Fred Morgan, ROI (British 1847-1927) A willing hand 74 x 83.5 cm. (29 x 32 3/4 in.)
Lot 57
Fred Morgan, ROI
(British 1847-1927)
A willing hand 74 x 83.5 cm. (29 x 32 3/4 in.)
Sold for £71,700 (US$ 97,079) inc. premium

Lot Details
Fred Morgan, ROI (British 1847-1927)
A willing hand
signed 'FRED MORGAN.' (lower right), inscribed with title and artist's address on label on reverse of frame
oil on canvas
74 x 83.5 cm. (29 x 32 3/4 in.)
to be sold with a letter from the artist.


  • In the autumn of 1890 Morgan exhibited a painting at the Birmingham Institute of Fine Art with the strange title of "A Little Brick." It shows a bricklayer father carrying his small son in a hod. Other artists painted soldier fathers teaching their sons to shoot. "A Willing Hand" was inspired by the French artist Emile Renouf (1845-94) who painted a similar work, known in English as "Her First Hand at an Oar." It shows a young girl rowing with her father, and was exhibited at the Paris Saloon 1881. Morgan spent two years of his childhood in Paris and spoke fluent French. In 1881 he was painting in Normandy, and may well have visited the Paris Salon when Renouf's painting was exhibited. It was also exhibited at the 1889 Paris Exposition and had been published as a print by Goupil & Co. in 1882. Morgan cleverly substitutes the little girl in Renouf's work for a boy learning his grandfather's trade.

    Fred Morgan married his second wife Mary Reardon on 19th July 1890. Three months later they travelled to Dittisham in Devon. Here he drew a pencil sketch of a young boy rowing. Another drawing, in the same sketchbook, annotated and dated 22nd October 1890 shows a woman, well-wrapped against the elements, sitting in the bow of a small boat. In his late teens Morgan had worked for a photographer, and was a keen amateur. He photographed the fisherman as an aide de memoir.
    This work was the first of his popular series of seaside themes including "Steady," "Don't Be Frightened" (both R.A. 1892), "Pull Away," and most famously "Sea Horses," reproduced as a Pears' print in 1894.

    Fred, and his father and mentor John Morgan, R.B.A. (1823-85), often painted two versions of their most successful paintings. The one on offer was exhibited at Liverpool Walker Art Gallery Autumn 1891 no. 482, price in catalogue £150. Morgan wrote to C. Graham Rowe Esq., the owner of the painting 1st December 1892 as follows, "Dear Sir, I am receipt of your letter with reference to the "Willing Hand." The original picture was 44 x 40 inches in size exhibited at the Royal Academy in /91 – and sold to Messrs Ingram proprietors of Illustrated London News for £300 including rights to reproduction in colour. I finished the sketch for it size 34 x 26 inches – which was exhibited at Liverpool the price being £150. The offer was sent me of £100 which I accepted. If you are the purchaser I should say you have a very cheap picture. Yours faithfully Fred Morgan.

    A larger version, oil on canvas 98 x 110 cm (38.5 x 43 ins), was exhibited at the Royal Academy, Summer 1891, no 442. Sir William Ingram, proprietor of the Illustrated London News purchased it for £300. It was reproduced it as the magazine's large colour presentation print 44.5 x 58 cm (17.5 x 22.75 ins) Christmas the next year. The magazine's review of the R.A. exhibition described the painting “offers a very different version of sea life, in which simple sentiment takes the place of mythological adventure.” 16th May 1891 page 648. The image was reproduced in numerous magazines, including Harmsworth's London Magazine, The Windsor, and Home Words. Such was its popularity that it was later, circa 1901, reproduced as a sepia photogravure 37 x 42 cm (14.5 x 16.5 ins), also by the I.L.N., but now re-named "Helping Gran'dad," and as a postcard in the Boots Cash Chemists "Famous Pictures" Series. Then again as a sepia photogravure (21 x 29.2 cm (8.5 x 11.5 ins) presented with 'Weldon’s Illustrated Dressmaker', Christmas 1903.

    We would like to thank Terry Parker for his kind assistance in cataloguing this lot.
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