum and Art Gallery is located on Museum Street, Warrington WA1 1JB and is open on weekdays from 10am to 4:30pm and on Saturdays from 10am to 4pm. www.warringtonmuseum.co.uk