An image of The sea hath its pearls

William Henry Margetson

(England Dec 1861 – 02 Jan 1940)

The sea hath its pearls

19th c European art
Further information

The circlet of crabs carved in low relief on the frame of this painting is integral to its success as a work of art. Echoing the seaside theme, and offering closure to an otherwise excessively open composition, the frame participates in the painting quite as constructively as the bending figure and wave-lapped beach. The cool monochrome of the location suggests an English coastal resort, though clearly Margetson had the Mediterranean in mind. His lovely fossicker is dressed to evoke the ancient classical past more than late Victorian England. Indeed, Margetson's rather dry application of pale pigment echoes Roman fresco technique. Like most of the lesser genre painters and portraitists of his day, he succumbed to the ever-virulent strain of Victorian classicism, being influenced by better-known contemporaries such as Leighton and Poynter. It goes without saying that the pearl of the title is a punning allusion to the maiden herself.

AGNSW Handbook, 1999.

oil on canvas
132.3 cm diam. stretcher; 163.2 x 163.5 x 8.5 cm frame
Signature & date

Signed and dated l.l., oil "W H Margetson 1897".

Purchased 1897
Accession number
William Henry Margetson, London/England, Purchased by the AGNSW from the artist 1897. Chosen for the Gallery by the Council of the Royal Academy.