One of the Family
Research by Muriel Wardman
This painting is a very good copy of Frederick George Cotman’s, One of the Family, which is in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. The copy is about a third of the size of the original.
Louise Hardy Dyson was born in Thornhill, Dewsbury in 1892 to John Henry Dyson and Alice Stewart Dyson. The family was still living in Thornhill at the time of the 1911 census, the period when the painting was produced. Then her father's occupation was recorded as retired clerk to an Urban District Council, her elder sister, Effie Terry, who was born in Thornhill in 1887, as an art student and Louise as a shorthand typist.
Although it has not been possible to be more precise regarding the family's move to St Annes, by 1929 her parents were living at 9 Milner Road. Her father died in 1936 and his wife in 1941. Whether Effie and Louise, who both remained unmarried, moved at the same time is also a matter of conjecture but records show that Effie died in 1936 in a nursing home at 32 Rossall Road, Ansdell and left everything to her mother in her Will. She was buried at St Michaels and All Angels, Thornhill.
Louise died at the family home, 9 Milner Road, in 1942. Among the bequests in her Will is 'one Black Framed Psalm, executed by my sister in black lettering on skin' and 6 oil paintings, Sea Scene, Waterfall, Gypsy Girl, Girl with Apple, Scots Lassie and Cathedral, all by Effie Terry Dyson. Unfortunately, there is no mention of One of the Family painted by herself. Her other bequests were to people belonging to the Civil Service in Yorkshire, perhaps confirming her line of work in 1911, particularly as the house and contents were left to a man in the Public Union Offices, Leeds, for use during his lifetime and in the event of his death to other civil servants, all from Leeds.
It can only be surmised that Louise was a talented amateur artist but where and when Alderman Dawson obtained the painting is unknown.
Original Painting by Frederick George Cotman RA (1850-1920)
Oil on canvas 102.6 by 170.2 cm
Walker Gallery description - 'Cotman painted this romantic scene of rustic domestic life at
The Black Boy Inn at Hurley on Thames. It shows a farmer (posed by the innkeeper) returning home for his meal, while his horse leans through the doorway to be fed by the farmers wife'.
This ever popular work was the first important painting by Cotman to be acquired by a public institution. When the Walker Art Gallery bought it in 1880 Liverpool critics at the time praised the work for its cheerful sentiment and argued that it commended good treatment for animals.
G R Halkett, in his 'Notes to the Walker Art Gallery', states that it was bought from the artist for £262.10s.
However, professional London reviewers were hostile:
The Times wrote, 'F G Cotman’s, One of the Family, a favourite horse putting in his head over the half hatch to a farmer’s family at their meal, in which the details of the table, which in a cabinet picture might have been agreeable enough on the scale the painter has adopted, are felt to be both obtrusive and vulgar'.
The Argus wrote in1880,
'…as for Mr Cotman’s, One of the Family, it certainly contains qualities to commend it to popular taste and it conveys a lesson of kindliness to the lower animals - a circumstance that may have weighed with the Arts Committee in choosing a somewhat commonplace and illustrated-periodical sort of picture'.
On the Cotman site it does state that the models used by Cotman for the painting were northerners named Street. The girl in the painting emigrated to New Zealand when she was 16 and her ancestors today own copies of the painting.
The grandson of FG Cotman says,
'On one of my many visits to my grandmother, the artist’s widow, between 1920 and 1930
I once wrote down a number of things she told me concerning my grandfather’s pictures. Pointing to a book called 'The Hundred Best British Artists', in which One of the Family was illustrated, she told me that the little boy in the right of the picture was my father. The picture was painted at the Black Boy Inn at Hurley on Thames and the innkeeper, a Mr Street by name, was also a miller and that it is him hanging up the horse’s harness. His wife is the young, good looking woman on the right and her mother, the old lady, was German. The poor old dear drowned herself. Very sad. You may notice that being German she is cutting the bread for the family in the continental way. The children are Mrs Sweet’s children. The horse always used to come to the doorway every day, just like that. You see the pie there (pointing to the lovely looking pie on the table), artists are sometimes dilatory people and a made pie would not last so I wondered what to do. A bright idea came to me - I stuffed it with coke and that is what it is full of - I had noticed the cut side was turned away from view'.
Kelly’s Street Directories
Barrett’s Directory of Preston and the Fylde
Minutes of Lytham St Annes Council
West Riding Registry of Deeds
Professional Organisation Directories
GR Halkett Notes to the Walker Art Gallery
Viictorian and Edwardian Paintings in the Walker Art Gallery and at Sudely House
BBC’s My Painting - Dyson
Liverpool Art College, College Art Magazine around the