William Stott is a central figure in the early phase of British Impressionism and Le Passeur is widely regarded as the crowning achievement of his short career.

Stott was born in Oldham, Lancashire, and studied at Manchester School of Art. In 1878 he travelled to Paris to train with classical painters and in 1880 he joined the artists' colony at Grez-sur-Loing, near Fontainbleau. During the four years he spent in France, Stott's technique shifted from classical painting to a looser style informed by plein-air naturalism. It was at Grez-sur-Loing that he painted Le Passeur, a picture much admired by French critics when it was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1882. The painting shows two girls beside a river, the elder girl watching a ferryman in the distance and the younger girl observing the passing water. It is a sensitive and technically advanced observation of evening light and displays a rich mix of contemporary influences. In 1882 Stott returned to England and the painting was shown at the Fine Art Society in London, where the broad brushstrokes and naturalistic style attracted much attention. Collector John Forbes White bought the picture and hung it in his private gallery in Aberdeen. Tate's acquisition of Le Passeur brings into public ownership Stott's most important work, as well as a key picture in the breakthrough of 19th-century British painting into naturalism.

This work was acquired with assistance from the Wolfson Foundation.


John Forbes White, Aberdeen 1882; Sir George Nairn Bt., Kirkcaldy; Lady Elizabeth Longman, Moreton-in-Marsh; by descent

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