George Morland: In the Margins
18 March – 11 July 2015
Free to all
Exploring the marginalised faces and places in the work of the British painter.
Put to work by his father as a child to make copies of famous paintings for profit, Morland was an accomplished artist at a very young age; when he was listed as an honorary exhibitor at the Royal Academy in 1773 he was just 10. After freeing himself from his father's demands he set up at the house of a picture dealer where he began a life of 'hard work and hard drinking', his companions including potboys, horse jockeys, moneylenders, pawnbrokers, punks, and pugilists.
As with his father before, Morland found himself at the mercy of the picture dealer and made a successful attempt to escape the household. His art had become so popular he made a career working out of inns and taverns around the country, where paying customers would carry off his paintings before the oil was dry. By 1799 his alcoholism was causing considerable damage to his health and he was said to be drunk for days at a time, associating with 'discreditable friends'. He died just a few years later, aged 41.
This exhibition of paintings of smugglers, gypsies, pedlars and soldiers mirrors experiences from his own life, prompting us to reconsider who and where is 'marginal' in society. This is the first display of Morland's work since 1975; his pictures resonate with contemporary issues such as migration and marginality in a way that was not evident 30 years ago.