The barber's shop signed and dated 'G.E.Hicks./1875.' (lower right) oil on canvas 45.8 x 70.8cm (18 1/16 x 27 7/8in).
The present lot was painted at a time in Hicks' career when he was traversing between two styles of painting. As the fashion for historical subjects faded in the late 1840s, modern realism began to achieve prominence. Works such as Frith's Ramsgate Sands (1854) and Abraham Solomon's Waiting for the Vertdict (1857) brought a relatively short period of popularity to the subject of modern realism, which by 1859 had inspired Hicks to produce Dividend Day at the Bank and six subsequent paintings in the early 60s including The General Post Office (1860) and Billingsgate (1861). Although these paintings were much talked about, they received relatively poor reviews and by the late 1860s the fashion for such highly detailed, realistic paintings began to fade. The early 1870's represented a time of transition for Hicks as he switched from the now unpopular modern socialism to the seemingly lucrative society portraiture by the late 70's.
Although the present lot is closer in date to the beginning of Hicks' period of portrait painting, the style of the present lot harks back to the realism of his larger works of the 60s. Hicks' acute sense of timing and an a highkeyed colour pallet were attributes of his earlier work that marked them out as distinct and even to some, superior to that of the original modern realist, Frith. Hicks was a specialist in representing a specific moment in time so that the scene captured seems to have lasted just a moment. The Barber Shop suggests a point of contemplation, a question posed perhaps by the barber himself on the day's politics as he reads it from the newspaper. The intense bustle captured earlier work has been scaled down here and relaxed to an almost Sunday afternoon repose. The atmosphere however is no less immediate and holds the viewers attention in an inclusive and almost personal way.