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Oil painting - Flower Painting

Flower Painting

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    London (painted)

  • Date:

    1868 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Barwell, Frederick Bacon (painter)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Conserved with the support of The Pilgrim Trust, with additional thanks to The Worshipful Company of Grocers

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Photography Centre, Room 101, case Lunette, shelf 7

Physical description

Seven female figures depicted outside painting centrally placed lilies tree. Signed 'Barwell' and dated '1868' in bottom right corner.

Place of Origin

London (painted)


1868 (painted)


Barwell, Frederick Bacon (painter)

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

Signed by the artist in bottom right corner


Height: 143.5 cm measured from highest point of lunette, Width: 263.5 cm

Object history note

Flower Painting was commissioned in 1868 to decorate one of eighteen lunette-shaped recesses in the upper portion of rooms 100 and 101 (at that time the National Competition Gallery). The lunettes were removed just before the Second World War and placed in store. This painting, along with the eight others made for the west wall of room 101, was conserved and reinstalled in its original location in August 2010.

Historical significance: The National Competition Gallery (now rooms 100 and 101) in the East Ranges of the Museum was completed in 1864-65. At that time it was formed of two parallel top-lit rooms; these were used for the marking and display of work by art students in Department of Science and Art-run schools across the country. Richard Redgrave, who was placed in charge of the decoration of the gallery in 1863, proposed to commission paintings for the eighteen lunettes along the upper sections of the walls. The project, managed jointly by Redgrave and Henry Cole, continued for thirteen years; several lunettes were completed and in position by 1868, although work was not completed fully until 1876.

Broadly speaking, there were two stages in the production of the lunettes. Most of those created towards the beginning of the period were decorative, allegorical paintings carried out by art students from designs by Godfrey Sykes, Frank Moody, Alfred Morgan and Redgrave. A second stage was initiated in November of 1867 by William Frederick Yeames who contacted Cole and suggested that he should be commissioned for the project. Initial plans to commission other artists of the stature of Leighton, Watts and Poynter were scaled down, and the core of those chosen were historical genre painters from the loose association of artists known as the St John's Wood Clique: Yeames himself, G.D. Leslie, Henry Stacy Marks and D.W. Wynfield. Cole held a meeting with the artists to establish a theme for the lunettes, and, appropriately for a gallery in which students' work was displayed and judged, it was decided that the paintings should represent the practices of drawing, painting and sculpture in a programmatic representation of Redgrave's curriculum for art schools, the National Course of Art Instruction. The resulting subjects treated by the compositional canvases included life drawing, modelling from the life, study of anatomy, landscape painting, flower painting and still life drawing.

The various artistic activities represented in the paintings are set within relevant historical contexts; each takes place within the period and place considered to have fostered its inception or its apogee. So drawing the skeletal structure of the body is set in Renaissance Florence; still-life drawing is given a 17th-century Flemish setting; and landscape sketching takes place in 19th-century England.

This representation of flower painting shares the topographical and social setting of G.D. Leslie's Landscape Painting (SKM.3). The young women in Flower Painting, dressed in fashionable clothes of the 1860s, gather with their sketchbooks in a grand garden setting to practise sketching from floral models. The equation of flower painting with the female amateur is indicative of the relatively low status of the genre. This composition is distinguished from the other lunettes in its presentation of painting and drawing as a sociable and pleasurable activity rather than as essentially serious training.

The London-based painter F.B. Barwell exhibited genre subjects, mostly small domestic scenes and interiors, at the Royal Academy between 1855 and 1887. He was a friend of J.E. Millais.

Descriptive line

Decorative lunette painting, commissioned for the National Competition Gallery (now Rooms 100 and 101). F.B. Barwell, Flower Painting, 1868. Lunette 7 for Room 101, west wall (commencing from south end).

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

John Physick, The Victoria and Albert Museum: the History of its Building, London 1982, pp. 83-87.
Jim Dimond, Susan Owens and Sophie Reddington, 'The conservation of twenty paintings for the V&A's National Competition Gallery', The Picture Restorer, no. 38, Spring 2011, pp. 14-16.


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Lilies; Painting; Flower


Paintings; History of the V&A


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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