|Girl with a Muff|
George Boughton was a great painter, but possibly his greatest gift to art was his plentiful and gorgeous muff pictures. Born in Norfolk in 1833, his family emigrated to America when he was just two, and Boughton spent his youth in New York, where he taught himself to paint. He opened his first studio at the age of 19, and one year later the American Art Union purchased one of his pictures for enough money to fund six months studying back in Britain. By the end of the decade he made the decision to move to Europe to study further then set up his studio in London. It's curious to think of him painting art in London at the same time as the Pre-Raphaelites but there is sympathy between his style and that of Millais.
|Girl with Muff, Winter Scene|
Many of his muff pictures feature women out in harsh weather alone, on their way to church. I couldn't work out why this young lady had one cold, pink hand out of her muff but then I realised she is carrying a book. What book would be important enough to freeze your fingers off for? I really hope it's not far to church as that cape is not long enough to keep her kidneys warm...
It is good to know that however tyrannical the Puritans were, they approved of a good muff. Here is another young lady with rather nice fingerless gloves and a cross-your-heart scarf, providing warmth and uplift. That hat doesn't exactly strike me as very pure either. Oh well, as long as you are clutching a Bible, you probably can get away with quite a bit...
|Woman in the Snow|
I'm not sure if this young lady is concerned or delighted to find she is being followed. I think she is pleased as he doesn't appear to be sneaking up on her, black being the most rubbish colour to wear to blend in to the wintery background. I think she has been cast all a-flutter by the hottest puritan in the village and has to clutch a wall. We've all been there.
This is an unlikely pair, although the gentleman on the left makes quite an unlikely pair on his own. I'm puzzled by his smock-and-garters-country-rustic-ness and the turquoise posh brolly. Is it the woman's brolly that he is returning? Have they just stopped to speak as they pass each other? The lady is all bundled up in her muff and furry scarf but I bet she dying to ask about the brolly. Did men even have exquisite turquoise brollies? It's a side to George the Farmer she had never seen. And she liked it...
I'm guessing Boughton intended this to be a picture of Samuel Richardson's heroine, rather than any old woman called Pam. It doesn't seem to portray any moment in the novel, certainly not any of the more exciting ones, but as Pamela is a good, chaste heroine, it could just be a mood piece. If that is a pond she is next to, it could be the bit where she is considering making people believe she has drowned so she can attempt to escape the clutches of the naughty Mr B. It is a great novel and a lot easier to read in the bath than Clarrisa which is enormous...
|A Country Walk|
Anyway, George Boughton lived a happy, easy and prosperous life in London, marrying and then adopting a daughter. He was friends with fellow American migrants, James Whistler and Henry James, and his circle was described by the press as 'Anglo-American' in the many parties he and his wife gave at their Campden Hill House (designed by Richard Norman Shaw). He managed to have an affair with Violet Hunt which she immortalised in two (no doubt appalling) novels Their Lives (1916) and Their Hearts (1921). When he died, he was described in his obituary as 'kindly, genial, humorous, a lover of a good story, the essence of hospitality, and wholly free from jealousy, malice, and incharitable judgments'. That's a rather lovely way to be remembered.
So my last Muffvent image for this year has to be this one...
|The Lady of the Snows|
The mother of all muff pictures, The Lady of the Snows is a wonderful painting. The matching cape and muff are a riot of texture and colour - is it velvet? Is it embroidery? Look at that fur with the stitching running along the middle! The pink of the dress and bonnet are neatly echoed in the sparse winter foliage, just as the snow echoes the fur. Look at that massive brooch! And that muff is a triumph, both huge and snuggly. One could hibernate in such a muff and only emerge in the Spring. May your Christmas be as warm and welcoming as that stupendous muff, dear Reader, and may you spend it with those who love you (as much as George Boughton loves a muff)...
So, my last pressie suggestion is something that I would very much love you to give me. If you have read and enjoyed We Are Villains All, see if you could find a moment to leave me a review on Amazon. Nice reviews encourage other people to give my book a go, and that will keep me in stockings, fans and gin.
As an independent author, I rely on the kindness of my lovely readers to tell people that my book is worth reading. So make an author happy this Christmas, leave a review and have my eternal gratitude.
Happy Christmas, Lovely Ones!