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“The Sailor’s Wedding” by Richard Caton Woodville

Richard Caton Woodville - The Sailor's Wedding - Walters 37142

“The Sailor’s Wedding” by Richard Caton Woodville

“The Sailor’s Wedding” by Richard Caton Woodville depicts a wedding party that has interrupted a justice of the peace in the course of his dinner. Woodville successfully demonstrates his powers of characterisation with his attention to the composition and the details in this painting.

Woodville has composed a large group of figures in the office of a justice of the peace. At the centre is the figure of the tall red-haired sailor with oblivious pride and his reserved bride. The judge is irritated by the interruption of his supper, while the bowing groomsman is making conciliatory gestures. A secondary drama unfolds in the doorway, with two African-American figures, a crying child, and an old sailor. The household details set the scene, from the books and papers to the horsehair trunk which all add to the visual story.

Richard Caton Woodville was an American artist who spent his professional career in Europe, and he died of an overdose of morphine in London at the age of 30. In his short career, he produced less than 20 paintings, but they were popular at the time through exhibitions and prints.

Reflections

  • Why did the artist portray the bride as he did?
  •  Why the rushed wedding?

The Sailor’s Wedding

  • Title:                    The Sailor’s Wedding
  • Artist:                  Richard Caton Woodville
  • Year:                    1852
  • Type:                   Oil on fabric
  • Dimensions:      H: 46.2 cm (18.1 in); W: 55.2 cm (21.7 in);
  • Museum:            Walters Art Museum

Richard Caton Woodville

  • Artist:                Richard Caton Woodville
  • Born:                 1825 – Baltimore, Maryland
  • Died:                  1855 (aged 30) – London
  • Nationality:      American
  • Notable works:
    • The Sailor’s Wedding

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“Variety is the spice of life.” – American Proverb

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Photo Credit: 1) Richard Caton Woodville, Sr. [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons