A Tempting Bait

A Tempting Bait, 1906
Arthur John Elsley (1861 – 1952)
Oil on canvas
BORGM 00751
Image © Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum

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A Tempting Bait

This ‘chocolate box’ image shows a young boy holding out an apple to entice the pony and distract it from the bridle he holds behind his back – which the viewer can see but the pony cannot. Although the location is not specific, Elsley may have been inspired by the New Forest. The painting intentionally reflects the simple pleasure shared by children in the wholesome pursuit of outdoor life. Elsley’s daughter, Marjorie, was the model for the young girl holding the collie. The painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1906 and was unsold until it was exhibited at an exhibition in Liverpool that autumn. It was then bought by Major A. Seafield Grant who owned Sandykeld Hall, a private hotel in Bournemouth. He sold it to the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum in 1936.

Elsley’s idyllic images of childhood became the icons of the Edwardian era. His paintings were often reproduced as engravings or used for advertisements. Bovril made promotional prints of this painting which consumers could buy in exchange for Bovril labels.

He trained at the Royal Academy Schools and exhibited at the Royal Academy (1878-1927). He initially earned a living through portrait commissions of children, horses and dogs. He lived most of his life in London amongst the artistic colony of St John’s Wood.

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