Early Lovers

Frederick Smallfield ARWS, 1829 - 1915

Early Lovers

Frederick Smallfield ARWS 1829 - 1915


Scene showing two young lovers meeting by a wooden stile in an English rural landscape, illustrating a poem by Thomas Hood, which was entitled ‘Ballad’ (1827). The young girl is seated on the near side of the stile; she is seen in profile to the left. An older youth straddles the stile and leans forward to gaze down at the girl. Both hands of each figure are clasped in the hands of the other, each gazing intensely into the eyes of their loved one. The girl has shoulder-length fair hair. She wears a mauve dress over a white petticoat and a straw hat slung round her neck on a pink ribbon. The youth is depicted in the clothes of a farmer: a flat cap with a ring of curls escaping from under it and a jacket worn with a red neckerchief. To the right of the stile, entwined in the hedgerow, are a Dog Rose (Eglantine) in bloom and Honeysuckle; to the left is Vetch. In the background is a gently undulating landscape of fertile farmland filled with trees and lush hedgerows. The scene is illuminated by a low light, evocative of evening or early morning.

Display Label

Gallery text panel The Pre-Raphaelites in their Time Britain's first and best-known radical art movement emerged from within the Royal Academy in 1848. Its original members were rebellious art students who were disillusioned with contemporary practice. They looked back to Italian art before Raphael, seeing the pre-1500 period as one of great sincerity. They called themselves the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. In an age of rapid industrial and urban expansion, Pre-Raphaelite artists like Rossetti, Hunt and Millais, and pioneering design reformers such as William Morris, sought a return to pre-industrial values of art and design in truth to nature and materials, and good workmanship. In addition, the arts of the Middle Ages and Middle East were important sources of stylistic inspiration. The Bible, literature and contemporary life were preferred over subjects derived from classical mythology. The Brotherhood also rejected contrived studio lighting and took canvases outside to paint directly from nature. Although attempting to convey exactly what they saw, they created a heightened reality of dream-like intensity with minute details and bright, dazzling colours. Their art was a new kind of history painting for a new age.

Object Name

Early Lovers

Date Created



Frame: 102cm x 71.5cm
Canvas: 76.4cm x 46.1cm

accession number


Place of creation





oil paint

On Display

[G7] Manchester Art Gallery - Gallery 7
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