'An Al-fresco Toilette', 1885-97

Samuel Luke Fildes

Accession Number LL3621

'An Al-fresco Toilette', Samuel Luke Fildes

Fildes was a leading member of the so-called Neo-Venetian school who painted happy scenes of the everyday life of the poor in late 19th-century Venice. Here he contrasts the solemn grandeur of a Venetian 17th-century palace with the merry and frivolous activities of the girls who now inhabit it.

If the resulting picture seems rather artificial, it should be remembered that the palace was in fact the studio of the artist’s brother-in-law, Henry Woods, and that Fildes’s wife and son were models for the figures. The subject, poor or lower middle-class girls preoccupied with their looks, clearly appealed to Lever with his interest in using his pictures to advertise soap.

An extended study of 'An Al-fresco Toilette' is available online as part of our picture of the month series.