Cottage Interior with Smiling Boy, c. 1840-1850
William Henry Hunt
watercolour and gouache over graphite with scraping out on wove paper, laid down on mounting board
29.6 x 43.2 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 4381)
Ruskin, who was a friend, collector, and champion of Hunt's work, understood that the success of his interiors lay in the artist's extraordinary treatment of light as it entered the room, invariably through a "sea-green lattice" of flint-glass, miraculously revealing all the humble objects within. Here, the clay pot on the table is superbly executed, as is the light picking out the edges of the sacks, lanterns, barrel, and silhouette of the boy. A prolific watercolourist, Hunt was also an innovator in watercolour technique. He pioneered a hard white ground made of gum and opaque white,which produced a brilliant, porcelain-like surface on which he applied pure colour, often in a stippled or broken manner that anticipated the optical effects of Pointillism.