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Oil painting - Contrary Winds
  • Contrary Winds
    Webster, Thomas RA, born 1800 - died 1886
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Contrary Winds

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Britain (painted)

  • Date:

    1843 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Webster, Thomas RA, born 1800 - died 1886 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on mahogany panel

  • Credit Line:

    Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 122, case WW

Object Type
Oil paintings with sentimental scenes of children in the countryside became popular with collectors such as John Sheepshanks and the Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend, as well as with the Victorian public in general.

Subjects Depicted
This picture shows an idyllic scene of childhood set in a cottage. The children are playing 'sailing boats', blowing on a piece of wood with a paper sail, floating in the family wash tub. When it was exhibited at the British Institution in 1844, the critics noted that the game had not yet become very animated and the whole picture was really a study of a cottage interior with admirably painted figures in rather a Dutch style.

Thomas Webster (1800-1886) began as a portrait painter, but went on to produce small-scale subject pictures in oil and watercolour for the rest of his long career. His most famous and popular work, The Village Choir, often reproduced for book and other illustration, is also in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Charles Dickens thought Webster was such a good a painter of children that he commissioned him to paint Squeers School-Dotheboys Hall, an illustration to his novel Nicholas Nickelby.

Physical description

Oil on mahogany panel depicting four children seated around a wooden bath of water, playing with a small paper boat they have made. There is an elderly woman seated to the left, sowing. Signed and dated 1843.

Place of Origin

Britain (painted)


1843 (made)


Webster, Thomas RA, born 1800 - died 1886 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on mahogany panel

Marks and inscriptions

'T Webster./1843'
Signed and dated by the artist, lower right


Height: 37.3 cm, Width: 57.1 cm, Depth: 7 cm, Height: 58 cm framed, Width: 76.8 cm framed

Object history note

Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857. By Thomas Webster RA (born in London, 1800, died in Cranbrook, Kent, 1886)

Exhibited at the British Institution 1844

Descriptive line

Oil painting entitled 'Contrary Winds' by Thomas Webster. Great Britain, 1843.

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

Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, Ronald Parkinson, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1990, pp. 300-301

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Sheepshanks was a regular patron of this artist. This portrayal of a country cottage interior shows a children's game in progress. It is an idealised view of poverty and rural life in England, which the picture buying public would have enjoyed. [27/03/2003]


Oil paint; Mahogany


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Boats; Childhood; Interior; Children


British Galleries; Paintings; Children & Childhood; Interiors


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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