The waiting maid (1875). John Callcott Horsley, RA (British, 1817-1903). Oil on canvas.

With fellow artists Thomas Webster, G.B. O'Neill and F.D. Hardy, Horsley formed the Cranbrook colony, meeting every summer to paint in the village of Cranbrook in Kent. From 1875-1890, Horsley was rector of the Royal Academy, where he campaigned against French influences and the use of nude female models. This earned him the nickname “Clothes Horsley.”

Critics on Costume, Fashions Change (1880). John Callcott Horsley (British, 1817-1903). Oil on canvas.

Two languid beauties of the 1880s inspect a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, herself a great beauty in her time. As with all of Horsley’s paintings, the viewer is led into a tight psychological narrative, with application beyond the period he has evoked. With the point of the parasol and the lady’s gesture the women are contrasting the Queen’s stiff, jeweled stomacher and tiny waist with their own more soft and flowing costume.

The Morning of St Valentine (1865). John Callcott Horsley (British, 1817-1903). Oil on canvas. Walker Art Gallery.

A young lady holds a Valentine letter as she looks to the mirror to compare her likeness to the qualities perhaps attributed to her in the letter. Other letters await her reading but the one to Celia is being chewed by her dog. A young postboy brings more mail but the lady seems uninterested. Her focus is on her reflection in the mirror.