Portrait of a young girl holding a pet rabbit signed and dated 'Frank Holl 1882' (lower right) oil on canvas 106 x 83 cm. (41 3/4 x 32 3/4 in.)
Encouraged by his father to pursue painting as a means for addressing the social injustices of contemporary life, Frank Holl entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1860, at the age of fifteen. In 1862, he was awarded a silver medal for his drawing of A mother and Child. The strength of his socialist feelings (as revealed in this exhibition drawing), were considered too overt for the conservative academicians of the judging panel, Holl was advised to depict a religious scene for his final exhibition piece. The following year, his Abraham about to Sacrifice Isaac was awarded a gold medal. Holls subsequent works were inspired by his socialist upbringing and his desire to highlight the disparities between the greatness of the Victorian Empire and life on the streets of London. No Tidings from the Sea (1870), A Deserter (1874), Her First Born (1877) Newgate committed to Trial (1878) address the sombre realities of everyday tragedies. If the subjects of these paintings received criticism, their painterly techniques were praised. As Holl continued to regularly contribute genre pieces to the Royal Academy, he also received a growing number of commissions, many for private portraits. The present portrait of a girl reveals the artists ability to portray his model within the most sympathetic surrounding. While the pose and attitude remain somewhat traditional, the pictorial detail given to the background foliage and flora worked up by rapid strokes of the brush with coloured oils, show a hand fully at ease with contempoarary artistic trends. Holls reputation as a portrait painter brought men such as Sir John Everett Millais, Bt. PRA, John Bright, Joseph Chamberlain, William Gladstone, Samuel Cousins, the Duke of Cleveland, the Prince of Wales, and Cornelius Vanderbilt to his studio. However, according to close family and friends, Holl was overwhelmed by work; his diligence to fulfil too many professional commitments caused a rapid decline in health. He died at the age of forty-three, at the height of his career.