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An image of The sea hath its pearls by William Henry Margetson

William Henry Margetson

(England Dec 1861 – 02 Jan 1940)

The sea hath its pearls
Media category
Materials used
oil on canvas

132.3 cm diam. stretcher; 163.2 x 162.5 x 9.0 cm frame

Signature & date
Signed and dated l.l., oil "W H Margetson 1897".
Purchased 1897
Accession number
19th c European art
Further information

The circlet of crabs carved in low relief on the frame of this painting is integral to its success as a work of art. Echoing the seaside theme, and offering closure to an otherwise excessively open composition, the frame participates in the painting quite as constructively as the bending figure and wave-lapped beach. The cool monochrome of the location suggests an English coastal resort, though clearly Margetson had the Mediterranean in mind. His lovely fossicker is dressed to evoke the ancient classical past more than late Victorian England. Indeed, Margetson's rather dry application of pale pigment echoes Roman fresco technique. Like most of the lesser genre painters and portraitists of his day, he succumbed to the ever-virulent strain of Victorian classicism, being influenced by better-known contemporaries such as Leighton and Poynter. It goes without saying that the pearl of the title is a punning allusion to the maiden herself.

AGNSW Handbook, 1999.

Provenance (1)

William Henry Margetson, London/England, Purchased by the AGNSW from the artist 1897. Chosen for the Gallery by the Council of the Royal Academy.

Bibliography (14)

Renée Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'European', pg. 36-56, Sydney, 1988, 44.

Renée Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales catalogue of British paintings, Sydney, 1987, 123 (illus.).

Bernard Hesling., The Sydney Morning Herald, 'The Sea Hath Pearls, Etc.', Sydney, 13 Sep 1952.

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Western Collection: Paintings and Sculpture', pg. 17-77, Sydney, 1999, 51 (colour illus.).

Anne Kirker and Peter Tomory, British painting 1800–1990 in Australian and New Zealand public collections, Sydney, 1997, 129. 1417

J.G. De Libra., Australasian art review, 'The Sydney Art Gallery's late purchases', East Sydney, 01 Apr 1899, 16.

Patricia McDonald, Australia's yesterdays, 1974-1978, 132.

Royal Academy of Arts, Royal Academy pictures, 1897, 1897, 85.

Editor Unknown (Editor), The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Unfashionalble art', Sydney, 28 Sep 1952. Response to Bernard Hesling article.

Editor Unknown (Editor), The Art Journal, London, 1897, 180.

Editor Unknown (Editor), Academy Notes, Unknown, 1897.

Editor Unknown (Editor), Athenaeum, London, 12 Jun 1897.

Australian Women's Weekly, Sydney, 07 Jul 1954.

Editor Unknown (Editor), The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 Mar 1898, 3.

Exhibition history (2)

Unknown, Walker Art Gallery 1897, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1897–1897

Royal Academy of Arts, 1897, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 03 May 1897–02 Aug 1897