Elijah Walton

In the woods

  • Artist
    Elijah Walton
  • Born
  • Died
  • Title
    In the woods
  • Date of Production
    c. 1855
  • Medium
    oil on canvas
  • Dimensions
    158.0 x 122.5 cm
  • Credit Details
    Bequest of James Russell Thompson, 1886

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.