Colour mezzotintpublished 1 February 1803
About the work
Two shepherds, one seated and one standing, converse by an old, gnarled tree. The seated shepherd has food in his hand, at which two dogs are staring expectantly.
This mezzotint print is based on an oil painting by George Morland, which is in the collection of the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, USA. The print, engraved by John Raphael Smith, was published on 1 February 1803 as one of a pair, with Smith’s engraving after another Morland work titled ‘Cottage Family’ (the original version of which is now untraced). A reviewer for ‘The Monthly Magazine’ reported in 1803:
‘We may say of these two engravings, as of most of the works of Morland, that they are simple, unsophisticated nature, and they are extremely well engraved in mezzotinto.’
About the artist
Printmaker and publisher John Raphael Smith is best known for his mezzotints. He was born in Derby and apprenticed to a linen draper. He began his artistic career painting miniatures and engraved his first mezzotint in 1769. In 1784 he became Mezzotint Engraver to the Prince of Wales. Smith produced thousands of prints during his career, which he distributed throughout the UK and to St Petersburg, Milan and Paris. However, after the French Revolution caused a decline in exports, he opened the Morland Gallery in King Street, Covent Garden, initially producing 36 prints after works by George Morland. Smith spent his final years travelling throughout Yorkshire, in response to commissions for pastel portraits. He died in Doncaster, aged c.61.
George Morland was born in London, the son of painter, engraver and art dealer Henry Robert Morland. He was apprenticed to his father before studying at the Royal Academy Schools. Morland first exhibited work at the Royal Academy when he was aged about ten and went on to be a regular exhibitor there and at The Society of Artists of Great Britain. In 1780, the first of numerous engravings after his work were published. Morland’s work had a wide appeal and was often copied or even faked. His last years were plagued by excessive drinking, debts and poor health. Although he continued to paint to pay his creditors, the quality of his work declined. He died in a bailiff's lodging-house in Clerkenwell, London, reportedly of a brain fever.