The Top of the Hill

by William Kay Blacklock


MEDIUM: Oil on canvas
DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 22 x 30.5 inches (55.9 x 77.5 cm)
(framed) 29.5 x 37 inches (74.9 x 94 cm)
SIGNATURE: Signed ‘W.K. Blacklock’ (lower left)



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    Catalogue No: 6275 Categories: , , ,

    William Kay Blacklock’s typical chosen subject for painting was a women, often seated and looking peaceful, undertaking some leisurely activity like reading or sewing. In fact relatively few of Blacklock’s protagonists are looking up from their given task, whereas in this painting the woman looks directly through the oils and back at us. This assertiveness from her is rather more engaging than if she were looking away. However, her posture, expression, and accompanying stick also present an air of weariness, which fittingly relates to the title of this work. Beside her – and rather in contrast to herself – sits a restless child, peering with curiosity into the shrubs that glint enticingly with greens and autumnal ambers and reds. The likelihood is that this was Blacklock’s wife Ellen, or ‘Nellie’, and their daughter Eleanor.

    The natural landscape stretches out behind them majestically and reveals something of the artist’s tendency to paint in the style of realism and Victorian genre painting. His choice in subject matter – everyday scenes, rural countryside and coast – stems from his early life within the later years of High Victorian painting. His depiction of nature was found to be pleasing to his contemporaries and has sustained a lasting appeal.


    Private collection, United States

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    Born in Bishopwearmouth, Sunderland, in 1872, William Blacklock’s childhood developed during the latter days of the Victorian High art era. Having moved to London he met and married his partner, Ellen Richardson, and made a home in Chelsea. Meanwhile Blacklock studied at the Royal College of Art. In 1902 the couple moved to Edinburgh where Blacklock attended the Edinburgh School of Art, after which time he joined an artist’s colony at Walderswick in Suffolk founded by Philip Wilson Steer, a leading British Impressionist.

    Blacklock’s practise developed from early lithography to watercolours and oils, and both his wife and Eleanor, his only child, modelled for his compositions. The Kay in his name appears to have been adopted by him as his artistic career began, and he signed his paintings W Kay Blacklock. He exhibited 17 works at the Royal Academy of Art between 1897 and 1918, as well as exhibiting work at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. Blacklock and his family moved to Cornwall, and he later died in Polperro in 1924.

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