'The Promise', Henry Scott Tuke, 1888

An adolescent girl and boy are looking at each other and holding hands beneath a flowering blossom tree. Only the girl's profile is revealed while we can see all of the boy's facial features.

Artist: Henry Scott Tuke (1858 - 1929)
Oil on canvas, 56.8 x 67.5cm
Accession number WAG 675

Tuke was a strong supporter of the New English Art Club, and the rather sentimental anecdotal quality in this painting was alien to its principles - and indeed was unusual in Tuke's work. Even here, however, the boy's expression is ambiguous and uncertain and the picture is more than a mere celebration of young love. The rather awkward composition with the two figures arbitrarily cut off at bust or waist height and pushed into one corner also reflects Newlyn and Impressionist principles, although Tuke may also have got the idea from the very different style of Lawrence Alma-Tadema.

The artist wrote in his 'Registers' of 'The Promise': 'Painted in the orchard at Penmere [Penmere is near Falmouth, where Tuke had his studio]. Begun in the spring and resumed in the autumn. Jack Rolling and his sweetheart's sister, Jessie Nicholls from Flushing, near Falmouth, were the models.'

Some years later the artist wrote (apparently) about the same picture: 'There is one painting here, however, that interests me more than many I have done. I have called it "The Promise". It is a very simple little scene, and I have left the sea behind me, for a wonder, and gone inland.'