It is highly likely that the current painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1876, where it was accompanied by a couplet of verse from the then poet laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson: “At midnight the moon cometh | And looketh down alone.”
Stocks’ paintings are often accompanied with Tennyson’s poetry and it is unfortunate that the scant information we have on his life, shows no obvious link to the great poet. He does however seem to have a loose affiliation to another significant strand of Victorian thought, the pre-Raphaelites. His remarkable portrait of the Jamaican-born Fanny Eaton, painted when he was still in his teens, shows distinct similarities to other studies of Eaton that were made in the sketching club, founded by Simeon Solomon (1840-1905.)
Walter Fryer Stocks (1842-1915) was an obscure but talented painter of the Victorian period. He exhibited frequently at the Royal Academy, listing various addresses in London and the home counties.
This nocturnal view, showing a lady emerging from her cottage to feed her chickens in the dark, is distinctly English and reminiscent of the works of John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough. The solitary female figure, either feeding livestock or holding a baby, is a recurring motif in Victorian art, frequently appearing in the paintings of Helen Allingham (1848-1926) and Myles Birket Foster (1825-1899).
Artist: Attributed Walter Fryer Stocks (1842-1915)
Title: A Forest Pool
Medium: Watercolour (and Gouache) on Paper
Dimensions: 29 x 18.5cm
Exhibited: Royal Academy, 1876