In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday we thought we would feature William Quiller Orchardson’s Too Good to be True, a painting that contemplates the spirit of giving in addition to featuring abundance and locally grown produce at its best. It is an exceptional painting by an artist who would by the end of his life was knighted in 1907 in addition to being an esteemed member among the ranks of the Royal Academy in England and Scotland.
Orchardson (Scottish 1832-1910) is best known for his “sketchy” quality of painting, his subdued colors and unique spatial arrangements of subjects. The canvas size of Too Good to be True is unusual because it accommodates the artist’s well known yet slightly bizarre distance typically left between subjects. This space increases the sense of drama and adds to the visual interest of the painting. This piece is also exceptional for its great detail, and in this case, the intricately captured vegetables, one can almost visualize a Thanksgiving cornucopia. The artist has rendered the scene so dutifully that the green onions still have their dirty hair-thin roots attached, and the tin can used to scoop textured peas showcases a ridged and dented surface. Orchardson manages to capture a potential feast of many colors, textures and sizes in an otherwise bland atmosphere.
The subjects of Orchardson’s paintings changed over time and spanned much more than seemingly nostalgic scenes like his most famous work Master Baby housed in the National Galleries of Scotland. Orchardson was a versatile artist who rendered historical images such as Napoleon in exile and literary characters from Shakespeare, Dickens and Sir Walter Scott. He exhibited consistently throughout his career and eventually became a respected presidential candidate for the Royal Academy by the late 19th century.
Orchardson’s work attracted press attention both during and after his life. A recent article in the New York Times describes one of the artist’s paintings, On the North Foreland as "almost Impressionist in its freshness.” The image of a woman standing on the edge of a cliff, captures the effects of the wind on her dress and hat. The woman strains to keep her broad hat on her head and looks up to the sky with a liberating, almost euphoric glare. This image captures the artist’s ability to capture a moment and render it in a skillfully crisp manner that is truly exceptional. Paintings by Orchardson are in such world-famous institutions as the National Galleries of Scotland, the Royal Academy of Arts Collection in London, the Tate Gallery and the Musee d’Orsay Collection in Paris.
MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. prides itself on its extensive inventory of artists such as Orchardson, whose works that may not adorn your grocery shopping tote bag or other novelty gift shop items but that are nonetheless remembered in the art world for their innovations and stylistic mastery. Give us a call at (312) 814-8510 to schedule a visit to our office. In addition to our extensive menu of appraisal services at MIR, our appraisers and research staff can assist you with unveiling information regarding your long forgotten treasures. While your here you can see Orchardson’s lovely painting and many other stunning pieces of art.
MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.
307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308
Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: (312) 814-8510
Gleuck, Grace. “Life, Profusely Illustrated, for a Victorian Bourgeoisie,” in New York Times, 28 April 2007.
Gordon, Catherine M. “Orchardson, William Quiller,” in Oxford Art Online.
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