- Media category
- Materials used
- oil on canvas
- 73.0 x 52.5 cm canvas; 86.7 x 64.2 x 3.1 cm frame
- Signature & date
Signed with monogram and dated l.l., in black oil "18[BR]87".
- Gift of the late Warren Halloran AM 2021
- 19th c European art
- Accession number
- Artist information
Works in the collection
Briton Rivière was born into a family of artists and received his initial training from his father. His talent was nurtured from an early age. Regular sketching trips to London Zoo helped foster his love of animals. Rivière was a regular participator to exhibitions throughout his career, having started exhibiting at the Royal Academy before his twentieth birthday. In 1878 he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy with full membership in 1880. He became well known for his paintings combining classical mythology or biblical themes and animals. But the subjects that most tugged the hearts and purse-strings of collectors were those depicting animals and children, usually with sentimental, pathetic or humorous overtones. Rivière’s paintings were especially appreciated by late-Victorian audiences for the way animals emphasise the portrayal of human emotion, without the tendency to heavy anthropomorphism characteristic of the greatest Victorian animal painter, Edwin Landseer, whose mantle Rivière assumed in the 1870s. His deep knowledge of domestic and wild animals was based on exhaustive anatomical study and from observing dissections.
In 1896, after the death of John Everett Millais, Rivière narrowly missed being elected president of the Royal Academy, an honour accorded only to pre-eminent academicians. The same year, in an illustrated interview in 'The Strand Magazine: An Illustrated Monthly', the journalist Harry How gave an insight into the artist’s working methods and a description of his ‘workshop’: “It may at once be said that it is not the studio of a Leighton or an Alma Tadema. The floor is utterly devoid of luxurious and costly carpets and rugs. Dogs and horses, sheep and pigs, are not calculated to improve the quality of an expensive carpet, or to add to its lasting capabilities. The floor is elaborately decorated with scratches from many a dog’s paw and horse’s hoof.”
Many of Rivière's most successful compositions are those in which a single human figure is shown with a dog. This was a formula used for one of Riviere's most celebrated pictures, 'Sympathy' of 1877 (Royal Holloway College), which depicts the artist's daughter Mary seated at the top of a flight of steps, having been banished for some misdemeanour and is comforted by her little dog. 'Compulsory education' captures a more humorous sentiment as a little girl in a white dress with a blue sash attempts to teach her doleful pet to read from the book she holds in her hands, her arms encircling the neck of the huge dog. Rivière was particularly fond of bloodhounds and featured them prominently in several of his paintings, including the Gallery’s 'Requiescat' in which a loyal dog stands guard at the side of a dead knight.
Despite the obviously humorous appeal of 'Compulsory education', the title refers to a Victorian social issue that had been debated widely both in and outside parliament in England, namely the progressive introduction of basic education and school attendance for all children between the ages of 5 and 10, which first became effectively compulsory with the Elementary Education Act in 1880.
Referenced in 13 publications
Walter Armstrong, The Art Annual, suppl to The Art Journal, ‘Briton Riviere, RA, his life and work’, 1891, pp 1–32: pp 22, 32.
Anna Feuerstein and Carmen Nolte-Odhiambo (Editors), Childhood and pethood in literature and culture. New perspectives on childhood studies and animal studies, New York, 2017, p 3, col illus cover page.
Algernon Graves, Art sales from early in the eighteenth century to early in the twentieth century (mostly old master and early English paintings), 3 vols, London, 1918-1921, vol 3, p 74.
"Penelope", suppl to The Leicester Chronicle and Leicestershire Mercury, ‘Our ladies’ column’, 02 Dec 1893, p 1.
Meredith Rogers Cherland, Private practices: girls reading fiction and constructing identity, London, 1994, pp 233–34.
Claudia Mitchell & Sandra Weber, Changing English. Studies in culture & education, vol 5, no 1, ‘The usable past: teachers (re)playing school’, 1998, pp 45–56.
Victorian & Edwardian art, including masterpieces (auction catalogue), London, 16 Dec 2010, np, no 32. ‘Property of a deceased estate’
The Morning Post, ‘Mr McLean’s Galley’, 24 Oct 1893, p 5.
The Connoisseur, 'In the sale room', Jul 1908, p 279.
Catalogue of the highly important collection […] of Stephen G Holland […] (auction catalogue), London, 25 Jun 1908-29 Jun 1908, p 21, no 99. Annotated ‘Agnew’, ‘262.10.0’.
The Sphere, vol 30, no 515, ‘A Christmas Feast […] Pear’s Annual’, ad, 04 Dec 1909, p v.
The Athenaeum, ‘The Stephen G. Holland Sale’, 04 Jul 1908, p 22.
Herald, 'Pear's Annual', 11 Nov 1909, p 5.
Stephen G. Holland, pre 25 Jun 1908, London/England, Sold at his posthumous sale Christie's London 25, 26 & 29 June 1908 (this lot 25 June), no 99. Purchased at this sale by Agnew, London, for 262 gns. Sold on the same day to ‘Captain Holland’, probably one of Stephen Holland’s sons.
Richard Green Gallery, pre 16 Dec 2010, London/England, Sold at 'Victorian & Edwardian art, including masterpieces', Sotheby's London, 16 Dec 2010, lot 32. Purchased at this sale by Warren Halloran, for GBP 115,250.
Warren Halloran, 16 Dec 2010-03 Jan 2020, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia