In the woods
An artistic child prodigy, Elijah Walton is reputed to have
first exhibited and sold work at the Royal Academy in London at the
age of 15. The son of a Birmingham tailor, he was first taught
painting techniques by his grandmother, the daughter of an artist.
He first trained at the Birmingham School of Design and later at
the Royal Academy.
Here, the artist has portrayed a young woman with two children,
dressed in early Victorian style, resting at the base of a tree.
Painted in strong colours the tangled wood has been rendered in
painstaking detail right down to the dew on the grass.
It seems that Walton's brother Thomas emigrated to Geelong in
the early 1850s and his parents and sister arrived in Victoria as
assisted emigrants in August 1857. Walton himself probably spent
some time in Victoria during 1856-57 and a large number of his
paintings appeared in Geelong and Melbourne in 1857 and 1858.
This painting was bequeathed to the Gallery in 1886, together
with two other paintings, by wealthy mining investor James Russell
Thompson, who also left a substantial sum for the purchase of
sculptures for the Ballarat Botanical Gardens. At that time, the
painting was known as "In the Woods".
It is probably identical with a painting called "Out in the
Woods" which was one of a group of paintings by Walton that were
offered as the prizes in an Art Union lottery held by the
theatrical entrepreneur George Coppin in April 1858 at his pleasure
ground in Richmond, Cremorne Gardens. Coppin retained ownership of
the painting as it was once more among the prizes in another
lottery at Coppin's Haymarket Theatre in September 1863.
Alternatively, it could be "A Wood Scene," one of three Walton
paintings owned by Geelong resident George Milward which were
exhibited at the Geelong Mechanics Institute in March 1857.
After a visit to Egypt in 1860, Walton chose to depart from this
sentimental narrative style of painting and started to specialise
in watercolour depictions of Alpine scenery.