Art Moment: The Truant in Hiding (John Horsey)

The Truant in Hiding, John C. Horsley (1817 – 1903), c. 1840. Oil on canvas, 74 x 71 cm. Victoria Art Gallery, Bath, UK.

The Truant in Hiding is not a painting that most people have seen. But it is a delightful work which deserves to be better known. The Victorian artist, John Callcott Horsey (1817 – 1903), was born into a family of musicians but was encouraged by a family friend to become a painter. Horsely enrolled in the Royal Academy Schools and later, had close associations with the Academy itself. His favorite subjects were domestic themes in Elizabethan or Jacobean settings, of which The Truant in Hiding is an example.

Truant in Hiding is much influenced by the 17th century Dutch painter, Pieter de Hooch (1629 – 1684), a contemporary of Jan Vermeer, who was known for his paintings of quiet domestic scenes with an open doorway. Horsely’s work shows a boy mischievously hiding behind the curtains from his tutor who is pacing up and down outside. The contrast between the darkened interior and the bright exterior observed through the open window and the precise treatment of still life are hallmarks of de Hooch’s style. Set in the 17th century (almost certainly during the Civil War), Truant in Hiding is a carefully executed exercise in playfulness.

Leave a Reply